October Returns

Three years ago my brother Frank ended his time on this planet with a gun, and I went into hiding. First artistically and then completely. I moved to the beach and went underground, stopped performing and making, studied solitude, nursed a terribly battered heart, and tried to find a new way through the world without the creative appetite that had guided me up to that point. And it worked. I healed on my own, walking on the break without wrapping it in the bandages of public witness. I did my best not to attract attention to myself or my whereabouts and learned a new way out of the chair, through the door, into a serene world of long views and solitary commutes. Two years of keeping my own company, hiding, and healing. That time is ending now, I think.

With these moves. Into new projects. And back into the city.

I’ve spent the last two months directing – workshops of new plays and, opening this week, Ellen McLaughlin’s devastating Iphigenia and Other Daughters at the University of Washington. And I have not felt so good, and full, and inspired in a very, very long time. This time of robust collaboration and good making will be punctuated at the end of this month with my move away from the beach and back into the heart of the city. I feel like I am returning, heading home after an arduous and solitary journey. Home to the theater and home to the city.

My brother Adam and me. Typically, I am sending a smile straight into the camera and Adam seems to be seeing something the rest of us aren't.

My brother Adam and me. Typically, I am sending a smile straight into the camera and Adam seems to be seeing something the rest of us aren’t.

And, of course, underneath the plotlines of all of these projects and transitions has been the melancholy chords of October’s score. October 5th was my brother Frank’s birthday, and my body quaked for most of the day, feeling the violence of his absence. And fourteen years ago today, October 17th, we lost my youngest brother Adam to his own single gunshot that I hope couriered him softly into the next place, gentler and brighter. I’ll never forget that morning. The strange voicemails from my aunt, the red capri pants I was wearing when my knees gave way with the news dropping me hard on the damp pavement. I’ll never forget that jagged week in my old hometown sleeping in a guest room and trying to draw my mom and Frank as close as they’d let me, while migrating geese sounded taps overhead. That was only the second time a gaping hole had been blown through my heart, shuddering the aorta loose from its fasteners and tangling my veins so the oxygenated blood mingled with what had been suddenly used up, pooling in a dark, deep purple melancholy. An ocean of grief that is still part of the topography of my body. You can find it on the back page of the map of me, out beyond the mountains of my ambition and the dirt roads and desire lines I’ve carved and still wander to each of the people I’ve known and loved. Beyond my great lakes of talent and privilege and across the vast fields where I plant and harvest huge crops of new emotions each year — barrels of rage, bundles of tenacious hope, silos filled with small kernels of love. One for every stranger and small thing. One for every good try and terrible fail. One for every tiny memory I can muster of what my family once was like — all in tact and breathing and expecting to sit at the dinner table together forever. Out past all of that is this ocean of grief that laps at my edges, dark purple and dangerous, so deep and very vast. It is a hard road to reach it, plagued by bad weather and fallen limbs of old, dry promises. But still, I like to visit it sometimes and always in October. I sit on the cold beach, damp with an expansive sadness, and listen to it come in and out, crashing and receding, reminding me of the mysterious places I can’t see, far beyond the horizon, where my brothers are waiting for me.