Dancing in Defiance

                      Starry Night

“It’s a perfectly balanced mechanism of shouts and echoes pretending to be wheels and cogs, a dreamclock chiming beneath a mystery-glass we call life.  Behind it.  Below it and around it.  Chaos, storms.  Men with hammers, men with knives, men with guns.  Women who twist what they cannot dominate and belittle what they cannot understand.  A universe of horror and loss surrounding a single lighted stage where mortals dance in defiance of the dark.” 

– Stephen King, 11/22/63

Open up the doors and let the music play/ Let the streets resound with singing/ Songs that bring your hope/ Songs that bring your joy / Dancers who dance upon injustice / Did you feel the darkness tremble? / When all the saints join in one song / And all the streams flow as one river / To wash away our brokenness.” 

– Delirious, “Did You Feel the Mountains Tremble” 

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Well, hell has frozen over.  A Stephen King quote and a clip from a Delirious lyric, standing together in perfect harmony…. Anyway… 

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Art is a powerful thing.  

As human beings, we respond to beauty.  We process it differently, have different tastes, and understand it differently.  (Something about beauty being in the eye of the beholder?) I respond to beauty.  My heart opens up to it, and I find myself craving that same beauty over and over.  Art helps me understand the world, process it in a way I never could have without it. I can listen to someone say, “Creativity is a good thing,” or “To have grace is to have everything,” a hundred times over.  I might get it. I might agree with it.  But to see those thoughts expressed in artistic form?  Priceless.  It becomes real. I arrive at those conclusions wholeheartedly.  I understand.

Finding Neverland crystallized the joy of writing.  It put visuals to the passions of my heart.  A Tale of Two Cities crystallized the utter worthiness of sacrificing oneself for the life of another. Van Gogh’s Starry Night reminds me that even in the darkest moments, there can still be loveliness that is worth searching out. I’ve been at concerts, singing at the top of my lungs, swept away in the feeling of “I am not alone.”  It’s one thing to be told something. It’s another thing to know it deeply, thanks to someone else’s art. They challenge me to keep moving, to keep dreaming, to keep going.  I am inspired. It breathes life. 

I plan to dance in defiance of the dark. 


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The Peculiar Imperfections of a Marshmallow

                          homemade almond marshmallows

Homemade marshmallows are kind of ugly.  They’re weird and sticky and somehow seem to be smarter than everyone.  Because for as careful as you are, it still doesn’t matter. Sugar that’s 240 degrees will burn in a heartbeat, gluing itself to you with its sticky little talons. You will end up with massive strings of melted sugar and corn syrup stretching from your oven to your mixing bowl to your front door (don’t ask –  I don’t even remember walking over there while marshmallows were happening.  Maybe the marshmallows really are trying to take over the world. Not that I’m speaking from experience.)  I wondered if it would be strange or tacky to serve homemade marshmallows with hot chocolate, as though I couldn’t actually afford real marshmallows, so I scraped them together from what I’ve had in my kitchen. 

That’s when I decided: I hated homemade marshmallows. Hated them.

I resolved to only procure marshmallows of the Jet-Puff’d sort.  Someone else can wrestle with the question of just what to do with four packets of gelatin.  Someone else can get covered in a very fine layer of confectioner’s sugar.  Jet-Puff’d is the way to go. Sometimes they even come in a perfect little resealable bag. 

My homemade marshmallows chilled in the fridge. I drank a glass of wine. We called a truce. And then, I chopped this gigantic sheet of marshmallow into bite-sized pieces and rolled them in more confectioner’s sugar. 

And then I ate one.  

They are little puffs of almond-flavored heaven.  Right then and there, I forgave the marshmallows. I forgave them for being weird and sticky and all different sizes.  I found that I actually loved their strange shapes, the way they bent and curved and looked completely different from each other. I loved how they melted perfectly.  I was proud of them.  Yes, ladies and gentlemen, these are my marshmallows. I made them. 

If only I was so forgiving of my own peculiar imperfections.  

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The Iron Lady & Occupy LA

I promise there are movies I don’t love.  There are movies I leave the theater thinking Eh, whatever.  But it’s that time of year – the months of stellar films hitting theaters one after another, to the point that it becomes almost ridiculous. And so I have a feeling I’ll be writing quite a lot on how brilliant all these different films are. I loved The Iron Lady. Go see it.

Have I mentioned I love living and working in Hollywood?

As a film, The Iron Lady is truly lovely. Told from Margaret Thatcher’s perspective, it reminded me in pieces of The Queen, another stalwart British lady who changed the whirlpool world around her in dramatic and decidedly British fashion.  It’s not a traditional biopic, but I left the theater feeling like I could imagine what it must have been like to be Britain’s first female Prime Minister.

Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher is stunning, as though we were expecting any less from her.  Jim Broadbent’s performance as her long-suffering husband Dennis had very strong echoes of his performance in 2001’s Iris, which is to say brilliant. He has this way of looking at his wife with this deep mix of admiration and frustration, like he’s so angry at her for her spunk and drive, almost like he hates her for it.  But in the same glance, he knows he would be dead without her, and so he’s smiling- still stunned and slightly befuddled that this gorgeous and whip smart woman would so much look in his direction. He’ll fight like hell to hang onto her, and in doing so, they fall in love all over again. All of this emotion in half a second.  This is what Jim Broadbent brings to the screen, and I completely love him for it. I want to have a cup of tea with him one day and just listen to his whole life story. Seriously.

I’m sure I have a vastly different perspective on Margaret Thatcher than someone who lived in England during her time as Prime Minister.

