Saturday, January 23, 2016

Tuning Up

Think of this as one of those tune up runs, when you haven't been running. Thoughts unspoken, unwritten, seem to pile up, turn in on themselves, get cramped up. Thoughts need to stretch out on a page, screen, become words, and let new ones step up.

"Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold...," I have had those lines from Yeats in my head. He goes on:

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.

But revelations aren't so easy to come by. At our best we don't know what we're doing; at our worst we do it madly anyway. How many of us are lucky enough to find and recognize those things, people, that we can hold on to; centres that hold?

The writer who has been most on my mind of late is C.D. Wright. She is on the short list of my favorite writers, but in a span that lost Lemmy of Motorhead fame, David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Grizzly Adams, Wright's death is relegated to New Yorker postscripts and Arkansas retrospectives. Her words are back roads rural, gritty and high-minded, deep and soaring, sexual and erotic, fragmented and confusing. She is one of the writers who taught me that you can put words and thoughts together that you didn't think made sense together, in the gumbo of language and life, and they can touch someone deeply. Her words:

My first words--I've been told--were obscene. My highchair was handed-down and painted over white. I remember the hard heels of my white shoes chipping at the paint of the rung... Throughout my childhood I was knife-sharp and aquatic in sunlight. I read.

I didn't read. That came much later for me. But I play back childhood memories frequently, collaging them with new experiences into this morphing, changing, yet constant self.

Whew, glad to get that shit out. If I don't run or write, it's easy to go bat-shit crazy in the between time. And I've been wrestling with some guilt over how to carve out my creative time. Reading and writing time has shifted, for now, to learning lines and trying to get my head around a character. 2016 brings with it my first shot at being on stage, as Dr. Corey Phillips in The Tred Avon Players' production of "House on the Cliff."

Words are easier for me to write than to speak. It is not easy or natural, but I am glad to stretch myself in new and different ways. Yoga for the soul. I like the notion that William Esper evolved from Sandy Meisner, "Acting is doing things truthfully under imaginary circumstances." And talking about creating a character as, "where an actor alters his or her native behavior so as to become unrecognizable from his or her normal persona, yet still be one hundred percent truthful," Getting into my head in order to get out of it. Or something like that.

Today has been a quiet gift. No alarms set. Coffee. Shoveling walks and clearing bird feeders. On the year's first snow day, Cedar Waxwings found the pyracantha bush out my window. The other yard and feeder birds today have been cardinals, robins, various sparrows (with fox sparrows, who I have come to dig seeing over the past week), red-winged blackbirds, brown-headed cowbirds, juncos, chickadees, mourning doves, and blue jays.

I've hardly spoken an actual word, though they've danced in my head, and come through my fingers.

Thinking of Shakespeare's thoughts of the world as a stage, one we perform on daily, ourselves as the role we want others to know us as. But I've spent more time with Camus than Shakespeare, so we'll close with Albert and not Bill:

...if the actor gave his performance without knowing that he was in a play, then his tears would be real tears and his life a real life. And whenever I think of this pain and joy that rise up in me, I am carried away by the knowledge that the game I am playing is the most serious and exciting there is.

Okay, well, not that serious ;)