Saturday, July 18, 2009

Oldie But Goodie #1

I lost a disk full of essays when I got my new computer early in the decade, and I'm just getting around to typing them into my permanent files. Some are not so bad.

April 1996

Spring begins at sea level and moves upward about eleven miles a day, according to scientists who have studied the phenomenon. It is a transition time when the natural life cycle begins again, when I watch a bee exploring the throat of a daffodil and catch my breath in astonishment at how and why this happens, and who makes it happen. Spring brings a sense of freedom, a feeling of newness, an urge to be creative.

One morning in the spring I was sixteen years old, I sat in my room watching the sweet Oregon rain fall on the riot of irises outside my window, exploring the Roget’s Thesaurus my parents had given me for my birthday that winter, and decided that I would be a writer.

This spring, one of my creations, a play, is being brought to life on stage by a group of talented people who are giving me the priceless gift of their time to do for me what I can’t do for myself. Theater has been in my blood since the spring of my senior year in high school when I auditioned for a part in “The Diary of Anne Frank.” Although I didn’t get the part, I was assigned to the costume crew, which took me backstage where, for the first time, I inhaled the instantly addictive and nearly palpable creative energy in the air.

As a college student, my best learning moments, some even life changing, came when I was involved in plays. I’ll never forget the only applause I ever received as an actress – in my acting class, playing Amanda in a scene from The Glass Menagerie. My interests remained back stage, however, as part of the decision-making that went into the preparation, and I left the acting to people who could memorize lines and control their stage fright.

In the spring of 1967 another rich memory was born. I was the assistant to the faculty member directing a premiere production of a play written by the campus poet in resident, my creative writing teacher from the English department. The author would come to rehearsals to watch the progress of his “offspring,” and consult with the director on production details. It was instructional to listen to these two intensely creative men. I became a sponge. Sometimes when they disagreed about some detail they would turn to me and say, “What do you think?” Sometimes I had an opinion, and I was grateful for the chance to put it into the mix. At first it seemed ludicrous that my opinion should count for anything; I was just happy to be there, absorbing the creative energy and facilitating the activities of all those other creative people involved in the production.

Now it is another spring, many years have passed, and it is my own play that is being prepared for performance. This is the fourth production I’ve directed of a play I’ve written, so I have heard applause before. If you aren’t careful, it can go to your head, and a person could become confused about what it means. A poet once described birth as “Trailing clouds of glory do we come, from God who is our home.” It occurs to me that the clouds of glory we trail after us are the talents we bring that are probably a spiritual inheritance from the Creator. When talents are used respectfully, with deference to the Giver of the Gift, applause takes on a much different meaning.

It is appropriate that as I have watched the tulips and daffodils bloom in my yard, I’ve been watching some wonderful talents bloom, too, at rehearsals. Flowers fade, but those talents will continue to grow. I watch them unfold and I catch my breath in astonishment at how and why it happens, and who makes it happen. That, for me, is another wonder of spring.