Category Archives: Gratitude

Weird and Wonderful

Very recently I had a very challenging and ultimately satisfying experience.

2017

I think most of you received an email about my reading the Edith Wharton short story The Mission of Jane at The Mount (Edith Wharton’s home in Lenox, Massachusetts)

This was going to be the fifth year of my reading this story.  I had convinced the powers that be that the story was so rich and funny that a yearly reading would plumb the depths of pathos and humor of Wharton’s writing.  Thankfully, they agreed.

Enter the villain virus.

It was a challenge for Susan Wissler, Executive Director of The Mount.

There is nothing Susan likes better than a challenge.  She took a failing Mount out of bankruptcy and the cultural world marveled at her leadership bringing The Mount into solvency and success.  

She accepted the Villian Virus challenge. The latest of which were the live readings of Edith Wharton’s and other short stories. Of course it had to be outdoors and the number of audience limited and distances set.  She decided to use the forecourt of The Mount –  a beautiful area originally established for carriages and cars to dispense passengers before their entering the mansion.  It was perfect.

Wednesday, August 19th arrived with sun, then clouds, then rain and not until 4 pm before a 5:30 reading was there a go-ahead.  Leaving this reader slightly frazzled.  Hey, guys, those in the know know… it don’t take much for that to happen.  Sensitive or neurotic or a little of both.  Take your pick.

The build-up to performance was intense. I rehearsed. I tried to forget my age. (fat chance) I love performing. I love the story. I love The Mount.  

“Be gone, Virus!  You are not welcome here!”

The reading was SOLD OUT.  The reading was limited to and audience of 45.  I didn’t care. I love saying I played to a sold out house. Sue me!

I looked out over the audience.  Two people seated way over left, 3 people seated way over right, 4 people here and there, another double, another triple, and so on spread apart from each other (as required by law) all through the forecourt.  There was no audience seating.  There were disparate chairs placed all over the space. So that I could not read to one group as I did before but individual groupings which made it difficult for the audience to relate to each other, no less to the reader.  

It is something I never thought about before, but when a member of an audience comes into a performance space, he or she may start out individually but as the performance continues the audience slowly but surely becomes unified, sometimes for you and sometimes against you.

I  would venture a guess that, seated together as they all are, that unity makes it possible for the actor or actors to create the necessary bond to create a satisfactory relationship.  A catharthis, right?  (look it up)  I am grateful that the story was an hour long because it took me at least thirty minutes to bring this disparate audience into a unified one.  

And then there is the wearing of masks. This was a reading in daylight.  I looked out at a sea of faces masked to their eyeballs.  At the beginning I couldn’t see their smiles or hear their laughter (some advantage… I couldn’t see them yawn, either.) As the story progressed and as the audience came together, the laughter escaped the masks and finally I could sense there was enjoyment.  

There was a nice prolonged applause at the end of the story.  And, my friends, I have to tell you I think in part it was for me and the story, but I also think it was because the event at The Mount gave 45 people the opportunity to come out from their isolation, from their quarantine and for that they were grateful. Me, too.

I want to thank Susan Wissler and The Mount for the opportunity for me to blow my horn and also for creating engaging, inclusive programs for all.

I was so grateful to be able to provide release and relief in the time of this pandemic. And I look forward (ain’t that a nice word for this time in all our lives!) to more creative and satisfying experiences.

Right?  Of course, right!!!!

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Our next opportunity for a creative and satisfying experience is coming up!!

A Stew Full of Thoughts

My Dear Friends,

THOUGHT 1: Yet another fallout of the Pandemic…

Every time I think I have a handle on how to handle the world I and fellow beings presently inhabit, I lose the handle.  Why can’t I keep a steady hand on the wheel of my life?  I know the rules of safety.  I try my best to follow them… Social distancing, masking, hand washing, sanitizing, travel limits.

I am kidding you and myself because, of course I know why I can’t keep it steady.  I am not in control.

I feel like I am between a rock and a hard place. I know the feeling well because I have been there many times before.

I think I am being vigilant. But then, I watch others out of my control, threaten themselves and others with their choices.  It then becomes my responsibility to set limits and put out the no vacancy sign.  It is so alien to the nature of this here beast. 

My door has always been open.  In the world today that is not an option. I can make some adjustments. And for this I am so very grateful that I am able to set up for a meal in the garden or the porch with safe spacing, masks and whatever else is necessary for the safety of all. 

