Thursday, March 31, 2011

In Defense of Garfield

Parent-teacher conference again.  This means I must limit my alcohol intake.  While I am unconvinced that sobriety is the best strategy here, I feel compelled by social mores. 

Speaking of social mores, I just cracked myself up.  I needed to ask someone to do something at work.  Ten years ago at Skadden, I would have told them to do it.  It doesn't work like that over here in England.  I wrote in an e-mail:  "do please let me know if you cannot fit this into your schedule".  Anyone who worked at Skadden with me really will not recognize this as a level of courtesy available to me but all these years in the UK have beat some civility into me. 

So the conference was great.  Before I left, I negotiated with Owain to watch the end of Garfield before he went to bed.  He looked up.

"Garfield is really the greatest show, mom, isn't it?"

I thought of Bill Murray on his deathbed in Zombieland when he was asked if he had any regrets.  "Maybe Garfield."  I never could stand Garfield.  My hesitation was enough to sting my sensitive son. 

"Garfield is great because it shows you that fat people can be so exciting!  And Garfield has really big adventures.  And he's a hero.  He saved that dog Odie and he doesn't even like him."

Truly it was the best defense of Garfield I had ever heard and I told him so.

Monday, March 28, 2011

The First Dream and the Second Dream

I have been skiing with my family, well for three days of it I was lying in bed sick, I'm still pretty shaky. But how could it be otherwise? A big project, a big imagining, a big creation, a birth, and then a rest, a let-down, a break. Considering what writing this play did to my body - the shakes, the sneezes (one night one hundred) the burning mouth, the frozen fingers, the aches and fears, aches as fears and fear releasing from muscles, thinking about the secrets, well, of course it was going to be hard for it to be over. I am thrilled to be relatively sane, not depressed, just a mom getting over a cold.

And I am sorry that this blog is such a selfish thing - no real effort for a narrative has been made for you my ten dear readers (although I think it's really eight dear readers, having somehow mistakenly followed my own blog twice). I thought it would all end with the play and I would go back to writing about Lego Star Wars.  But no.  I had two dreams.  

If you are bored go back to those dreams, I recount them in this blog. Go back to the dream I had of the flood on the Sunday before the tsunami. Go back to the man crying out in pain. Read those dreams sometime, because some time soon I am going to tell you what they mean. I know what they mean. I don't claim that they came from anywhere but my own head, from my own effort at insight, from my own courage to know myself. But I do claim their magnificence and truth.

The day the tsunami hit I freaked out because of the first dream. I mean, it's not every day that you have a powerful dream about the earth being engulfed in water and humans being attacked by nature itself and put it in a play and the day you submit the play to a theatre a tsunami hits.  That is not an every day thing by any stretch of the imagination.  So when I freaked I actually consulted a man about it.  A Christian! Hah! What a waste. He couldn't see a thing. Of course not. My own dream showed me that men just cannot see. 

So soon the posts about what the dreams mean.  No time now.

I do wonder what the difference is between trying to understand God and trying to understand yourself. They both take effort, patience, darkness, tears, courage. I feel as if all of mine has been rewarded.

The Rachel of my play says it perfectly:

I know plenty. The things I know there aren’t words for. Feelings and seeing the whole world as streams of light. I know. I know when I am close to God. Sometimes playing piano or listening to the Beethoven albums, and writing in my notebook, I feel it then. Then I don’t think there is anything else but God. But it doesn’t have anything to do with going to church or praying at all. It’s a mystery to me, but somehow having that feeling of being close to God is worth everything. Even if I don’t believe in him.

The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo

This poem was read at Elizabeth Taylor's funeral. It's magnificent and full of hope, like her.

The Leaden Echo and the Golden Echo by Gerard Manley Hopkins

(Maidens’ song from St. Winefred’s Well)


HOW to kéep—is there ány any, is there none such, nowhere known some, bow or brooch or braid or brace, láce, latch or catch or key to keep
Back beauty, keep it, beauty, beauty, beauty, … from vanishing away?
Ó is there no frowning of these wrinkles, rankéd wrinkles deep,
Dówn? no waving off of these most mournful messengers, still messengers, sad and stealing messengers of grey?
No there ’s none, there ’s none, O no there ’s none, 5
Nor can you long be, what you now are, called fair,
Do what you may do, what, do what you may,
And wisdom is early to despair:
Be beginning; since, no, nothing can be done
To keep at bay 10
Age and age’s evils, hoar hair,
Ruck and wrinkle, drooping, dying, death’s worst, winding sheets, tombs and worms and tumbling to decay;
So be beginning, be beginning to despair.
O there ’s none; no no no there ’s none:
Be beginning to despair, to despair, 15
Despair, despair, despair, despair.


