Friday, January 21, 2011

Poets teach us about creative transitions

By S. Derrickson Moore (with column sig)

Even though I expected something exceptional from the creative souls profiled on this page today, I was surprised at what an upper it turned out to be to talk with “Beatlick” Joe Speers, Pamela Hirst, Wayne Crawford and Randy Granger.
After years of interviews and lots of shared performances and special events, all four seem more like amigos than just sources and I came to know them all better after following. though their e-mails, newsletters and blogs, their triumphs and in recent months, some very tough times.
I’ve been so impressed, inspired and sometimes even amused by their grace under pressure, that I asked if they’d be willing to share their insights and experiences.
It’s rare that such sensitive and talented people are willing to so articulately share what it’s like to face a diagnosis like pancreatic and liver cancer.
In America, in general, and even in the open and creative land of Dia de los Muertos celebrations, we don’t often talk frankly, let alone poetically and with wit and wisdom, about what it’s like to face that final frontier — what my philosopher-physician friend Dr. William Sheldon once termed “the potentially pleasant adventure of dying.”
Chronicling the poetic pioneers on their third act adventures as they blaze a vital trail for we Baby Boomers is turning out to be a story about living, rather than dying.
After several decades as what my relatives call “the family death midwife,” I’ve been through a lot of transitions with those nearest and dearest to me.
The older I get, the more similarities I see between childbirth and the experience we journalists are taught to call “death,” though my own experiences have led me to believe that what I once thought of as polite and comforting euphemisms like “passing,” “crossing over” and “transitions,” may well be more accurate description of what really happens.
Like childbirth, there’s a lot of labor involved, and unless you go quickly, “with your boots on” as we used to say in the Wild West, there can be quite a lot of work involved, for the one making the journey and also those helping with the travel plans and accommodations. There are umbilical chords on both ends of the life process, from medical apparatus to the biological and soul ties that bind.
There is great sadness involved, but as with all profound life experiences, there can also be great love and joy.
In Las Cruces, I went through this journey with two of my best friends, photographer-philosopher and community educator and activist Cecilia Lewis and her husband, Alexis Bespaloff, who wrote some of the best selling wine guides of all time and was a columnist for New York Magazine and other national pubs.
A later-in-life merger of two very independent people who’d survived incredibly difficult childhoods became a profound bonding of soulmates. They personified Cecilia’s family motto: “Never postpone joy.”
After he was given only a few months to live, feisty Alexis managed to carry on and delighted us with his local presence for nearly a decade. And for most of that time, he and Cecilia agreed, life was pretty darn good.
I loved Wayne’s attitude about life expectancy pronouncements.
“I was given 12 weeks to live, and about the 11th week, I decided I’d go for another 12,” he quipped.
I hope both Joe and Wayne keep renewing their earthly subscriptions.
Their friends, fans and family members will be grateful for as much local time as possible with these extraordinary souls.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450 or

No comments: