The Vast Loneliness of Empty Places

14 Aug

The stage is bare; void of life, void of music, void of specifics. Only possibilities remain.

I don’t like it: the empty floor, its vital tape – marking the difference between perfection and burning feathers – gone, tossed away, unneeded. The blank backdrop, the spotlights hanging limply in their places, the costumes, lying flat and unamusing in a pile of unwashed glory.

I hear a whispered cue and spin around, my eyes huge with wonder, but it’s just the wind through the open door. Just a memory of things past, of a summer over, a season complete.

My heart aches with the emptiness of that which ought to be filled.

Hats at rest.

Rocking chairs need occupants.

Yes, it’s time to say goodbye to the theater for another year. Time to shut off the lights. To pull the curtains. To wave a final goodbye from the wings.

It’s time to retire my blue eye shadow. To throw my granny boots back into the closet. To eat my raisins rather than sing about them.

I remember other goodbyes. Other unworn costumes, empty playgrounds, bully pulpits void of bully preachers. I remember the wrongness of summer camp when the campers have all gone home, the echoes of laughter through the cabins, the mournful music of the swings set to rocking by the autumn winds.

Or what about empty hallways at the end of the school day, or rusting airplanes – their wheels held down by blackberry brambles – never again taking to the air, to the wild blue, to misty lands filled with musky scents and seductive offers? I have seen broken bicycles, torn sails, dusty dollhouses, unread books, that have set my heart yearning for their glory days.

Even empty flowerpots set my mind racing with the possibilities.

Possibilities. Potential. Undiscovered countries.

Who knew that I could do the things I have done? Who knows what lies ahead?

There will be more opportunities. More heart-wrenching conclusions. More empty hands, reaching for something to hold.

There will be more.

There will be.


18 Responses to “The Vast Loneliness of Empty Places”

  1. Jenny August 14, 2012 at 3:27 pm #

    Nicely done Gretchen! So which musical are you all doing next year!

    • Gretchen O'Donnell August 14, 2012 at 7:47 pm #

      Not sure my body can take one next year! Nor am I sure if/what they’ll do – they won’t decide for a long time yet, I don’t think, anyway. I’m not doing it unless it’s one I love!

  2. treadlemusic August 14, 2012 at 3:31 pm #

    Congrats on such a wonderful experience/job well done! Always enjoyed live theater (although my involvement was doing the costumes for the La Crosse Community Theater years ago!).

    • Gretchen O'Donnell August 14, 2012 at 7:48 pm #

      Thanks – it was indeed a wonderful experience! That’s awesome that you did costumes – that is so huge and so vital to a good production. Our costume mistress had 275 pieces to produce/make/find!!!

      • treadlemusic August 15, 2012 at 9:09 am #

        I can only imagine……. The production that stands out in memory is “The Amazing Mr. Pennypacker”. Story of just a ‘regular’ guy (salesman, I think) who had 2 families/wives/sets of children!!! Was hilarious! BUT the number of children’s costumes was a bit staggering!!

  3. Minnesota Prairie Roots August 14, 2012 at 3:35 pm #

    Wow, Gretchen, what an introspective, powerful post you have penned. This is a magnificent piece of writing. How did the show go, pray tell?

    • Gretchen O'Donnell August 14, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

      Thanks, Audrey. It went very well – with six performances there were definitely some nights that were better than others, but overall it went great! I just got back from a farmers market/shop local event downtown here and a perfect stranger came up to me and told me how much she loved me in the show – wasn’t that fun!! It’s so great to know/hear that people enjoyed themselves and found it worth their time!

  4. hotlyspiced August 14, 2012 at 8:18 pm #

    Oh that’s so sad. It’s always sad when great things come to an end (like the Olympics) but it helps us look forward to the next new thing. I hope you get involved in the next musical xx

    • Gretchen O'Donnell August 15, 2012 at 9:50 am #

      Yes, the Olympics were great, weren’t they? So fun. And yes, it’s always good to know that there are more opportunities yet to come…and more Olympics to enjoy! It will be good for life to get back to normal.

  5. Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen August 15, 2012 at 2:18 pm #

    I think you should rewrite that opening paragraph as a poem? It’s definitely got poetic “bones”.. perhaps next you shall become a poet:) Life brings change.. the older I get the worse I am with adjusting to it. Maybe you should bring some of your experience into your next “stage” in life.. like keeping the eye shadow, or dressing with a few hats (in more current fashion of course).

    • Gretchen O'Donnell August 15, 2012 at 3:17 pm #

      I do like hats…but it’s so windy here that they kind of don’t work so well. I do like big shawls, though, that make people stare. Ha. I am actually considering covering over my gray hairs…I never thought I’d do it, but…the time may have come! I’m sure if I do I’ll blog about it! Ha!

      I have decided that I am a poetic prose writer. I don’t do well with poetry, but pretty prose I can manage from time to time!

      • Barbara Bamber | justasmidgen August 15, 2012 at 3:22 pm #

        Hahaha.. never thought about wind:) I wore a hat to buy groceries and I got so many “looks” like.. what’s wrong with that lady, lol!! I love your poetic prose:)

        • Gretchen O'Donnell August 15, 2012 at 3:34 pm #

          Thanks, Barbara – and you are not alone – I get weird looks in my shawls, too! I posted a “status” on facebook once, “I’ve decided to be more eccentric.” And the first comment I got on it was something to the effect of, “Not sure we can stand any more eccentricity from you.” Ha. Whatever!

  6. gardenfreshtomatoes August 15, 2012 at 2:26 pm #

    Yes, but the strike party was fun, right? It was always a favorite, after we gathered to tear down the set and gather the costumes back into the closet…Stay around a theater group long enough, and you’ll start saying things like, “I got married in that dress in Fiddler on the Roof” or “Wasn’t that part of the porch from Oklahoma?”
    Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end…..

    • Gretchen O'Donnell August 15, 2012 at 3:20 pm #

      Yes! The strike party was fun and yes, I actually wore the same dress for one song that I wore for the entire production last summer of Beauty and the Beast – so that was fun. It really is fascinating, all the ins and outs of the “business” – and we loved making new friends, several of which I plan on having coffee with once a month – so that is fun to think about! And as for Fiddler…wouldn’t that be a fun one?! I’d love it. I think I’m too old to be a daughter, though…perhaps Golda!!

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