I have a shamrock plant in a family house in central New York State. When I arrive, it usually looks to be on its last legs, spindly and withered with yellowing leaves. I throw whatever is left in my water bottle on it, and the next morning, its lovely, delicate, papery white blooms are reaching for the sun.
Geneva, New York -- This has been a week of gentle breezes. The nights have been cool. Three deer -- two does and a fawn -- came across the lawn overlooking the lake and disappeared down the bank, too steep and too thickly wooded for humans to climb. The cat kills moles and leaves them on the concrete floor of the garage, on their backs with their paws poised in mid air, as if they were still scurrying along.
The grape vines with their jubilant leaves and reddish, curled tendrils are creeping across the steps of the long pinewood stairway to the lake, grey and listing slightly with age. The lake looks low, the seaweed is long and dense, a dark underwater forest. The Zebra Mussels are visible in the shallow water, millions of them, it boggles the mind, and now the larger Quagga Mussels too, even more, they say.
My mother grew up sailing on the lake, and comments on the wind, most days. “There's the south wind, coming gently. The south wind brings the warm air.” A train comes through every night, rumbling on the tracks along the edge of the lake. The sound carries across the water, so it’s hard to tell if it is near or far away.
On Midsummer’s Eve at Old Westbury Gardens in Westbury, New York, I had the great pleasure of seeing Isadora Duncan’s passionate and feminist aesthetic brought to life by the superb dancers of the Isadora Duncan Dance Company, directed by Lori Belilove. Although much of what is written about Duncan is condescending and overly focused on her personal life, I found passages from her autobiography My Life to be deeply compelling and relevant today.
“My Art is just an effort to express the truth of my Being in gesture and movement. It has taken me long years to find even one absolutely true movement. Words have a different meaning. Before the public which has thronged my representations I have had no hesitation. I have given them the most secret impulses of my soul. From the first I have only danced my life. As a child I danced the spontaneous joy of growing things. As an adolescent, I danced with joy turning to apprehension of the first realisation of tragic undercurrents; apprehension of the pitiless brutality and crushing progress of life.”
“It was owing to my mother that, as children, our entire lives were permeated with music and poetry. In the evenings she would sit at the piano and play for hours, and there were no set times for rising or going to bed, nor any discipline in our lives. On the contrary, I think my mother quite forgot about us, lost in her music or declaiming poetry, oblivious of all around her. One of her sisters, too, our aunt Augusta, was remarkably talented. She often visited us and would have performances of private theatricals. She was very beautiful, with black eyes and coal black hair, and I remember her dressed in black velvet “shorts” as Hamlet. She had a beautiful voice and might have had a great career as a singer, had it not been that everything relating to the theatre was looked upon by her father and mother as pertaining to the Devil. I realise now how her whole life was ruined by what would be difficult to explain nowadays—the Puritan spirit of America. The early settlers in America brought with them a psychic sense which has never been lost entirely. And their strength of character imposed itself upon the wild country, taming the wild men, the Indians, and the wild animals in a remarkable manner. But they were always trying to tame themselves as well, with disastrous results artistically!”
Visit the Isadora Duncan Dance Company’s website for upcoming performances.