Grounds for Sculpture

Grounds for Sculpture

Monday, July 22, 2013


Yesterday I visited the Brooklyn Museum and had the time of my life.  On exhibit was a show of John Singer Sargent’s Watercolors.  It was magic!  I felt joy erupting inside of me in ways that had been at rest for a long time.  A fellow spectator was upset that a bulb had blown out making a particular painting just slightly more challenging to view in its full and utter brilliance.

At one point I felt like I was going to begin weeping.  I could barely contain my feelings.  The paintings were so alive in me and so familiar and I wasn’t sure why.  I was deeply uncertain of the precise reason behind their familiarity to me.  Was it because I had seen these paintings before or because I had seen these sites and/or fallen so deeply in love with both?  I was overcome.


I had lived in Florence 25 years ago.  How remarkable is that?  It was there that I had grown many aspects of my own self simply by being and living there.  Not knowing the language but being immersed in it.  Not knowing the city, but needing to find my way around it.  Not knowing anything about traveling in a foreign country, but finding Italy so magnificent.  

It was there that I fell in love with my solitude.  

It was there that I fell in love Churches.  With Cathedrals .  With art.  With things I didn’t understand.  With sites which are now tattooed in my memory.  Places I know I could probably walk directly to and find again without a map.  

So as I stood in front of a painting either I had seen before, or a city or site I had visited and found so breathtaking, a woman next to me said, “You should go to Florence.”

I had thousands of thoughts all at once from funny to tragic to angry to sardonic.  I thought about the people who really had money like the Rockerfellers and the families for whom it was a sport to ask, “Where will you be ‘summering?’”  And how her comment would translate in an Edith Wharton novel as “One must always find a way to visit Florence in one’s youth!”  

I thought “Are you paying for the trip?”  I thought “How lucky am I that I LIVED on Via di Ginori and could take myself back there anytime I want?”  I thought “Florence lives inside of me.”  I thought “I am going to be buried there (unless I have my Will changed).”  I thought “What an ignorant thing to say.”  I thought “Bless you for saying that.”  My thoughts went on and on and on and on.  

I said nothing to this woman even though I spoke to many many onlookers.  Those of you who know me, probably find the latter part of that statement extremely hard to believe!  (Especially Madge!)  Many of us were overcome by the beauty of the work.  Just absolutely overcome.  So much so, it was as if we needed to lay down underneath a parasol.  

Again, why was this work so familiar to me?  Had I been with his paintings at the Uffizi (I don’t think so)?  It seemed that the Boston Museum owns most of them.  Or had the places I loved been living so deeply inside of me that seeing them come alive brought a part of me back which, all these years was only a beautiful but distant memory?

I just don’t know.

But nevertheless, how beautifully and wonderfully evocative to uncover this memory chest.  

That time in Florence was the loneliest and happiest time of my youth.  I grew myself and was so happy even as the rain poured down on my face for the first three weeks of my time there.  I was happy.  

The souls of some of the most remarkable people were alive in the cracks between the cobblestone streets and in the silences in the gigantic Duomo you could hardly see all the way up inside of.  I walked the same streets that Michelangelo walked and I felt his worn feet beneath my own.  Hundreds and hundreds of years of history crept into my heart as I found my way through my youth there.  And I am so grateful to be reminded of how much it is still alive in me.  

Thank you, John Singer Sargent, for bringing that life back to me.


Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

More is More

I was reading an article today about an actor who is leaving a show which I love and who will now be replaced by another actor in the play.  This is protocol in the world of theatre. But I had many feelings about it.  Deep ones.  I paused.

Somewhere around 1954 or 1955, Shirley MacLaine, who was the understudy in "The Pajama Game" thought she would never ever get to go on for the unstoppable lead, Carol Haney.  And the very night she was running late to the theater because of a late subway train (the same night she had planned on giving her notice), she was asked to go on (due to Carol badly hurting herself), having never rehearsed the part, never been fitted for a costume, a series of nevers which turned quickly into a life-changing beginning of her career because of who was in the audience that infamous night.  And just like that, she was offered her first film role and the rest was history.  The story is more compelling and more breathtaking than this, but I am trying to be concise.

I am not thinking of this "replacement" like Shirley's good fortune, although perhaps I should.  I should be blessing this man his good fortune.  I am aware that I feel personal loss.  Like when our teacher is out and we are struck with loss and surprise and have to quickly work ourselves out.  Like when a friendship fails and you see that old friend just happily moving on with her life.  Or dare I say it, Divorce.  And then re-marriage.

Being replaced.

From one announcement in Variety to re-marriage.  What a synapse!

But when I saw how quickly that synapse fired because I wasn't ready to say goodbye to my beloved cast-member.  I realized the most important thing of all.

No one is replaceable.

Not a dog.  Not a cast-member.  And most certainly not a loved one.

People may behave in ways which make it look as though you have been replaced.  But to use one of Oprah's sayings, here's what I know for sure:

Love lives inside of us.  As do the people we love.

One way of relating may be to address how much a person reminds you of another.  But no two people are the same.  Everyone leaves an imprint and even if it is a choice to sever ties, that person cannot be replaced.  It is not possible.  In fact, it is delusional.

