Sheltering in Place

Monday and Tuesday, I had more free time than I have had in weeks. I had scheduled it that way on purpose, thinking I’d be desperate for the down time between visits, travel and my Mom’s upcoming visit. But between how restored my time in the mountains had me feeling, and be all caught up on projects, I ended up feeling totally lost with what to do with myself.

On top of being out of the habit of how to spend free time, there was the looming anxiety of Hurricane Harvey slowly rolling over Houston. I spent endless hours hunched over social media feeds, just trying to make sure my loved ones were all ok. It was excruciating to know Dave was sheltering in place at home, hoping our high ground would hold out while flash flooding blew through the neighborhood. We texted constantly, the same circular conversation about what preparations were in place, the likelihood of staying dry, and trying to talk about something else but eventually coming back to the storm.

Thankfully, in my circles there has only been loss of property and wages, but that is of course still significant. The small town where I first returned to the stage after years away, Wharton, on the shores of the Colorado river, was especially hard hit. Some areas remain in flood stage nearly a week after Harvey blew through.

It feels so terrible not to be there, though I’m not sure what I could have done. Dave got back to work quickly, and worked straight through the Labor day weekend, so our little part of Houston life is back on track. But I wish I was there to support the long, draining hours he’s putting in. Likewise some of my friends are still out of homes and out of work. It hurts to have more labor than money to contribute and to be too far away to apply it.

I am keeping my eye on recovery efforts, and expect to join them as soon as I set foot back in Houston.

Dave and I are both extremely lucky to have been barely ruffled by Harvey. That only sets us up to give that much more to those harder hit.

I love you Houston. Be back soon.

Advertisements

Endurance

I got home Thursday, and realized I actually had some time before the next weekend of shows to catch up and catch my breath. I cleaned out my car for the first time in waaay too long, reordered my camping gear and the collection of things Dave and I brought back from Maryland, as his mom is clearing out the house in anticipation of merging homes with her guy.

I had one more batch of cheap art and some kick-starter thank you cards to scratch out, so there was plenty to fill the time before getting back to running the show. I nearly felt like I had my life under control again for the first time since June.

IMG_20170826_150501701.jpg

Last pieces, trying some other designs

Friday, we were looking ahead at another full weekend of shows, the weather report was clear. But halfway through the show, the band called a hold, citing a few drops of rain. I admit, the backstage was full of skeptical groans. We were confident it was gonna blow over without incident.

Ten minutes later, we were scrambling to get puppets inside before the downpour that had begun could soak in and cause too much damage. I’m not sure if getting cut short hurt more than calling it off and then having no rain, but it’s a close contest.

Soggy and disheartened, a group of us went to milltown to drown whatever sorrows had not already been swamped out. We wound up staying out later than any post-show since opening night. Jake and I spent a kind of hilarious amount of time talking about how awesome we think Dave is. Always good to know people agree with me about that, ha!

The rest of the weekend stayed dry and sunny. On Saturday, the theater was bursting at the seams, over flowing with attendees. The surge was just what I needed to pep back up my waning energy on that fourth weekend. I’ve never run a show this long, the endurance factor is not to be underestimated.

IMG_20170825_194010746.jpg

One of my backstage views

There are some roles, like basically any bird I do, that I could perform all day long for a week. Others, like being the back end of the cart-pulling ass, where I am either straining to haul a heavy cart across sand, or standing blindly, trying to fight spacing out while staring at the back of Jake’s neck, are getting a little old. Then again, I have yet to get tired of the bounty of crass jokes that being the back-end of an ass provides, so there’s silver linings on everything, I guess.

IMG_20170820_171510204.jpg

We’re all going a little nuts

These last three Sundays we have matinees, and although it is definitely exhausting, like most stressful situations, it’s a great source of bonding. It’s nice to have some time with the entire cast, more or less stuck together, but with enough breathing room to enjoy each others’ company as we choose. Plus they feed us, so that’s pretty awesome.