First, I’m American. Second, I wasn’t born when Margaret Thatcher assumed the office of Prime Minister, and I was still too young to remember her by the time she left.  For better or worse, she’s more of a historical figure to me than a contemporary.  But there’s something about her, particularly this iteration of The Iron Lady, something about the way she held herself and fought against everything she didn’t agree with.  But there seems to be a gentle grace about her too, as she fights for the things she does believe in.

Therein lies a great leader.  And one hell of an actress in the indomitable Meryl Streep (who will undoubtedly be adding yet another Oscar nomination to her pantheon, if not taking home the statue itself. She is so overdue…)  But this isn’t a nice, neat little whitewashing of a historical figure, tidied up so we can all laugh and cheer at the end.  She’s broken and snappish and sometimes so focused on her own plans that she completely neglects the real world around her.  She’s real.

The film covers this dark and difficult time in England’s history, when unemployment and general unrest were rampant.  Mrs. Thatcher was fighting an unpopular war for the Falklands, and the country was in the midst of an ever-deepening recession.  There were protests constantly. It felt so familiar…

In theory, everyone watches a movie in a vacuum, without any personal experience to color their perspective of the story they’re watching unfold on screen.

But of course, theory and the real world hardly ever interact identically.  And so, our own experiences shape the way we see the world and the way that we see films.  We bring our own stories to the theater with us, and they manage to meld into the story we’re watching on screen, almost without us being aware of it.  We love films because we’ve been there, because we identify with the characters, because we wish we could do something just like that, because we can’t imagine ever becoming a person like THAT, because that’s just not how we do things.  In every second, we’re comparing the movie to our own lives, as the movie holds up a mirror to our own self.

The other night, I sat up until 2am, glued to my television as the LAPD disbanded the Occupy LA camp.  And tonight, I sat and watched far more violent scenes unfolding before me.  But the passions, and the driving forces were so much the same.  The economy.  Jobs.  Money.  Am I going to have a future?  Are my children?  We’re living in a world frighteningly similar to late-80’s Britain, and I wonder what the movies of 2030 will say about our world today, with our Occupy camps and dreams of a future where we can actually provide for our families and send our children to college without taking out a third mortgage.

Young Margaret Thatcher makes a brilliant statement – Your life must count for something.  Be it professionally or personally, I have to say I completely agree. We weren’t put on this earth to just waste away, consuming and consuming until we’re 100 years old and weathered and spent.  We were meant to live, this beautiful, full, abundant life where we actively choose which direction we head.  We’re meant to spend our life giving ourselves away.  Color me inspired, I think because this world of Occupy camps isn’t all there is.  We’re not trapped into hopelessness.

We can have a future.  It might take work. Hahaha – not might.  It’s going to take a lot of work.  That’s a definitive statement.  It’s going to take sacrifice.

But we are in this together.  And it’s going to be worth it.  As is your $10 at the theater for The Iron Lady.

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Love will not betray, dismay or enslave you – it will set you free.

Mumford & Sons, “Sigh No More”.  Love this song. 

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A Love Affair with Words

I find myself writing in patterns lately.  Creating word strings that lay in precisely the same way as the last set of strings I’ve created.  What is it about patterns that we love so much?  Is it the comfortable glow from something we know and understand?  Are they like warm fuzzy slippers that you wear in time and time again until they’re molded so perfectly that you can’t imagine that any other set of slippers in the world exist?  Words. Those comfortable little pearls where I spend my days… 

Someone once asked me what writing felt like.  I told them it felt like the sun.  Another person asked me a little while later.  I had a completely different answer.  It was a completely different day, after all….   

Words have been the soul of my existence for as long as I can remember.  I collect favorite words.  Words like lovely. Love is such a beautiful idea, and how perfect it is that such a concept could take tangible form into something described as “lovely”.  Notebook. An unopened stack of clean paper, all smooth and unblemished, with an uncracked spine.   Potential in its purest form, the promise of things and ideas just waiting to be fleshed out and breathed into life.  Ocean. I like the way it tastes when I say it. Silvery. I love the way it shimmers in my head, like silk caught in a cool breeze.  Platypus. Because it makes me laugh.  A lot. Five words out of thousands.  Millions, maybe. And there are so many more. 

I love when collections of words are so perfectly arranged that it seems like music playing in the air, light as a feather, dancing together, folding back on themselves to create this work of art.  I love even more when those collections create meaning, strung together not just for their shape and taste and novelty, but strung together because these words in this specific moment could be the razor’s edge between life and death.  

Without words, I’d never know what another person had experienced. I’d never know their thoughts on the matter, whether they loved it or hated it or mildly disagreed but had been dragged along by their great Aunt Mildred and so had been forced to show some sort of positivity about the whole thing.  I’d never know what it looked like to live in “the best of times and the worst of times.”  I’d never experience the joys of Elizabeth Bennet or Henry DeTamble or Cecelia Tallis. 

How does one exist without words? 

And so I’ve found myself writing in patterns lately.  The same subjects.  The same verbs.  The same adjectives, though I’ve nearly worn out my thesaurus.  I feel the words breathing inside of me, and it’s all I can do to get them out.  Maybe the patterns are helpful, like pre-dug rows of dirt, which I can run past and quickly drop all the vegetable seeds in, in the hope that come fall harvest, something will be there that was worthwhile. They are never perfect.  But maybe there will be words for that imperfection too.  

But maybe those patterns I’ve found myself returning to again and again and again and again and again are so worn down that they’ve become completely unhelpful and I don’t even know it.  Maybe I should write new words.  New words that thrill me or scare me or make me hope for a much more beautiful future.  

I think I’ll take an adventure of words and see what happens.  

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