Friday, January 8, 2016


iPhone pic of the "Wonder" exhibit
at the newly re-opened
Smithsonian Renwick Gallery, DC

Last night, I attended a lecture at the Smithsonian to support one of my favorite,  Hibernian Literature professors.  There is something wonderfully mad professor about him.  Sort of Matt Smith's "Dr. Who" but with a shock of white hair.  He can recite stanzas of W.B. Yeats then somehow segue into an odd detail from a Quentin Tarantino film.  In any case, his enthusiasm for Irish men and women of letters began generations beforehand.  His grandfather worked in Coole Park for Lady Gregory and his family had many informal interactions with literary giants like Yeats.  He himself read Literature in Trinity College following Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett.

Back to the Smithsonian lecture.  The talk was on Irish Drama.  We were basking in the brilliance of Yeats, Wilde, Shaw, and more from a mix of old photographs, BBC recordings, and documentaries.  I was rejoicing in passive enjoyment until, right before the end, we were handed an unfamiliar script, unfamiliar to me anyway.  What's a Drama class without a play reading, a cold reading at that?

So continues my life as Forrest Gump, in the company of people far more prepared for the current situation than I am. There were theatre professionals in the audience.  But that didn't include me!  I've never done any acting.  But as the familiar face in a sea of faces, I was pulled to read Pegeen's lines in a segment of J. M. Synge's "Playboy of the Western World."  I can only hope everyone forgives my butchering of Hiberno-English, in all its textured richness!  Perhaps there is some redemption in the original actors tripping over the language in the play's initial reading too. Synge had sought to bring out the ancient sounds of the Aran Islands, and Ireland wasn't quite ready for it.  As always with my mad professor, I learned something new even when I was expecting the familiar.  And -- I can claim to have had my acting debut at the Smithsonian.

There lies the Wonder.  Especially during this past year that we've lived in Washington DC, everything seems to be a first time.  New places. New people.  New experiences.  Even in Ballet, the style is so contemporary, so sharp, so post-Balanchine.  I'm learning a new movement language that feels natural and alien at the same time.  I finish most classes thinking "Wow.  That was different."

You sing in the shower?
I dance in the closet.

Taken last spring
right after getting home from ballet class

Artistic exploration is truly endless.  Isn't it marvelous even if one feels foolish in the attempt? OK, sometimes frustration is involved. One of my ballet teachers always reminds us that performances are a result of endless repetition and rehearsal.  By contrast, class is where we work on weaknesses and try new movements.  Having ridiculous moments are a given.  That goes for any type of creative exploration.

I am grateful for all the inspiration and encouragement surrounding me here and the wondrous things I learn every day.

How about you -- have you ever felt like a fish out of water, even in an environment you thought you knew well?

Saturday, January 2, 2016


The Road goes ever on and on ...

                  -- J.R.R. Tolkien

My daughter, who seems to have sprung out of childhood overnight,
in front of the Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

As 2016 rolls around, I can't help but see Bilbo Baggins' eager feet on that Road stretching as far ahead as it does behind.

Wishing you all an extraordinary trek through 2016!

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