THOUGHT 2A review of The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

I did not know the depth and the extent of the migration of Black Americans from the South to the North and to the West from 1915 – 1970.   For me, Ms. Wilkerson’s narrative is the foretelling of the ongoing struggle for Black equality we are experiencing at this time. She has chosen three protagonists from three different locations in three different decades of the migration.   Their detailed journey from the white racism of the South that followed them to the white racism of the North and West is shocking and a necessary and important tool in understanding how racism, subtle and not so subtle works. 

At the end of the book Ms. Wilkerson writes some notes about her methodology in putting this brilliant study together. She quotes from a 672 page report by a white-led Commission on the Chicago Riots of 1919 wherein the commission admonishes all.

THIS MUST CHANGE!

It is important for our white citizens always to remember that the Negroes alone of all our immigrants came to America against their will by the special compelling invitation of the whites; that the institution of slavery wast introduced, expanded and maintained by the United States by the white people and for their own benefit; and they likewise created the conditions that followed emancipation.

Our Negro problem, therefore, is not of the Negro’s making. No group in our population is less responsible for its existence. But every group is responsible for its continuance… Both races need to understand that their rights and duties are mutual and equal and their interests in the common good are identical… There is no help or healing in appraising past responsibilities or in present apportioning of praise or blame. The past is of value only as it aids in understanding the present; an understanding of the facts of the problem — a magnanimous understanding by both races — is the first step toward a solution.

Excerpt, The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, page 543

The report came out in 1922. Last time I checked my calendar it was 2020.

THOUGHT 3:   IF YOU’RE NOT IN THE OBIT, EAT BREAKFAST

There is no way that I am going to leave you without a smile on your face and a laugh in your heart.  Even though my go-to cheerleader, Carl Reiner, left for quieter climes. 

I am sure Carl and Snoopy were in complete agreement.

Here is a documentary he narrated when he was only 94:

Love, Sally-Jane ❤️

P.S. Happy July 4th. It’s way past time to put our money (and our votes) where our mouths are…

W.O.U. We Owe U

My Dear friends and family,

Have you been enjoying some of the most extraordinary watching on your computers, your television, your i- pads, your smart phones?  The outpouring from every cultural corner of the world has been extraordinary. 

Whether you choose to avail yourself of these privileges afforded you during this crises or not, if you are able, and it doesn’t have to be a large sum, but you have a debt that must be paid.

It is clear.  The world will never be the same.  There is a permanent change to all that were used to.  Much adjusting and adapting must be done.  Hopefully, most of it will be for the better. 

However, we must guard against those things that without our help will disappear and leave our lives the emptier and shallower, and in my thinking, more meaningless.  Of course, I am talking about those institutions we take for granted will always be there.  Without support, they will not.

Here are some suggestions:

The local hospital, the library, the live theatre, dance and music organizations, the museums, public radio and television, all of those you have, in the past subscribed to. These represent our cultural history.  It wasn’t so long ago we all went to see and hear a play, a recital, a dance, an opera, a lecture critical or not, something that challenged our minds and sensitivities.  Now we turn to all our electronic accoutrement and in the convenience of our homes and with the kind generosity of these very same institutions reap the continued benefit of that challenge.

They need your help to sustain that challenge for the future or they will be gone.  If we all do it, it doesn’t have to be much.  All those political ads that ask for $5 or $10…they are counting on the multiples of giving people to make the difference.  Be a multiple people person, and send to the group or groups of your choice what you can to help keep them alive.

And most importantly, send to your local shelter and food bank and community organizations that are helping people who have been displaced and discounted by this virus to get back onto their feet again.  Never far from my thoughts, ever:  “There but for the Grace of God…” I know you can finish the sentence.

Stay Well!

Love – Sally-Jane



AMERICA: Oh my god! Coronavirus! What should we do?

CALIFORNIA: Shut down your state.

AMERICA: Wait… what? Why?

CALIFORNIA: Because 40 million people live here and we did it early, and it’s working.

NEW YORK: Welcome aboard.

OHIO: Whoa… whoa… let’s not be hasty now. The president said that this whole coronavirus thing is a democratic hoax.

CALIFORNIA: He also said that windmills cause cancer. Shut down your state.

TEXAS: But the president said that we only have 15 cases and soon it’ll be zero.

