The Fox at Dawn

Land of Oz: the beginning
April 10, 2021. The Redbuds are in their glory. This was drawn with their blooms, charcoal from the fireplace, red dirt from Georgia, wood poppies, violets and their leaves. Spring is undeniably here, and so is the Spring Musical.
The Land of Oz: a new project.

Because I am attracted to the impossible
And self-preservation is not my strong suit,
I am going to Oz,
And I’m taking 104 children with me.

This is not figurative language. Every year I direct the all-school musical at my K-12 school of 300 students. Anyone who wants to be in the play, is in the play. Usually I have between 80-85 kids performing in it, ages 6-18. It’s an insane thing to do in a normal year, but we do it anyway.  No one thought I would do a production this pandemic year, I was getting a bye if I wanted one. But back in the fall I started seeing it. Maybe we could do it outside in the late spring, keep the kids in their pods, limit the audience, make it a moveable feast. What if we did Wizard of Oz and we built the Land of Oz in the school’s huge backyard? What if the audience followed Dorothy and friends along the Yellow Brick Road? All the what ifs have become one big yes. 104 kids signed up, over one third of the whole school. After a locked down year, we are all starved for adventure and community. Hungry for theater that takes place outside of our minds. So now I am fully sucked into its cyclone. Only, I am also wondering, what if I write about it this time as it is happening? What if I let it take whatever form it likes? 

April 6th 2021
First day in Munchkinland

The sun shines down on the Munchkins
Spread around me
Grouped in their pods
On the basketball court,
Giddy wiggling
Their first rehearsal.

These opening days,
All is conjecture,
Castles in the air.

This is where Kansas will be
And here is where you live. 
There will be a huge nest on the top of the hill
And little houses- yes- you can go in them.
And Glinda will arrive driving a Frozen jeep
With a bubble machine.
And here, I say, waving my wand like
The Good Witch of the Aspirational,
Is where Dorothy’s house will be built.
         A real house?
Yes, and when the tornado comes-
         If this was a movie, it would be CGI.
Yes, but we’re lucky. This is theater. So it’ll be real.
Somehow the witch will appear here, 
and somehow (what a handy word)
we will magically get those ruby slippers on Dorothy’s feet.

It looks to the Munchkins
That I am directing
But really, I am thinking out loud
I am conjuring
Because any witch knows
You have to say the words 
If you want it to be true.
‘Somehow’ I say, ‘we will get
Those ruby slippers on Dorothy’s feet’
And in less than a minute
We have worked it out
It is entered in the stage manager’s bible
And now it is so.
I feel more powerful than I have felt in a long time.

Until you are inside theater making, 
you can’t really see that it’s an infinite puzzle, 
one you have created yourself 
simply by saying ‘Let’s put on a play’.
It is, I imagine, a lot like going to war
Only everyone lives to tell their own tale.
Everyone goes home victorious.

Glinda, the Good Witch of the North, in a quiet moment inside the Drama Cabin.

April 12th, 2020 Easter

I heard the owl at 3am , softly calling somewhere outside my window- ‘Rise love, the world is here.’ I sat for a long time, leaning on the windowsill listening.

Like everyone, my little world has been upended. The carefully constructed fortresses of daily life were just castles made of sand after all. The lesson plans, the plays in rehearsal, the assessments, meetings, celebrations have all melted away. And I’m fine with that, more than fine, my heart swells with relief. There are concerns, there are hazards- worries over exposure, each decision to engage with the world outside my garden is fraught with dire consequences. How do I protect my daughter and my mother from both exposure and the depression of isolation? My daughter’s mental health balances on the edge of a dinner fork even on good days. Her eating disorder has been rallying strength, as has the urge to self harm. Some of these days have been hard indeed. I too must be careful not to fall down my own rabbit hole as I stare too long at the computer screen on some days, as all my teaching and work has moved to the virtual world.

But there is joy too, such joy! Time uninterrupted to meditate on beauty, earth’s unfailing dedication to life on full display as spring pushes up through the nurturing dark and blooms all around me. My heart sings with my good luck to live here in Her garden. Along with flower and leaf, the frogs have made it through the winter and now sun themselves on the rocks at the edge of the little pond. Bats have returned to the sky. Birds of every kind are busy courting and building their nests. I hear the owl every night now, calling me back to myself. I am being given both courage and time to tend to my own work, the secret work of my heart made manifest in the stories I am writing and the art I make.

I tend the garden yes, but the garden also tends me.