The Creative Thread

Gift Bag

I quickly throw down my yoga mat in the front row, having just made it in time for class. With the best intentions to arrive early, the NYC subway had other ideas.

Facing my teacher Ali, I sit elevated on my blanket, folded over so my tight hips can release and my knees rest. I sweep my hair into a ponytail grabbing the tie from my wrist, and settle just as she begins to speak.

I need this today.

“So, I cleaned out my closet, which is great, but now all the bags of clothes are in my living room…”

She recounts the story of her mother coming over and trying to find a place to sit, compassionately saying, “You will move these things all in due course.”

As Ali looked at her mother unable to fully relax in her home, her answer came clearly.

“No”

Ali knew in that moment there was one thing she could do. She could take one of the bags that was set aside for a friend and deliver it to her. Or she could take one of the bags that was set aside for Salvation Army and drop it off.

So she did.

And she felt so good about accomplishing this simple task, she went to the grocery store to buy some rice, and smiled at another shopper who was having a bad day.

What happened for that shopper?

Maybe she went home and hugged her husband, or called a friend, or sat and played with her dog. She took the kindness that was shown to her, and passed it on. Ali not only touched a stranger, she touched all who the stranger came in contact with, and a chain was begun.

All this from a bag of clothes.

 

I remember sitting in the audience for the Tony award winning play The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I was with a close friend and during intermission, we turned to each other, almost too stunned to utter much more than,

“I LOVE this…”

Curious Case w Ali

I was at an artistic buffet of collaboration, ensemble work, brilliant staging, and focused storytelling. I witnessed the bare stage turning into a grid the lead could literally draw on, sitting at the edge of my seat, giddy with discovery.

I felt I was seeing not only the creativity of the original author, but what each member of this production had brought forth.

The ensemble played different roles and created the environment. They were the chairs, the doors, and even the emotional states for the protagonist as he progressed through his fears. They lifted him and turned him upside down.

I walked out inspired. I walked out with a visual playing in my head, and a desire to create.

 

Months after, I was hired to choreograph the Zarzuela El Laurel de Apolo for Repertorio Espanol, and when the director began to speak about how we were going to turn Daphne into a tree, I felt myself sitting on the edge of my seat again.

The little seed that had been growing since seeing Curious Incident was planted in the minds of my director, lighting designer, and set designer. As I began to throw out ideas, their eyes lit up, and soon we were all throwing water and fertilizer into the pot.

It began to grow and take shape.

Our first rehearsal with the ensemble on forming the tree, I shared my vision, and invited the cast to play. They accepted with glee and gratitude, and their energy was high.

Now they were a part of the process too.

Our closing night of El Laurel de Apolo, we had to turn people away. The show was sold out, and the audience stood with vigor and joy, clapping at the end.

Daphne Tree

There was a brightness in the theatre, from the stage to the seats, a thread from the bowing of the cast and creative team, to the patrons.

I stood, looking out from the stage, acknowledging the audience, but also remembered clapping with the same vigor months ago at what began this journey for me.

I wonder what the audience members did when they went home?

 

We have a great opportunity as artists, to reach an audience with our stories, our songs, our paintings, and dance. We have the opportunity to connect and create a thread.

What if we approached our art this way, with one simple step?

What if we looked at the seed in order to create the whole?

Sometimes, it won’t be linear, and in fact may be a map going out in all directions, but the effect will be the same whether it’s what we receive from a smile or from the lights lowering as we settle into our seats. And the possibilities of how many lives it will touch is endless.

You actually possess a great power. Did you know you set so much in motion with one action?

You choose the beginning.

So, what is the one thing you can do today, and what can you receive as inspiration?

IMG_9394

Receiving Pele

Lava Meditative Seat

I jumped out of the van, into steady rain, holding my hood tight to my hat, and making sure my binoculars were covered. Water beaded on my royal blue shell, down the back of my head and down my arm, in rivulets and mini streams from shoulder to waist.

My pants were closer to water resistant than waterproof and soon the black deepened and I felt the wet chill on the prickled skin of my thighs.

I stopped for a moment to look at the steam rising from a stone opening, but as our stop here was very brief, I bounded towards the overlook for the full view.

As I leaned over the railing, beneath me, through the white endless mist and thick fog, I could make out the surface: black and patterned, a river of long ago. I couldn’t see the beginning and I couldn’t see the end, but as rain poured down my face I felt the energy of space here, peering over the edge of the crater. Below me, evidence of what formerly flowed.

Lava.

 

The Big Island. Land of temperate zones, snow covered caps, rain forests, and Volcano National Park.  Of the three islands I visited with the Field Guides birding trip, this was my favorite.

Our first night there, we stayed at this incredible place called Kilauea Lodge and the moment we stepped out, I felt I had been there before. I felt I was in a mountain lodge on the Hudson Valley or in Shenandoah Park, Virginia. My aunt and I swooned over the fireplace in our room, and I eagerly put on the terry cloth robe, enjoying the cool air and constant mist. I wanted to sit on the porch wrapped in a blanket and read a good book while sipping hot chocolate, serenaded by the Coqui Frog and Apapane’s songs.  This felt like home amongst the trees and wood.

I took a picture of the Lodge brass sign and closed my eyes for a moment, making a silent wish to return.

On the morn,  we headed out and spent the first half of the day at Volcano National Park.  The rain was very heavy at first, but as it eased up and eventually stopped, the expanse and breadth of the lava flow began to take shape.  We drove along the road and signs marked the years of each flow, some during my life, and some from years before.  I took video from the van, the landscape filled with the hardened history, and while the road we drove upon divided the flow in the middle, it appeared to drop off into the sky on either side.

