This 2014 holiday season, my country is full of civil unrest. There are many real life dramas that are wrenching and violent and fueled by legitimate passions.
Citizens in the streets storm for the dearth of human rights, and consumers at the mall buy a plethora of stuff.
I have an itchy, unsettled feeling about life, in general—and our collective future, specifically. I’m casting about for my power and place as I wonder if we can be something more than backseat passengers in this head-on collision of human ideals with the voracious machine of power and money. Are we doomed to ride with forces so grim and loveless?
Change is in the air
as the New Year approaches
and I am ready for my part
in this large drama.
The other evening, I was invited to a “table read” of an original play. The event was held on the day after the big windstorm and I drove down from Oak Harbor to Clinton. The north end of the island was unscathed compared to what I saw when I reached the phone booth at Classic Road. Debris from the storm littered the highway and fallen logs, piled brush and newly cut stumps were everywhere.
It was dusk when I rolled up to the late afternoon affair and the air felt especially chilly when I stepped out of the car. The air felt raw and scrubbed clean as I called out to my fellow playgoers in the dark. We greeted each other’s black shadows and together we went inside.
The heat had been off and the building was cold as the guests, a dozen of us, milled around in our jackets, some sitting down on the few pieces of furniture. The room was inviting, although austere and poorly lit. The playwright welcomed me and made introductions. He is a man, both affable and intense, earnest and fun. We mingled for a bit. There were a lot of guys there—that was cool, and they were young, which was also cool. There was one young woman also, a girl with big glasses and a sideways smile.
It was great to be with all ages as I am old and work with the very young. I was impressed by everyone’s willingness to just show up for something different; maybe cabin fever had set in but mostly we all seemed happily curious about the play. We sat around; wine was poured and there were yummy cheeses and crackers and a plate of cookies.
Our host, the playwright, called us to the table and we shifted over, still in our coats and jackets. More wine was poured and pens passed around to mark our parts.
The playwright explained his plot premise. He had fallen head over heals in love with a woman, and one morning—so he said—when they parted (she, off to work, and he, staying behind) he said he didn’t know what to do without her.
“Write a play,” she said.
Sometimes I think the spark is that simple.
When she returned that evening, he sat in the same spot with a finished play. In it he wanted to explore one idea as a truism: true love would never judge a book by its cover and would always identify its beloved even if disguised.
Ah, love, where is it, and what does it look like and do I recognize it as mine?
We started in; the players voices ricocheted off the edge of the wedge of light that hung over the table and then bounced off the concrete floor. We all leaned in, eyeing our upcoming parts, listening to the strength and tone of the previous players’ lines. The scripts rustled on the plain wood table and we finished the first act. There was more water and wine in plastic cups and a little philosophizing about contemporary love. Youth and age both have lots to say on that matter of looks and beauty, knowing that sex sells and that we are all drawn to it.
The play turned out well. The soulmates were tested but remained faithful in their devotion to the other’s best attributes and nature. We congratulated the playwright; he deserved it and I drove back up the island.
* * *
Once I get as far up the island as the Au Sable Prairie, I love the drive. You burst out of the dark canyon of trees and the sky expands. You can sense, even in the dark, the powerful tides of Puget Sound to your west. Across the water, a rime of frosty blue sits on the Olympics, a pale blue outline that follows the sun into the next time zone. This time of year the Big Dipper is low on the horizon, tilted on its ear, but otherwise reliable when so much in this crazy life is not.
So what I want to tell everybody is that in your personal drama, on stage with you in your life, there are many reliable fellow actors. Life’s setting and scenery are excruciatingly beautiful, even where you don’t expect it and—like the Big Dipper on its ear—there is always the undeniable power of love.
We have so much and too much of everything else but not enough of this gorgeous force; love free and plentiful with the potential to heal the downside of human drama. Its expression might be most accessible when it is inspired, like a man in love at the breakfast table, but we all can find the willingness to state it profoundly with an understanding of the larger forces at play and the threats to love.
Happy New Year. Write a play for someone you love; say it plainly and attempt to say it perfectly and that will be plenty.
Illustrations by Siri Baradarson from her iPad
Siri Bardarson is a musician devoted to creative projects that synthesize her classical and popular music background via her cello. She is ecstatically happy when she is making stuff! Special thanks to Ian Bage, multi-genre artist, for his play, “Lissema and Ani.”
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