Thursday, May 31, 2012

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Dancing As Fast As I Can

Barbara: Cheesy title maybe, but hey, a girl’s gotta pun. And also it is very apropos.

I’ve posted here before about my sister’s amazing dance festival. She lives in Guelph, which is a small city about 45 minutes outside Toronto. Catrina’s background was in contemporary dance, a dance form I think you’re probably all at least somewhat familiar with (thanks, in part, to shows like So You Think You Can Dance—my fave guilty pleasure). Before that, she was a dancer-choreographer who traveled the world with some prestigious Montreal dance companies. But she fell in love and married and found herself happily settled in Guelph. Fourteen years ago, she and a friend and fellow dancer decided to found a dance festival that would bring contemporary dance artists from around the country (or the world, for that matter) to the intimate setting of their adopted city. It would be a way to bring dance to the locals, as well as giving performers a chance to work outside a major metropolitan city. They knew it might not be easy; they didn’t care. And so the Guelph Contemporary Dance Festival was born!
Janet and Catrina (how cute are they?)
Catrina and Janet have nurtured and built an amazing celebration of dance. It's been so successful, in fact, that it developed beyond the Festival to a year-round hub of all things dance-related: camps, workshops, fundraisers, one-off performances, etc, etc. But the Festival! Oh, the Festival. It is now four days of some of the best contemporary dance artists in the country performing all over the city: in the natural theatre of the park; in the concrete jungle of City Square; in studios so small you can see the dancers’ sweat; and on the traditional stage. You become immersed in this walking adventure of dance, moving from locale to locale to watch the artistry. 
Karen Kaeja Bird's Eye View. Photo by Anuta Skrypnychenko.

Wants&Needs Danse performing Chorus Two. Photo by Celia Spenard-Ko.

Zata Omm Dance Projects performing Bodhi Tree Duet. Photo by David Hou.

If you’ve experienced performance like this before then you know what I mean when I say it is moving beyond words. The pure expression of emotion—whether angry, sad, twisted, questioning, joyful, serene—plays through you like your own body is up there moving, or as if the energy of the dancer’s body is keyed into your own and powers it from this higher, connected source. I mean, all dance can do this, but there is something about seeing it in a person who is a mere few feet away and who is conveying their story in a way you have probably never seen before. There is something to the surprise of that.

If you’re in the area, I highly recommend checking it out. You can find all the info here.

If you’re not, let me tell you another reason why I’m sharing this story. For the last several months, I have gone outside my comfort zone and taken on the role of the Festival PR. When their usual PR person went on mat leave and in a serendipitous moment wherein I expressed an interest in this kind of work and my sister a need for someone to do it, we just looked at each other and realized that it would be stupid (and kinda rude to Serendipity) to ignore it. After all, it wasn’t a full-time job, it might only be for this year, and it would teach me many invaluable lessons. 

And what an adventure it’s been.

What am I most proud of? Probably the blog that I conceived and started, that I now oversee, organizing the contributors, mostly dancers, giving them a showcase, and inviting them to translate their movement into words (which they do remarkably well!). 

I have absolutely loved being part of this unique and special organization: it is inspired, supportive, curious and creative. I have loved (for the most part) the work that I need to do for them. I have loved seeing a dynamic venture from the inside and bringing my own ideas and thoughts to them.

But—and this is only a mild “but”, a truthful “but”—I am also a perfectionist, especially when it comes to my own work, and there have been many moments along the way of doubt and fear. Doubt that I could do it, fear that I would forget something vital. This is the last week before the weekend of performances, so trust me when I say the heart is pumping and the mind is whirring. I am, on the one hand, confident, on the other, insecure. Angel/Devil are having their way with me. And if I feel like this, I can’t imagine how my sister and her company partner must have felt over the years as they developed a nascent idea into a full-fledged extravaganza.

So I am here to confirm once again that if you want to try something new, go for it, go on that adventure (and tell us about it!), and don’t be held back by stupid insecurities and fears. On Friday I will head down to Guelph, my work mostly done (well, except for the fun meeting of people), and maybe the whirring will slow down a bit and I can soak up the sheer beauty of this magical weekend. That’s when my heart will slow down and fill up the way it always does when I see something truly AWE-some.
My niece! 

