Last night I performed four poems from memory as part of the lavish annual event known as “Rumi’s Caravan” and it was a fraught but joyous experience. Fraught, because I am not yet fully recovered from a nasty bronchial episode that involves a lot of disgusting and noisy hacking up of goo, and also because in my typical fashion I only chose and started memorizing texts a week ago.
Lavish, because people with seemingly unlimited access to gorgeous fabrics, oriental rugs, batik tablecloths, and Middle-Eastern-styled attire began work at 8 AM to transform the stage at the Sebastopol Center for the Arts into a gorgeous mystical feast for a large and appreciative audience.
There was an introductory invocation via the most extraordinary huge gong I’ve ever heard, coaxed into multiple heavenly voices (think whales and angels) by the man who knows its soul, and it was as ecstatic as the best “trip” I’ve ever had.
Then came the poetry, five of us for each act, done in the style of Quaker meeting — unscheduled, spontaneous, each responding to its predecessor after a brief silence for absorption. An amazingly sensitive duo of tabla and hybrid guitar-sitar provided a responsive and supportive musical underlay to the spoken words. Memory and breath control didn’t fail me while I spoke, and the audience response was fulsome.
We’ve had steady rain here in NorCal for a while, and except for the violent storms a month ago, it’s been gentle and good for the aquifers. I can almost hear a humming of satisfaction from Gaia, as her thirst is slaked. Rumi’s Caravan did a similar thing for what I call my Aquifer of Joy. It’s suffered a lot of drought recently, and I’m grateful for this filling.
I think there’s a difference between pleasure and joy. Pleasure greens the grass and fills the streams and then runs out to the sea. Joy sinks deep into the earth and fills the unseen reservoirs. I am grateful for this replenishment.
Expectations. I’ve said that my chronic low expectations of the human race have stood me in good stead. Whatever shit happens, I could have imagined something worse; when something good, it’s like an unexpected legacy. There’s nowhere to go but up.
Other heads work differently. Envision what you desire, some friends will say. I can’t argue with that, though envisioning and expecting are two different things. I don’t believe that envisioning the best brings it about, nor does envisioning the worst. It’s action that feeds the dog or hangs it.
Some of our plays have been dark and horrible, others comedies, and some of the comedies evoke a grim laughter. To me, there are always more than two sides to an issue. I see two guys fighting on the corner, then a truck jumps the curb and hits them both. Life is a high-risk investment.
If the above doesn’t quite track for metaphorical consistency, ah well. Its spur: to explore my own reaction to the Election and what’s followed. I can’t say expected it, but I wasn’t surprised. Years ago, a performance artist smeared chocolate on herself while spouting hot polemic. The question then was, “Was it Art?” and “Should the government fund it?” The same might be asked of our current performance artist.
Yet while I intellectually share the horror of my fellow humanists, I can’t feel the Armageddon lure that moves me to a therefore. As in, Therefore, I won’t eat or drink or work or love until he’s impeached, or Therefore, I’ll never acknowledge the validity of our electoral system by casting a vote, or Therefore, let’s screw the Democrats. I’m a radical in my head, but I’d be a drag on anyone’s crusade.
I’ll continue envisioning manna on the meadows, but I’ll expect cat shit on the patio. Anything in between is a plus.
This one: so like you two–each. Smiles.
Bravo, Elizabeth re last night’s Rumi. Your voice and presence on stage just blows me away. EVERY TIME. I knew you weren’t well, and reserved your energy when you sat, but WHEN YOU STOOD, YOU STOOD! Thank you from the depths of my heart, to you and to all who make this happen every year. it helps me stand up again, heart re-opened to whatever this weird weather is bringing.