IMG_20170820_173220249.jpg IMG_20170820_173042912.jpg

Lifting Fog

The next morning was dense with fog. Dawn could not break so much as slowly seep though the blanket of land-clouds. The drive along the parkway was very different from the day before. My views became shorter and shorter as I rose towards Mt. Mitchell, the highest peak east of the Mississippi (which is still, y’know, pretty low). By the time I reached the state park visitor center, I could barely see ahead of me.

IMG_20170823_110924309_HDR.jpg

Rather than be let down by the fact that I had arrive at the summit to views of opaque grey and white, I relished the fact that it seemed to have left the place far less occupied than it might have otherwise been. Plus, I had the whole day to see if the weather changed.

IMG_20170823_113222217_HDR.jpg

I went up to the summit for giggles, to see the non-view, and then took off down the 8.6-mile round trip ridge trail to Deep Gap and back. It was misting by then, and I started the trail in my poncho, but shortly after that the precipitation lightened up and the poncho was creating more moisture by trapping sweat than it was keeping off.

On the way down I only passed four other people, another solo hiker and a group of three with one of the most well-behaved dogs I’ve ever met. I loved the insulated feeling of solitude the dense fog and abandoned trail created.

IMG_20170823_115519989_HDR.jpg

Then I began to worry about wildlife again. As well as remembering the woman who had reminded me the caution with which I should be going alone. As much as I was enjoying the peaceful stillness, I figured I should start making my presence more known to potential wildlife. So that’s how I found I still know all the words to “Colors of the Wind” from Pocahontas.

IMG_20170823_132623928.jpg

IMG_20170823_130324926.jpg

As I descended in the aptly name “deep gap”, the trail went from a rolling progression of ups and downs to just straight downs. At about what turned out to be halfway down the last stretch, I had the foresight to feel future-Kelly seething at me for blithely hiking down this incline, but had the clear thought of “well what’s she gonna do? NOT hike back?” and intentionally trapped myself into what I knew would be a challenging climb back up.

IMG_20170823_160957954.jpg

The point at which I knew this was gonna be an interesting hike

I stopped for lunch at the bottom of the gap, where the Deep Gap trail splits and can, potentially be taken another eight miles out to a highway. I wouldn’t be taking that leg, since I’m typically only good for about 10-12 miles total of moderate-to-strenuous hiking per day, and I was also angling to get back in time to treat myself to dinner at the park lodge.

IMG_20170823_141012275_HDR.jpg IMG_20170823_140320847_HDR.jpg

(The unremarkable point of turn around, beside the quite remarkable white stone that appeared at lower elevations)

As I sat on a small out cropping of boulders, the fog began to loosen up, and by the end of lunch, slices of blue sky were even showing up above me. As I hiked back up, in cleared even further, and I was amazed by the views that were revealed around me. The narrowness of the ridge I hiked along was surprising, and it was awesome to see the difference on the way back.

IMG_20170823_142713298.jpg

My lunch view

IMG_20170823_162728715.jpg

I was also grateful for the scenery, because I was definitely cursing past-Kelly’s name on the way up.

When I got back to the parking lot, though my feet and legs were feeling the burn, I decided to just not stop walking and get back to the summit. It’s a short walk to the top, but I knew if I stopped before I might get stuck. It was so nice to see the difference from that morning, but I was tired and ready to eat, so I went back pretty fast.

IMG_20170823_171425222_HDR.jpg

Yay! Views!

IMG_20170823_171135346_HDR.jpg

The far peak is where I hiked to!

I went to set up my campsite, and was over the moon with what I found. Only nine sites, and instead of being drive-up, there is a single lot and then a gravel path that branches off to the different sites, each one secluded from the other by bushes and elevation.

IMG_20170823_174053843_HDR.jpg

I could’ve cried….

I was going to go back to the summit for sunset, but my site faced west, and after the annoyance with my neighbors at the previous site, I was so excited I just stayed at my site. The sunset was stunning even with a semi-obscured view, and I read intermittently while the sunset faded, waiting for the stars to come out. Clouds were rolling in, covering any hopes of a good view of the stars, but shortly after the blaze of the sun fade behind the ridge-line, I looked up to find that the sliver-crescent of the moon, chasing close behind the sun, had turned gold with the last of the sun light.

