Seven Dangerous Words

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Hey Mom: Can I borrow your phone? 

When you have not had the pleasure of sharing company with your irreverent twenty-one-year-old son for a while (like, say, for TWO YEARS), it is easy to forget that this is probably a loaded question. And that you should ask why. And make it clear that your phone is fine the way it is, thank you very much, that it does not need new sounds, nor apps, nor games, nor new wallpaper, nor anything else.

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See that little battery icon up there? Under normal usage it stays full for most of the day. The exception to this was the month without Internet, when I had to rely on my phone’s hotspot for a connection. But this wallpaper (^) which appeared on my phone when I loaned it to my son is animated. There are skaters whizzing across the screen in all directions. And snow falls continually from the sky. It is pretty nifty, I admit.

It eats up battery.

So do selfies.

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We have been apart for far too long, for reasons as varied and complex as the boy. We have had a fantastic time together, warts included. He has matured a lot and made some very positive changes since I last saw him. I hate that our visit is almost over, and hope it is not two years before our next one.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. I hope yours have been filled with just the right amount of joy and ridiculousness.~D

Resolve

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I’ve worn out this plucky little word as both noun and verb for about a week. The nor’easter that moved into New England on Tuesday stalled out right over my neighborhood, evidently right on top of my house. The snow came stealthily at times and brazenly at others, mostly in silence. It was wet and messy and sometimes mixed with ice, which hammered menacingly on the loft’s skylights. In the end it proved more than the tree limbs and power lines could bear, leaving tens of thousands in the dark across the region, self included.

Shoveling snow early Thursday morning I heard unmistakable loud cracking and popping reverberate in the forest around me, then crashing: mangled limbs and trees coming down behind my loft, not far away. It dawned on me that being hemmed in without power and water was a possibility (never mind the fact that I’ve had no Internet for the past month). A week earlier a largish dead tree came down during comparatively fair weather and partially obscured the quarter-mile-long drive to the house, and a few weeks before that I came home one afternoon to a pair of trees sprawled across the V.A.S.T. trailhead at the bend in the drive onto the property, casualties of rain and high winds.

Not long ago I switched insurance companies in my eternal quest to live as frugally as possible; the nice insurance rep sitting in a faraway cubicle somewhere wanted to know the location of the nearest fire hydrant. I laughed out loud (really). I went on to describe rural Vermont’s isolation for her, adding that I’m pretty sure what Vermonters do during a house fire is stand around and warm their hands while they watch it burn (with all due respect to the volunteer fire departments dotting the landscape). She was not amused by this.

I am not especially amused, either. As I have said more than once in recent days: I did not come to Vermont to live alone in the wilderness. But my purpose here now is enigmatic, defies explanation, really. Coming to Handsome Chef Boyfriend’s place Thursday night gave me a little perspective and firmed my resolve about the things I want. It also gave me connectedness—no small thing. And it restored a wonderful sense of normalcy, reminding me it’s okay to relax just a little and enjoy the beauty of winter—which has not yet arrived, officially.

Friday night reassurance: green pea risotto and pan-roasted chicken with a cranberry orange glaze
Friday night reassurance: green pea risotto and pan-roasted chicken with a cranberry orange glaze

The days begin lengthening on December 22. That’s a week from tomorrow. In case you’re wondering.

Going On…

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Two simple words heard routinely in the context of the ballet studio during the learning process. Implicit in them is the notion that you have internalized one phrase or movement sufficiently to move ahead to the next.

When I closed my small school in Knoxville two and a half years ago I (wistfully) left behind the beginnings of critical mass, but also a handful of kids emerging as young dancers with the potential to work in the ballet world, should they choose that life. I had spent nearly six years shaping some of them in the classroom, and helping their parents learn how to navigate the trappings of ballet school, and how to be intelligent and discerning consumers of ballet in general.

Then came wailing and gnashing of teeth and tearing of hair when I turned the school’s deadbolt a final time. And so many questions. Foremost: what do we do now? I made the best suggestions I could for my loyal ballet families under the circumstances. I sent some of them to other local schools. My mom agreed to teach a few who were willing to travel two hours one way to see her; the logistics of that arrangement ultimately did not work, for anybody. At least one family relocated to a big city, where there were many more opportunities for strong training, greener pastures, as it were.

I recall something my mentor and advisor, Raymond Lukens said one summer afternoon in 2009 to a roomful of sweaty teacher trainees at American Ballet Theatre. I am paraphrasing, but more or less his message was that we must teach our students to survive without us. Of course, I think he meant older students who were closer to liftoff. Not so much the tender, gifted pre-adolescent children like the ones I had the great privilege and joy of teaching nearly every day of the week.

I worried about them. This is a proprietary thing that happens, I think, when you have invested so much careful training in a child, to be toyed with (potentially) in the hands of some unknown quantity elsewhere.

Last week I had a little lift, a message from one of my former school parents. She and her husband and young daughter (my erstwhile student) would spend Thanksgiving week in NYC and wanted advice about finding a perfectly fitted pair of pointe shoes at the epicenter of the ballet world. We swapped messages back and forth about the location of Gaynor Minden’s quiet, unassuming storefront, a pointe shoe company where only a few years ago I undertook an afternoon of fitter training from my friend and colleague, Karen Lacy. In no time flat Karen helped arrange a fitting for my student with an able staff person there.

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This was not my young student’s first pair of pointe shoes—that milestone had been met a couple of years earlier, just after I left Knoxville. But this was her first chance to own a pair of cherished Gaynors, obtained right from the source. (And for the uninitiated: there is a mystique surrounding pointe shoes that defies explanation here and probably deserves its own essay. Suffice it to say, It must be the shoes. That is all.)

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A couple of days later my young student’s mom messaged me with three photos taken during and immediately after the fitting. I was ecstatic—the shoes are lovely on her feet. She is also lovely and by all appearances is evolving into the beautiful young lady I knew she would be. I left my thumbprint on her to be sure, from the first day her six-year-old self stepped into my classroom, but her development is continuing as it should without me.

Her mom gave me permission to post these images; I especially loved the message that came with them: “This was a day she will remember when she’s ninety!”

Going on….

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