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After a Peak experience, what's next?

When you're in the flow, surrounded by like minded artists, you're on a creative high, the world as expansive as the Santa Fe skies, as glorious as sunrise, as comforting as a puppy, as exciting as the blush of first love.

That describes last week at a Solo Performance and Creativity Workshop, billed as the Ultimate Retreat.

Led by the brilliant Ann Randolph (Squeezebox, Loveland) and Tanya Taylor Rubinstein, eleven intrepid creative souls from Maine to Texas, California and the Yukon Territories of Canada converged in the mountains above Santa Fe, adjacent to the San ildefonso Pueblo. In the shadow of the sacred Black Mesa, we ate, laughed, danced, cried, listened, spoke, sang our souls. We dipped our bodies in the hot springs of Ojo Caliente- soda to take away the sting of a bee, iron to sooth the skin, mud bath to top it off- nourished them with salmon or chicken and vegie lunches, gourmet meals at Santa Fe's hot spots. We were popping, held in the cauldron of imagination, trust and freedom, expressing ourselves from a place of passion, honesty, authenticity.

The connections began with introductions. We each stated our intentions for the week, then, after some guidelines, and a short on your feet improv, got the first writing prompts: "What I left behind", "How do you feel about our name or how you got it or nicknames", "Was there a visual moment that popped up in the improv? Describe that scene." 15 minutes to write, then share, give/receive feedback (what resonated with me, what I'd like to hear more of). Then more exercises including a first solo improv, prompt tailored to each individual. And so it went. One stated goal: ego relaxation, to allow the work to come through. Unstated, but undeniable, self exposure leads to intimacy, intimacy to love. As the week progressed, writing, reading, listening, on our feet, solo, in pairs or in group, the developing bond between us felt like love, mirroring the 36 Questions To Fall in Love experiment.

The week culminated in a public performance -embodied readings and solo improvisation- artist choice. Mary Allen Lindemann : "One magical night 11 storytellers came forward to unveil their newly crafted tales at a church called Unity... meteors filled the sky and spirits soared in the sharing...I was witness to 11 meteors shooting far and wide." Tanya Taylor Rubinstein: "...the show was a blow out. Every monologue/ improvised story was embodied, deep and real. There were many hilarious moments, poignant ones too....moments of mystery and ultimately, grace."

Not that there weren't bumps and challenges in the week. Each of us hit them, but everyone got up and kept at it. Hit my first edge big time with the assignment to attend a party as a Drama Queen! A role demanding extroversion and rapidly twisting everything coming my way into an opportunity for me to be melodramatic about me. Epic fail even with side coaching from Ann! But so many lessons in that failure!

After a last morning meal, we wrapped, I with a new creative family, a partner to share accountability for continuing our work, new friends, newly explored corners of my soul, new energy as a performer, new freedom and courage as an artist. As one fellow sojourner said, "I have opened a lot of closets and boxes this week. And I'm keeping on..."

And though many of us explored Santa Fe together the remainder of the day and shared a last meal, it was over. Goodbye. Until we meet again.

Time to pack and catch a plane.

Arrived home late last night, still glowing, but stung by the return to regular life. No dirty dishes in the sink, no mess in the house, no disasters, the dog was fine, the stack of mail only about 6 inches with no bombshells, but still, feeling sad, let down, at a loss. But bedtime. Crash.

This morning, back to my routine of early awakening, going to the bathroom, giving dog a treat, putting on eye mask and going back to sleep. Then 6:45 am, awake for good but with 3 new ideas for my show! Felt fantastic. For as long as it took to write them down. Then crash.

So, how to transition back from the high?

A 15 minute free write before breakfast. Then another free write (gave myself a prompt from a phrase in the earlier free write), then made notes of what I need to pursue from what arose. Did I feel the same high? No. Saw the screen door that fell off while I was away. DW40, screwdriver, and 15 minutes later, back on track. Then time to love up my dog, reconnect with my son, then slowly tackle the list of creative and practical to-dos. A walk (read that exercise 3-4 hours after an intense learning or creative session helps cement the new learning/insight best), more to do around supporting my creative life (important creative contact appointment, web site update, draft blog, post on FB) rehearse, then dinner out with son and his boss (a divine Mongolian hot pot with enough left overs for lunch!).

Am I still feeling let down? Yes. I want to live in the magical world of creative Disneyland, in the flow always and for ever. Sigh. Not possible.

But do I have more tools to get me there more often? Yes. Enough fuel to jet propel me through the next few weeks of rehearsal and discovery until I open My Stroke of Luck in Vancouver? Yes. Do I have more clarity and vision about my creative future? Yes. Do I have more courage and freedom as an artist? Yes. Do I feel stronger, more self aware, more willing to take risks? Yes. Have I learned, connected, seen and been seen? Yes.


There is always a yin (shady side) and a yang (sunny side). So, I'll chip away at my creative goals, until the sun shines fully again.

Creative Life: Embracing the Unknown

Imagine one day you stumble into a big tent! A circus arena! Ringling, Barnum and Bailey back in the day (so that's the experience I'm remembering), though now more likely the animal free experience of Cirque de Soleil. In this world, everyone does what is done at the circus: you're a clown- a virtuoso at one thing but otherwise totally relatable in your foibles, a lion tamer, elephant rider, mime, trapeze artist. All outside the usual world of training and experience.

You haven't any circus training, but, hey, you're here, and Carpe Diem, you want to be a part of it! So, somehow, someway - maybe you want to work through a fear, try something new, be someone else, maybe you're a seeker, maybe you're exploring a road not travelled, maybe you don't want to loose a bet or a dare- you find the courage, foolhardiness, or devil may care attitude to climb the ladder, watch the approaching trapeze and grab for it!!!

And miracle of miracles, you catch it! Then you're flying!!!! You are terrified, exhilarated, totally present! And the next trapeze bar is coming at you! Imagine living in this moment.....Can you catch it? Will you? Do you want it? Are you looking down for the net?

Who are you now????

Thanks to Ann Randolph (Inappropriate in All the Right Ways, Loveland) and 10 intrepid fellow soul journeyers, I spent this two day 10-5 weekend hanging in the space between the trapeze bars ( thank you for this image but in spirit of confidentiality, can't credit you here :-( ).

And what a rich, fertile place that is! Courage, vulnerability, discovery, discovery, reveal, reveal!

Now home, feet firmly on the ground, newly in love with 10 totally new to me as of 32 hours ago, creative, authentic, wonderful people! What a difference a day makes! (yes, showing my age!) We shared our stories, we laughed, cried, hugged, fought (that was the instruction), yes and-ed, played with different body parts controlling us, French gibberish emotional rollercoaster (angry, embarrassed, seductive, giddy) and creative and personal breakthroughs...

Big tent, Big Magic!(Elizabeth Gilbert) 's book creative living beyond fear was an inspiration!

Came away changed. Empowered, with a crystalline focus on my core values, gifts and vulnerabilities and strengths, a more honest, connected human and performer with an idea for my next show!

As I prepare for preview later this month and May opening of My Stroke of Luck, so needed the back to the blank slate creative energy of this weekend.

Now ready to plunge into the next chapter.

With thanks to Susan Barber of Mission Hospice and Home Care of San Mateo (my older son Logan's birthplace) who organized this workshop. And to Ann, and my fellow sojourners.

May you all one day have such an experience!

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