Love Your Tree

“Do you say that tree isn’t pretty cause it doesn’t look like that tree? We’re all trees. You’re a tree. I’m a tree. You’ve got to love your body, Eve. You’ve got to love your tree. Love your tree.”

Eve Ensler, The Good Body

I remember the first time I saw Eve Ensler live.  It was on Broadway and it was THE GOOD BODY.  I had read THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES and though I enjoyed it and “got it”, I couldn’t connect to it.  But I had seen Ms. Ensler in interviews and thought, wow…how brave.

As I sat in the theatre listening to the bravery of a woman sharing her most vulnerable feelings about her body, how it tormented and bemused her, my mouth dropped open in awe of her courage.

The play was about an hour and a half and throughout I sat crying, privately clearing away tears I wanted no one else to see, because then they would know.  They would know, I too feel like this.  I too look in a mirror and think or say deplorable things to myself.  I stop myself from doing things I know I’m quite capable of and I hate myself for it being so important.

I don’t know that I had ever experience theatre that way before.  It was so different from seeing say, JOURNEY’S END where I left with the wonder of the theatre and the empathetic pain of those who’s lives I felt had just touched me.  No,  this was different.  This was me onstage being exposed.  This is the power of theatre!

I wanted to meet her, to be one of those who waited as she exited the theatre, to tell her, “I understand”.  I didn’t; instead I walked for a while, thinking and reflecting on my experience.  I was frozen and yet impelled; to do what, I didn’t know.  I think then, I thought about a blog, back before it was truly cool or popular, but I wasn’t ready.  That would be true exposure.

What I did do is tell my husband.  I told him, I know you have never understood how or why I feel about my body as I do or what it is like and I don’t know how to explain it…it fact, I can’t.  But I want you to see this show, if you do, you will know me better.  We bought tickets the next week and after we left the theatre, he simply held me.

I don’t speak of these things.  I don’t like to make it important because my true nature tells me I am beautiful no matter what.  But sometimes my brain and the outside influences of media and frivolity devour my senses.

I was watching TED talks, my new obsession, and I came across Ms. Ensler and sat to listen and to be reminded of that connection I made years ago.  The connection through art, theatre and my heart.  It reminds me again why I am an artist.  The fact that I am writing this in this blog tells me how much I have grown.

In the past, I would never share these vulnerabilities, these truths.  What I have discovered is that these truths, though painful are a part of who I am and who I want to be and sharing that is where the growth is.  The Good Body was a first step for me back in 2004.  That was my first year in NYC; my brave leap into my new life.

Now I’m living that life; fully, honestly and authentically.

As a nature lover infatuated with trees, the quote above has stuck with me.  It is from a woman Ms. Ensler had interviewed in Africa.  Over the years I sometimes in my head I say, “Nichole, you’ve got to love your tree.  Love your tree”.

I can’t begin to thank the artists who have inspired me enough.  But I would like to share with you her words.  Below is an awesome Talk after Eve had been through cancer and realized what she had been doing to herself and the reality of what it truly important.

To whoever, if anyone is ready this; I hope you have some time to listen if not now then later…its worth it!

 

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To Dance

When I danced, I discovered me.  I was young, nineteen and eager to grow, to break out of my fears and self abuse.  I have never called myself a dancer, its like saying I play professional basketball on weekends.  I didn’t have the commitment or the dexterity, but I did dance.

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I am an actor who was afraid to let go.  I didn’t want to be seen as much as I longed for the spotlight.  My body was my enemy, no it was my mind.  I believed I wasn’t good or capable enough.

And then I danced!

I took a leap of faith and shared my body with the world; peers and teachers, children and parents, strangers and friends.  Movement spoke to me in visions of shapes and sounds in my head.  Pictures on stage, a choreography of emotions flowing through bodies.

I was in awe.  Inspired.  Intrigued.  I danced with amateurs and professionals; I studies and learned…to breathe!

I learned that my body is an instrument, a gift.  A gift I learned to share, its wisdom calling out to the world…”I’m OK…you can see me now.  I’m here!”