As I got ready to get into my tent for the night, I spared one last look up, and like something out of a freakin’ storybook the clouds parted just long enough to give me an eyeful of starry sky. I jumped back out, ready to stay out under the sky, but just as quickly, they were covered back up.

Feeling utterly blessed by the beauty of the last few days, I tucked in for the night feeling on top of the world. And not just by east-of-mississippi parameters.

IMG_20170824_070105836_HDR.jpg

This is actually from the next day’s sunrise. Stunning

Great Smoky Mountains

I spent the next two days playing in the Smoky mountains. Thankfully most people were taking off after the eclipse, and campsites were readily available. I drove as much of each route on the Blue Ridge Parkway as I could, loving the secluded road, and aching for my Motorcycle at every turn.

IMG_20170822_074225647_HDR.jpg

Where I started my morning

IMG_20170822_101031542.jpg

Indian Creek Falls

Tuesday I hung around Smoky Mountains National park, exploring the NC side of it. I did another waterfall loop trail and hiked a few miles of the Appalachian trail. It got me itching to finally do some proper back packing, and when I saw the sign designating the 1900-or-so miles to maine, I got the same itch I do when I see the mileage to the next closest city on the interstate. Immediate calculations for how long it would take go through my mind, and I start wondering how long I could realistically live on the road…trail….whatever…

IMG_20170822_095204243.jpg IMG_20170822_101614221.jpg

IMG_20170822_131710867.jpg

Only going 3 miles down the trail was tough….

IMG_20170822_145800825.jpg IMG_20170822_145852326.jpg

IMG_20170822_152622647_HDR.jpg

It was wonderful to be out in nature, even as I dodged crowds of tourists. I was going to go to Clingman’s Dome, where my Mom and I had gone five years ago as part of a birthday trip, but halfway down the road I noticed people parking all along the street and walking in the road.

I leaned my head out to ask a guy if there was anything special going on.

Nah, just the cluster from the eclipse.” He replied, self-censoring. “you can park and walk though, it goes way faster.”

Forget it, I’ve seen it before. Thanks.”

Can’t blame you at all…”

That evening what had been a totally abandoned campsite had re-filled with people still in the area or passing through. I didn’t mind until the last campsite beside me filled, just past sunset, with the kind of people who need a gajillion-watt lamp to flood their and all the surrounding campsites. Not to mention to idea of flashlight etiquette.

Frustrated that all this light had flooded in and ruined my star-gazing just as night fell, I decided to go a little ways down the nearby nature trail. The canopy only allowed pocked viewed, and about halfway down the trail I remembered the level of wildlife nearby and quickly began convincing myself that I was hearing large breath or footsteps. So I went back and pouted until my neighbors FINALLY shut their lights out.

IMG_20170822_140632491.jpg

On an unrelated note….is this when fall starts in other states??

Waterfall wandering

After the eclipse, I took the advice of the family who was sitting with me, and went to check out some of the waterfalls in the Nantahla forest. Partially to fill the rest of the day, but mostly because they were in the direction against the flow of traffic.

Though decidedly less crowded than heading back towards Asheville and other more populate zones, there were still plenty of eclipse viewers down the way I went. I was amazed by the production value some people had put into the event. Special t-shirts, hats and entire tailgating set-ups were all over the trails and parking lots. It was wild to see the small towns and tiny side roads teeming with travelers. Though I must say my Texas plates still boasted some of the farthest mileage from home.

IMG_20170821_172205280_HDR.jpg

in Highlands, NC just north of Georgia. 

Hiking to Dry and Glenn falls, I felt full of energy. I don’t know if it was just finally getting out in nature, or the charge from the eclipse, but I was tearing down the trails at an unusually fast clip and feeling fine.

Glenn Falls is just shy of the Georgia border, but not quite over the line. Again I avoided breaching the North Carolina border. It seems appropriate that the only time I have crossed state lines this Summer is to see Dave.

