If you’re reading this, it means you’re a reader, and as a reader you’ve probably had the experience of turning a book’s last page and wanting to growl, “No! Don’t stop there!” I stayed up late to finish Lab Girl, a memoir by Hope Jahren, and hop-scotched through the night on the energy of it, half in dream, half in memory.
Hope and her lab partner Bill, paleobiologists, logged miles and weeks and decades together in research road trips, obsessed with the plant world’s intricate wisdom and ability to survive, “interviewing” trees and moss and vines, living and dead, giving them a chance to be heard and seen and understood. Obsession, yes, beautiful and necessary, and hard to live with.
Through the night, I was flashing through our own miles and weeks and decades of road trips, the two of us sometimes with another actor or two, sometimes with a kid or two, always on our way to perform for people who don’t go to the theatre. We created plays and comic sketches and one hideous exploration of family violence and played them in churches and gyms and prisons and coffeehouses. We wrote them because they wanted to be written, and played them because they wanted to be heard and seen. Obsession.
This weekend I spent time with a brilliant woman in her eighties who has been writing and publishing for more than thirty years, in addition to being a fierce advocate for the earth and all creatures upon and within it. She’s still at it, all of it, and has just completed a new book. Cecile Pineda, keep going, your obsession is vital.
Our friend and mentor Leon Katz died a year ago at the age of 97, and in his final weeks he had to be dissuaded from doing a few last edits on his lifework, The Notebooks of Gertrude Stein. He’d been tussling with that since 1952. Obsession.
To me, aging is almost like mountain-climbing. The longer you do it, the more clearly you see where the peaks are. In our own creation of plays, and now novels, we’ve always had each other, but there’s a wonderful jazz in discovering others of a similar persuasion: Look, it’s not just us, we’re part of a tribe. There’s a beauty in finding the next new peak.