And again…I danced.

 

The Soul of Humanity

A spark in my soul, I stand here making art and choices.  My heart expressed on paper, canvas, stage and film for years to come.  This is my voice. The colors of my vocal inflections, the words I place on paper, the soul I include in all that I do.

Who is to say where creativity lives?  In my breathe, my heart, my body.  There is a depth to it, like a river that travels to the open sea constantly moving and growing; growing intrinsically, my interpretation shared and emulated and stolen over and over, feeding itself with itself.  Compounding voice and vision.

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To think what creative contributions I make, I envision an interpretation outside my boundaries.  Once shared it is no longer mine to control or protect, though it will always be personal to me.

Creativity is nourishment for the soul.  A way to separate from the entrapment of the world and experience something cathartic and awe inspiring.  It is in the moment you write a phrase and make yourself cry, speak from the stage and know you are beyond your own body, swirling your paintbrush like a dance that seeks permanency, or dance so fully that breath is effortless and your body is weightless AND…it is when you laugh so hard, you know you are fully alive!

Creativity is the soul of humanity.

Breathe

With every step there is a discovery.  A rock, a root, a leaf.  In one spot I find three kinds of moss; wispy pine like moss, the sea like ground cover moss – moist, like skin cloaking the tree, and clumpy mold like moss growing clumsily across the fringe of dirt at the roots of a fallen trunk.

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We walk over roots, boulders and broken stone that seem to be the consequence of many feet passing this way, the wearing down of stone, at points smooth and others fragmented.

It is a cool day, perfect for a hike.  The breeze is cooling as my body temperature rises on the inclines.  In the woods there is a redolence hard to explain, its damp and mildewy with decay and yet fresh and alive; magnificent.  The air fills me with excitement as I hear water flowing ahead through leaves and over crags and outcrops.

We rush ahead then I stop.  I must take a moment to sit, to breathe and listen to the music of the earth echoing around me.  I watch the water bugs dance.  Inhaling and exhaling deeply, I could stay here all day.  But there is more.

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A destination, the end of the path – perhaps a cliff or a field? I’m not quite sure since I’ve never been here before.  I think to myself, I want to take the trail map and highlight each new path we explore until we see them all.  What a gift this place is.  My heart is beating with the excitement of the moment…three lakes, mountain cliffs, the gunks and a world of life all its own.

I am sharing this ramble with my partner; simply enjoying the silence together.  As we continue on the slope it gets steeper as we go.  I am happy.  Happy to be here, to walk, to have remembered to wear layers – my sweater has now learned to dance from my waist to my shoulders to shelter then sooth my skin as my body changes in stride.

We reach an area and stop.  We’ve been hiking a while.  How much farther, how much more time? Will we make it back before dark?  And we push on.

Ha! Not one hundred yards beyond the next thicket of trees we hit the top!  We spring from the trees to the open sky and a formidable cliff overlooking a breathtaking view with  blue skies, wispy clouds and the wind’s spiritual hymn.  We laugh and sit smiling and excited to be where we are.  We breathe.

There is another moment – how long do we have? What time is it?  Will we make it back before dark?  Then we stop.  We lie down on the stone, arms dangling over the side and listen to the world.  We hear birds, and footsteps, crunching branches and laughter.  A group of young men emerge laughing and in search of “Gertrude’s Nose”, I think to myself, I’ll have to find it too one day.  And then a again; I breathe.

After a sublime conscious rest we debate the path back – “the hard way or the easy way”, the hard way being the way we came.  And with enthusiasm we say in sync ” the way we came”; that’s why we’re here.

As we prepare our journey back we stand and before us flies out from behind the bend from below the cliff, 10 eagles.  In awe we stop, sit back down and watch as the do their do-see-do’s hunting, diving here and there then re-emerging in the sky.

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With gratitude we stay and watch a while and give thanks for this gift to whoever can hear our hearts.  I believe it is a thank you from mother nature for taking the time to be silent, for appreciating our world and sharing our love.