IMG_20170821_163546508.jpg

The hike down along Glenn falls was beautiful, and felt distinctly Southern as I traipsed through dense magnolia trees. I’ve almost exclusively seen Magnolia trees in well-manicured gardens, and walking through all those wiggly branches in the wild was like dropping into a surrealist painting.

IMG_20170821_163610527.jpg

Wiggles

Everyone was in good spirits from the eclipse. I had many pleasant passing-by interactions with the people I shared the trail with. Including a woman who good-naturedly scolded me for answering honestly when she asked if they should wait for someone else to pass too.

Never admit you’re on the trail alone!” She chided me.

You just look so trust worthy!” I replied. But took the advice to heart. It’s so easy to forget that there is good reason many people don’t travel alone.

IMG_20170821_163532015.jpg

not gonna stop me anytime soon tho…

At the base of Glenn Falls, I stumbled upon a group of people who camping among the rocks. There were two tents and two hammocks by the falls, and three people hanging around. I smiled and waved, the water a little too loud to talk over from a distance. As I enjoyed the spray, I noticed the hammocks were already occupied, making it a bigger group than I thought.

I considered reaching out to them, now that it didn’t feel like I might be interrupting something intimate. I was still tingling from the eclipse, looking for connection.

Did you guys enjoy the eclipse?” I asked, laying down some stereotypical assumptions that their type might be the kind to have communed with nature and gotten as big a reaction as I did.

Huh? Oh, yeah it got real dark…” One of the guys replied.

So, given that reaction, I smiled and moved on. As I turned back, a third head poked out of the hammocks. I have genuinely no idea how many people were at the campsite.

I came back towards town by driving down the Blue Ridge Parkway, which was stunning and wonderful. It was difficult to convince myself to keep driving to get back before sundown, as every overlook seemed worthy of a pause.

IMG_20170821_191447504.jpg

This one definitely deserved stopping though

IMG_20170821_191216115.jpg

Turning of the parkway I ran into the only significant eclipse traffic I would deal with that day. My airbnb appeared to be some kind of model home next to a furniture store, and the only other house guest arrived after I as tucked in and left right before I did. My favorite kind of stranger interaction.

IMG_20170822_071744320.jpg

that’s where I stayed. it was odd. 

I popped into Waynesville for what turned out to be one of the best black bean burgers of my life and some truly stellar beer, served by a staff that seemed utterly ravaged by the huge Monday night crowd the eclipse brought in. I hope they at least got a break for the event itself…

Standing in Totality

The eclipse cracked me open.

There was a great deal of hemming and hawing about whether I could make a trip to the path of totality work on such short notice. Eclipse glasses were sold out, and I had no option to leave days before and get a campsite.

But, I found a cheap enough airbnb for the night after, and Jake let me borrow his welding helmet. The only thing left was to just apply the effort. I couldn’t let that go unmet.

I woke up just before 4am, and was driving by just past the hour, after a short, excitement-stunted sleep. I was heading for Franklin, NC, a small town nestled in the Nantahla national forest, on the one small tip of North Carolina that was in the path of totality. I had considered going South Carolina which was slightly shorter of a drive, or all the way into Tennessee to join Audrey, but it felt right that I should stay in the borders of the state that has brought me so much magic already this Summer.

Driving through the predawn and into sunrise is one of my favorite experiences. It’s probably got so much positivity attached to it specifically because I only ever do it when there’s a good, exciting reason for it. There is something about watching the world wake up around me, with dozens of miles already between me and home, that makes me tingle.

Dawn came just as I was approaching the foothills of the mountains. The thick fog rising from the river valleys caught the light in sheer white strands. The lush green slopes paired with remarkably clear road ways after all my anxiety about traffic, took my mood to ever higher elevations.

The sun finally crested, searing orange in my rear view mirror, with no indication of the approaching shadow.

