Living Creatively

Tango

The music starts, and I melt into the embrace of a partner. All thoughts and trials of the week vanish. We move as one. 

No words pass between my dance partner and me or anyone else on the dance floor—no words are necessary. We’ve connected at a deep level through the music and the rhythm of our bodies moving across the floor. 

When I leave the milonga, I long to return. The subtleties of Tango intrigue me. It’s not a dance that can be conquered after a few lessons, it’s a lifestyle, a commitment, a weekly meditation. And so, after fifteen years, I’m still taking lessons. 

Storytelling

Storytelling is in my blood. When I was a child, our family gatherings on Passover and the High Holidays were full of stories. My great-aunt Sara told tale after tale about my lunatic relatives who lived at the multi-generational family house in Coney Island in the 1930s and 40s. These stories were wonderful, but my favorites tales were the ones my cousin Martin told of his experience in WWII. He was a world class story teller. His voice, his body language, the expressions on his face—priceless!

Fast forward years later, I moved to Portland with my family. My husband and I debated how to expose our children to our culture in a town with few Jews and fewer family members. We decided to have Sabbath dinner every Friday night, and at every Sabbath dinner, I told a story. Not a story about my family in Coney Island or a story from WWII, but a Jewish folktale, from the multitude of tales my ancestors used to teach and inspire. We loved the zany stories of Chelm and the wise stories about King Solomon. These stories became a highlight of our week. 

Now that my boys have grown, I have the chance to take my storytelling to the next level. In August of 2021 I became an ordained Maggid, Jewish teacher and storyteller. I have found that there’s nothing more thrilling than getting in front of an audience, young and old, and telling a story. I love embodying characters with gestures, body language and my voice. Watching the audience respond with delight sends me right back to the joy I felt when I heard cousin Martin’s stories as a child. If you’re interested in booking me for a storytelling event, contact me here. 

Modern Art

At the Prado in Madrid, I became light-headed—so much history, so many masterpieces. I crossed a threshold into a room with two larger than life paintings on one wall—Goya’s Second of May, 1808 and Third of May, 1808. Both paintings were more than eight feet by eleven feet. I knew this art, had homeschooled my children and taught them art history. I gazed at the Spaniard’s rebellion against Napoleon, then turned to view, the following day, when a Spanish rebel faced a French firing squad. My knees buckled and I wept. 

A year later, I visited the Chicago Institute of Art. Once again, a painting stopped me in my tracks. This time it was Picasso’s Old Guitarist. The old man’s fragile humanity was laid bare on the canvas. I nearly forgot to breathe.

In the contemporary art wing, the work was brilliant, but old. Nothing created after the 1960s. More importantly, too few pieces were by women artists.

Where is the brilliant art by women? Tucked into galleries, museums, and institutes around the world. I want to get to it all, but can’t, except on the internet. It’s not the same as seeing a piece in the flesh, but it can still touch my soul’s heartstrings.

Jazz Singing

The other day I watched, “What Happened, Miss Simone?” a documentary about Nina Simone. A sad story of a remarkable and talented artist who was not embraced by the world as the beautiful human being she was. In the documentary Nina Simone sang “I Got Life” from the musical Hair. I’ve heard the music and lyrics before, and yet I had never heard the music and lyrics before. Not this tone. Not this emotion. Even the storytelling was unlike any other version I’d heard. 

That’s the power of jazz—to communicate stories that are unique to the musicians—and the moment.

My husband and I discovered the Jazz community in Portland after becoming regulars at the 1905 bar. It’s a warm and welcoming place filled with gifted and passionate people. Before connecting with the musicians and singers there, it had never occurred to me that I could sing. Now that I’ve started studying Jazz singing, I’m humbled by how much I need to learn, but I love it. 

Art is a commitment. Singing is hard. It’s challenging. I may never be a star. Honestly, I don’t have to be. But one day I’ll be able to take a classic Jazz song and make it my own, to tell my own story. I hope so. 

Cocktails

My husband and I knew we didn’t want our children to abuse alcohol so we decided not to ban it. We instead encouraged our sons to embrace alcohol in the same way we taught them to embrace fine food. That may sound nuts, but wine and liquor are art forms. We agreed that a prohibition against alcohol risked a rebellion and we didn’t want our children drinking in secret. We thought that if they learned to value a fine scotch or a glorious bottle of wine, they would drink for the pleasure of the experience, rather than drink to get drunk. It has worked beyond our expectations.

My youngest son became passionate about mixology. He befriended bartenders around the world, read stacks of books on the subject, and even entered cocktail crafting contests. His knowledge of cocktails far surpasses mine, and I thoroughly enjoy learning from him.

Recently, my youngest son and I hosted a writers group where we explored how to use the art of making cocktails as inspiration for writing and as a metaphor of the writing process. We called it Cocktail Stories. It was a blast, and our participants loved it.

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