The Exterior

I am here at Lake Hotel today, in part, to say goodbye. After this afternoon, I don’t know the next time I will come here to write, perhaps not ever again.

I am proud to announce that Rafal has received a promotion. In less than one week, the three of us will be leaving our place in Grant Village and making a new home in Mammoth Hot Springs.

Mammoth—the headquarters of Yellowstone National Park—is 2.5 hours north of Grant Village, on the boundary between Wyoming and Montana. In Mammoth we will be close to a school, a grocery store, a playground. There is a Mommy Group and lots of other kids. In the neighboring town of Gardiner (five miles outside of the park), there are yoga classes and a coffee shop.

We are officially leaving the interior.

Last Wednesday, I performed my show by that title for the people of Grant Village. I set up my stage in an industrial maintenance building known as The Berger Barn. It smelled faintly of diesel, and the walls were lined with all manner of equipment and materials. It was an excellent place for a show.

The Interior talks about the first summer I lived in Grant, about reorienting my life around a tiny person and rediscovering myself in the process. Speaking the words of that show again–draping that summer around my shoulders–I recognized that everything is completely different.

The summer of 2015 was stark and lonely. Even as I embraced the adventure, even as I tried to take it all in stride, even as I labored to write in a way that obscured and downplayed that sadness and boredom, those emotions are there, unmistakable. Simply living through that solitude and desperation—colored by the unimaginable sleeplessness and inestimable change of early motherhood—was all I could think about and all I could bear.

But, like I said, everything is different. In the show, I talk about “grasping on to scraps of my art and hoping they [could] carry me through.” I’m here to tell you that they did.

Putting on this show in Grant was easy. I knew who to ask about using the barn. I knew where I could borrow extension cords and zip ties. I knew where I could hang fliers. I asked numerous friends to help me: Grace ran my slides, Margo introduced the show, Lisa took some pictures, Tad put new plywood on the floor, Adam lent me a bluetooth speaker, and Rafal stayed home with our wild kid.

This was a show about being self-sufficient, about the endurance to make theatre art in the absence of community. But that’s the thing about the theatre: it engineers collaboration. It coalesces relationships and illuminates connection. My community here in Grant Village helped me tell a story about what it was like to be here alone.

(It was also great to perform the show in the place it sought to reflect. When I said the line, “Grant Village is more often passed through than visited, and the villagers love this about Grant,” the whole room erupted in cheers.)

And it isn’t just my social life that is different. It just doesn’t hurt as much to be a mother. For all of the ways it is still difficult—the tantrums and the defiance, the never getting to take a break—it is so much easier. Maybe I have finally surrendered to the flow of it, the constantness, the reality of changing from center of my own universe into a planet around another sun. Or maybe it is actually just easier. Probably a little of both.

In Scene 6 of the show—titled Breakdown—I talk about a night when Lydia was tiny, when Rafal had to work late and she wouldn’t sleep. In this scene, I talk about wanting to “get my life back,” and realizing that I never will.

In the past, whenever I performed this scene, tears would well up in my eyes. I would let one or two of them visibly slip on stage, harnessing the energy of the moment. But during rehearsal this time around, the tears just wouldn’t come. I figured that in front of an audience I could turn up the emotional impact, but even on show night my eyes remained dry. I’ve gotten some sleep. I’ve gotten some perspective. The ache of it all is no longer right next to me.

In the next scene—called Depth of Spirit—I talk about working at the post office, when a song comes on and transports me into a memory of the Grand Canyon. In this scene, I imagine a time in the future—when I smell pine or hear the strum of a ukulele—and I am transported back to my time in Grant Village, back to “that sweet place that remembers the delight, but diminishes the exhaustion.”

Standing there in The Berger Barn–illuminated by hardware store lights and looking out at my generous audience–I realized that I looked forward to looking back at this. I knew I would always remember that moment: of locking eyes with my community while baring a piece of my heart, a moment when I felt like a true Grant villager, a finale of communion before I said goodbye. As they had failed to do in the previous scene, my eyes swelled with honest tears.

As excited as I am for coffee and yoga, for preschool and normal kid stuff (like Halloween), I know that I am leaving a special, simple season of my life.

I will miss the friends I’ve made here. I will miss volunteering with the Visitor’s Center. I will miss the groove I am finally finding. I will miss the silence and the space.

As my baby grows up and away, as my social life becomes busy and complex, I know I will look back at this time with nostalgic gratitude. The truth is, I am sad and scared to start over, even as I am delighted by the adventure.

It came sooner that I expected, but it is time to bid farewell, both to Grant and the amazing people who call this place home.

Thank you, Grant Village. I look forward to looking back at you.

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