““The Artist Date is a once-weekly, festive, solo expedition to explore
something that interests you. The Artist Date need not be overtly
“artistic” — think mischief more than mastery. Artist Dates fire up the
imagination. They spark whimsy. They encourage play. Since art is about the
play of ideas, they feed our creative work by replenishing our inner well
of images and inspiration. When choosing an Artist Date, it is good to ask
yourself, “what sounds fun?” — and then allow yourself to try it.”
Julia Cameron, The Artist’s Way
I tell myself that every day in Madrid is an Artist Date.
I am a liar.
I have been here a little more than 40 days. And it is true that most every day is a solo expedition – at least in part — and that most every day I am exploring something that interests me — my new home.
That there are moments of whimsy and of play, when everything looks like eye candy. Sun-washed orange and yellow apartment buildings, lined with rows of black iron balconies, that look like cardboard cut-outs against the navy-painted sky. Others the color of cotton candy, hugging a traffic circle that my friend Dirk refers to as “the big circus intersection.”
Everything is new.
And yet my hours are filled with classes. With looking for an apartment and looking for work. (Blessedly, both have come to me quickly and easily.)
With scheduling appointments to complete my visa paperwork and to obtain a monthly Metro card. (No, I cannot just purchase one at the station.)
With navigating a new city and a new language.
Despite the creative inspiration surrounding me, my inner well has run dry.
I have felt this before, when my ex-husband and I moved cross-country – first to Chicago, and later to Seattle – when the work of the adventure of living some place new took so much out of us that we had little, if anything, left to give the other.
Our relationship needed tending to, but we couldn’t see it.
And now this relationship, mine to myself, does too.
I respond, purchasing myself a ticket to the Victor Ullate Ballet’s performance Samsara – Artist Date 109, my first in Madrid.
The ballet announces itself to me every morning on the Metro, a siren-like blur through the windows as the train passes from Opera to Diego de Leon.
At home, I watch a video clip online and feel that heart-leaping-out-of-my-skin-I-know-this-is-God-sensation I have gotten every time I see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.
This, coupled with a Tuesday ticket discount and a single seat available at the end of the second row, proves an irresistible combination, and a few hours later I am walking up Calle San Bernardo to Teatros del Canal.
I’m giddy in that “I’ve got a secret” kind of way, which is not unusual for an Artist Date…except that something my friend Robert told me the day after I arrived has been banging around in my head ever since.
“Spaniards don’t do anything alone,” he said. “A server will bring a glass of wine to a woman eating alone because he pities her.”
This has been confirmed by others.
This does not bode well for a woman who travels alone, goes to movies and lectures and operas alone, who not only enjoys being alone but craves her own company.
And yet, no one seems to notice me standing at the bar eating a piece of chocolate cake – alone – before the performance.
And no one seems to notice me sitting at the end of the second row – alone — during the performance. Least of all, me.
I am too caught up in the music. In the movement. The costumes. The stories.
I am too caught up in counting the dancers’ ribs and watching beads of sweat literally slip sideways off of them.
I am too caught up trying to translate the Buddhist quotes projected on the stage before they fade away.
I am too caught up trying to keep my heart from leaping out of my skin because I know this is God. Because this is decidedly Alivin Ailey-esque — specifically Revelations, Part 1: “I’ve Been Buked” – and my body knows the motions, my lips know the words.
I am at once in my seat and in the dance, but most certainly not in the head of any Spaniard who might want to buy me a glass of wine because he pities my being alone.
It is a Revelation. It is Samsara, “journeying” – birth, death, rebirth.