The best day of the holiday season for me is always December 31. No, not because I drink desperately and dance like my life depended on it although with the right dress… It’s because I love a nice annual retrospective to prepare myself mentally for the coming year. There’s something about knowing that it’s the last day of the year that makes it seem so profoundly important to wrap it up, label it, and launch it onto the pile of accumulated time (thanks Geoff Bouvier) to serve as feather bedding for what comes next.
What a rich year to look back on. I tend to make 1 big declaration each year and consider all the other little “resolutions” as steps, components, inextricably linked tools to accomplish my mission. The big declaration never seems to be hard to come up with. It just comes out. Sometime during September or October, the messages begin to come. The little things I’ve fixed, the things I find make me happy, give me a sense of purpose, sitting snugly in my soul, waiting for my attention, the “f’ing growth opportunities.” Glutton for beauty that I am with a prevailing wish to have been Dorothy Parker, my declaration for 2010 was, “I want to bring even more creative people into my life.” “Bang” said the Universe and gave me a double treat. Not only did I discover new creative souls, my old friends just seemed to become more, let’s just say “colorful.” People I’ve known for years evolving into something even more spectacular than the things that first drew me to them. The new people added intrigue and dimension that signaled an expansion of possibilities. There was a loosening of comfort zones testing my emotional boundaries, bringing amazing rewards. While there are many, many highlights, a few seem so significant they signal a focus for 2011 that can not be denied. My sub-slogan for 2010 was “slow down and wait for my children to catch up.” More on that later.
One of the best treats was reconnecting deeply with my childhood partners in crime Jolie Runyan Finkbiner, and Gaye Colvin. After high school and college we all went our separate ways living lives divided by geography, disparate priorities, and a lack of Facebook. Thanks to the Internets, our shared mid-life musings, and remembered connections brought us back together in a more focused and profound way. We have come full circle to a familiar place with a richer perspective seasoned by our very different lives.
After 25 years of separation Jolie and I treated ourselves to not 1, but 2 joyful, sun-filled reunions in Southern California speckled with dancing and singing to her husband’s band Baywood, laughter that tested the boundaries of my post-partum bladder, and tears connecting the dots of experiences that led us to now. But most important for me was being reminded that I have great taste in people. Even at 5 or 6 when we met, I knew this person was special in a way that few are. She is present, tender, deep, poetic, and a big, big personality who people fall instantly in love with. And her life’s work, directing a creative outlet for at-risk kids in rural Illinois makes her a hero in my eyes.
Gaye is a talented writer, visual artist, and deep intellectual who is considered a soul mate and guide to so many. Her gentle, thoughtful spirit has always influenced me in ways that made me want to be a better person. She has loomed large this year sharing the finds of her curious mind introducing me to the work of Bill McKibben, reminding me of Rumi, and Mary Oliver, always with a timely tome that fits my mood exactly. She has an amazing ability to hear the underlying themes in everything. The three of us share a bond of sisters, conspirators, and reminders of our past, a loving lens to reveal the truth of all that was and still is. This is love and creativity combined in such an unexpected way.
Then Claudia, the realest foodie on the planet came into my life. What a bright light she is. Wow! And so cute on film. She has connected me with food, writing, and creating, all passions of mine, in a way I hadn’t expected to connect this year. She brought new people, new possibilities, and a sense of being needed. I can’t wait to see her new idea fly!
The nicest surprise, towards the latter half of the year, was meeting entrepreneur, artist, educator, and tender guy Scott Locker. What a gem of a human. Someone who elevates the meaning of the word compassion, caring, commitment, and enduring focus on progress. The work he does serves so many. Through his deep appreciation for the arts, he has created a one-of-a-kind performance environment to celebrate local artists. He has introduced me personally to some amazing artists including Joey Lent, a soulful guitarist who runs his own house concert venue called Strings in Oakland, Annie Bacon and her amazing Folk Opera, Geoffrey Bouvier, a poet who has just launched a “Rap Epic,” a work I believe will take on a life of its own if only to deliver its powerful message for diversity, humanity, and the beauty of this twisted, imperfect journey. Scott’s work is only getting bigger and stronger highlighting, uncovering, and nurturing new artists, old artists, and connecting a community around it all.
There were too many aesthetic encounters to mention, but there were also encounters of creativity of a different kind. The other kind I’ve been really searching for. The kind that might just make the world run a little more smoothly. People doing all sorts of things to change the world in food justice, documentary film, environmental work, and radical local economic development. I even ran into, and started working for a long-time ad agency veteran determined to turn the agency world into a place where real people can not only survive, but thrive and grow.
Two “low-brow” pleasures rounded out my year with “Shrek (get your freak on) the Musical”, and a visit to Disney World, “The Happiest Place on Earth” with my entire family, sponsored by my folks. As commercial as they come, both experiences reminded me of the impact of big creative endeavors on the spirit of children. Although Disney World was hot, crowded, and ‘spensive, my children were in awe. My youngest, overwhelmed and too small to really take it all in, reminded me that there is always another time, and we spent many hours just lounging in one spot or another watching the park go by. The highlight of Shrek for me was the message that everyone has a little “Freak” inside including a hot pink dragon that sang like Aretha Franklin. And sometimes, as I’m so often reminded with my aging body, “beautiful isn’t always pretty.”
To top off this year of living creatively, I learned that Pantone has declared Magenta the official color of 2011. Honeysuckle actually. Number P18-2120 to be precise. Looks like Magenta to me. I think it’s a good sign. Magenta is vibrant, creative, action-oriented, alive, but most of fun. So fun! It’s the “let’s party” color with an edge of purpose. In my mind I might have made it the 2010 color but Pantone knows best. Here’s what they had to say:
While the 2010 color of the year, PANTONE 15-5519 Turquoise, served as an escape for many, Honeysuckle emboldens us to face everyday troubles with verve and vigor. A dynamic reddish pink, Honeysuckle is encouraging and uplifting. It elevates our psyche beyond escape, instilling the confidence, courage and spirit to meet the exhaustive challenges that have become part of everyday life.
In my recap of 2010 so much is missing. More, I’m sure will come out as the lessons surface. But what became so clear to me was that creativity is the vital force of humanity and kindness is vessel. Held in a kind, unhurried, no-judgement way, creativity can bound forth from anywhere. What struck me about my experiences in 2010 is not the entertainment factor, or the thrill of the new, or the depth of feelings, but the incredible sensitivity, and necessity for gentleness with these souls. Mine included. We have a lot to do as a human race. We’ve dug ourselves into a big deep hole and it’s time to dig out. But pushing, prodding, driving, and yelling is not going to make it happen. The only way to get it done is with vision, patience, and kindness. Enduring, persistent, warm, nurturing kindness. Yep, that one that seems to elude us in the moments when we need it most. It dawned on me (Magenta: the official color of dawn) that these beautiful people who have come so willingly into my life require kindness, love, nurturing, something I can usually give but not always. It’s something I personally must declare, focus on, and just do. It’s so important and I ‘ve got so much to learn that it’s gotta be part of the slogan. Hell, it is my slogan! Mary Alice Gilbert: “Practice kindness with a touch of honeysuckle” like warm spring days, sweet, sweet flowers, and precious moments and the color of the sky at dusk as I wrote this. A reminder that for creativity to flourish one must slow down, speak softly, and wait for the inner child to catch up. Seems like 2011 might just work out great!