Deb: Barbara, you have poured your heart and soul into this and I know what it has meant to you. I also know very well your professional ethic and how goal-oriented you are. But more than that, I am sure of your heart commitment in every single thing you do. I cannot believe I have never experienced this. Next year I am going!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

What To Say, What To Do

Barbara: For today’s short post, and in honour of the current situation, I thought it would be appropriate to call back an earlier post that we did about cooking for people in times of trouble or need. We asked all of you to contribute your favourite recipes for offering and freezing, food that can sustain when no one feels like cooking, food that also tastes delicious.

It’s been my intention since we posted to catalogue all those recipes, giving each of you who contributed due credit (first names only if you prefer), and posting it to a stand-alone page in our side-bar. It could live there for any of us who might find ourselves suddenly on the “giving” end of life. If you posted a recipe but have any objection to being included by name, please let me know at radeckirites(at)gmail(dot)com (no worries!). In the meantime, please link here if you want to read the original article.

I also want to take this chance to give a shout-out to all of you who “never know what to say” in bad times and yet still venture a kind and loving word or two. I want to assure you that to a person in crisis every kind word is so very valued, appreciated, and needed. They may never be able to acknowledge it, they may not remember to, they may not have the words yet themselves, but in our experience (and, sadly, we’ve had a lot), literally every word of support and compassion makes its way into our hearts and helps with the heeling. This is definitely a “just do it” moment.

Here’s another fast and easy recipe I love. This soup is delicious and comforting, freezes well, and is super-easy to make. You can easily double or triple it.

Yummy lentil soup

4 cups chicken (or veggie) stock
2 cups coconut milk
1 tablespoon green or red curry paste
1 tbsp peanut oil (or any oil)
1 cup cooked green lentils (ie, canned)
6 lime leaves (found in Asian food stores), chopped thinly if fresh (you can freeze the extra leaves after), or whole if dried (then just pluck them out like bay leaves when done cooking)

Heat the oil, then add and heat the curry. Add stock, coconut milk, lentils and lime leaves. Gently heat until it comes to a light boil—10-30 minutes.

The lime leaves give a really lovely lemony flavour, but if you can’t find them, it’s fine without. You can also add fresh peas or snow peas or baby corn. Mmmm.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Picasso And Paul

Deb: Today myself, Colin, and the boy spent the afternoon at the Picasso exhibit at the AGO (Art Gallery of Ontario). We had planned it specifically as a healing and inspiring thing to do the day after our friend Paul’s funeral. Beyond the imagery that dominated the afternoon, I was struck by a quote. It said, “Picasso was a genius and he knew it.” All I could think of as we walked painting to sculpture, canvas to board, was that I wish Paul had known his own genius.
Paul O'Sullivan
The tragedy of Paul’s sudden and untimely death is, of course, his death. But the heartbreak that will stay with me is the fact that he did not know his worth. Not really. Not the way he should have.

Paul was a genius. I know that word is grossly overused, but in the world of comedy both scripted and improv, he was considered a genius. He was someone that every single person in our group was not only happy to work with, but thrilled to work with. He simply did the work. Just did it without the fru fra and the fan fare and the signposts. Just did the funny funny smart smart. We always talk in the acting work about commitment to character. Paul’s commitment was so deep that you were actually shocked at the end of the scene to see him return to Paul. The other thing that makes an actor great is strong choices. Paul’s acting choices were “The Hulk”. He dared. He jumped off cliffs. He went places and took you with him. And he respected where you were taking him and delighted in following you, all the while ramping up each of your offers with a sweet, irreverent, silly, crass, meaningful or truthful choice. Or sometimes all of those choices at once. He was a proud actor on stage. He lived there and, when you watched him, you lived where he lived.

But offstage I fear that Paul did not grasp his brilliance. More than that, I fear he had no idea the esteem in which he was held by his peers. If he was watching us yesterday, the hundreds and hundreds of us who gathered to pay tribute to his sweet memory, I am sure he would have wrongly assumed that there must have also been a wedding going on, or even another funeral. Because Paul never ever would have surmised that this weeping laughing throng was all for him.

