— From EF —
Saturday, my last night in Tuscany, the halfway point of this journey. I began in Amsterdam with my dear friend Theo, the most luminous embodiment of kindness I have ever known. Then my time here with daughter Johanna and her Fra, and tomorrow off to Zurich to be with Erika and Peter, finding the new threads in their creative lives (so much like our own). Finally to Bretagne, to walk again among the ancient stones of Carnac.
Johanna was born in 1974. Erika and Theo both go back with us to 1979, and that same year I first embraced one of the old stones. Long time, many steps.
This journey is a form of ritual for me, and it seems fitting that tonight is the full moon. I would normally be with Conrad and our Moon Circle, and I’ll do my best, despite the distance, to make the connection. Amsterdam, Tuscany, Zurich, Carnac, nearly every year since 1999, sometimes with CB, more often alone.
To be in silent presence. That concept has cropped up in our writing more than once. Theo took me to the little northern town where he was born and spent his childhood. We walked out onto the sand and just stood there for a while, being. Here in the solitary Tuscan mill house with stone floors and walls that go back beyond 1328, the three of us spent much of our time in quiet — reading, working, digging, cutting bamboo. Separate, but very much together. No traffic, no background radio, just the chuckling of the little stream and our silent presence.
Sunday will be very different. After many trains, I will ring the doorbell on Sihlquai and walk up the stairs to embrace a friend who has gone through a life-altering illness since last fall, to celebrate that she is here, that Peter is with her, that the three of us are together again.
At Carnac, I will find my old stone-friend, the big odd-man-out who stands alone in a farmer’s field, and I will sit in silent presence. (Not so strange when you’re dealing with a twelve-foot rock.) Later I will walk down to the fragile southern tip of the peninsula of Quiberon, where there are no roads or buildings, just a very narrow spit of rock and sand that will soon marry the rising ocean.
Everything changes, and nothing changes, and I grok it best in silence.
Then I’ll fly home, and my man will meet me on the far side of Security, and we’ll kiss and jump up and down and talk a whole lot, and eventually . . . yes.
— From the Fool —
My friend Irma I ran into in the Safeway line. She was looking pretty happy, which was a sometimes thing for her. Sometimes she’d crash upon take-off.
She was on a real high, I remember, when she decided to change her name from Irma Gorsky to Irma Butterfly. “Suits me better,” she said and I agreed it was more poetic. People can call themselves what they want, like Snoopy Dog and Prince and Gaga, whatever. She did seem about thirty pounds too heavy for Butterfly, but I didn’t want to risk suggesting Junebug. Plus, there might be some hefty butterflies.
“You look happy,” I said. Good sign, she had a pint of cherry ice cream in her shopping cart. She looked at me kinda stoned but it was too early in the day for that so I thought maybe she’d changed her name again.
Turned out she’d just come back from a weekend workshop. I knew she’d done Weight Loss and Yoga and Writing Your Way to Success and Transforming Your Life Thru Real Estate, but the effects never seemed to last. She’d start with a celebratory pint of cherry ice cream and hit the sugar crash by Thursday.
So I asked what her workshop was. “Change Reality,” she said. “It totally blew me away.” That raised my curiosity given the reality of my credit card balance. You don’t make money as a Fool if you admit you’re one.
The message was that you create your own reality in your head. If you can’t pay the gas bill or your wife runs off with the plumber or your kid hangs the neighbor’s dog, it’s because you want it that way. On the other hand, if you think about being rich, you will. So think positive or else.
But I asked, “What about people who just walk down the street and get shot in the head, going to the Safeway maybe?”
“We should all go back to where people raised their own cows and zucchinis and things,” Irma said. I couldn’t argue with that. The Safeway line was pretty long.
But I thought, what about if you’re indoors tending your zucchini and they drop a bomb on your house? Though maybe there’s a whole big thought balloon that goes up from the country and it’s all about bombing people and it poops out bombs like a pigeon flying over.
“Well, aren’t there any people who kinda question that?” I asked.
“Not if you paid that much for the workshop.”
“But like how do you prove it?”
So Irma said the woman who led the workshop smiled a lot and talked about how much she liked to make money and now she was. And the food was pretty good. And right at that moment I got to the front of the Safeway line, which was what I’d been thinking about all along, so maybe there’s something to it.
— From CB —
Last Friday, twilight, I was sitting on a cliff overlooking the sea just north of Santa Cruz at Pigeon Point, named for a shipwreck of the Passenger Pigeon. There’d been a lighthouse there since the 1870’s, and some of the buildings have been converted into a hostel. I got there in early afternoon, so I scored a lower bunk.
The fog was coming in. I could see maybe a hundred yards of ocean before it all became cloud, but I knew there was surely more ocean out there before we’d hit Japan. Right then I felt I was the loneliest man on the face of planet Earth, except of course for all the others.
For two weeks Elizabeth is in Europe, and I was taking an overnight escape from our feral cats and rampant zucchinis to isolate myself further. In recent years I’ve become more and more reclusive. I have many whom I’d call friends, and yet the intimacy of friendship is alien to me. On the West Coast we have scant connection with theatre folks, even in our tiny town, and at social events I revert more and more to silence — as introverted as the socks I toss in the laundry, always forgetting to straighten them out.
Laziness? Fear? Withdrawal in preparation for my demise? Rabid focus on my work? Flirtation with depression? I have no idea. Introversion is my nature; introspection, no. My inner hallways are usually barren, with only the schoolhouse smell of the janitor’s sweeping compound, and my storage rooms are locked tightly. I imagine what must be in there by looking at what I create, but like the physicists who study subatomic particles, I never see the particle, I only see the track it makes.
I’ve always fled from my roots. Never felt “This is where I belong” for more than a half-hour at a time. Yet, paradoxically, I’m in a 54-year relationship that’s survived a radically insecure artistic life — choosing to live opposite to my ultra-conservative temperament, to stay at armslength from the “real me.”
Here, we have a small moon circle, a small writers’ group; we go to parties and a poetry salon; and our life together is sweeter and more intense than we’ve ever known. What then is lacking? Perhaps those vivid, temporary families that form among theatre casts; perhaps a need for presence during absence; perhaps for validation at a time of life when our work — except in very brief spans — touches so few. Perhaps just for something to complain about.
I can’t see very far in the fog, but I stare into it intently.
Click the Follow button and add your email to subscribe to our weekly post. We welcome comments below.
If you enjoy this blog, please send the link to your friends.
© Bishop & Fuller 2015