CALIFORNIA: The president can’t count to fifteen. Nor even spell it. Shut down your state.

NEW JERSEY: Us too?

CALIFORNIA: Yes, you guys too. Just like when Christie shut down the bridge, but it’s your whole state.

FLORIDA: But what about all these kids here on spring break?? They spend a lot of money here!

CALIFORNIA: Those kids invented the tide pod challenge. Shut down your state.

LOUISIANA: But wait let’s have Mardi Gras first. It entertains people.

CALIFORNIA: It also kills them. Shut it down.

GEORGIA: Ok well how about we keep the state open for all of our mega churches? Maybe we can all pray really hard until the coronavirus just goes away!

CALIFORNIA: Which is working like a charm for mass shootings. Jesus told us to tell you to shut down your state.

OKLAHOMA: What about the tigers?

CALIFORNIA: What about a dentist. Shut it down.

WYOMING: Hold up, maybe we should go county by county like the president said.

CALIFORNIA: Stop acting like there are counties in Wyoming. There are no counties in Wyoming. Wyoming is a county. Shut it down.

PENNSYLVANIA: But big coal.

CALIFORNIA: But big death. Shut it.

WEST VIRGINIA: But we were the last state to get coronavirus!

CALIFORNIA: And don’t make us explain to you why that was. Shut it down.

NORTH CAROLINA: But the republican national convention is coming here!

CALIFORNIA: SHU…     Oh, ok fine, do what you want.



The Gift That Keeps on Giving

IF I HAD THE POWER…

I would provide everyone… and I mean everyone with immediate access to the movie, A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood.

Listen, my friends I had to force myself to go and see it. Even after my daughter Lori made a special call to convince me to go. I put her recommendation into the back seat of my mind. I loved the recent Mr. Rogers documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor. What more was the movie going to show me? Nothing I did not already know. Right?

Wrong!

I was soooo wrong. It has nothing and everything to do with Mr. Rogers. And even though reviews have been very positive, from my point of view, none of the reviews touched on why today, more than at any other time in this world, everyone needs to see this movie.

Let me try to write how I experienced as I watched the movie unfold.
From the opening, before the credits, a “lego-set “of a residential area of a nameless city (although if you know Pittsburgh, you recognize the three bridges that cross two rivers or is it three… I forget) and suddenly Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers walks into the set and begins to do the Mr. Rogers opening.

Miniature sets used in TriStar Pictures’ A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD.

But, it is different from the one he usually does in his show as he introduces a picture board of different characters… most of whom you know from his show and one who you did not know, the writer who under duress and in anger has been assigned to do a profile on Mr. Rogers. From that very first moment, I was captured, captivated, you name it. I was had. The mystery, and it is a mystery of a plot unraveled.

A little background: I am in Florida. It was a rainy day. Perfect afternoon for the movies. And perhaps a dozen others thought the same thing. And from that very same beginning moment, this small audience breathed as one. I mean it. We all inhaled at the same time. We exhaled at the same time. No one moved a muscle… no popcorn munching. No slurping. No candy wrappers. We were all suspended in the one hour and 59 minutes of this movie.

Now I am not going into any more detail about the movie. You want to know how this story unfolds. Go to your movie house. I know it is playing there now.

By the end of the film, as the credits rolled, this small audience in a darkened theatre released their breath and applauded as if they were in a live show.

Why? They were moved. The cathartic emotional release of all was palpable. We had all, together, been part of an experience where anger and bile were transformed into love and forgiveness; released into the stratosphere by the catalyst of a vulnerable and fallible human named Fred Rogers.

What are you doing still sitting reading this? Get up. Get out. Get transformed.

Love, Sally-Jane

“I Bit Off More Than I Could Chew…”

Is what I said to my friend when I arrived back in the United States after 3 weeks of European travel.

The trip begins…

His response:  That’s it!  That’s the t-shirt!

My response to his response:  What are you talking about?

You say the same thing every time you return from a big trip.  Maybe if you wear a t-shirt with those words on it, just maybe, you will plan your trip differently.

But my friends, will I?

Last year from France to London to Ireland, I was able to do my version of travel hop from country to county.  The fatigue didn’t hit until after I arrived back in the States. To be expected, right?  Hopping can take a lot out of you.

This year, I added Barcelona to the mix. This year I hit both France and London during their heat wave. This year I am a year older.

