We have been blessed with a wet juicy rainy season, and the weeds have profused (is that a word?), i.e., there’s a whole helluva lot of them and they’re BIG. The ground is still moist, so yanking works for the time being, producing a good satisfying upper body workout. Not so easy to deal with the profusion of potholes.
We live on what might be called a back road, if it weren’t for the constant pounding traffic. Pleasant Hill Road is a poster child for potholes, big hearty fellas that can twist a wheel like a pretzel. When we go to our favorite local grocery store, we navigate this unstable asphalt with great care and breathe a sigh of relief when we turn onto Lynch Road.
Half a year ago, Lynch was as bad as Pleasant Hill, but then somehow it popped up on the county’s list of Things To Do and got a royal make-over, a real one that tore up the palimpsest of raggedy-ass patches down to the nubbins and then put down a cushy smooth blacktop. It felt luscious, like eating ice cream. But nothing happened to Pleasant Hill Road.
I got so rankled that I bought a can of blaze-orange spray paint and outlined every damn crater so they’d be easier to spot. Not long afterward, the holes got patched, and it was at least a week before the patches fell apart and left us as riddled as before. When do we qualify for the deep repair, the inconvenience of dodging the street-eating machine that gets right down to the fundamentals, screws up the traffic, but then rewards us with a real road that might last a while?
And how do we do this for the potholes in the body politic? Quick fixes and hot patches have to be fought for, tooth and nail, but even so that won’t keep our wheels in alignment. The absurd patchwork needs the attack of the street-eater. The confusion and detours will piss everybody off, and it’ll be hell to find how to pay the bills, but the wheels are coming off and something has to happen. I pray that it can be non-violent.
Halfway through the 2nd draft of our novel CHEMO, we’re starting to figure out what it’s about. I don’t know yet if we’ve found the emotional center of it—how it feels to tell & to hear this story, what wants to move us to owning it emotionally—but we have to trust that that will come as we continue. As I’ve said before, I rarely start out with “something to say.” My process has always been to stick out my nose to be grabbed in the jaws of the bulldog—the story—and spend the rest of the time flailing this way and that while trying to figure out what the contest is all about. Why am I exploring this? What lost city am I searching for?
We’re also rehearsing (and rewriting) SURVIVAL, a house-concert show for Elizabeth. Finding its heart was easy; the trick is in plotting a piece that has very little story. Of course “story” can mean many things, but for me as for Aristotle way back when, “plot” is the foremost element of drama. It might be a tightly-woven cause-effect sequence or it might be a series of jokes (that’s called stand-up comedy) or it might be images with no realistic linkages, but for me there has to be a sense to the selection and the ordering, and they have to add up in a way that evokes some passion within me—besides anger at a waste of time.
On Sunday I saw a piece by renowned theatre-maker Robert Lepage. I won’t go into specific critique, other than to say that for me it was a ten-minute play stretched to an hour and a half, clever stage mechanics and projections camouflaging an empty center. To others, it was brilliant theatre. And I have no doubt it was meaningful to the artist who made it. To me, that’s the disturbing thought. It calls to mind the times I’ve put my heart out on the sacrificial altar and had response much like what I just wrote about Lepage’s piece.
There’s no way to take out insurance against superficiality, and no technique to prevent barking up the wrong tree. The only way is to shave the odds by working and working and working and working and working.