With new energy in our hearts we challenge ourselves in our trek back to the inside world of cars and people.  We push our bodies and our minds and fill ourselves with air and adrenaline and laughter.

We get back in less than half the time it took to get out almost running with glee and joy with in our spirits.  And on the final path back…we breathe.

 

Healing

The sounds of healing 

washing over the walls to the unseen depths like the tears of memories 

 

We say remembrance

We say honor

We say forgiveness

 

Let our tears join here from all over the world from now to forever

 

Healing what lies beneath 

connected to the souls lost and shared in this sacred place

 

Our distance is vast yet a breath away 

as we stand here 

Healing

 

Remembering

Honoring

And forgiving 

Together

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Nichole Donje’

Relax

“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” —Mother Teresa

Its days like these I need to remind myself of these words. Days when I need them the most.

Honestly it’s not a bad day or a good day, but a day where it’s just – going through the motions. These are the struggle days full of questions and insecurity for me.

For instance, today I feel accomplished. I feel like I didn’t really get anything done, and yet I went to work at my day job all day and since leaving, I’ve walked and fed the dogs, typed up future blog posts and read some of my book.

Perhaps today my mind simply needs rest From deeper issues and career decisions? Maybe my mind is just processing and I’m feeling the mechanism at work? Or maybe not everyday needs to be more than what it is.

It’s fascinating how it’s always easier to comfort someone else, to lift them up and make them laugh when we think they need us, But when it comes to compassion for ourselves it’s always the hardest.

Is it that we don’t believe we deserve it? That we think we haven’t earned it? or do we simply think it’s selfish to care for ourselves?

I keep hoping that the more I’m willing to treat myself with the same compassion as others. The more it will echo in my heart and in my head.

The short and easy speech I need to hear today… Relax!

 

How do I want to show up in this world?

I often wonder: How do I want to show up in this world?
There is a recent picture of me that says it all. It may not be how I always show up, but this is what I want!
TO BE:  joyous, laughing, appreciative, authentic and in the moment
This is a snapshot from a series where four of us were out in New Paltz, NYmy favorite place – hiking. One friend stopped my husband and I for some romantic sweet pics. We, of course took it to the goofy place.
This is a love scene gone totally wrong…OR in my mind, truly and ever so right!
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This is where I want to live…what I want to share.

Joy and wonder!

“People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

There are so many philosophies on how we should succeed in this world.  I have always found it difficult to fit into the boxes created for success.  I’ve struggled crazily to be able to express clearly what I want in my life and I often thought, maybe I’m just not smart enough or good enough.

In the past few years I have proven to myself that I am smart enough and that I am good at what I do.  Yet I often still have a hard time finding the words to express it, to get others to understand what it is I want, what I need, etc.

All I know is that I feel it in my gut and I’m going crazy to get it out.

And even more over the past year, I have realized that a reason I have been struggling is because I was still working to fit into that box.  A box I am now shedding.  I have been working to find my voice, MY VOICE, not the voice of success, but the voice that calls out to who I am and who I want to be.

I highly recommend, especially for anyone in the arts who has difficulty finding the WORDS to watch Simon Sinek in this TED Talk “How great leaders inspire action”.  It’s truly inspiring and eye-opening. You may find yourself…looking at you in a new way.

I act because it gives me a voice.

I act because it connects me to other people

I act because when I do it is an opportunity to share myself with the world

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

Age is oddly a timeless thing. Each year that passes isn’t a year lost but more life gained. We cannot know when that time will end so it goes on forever for each us, until it doesn’t.

I have learned in my time and with my age that it is the small moments, the people, and the part of me that shares it with whomever that matters. A date with my husband, a walk with my dogs, a glass of wine with friends, my performance on stage that others each experience in their own way….that is the truth and the meaning of life. What is shared and what is accepted by one’s self.

I am living in a time of my life that I am learning to appreciate the greatness that has been shared with me. No matter what I search for as my “purpose” each moment is ageless and endless as long as I hold them in my heart.

Each day I learn to breathe again and create new moments, new art, and new discoveries.

Today I share with you. This moment. These words. A small special piece of who I am.

Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.