From Rare Atmosphere, An Extraordinary Inter-dimensional Affair of the Heart
[Opening Section 2005]
It was The Dead Guys who’d started the whole affair.
Tara arrived at my house just as the sun broke through a layer of low-lying clouds. I hadn’t seen her in a while, and her wavy, chin-length hair was a new, more golden blonde. As I steeped a pot of peppermint tea, Tara and I, long time friends, caught each other up on our recent stories. Tea mugs in hand, we moved into the living room, she taking her usual seat on the dining room chair already placed in front of the glass coffee table, I arranging myself on the couch opposite. It was December 14th 2005, three days after my fifty-ninth birthday.
“They’re ready,” Tara said. She was about to go into the expansive, hyper-aware state from which she would “channel” the wisdom and guidance of a collective of non-physical beings I affectionately called The Dead Guys. I pushed the button on my tape recorder. A few seconds later, the unmistakable presence of Spirit filled the room.
“Greetings, dear one.”
The Dead Guys commented humorously on my long list of questions, then said they were ready to assist me in any way they could. We spoke about certain physical symptoms I’d been experiencing, work related matters, and challenges with my ninety-two year old father. I had been communicating with them in this way for over ten years. They offered wisdom, insight, humor, compassion, and always, unconditional love.
I went on to share with The Dead Guys how I’d become restless, how my everyday existence seemed stagnant, devoid of passion. And yet, I explained, I sensed that something exciting was about to happen. I told them that, for the first time since I’d moved there, I’d been entertaining the idea of expanding my life beyond Asheville, North Carolina, a place I loved, but a place in which I’d cocooned myself for fourteen years.
“Since there’s no place in particular I’m drawn to,” I said, “I feel it will be a person, a relationship rather than a location that will call to me.”
“Exactly,” they replied. “And if you join in a life with someone who is not from here, you will create the life that works for both of you, whether it be in Asheville or someplace else. We see you are definitely wanting changes. You are wanting to encourage a bigger world base, yes? And we even say to you, do not be opposed to Europe.”
Although it wasn’t something I’d discussed with them, the idea of a great love that might lead me across an ocean lived along the periphery of my mind. It was visible only in glimpses, and only when I had the courage to look. Yet, if a relationship were to uproot me and lure me to another continent, it would have to be extraordinary.
“Are you talking about a particular person?” I asked.
This was highly unusual for them. Getting so specific about a potential partner was something The Dead Guys had never before done.
“Someone connected with Europe?”
“We’re just putting that out there for you,” they said. “Yes.”
“Does he speak French?”
For reasons I didn’t completely understand, this had been part of my romantic fantasy for as long as I had had one.
“It could be very much the truth,” The Dead Guys teased. “Yes. For this being will be international. He speaks many languages.”
Conflicting feelings of excitement and terror did a little dueling dance in my solar plexus. Terror won out. For one thing, I couldn’t imagine how I would fit into an international life, especially financially. I could barely keep on top of the simple lifestyle I was living. The Dead Guys must have picked up on my insecurities.
“With this being,” they said, “money will not be a problem. He is very wealthy.”
You would think that would have made me feel better, but it did not. Instead, I wondered if I could accept a relationship in which I’d never feel financially equal. Yet, the dreamer in me, the part my family called unrealistic and delusional, couldn’t help thinking that perhaps a partnership with a wealthy man, one that was mutually loving, could be an answer to my prayers, an opportunity to live life with the freedom to write and create and contribute to the world in meaningful ways.
“Is he witty,” I asked. “Does he have a sense of humor?”
The Dead Guys were very cheery. “He is witty. He is wonderful. He is very international. And very universal in feeling.”
“And spiritual?” This was primary to me.
“Can you be universal and not be spiritual?” they said.
“I suppose not. But is he someone who’s interested in growing together in a relationship, someone who’s not afraid of his own magnificence?”
“Very much so,” they replied.
It was one of their favorite expressions.
“He is very spiritual,” they continued. “He meditates every morning. He has a good grasp of his own energies and of the energies around him.”
I wanted to believe such a partner existed for me, someone who understood that, as Blake wrote, “One thought fills immensity.” But the man they were telling me about seemed unreal, too perfect, and way out of my league.
“We’re worlds apart,” I argued.
“You have experienced his kind of life many times,” they said. “You draw from all that is in your soul’s experience. You could easily live an international life, and be very happy with it.”
I wasn’t convinced. Yet, just in case, I thought I might as well go for it. I might as well ask about everything I’d dared to dream.
“So does this man love the arts, maybe make music?” I asked.
“Ahhhh!” They crooned.
“Why Ahhh? Does this man play music?”
The graceful hands of a pianist had seduced me before.
“Does he give concerts?”
“No, he does not play in public. But he has always been involved in the world of classical music.”
I was awed by what they were telling me.
“In my deepest self,” I said, “I’ve always imagined a great love ‘out there’ that would speak French, make music, be spiritual, love the arts. These are things that have rippled through my whole life.”
“Because you have always felt this love,” they replied. “But you were not ready, dear one. You could not have been ready for this being until you were the person you are now. You could not have brought sadness to this. It would not have attracted him. You cannot bring fear to this. It would not attract him.”
“I understand,” I said.
I had worked diligently to evolve beyond the center of fear and sadness I had carried inside me most of my life, yet there was always further to go.
“Now you are wanting very much to taste what you have not yet tasted this time,” they said.
My conversation with The Dead Guys had gone on for almost an hour and I could tell it was winding down.
