Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Happy Birthday, Nor!

December 10th is a high holy holiday for Sagitarrians – the birthday of poet Emily Dickinson and of my beloved friend Nor Hall. My parents hosted an Emily Dickinson party today, with Minnesota poet Phebe Hanson, who has held Emily Dickinson birthday parties for years. A number of us who are friends of Nor's, her "wolf pack" and a few add-ons, delivered a surprise birthday book put together by poet Patricia Kirkpatrick, in which each of us contributed 6 words for her birthday. (We generated many more words in our email messages back and forth, devising this scheme, believe me!) My words were:

Perfect muse Grandmother Boo moonstellar you

Okay, now I will try to unpack that.

Perfect: Nor uses this word more often than anyone I know, with good reason. Despite the fact that Nothing is perfect/only the dew/and it/only half (a poem written by a child that has stayed with me), she seems capable of elevating almost any situation to perfection. I've thought long and hard about this, trying to identify her secret, and have an inkling that it has to do with some alchemical balancing act between being very discerning and intelligent (on the one hand) and non-judgemental and open (on the other).

Muse: Nor knows how to "channel a muse" and has even written on the topic. She has also written on theater, valentines, intimate living spaces, theraputic strategies, war, ironworking, couvade, Norman O. Brown (her mentor and friend), and nearly everything else important. She works as a dramaturg with Ellen Hemphill of Archipelago Theater Company in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, co-creating many remarkable plays. Years ago I drew images for her first book, The Moon and the Virgin. A therapist on her own terms (Jungian, but a "friend of Freud" and of no particular school), Nor engages in psychic labor, paying attention to her own dreams and those of others (and keeping dream notebooks since high school).

Grandmother: Amusing and insightful, Nor inspires people of all ages, including her many grandchildren, amassed in several fell swoops during the past dozen years. It never ceases to amaze me that Nor is now surrounded by grandchildren (weren't we just young women together a few minutes ago?), but her house contains books, toys and special places for children – as it always has. (And she's a godmother to my children, who now tower above those smaller ones!)

Boo: Who knew!? She is Grandmother Boo, from Babushka, a name that came with Satchel James, John-Luke, and Sailor Ann, whose lives all began in the Soviet Union.

Moonstellar: A wonderful friend through all phases of life and the ebb and flow of tides, times, and temperaments, Nor helps excavate that which might otherwise be hidden. She is an ascetic aesthetic: both modest and regular in her habits (2 Fig Newmans each morning upon waking) and undeniably partial to beauty. ("She looks as if she raises her arms each morning so that beautiful garments can waft down to adorn her," her step-daughter Jocelyn Hale astutely remarked at a previous birthday party). The photo here is of Nor with her husband Roger Hale and photographer friend Laura Crosby, in the studio of painter Pierre DeLattre.

You: Singular, remarkable, exceptional friend, kind confessor, inspiration and touchstone. Here's a shout out to you, dear wonderful Nor!

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