IMG_20170821_070836102.jpg

here we go

The night before, I had spoken to Alan, a volunteer with the show who has returned every weekend now, far beyond his original duties, as he filled in for last-minute cancellations. He and I have gotten along since day one. I realized why when he and Dave met and their similarities instantly drew them together. Lots of people like Dave, few are so quick to “get” him.

Sunday, with Dave on a plane home to Houston, I was talking to Alan about Dave and my’s extended plans for the future, on the tail end of some friendly ribbing from the cast about marriage.

I love Dave, got along instantly, you know that.” Alan said. “But he is a very lucky man.”

I laughed. “Well, thanks for saying so. I was actually just telling him how I worry about being over shadowed by him.”

Alan gawked, as if genuinely offended by the statement. “Are you kidding?”

I was taken aback by how seriously he took the statement. “Um, no.”

I wasn’t kidding. Dave’s physical skills whether in a scene shop or athletics, his ability to connect with people instantly and significantly, and the fact that he had given tremendous emotional and financial support to give me this Summer—and really my whole life—of pursuing my passion, were all adding up to make me feel insignificant, and the relationship vastly lop sided. I won’t get into the specifics of my insecurities, but I have never felt like I measure up.

Dave, for the record, does not agree with this perception, but, being the source of it, can only do so much to convince me otherwise.

You stand in no one’s shadow.” Alan said, staring at me hard. “You shine with a light all your own. Don’t ever forget that.”

He said the last bit into my shoulder, as I had gathered him up in a big, grateful hug. The next morning, he sent me a small reminder message:

Remember as you are watching the eclipse today, that the only shadow you stand in is that of the moon”.

Watching the sun rise, I felt a thrill of excitement, and all the anxiety and frustration I had been sifting through started to drop away.

I arrived in Franklin, and parked at the first public park I came across. It was 8:30 am, six hours til totality. I began to realize I had perhaps bought into the hype a little too far, but I’d take the ease with which I found a place to set down and wait over an extra cycle of sleep. There were some people who had clearly been sleeping there overnight, so I wasn’t the only one getting a jump on it.

Franklin was still under a blanket of fog. Having driven in dipping in and out of foggy valleys, and knowing that there was a clear sky just above, I was sure it would clear out, but it didn’t stop me from being antsy. The amount of coffee I chugged to get 4am rolling didn’t help either.

So I took a stroll down the mile-or-so length of the river walkway attached to the park, continuously glancing up, waiting for the fog to lift. As I was turning around, there were first small signs of sky, and by the time I was back it had all shredded aside, leaving a wide, clear blue sky.

The last of my nerves settled, I laid out my yoga mat and pillow and tried to catch a quick nap. I had chosen a good park, as even as crowds accumulated, it seemed to mostly the type of people who were interested in a calm, relaxed observation, not a full out party. I am not usually a fan of sleeping in public, but I found that I could get a few winks in a mostly-private shady spot before other groups started to crowd into my corner.

There was some friendly chatter. People comparing how far and how early they drove. The family beside me shared their homemade cranberry oatmeal bars with me, while their two little boys were enamored with the welding helmet I had brought to view the eclipse with. Mostly, though, I was allowed some quiet and solitude.

The eclipse itself started subtly. A group of UNC kids were standing in the field and I heard one of them mutter “I think that’s it…” and the other jokingly reply “ah! It is real!” as a small slice of shadow cut into the sun’s edge.

The drama built slowly. As people looked up with greater and greater frequency. Crickets began to chirp. Some clouds started to roll in, and we were all on edge wondering if they were going to start blocking the view. They did blow across as the remaining sun light thinned, but they were wispy enough to still see the sun through. If anything, it was nice to be able to see it without the welding helmet!

In the last moments, as the air chilled and sky darkened, there was endless murmuring among the crowd. I was excited for the totality, but in a subdued way, partially open to having a big reaction, but largely trying to lower my expectations so I wouldn’t over hype the experience. I liked watching the sun become a crescent, and the shadows start to shimmer and take on the eclipsed shape, but it was all with mild curiosity.

‘Sure,’ I thought. ‘This is fun, and given the relative ease, worth making the trip. Nothing mind blowing though.’

