Monday, August 21, 2017

Going Normal

I could not help but connect with this book, as I loved Olive Kitteridge and had already read My Name is Lucy Barton. Anything is Possible, by Elizabeth Strout, is another set of interconnected stories (like Olive Kitteridge)--though the New York Times calls it a novel (but the library calls it short stories)--and the book explores the characters back in Amgash, Illinois, Lucy Barton's hometown.

But I connected in a special way when I got to the story "Snow-Blind," with its Annie Appleby character, an actress.

"She had recently, though, had fantasies of 'going normal.' Having a house and a husband and children and a garden. The quietness of all that. But what would she do with all the feelings that streamed down her like small rivers? It was not the sound of applause Annie liked--in fact, she often barely heard it--it was the moment onstage when she knew she had left the world and fully joined another. Not unlike the feelings of ecstasy she'd had in the woods as a child."

I didn't know it was called "going normal," but I did this, and not just in fantasy, leaving the Chicago stage to marry, raise kids, and have a patch of garden in our backyard and then actually going to Normal, Illinois to let the kids grow all the way up near a set of grandparents. (Now they live and work in Chicago, and one is headed to new adventures in California very soon. I think we did OK.)

Now I am rehearsing a play again and revisiting the artistic dilemmas connected with that. I don't do it for the applause, that's for sure! (Sometimes I get sad or annoyed that people think all actors need applause and attention and ego stroking, but then I let that go, because I am older now and do not cling to my annoyances so much.) I do love entering the new world, the story of play! I love the immersion in the circumstances imagined by the playwright, even the ridiculous circumstances of The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde! We had a run-through last night, so we know we are not yet fully immersed, but we will be! That's what rehearsals are for.

And side by side with this imagined life is the ecstasy of my real life, my own backyard with its rabbits and chipmunks and squirrels and wrens and cardinals and occasional hawks, its cone flowers and balsam and Rose of Sharon, and its great night sky.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Stay Awake

Today I return to my report on my summer reading, here Stay Awake, a book of short stories by Dan Chaon. But I have to say I am preoccupied by current events, heartsick and sad about the violence in Virginia and now in Spain. Though perpetrated by different people, for different surface reasons, it seems to come from the same scared, angry place--little men, probably off balance, seeking meaning or purpose in the only way they can find, by hurting or killing others to make their lonely, alone, senseless "statement." The violence here in my own country does mean that we, its citizens and residents, must stay awake! Realize how deep goes the anger and hatred and displacement and lack of logic or empathy on the part of those doing the violence. They don't really know what they are doing, do they? If they did, they'd have to stop. They act in a terrible ignorance of their relationship with others, with the rest of us.

Dan Chaon's stories here are ghost stories. Or stories with a mystical or supernatural component or possibility. But all of them ring true at the psychological level, too, as just a state of mind, or a state of sleep, or a dreaming state....

I did not know his wife had died of cancer. Now I want to read her stories, too. Here is his loving account of her.

Monday, August 7, 2017

We Live in Seattle Now

It feels like we live in Seattle now, it's so cool and rainy. Meanwhile, Portland has turned tropical. That's all I'll say, today, about extreme weather and global warming. But I think I implied that I would tell you about my summer reading---specifically, my Michigan reading. Well, while in Michigan, though nowhere near Kalamazoo, Bonnie Jo Campbell's hometown, I read Mothers, Tell Your Daughters, a good book of short stories about strong, hard-working, not always entirely admirable women, but you can't help admire them, anyway, looking closely at their circumstances. I read like a daughter wanting to know everything. There were serious, long, and tender stories, short shorts, and a funny one called "My Dog Roscoe," about a woman who is convinced that a lost dog she adopts is her dead ex-lover reincarnated. Even that one gets poignant* by the end, all the more poignant for me, as I once knew a dog named Roscoe. In Michigan.

*New York Times reviewer agrees with me on the poignancy!

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Swimming with Frogs

I have been back home and at work for a week and a half since an annual family wamily vacation in Michigan. We swam in pool and lake, some of us in inflatable kayaks. We read books (me), played golf and volleyball (others), did yoga (my sister), played games, and had great conversations. A time of togetherness. Here is a picture of most of us, this particular year. My son, who took the picture, is also in it, thanks to a timer. My sister's son, who was with us most of the week, is not in it, thanks to his life in the Nashville Ballet.

It has turned to August. How quickly summer slips by...

In Michigan one morning after a big rainstorm, there were tiny frogs in the pool. I swam with them, others fished them out. Back in Normal, during Early Bird Lap Swim, we early birds swam with a big frog, who stayed in two lanes, mainly, then jumped on deck, then escaped a big white bucket wielded by the lifeguard, then didn't. She carried him safely away from the chlorine pool.

Since my return, I have been attending rehearsals for The Importance of Being Earnest, by Oscar Wilde, going up at Heartland Theatre in September. I am Lady Bracknell, no doubt closer to the Dame Judi Dench type than the Dame Edith Evans type, or the David Suchet type. (She has often been played by a man.) When I saw the costume renderings, I noticed the pearl-drop earrings and realized I have the exact pair, thanks to my mother-in-law.

Lady Bracknell is a bit of a toad.