Dean’s List of Synchronicity

  • Earlier in the week, I’d had a break-through realization (that’s a rebranded breakdown) that working on my memoir was causing more anxiety than pleasure. Not in the way that all writing is brutal and intense, but still a creative flow. This was more panic inducing and stirring up PTSD. After working really intensely on it during the pandemic and this year, I trusted my intuition to put it aside.
    It’s The New Times. I’d like to shift my creative writing to the present. Especially since I’m in a new place having just moved to southeast Wisconsin. I had a creative direction meeting with myself and wrote by hand for pages and pages, changed locations, wrote more, went for a walk, wrote more and went deeper.  Did some Nia – and sat with the Move to Heal mantra-like question of self-care: What would feel better? 
  • Short form. Stream-of-consciousness. Lists for Dean’s List. Lyrics. Poems. Creative nonfiction. Maybe some articles. Stepping stones to step away from the big project with the self-imposed urgency stirred up by the losses in recent years – from personal to community to global. 
  • A day after I reached this decision, my great-nephew, who is eight, was visiting and asked me to tell him all my careers in order. Oh, my.
    “Well, in my twenties, I moved around a lot, so …,” I began.
    After a few moves, he asks for clarification: “So, you worked there three times? You left for different cities and went back twice?”
    “So, you went back to the same job in the same city two times?”
    Um, yes.
    “Why do you keep repeating your life, Aunt Dean?”
    Well, now. Not sure I can answer that, but thanks for saving me six months of therapy. I’m open to messages from the Universe, but dang. So, on to my new writing direction. 
  • A few days later I saw an Instagram post about Out of the Box – Reading the Landscape / Writing the Walk presented by Black Box Fund – a Milwaukee arts organization doing super creative events all summer. The free event was led by poet Chuck Stebelton (An Apostle Island, Oxeye Press, 2021) who is also a Wisconsin Master Naturalist volunteer. The event was being held at Lakeshore Park, the only urban state park in Wisconsin, located by Lake Michigan, in downtown Milwaukee. Since I moved to southeast Wisconsin in April, I’ve been mesmerized by the farmland, trails, lakes – especially Lake Geneva, along with enjoying family and the nearby small towns. So, I chose this as my first trip into Milwaukee.
  • My parking angels were on it, and I got a free spot near the Summerfest Amphitheater. Yes, the world’s largest music festival happens here. Music has always been, is, and always will be a big part of my life. 
  • I opened my truck door and was surprised to hear a sax solo in what I immediately knew was a jazz-funk band. 
  • As I headed towards the park, and the planned spot to meet, I took in the cityscape of Milwaukee – like a kid’s drawing – tall and short buildings, chopping up the horizon. A bridge led over the water of the park’s lagoon and marina, and from the top I could see Lake Michigan, the REbirth: Cracking Art flock of giant bird art sculptures and the funk band playing on a dock. People were walking, biking, roller-blading, pushing babies in strollers, climbing art, dancing and picnicking. All kinds of diversity in age, race and speed. Not one to hide my freak flag, I stopped at the top of the bridge and threw my hands up (think Mary Tyler Moore in NYC) and spun around from water to cityscape, to more iconic sites I’d been researching online for months like Discovery World and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
  • The poetry event was lovely. Reading, listening, writing, walking. (I’ll definitely do some walk-n-write events for Write Your Life.) I met nice people, heard and read good poems, got some great insight into the plants and birds of the prairie in the park. I split off from the group to go a bit farther and see the Hoan Bridge and visit the Milwaukee Pierhead Light
  • I wandered back to the REbirth: Cracking Art exhibit to check it out and enjoy the music. Of the hundreds of people in the park, the one I asked if she knew the band was the saxophonist’s girlfriend! The band was Funk Club Wagon – a funk band that started during the pandemic, on a trailer, pulled behind a van, bringing socially-distanced music to neighborhoods where people were stuck at home. The band also does FunkToon shows on a pontoon boat, and even has a MKE River Round-up featuring other local bands. That involves a starting bar, people on kayaks following the live music on a pontoon through downtown Milwaukee with a stop at one riverside bar, then returning to another.
  • My new friend introduced herself as Tami, and spelled it out T-A-M-I. Same name and spelling as my first name! She’s a writer and in film, and we’re meeting soon for coffee. 
  • My first new friend when I moved to Greenville, SC in 2017 was Tamara Dwyer – who was a T-A-M-I in childhood! (She’s a realtor and if you move to Greenville – and a lot of you will! – call her!) 
  • So, new-friend-Tami passed my name to another musician, who wanted to talk shop, and whose girlfriend just moved to Austin. 
  • On the way back to my truck, I noticed a small percussion park – xylophone, marimba, pipes, drums – in great shape and no one around. My first school band experience was as a percussionist, and marimba, xylophone, etc., are my favorites. I bought a new keyboard just a few weeks ago. So I played a few tunes as people passed by on the Hank Aaron Trail. Might have started writing a song about trusting intuition, following passions, new adventures, moving forward and not repeating the past.