We stopped for a moment and I bounded out quickly to take some pictures of the beautiful swirls and shapes, formed in charcoal hues.  After standing on a rock and holding my arms wide for a photo taken by my aunt, I jumped down and saw amongst the black, small fingers of green peeking out.

Ferns.

I lowered down to see them up close and took a picture of these new plants growing from the ash.  Seeing the image captured, I smiled at this evidence of life.  Nature is an incredible miracle.

We drove along the road for quite some time until the end and came upon the sea.  We had descended thousands of feet and the rain had completely cleared.  I took off several of my layers and stepped out of the van into the sunshine.  Walking to the lookout, I peered to witness the Holei Sea Arch.

Sea Arch

Examine nature’s creative handiwork, from the lava-forged cliffs to the wave-battered Sea Arch standing sentinel against the coastline.  Each is a testament to island birth, growth, and decay.  Sea arches, characterized as erosional remnants of a once-continuous sea cliff, are found along many of the world’s most rugged coastlines.  These wondrous features, formed by the persistent and relentless power of wind, wave, sand, and rock, have intrigued people for millennia.

Indeed, I stood silent.

As we ascended back up the road to exit the National Park, the footprints of each lava flow stood out like black waves on the mountains.  From this vantage point, we could see the full path, making it’s way down to the sea.  Like long fingers of the volcano’s hand, the trails were everywhere.

We headed across the island to Waikoloa Village, and when we arrived at our hotel, the weather was considerably warmer, greeting us at sea level with late afternoon sun and blue skies.  I took off my hiking boots in my room and hung my rain jacket in the closet, changing into sandals and pink jeans for dinner.

Had I really peered over cold, rainy, misted railings hours earlier?

 

Our last day of the tour, we took a hike on the Pu’u O’o Volcano Trail.  Our main objective was to see the rare Hawaiian endemic, the ‘Akiapola’au.  Roughly 1500 still exist of this species, and we could only see it here on the Big Island.  After walking along the trail for about a mile, the landscape changed from all jagged rock to complete vegetation, all growing upon the lava.  The guides stopped us in front of an island of trees, to explain we were about to enter a sacred space.

We needed to ask permission.

Though our guides were from Canada and North Carolina, they asked us to form a single line, facing the trees, men on the right, and women on the left.  In the middle were the eldest, with the youngest on the ends.  The North Carolinian, a naturalist named Taj, began to sing a traditional Hawaiian chant, his voice ringing out in the afternoon wind.  I was enthralled.

Line Up wiht Taj

In the silence after his song, we stood there facing the trees, waiting for any loud noise or clap of thunder to signal denial of passage.  And yet, we were greeted by sun and welcome.

As soon as I entered the mini forest, I felt I was back in the woods of Virginia, my boots walking along leaf-lined paths and my hands touching the bark of familiar trees.  Then we heard the cry of the juvenile ‘Akiapola’au, and within minutes all of us stood with binoculars raised and wide open mouths, smiling, exclaiming in wonder as we bore witness to this rare bird.

Permission granted.

 

I stayed an extra day after the tour ended to enjoy the beauty of Waikoloa and relax.  I hugged my aunt and parents goodbye, and enjoyed time on the beach, journaling, shopping, and watching the Merrie Monarch annual Hula Competition on TV.

I booked a deep tissue massage through the spa in the hotel, and descended the carpeted stairs to the waiting lounge. The massage therapist came out and upon flashing my smile and shaking his hand, he immediately said,
“Do I know you?”

I had never met him before in my life, but I did feel a wonderful energy.  He introduced himself as John, hailing from Colorado.  He took me into the private room, and I settled into the soft white sheets, my head facing down.   John came in and placed his hands lightly over my spine, instructing me to breathe.  Over the course of 50 minutes, he worked through my neck and upper back, pulling the tension out my arms and fingers, in long waves of spiraling energy.  It was beyond glorious and as my body lengthened and released, I shared with him parts of my past and soon John and I were bonding over meditation and body awareness.

I noticed my right forearm was much tighter than my left, and I mentioned my right-sided dominance.  John took my left arm and began to circle it in wide arcs and said,
“ Your right side is your giving side.  Your left is your receiving.  You’ve given enough, now it’s time to open.”

I laughed out loud as I realized my scoliosis was on my left side, and remembered being diagnosed with a unilateral weakness there.  This happened in my late twenties, and began the journey of pilates that brought me to yoga that brought me to meditation.  I had never thought of it in terms of giving and receiving, but looking back now, clearly saw my patterns to control through giving.

Receiving is far more vulnerable.

And yet, through these last few days, since landing on the Big Island, I felt an amazing resonance seeing the life forming from the black paths of former fire.  I was fascinated by the scope and landscape, and brought back home in the trees and nature.  I saw my own strength and journey in the ability to grow from destruction and loss.  Somehow, I have been here before, maybe not physically, but looking at those ferns I knew intimately their will to live.

Before John left the room, he massaged my skull, releasing my now limber neck onto the padded frame, and gently said,
“Blessings of Pele to you.”

I slowly made my way back to the lounge area and there on a long coffee table lay a local magazine with an image of a Hawaiian goddess, her long hair cascading down on either side to form the outline of a volcano, and in her red and glowing hands, she held a beautiful globe, the earth, in the center of her being.  Above her the sun, and below the sea.  I drank deeply from my full cool cup of water, settled into the couch, and closed my eyes to rest.

Open now to receive.
Pele Painting

Mother Nature, by Sarah Week