There ís one, yes I have one (Hush there!);
Only not within seeing of the sun,
Not within the singeing of the strong sun, 20
Tall sun’s tingeing, or treacherous the tainting of the earth’s air,
Somewhere elsewhere there is ah well where! one,
Oné. Yes I can tell such a key, I do know such a place,
Where whatever’s prized and passes of us, everything that ’s fresh and fast flying of us, seems to us sweet of us and swiftly away with, done away with, undone,
Undone, done with, soon done with, and yet dearly and dangerously sweet 25
Of us, the wimpled-water-dimpled, not-by-morning-matchèd face,
The flower of beauty, fleece of beauty, too too apt to, ah! to fleet,
Never fleets móre, fastened with the tenderest truth
To its own best being and its loveliness of youth: it is an everlastingness of, O it is an all youth!
Come then, your ways and airs and looks, locks, maiden gear, gallantry and gaiety and grace, 30
Winning ways, airs innocent, maiden manners, sweet looks, loose locks, long locks, lovelocks, gaygear, going gallant, girlgrace—
Resign them, sign them, seal them, send them, motion them with breath,
And with sighs soaring, soaring síghs deliver
Them; beauty-in-the-ghost, deliver it, early now, long before death
Give beauty back, beauty, beauty, beauty, back to God, beauty’s self and beauty’s giver. 35
See; not a hair is, not an eyelash, not the least lash lost; every hair
Is, hair of the head, numbered.
Nay, what we had lighthanded left in surly the mere mould
Will have waked and have waxed and have walked with the wind what while we slept,
This side, that side hurling a heavyheaded hundredfold 40
What while we, while we slumbered.
O then, weary then why
When the thing we freely fórfeit is kept with fonder a care,
Fonder a care kept than we could have kept it, kept
Far with fonder a care (and we, we should have lost it) finer, fonder 45
A care kept.—Where kept? Do but tell us where kept, where.—
Yonder.—What high as that! We follow, now we follow.—Yonder, yes yonder, yonder,

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Second Dream

In the second dream, I was outside a single story long brick house. I heard a man cry with genuine pain. I walked around the corner and saw a man in a business suit lying on his back. On his belly was a big dog - a Bernese Mountain Dog, I think. I could tell he was fine but yet he cried out. When I got closer to the man, behind the dog I saw a woman who I thought was his wife also sitting on his chest. The man cried out in anguish, but he did not need help so I walked away.

The First Dream

On Sunday night I woke up in the middle of the night, having had two dreams. I wrote the first one into the play and it comes out like this:

I had a dream. I had a dream last night and in the dream I was watching the sea with some men I did not know. And the sky was white, swirling light. And I felt dread and fear. The sea came over the earth and enveloped it in water and I saw dolphins, soldiers, swimming in formation to attack the people of the earth. Then I saw in the sky a prism and a black rainbow and I was afraid. I looked to the men who were with me. They could not see what I had seen. I knew more.

We are all sparks of light and blurs of pain with no heaven and no hell, just our light. Light that we send out with our dollars and votes and trips to church. If the laws of this world could honor our light, we could put heaven on earth. But the church takes the light, these beautiful pieces of light and stills them. And they go out. I am so blasphemous that I say the church is blaspheming when it darkens the light. That is what I really think.

I will try to make time to post the second dream later.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Mother Daughter Holy Spirit

I knew I had to write a play about this party I had in 1983 because I never understood it, never talked about it and absolutely hated it when people brought it up. I did not know that the writing would be a defining moment in my life. I just knew I didn't want to, but I had to, that in that darkness there was a play. So I wrote all the time, obsessively, stealing my own sleep, breaking the babysitter budget, feeding Liberty malted milk balls and trying to tempt her to watch another episode of Peppa Pig. And I wrote a first draft. I cried and shook, my mouth burned. I kept writing.

I arrived in Washington on Saturday with a 130 page play with promise. Over four days, my collaborator and I turned it into an 88 page play about an indomitable 15-year-old who fights religion nearly to death, but is saved by her mother's love. It is rich in sacrilege, blasphemy, secrets and joy. In the thick of it, I wrote out McClatchey's old elements of the monomyth of death and resurrection. The outsider's journey, the outsider's impending death and the concomitant terror, then resignation, then resurrection. When I re-read it, I noticed in my list of elements, I had skipped over the death. That slippery little 15 year old Miss Mariner can just about do anything.

Tomorrow it gets delivered to the Verity Bargate. The VB invites plays that are bold, brave and entertaining. I have been bold and brave, now we shall see if it is entertaining.

When I returned, my two year old daughter and I played in the conservatory. She was oddly insistent that I wear a crown Owain had made. It was made of plastic cups and cardboard. I was pleased.