My heart and my art are about being honest, telling my stories and making sure they are rooted in truth, even if the stories themselves are pure Fabrications.
Here’s some harsh truth. One morning this week I woke up and was having some trouble tasting things on the left side of my mouth. At the moment I chalked it up to the food I was having, but then:
As the day progressed the left side of my face became more and more numb, and when I woke up the next morning I found that it was completely paralyzed. I panicked for a moment or 10 and then got on the phone to try to get an appointment to see someone.
It turns out that I have contracted Bell’s palsy. It is a viral infection that is not permanent, but it may be 6 months before anything resembling normal. It is difficult to eat, it is very difficult to drink, and my speech is quite slurred. Also, the left half of my face is completely Frozen. Not the greatest thing in the world for performing artists.
I have medications to take, and by all accounts this is only temporary. I’m making this gently public, because I live my life in a spotlight … And maybe this part of my journey will be helpful to someone else. Honestly, even though I am assured it won’t last forever, I’m somewhat terrified.
I am standing in the kitchen, letting the water run into the sink.
When I turn off the tap, the sound does not stop. I raise my eyes to the window and look out into the rain. The trees in my garden, in my peaceful little place, are exploding in the way that green does during the afternoon storms.
I want to climb through the window and become one with the verdant heaven I see before me.
In a moment of whimsy I quoted Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on Facebook:
“Know your role and shut your mouth!”
I was met with mirth and gifs and whimsy in return … and then …
I was called out and questioned about what my role truly is. This was from someone who had been in the audience during a USO program I was part of. In that show I expressed hope and healing. This fellow human chided me for posting things that he deemed hurtful and divisive. Finally he asked me: “What is your role?”
I stopped and thought. I consulted friends and mentors. I examined my heart and my soul, as well as my gift. I point blank threw it to the social media and asked what role my friends saw me in, in their lives. After much thought I determined this:
My gift is my voice; my ability to communicate. Not card tricks, not magic. Voice. My responsibility is to hone that gift and use it in a way that is pleasing to the giver.
So my role … is Storyteller. To reveal my heart demonstrably in the service of the giver of my life and my gift. The giver and my master is Love. Love must sometimes stand up for justice. Love must sometimes raise its voice against tyranny and oppression. Love must stand in the gaps of division and insist on truth.
I have been given a voice, and I do my best to raise my voice for Love. That’s my role.
I was born in a bookstore. An intimate bookstore. All raw wood and paper and that smell you get when books are allowed to co-habitate and age together. The new, important, crisp Gore Vidals and Stephen Kings, the venerable professors Twain and Dickens and Woolf. The mad uncle Hemingway. The brooding cousin Poe. The taboo aroma of the pulps: McBain and the Destroyer, Conan the Barbarian and Edgar Rice Burroughs. It was warm and inviting and time slowed and bent, and I was born alongside a million universes, stories and worlds.
I was born in my grandfather’s backyard. He brought in dark soil to enrich his vegetable garden. After spreading, but before seeding, he had me kneel with him in the dirt. “Get your hands in there, Buzzard. Break up a few of the clods and put a piece of yourself into the earth.” So saying, we plunged in, wrist deep and let the dirt flow through our fingers. Working the soil, giving thanks and requesting fat tomatoes and squash. The aroma from the broken soil was a promise of life, of food. My hands … are still dirty.
I was born in the shade of a large oak, among the roots. Regal, masterful and knowing. Everyone praises the tree for its garments: green and then red and yellow … gay and beautiful and heart lifting. Underneath its clothes, though … that’s where it happens. In the gnarled roots and rough bark. The hands of the roots plunged deep into the earth, feeding and nurturing and creating fruit. The time traveling tree, having shaded your grandfather and his grandfather … has been told secrets and has witnessed history, yet stoically remains quiet, maintaining foundation and changing clothes every now and then.
I was born at the taste of cinnamon apples on a girl’s lips. I was born again when I looked into Her eyes and saw deep, mahogany history.
My life is stories and dirty hands.
I am surrounded by love, warm and nurturing … books, earth, and roots.
An artist that I have admired for nearly 40 years is retiring. A poet, a fractured soul, a beautiful human being has recorded his last offerings. I heard the first of these today, and it brought me to my knees.
I’m going to share more about him later, but the heart that he has put into his work has saved my life several times, and has inspired me to make improvements in what I put forth.
And now he has moved me again. To keep pushing and to keep walking my path. I am still in tears from the beauty he showed me today.
Let’s get to it, shall we? In that I live this life out loud, with all my blemishes and scars showing, I feel I should make myself and my position clear:
Black Lives Matter.
I stand firmly as an ally, without my own agenda, asking the oppressed and the hurting how I can best serve them as an ally. I’m calling for an end to systematic racism and an end to police brutality against Black people. I will not be quiet, and I will not sit idle. Silence is complicity. Not taking a stand is standing with the oppressors. There must be change, and my own push is starting here and now.
Any birth or rebirth comes with pain. This won’t be easy and it won’t always be pretty. Hearts fundamentally must learn a new way. 400+ years of injustice must come to an end. I must help hasten that end.
Love is for everyone. Love is not a quantity that can be used up. We can stand under the universe and all marvel at the stars without diminishing anyone else’s joy. So, too, is it with love. Lending a hand (and a heart and a soul) to one group of people does not diminish the love and value of any other group.
Black Lives Matter.
More than property, more than ideology, more than power. I am lending my voice, my platform, my very privilege to help this cause. The trivialization and oppression of Black lives must cease. Police brutality towards Black lives must come to an end – right now. Right. Now.
I take this stance out of love, kindness, and basic human decency. I take this stance without hesitation or apology. Make no mistake: I’m mad. I plan to use that mad energy to stand in the gap.
Racism and Police Brutality are a pandemic whose time has come.
All of a life, summed up in a dash between the dates. Her work, her art, her children … her unrelenting vitality. She inspired, she loved, she encouraged. She sang …. no, more than that, she made music. She saved lives, she nurtured. She gifted me with the fine art of sarcasm. My faults are my own. My virtues came from her.
It is truly wrapped up and is a part of me … while it has been cautioned to not let your job define you, I have let myself define my job. Clever lad, that Hannibal …
I would die for my art. I would pour my heart onto the stage with my dying breath. I want, need to work. If it were my choice to live or make art, I would make the art. Art hard. Prove the bastards wrong every day.
But it’s not just me, is it? Doing what I do and wanting to be surrounded by an audience puts others in danger. Strangers. Friends and loved ones of strangers. People I may never meet, but people that I could doom with my careless actions. So.
because I love, because Love is what I worship and strive to preach:
I stay in isolation and I practice for the day I can return to the performance.
I would die for my art
but I would not kill for it.
Words you whisper to me …
Slow love, growing upward (we’ll capture the sun)
We’ll bask in the love that birthed Us.
We’ll mingle Our roots.
Our fruit shall be sweet
Rest in the crook of my branches
I’ll sway you to sleep in my boughs.