I really do not want to admit that last sentence has any bearing on my life. A song immediately comes to mind, WHAT KIND OF FOOL AM I?

After hitting my mid-80’s, everything has a bearing on my life. I wrote about it before.  I preached to friends and relatives.  I anointed myself the High Priestess of Accepting Limitations. I announced I wasn’t able to dance the night away, or do my one woman shows as I used to.  Oh, I was the paragon of accepting ones limitations. Really??? Who was I kidding?

When I look in the mirror, I still see me as I was 20 years ago.  I do not recognize the face staring back at me.

No, my eyes are not failing me.  This is how powerful my need is for me to slow the clock; to not acknowledge the ongoing diminution of my energies.  Also, I would be less than honest with myself if I didn’t share with you my Angel of Death obsession.And this is where I give you a little peek into Mel Brooks and Carl Reiner’s Two Thousand Year Old Man creation.  Carl Reiner is interviewing Mel Brooks who is the Two Thousand Year Old Man.

Carl:  “So tell us what is your secret.  How did you live for two thousand years?”

Two Thousand Year Old Man:  “Vell, I’ll tell you.  Every night I go to sleep I wear a lot of garlic.”

Carl:  “Garlic?”

Two Thousand Year Old Man:  “For sure a lot of garlic.  So when the Angel from Death flies into my room he flies over my bed, smells the garlic…”phew, it stinks”,  and he flies right out of the window.  That’s my secret.  Never go to sleep without a lot of garlic.  Woiks every time.”

Well, my friends, that’s my secret… a lot of garlic.  Just kidding! 

However, I now recognize that my travel arrangements this year were planned in one of my favorite states, the state of DENIAL.

What was I thinking?  I’ll tell you what.  I thought I had enough days in each country to recover my energy.  I forgot about packing and unpacking and all the travel in between from one place to another; by air, train, car.  Each place, going through security and every country in the world, except maybe deep in the desert or the jungle or maybe an ice floe in the Arctic, is difficult.  I thank goodness for the wheelchair except when they forget you.  By the time I arrived at my last stop, London, I was done, fried, finito!  Not to forget that London was in the middle of its own heat wave.  And make no mistake, one’s age is very telling in the heat. 

I gave up the Underground (their subway) years ago…too many stairs.  Taxiing was my choice. However, London has the same traffic problem that all major cities have, and the heavy toll that cars have to pay to come into the city makes no difference.  They pay the toll.  I sat in enough taxis that didn’t move before I was forced to walk.

I had to limit my excursions to places I could walk to and also to walking with people who didn’t mind walking slowly.  And I mean slowly.  I discovered if I started out the day before I had to be somewhere, I could walk to my destinations of the theatre, the restaurants, the galleries.

And that is when I had my epiphany.  STOP COMPLAINING!  Getting older is definitely better than the alternative (ask the Two Thousand Year Old Man… I love garlic) 

If I could I would get down on my knees in gratitude that I was able to see my family (in Barcelona), my family in Ireland, and my friends in France and London.  As in the song of the same name, I’M STILL HERE! 

Adapt!  Isn’t that what the species is supposed to do.

I remember looking at the Tar Pits in Los Angeles and thinking, oh, those poor dinosaurs.  If only they could have adapted to the changes that were happening around them, we wouldn’t need a Jurassic Park movie.  We would have our very own zoo of prehistorics.

I do feel like the neanderthal of my clan, but that is all right. I may be shrinking, but I am adapting as I go. 

Right?  Of course, right!!!

Love, Sally-Jane

On the Waterloo Bridge crossing the Thames

 

Learning How To Kiss the Blarney Stone

Once upon a time 5,000 years ago in a spot called New Grange in Ireland about 2 hours north of Dublin a bunch of cavemen and women met atop this very hill.  They joined hands and other parts and decided to develop a place where they could hold events. They don’t know for sure but mainly it was for various rites and rituals.  You know a wedding one day, next day a funeral .  A Celtic rental hall.

There were caves with drawings on the stone walls. Very primitive but very beautiful. We went there today. Kind of like Ireland’s Stonehenge.

As I squeezed myself into this narrow low ceilinged cave and the guide turned the lights off to show the path of sunlight… where and how the sun of the various solstices shone. A baby held by one of the tourists erupted into hysterical 😭 crying. Inwardly, I joined her and wondered why someone wasn’t holding me and assuring me that I would make it out of this cave alive.

