The ocean is out there, and it terrifies me. It’s beautiful the way a shark or a storm cloud is beautiful — vast, elegant, multicolored, lethal, perfect in a way that’s indifferent to my personal welfare. Sometime, somewhere back in the years, I waded into it, but I know that I resisted its pull and even the memory of its pull. My instinct for self-protection transcends my immense curiosity. If I allowed my curiosity to run rampant, I’d be a journalist covering the wars in the Congo. But I can’t stand mosquitoes or peril.
It’s very hard to tune directly into beauty. Its waters may be warm or bitter cold, but they’re indifferent to your personal survival. You’re just the seagull waddling before the seaside picnickers hoping for a morsel of the raw tuna they’re ingesting. You want to be the center of their universe, but you might as well be a tap-dancing chicken cavorting out there in the great talent show of evolution. I don’t want to be part of the competition.
I’ve taken a few risks in my life. One was Elizabeth. One was leaving academia for the problematic future of independent crazy-ass theatre. One was the engendering of progeny. Those all turned out really well. But I still don’t wade in cold water or venture out in wilderness where I might get eaten.
These days, you can get eaten almost anywhere. But I still have the illusion that I risk greater destruction from the raw ocean than from distant headlines. I don’t really fear anything where I have no choice in the matter. But I push myself to take small risks, hoping for more. I say hello to strangers, sometimes. I yield to impulse, sometimes. Sometimes I even intrude on the conversation of strangers. More often, I rely on a telephoto lens.
What is it about hair? When I see myself with shiny fluffy hair, whether it’s neat or tousled, I think, oh hey, that’s me. When I’ve gone too long between shampoos, and the damn stuff is a dull mop sticking close to my head, I also think that’s me, but it’s a version I don’t like, and that affects everything: how much energy I have, how much I laugh, how much things hurt, whether or not I like myself.
During a performance of King Lear, my hair’s crammed down under a crazy bald wig, but it’s a crafty cram, one that enables me to dash backstage, yank off the wig, rumple my own hair a little, and come back out as a feminine “cute blonde.” That makes the post-show audience giggle, which is fun. Taking the makeup off is a start, but it’s the hair that does it.
I was talking to a couple who clambered out to the Portuguese Beach promontory where we were reveling in the first outdoor picnic we’d had in a while. It was their first time there, and I asked casually where they lived and what they did. “Banker,” he said, and then hastened to add that he works for a credit union. “Hairdresser,” she said, and I said, “Oh, you’re a story-catcher!” She grinned and agreed.
I’ve never in my whole life gone to a hairdresser, but from what I hear and read, it’s a pretty cool relationship; having someone’s hands massaging your scalp and managing a delicious pile of lather and not getting any in your eyes seems to open gates of confidentiality. Then you get dried and styled and see what magic has been wrought. (Unless you went to the wrong salon.) Everything else is the same, but the hair makes it different.
There’s a hint of magic here, and maybe, when I’m feeling dumpy and glum, I should hire myself as a hairdresser and quit putting things off.
—From the Fool—
I thought it might be nice to take a vacation, but I don’t like just sitting around and looking at the cat. Or driving a long way to look at my cousin’s cat. Or to look at my cousin. Wherever you go you have to get there and then get back.
But a vacation can just be something different than what you do. So I thought I could take a break from being a Fool and be a Wise Man instead. I read about the Three Wise Men and thought maybe they were just Three Fools on vacation. They must have started out Fools, to be riding camels. I guess they wised up pretty quick.
I wasn’t up for getting wise that fast, so I just went over to the beach on Sunday to stare at the water and think of something wise. It didn’t work out so well. I took a tuna sandwich for lunch, and while I was sitting there a whole flock of seagulls stood around watching me eat my tuna sandwich. Suddenly I had this big belch of wisdom about world hunger and inequality and starving people, and that kinda clouded the afternoon. I thought, well, they need to earn their own tuna sandwich, retrain for the needs of the marketplace, but it seemed like the Invisible Hand of the Market couldn’t reach up to scratch the itch. I guess you have to sneak up on wisdom slower.
Or else take chicken salad. I don’t think seagulls would want to eat their cousins.
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© Bishop & Fuller 2016