Monday, November 13, 2006

Day 83: Coming home! and more of your letters

Great news! We’re coming home Friday—just four days from now! We’ll have to come back to Houston Sunday night, for a bone marrow biopsy on Monday and to have my catheter removed! And then we’ll be home again Monday night to stay. I can hardly bear it!

I wrote the following a few days ago but held off posting it; now I want to send it in a hurry because my computer’s acting very strange and I want this out before the thing crashes again. I love you all, and will see you soon!

I just realized it’s been nearly a month since I last thanked you for your beautiful cards, letters, and other contributions to the 130 Letters project—I’m so sorry! We draw so much sustenance from these beautiful things, and opening the envelops has become an important ritual for us. Anna’s sister, Patti, sent a photo of her granddaughter, Sophie Kate, who’s now 11 months old (or almost). KC Dignan, who works with teachers of the visually impaired throughout Texas and the US, and whom I first met when I was invited to be a guest in a graduate seminar on visual impairment in (I think) 1986—and who also happens to be married to my good friend Jim Allan—sent a fine poem about ripples—ripples in the water, ripples of a life touching other lives. Jim Thatcher and his wife, Diana Seidel, sent a CD of Charlotte’s Web read by the author, E.B. White. I remember my father reading it to us when I was a little boy—it’s probably been 50 years since I last heard it!—and I put it on at bedtime, so it would read me to sleep as of course it should. We also opened another card from Kathy Keller, another accessibility friend, who has sent so many cards, each one a gentle reminder of love. There was a card from Dave Stones and his wife, Christy Swanteson (don’t think I’ve got the spelling right, sorry!). They were our neighbors 20 years ago on Citadel Cove in University Hills, and we became close friends—Dave, who ran the registrar’s computer systems at UT then; he’s now Registrar at Southwestern University in Georgetown, where our friends Larkin and Leonard live, too—drove me to work almost every day, and often home again, too, until he and Christy and their son Dan moved out to Round Rock; Dave and I drove Christy and Anna crazy with an endless series of awful puns… There was also a card from Sue and Kurt Heinzelman, who are among our oldest and best friends in Austin, from whom we bought the Citadel Cove house in 1985—a simple card, picturing what Anna described as beautiful lilies, say that we’re always in their thoughts. Lorraine Fisher’s 2-year-old daughter, Emily, sent a card she had made herself, complete with drawings and a rendition of my name with the hook of the “J” facing right rather than the more customary left; Lorraine and Emily visited us shortly before we came here to Austin—Lorraine had been on a trip home to see her father, Alan Friedman, and his wife, Liz Cullingford—two more of our oldest and best friends; Liz is now chair of the English Department, something I suspect neither of us could have imagined in the fall of 1979 when we both arrived in Austin and sublet different parts of the same house. Jackie Henkel, another English Department colleague and friend, and her husband Cliff—father of one of Ledia’s best friends in high school—sent a thoughtful card as well. Pam Scott and Judy Watford sent a card whose message is in Braille. I think Judy was working in the Technical Evaluation Unit at the Criss Cole Rehabilitation Center when I went there for the first time in 1980 to learn how new technologies might help; Pam was my Braille teacher—twice, in fact, and even the second time she had to fire me again because I wasn’t doing my homework; it’s no fault of hers that my Braille literacy isn’t what it should be! Pam is also a cancer survivor (in fact, we met a couple of times at the Cancer Center in Austin) who’s helped me by sharing her experiences. Steve and Helen Schoonover sent a card and an intense Phoebe Snow CD; Anna has worked with them for 20 years, I think, and they’ve become good friends, making us welcome in their beautiful home on Cape Cod, literally a stone’s throw from the beach. There was also a sweet, thoughtful letter from Isabel Mendieta, who works quietly and hard to keep our house clean; I couldn’t read her painstaking Spanish, but Anna translated for me, and I was struck all over again by Isabel’s generosity of spirit.

And we’ve heard from many of our BodyChoir friends as well. Gordon and Bee came to visit a few weeks ago, and we had a lovely dinner at a fine Mexican restaurant called Hugo’s, where we celebrated Bee’s birthday. Cards and letters pour in, too. Kunda sent a sweet letter along with detailed notes from some of the readings she’d been doing about chaos and community. Big Al sent a very funny limerick (off-color, of course) to remind me not to take all this too seriously all the time. Macio sent a CD containing beautiful readings of poems by the Sufi poets Rumi and Hafez. Autumn, Bree (sp?), and Gretchen sent lovely letters full of feeling. Michael and Jan Haney sent a thoughtful card. Another card came from Sara Lo, this one showing Labrador puppies and little kittens, with a sweet note inside; I could hear Sara Lo’s strong French accent reading it. Alejandra and her husband Daniel sent a card that featured beautifully photographed dogs in interesting human-like poses, together with two fine CDs that we’ve enjoyed very much. Amanda Winter sent us a string of fine, small bells that tinkle very quietly every time I brush the room divider on which we’ve hung them, a sound that seems to come from far away though the source is right at hand; there was also a small purse with an embroidered elephant and sheaf of poems. Patricia Rollins sent a lovely card with a note written over a photo of Anna and Laura Rose, over which Patricia had written her note. Oscar’s letter contained a simple, beautiful prayer. And here I have to tell a story about Oscar. He was facilitating—that is, doing the music and organizing the dance—one of the first couple of times after Anna and I started going to BodyChoir five years ago this weekend. During opening circle, he called me into the center of the room to stand with him; then he asked all the dancers—there must have been over 100 that day—to move back, back, to stand against the wall. Then he asked each person to make a small sound so that I could hear the dimensions of the room as well as the number of dancers in that space. It was very beautiful—so welcome, so thoughtful, yet so incredibly simple. And I would never have thought to do it, or to ask for it.

Steve Ausbury sent a “spiral letter”—a newsy, artful, loving letter spiraling out from the center, handwritten in letters so tiny Anna had to admit defeat and leave it for JayByrd to read to me next time he came. Anna and I met Steve, a performance artist and opera composer who later spent a few months living at hour house, with whom we collaborated (along with Celia Hughes) on a workshop called Disabled Environments, at the same time we met Allison Orr, who sent a note and a CD compilation. It was Allison who choreographed Sextet, the dance piece in which Dillon and I performed, together with Sozan Schellen and his guide dog, Zeke, as well as Karly Dillard and Allison; what a wonderful experience that was. We met Steve and Allison at a dance workshop—my first ever—led by Deborah Hay, the renowned avant-garde choreographer who’s made her home in Austin for 25 years now (she’s touring in Europe as I write this, having performed her latest work in Paris just a couple of weeks ago, with Rino and Bill Nemir in attendance
. That experience was transformative for me, as Deborah’s previous workshop had been transformative for Anna: at the outset I was resistant, rigid with fear, unwilling to take the risk of moving, of opening myself to whatever might be going on around me. By the end I was dancing, at least in my own estimation, darting quickly from place to place, relishing the contact when I bumped into another dancer or failed to get out of his or her way. That workshop was also where we met Carola, one of the founders of BodyChoir. Deborah sent a gorgeous card that included one of her favorite quotations from T.S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,” the first of his Four Quartets, in which he talks about “The still point at the center of the world…. Except for the point, the still point,/There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.” How true that is, and how wonderful of Deborah to send it, and how glad I am to have opened it only now, so close to our coming home to rejoin the dance that’s been going on all the while, the dance in which we’ve been privileged to participate from our distance here and which has kept us moving, too.

Thank you all.
Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.


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