I did make it out, by the way and I am sooo glad I went. Let’s put it this way…

It gave me no ease to hear I was under 5 tons of dirt and rock and nothing had ever moved…. YET!!!!  

Where’s the local Pub when you need one? Can you tell I’ve been touched with a bit of the blarney?  It’s catching and it’s wonderful.

Love ❤️ Sally-Jane 

Growing Up In My Backyard

Remember this…?

 I recently wrote a Blah, Blah, Blog accompanied by a photo of a trio of newly hatched Robins.  Three huddled, featherless babies lay in their beautiful nest nursery in a cedar bush in my backyard; hovered over by Mr. and Mrs. Robin in vigilant watch-bird mode for worms, insects, and loudmouth and dangerous Blue Jays and Crows along with other predators.

My friends, forget about your alarm and security company, Mr. and Mrs. Robin exceeded all expectations.  Any would-be predators didn’t stand a chance.  The parents proved their worth in birdseed.  They took over my backyard as the Dangerous Drones of Cedar Bush.

It is now Day 11 of  the baby Robins’ birth.  TA-DA!!!!!

All decked out in their beautiful feathered coats.  They sit in their Royal Nest Nursery.  Mouths always opened ready for the feed. ( I spend a lot of time checking them out… and when I say open all the time… I mean open all the time.)  For the last 11 days Mama and Poppa have fed and protected them. 

Today, for the first time, I have noticed a change.  I can go right up to the nest and no parental dive bombing. 

I have come to a brutal conclusion.  My baby birds’ childhood is almost over.  In  too short a time, if they want their beaks filled, they are going to have to leave the nest and fill it themselves.   

LEAVE THE NEST????  OMG!  They’re still babies.  What do they know about life?  What do they know about men? (one of them must be a female)  

As long as I did what they wanted me to do, my parents fed and protected me at the beginning, and as I remember would have done so forever.   

OOOPS!!! On second thought…

Hey, my adorable use-to-be-babies, shut your beaks and test your wings.  You can always come back for a visit.  The cedar bush ain’t going away.  This is your chance to be you.  Take it! 

In my backyard, I do not allow any FEAR OF FLYING.  (sorry, I just couldn’t resist)

Love, Sally-Jane

SPRING WILL BE A LITTLE LATE THIS YEAR…

So sayeth Frank Loesser, master songwriter and very early prognosticator of climate change…

In response to the fact of those words, those in the Northeastern part of the country in downturned grimace, would reply, “Duh!!  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that.  I’m still wearing my long johns.  My boots haven’t left my feet.  My rain hat hasn’t left my head.”

We are all looking somewhere over the rainbow for a warm, dry, light at the end of the tunnel.

I am hopefully going to supply that for you.

Yesterday, as the rains continued to come, and the cold continued to  chill my bones, I forced  myself to walk around the garden.  Pretending the rain had stopped, I sat down on a nearby bench.  The bench was in front of a large cedar bush.  As I sat down, I was attacked by a robin… well, not exactly attacked, but rather aggressively buzzed around.  Scared me silly.  Why was this bird attacking me?

This photo will explain the why….

With or without my will and my way, this photo of new life hiding in the bushes, if I do not get in its way, this beauty of Spring birth and life itself goes on. It happened in the cold and the rain.  It happened with climate changers, yay and nay.

Mrs. Robin didn’t ask to inhabit the bush in my garden.  She didn’t sign a lease.  She just moved in.

So, in truth, I had absolutely nothing to do with this event. For being a platinum card control freak this was a great relief.  I don’t have to feed them.  I don’t have to babysit. 

I can sit in my garden, away from the cedar bush of course, in the rain or shine, cold or warm, and know in some immutable way, life goes on… and it happened when I wasn’t even looking!

In profound surprise, humility, and love…. Sally-Jane

COME TRAVEL WITH ME…

ACROSS THE POND AND INTO THE WOODS OF THE GERS AND THE CITIES OF LONDON AND DUBLIN…

baggage

Alright already, so what is this 85 year old woman, who on too many occasions still thinks she is 55, trying to prove???

For indeed, mid-journey, as I packed and unpacked on yet another leg of the trip, and stretched my back hoping to remove the cricks and creaks from my spine, ordered yet another wake-up call and taxi to the airport, that question was a constant.

