Sunday, March 17, 2013

composing adventure

tiny beautiful flowers

I love Nashville! I love the relative ease and sweetness of my life here. I love not living in the intensity of the coasts. I love visiting the coasts, I really do, but whenever I've been away and my plane starts to descend here, my soul leaps in joy at the sight of trees and HOME. This is the longest I've lived anywhere, by far. And when we moved here I think a lot of people were stumped. But we were absolutely following our hearts. Sometimes we've been as stumped as everyone else by what we're doing here, but I had an experience this weekend that made me want to write a love-letter to my life in this sweet town.

Early last week I was going through my work email when the name Mary Catherine Bateson jumped out at me. THAT Mary Catherine Bateson? I thought, and sure enough, it turns out the author of a life-changing book for me, Composing a Life, was scheduled to speak on Saturday at the Scarritt-Bennett Center, with her friend and fellow anthropologist Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole, director of the National Museum of African Art. Who could resist?

My memory is that my dad turned me and my sister on to Mary Catherine Bateson in the 90s. What a comfort Composing a Life was for two young women at the beginnings of our adult lives, fearing we wouldn't do it right. It was a huge blessing to read life histories of amazing women, histories that didn't necessarily proceed in a straight line, but in which nothing was lost, nothing was a mistake. The women in her book (it turns out Dr. Cole was one of them - the 90s were a long time ago!) lived their lives as works of improvisational art. I may not remember all the details of the book, but that feeling has always stuck with me and as I've created a multi-faceted life of personal meaning and beauty, Dr. Bateson has definitely been one of the heroines in my jewel tree.

So last night I had the incredible pleasure of getting to hear these amazing women talk about friendship, the uniqueness and wonder of each human person, that community can happen anytime and anyplace, that learning is fundamental to being human and you can't over-do learning, and that you can't teach someone you don't love. In fact, if there was one overarching theme to the evening it was just this: love.

What sweetness to go out on a Saturday night and without fighting any crowds sit in a beautiful room, on an almost-spring evening, with windows thrown open and birdsong drifting in on the breeze, surrounded by a racially diverse group of women of all ages, and get to listen to two remarkable women celebrate their friendship and love of humanity.

Yes, I do love Nashville and all the wonderful experiences it brings to my improvised life!


Witness some of Mary Catherine Bateson's magic for yourself by watching her TedXWomen talk here and her Legacy of Wisdom talk here. And I really can't recommend her book Composing a Life enough. You might also enjoy her most recent book Composing a Further Life, which I'm definitely going to need to check out!

mrs butterworth's forsythia