Love is a unique and powerfully intimate force between people which cannot be mimicked.  It can be nurtured and honored and remembered in the most beautiful of ways, even if you are alone in that memory.  But a spirit does not die nor can it be killed. It is a choice to allow it close or near.

So when the understudy brings the house to its feet, we can applaud and celebrate without fear that Ms. Haney is on her way out.

There is room for us all.

It reminds me of what Geeta Iyengar said: "Somebody asked me a while back how I felt being under the shadow of my father and I said instantly, 'I am not under his shadow but under the light.'"

I am glad I caught myself today when I found myself feeling sad that the actor I love was being replaced and then thought of divorce, re-marriage, etc.  The whole process happened at lightning speed.  I thought of Shirley.  I thought of how the new actor's life could change.  I didn't think neurotically as to why my actor was leaving ("What if he has the Big C?"), in fact, I thought abundantly about an opportunity he must have been offered.  And then I looked into it, and sure enough, yes!  He flew to the South of France yesterday for what will be a period of 5 months to do a film with a very famous director. Mazal Tov!

There is room for us all.

And hopefully, within that room, we can lift each other up by seeing and standing in our own and each other's light whether together or apart.

I'm going to lift the shades so that I can let some more light into this room and make room for more.


Jill Bacharach

Tuesday, July 2, 2013


Trust.  The most common platitude is to say trust is something which must be earned.  

Of course.  It is like laying your heart in a person's hands.  You don’t do that with just anyone.  

I have made many mistakes trusting my heart with people who have subsequently, betrayed me.  Not just once.  But many many many times.  I don't hate myself for it.  I feel sad for every misstep.  I feel compassion for the place in my heart that went directly there, directly back there and found myself hurt again.  I cannot promise myself it won't happen again.  No one is a guarantee.  We all make mistakes and even the best of us have our worst moments.  

When we first enter relationship with another, we do not know what our will is going to be with that person.  What does god have in store for us?  What will the alchemy be?  How will the karma run its course?  The only thing we can know and be responsible for is what gets triggered within ourselves and learn how to navigate those waters.  And hopefully, figure out how to successfully not hurt the person standing before us.  

The irony of being of a yogin is that you see and experience all kinds of people cross your path, literally and figuratively cross your truest, deepest, intimate and most personal path.  And if committed to the path, you are asked to work very hard to tolerate intolerance, accept those who judge and criticize, have compassion for those who do not have compassion, make space for those who are insensitive and blatantly selfish.  And it goes on and on like this.  The work is endless.  So when I find myself white- knuckling the dental chair, and my dentist has to remind me to breathe, I get to have a good laugh at myself and herein lies one of many ironies. 

It was demonstrated beautifully (and comically) on the "Helsinki" episode of VEEP when Amy asked the VP "Are you Okay, Ma'am?"  And her response was, "Ah, No. Would it be so hard for people not to be assholes?"

The work is endless.


It can be an act of FAITH.  To lay your heart in another’s hands.  "I ask you to hold my heart with care."

But it is also an act of compassion.  And ultimately, after much learning, it can be held in a balanced way as an act of WISDOM.  Not the vigilant response of “I will never trust you again based on all of the ways you have hurt me in the past and have now informed how I should NOT trust you,” but a slow evolution of having learned from the past and re-learning how to trust based on healing, if healing can occur or if you are blessed to have experienced a healing.  

I could spend a lot of time on this last piece, but that is for another day.  Because healing takes the time that it takes.  For today, I wish to be hopeful and believe that if two people come to one another with full and utter honesty, then I believe that without any veil of hiding, trust can be rebuilt.

I have hope.

Trust is also a test of character.

Stepping into unfamiliar or what may feel like emotionally unsafe terrain, and navigating yourself in such a way that you know how to take your seat, so much so that it can be unwavering no matter what is thrown at you.  

No matter.  

No matter how grossly inaccurate a description may come at you with no need to argue or defend or clarify because you know yourself and can stand there without feeling even remotely knocked over, is what I know about trusting oneself.

Once that is there, the ugliest reflections can be tossed your way, and there is simply no reactivity.  You simply know it is coming from another place.  You can look at the reflection and recognize, even take ownership of the shadows which you inhabit or inhabit you.  But you know a larger truth.  That you aren’t in those words.  Words coming from a stuck place which reside inside of another.  Who you know yourself to be is inviolate.  

Again, back to the yogin: accepting and making room to love and know that some people need to lash out, that some people need to judge before they can settle.  Some people simply may never be comfortable with the whole of you no matter how much all you do is unpretentiously, unwaveringly and straightforwardly try to love them the best way you know how.  

Some of us are so eager to want to change another person in order to fit them into our lives (because that would just be more comfortable).  But what we really need to do is to hear each other.  And listening takes tremendous courage.  It often means cleaning up past hurts.  In my opinion, we tend to not trust each other based on the past experiences which have informed us of who the other is and how we think that person may behave again.  

Hurt leaves scars.  Healing takes real intention and repeated showing up to allow those scars to fade.

So in my opinion, without the help of a skilled coach or a professional, it is a true act of faith and wisdom, a testimony to love, compassion and hope, a test of character, and a true sign if you can achieve it, of sheer and utter surrender, of laying your heart wide open to risk again.  

To trust is a risk.  To risk is to risk failure.  But to close yourself off to what is in your heart is one of the greatest risks of all.


Jill Bacharach