Jul 21, 2006

A Dream of Trees

My friend Ted Rooney and his wife recently left for Portland, Oregon, where Ted is from. Ted said they'll be gone for the rest of the year, maybe for forever. But Ted is a successful actor. How's he gonna act from Portlant, I wondered? "We'll come back down for pilot season. Or not."
Wow, Is this it for Ted and his art? Over and done?

It made Larry and I think about moving to Portland, where Larry is also from. Maybe in a few years. Maybe as soon as we no longer have to live here. When we can live wherever and come down when needed.

Because really, why live in LA? When "living" means being forced to look for affordable housing in Los Feliz, where it's all non-airconditioned coffee houses next to Muffler Shops next to urban decay. Or in Atwater Village (Los Feliz adjacent) where the "up and coming" areas are industrial warehouses and gangs. The beaches have good air quality. And unaffordable rents and horrible traffic gridlock.

Where are the places that have a sense of PLACE? Community? I know, you to have to create community. Our friends are stretched out from Long Beach to Monrovia to Koreatown to Culver City to Woodland Hills. The circumference of that circle is about 250 miles. Or, a $40 tank of gas. If you're driving a Prius.

There are those of "us,” and I’m thinking of the artists, who are forced to live in big cities because that's where the work is … cities that seem to squeeze the art out of the landscape and the art out of your soul.

My friend Anna, a despairingly beautiful writer (read her beautiful writing and you'll despair of your own talent), sent this poem to me.
"For us," she wrote.

A Dream of Trees
By Mary Oliver

There is a thing in me that dreamed of trees,
A quiet house, some green and modest acres
A little way from every troubling town,
A little way from factories, schools, laments.
I would have time, I thought, and time to spare,
With only streams and birds for company,
To build out of my life a few wild stanzas.
And then it came to me, that so was death,
A little way away from everywhere.

There is a thing in me still dreams of trees.
But let it go. Homesick for moderation,
Half the world's artists shrink or fall away.
If any find solution, let him tell it.
Meanwhile I bend my heart toward lamentation
Where, as the times implore our true involvement,
The blades of every crisis point the way.

I would it were not so, but so it is.
Who ever made music of a mild day?
One reason I loved Redeemer Church in New York, Pastor Kim Keller has a vision of WHY they were in the city. Not just to help people get by, but to give them a sense of purpose. That's what it comes down to. Purpose. I never wanted to live somewhere just because it was pretty or calm or affordable. My life has always been driven by a sense of calling and purpose.

That's one of the most amazingly wonderful things about Larry. He's got the same sense of calling and purpose in his writing, in his art, and his faith.

There are all these new superstars of the post-modern (pomo) church. Young and hip writers like Rob Bell whose bleached blonde curl makes me not want to read him, (which would be bad for me, because he's a great writer and speaker) ... Rob Bell can who can talk about quantum physics and how Genesis I is really Hebrew poetry and 20 somethings who don't remember rotary phones, they get him.

But what about all of us who grew up writing with a pencil and hitting puberty when Saturday Night Fever hit the movie theaters? The Baby boomers and the post boomers, we grew up thinking "God has a wonderful plan for my life" and if I just follow it, and read the Bible literally, my life will fall into place?

Here we are in our forties or fiftes thinking, "What the F happened?" Was it all a lie? Is the Bible even true, on any level? Did I just fall prey to a Christian marketing scheme, the way a bride gets suckered into buying a $10k dress she'll only wear once?

That's me. That's Larry. We're both stuck on figuring it out. Figuring out our faith, throwing out the dirty over-processed christianese bathwater and keeping the Baby Jesus. Just the real baby jesus. And we both are set on figuring it out and talking about it, writing about it, getting up on stage and performing it, publishing it on blogs and books, and living out a different kind of life.

I'm excited to be marrying Larry.
For now we'll dream of trees.
And write in a city that needs more of them.


Doug Perkins said...

I have gotten so sick of "magic thinking" Christians that think that everything will turn out OK for them just because they read the Bible and go to what they see as "the right church" - you're right that people need to take responsibility for their God given free choice about why they are doing what they are doing in thier lives, which includes where they are doing it. I have a sort of "toleration" relationship with Los Angeles, that basically means that I know I have to tolerate the traffic, heat, attitudes and prices to be in a place that has gathered a lot of people that are "like me" in that they are pursuing their arts and dreams here, for better or for worse. Moving to a prettier or quieter or cooler or slower paced place just would not be an option, because I couldn't tolerate the "aloneness" of it - yes, the internet lets us colaborate wherever we are, but I still want to have live like minded people in my backyard to barbecue and exchange looks into each other's minds. SO - Ohio will have to continue to do with out me ;-)

Elleann said...

Hi Suz

We grew up thinking "God has a wonderful plan for my life" and if I just follow it, and read the Bible literally, my life will fall into place? Here we are in our forties or fiftes thinking, "What the F happened?" Was it all a lie? Is the Bible even true, on any level?

From the depths of my Pentecostal past, I could give you a resounding "Amen, sister!" (grins)

But seriously, as I shared with you a while back, I've been battling with ambivalence about emigrating to Califoria (funny, that, seeing as your post is all about staying in LA!). Yesterday, I was talking with some baby boomer friends and after expressing how frustrated I've gotten with God for never giving me any clear answers, I said pretty much the same thing you did - something about not being prepared to settle for any little neatly packaged fundamentalist answers to the vexing questions any more!
And then I said that maybe God wasn't actually all that concerned about whether I stay in SA or move to USA. Maybe that's up to me to decide, just one of the many decisions I need to take in our lives, and He's happy for me to go either way, cause all he's really interested in is my heart ... ??

That was a strangely scary and yet oddly liberating thought!

Anonymous said...

you must not spend much time in either Los Feliz or Atwater. Atwater in particular has a lot more than warehouses. Very walkable neighborhood streets with modest homes and neighbors who know each other. And a good deal of long-time locally owned businesses with pedestrian-friendly boulevards. Try Kaldi Coffee and Tea in Atwater on Glendale Blvd for some a/c with your latte.

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