It came as a surprise to me that anyone could have found last week's post "uplifting," seeing as I wrote it from a feeling-place of stuckness and ugh. But more than one of you did, and after some investigation and re-reading of the past years' writings, a pattern has emerged. While on the road doing a children's tour in early 2006, I kept a travel blog called bandofgypsies chronicling my travels with Partner through mid-Atlantic America, mostly suburban and ex-urban America, the kind of America that has been appropriated by divisive persons and renamed "Real" America. We performed one or two short shows a day, if we were lucky, and there was a lot of time leftover for driving, park-going, sight-seeing, eating... and writing. I needed that blog as a lifeline. Shakespeare for Kids II was many things, but a creative outlet it was not.
Upon arrival back in NYC, post frequency dropped precipitously. Family members would ask when I was going to write about life in New York, and I would shrug and say maybe I would get around to it soon. And I did, a little. I wrote about the rollerskating nuns I saw on Fifth Avenue, and about running my first half-marathon, and I wrote about a great and complimentary audition experience I had (not too different from a more recent one). But for the most part, I settled into my new home city and lived my life like people do.
To be brief (like Polonius): I, generally speaking, tend to write about the process. I write through the questions, and through the years they are mostly the same questions in different clothing. I write when the way is unclear and the path twisted and steep. And yet there are moments of great clarity and ease and YES, and I wish I could write about those, at the very least so that you, dear Reader, are not simply the recipient of my darkness but also my light.
“Happiness is one of the hardest things to write about, and the difficulty of doing so makes me long to be a musician or a painter, for painters and musicians are at ease with the supreme emotion, which is not grief but joy abounding. To be able to make a joyful noise unto the Lord or a praise of colors and forms would seem to me to equate any man with gods or little children. Happiness annihilates time. We measure history by its catastrophes, we recall the weather by its storms, but the periods of peace and joy –- who can describe them?”
Hugh MacLennan, The Watch That Ends the Night
I don't write when I'm happy because I don't need to. I don't write when I'm happy because I SING when I'm happy... because, as MacLennan puts it, I am a musician, and thus at ease with the supreme emotion, which is indeed not grief, but joy abounding. When I'm happy, I don't know how to write or what to write. I just live happy.
In Shakespeare's plays, the difference between prose and poetry is key. Poetry (mostly iambic pentameter) is musical, rhythmic, evocative of the heartbeat and thus said to be, paradoxically, an expression both heightened and supremely, vulnerably true. Characters who speak in prose are somehow questionable... perhaps liars, perhaps madmen, perhaps just unlearned. Whatever the choice may be, their heart is guarded and their greatest truth hidden. Those who write musicals know that the scene progresses until the emotion is so great that the character must leap into song. We don't know how to do it any other way.
For now I will have to leave the writing about great and beautiful happiness to the pros, like Mark Helprin. Instead, I'll be at the piano, singing about it.