Paul, I wish I had said out loud to you that you were brilliant. I wish I had told you out loud that Colin and I revered you for your talent. I wish I had told you to your face that your passion for Linda and your deep devotion to your family made us fall madly in love with you. I wish I had told you that I loved you for the fact that you were so referenced and so hip and yet would respond sincerely to a shocking tale with the phrase, “My Word!” and mean it without irony. You were a gentleman of another time who we were lucky enough to love in our time. And now that your time with us has ended, I do have regrets. Deep regrets. And Paul I am generally not one for regrets.

But I regret that I didn’t see that you needed to hear it. I wish I had gleaned that you felt less than what you were. We assume when someone is brilliant they know it. Like Picasso. Not boasting of your talent was certainly part of your charm, Paul. But the fact that you did not believe in your brilliance is causing my regret.

In Paul’s memory I am going to start telling people what they are worth. I like to think that I am a compliment-giver to friends and strangers alike. But because of Paul I am going to start saying it out loud or in writing to those I care about and admire.

And, Paul, when I meet you again, I will tell you to your face. That is if I can get it out before you make me pee myself laughing. Dear God, Paul, you are missed. I pray that somewhere, somehow you finally know that.
Skating with Paul (on left, with Colin and Deb, and Luke up front).
Barbara: I didn’t know Paul like you did, Deb. I came to know him when I worked with him over those glorious weeks we spent filming Getting Along Famously so many years ago (if you don’t know the show, it was a brilliant 60s-styled show, conceived, produced, and written by Deb and Colin. They did 60s before Mad Men. It had style, it had grace, it was hilarious; I still can’t believe it didn’t last past the six episodes.).

As I worked with Paul, I bowed in reverence before the genius that was uniquely his. But he was also all those other things that a mensch ought to be: kind, attentive, straight-forward, honest, true. I remember being surprised when it seemed he didn’t know his own talent. It was unimaginable to me that someone with his gift didn’t see it, or feel it like a Superhero power suit. His funeral reflected the incredible legacy he left in the hearts of all who knew him: it was equal parts pain and joy, purging tears and cathartic laughter. 

I echo your wish, Deb. I wish I could have let him know just what a huge impression he made and left. I also like to believe he knows “now”.

I wish I knew him better in life. I wish it hadn’t stopped so short and so suddenly. But these wishes in reality are as delicate and evasive as butterflies: now here, now shining with iridescent beauty, and then gone.

Paul plays on the set of Getting Along Famously.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Nothing To Give

Deb: Hello friends,
       I spent the day trying to formulate something, anything to say for today’s post. I can’t. I wanted to do a tribute to Paul and I will, but not now. His memory consumes every moment for us. The pain felt by his wife, our dear friend, and his children are constantly with us. As I tried to pull something together I realized simply, that there is no more room in my brain or my heart. So thank you, all of you, for your understanding and wishes. His funeral is on Saturday. We gather at 11 and the service is at 1pm Toronto time. If you can, if you would, please take a moment during that day and send strength and peace to all of us, but especially to his family. They will surely need it. In the near future I will post something about Paul with scenes from his work. You will begin to understand what a loss this is. I feel supported by all of you incredible people. Thank you, one and all. Love each other, support each other. Go places. Do things. Say I love you to those you love.

With love and thanks, Deb 

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Full Circle

Deb: Loss always brings to the foreground the idea of the full circle, the passage of time. As we searched through photo albums looking for pictures of our friend Paul whom was just lost to us, we came across these. I thought they were a lovely link between Barbara's post on gardening and the passage of time. The span is twelve years. Wow. Just took my breath away these did. Time seems to have sped up when I wasn't looking. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Weeding And Growing

Barbara: I have a garden. Not everyone does. I don’t take it for granted. I know it is a special thing to be able to sit outside before, after (or during) work. To see the green. To hear the birds. To inhale the spa-licious fragrance of sweet alyssum or lavender or lilac. But I have a love/hate thing with it. It is always growing, changing, and dying in ways I can never quite grasp.

I imagine an order-of-things when I plant—and by plant, I mean “invest”. Make no mistake, a garden is not a cheap thrill, as I used to think. As Phil and I were standing at the cash of the tree nursery the other day, waiting to zip the debit card through the machine for an ungodly (to me) sum, I joked that over the years the garden has surely racked up as many costs as our children. The cashier—seemingly unaware that all that money she was counting was coming out of our personal coffers—looked at me askance and asked if the children were very young. No!!! This is a serious long term financial commitment! At least for my own green (brown?) thumb it is.