I dared not look in the mirror for the answer. I was sure to discover I had morphed into a female facsimile of The Ancient Mariner.

How did what was supposed to be two weeks and a couple days turn into almost a month? Well, I am glad you asked. I’d like to know how that happened, too.

FriendsThe first invitation came from my good friends in the Gers (an area between Bordeaux and Toulouse), an area of ducks, foi gras, armanac, truffles, and brilliant wines.

The original plan was for me to stay 2 weeks and then go onto London to see some other friends and then home. It would have been 2 weeks and 3 days in London. Doable!

The plot thickens. I have three daughters. My oldest daughter and her husband and 16-year-old daughter decided to move to Barcelona for a year. They were going to be in Barcelona when I was in London. I thought how wonderful. I shall fly from London to Barcelona and help them shop and move in and do all the mother things I am trained to do. “Here! Let me do that for you.” “You really don’t want to do that, do you.?” “I think this is a better idea, don’t you?”

Seven

Well, thank goodness I have another daughter who isn’t afraid to tell it like it is. She called me after she learned I was going to fly to Barcelona. It went something like this…

“Mom, what planet are you on. You do not want to do this. She is just getting to Barcelona and she doesn’t need you to show her the way… YOUR WAY! She needs to make her own way. This is not about love mother, this is about her choices not yours.”

My reply: “Well, she didn’t say anything.”

Other daughter: “Did you give her a chance to?”

All right already. I got it. I called and told her I wasn’t going to Barcelona. Her sigh was heard around the world. There was only one problem. I had already changed my flight to fly to Barcelona and then home from Barcelona. My agent informed me to change it back again would cost me another ticket plus she couldn’t get me out of London except for another week in London, unless…unless…

Yes???? Unless what. If I flew from Dublin she could save me some money…

Dublin???   I’ve never been to Dublin. I always wanted to go to Dublin… see the Abbey Theatre… pretend to be Irish for a couple of days.

Dublin shamrock

Yes! Let’s go to Dublin    

So a two-week trip suddenly got to be 3 weeks and a couple of days.

Now, I finally healed a fractured third lumbar of my spine. I knew extending my trip would give me some bumps. I thought if I was careful, I could do it. So I went for it.

I flew to Paris and then from Paris to Toulouse and my adorable friend Mary picked me up. My friends have a beautiful house but wherever I travel if I can I make it a policy to stay at a hotel… I live alone and over the oh, so many years, I have, what shall I say,… developed, alone habits and eccentricities. Just very personal preferences nothing illegal… although these days, that might be hard to prove.

So I had previously stayed in the Hotel Guilhon in this medieval walled village of  Lectoure.Thierry et Marc

Thierry and Marc, the owners and dear friends from a previous stay, who greeted and treated me like their long lost Brooklyn relative. Oh, yes, born and bred in Brooklyn, and even in the Gers they heard of the place.

Their hotel is a 17th century ancient that has been brilliantly restored… only 5 rooms but each room is a decorator slice of heaven.

Hotel Past  hotel-suite.jpg

They serve a lovely continental breakfast with fresh fruits and croissants and brioches, boiled eggs if chosen… and for special guests from Brooklyn, Thierry would make dinner. Simple, elegant French cooking at its best. And last year I was introduced to the beautiful, inside and out, person, Pascale, who drove me everywhere and introduced me to second hand and antique shopping. Nothing like being in a place that goes back a few thousand years to discover the culture of the place you are visiting. And since Pascale had her own shop she really knew what she was talking about. Pascale, Thierry, Marc and moi… The Four Musketeers! Or, as I called them my very special French Mafia!

French Mafia

So what could be wrong?? Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

Except in the middle of the second week, my aching back got a little more aching… too long away from the body workers that guard my spine.

Grid your loins… that’s easy for you to say! However, at the appointed time, I flew to London… and of course, the new way for me is the wheelchair. Oh, my friends, I shall never understand anyone who can choose a wheelchair not choosing one. Afraid to admit how the apparatus ages you…. not on your life… literally as well as figuratively. Think of what you would look like after rolling your luggage through a terminal that makes a football stadium look like a puddle. No! Thank you. Give me my wheelchair and let the vanities be damned.

