Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What goes around, comes around

In May of 2010, I posted a blog entitled Quick Change.  To recap: One night I was dancing Twyla Tharp's Push Comes to Shove with the Washington Ballet and next morning I was dressed as a gardener, ready for my first day at the US National Arboretum.  I thought I was walking away from ballet in a straight line, directly towards 'the rest of my life.'

Now it's February of 2012 and the Washington Ballet is performing Push again. As fate would have it, a space opened in the corps de ballet for me.  Now I'm starting to think that life moves in circles and ovals and not in straight lines.

We see it in nature. The seasons are cyclical, but the exact timing is out of our hands and nature remains a mystery.  There is a sleepy calm to the winter dormancy.  After nature has a rest, we notice the heralds of early spring: Camelias, Hellabores, Witch Hazels, Crocus, and Galanthus.  Their hopeful color and fragrance peak out of the browns and whites of winter. It seems life is a mixture of tender familiarities and unknowns.  The unknowns keep things interesting.

Last March I went on a  Journey , visiting schools of Horticulture.   One school and one program stood above the rest, but seemed like a long shot:  The Longwood Graduate Program in Public Horticulture a the University of Delaware.  But they only choose five people each year. (usually Science people)  The program is fully funded with a stipend! I applied and then I waited.

While I waited, I rekindled my love affair with ballet. And then began the delicate walk between two passions.  Imagine walking the edge of two round pools, jumping into the garden pool one day and onto the stage the next.  No straight lines here.  I wondered how long I could manage to keep both in my daily life.

And then I got invited for an interview at the Longwood program...

And then I got chosen to be a Fellow!
Hellabore (Lenten Rose)

And in their acceptance, they said something like:

We just want you to know that we see your background as an asset.  We are hoping you will pursue performing arts in the public garden with your thesis. 

I had not considered this option, I still didn't believe that I could have both.  Now I'm convinced that there aren't very many straight lines in life.  The earth is round, not flat.  The planets orbit the sun in an oval shape.  Spring comes around every year and we travel in changing circles and ovals, sometimes two at a time. We pick things up and we leave things behind.  They appear again. We create, we believe, we hold on, we let go, we rest. We stretch the limits and the boundaries of our perception.

Just one more adventure that shows nothing happens in a vacuum. 

Wake up and smell the Witch Hazel, spring is on the way!

Monday, February 6, 2012

The Ballet and the Bonsai

borrowed from: http://www.kitsunebonsai.com/serissa.html
This holiday season, a wonderful opportunity was presented to me.  After a hiatus from the stage, I was invited to perform as the Sugar Plum Fairy in the Nutcracker. I recognized this as an exciting opportunity and a great challenge. But I also thought that shifting my focus would involve sacrifices.  I suspected that it would cause a number of ripples in my daily life and I wondered if it would disrupt my long term plans. I remembered the roller coaster of being a performer and compared it with the relative calm of being a gardener...Was returning to the stage going to be a triumph or a setback?  For these thoughts I paused before I accepted the job. The job turned out to be more than I hoped, more than I feared or wondered. A perfect fit really.

However, when I returned home after nine days of 'ballerina-ing,' I found my Cerissa Rose bonsai nearly dead.  Parched soil, leaves brown and falling off, even a tiny bud dried up before it could bloom.  I couldn't help but see it as a tangible example of the change in my priorities. I worried that in my absence other priorities had been forgotten. 

Recently, I told this story to a friend. I was expecting a lecture about responsibilities, about letting go of old priorities and moving on to new ones,... but instead, after I finished the story of the ballet and bonsai, he asked if the tree made it.  I paused again and then answered happily "Yes! Well I did need to cut back the dead parts, but it's alive."  And then he said, "Well see? The point is, it survived. You're doing everything now."

He's right.  You can shift the balance of your life without becoming totally unhinged.  There are false starts and beginnings. There are losses and endings.   There are great stories in which we only play a tiny role, and mysteries that never add up. The question becomes:  How much do you believe you can have and how open you are to getting it?

"Once you get over the fear, it's a cinch," she said.  --Monique Duval