I plant with precision, with purpose, with high and mighty hopes. I do all the research. I ask many questions. I rely on horticultural advice. Every plant that has gone into the garden has been thoroughly vetted. And still, year after year, plants curl up and wither, they don’t thrive, they die in great spires of browning needle…

…or in slow spindly inversions…

…gradually diminishing and disappearing until one day I no longer remember I even planted them.

I spent all of Sunday and holiday Monday digging out trenches between my stone pavers after a heavy investment several years ago for the pavers to be laid and inter-planted with various “hardy” greens. By this year, all I have left of those expensive greens are dense and ugly weeds (some weeds, yes, I know, are lovely). After digging in I realized the poor plants had maybe an inch or so of good soil over a bed of 6 inches of pure sand—a sand bed is critical for paver stability, but not so nice for lush growth. So I (or we, my daughters both helped!) dug down, peeling the weed rug off the top, scraping any good soil off their roots, and scooping trenches out of the sand bed that I could then fill with topsoil and embellish with good plants. It was backbreaking (but also holistically heeling and therapeutic) work.

During. This is Mother of thyme, which is supposed to fill in over the years...
In my Zen meditations I couldn’t help wondering why I kept at it, was I fighting a losing battle, was all this work and money for naught. And then it all began to make a kind of organic sense. All life is like this, isn’t it? You never know which of your investments of time, effort and/or money are going to really pay off. So you either never commit, never bother, just give up, or you roll up your sleeves (and pull out your wallet) year after year and try, try again.

And you know what? In the end, for all of the many garden investments that never ended up paying off for me, there are many square yards of them that truly have. As tired as I am today, as sore as my muscles are, I can honestly say that for me all the weeding, all the sowing, all the dreaming, all the hoping, all the expense, all the time, has surely surely been worth it. And today, today, I get to smell the roses.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Musical Mob

Barbara: Flashmobs always make me weepy and grateful, but this one is truly special. It has a beautiful filmic feel and must have been especially tricky to manifest. I so love it and I hope you do too!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Mindful Creativity

Deb and Barbara have a 3-way with Lori Landau

Barbara: Deb and I haven’t done a three-way in a loooong time. We used to do them once a month, inviting a fellow blogger-commenter here to share some personal thoughts or concerns (if you haven’t read any and are curious, check out the sidebar from last year and look for “Deb and Barbara have a 3-way”). We absolutely loved doing it—but, like everything blog-related, it requires a certain amount of discipline, forethought, and organization. Sadly, sometimes these are in shorter supply!

Lori: creativity personified.
So I’ve been chatting a lot lately with Lori of Conscious Creativity (who comments here frequently with those doozy, pinpoint-perfect reflections). I am always drawn to the idea of the “mentor” and, while I’m sure Lori will deny any such thing on her part, as my self-appointed mentor, she has brought me an incredible treasure trove of wisdom, insight, support, love and calm over these precious months. I asked Lori if she wouldn’t mind sharing some of her goodies with you guys today, as her insight into creativity—if you’re curious about it—is some of the best I’ve ever come across. Lori, thank you for being such a wise and brilliant you, and thank you for letting me share you with our blog-peeps today!

Lori: People often ask me how my meditation practice influences my creative output, and where I find the time to make so many things in the first place (I draw and/or take photographs and write every day). But I’ll tell you a secret, something that I have discovered from years of creating, meditating, and contemplating what it’s all about: creativity isn’t a matter of doing. It’s a matter of listening. I’ve learned that to create is to be open to receiving a message that everything that exists is art, that art doesn’t just imitate life, it is an integral part of it. Art is both within us and outside of us. Everything is made of the same primordial stuff: light, energy, sounds, colors, shapes. Practicing meditation has increased my perceptual clarity and shown me that that rather than making art, I’m participating in it. Like everyone else, I’m part of what Baba Muktananda called “the play of consciousness,” and as such, I’ve learned there are an infinite number of ways to express my own individual consciousness. In other words, I’m co-creating right along with life via the choices I make. And I choose to express myself creatively on a day-to-day basis.
Original artwork by Lori Landau. Do not reproduce without permission.
What I create is the byproduct of my fascination and discomfort with the world around me. For me, the stuff of life itself is an inspiration. I make art because it is how I translate the emotional and visual content of the world to myself. My process is intricately connected to ordinary, everyday life moments. Making art becomes my way of making something extraordinary out of the mundane; something larger than myself, something that can reach beyond the borders of flesh that separates me from others. I make art to assert to myself that I’m here right now, and if my work happens to move someone, it reminds me that I’m not alone in my feelings or experiences, that we’ll all in this being human together.

