Cullen Curtiss




Wednesday, July 27, 2005

santa fe jane

I decided to ride my bike across town to independent Garcia Street Books last Saturday morning, rather than drive. Jane Fonda's popularity was one of the reasons. She would be speaking in the parking lot of the bookstore and I expected gobs of people. Gobs of people there were. She's a beloved figure here and elsewhere of course and some of the stuff she said only made her more so. I was struck by how big her voice was. She had a microphone, of course, but I had a feeling it would not have mattered. Ironically (or not), her talk was about VOICE, and about finding her VOICE. At 67 she says she's now more aware of who she is and what she wants, much of it because she's been able to use the words to make it all clear ... to herself, to others, to anyone who will listen.

I have to say that what I knew about her before I went to hear her introduce her autobiography would fill a short sentence: I used to sweat to her aerobic tapes, and she's anti-war. Now I can't quite put my finger on what more I know, but I really like her. And as far as I can tell she's standing up for many of the things that I believe in as a woman and as a creative, thinking person. A woman from the audience thanked her for "standing up" and said that it was so important that someone of her celebrity would declare her convictions, and be so honest about her weaknesses. She said that the rest of us make no splash when we do such things. Of course Jane Fonda responded by saying that we were all powerful people. Yes, yes, she's right, but when I do a reading at my house, there will most likely be plenty of parking spaces on the street.

Friday, July 22, 2005

project life stories

I went to a performance last night put on by a local group called Project Life Stories. The life stories were those of teenage girls from Israel and Palestine, who are all part of Creativity for Peace Camp. In their own words and in their own voices, they described life in a part of the world very few of us understand. They, too, seemed overwhelmed by the details of the conflict and wished only for a focus on the future and not the past. While each may have joined Creativity for Peace Camp with notions about the "other," each has matured in her thinking. One girl said there were so many times in her life that she wanted to find an Israeli girl her age and just scream at her to stop killing her family and friends, but now she knows better that both Palestinian and Israeli girls are exactly the same -- they want to go shopping, talk about boys and dreams, and they all still depend on their families for support.

I was so moved by the girls' candor, composure, and bravery. They know their lives are different from their peers in other countries and they can even fathom exactly how. They know that what they have to live through is not right and they are asking to be heard so that things can change.

I think this type of project proves that our oral tradition is still very alive and powerful.

Monday, July 18, 2005

a connected life

Before leaving for a little vacation on the East Coast where I am originally from, I went to hear the lovely and talented Julia Alvarez read and answer questions at St. John's College. Much of what she said made sense to me ... as a writer, as a woman, and as a human being searching for the meaning of home. This Dominican woman's home is now the United States and she has done all of the hard work it takes to make it so. That said, it seems all of the color in her speech and her imagination comes from the contrast between the Dominican Republic and America. This is relevant to me because I feel like a stranger to New Mexico and New Mexico is a stranger to me. This is always apparent, but having just returned from a tour of my roots, I am particularly curious about what it all means.

In answer to a question about how she comes up with ideas for her stories, Ms. Alvarez declared that if you live a connected life, your mind will be ripe. Family, friends, community, an awareness of lanscape and a sense of global curiosity and responsibility all play a part. I gather that while her people weren't necessary next door, they were close, she was connected. I realized that she had put a nifty name to something I strive for. While I was on the East Coast with my family and friends in a landscape that raised me, I felt so connected that flying away was a bit wrenching. Like leaving the bosom, leaving the womb. But I take all of the feelings to heart. If Ms. Alvarez can find home in Middlebury, VT, I can certainly try my very best in Santa Fe, New Mexico. | 510.847.0570