Sunday, August 06, 2017

A Whale's Tale



Crash criss-crossed the country in a little red Fiat this summer.  Kentucky to DC to Pennsylvania, back to Kentucky, on to Chicago. Seattle, San Francisco and my dad's Central California farm.  All this to come and go from his job in Montana, where he was stage managing Macbeth for Shakespeare in the Parks,1 or more precisely, managing the production until it was ready to criss-cross Montana and the Dakotas.

It's a fascinating program, the actors take everything on a 6000 mile road trip — including the stage itself — except for the tech crew.  They rehearse with the help of the tech crew, but in the end learn to do for themselves.  Including putting up, taking down and packing the stage into the giant trailer they tow, nicknamed The Whale. (See the timelapse embedded in this post!)

Read Crash's interview with two of the actors here:  SixByEightPress.


1. Not that Shakespeare in the park, note the plural and the distance from New York.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

J.F. Powers and cloaks of invisibility

Betty Powers, with J.F. Powers and their daughter
There is an interesting piece in Commonweal ("His Bleak Materials")by Jeffrey Meyers on Catholic novelist J.F. Powers. I've read Morte D'Urban and several other of Powers' stories, and found Meyers' perspective on his priest characters intriguing, casting them as ordinary men with no special talents trying to negotiate their way through the thickets of the world and the church, despite the seemingly (and perhaps truly) irreconcilable differences between these spheres.  I can relate.

I was more intrigued by Meyers' lead into the article, which sketches a monastic version of Powers' life (he lived near St. John's Abbey in Collegeville, a place I've spent time writing and retreating).  He describes Powers' doing his laundry on his knees in a rusty bathtub, and his "hairshirt house" — drab, shabby and cold.  It's a sharply unromantic view of a writer's hermitage.

But where is Mrs. Powers in this sketch?  Powers was married and had five children. Were they perhaps living elsewhere?  No, they were not.  At least one other person lived in that hairshirt house, but somehow she has been rubbed out of this particular picture of Powers. It made me think about The Astronauts Wives which I recently read, and how many of them had been majoring in STEM fields, but dropped out when they married, their other selves tucked into a drawer or a footnote.

Betty Powers née Wahl is not neglected in John Rosengren's memories of Powers ("The Gospel according to J. F. Powers").  Next time I'm in Collegeville's cemetery, I will look for her grave.  She was a promising fiction writer when Powers was introduced to her by one of her professors at St. Ben's and continued to write and to publish after she was married.

Powers died while folding his own laundry.  An ordinary task.




Friday, August 04, 2017

Arboreal alarm clocks

I walked down the driveway yesterday morning, the cicadas howling in the humid air.  Classes, you need to get ready for classes. Their fall alarm seems so much louder when you've been away. This year, after a cicada-less stop in California, the sounds of summer fading to fall feels like an alarm going off at 3:30 am for an early flight, rousing me from the deepest of sleeps.

Usually the end of the summer creeps up slowly. The cicadas hum, the air gets misty, the leaves on the trees wrinkle ever so slightly, their spring greens grow dusty and faded.  The garden begins to look a bit spent.  I don't need my calendar to tell me summer is waning (though one of the astronomers at the Specola kept saying, "July is going to be over, it's going to be the 8th month of the year."  He was aghast at how the year had flown.  Me, too.)

It's been a good summer, with stretches of time for thinking and writing, time to explore some new projects and finish off old ones. There was time with family (wedding!) and time to tidy.  A bit of retreat time.  Time seems more expansive, perhaps because of the longer days, or perhaps because they are less hectic, more predictable.

And for the record, there is a full month of summer left before I begin teaching.  If only I could hit snooze on the cicadas, and blissfully go back to my midsummer's dreams.