By choice, I am spending part of each day in the doghouse, and once a week, or so, I try to sleep there as well.
My doghouse is located deep in our woods, almost a half mile from our house. It is perched on a trail carved by deer and hangs over a spring fed creek.
Yesterday, as I sat on the wooden slatted bench under the covered porch, an elegant form circled twice over my head before landing in a branch about ten feet from me and at eye level. A great blue heron. I sat motionless for several minutes while it preened its feathers, then it majestically spread its wings and floated off down the stream.
The doghouse is a technology-free zone. It was built without electricity and that is how it stands. Inside, there is a sleeping loft, a small table and two chairs, and a small pot bellied stove. There are huge windows on three sides.
All day and night the creek gurgles loudly as the water rushes over the stones. In the day, a thousand birds chirp. In the evening, a thousand frogs croak. At night, I snore.
Life itself. A flower. A moment. A heartbeat. They all have an end.
This weekend ends the run of my three month association with a fine, fine crew of artists who collaborated on Death of a Salesman. And I admit no small element of distress. When one is embraced in a luxurious blanket of creativity by a cadre of artists who are universally generous and talented and kind, well, it's just not the sort of thing you want to end.
There's only one thing to do. Well - two things, actually. First, enjoy the hell out of this last weekend. Second, hope that around some unforeseen corner there might lie another opportunity as rich and fulfilling as this one has been.
Thanks Matt, Chris, Ned, Paula, Jaimie, Jordan, Chris, Joshua, Joe, Jo, Katie.
Spoiler alert: I am not going to kill myself.
But as Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman, every night I have to crawl into that dark hole. I have to take the time before the lights dim, to commit to the idea that I, Willy Loman, am going to kill myself.
I've always intellectually understood suicide. I've experienced it as a family member and friend of others who have committed suicide. But it's never been part of my DNA. I'm in favor of assisted suicide for the terminally ill (that makes sense to me, (rather than a prolonged and pointless suffering). But personally - I really, really like breathing and all that comes with it. The laughter, the tears, the pain, the pleasure.
Death of a Salesman is a three hour play. I need at least two hours before the performance to prepare, and at least two hours after to decompress. That adds up to seven hours every performance night that I am wallowing in contemplation of my (Willy's) suicide.
Ultimately even Willy is only able to make the commitment by lying to himself - by convincing himself that his death will benefit his favored son. Every night, Willy walks resolutely off to his own demise, simultaneously pleased and disturbed, proud and afraid of the decision he has made.
From the first line of the first scene, Willy is considering his own death. That colors the delivery and shape of every word Willy speaks, every event and person he dredges up from his imagination and memory, every reaction he has to what happens around and to him.
I guess I'm not making this sound like a 'fun' performance to attend - and fun is not really what we are aiming at. And yet - there is an exhilaration that comes from exploring so intimately the darkest thoughts of this iconic American stage character. And my fellow actors are so good - they push and push and push back at me (at Willy). Every night they make me see a line, a word, a scene in a different light.
It's a hell of an experience.
Random thoughts about the news of the day, or walks in the woods