Friday, September 18, 2009

Kew Gardens & Sweet Chamomile

"Words, words, words..."
- Hamlet 

Recommended tea: 

Okay, there's something that you should know about me if you don't know it already - I have MAJOR anxiety problems. Major. Like, so major that one time I had to go to the hospital because I thought that I was having a heart attack. 

It was a panic attack. So, anyway - note this

A few years ago I was in a car wreck. I wasn't hurt, my car wasn't hurt, but I did spin 360 degrees on the highway before going into a ditch and barely missing a cop who had pulled someone over.

Ever since this incident, I have trouble driving. Usually I'm okay to drive - I just get a little nervous or tense. When I  have to drive long distances, it can get pretty bad. But if it starts to rain? That is when the panic attacks rear their ugly heads 

(or when I am in a cubicle, but that's another story for another time...)

At the moment, I am rehearsing two shows simultaneously. One I am rehearsing 45 minutes from my apartment. The other I am rehearsing an hour and a half from my apartment. The second one is also going to be performed a few states away. Needless to say, this requires a lot of driving. 

And what happened today? It rained like the devil. I turned on my air conditioning, because the cool air calms me down. Unfortunately this fogs up the windows, so I had to turn on the heat so that I could see. It went back and forth like this until it started raining so hard that I couldn't see at all, regardless of whether the windshield was foggy or not.

So I reached down, pushed a random button on my iPod, and hoped that it would play something to calm me down.

Is it just me, or does the iPod seem to know exactly what you need to hear exactly when you need to hear it? What did my iPod play? A recording of someone reading Virginia Woolf's short story Kew Gardens. This particular Woolf story I hadn't yet read. 

This is the first sentence:

From the oval-shaped flower-bed there rose perhaps a hundred stalks spreading into heart-shaped or tongue-shaped leaves half way up and unfurling at the tip red or blue or yellow petals marked with spots of colour raised upon the surface; and from the red, blue or yellow gloom of the throat emerged a straight bar, rough with gold dust and slightly clubbed at the end.

I've never really believed in magic or spells, but it was as if these words held some incantatory power. Like when you listen to Shakespeare - essentially, it doesn't matter what the speaker is saying because their words are so beautiful. I felt the anxiety drain out of my shoulders, through my fingertips. I drove through the rain like Fred Astaire dancing. Easy, simple, beautiful. 

Yet again, Virginia's hands reached through the pages (or in this case, the speakers) and held mine. She helped me. Maybe she saved me. What I do know for sure is that she took something terrifying and made it awe-inspiring.

I had a fantastic English teacher in high-school - probably the best English teacher on the planet. His favorite phrase was "the beauty of language and the power of words." He had us memorize it. This phrase was on every test, every quiz. It was taped to his door and stapled on his bulletin board. 

"The Beauty of Language and the Power of Words."

My mind went immediately to that phrase. Really, this moment proved to me that spells, magic, incantations - all of those things are actually real. Words are that powerful. Language is that beautiful. Like a witch's brew, words can be deadly when you use the right recipe - the right combination. They can also give you life. The Psalms in the Bible are like that to me - they are so beautifully written, so powerful, that the words alone can make you feel God's presence, regardless of what God may be up to at the time. 

As an actor, I make my living analyzing words. I use them to discover my character, to create, to awaken something in myself. The playwright uses his words to inspire truth and honesty in the actors and in the audience. The right combination can make a whole audience of people burst into laughter, simultaneously. Or gasp, simultaneously. There is nothing like being onstage, speaking the perfect combination of syllables, feeling the power that those words give you, feeling what they do to you and to the audience.

Words are so precious. Words are so powerful. And yet, we don't think about what we say. We don't take the time to make our conversations beautiful. Or even honest. Words can be like weapons in the hands of serial killers or sociopaths - we don't always understand how dangerous and how powerful they can be or what they can do to other people. 

Words are our most powerful asset. Words are our best friends. Words are our greatest enemies. I think we live in words. I think God lives in words. 

How do you use yours?

1 comment:

  1. I use words to make a living; I'm thrilled to now challenge myself to "take the time to make our conversations beautiful." I don't do that, honestly.


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