I was not at all ready for the sun to go out.

There were clouds across its face as it happened, so I got to watch without glasses as the last, tiny sliver of light disappeared. As the final spot vanished, my heart lurched.

The pure, primal reaction was beyond anything I have ever felt. To watch the sun disappear shattered something in me and my initial reaction was one of utter shock. I was cracked open to my core and all the fear and anger that I hold close to my heart spilled out.

Everyone around me cheered, fireworks went off down town. All I could think was “Why are you cheering for this?”

Then, the clouds split further, and the white, shining aura of totality appeared. The corona eye of the universe stared down at me and all I could do was meet its terrible gaze.

As I got a hold on my wits, the fear transformed into pure awe. I was shaken by the hugeness of the universe and amazed by the grandeur of what it can do. I looked around at the sunset colors, the suddenly appearing stars, and then back at the spectacle of the swallowed sun.

I have seen a great deal of the beauty in this world. But this was something so far beyond that. So beautiful and wonderful it broke my heart.

And, in the final seconds of totality, just as I was getting a grip on the experience, I felt the urge to reach for Dave. To experience this without him felt so wrong. I wanted him to see me, raw under the sunless sky, and to know what even now I am having trouble putting into words. That the fear and anger is so small in this world, but that love, my love for him and all the world’s wonders, is huge.

It was over so fast. Parents scrambled to get their kids to put their glasses back on, people trying to get the jump on traffic were packing up in a frenzy. I dropped my hands from my hair, where they had been clenched without me even noticing.

I looked around for any sign that someone else’s world had been rocked as violently as mine had. There were a few people that seemed a little emotional, but no one else stood in the shell-shocked bleary state that I felt. Had that really just happened?

That was cool huh!” The dad beside me said. His kids were running about, and asking to try on my helmet again.

I looked back up at the eclipse, the shadow moving out remarkably fast. I was as unprepared for it to be over as I had been at the start. As overwhelmed as I had been at the start, I was now desperate to keep exploring that state.

But the sunlight was back, the stars gone again, and I felt put back together. Hopefully, with some of the fear left out.

I joined the scramble for departure, tidily packing up my little space in a single armload and thanking my neighbors for their company as I took off.

It occurred to me, as I drove away under the brightening sky, that standing in the shadow, it turned out, was one of the most remarkable experiences I have ever had. I don’t need to worry about whether or not there are any other shadows falling upon me, because there is so much to be gained from that position.

I look forward to standing in the shadow again.

IMG_20170821_133007457.jpg

Dave’s second visit!

I drove Dave with me back down to Chapel Hill, so he could see the show and we could have a little more one-on-one visiting time.

It was a very different experience from his previous visit. He already had rapport to lean on, people were eager to see him again, and even I am more ingrained in the space than before.

Meghan took us to her favorite local bar, an all-cider pub. It was flight night so we tried literally everything and had a ball. When we joined the bar for a round of Txotx (pronounces Choch), a dry Spanish Cider, I was jolted back to a memory from the weekend I spent in Madrid that I had not visited in years. Good vibes all around.

We also visited Jake in his studio, partially because I knew Dave would love to see the space, andeven have some helpful advice about getting things wired back up, but mostly because I knew the two of them would hit it off personally and they hadn’t gotten to spend much time together before. Sure enough, after we did a run-around of Jake’s studio and barn space, we just sat out by the fire pit (unlit, in the heat of the afternoon) and drank summery lager and shot the shit.

While there was still abundant activity, it was at least possible to sleep in a little later during Dave’s visit. I wouldn’t be so bold as to say my energy truly recovered, but I was at least a little less tired.

During our last visit, Dave and I had been eager for down time, but this time around we soon realized we both had too much looming over us. I have only a month left and a seemingly impossible among of things I need to plan and fit into that time. Dave started a new job the day he returned and his car was in the shop for repairs with no word on the turn around time. Every time we sat down, the energy became distracted and jittery. But at least now, when we ran out of things to say, we could just hold hands or physically, actually lean on each other. Even the stress is better together.

