Certain images stick in my brain- in particular, Julia’s dinner table late last Saturday night. Or was it Sunday? I can’t remember. A few days in Aspen turned my body’s sense of time and season and bearings entirely inside out. I slept and woke at strange hours, and in an unfamiliar bed with a window opening up not to palm trees and haze, but to snow, miles and miles of snow. I ate when meals were prepared for me. I dressed for inclement weather or an interview or dinner in a house so large it could have been an elementary school. I cycled through old, itchy fisherman’s sweaters and winter boots that belonged to the now-grown children of my host, a woman who welcomed me into my own little apartment in the bottom two floors of her condo. I stayed awake long after I was sleepy. I spoke to strangers, lots and lots of strangers, some of whom even became friends. I didn’t do any of my usual writing or reading, nothing more than flushed, disjointed notes scratched onto spare pieces of paper in the bottom of my bag. California felt a million miles and many, many lifetimes away.
The dinner table. It was late, outside cold and dark but snowing sweetly. There were nine playwrights in total, and we waited, one by one, for our critique- likely one of the more anxiety-inducing critiques most of us had ever been in. I was second to last and by that time it was well past 1am. An entire character to cut, certain moments to shift and readjust, all things I’d been thinking about and practically rewriting in my head. The critique felt like weight lifting and when it was finished, I was sweaty and my muscles were sore, but, more importantly, there was a sense of strength and achievement. I rose from the sofa with pride and a richness of persepctive. And the table? It was off of the kitchen, a little ways away from the sofa and its corresponding critiques and we all huddled around it for hours, a proverbial waiting room. The long glass surface, initially clean. A bottle of wine, opened, shared. Two more, each one chilled as we removed it from the bottom of the fridge. A deck of cards brought up from a downstairs bedroom. And then another, a red deck and then a blue. A microwave bag of popcorn, and then another. And then another, burned and barely touched. Notepads, pencils, the rhythm of nervous hands and fingers. Getting shushed, repeatedly. A cardigan, discarded. Shoes, melting off their snow near the front door. The later it got, the drunker we all got. The card games unraveling loudly, lewedly. I can’t remember the critique and not also remember the table and popcorn and the empty bottles of wine. Likewise, I can’t remember those card games and their flushed, unsmotherable laughter without also remembering the strength I felt as I rose from the sofa, notes in hand, ready.
After the second night of the show, I stood in the back of the theater by a cold row of windows, waiting for a ride back through the snowstorm and talking to the scenic designer and his wife. We all went to the top of the mountain today, I said. We got married up there, the wife said happily, laughing and then rolling her eyes. It was the seventies. There were wildflowers in every direction, practically coming out of the sky. I was barefoot. Our dog came too. Her husband jumped in then. We hung all sorts of things in the trees, he said, a fresh detail making the whole thing suddenly magical, surreal. My dress was this horrible neon, the wife laughed. But it was a hippie wedding, what can I say?
I put on my thick, black coat and tried to imagine the mountaintop covered in wildflowers instead of snow. I tried to imagine myself barefoot in all those wildflowers. I tried to imagine hanging my future up in the middle of a flock of trees, silky ribbons looped tight around the highest branches.
Snow and sweaters / Aspen, Colorado / January 2013