March 15, 2015
After 4 days of sun, the faintest hint of green can be seen pushing up from the stony ground around the house. It is what remains of the clover seeds sewn ten days earlier, many of which were washed away the next day by torrential rains. That any of them managed to stay put is beyond a miracle. Tinier than the head of a pin, yet containing a strength beyond measure, these little survivors defied the odds, put down roots and are now pushing their split leaves skyward, teaching me a thing or two in the process. Mainly that it is folly to make predictions about anything; so convinced was I that it had all washed away.
How could anything so miniscule hold fast again monsoon-like rains followed by four days of gale-force winds? Once again I learn that size has nothing to do with strength. Witness our two-story cypress. Planted the same day as the clover, it enjoyed less than 48 hours of erect bearing before it gave in to the wind, its trunk curved like scoliosis of the spine.
All my life I wanted to be like the cypress tree; tall yet slender, recognized by all as an important and striking figure in the landscape. I skirted and flirted with fame, working for Robert Altman in the 60’s; a member of a dance company and a percussionist/back-up singer in a rock band in the 70’s. In the early 80’s I was a radio talk show host before becoming a well-known artist and hairdresser in the Hudson Valley. And then in 1990 I fell in love with fame in the form of Joel Meyerowitz.
As many of you know, 3 weeks after meeting Joel I broke my neck, instantly ending my careers as an artist and hairdresser, although love held firm. Reinventing myself as a professional writer I once again, like the cypress tree, reached for the sky and, like the cypress, gave in to the winds of rejection, each time allowing my spirit to become cowed and then straightening up and heading for the big-time once again. But it’s lonely up there with no support. When the big wind blows you off it’s easy to become dispirited.
But I have my feet back on the ground now. I am my own small seed clinging gratefully to the earth, wedged between pebbles and stones, soaking up the sun and rain and whatever else comes my way until my time comes. Like the clover, I have no idea how much ground I can cover in this lifetime, but there is a sense of relief to be found in a low profile. In hindsight I realize I wouldn’t have enjoyed the price that comes with fame; the lack of privacy and freedom to roam and explore this amazing world in anonymity.
I am currently working with a consultant in New York who is helping me strategize how to get my work out to the people who want to read what I have to say. When she asked me last week what that actually is I told her it was nothing original but something of significance, which is that reality is a 50/50 proposition; that every moment, every possibility, every breath, holds both the positive and negative, the good and bad, the sorrow and the joy. I said I believe that only by being willing to experience the pain can we fully enjoy the pleasure. We don’t have to like the pain, just accept it, feel it and move on.
Personally, having accepted the pain of rejection I am now enjoying the pleasure of true creativity, which is to say, instead of battling roadblocks I am opening to the possibilities that detours have to offer.
The cypress hasn’t much choice; either it stands tall and obstinately tries to resist the wind or, as happened to many of them in Tuscany last week, it is felled. At first I was disappointed that our cypress became permanently bowed, but now I appreciate its willingness to be flexible in order to survive.
As for the clover seeds, I tip my cap, knowing that thousands of them were displaced and came to rest far from where they were sewn. One might say they accepted the pain of dislocation and are now enjoying a new position in life.