Friday, July 11, 2008

Two Things - Julie

My sister and her two teenaged daughters are coming to visit this month, which means I have to do two things I haven’t done in a long time. Clean my spare room and read a play.

The spare room has been accumulating layers of items for years and I’m learning about myself in the same way you can learn about the earth’s history from the layers in the crust. The earth suffered from a terrible flood 35,000 thousand years ago; I used to watch A LOT of X Files, and at one point I thought I’d get really into the exercise ball.

The play I have to read is Our Town, and apparently I’m the only one on the planet who hasn’t. I wasn’t about to be the aunt who lives in Ashland, Oregon, Playgoers’ Paradise, teaches middle school language arts and takes her nieces to see a play that they have both read but she hasn’t. It wouldn't look right. So I’m reading it. And the first thing I thought, when I was reading Donald Margulies’ introduction (I say that like I know who Donald Margulies is; I don’t), “Oh crap, I’m gonna cry in this play.” You see, from what I gather from the intro and the first Act or so is that it’s about the passage of time, and the inevitability of death. In the play, characters get introduced to us by the Stage Manager, and we see them go about their sweet business, getting phosphates, mowing the lawn, delivering newspapers and then he tells us offhandedly that this one’s going to die in the war and that one is buried in the cemetery four blocks down, etc. I haven’t finished the play, so maybe at the end everyone comes back to life, but I’m not holding my breath.

I’ve been thinking about such things lately, as my husband kindly keeps reading to me from a book called The Denial of Death which is about how, essentially, we human beings are all terrified of our own deaths, and are completely controlled by this fear, even if we don’t think we are. That everything we do is an attempt to avoid contemplating it, to make ourselves somehow feel, however unreasonably, that perhaps we won’t die.

Of course this is what much art is about. How you reconcile all the beautiful glorious details of your life (especially those penguin Christmas candles – what was I thinking?), with the hard cold fact that at some point it will all be gone.

Well, maybe you never will reconcile these things. But in the meantime, it’s good to sort through your rooms, holding each item in your hand and remembering when it was important to you, and to read something you’ve never read before, and to go see a play with your nieces, who are visiting this month.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Love this!

Tell your husband to kindly keep his mortality issues to himself! And yes, you will cry at the play. Have you ever noticed that even the slightest emotion is magnified when watching a live performance?

bluelikethesky said...

Great Post, as always.

And don't feel bad...I haven't read Our Town, either! (But I did find some elegant Belgian chocolate turkeys- purchased for three Thanksgivings ago - when I was frantically searching for heartworm pills today)