London was great… back to the Royal Automobile Club around the corner from Buckingham Palace. (I was terribly sorry to miss tea with the Queen, but I only had 4 days) The club is convenient and the concierges Geoffrey and Martin, extraordinary helpers, especially my Irish friend Martin with his beautiful brogue who outlined my entire program for Dublin.

But while in London, it was the meeting up with friends… you know the kind of friends I am talking about, the friends that belong to a very special club… THE WE’RE STILL HERE CLUB!

As I look through my little phone book…the crossing out of names is on every page. Of course, I don’t need a reminder of my mortality… truly at this age it circles my head like a flea or fly or on certain days a buzzing mosquito or bee. Shoo it away, my friends, just shoo those suckers away!!!!

There was a very special event with one of my friends. Sculptor extraordinaire, Helaine Blumenfeld, had a special exhibit at the Ely Cathedral, outside Cambridge …oh, the joy of ongoing creative excellence that Helaine gifts to the world! For me her work is a constant reminder of how to pursue the artistic passion of our gifs. Bravo, Helaine!

And then, it is off to Dublin. I don’t know anyone in the city… I know some of its history and its poetry and plays and novels… and that could be said to give me a sense of its people and it gives my journey an excitement for the new and unexplored of all the places I have thus far been to.

When I go to a city I have not been to before, my plan is to find a driver and car to acquaint me with the particulars of the city. I checked into my lovely hotel and requested said driver and car. And then made a quick addition to my request.

I have a hearing problem… I have great what I call “vanity hearing aids” You cannot see them… but I know about accents… and I know about the Irish accent having tried it in a couple of O’Casey plays. It’s difficult and understanding it is more difficult. So I requested someone who doesn’t have a thick brogue.

The next morning I came down to the desk and explained I was waiting for a driver to pick me up.

Tony

“He’s here.” And up came Tony…with his lovely Irish lilt… totally understandable, “Sally! I’m Tony. Welcome to Dublin.” He plunks my cheeks with a kiss on each and I knew I would have a wonderful time with Tony in Dublin!

And I did.

There are so many wonderful aspects to Dublin and of the Irish.

James Joyce Slept Here

James Joyce Slept Here!

Having traveled a bit, I want to say that the Irish are communicators. With or without a pint in their hand they want to talk. They want to know who you are. Where you come from. Who you voted for… Oh, yes, big topic was our political situation. (TRUE EVERYWHERE I WENT!!)

For me, their political situation was a big topic. They were one of two countries that stayed neutral during World War II. That for me, considering they made nice with the Nazis, was something I wanted to know about. And a very simplistic answer was that’s how much they disliked the British. And if you know the history, even a little bit, it could explain it, but does it justify it? The jury is still out on that.

As the days dwindled down to a precious few, I was ready to go home.

Pope's Arrival

(Even the Pope’s arrival in Dublin didn’t delay my departure. I tried to explain to him that next time he should have his secretary check with my secretary.)

HOME… and the extra special benefit of flying from Dublin is that it is one of the few places that has American custom agents in Dublin so that when you check through customs in Dublin you are finished. Arrival at JFK meant just getting into my wheelchair and being rolled to a waiting car to take me home.

I DID IT!

Sooo, even with the gathering fatigue and aching joints and back, was it worth it???

You betcha! SJ Surprise

New faces, old faces, new countries, old countries… wonderful.

My friends, no matter what we say or do the years keep climbing… and our mission if we choose to accept it, is to learn to accommodate, adapt, and yes, slow down.

It is difficult for me because somehow I equate slow down with death.

There, I said it.

The question somewhere inside not hidden too far away from my consciousness, WHAT IF…???

After a bad bout of the flu, a fractured spine, fear of flying became fear of dying. Little did I know how important planning and traveling was going to be to my ongoing life. And that’s the thing isn’t it? Until it isn’t … it is ongoing.

SJ in pool

Listen loud and clear… all you control freaks (even those who don’t think they are control freaks)… your due date is out of your control. And this is a good thing.

I still have some shelf life left. Hooray!

SJ Dance

Try this to test for your own ability to plot and plan… put your right hand onto the inside wrist of your left hand. Can you feel it? You can??? Brilliant!

BON VOYAGE.

Love, Sally-Jane

 

WHEN DOING NOTHING IS NOT DOING NOTHING

My Friends ~

I went to Fort Lauderdale for the winter. I left behind the bitter onslaught of this past season’s cruel rain, ice, snow, blizzardly winds that my friends, family and neighbors experienced. I escaped. But did I? I may have escaped the weather… but I didn’t escape life.