I know what you’re thinking. “How nice for her.” And if you’ve also added on “but I could never do that,” then you’re the person I’m writing this for. Because you can.  You just need to change your internal dialogue and literally talk yourself into believing it.

The Buddha said: “Your thoughts create your words, your words create your deeds, your deeds become habit, and habit hardens into character.” By changing your relationship to yourself, you can think, speak and act yourself through the creative doorway.
Original artwork by Lori Landau. Do not reproduce without permission.
Being creatively productive isn't something that just magically occurs. The reality is that creative acts are made up of small, incremental steps that add up. Here is a collection of my own personal creative “tips” to tempt you into action. And let me know how they work for you. I’m listening.

1. Put yourself first: If you wait until everything else is done, you'll never get to it. Trust me. As the mother of three, I know this to be true. An added bonus of being a practicing creative within a family; your kids will learn how to access their own inner artist and allow themselves to be creative.

2. Keep company with “creatives”: Being in a creative environment or hanging out with artists, writers, musicians will inspire you and jumpstart your own creative impulses. Get together with others to write, draw or see art.

3. Develop a ritual: Creativity is a muscle. So repeating the same actions every day (like writing in your journal or taking a photo a day) prompts the mind to build the creative habit.

4. Let art imitate life: document the things that capture your fancy, as well as the things that upset you. Express your emotions by being creative, instead of dramatic. A good way to do this is by making lists of details about your day.

5. You can take it with you: carry a journal or a notebook with you and use it in small moments to capture your thoughts and impressions in words or drawings. You’ll be surprised how fast those small moments add up to a body of work.

6. Start at the beginning: All creative projects have a beginning, a middle, and an ending.
Don’t mistake the desire for a brilliant finished project for the joy of being in the process. Ground yourself in what you’re doing, and the product will take care of itself.

7. Set limits: Without allowing emptiness, you cannot have the possibility of everything at your fingertips. But if you’re overwhelmed by the blank page, set a topic or theme. Creating within confines will help fuel creative action.

8. Move your body. Moving the body helps bring new energy to our endeavors. Turning the usual way of doing things upside down helps us see things in a new light.

9. Get out of your own way: If you tell yourself that you aren’t creative, you won’t be. Use your energy to empower yourself instead. Your thoughts are powerful, practice replacing negative self-messages with positive ones.

10. Meditate. A daily meditation practice helps create inner space. Clearing your mind of clutter helps you get to your own creative center. You’ll know it as the calm eye within the storm of existence.

Becoming more creative isn’t about changing who we essentially are. It is about learning to recognize that it is already within us, if we can just get quiet enough to hear it.

Deb: I cannot even begin to express how timely this is. Lori, your words have hit me with a lovely arrow in my heart. They are the blueprint for what I try to do every day, succeeding sometimes and failing other times. But as I say when I travel, “I focus on what I see, not what I don’t see”. Same with this. I don’t beat myself up when I fail at this philosophy, instead I try to embrace the every day of it, even when I can’t.

Lori, this has resonated in the heart of me today. We lost a dear friend this weekend, killed tragically in a car accident. So I am sorry, friends. I cannot formulate thoughts as I normally would on this wonderful subject. We are deeply in mourning and will share our friend’s life with you this week. Until then, I have learned over and over and have been tragically reminded that life is indeed short. Create. Please. For you, for all of us.

Lori Landau’s work explores the link between creativity and consciousness, while striving to spark a concerned dialogue about global issues. Both artist and writer, yogi and mom, this native New Yorker has written for a variety of magazines including Adweek, AdAge, Elegant Bride, Sportswear International and others. She was a regular contributor to the Silicon Valley Mom’s blog, and now writes for Technorati. Her most recent photographic series, titled Elemental Soul, was featured at the New York Open Center. Long inspired by Buddhist philosophy, she is certified to teach yoga and meditation. Currently, she is working on a book of self-illustrated dream poems, as well as a series of portraits. She blogs about her art, photography, and yogic philosophy at