“So all I have to do to bring this relationship into the physical,” I said, “is get out of my own way?”
“Exactly. Which means to have no resistance. To let go of old negative patterns. To let go of little fears like—I don’t want my world to be shaken up, or I cannot move from this area. Above all, to be passionate about the life you are living now. You have come a long way in this. Even last year you would have said, ‘Oh I could not leave Asheville.'”
“I did say that, didn’t I?”
“And yet, on a deep level, this year we are hearing from you Yes I can. Yes I would like to spend some time here, but it doesn’t really matter what walls hold me. It doesn’t matter what trees I look at. It doesn’t matter what mountain is in front of me. What matters in life, dear one, is the joy and the people you are intermingling with. That is what really matters. It is time now for you to stop the nesting. It has been appropriate. You have been where you needed to be. But this is a time when you are ready to soar.
…August was a lonely month to visit the [Paris] Opéra. No classes. No performances. Dancers probably on tour. For eight euros, however, you could go through on your own. Karen and I each bought a ticket.
Le Palais Garnier
From the moment I stepped inside, I felt recognition in every cell. Solar plexus spinning, knees weak, hair on my arms standing up, I fought back tears. I knew I was entering something grand, for me more grand even than its life-like sculptures of Lully, Handel, Gluck, and Rameau. More grand than its grand marble staircase with illuminated statue-torchères, or its Venetian mosaic tiles, or its elaborate multicolored marble friezes. This was the feeling I’d been waiting for, the unmistakable knowing that I’d come home. Although there was nothing to “do” with this awareness, no great cosmic meaning in it, it confirmed for me an affinity I’d felt for decades.
Karen and I explored the museum-library, which housed a record of three centuries of the Opera’s past, including a gallery containing paintings, drawings, photographs, and scale models of ballet stage sets. We visited the Salon de la Lune and the Salon du Soleil all shining silver and gold. We entered the grand Foyer de la Danse, stunned by its size and opulent splendor—meticulously restored ornate décor, richly colored murals on the walls and ceilings, dazzling crystal chandeliers. Now used as a rehearsal stage and a reception venue, it was notorious in the 19th century as the salon where members of the Jockey Club (think lascivious admirers) could meet dancers. But it was the auditorium I was still waiting to see. I was told there would be only one box open to the public from which to view inside. I was looking for that box.
Before leaving for France I had re-watched my DVD of the Paris Opera Ballet’s sumptuous production of La Bayadere. It had been taped live from Le Palais Garnier, the performance a special tribute to Rudolph Nureyev, its artistic director, who was then in the last weeks of his life. At the end, to a thunderous ovation, one person on each side supporting him, Rudi was escorted on to the stage.
Decades earlier, I had dreamed he would die of Aids. Later, in 1985, still before any illness was admitted, I had seen him perform at forty-seven, almost an impossibility for a classical dancer. My friend Kristy Montee, at that time the Arts and Leisure editor at the Fort Lauderdale News, had to review the performance and asked if I would come with her. Rudi and Leslie Collier, as guest artists with Miami’s Ballet Concerto, were dancing act II of Giselle. It was heartbreaking to watch—Giselle, ironically, the story of a man forced to dance until he dies. Rudi should never have still been on stage. His jètés were pitiful, knees bent in mid-air, his landings heavy. His usual pale Tartar complexion appeared ghostlike, his breathing frighteningly fast. Unlike fellow Russian defector Mikhail Baryshnikov, who’d always said “I will know when to stop,” Rudi Nureyev often proclaimed, “I will die on stage.” My friend and I looked at each other, tears in our eyes.
Now I was in Paris, standing in the Palais Garnier, a place which, in some deep way, felt to me hauntingly familiar. I longed to look inside the auditorium. On the first floor, everything was locked tight and I became more than a little discouraged. I had to see the red velvet, the ornate gilded scrollwork and carvings, the tiered trompe l’oeil red and gold curtain that separated reality from illusion, the elaborate crystal chandelier made famous in Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera, the glorious Chagall ceiling. I hoped to at least glimpse the stage I felt I had once danced upon.
“There’s supposed to be a door open somewhere,” I said to Karen. “There has to be.”
We found it on the second level. One door to a box on the left side of the theatre. Several people were already in there, crowding to photograph Chagall’s munificent celebration of music and dance painted on the ceiling. I waited my turn, eased my way to the railing and began to shoot. I was disappointed to find that the curtain had been covered over with something that looked like a building-sized sheet of drywall. But the rest was all there. I clicked away until I was finally nudged from my place by the next person in line.
I wanted to stay forever, to sneak behind the walled curtain, gaze upward at the tall fly loft from which theatrical worlds descended, curl in the wings, feel what it was like to be on this stage that could hold 450 performers. I had been able to do that once at the Met in NYC on the invitation of a friend who danced with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet. Standing in the footprints of Makarova, Baryshnikov, Sills, Domingo, Pavorotti was dizzying. But I had no friends at the Palais Garnier, and it was now getting ready to close.
Reluctantly, Karen and I left, this time walking back along L’Avenue de l’Opéra to the Rue de Rivoli, back through part of the Tuileries Gardens, past the Louvre, out onto Quai François Mitterand and down the steps to the Batobus station. It was a very long walk. The only other crucial place on my Paris agenda was the Champs de Mars, the park in front of the Eiffel Tower, which I was told Stéphane could see from his apartment windows. There was some small hope that a meeting might still be possible there, but it was more about having the experience of being as close as I could be to where he was, having the sights and scents and feelings to carry in my heart.