If you want to skip my saga, and turn back to a good book or a good streaming on Netflix or Amazon or my personal favorite, Acorn TV, I shall not be insulted. I certainly wish I could have skipped it.

old-woman-young-girlHere’s the deal. I still got older. I still became more vulnerable. I still pretended I wasn’t older and more vulnerable. And when I wrote the blog about gratitude I missed the point completely. Let me explain!

January was the flu.

February was the cough.

March was the compressed fracture of the third lumbar resulting from the cough.

A broken back???? Here’s the poem I wrote:

HACK! HACK! YOU BROKE YOUR BACK!!!

Aw come on guys, enough is enough. These are supposed to be the golden years??? I’m afraid only in my fillings.

I thought the gratitude I expressed for January and February was supposed to cover me for the year.  Like the Brooklyn Dodgers of old – I wuz robbed!  The lumbar episode of March challenged all notions of gratitude and for the most part, all my theories of “growing old”.

scooter

As long as I thought I was doing what I always did… a few exceptions like dancing till dawn, drinking champagne from a satin heeled slipper (an orthopedic oxford doesn’t have the same look or feel), cutting my one woman show from an hour and a half to an hour (with relief some said that made the show better… what do they know?), some dietary alterations (no lactose, no gluten, no fast foods, no fun) I thought to escape the label of “old lady”.

And then came the Ides of March. Actually from the beginning of the month, the pain came. And some of you know that without any education, I am my own Doctor, I prescribed continuing pilates, massages, shiatsu all of the remedies that slowly but surely were making my back worse.

Thank goodness for good friends who won’t put up with my complaining and called me on my medical education. “Where was it you got your degree?”  One of my friends went so far as to find me a doctor nearby that was the doctor for the Miami City Ballet. It was high season in Florida. Getting an appointment was going to be at the very least, difficult, if not impossible.

I checked out her website. I have a website, why wouldn’t she?  It said she attended to dancers and performers. I called her office. And before I let her assistant get a word in, I announced I was a performer.  “I’m a little older than most of the dancers and performers she works with, but I am still doing it… performing that is… and I need HELP!” And then, she asked me who the doctor was that referred me, and before I could stop it from coming out of my mouth, I dropped the name of the top orthopedic surgeon in New York City. I knew him slightly, but I never saw him professionally. I got the appointment. And I owe him.

Well, within days of the appointment, after an x-ray which determined I had the compressed fracture and an MRI which showed it was recent (coming from the cough), I thought I would start treatment. Up to that point the pain prevented me from doing anything. But I was told NO!

Follow me on Twiddle my thumbs.Two more weeks of doing nothing, giving the bone more time to heal and then I could begin a program of physical therapy. I had already been doing nothing since January. I have to tell you, I thought I could hear my mother and every teacher I ever had yelling, whispering in my earballs: “Look at her! Nothing! She is doing nothing!” Joan of Arc wasn’t the only one who heard voices.

When I finally received the go ahead, I was like a kid that had won a prize. I emphasize kid because, like a kid I was off to the races. I was going to be the fastest healer this side and that side of the Mississippi… I did the therapy three times a week, I added some stretching and some massage on the other days and by the end of the first week… I was hurting again.

The therapist sat me down. He said a nice thing first. Always start with the nice thing first. “You know you look younger than your age, right?” “Thank you,” I said. “On the outside you’re like a shiny tomato.” “Thank you,” I said. “Inside, you’re an octogenarian and your bones are mushy”.  I laughed. But I did not thank him.

shadow walk dance

And very slowly, and I do mean s-l-o-w-l-y because the older you are the longer is the healing, I am getting it. I read an essay by Ursula K. Le Guin. And I quote: ”Everybody who gets old has to assess their ever-changing but seldom improving situation and make of it what they can. And they make the best of it. As the saying goes, consider the alternative!”

And I love this one from the same essay: “You’re only as old as you think you are! Now you don’t honestly think having lived eighty-four years is a matter of opinion.” You don’t… Do you?

For myself and fellow fossils, there is no such thing as doing nothing. If we have made it through to or any part of our seventies, eighties and ever onward it means we are doing more every minute of every day than ever we did at any other time in our life.

And dat’s da trut!!!

Love ~ Sally-Jane