The Show

For the first time, I am beginning to see the show in my head, as a thing in three dimensions.

I see pull-down charts. Handmade pull-down charts, in the style of Der Vorfuhreffekt (of course). One with a list: “Things You Should Know About Me.” Others with hand-drawn pictures depicting me in different locations or as backdrops for different scenes: post office, home, forest. In an ideal world, one to use as an actual slide projection screen.

(How I am going to create what I see with no studio, no budget, no babysitter, no director is another question entirely, and one for another day.)

***

It has suddenly hit me that it’s almost August, and that many people will begin leaving the park—both tourists and workers—in order to go back to school. “Summer,” as it is defined largely by academic calendars and not planetary ones, is nearly over. The end of the peak season here in Yellowstone is hot on my heels.

I am filled with the impending realization that my show will not be finished in time; certainly not fully realized or fully staged. Thus, I am riding the waves between not letting myself give in to feelings of impossibility and fears of inadequacy (an inability to see how I could pull it all off), and the gracious understanding that sometimes these things need more time.

I worked on Sideshow for far longer than I have been working on this new nameless show, and I think that is part of what made it so strong: my thoughts had time to ruminate, to gestate, to connect. (Though I do endeavor to stop comparing this one to that at every turn. Different projects are, by nature, different.)

***

I wrote a letter to the superintendent of the park asking for an artist residency. There is not an official program here, but, because of my “professional” status and the fact that I am already here, I was requesting an exception. Writing to the superintendent is roughly equivalent to writing to the dean of a university: I kind of always knew he would never write back. But sending out applications (of one kind or another) has always been part of my process. Articulating an intangible, and as yet non-existent, thing, as though it is a solid and sellable artistic product seems to be how I solidify my intentions. In this letter, I wrote:

“I am seeking the opportunity to share one such original work—based on my time here and exploring the biological, ecological, and historical legacies of the park—with the Yellowstone community. By investigating themes of motherhood; communication (both interspecies and via the USPS); and the tensions between danger and safety (or wilderness and cultivation), this performance aims to educate, entertain, and inspire.”

And now I return to this to review the assignment I have given myself:

I will talk about the biological, ecological, and historical legacies of Yellowstone.

My themes are motherhood, communication, and danger/safety.

I am ready for the big paper. It is time to start making charts.

***

I am sitting in the lobby of the Lake Hotel, in front of a large stone fireplace. The weather is cool today, in the 40s, and the warmth feels good. This lobby is substantial, sprawling, so wide that it makes the 20 ft ceiling seem squat. One wall is all picture windows facing the lake it is named for, and on such a blustery day, the choppy waves resemble unpolished gemstones.

This is my third trip to Lake Hotel, a 21 mile journey from my home that takes anywhere from 40 minutes to over an hour, but on my prior exhibitions I only made it as far as the Starbucks. Today I discovered this cherished lobby, where I imagine myself putting many words to the page.

There was a large swell of tourist energy this morning, but the wave has broken and slid back. I nursed and walked Lydia around this room of rugged opulence—the grand piano; the grandfather clock; the European women in warm, woven shawls—and now she sleeps against my chest.

For the rest of my life, I will cherish the feeling of her sleeping against me. Almost nothing has ever been as sweet.

***

There is a place in Grant Village called the Lakeshore Pavilion. It is a small, outdoor auditorium of sorts with benches, a stone back wall, and a long stone table where the “stage” sits. It was created for park rangers to deliver presentations to interested guests. It overlooks Yellowstone Lake. It seats maybe 25 people.

I walk the paved trails around the Grant Village Visitor Center (and this pavilion) with Lydia almost daily. I stop here and I pretend. I manifest. I imagine.

There must be a way to both honor the process and respect the deadline. Perhaps a staged reading? Perhaps.

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