— From CB —

Sitting now on a shady bench by Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park, Elizabeth walking elsewhere, meeting at the car again at 1:30.

Friday night, our opening of King Lear in San Francisco. In the small North Beach gallery, a nearly full house of 27. Methodical panic of load-in, set-up, lights hung & focused, quick supper, puppet placement, makeup, and then myself behind the curtain of the cube at 7:30 and Elizabeth out to do box office as the Fool.

The response was spectacular — all we could wish for. They laughed in the right places, they breathed with us, they listened without a rustle, they applauded — the most memorable comment after the show was from a woman who said, “I’ve seen productions of King Lear, but this was the first time I felt I saw the play.”

Another show tonight, then we drive home till next weekend. Second performances are always fraught with danger: your survival instincts are relaxed a bit, you suddenly find the reactions different than the night before, and that brute fact of live theatre hits you: Hell, I already did this — I have to do it again??? But it averages out.

I’m not complaining. We stayed around talking to people a long time afterward, then cleaned up our crap and drove to the apartment of a friend — a lifelong ventriloquist — to crash for the night. He’d laid out fruit, cheese & crackers, chicken, wine, and we talked, talked, talked.

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Saturday, a small audience, but the performance held. I still made mistakes, but different ones than the night before. Struck the set for the week, home very late, ravenous. Elizabeth made a big omelet, and we drank a bottle of wine.

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Much to do. The more you scramble up this mountainous play, the higher the climb ahead. We’ll be continuing work on the puppet manipulation, the shifts, and the content. Every character is rich in incongruities: Shakespeare writes from an objective view of human behavior that somehow includes each character’s own unique voice and point of view. How can Lear himself be so despicable and yet so sympathetic? How can he be so absolute in his pronouncements and yet contradict himself in an instant? How can we understand why the villains are villains? Clarity, clarity, clarity is the challenge.

And also work on the garden, our writing, and reclaiming some morsels of life.

 — From EF —

I’ve just been reading some pretty provocative stuff about farming in drought and increased heat, and my hyperactive brain started finding similarities between cultivating healthy dirt and cultivating healthy people. Contrary to the familiar approaches to tilling and weeding, it seems to work best if you don’t destroy all the roots, and if you don’t leave the dirt bare. Well, think about that.

We live close to Singing Frogs Farm on the outskirts of Sebastopol. This is a mind-bogglingly productive and fertile micro-farm (only 8 acres) that manages to churn out anywhere between 5 and 8 harvests a year and grosses more than $100,000 an acre. They don’t plow, disk, or harrow, they don’t spray anything, and the veggies are literally jumping out of the ground. They have very happy dirt.

When they harvest, they don’t pull the roots. They cover everything with a lavish coat of compost. The soil stays light and moist, mostly by virtue of just intruding as little as possible. They appear to trust Gaia to do what’s best out of sight, down in the dark.

A human being is conceived in the dark depths of the womb, and only recently have there been other options. I am not being anti-science here, just stating that the human race got a long way by “letting nature take its course.”

What is this obsession with control? If we can’t see it happening, if we can’t snip and nudge and make it “better,” is it not to be trusted? If we can’t control it to our liking, is it suspect? “Helicopter parents” are suddenly arrayed against “free-range parents,” and letting your kids walk home from a neighborhood playground becomes an illegal act.

If I hadn’t been able to roam the countryside around my childhood home, I would never had made it. I took my silent solitude into the warm arms of my fields and forests and found safety and kin. I didn’t know it was healing me, but it kept me alive.

Wolves were driven from Yellowstone, and the ecology got twisted. They’ve been reintroduced, and the change has been amazingly good. Who knew? What arrogance, to assume that our human controls and efforts to improve on what Gaia does, in her ancient wisdom, are by definition superior.

So I’m mulling the implication of the Singing Frogs wisdom: don’t destroy the roots, and don’t strip the soil bare.

— From the Fool —

Somebody on Facebook asked, “What are your three favorite songs?” I don’t know who asked it. Somebody with a white cat in a box, I guess. But that could be lots of people.

It was just a friendly question, I know, one of those things to start a conversation when nobody has zilch to say, but I started thinking about it, which isn’t always the best policy decision.

Why did they want to know? Would it reveal my profile? Would they store it someplace in Utah in a big cement-block building out in the sagebrush? Do they have sagebrush in Utah, or is that someplace else? Is all sagebrush purple, or are there other kinds?

I got off the track. But then I thought, why three? Maybe somebody would get carried away and list dozens of songs, or hundreds, thousands, and the system would all crash down like an airplane hit it. There might be only so many electrons to go around. Like some Senator said, “In America we’ve got Free Speech, but we won’t have it long if we use it all up.” He was from one of those states with sagebrush, I think.

Or maybe it’s just three so you have to think hard and bare your soul and dig for the deeper meaning. Like what if you can’t decide between “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and “Doggie in the Window”? Or if you liked “Climb Every Mountain” more than “The Star-Spangled Banner,” would they put you on some kind of list?

In sixth grade we had music class twice a week, and we all sang songs from the music book. The girls got to sing the high parts, which sounded like the tune of the songs. The boys had to sing the low parts, which all sounded alike, like a worm crawling in gravel. Maybe that’s why boys get mad at girls and stay that way. Plus, they get more A’s on tests, at least till they learn that nobody loves a smarty.

I think it’s one of those questions where you wind up chasing your tail in circles, but hoping you won’t catch it.

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© Bishop & Fuller 2015

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