Sunday, January 24, 2010

A heartfelt valentine wrapped up in stories and song

Laura and I saw Gershwin Alone at the Laguna Playhouse today. Researched, written and performed by Hershey Felder, this theatrical biography had me mesmerized.

The balance of fact and emotion is particularly well done in this show. The combination of passion, genius and history infuses the character of a legend whose life was cut short at 38 (what is it with these phenomenal composers and their truncated lives?). Through Felder's poignantly rendered lens, George Gershwin tells us who he was, what drove him and what it was like to plug tunes in the early part of the previous century. Along with his brother Ira and a few other collaborators, Gershwin wrote over one thousand songs for stage and screen. Over one thousand. Sadly, he died before he could see the extent of his legacy.

Here's to a glimpse of history. Let's hope Felder continues to develop these heartspun pieces (I understand his Chopin performance is equally stunning, and even more romantic) so we'll have a more intimate sense of the genius that informs our musical past.

Friday, January 22, 2010

January redux

Greetings from crazily rainy Southern California, where I'm ensconced in my business partner's lovely Pasadena bungalow.

Even though my days are packed with meetings and work, I almost feel like I'm taking a mini-vacation (it helps to know that at the moment my home to the North is topsy-turvy with workers and floor-sanders scurrying about in my absence). I've been churning out words and ideas at a feverish pace--epiphanies choke-holding me faster than I can absorb them. At the risk of sounding like a crazy, New Age weirdo, horoscopically speaking, the stars and planets are lined up favorably: Jupiter has moved into Pisces and this is a good thing, apparently. Luck abounds, and I could use a little.

Stairway of Love continues to revise itself. I'm really enjoying opening a draft chapter and tinkering with it, discovering places to tighten the language or concretize a scene. It's like when a marriage is going well. There's a warmth, texture. Discovery. It's all good.

Tomorrow I'll be heading South to visit my mother and her husband in Chula Vista, and the following day Laura and I will be engaged in more client business closer to Pasadena HQ before I head back to the "great white North" to resume the routine. Am pretty set on my goal of having Stairway completely done and ready to send out by February 6th.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

unwavering focus

The last two weeks has brought a torrent of unwelcome news, crises and mayhem. On the heels of grieving Kirk's mother's death, some of our closest family members have been navigating the scary waters of disease and trauma.

My brother-in-law, a stroke survivor, recently tripped over something in his garage and incurred head trauma. After a 3-day stint at ICU he's home and improving.

My daughter had three scary, fat and nasty lymph nodes removed and biopsied. Thank God they passed the path report and her doctor gave her a clean bill of health (lymphoma and its young friend, Hodgkins were the diseases ruled out).

Last but not least, my dear sister-in-law from marriage number one, Lisa, got the worst news a person can get. A scant couple of days before Christmas she learned she has Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer.

Somehow, finishing my novel doesn't seem all that important any more. And extremely important all at the same time. When you get sobering news about the probable length of a life, words like "dabble" and "ambivalence" and "maybe" feel puny and unworthy. Taking good health for granted, almost shameful. Perhaps the luxury of perceiving that I have all the time in the world to finish my book has, in the face of all this scary stuff, begun to feel like unbridled hubris.

Fueled by gratitude for today, I'm tracking a shorter, more determined path to what it is I say I want. What it is I stand for. What it is I've claimed I won't put up with. I'm selling my house. I'm finishing my book. I'm embracing my husband with as much of my real self as I know how to give.

The other day at the gym I popped into the hoops room--a place I usually don't venture unless Kirk drags me, but this particular day I went solo. Just my iPod shoved clumsily into my shirt, a ball, and my intention, and I practiced unwavering focus. The ball, my hands, the net. A little Springsteen in my ears for attitude. Swish, swish, brick. It's all about focus. It's all about presence. In writing, as in life.