It was a relief Friday night when show prep started rolling. Chris quickly nabbed Dave to help him out with his myriad of chores to get the show back on track for another weekend. I could tell even as we were flying past each other with different jobs to do that we were both doing better for having something to put our energy into.

As an unofficial volunteer, Dave made an excellent impression with his ability to fill in gaps in labor, and add a hand to great benefit, without getting underfoot or needing too much attention. I was so proud to have brought him around. Come Sunday, much of the cast was wondering where he was, and were disappointed for him to be gone so soon. None more than me though!

The show ran great, much to the cast’s excitement, as it was apparently the night we were filmed for the dvd of the show. For my part, it was certainly nice to know I had someone out there for me, when I am so accustomed to a sea full of unfamiliar faces.

Dave was moved by the show more than I expected. I think I over estimate his cynicism sometimes. I don’t know if it’s because I need to believe in my work more, or if being the butt-end of so many puppets makes it hard to see what’s happening beyond me, but I am consistently relieved and impressed by the reactions of the audience. Every time I hear a cheer, or a heart felt message, it lifts me up just as much as the one before.

Dave and I stayed up together, drinking beer on Jenny’s porch, just unpacking what he got out of the show and what he thought of the artistry. My love for both the show and Dave were reinvigorated by it. The one is feeding the other in ways I never would have expected and I am so grateful for it. As hard as this last stretch of long distance is, I am only increasingly more sure this was the best thing I could have done for myself, Dave and our team.

We were better about keeping ourselves busy Saturday, going for a hike at the Eno (so glad I finally took him there!) and cooking together. The occupation helped deflect our stress, though there was still plenty of nudgy energy anytime we were still for too long. Another great show and another bountiful night at Vimala’s gave us plenty of space to put it!

Sunday morning came painfully fast. This parting was even harder than the last one. It is difficult, to ride through a stressful period and then not even get to enjoy getting on the other side of the hump together. I felt a little cheated, that all these outside considerations had twisted the tone of our visit. Still, I’d rather ride through it together than suffer apart….but I’d REALLY rather just be together and not stressed out. 

I can’t believe the next time I’ll see Dave, it will be in our own home. I’m ready to be there. I’m not ready to leave. 

Mapping out Maryland

First thing Monday morning I hit the road. In my first venture outside North Carolina since I arrived, I drove up to Maryland to meet Dave at his Mom’s house in Maryland.

Driving a new line of unfamiliar highway reminded me how far I am from familiar territory. And how quickly the map begins to fill. Passing Washington D.C. And seeing the Washington monument in the distance was surreal, reminding me of when I drove past the New York skyline four years ago on my STL-to-Montreal-and-back road trip where I got the birch bark. Having grown up with these images it is always strange to see them in real life, and then just drive on by….

Arriving in Annapolis was likewise strange. The first turn a familiar road had me feeling disoriented. “This is a place you fly to, not drive to” in a single morning, my brain said. For the rest of the visit, seeing my car in the driveway was jolting.

This reunion was a little less dramatic than the first. Dave was just back from having a beach weekend belated birthday celebration with the extended family, so the prevailing energy was one of recovery and relaxation.

Dave’s kid sister Liz did drive back down from Baltimore to have dinner with me though, so that was very nice! We went to a restaurant now owned by Dave’s boss at a former restaurant, and the head chef, who also knew them, treated us to excellent conversation and few special treats. It’s interesting to see Dave’s childhood roots, since he has trimmed them back to a select few, but the ones that are there still run deep.

The next day, I got to watch his mom, Anne, do some painting of examples for a new textile collection. She is an incredible artist, and it was neat to get a glimpse into how her projects come together. We went on a quick errand to the art store together that afternoon, a quaint little spot filled with all the secret corners and multi-leveled set up I’ve come to expect of such places. It was nice to get a moment of one on one time as well, to express how seriously I take the support Dave has shown me this Summer.