More about Write Your Life as a Woman +The Artist’s Way

I’m still being brave and doing a quick video! Thanks for the positive feedback from the first one! And this is my new Youtube page so Subscribes, Likes, and Comments are appreciated!Room for more in the series beginning Jan.5th (12-2pm ET or 7-9pm ET, and there is potentially another group forming for folks who can’t do Tuesdays. Message me if you’re interested.Thanks! – Dean

New Year’s Eve Memories

Raoul was my dentist, but also instantly become my friend at my first appointment when he said, “I love your writing.” As a local columnist known to be a feminist activist, it was not something I heard a lot from men in Charleston, South Carolina in the late 90s. What a surprise to find a dentist who took the role of arts patron to the next level and had fun doing it. Raoul supported the arts by attending art events, but also by constantly promoting the arts as part of his daily routine. He never spent money on advertising for his dental practice. Instead he invested in a killer sound system and an incredible collection of independent music and jazz. His office’s walls were a revolving art gallery for local artists. While playing fabulous music he relayed the details of the artists’ bios and ticket info for upcoming shows of musicians and actors while pulling teeth and filling cavities.

I always think of him on New Year’s Eve and rowdy nights he would have loved – the whole city partying and fun people joining and leaving our party. It’s been years since he died in a car wreck. And, even though I knew him in another city, I miss him in the odd way that, in other years, would lead me to forget for a buzzed moment he’s gone, and I would expect him to burst in to join the party.

“Raoul is cool,” was the recommendation from my intern at the film production company where I worked. But cool had no value to me when talking about dentists. I was looking for gentle and generous with N2O to get me through some dental challenges. Raoul was that, too. He’d crank up the gas, take my music request and close the door, leaving me alone to chill. The patient rooms were cozy and private in a gorgeous 1800s house in downtown Charleston. He’d come back a few minutes later and say in a goofy, announcer-like voice, “You know that Dean. The only kind of pain she likes is champagne.” If I laughed, I was “under” enough for him to work. He always gave me champagne for my birthday.

In spite of how cool Raoul was, I still wasn’t the best patient. Between my having no tolerance for pain, being really claustrophobic, and going through an angst-ridden-writer phase, I was amazed our friendship survived our patient/dentist experiences. At one particularly grumpy appointment he told me his plans for a fun afternoon. I rolled my eyes at his schedule – he didn’t work on Wednesday afternoons and took off Fridays. I said with obvious jealousy, “Nice life.” He said quietly and kindly, “Yep, I made it that way. That’s the cool thing about your life.  You get to do whatever you want to with it.”

His statement was a gentle nudge, just when I needed it. And I appreciated that he knew me well enough to tell me in a way I could truly hear it. Another kind act he did was to always leave me a voice mail rambling about what he loved about my new column every month. I admired his marvelous attention to the joyful details of life: beautiful art, great music, wonderful conversation, and always looking for a way to make a party just a little better.

On New Year’s Eve 1999 in Charleston, a group of friends gathered at his office for champagne before walking with flasks in our pockets and purses to the harbor to see the fireworks. The pineapple drop (the S.C. symbol of friendship) was beside a parking lot, almost a block from the water with police tape keeping the crowd a safe distance from the water’s edge. Our group stood against the tape, wanting to be closer to the water, the harbor – the beautiful, magical point where the locals like to say the East Cooper and West Ashley Rivers meet to form the Atlantic Ocean. I remember this moment so clearly years later: Raoul looking around at the cops who were distracted by the descending pineapple, then simply lifting the yellow tape and smiling. And with no need for words, just a simple gesture from our fearless leader, our party ran across the dark lot towards the water’s edge. The fireworks exploded in the sky and fell towards the water where the gorgeous bursts of color doubled in the reflection, and the crowd followed us.

Every New Year’s Eve I’m farther away from that magical night, and I raised my glass with my usual champagne toast, “May all your pain be champagne!” And I thankfully toasted this memory – the firework’s pink, white and yellow glow lighting Raoul’s smiling face after he’s just led another crowd to more fun. Not just a toast, but a loud crowd’s cheers rolling over the harbor as we welcomed a new year, a new century, a new millennium bound to be marvelous –  because we would make it that way.