“We took turns
Going down to the cellar alone in the dark”
— Bernadette Mayer, Midwinter Day
Do you remember the penguin race toy? It’s a little escalator attached to a slide that sends miniature penguins up some miniature stairs and down a slide back to the bottom of the miniature stairs, which send the penguin back up and onto the slide, etc. Though this toy is basically a little Sisyphean torture device, and though there’s no way to actually play with it, it’s a lot of fun—plus it looks like the penguins are having a good time, so whatever, don’t worry.
Using one of Bernadette Mayer’s poems about Lenox, MA and some historical accounts of Brook Farm, this is what we’ve been attempting to re-create in rehearsal all week: An endless loop of going outside, shoveling snow, admiring nature, getting bored, predicting the weather, and going back inside. It has me thinking a lot about repetition, and the power of creation and destruction inherent in repetition.
As a somewhat superstitious and sentimental person, I have often used repetition to create meaning. For example, every year on December 26th, despite snow, babies, temperatures below freezing and old age, my family has a picnic in the woods. Because we’ve been doing it for 40+ years, because if we didn’t, then it wouldn’t be Christmas…because if we didn’t then WHAT MEANS ANYTHING, YOU KNOW??? Plus, the repetition of the orbit of the earth around the sun has structured our very physiological makeup, so…it’s a thing.
Cover image by Carol Rosegg.