While she finished up her work, Dave and I (mostly Dave) made beef stew to bring over to his grandparent’s place that evening. It was so nice to watch him in the kitchen again. It is definitely one of the things I miss most.

Dinner with the grandparents was quiet, but charming, as his Grummy made several cutting insights into different social circles, as well as some pleasant reminiscences on their own time long-distance with his granddad was in Greenland with the airforce (Navy?). Other family members popped by to do chores around the house, which was a pleasant surprise, as we hadn’t expected to see many other people on our so-short visit.

After a few rounds of pool, Anne said good night and good bye, as she was getting at up at 4am the next morning to get to New York. Then, at a more reasonable hour of the morning, it was time for us to turn back around and drive the easy route down 95 back to North Carolina. I barely needed direction back it’s such a clear shot. Already the way is becoming familiar.

Second time around

The second weekend started with an unfortunate rain-out Friday night. It was a frustrating call, where the rain could have either gotten harder or let up, and of course, right after we canceled it stopped. But, I found that after my week of deep exhaustion, my mood was still lifted just being a part of the community for an hour or so as we waited for the call.

In retrospect, knowing now that the Saturday and Sunday shows went on, I’m pretty grateful for the night off. Not only did it let me rest my worn shoulders a little bit, but it also coincided with a game night with the writing group, whom I have barely had time to see lately.

Due to the last minute nature of my attendance, I showed up empty handed, and felt a little bad for it. But they were happy to share all food and beverage, and made me feel welcome. I played Catan for the first time, and sadly, we were not able to finish the game before the night grew too late, but it was still a treat.

Saturday, we finally got back into the show. Spirits were high when, after our ill-called rain out Friday night, with a depressing weather outlook ahead, Saturday evening rolled in with clear skies and minimal puddles on the ground.

It was a strange experience to get back into the show after several days away. I still know everything, it snapped back into place, and it was hard to believe it had been such an agonizing process to get it together in the first place. It feels somehow wrong that we get to just perform from here on out and not spend all week building and finessing.

At Vimala’s Saturday night, there was an awesome jazz group playing, and everyone was already riding high on our triumphant return. During the last song, we broke into a dance party/conga line/sing along and it was just pure fun.

I can’t believe I get to do this for five more weekends. What a treat!

Enduring Exhaustion

The week following opening, I was expecting to have a free schedule to catch up on sleep, writing and craft projects. I shouldn’t have been surprised when it didn’t turn out that way.

Sarah Howe’s son Alan was in a bad car accident just before opening. Thankfully, he only broke appendages and no internal organs or spinal damage, but it still left Sarah in quite a lurch. She asked me step in to help out with Summer Camp she runs out of her home, and I was glad to be offered such a direct line to assist.

Thankfully, she had already scheduled the week after hell week to be low-maintenance, accepting only children who knew how her camp worked and had their own projects lined up. She had experienced teen assistants who could run the studio. My only job was to be on the premises and over eighteen. The closest thing I did to actually providing adult leadership was to tell them to just leave copperheads alone if spotted.

I also tried to help catch her up on housework and chores, (including picking fresh figs from her tree—gee, what suffering, to eat fresh figs and spend time in her beautiful garden). I’m glad I lived there for a while so I knew most of the basics of how the house worked, though there will still plenty of projects I couldn’t begin to tackle.

IMG_20170809_101958599.jpg

By the third day I was finally able to sit down with my projects for the cheap art table, (where cast and crew and their friends can sell small art, whether show-related or not). The project was a little more time-intensive than I expected, but over the next two days I got a solid batch out. I think they’re really cute, and the cast agreed. They’re not selling too fast at the moment, but I’m not keen on sinking another twenty hours in anyway, so a slow burn is fine by me!

IMG_20170811_132443599.jpg

IMG_20170811_132450371.jpg

I was so tired. Everything I did was in a haze. I felt like my limbs were weighted as I ran about Sarah’s house, trying to remember how to run a household. I have yet to feel truly revitalized from the drain of hell week and opening weekend. Every effort is worth it though. Whether for my own enrichment, or in service of others.