(Above: photo of Dawn at the Oculus by me. Below: Owl Wing is by Julie Zickefoose)
I’m looking out the kitchen window onto deep snow, studying animal paths. You can see what hopped, strode, or scurried out of the woods, through our yard, and onto the street. Their tracks make me think of ancient trade routes, who went where to stock up on urns, dried olives, gold. Studying these animal footprints is my favorite thing to do since it lets my mind roam.
This year, my head hasn’t had a lot of roaming room. Nor have the heads of most of the people I know. Despite this, coming out the other side of this year, there’s been some real grace. And real grief.
My mentor died of COVID. He taught me so much about directing, and got me past my cluelessness over how to work with actors. A large swath of older creative New York City died, too.
The homeless population in NYC exploded. Or, their visibility did. A lot of mental illness has fallen through the widening cracks. The streets have gotten violent.
I still go out after breakfast to feed the birds. No matter what I wear, if I’m late, if I come up a different block, if I hide my hair under a cap, flocks come charging over from half a block away. I have to dump food and run, or the birds follow me home, squawking and dancing, sure I’m holding out on them. From my upstate perch I miss my morning routine, but when we head back to the city I’ll need to rethink my feeding strategy.
Many of our local restaurants closed for good. I go out for my walk and notice the missing delivery guys, busboys, managers and owners hanging around their front doors for a smoke, to get deliveries, to get air. We’d always say hello, how are you, did you see the blah blah? Our two local delis are gone, too. Our old super hung around the deli on the corner, but now that he no longer has a perch, we don’t get to catch up.
The surviving restaurants have taken over a lane in the streets and constructed large outdoor dining structures. They’ve been enclosed for winter, many are heated, some have multiple private pods. The whole visual landscape of New York has changed. The soundscape, too.
The election and the post election tsoris laid my fury bare. I voted early this year. So early, I was on line since 2016.
Last year I mentioned I wanted to write a book. I got earnest in March, and did. The daily process grounded me, rooted me to the chair, gave me a routine. I can’t talk about the book, but not because I’m cryptic; I’m wrapping it up now and don’t yet know how to talk about it. It’s deeply personal and has bones I never, ever considered putting on the page. Actually, this is a good segue into what I’m bringing into the year with me.
Writing this book, I got to see my walls. Where do I keep you out, me in, what old beliefs about myself am I still holding on to. By doing something I thought I’d never do—I got bald on the page—a kind of alchemy happened. It’s like I burned out the dead wood and came out the other side changed.
Every year has a facet of being a ‘deal with my shit’ year, but this one dug up the roots of those old beliefs. My art and writing always has elements of my family dynamic, my past, but this book went straight to the soul of things. I got to see so that’s what I do, that’s how I react, that’s an old knee-jerk. It was freedom, I tell you.
I’m bringing my family, my crew, you, and my work into the new year, but I’m bringing it in with a whole new appreciation for it. That’s what coming out the other side has given me: more gratitude for what I have and less yearning over what I don’t.
I’m also bringing uncertainty into the new year with me, and for the first time, I’m okay with it. Every time I finish a project, I know what’s next. This book has completed a cycle, of what I don’t know. Whatever I do next creatively will be new for me.
Every year I say how much I appreciate the readers of this blog, your emails, and comments. I genuinely mean it. Last year I ended my post hoping this year knocked you sideways, in the best way possible. I’ll imagine over the last twelve months, you got knocked somewhere.
May 2021 set you down on softer ground. The happiest new year to all of you.