Here is a secret for you: the grass starts to flush with green in late December, buoyed up by the endless rain, which makes it giddy. It starts in patches, which seem to grow larger by the day; a flash of green here, a flash of green there. Slowly they start to run together, creating a network of aggressively bright green that flashes underneath the cover of last season’s dead grass. Slowly each green leaf determinedly climbs higher until it is above the height of the brown and everything is green, neon green, alarmingly green, so green that your eyes start to water when you look at it head on, it is luxurious and lavish, it is utterly defiant.
If you walk on it, your feet will squelch in the mud just underneath, because it is also very, very wet. The earth is dark and crumbly and it holds so much moisture that it would seep and leave black streaks on your arms if you picked it up. This is earth that holds deep impressions of your feet when you walk across it; should you be foolish enough to attempt to mow the lawn, you will cut great jagged marks in it with the wheels of the mower, and the grass will quietly move in to fill them in once you’re done, spreading into the network of tyre marks and erasing them with time.
The grass is like the tech crew, arriving long before everyone else. It sweeps the stage and makes sure all the props are laid out, tests the lights and the sound system, confirms that everything is in order. It moves seamlessly as a team, quietly tidying up after winter, last night’s show, changing the set because in a repertory you are constantly changing. The grass will remove and stack the flats that go with winter and it will hang the ones for spring, and it will make sure that all the rigging is in place for the trick in the second act.
The bulbs and flowers, now, they are the actors. They start to peek up around February, checking to see what there is to be seen, hesitantly leafing out once they are confident the last of the frost is gone, because they want to make sure they don’t accidentally injure themselves in a sudden cold snap. They warm up their voices with care and slowly start to paint the landscape with colour and scent, a bloom here, a streak of new leaves there. As the grass greens they get more and more confident.
The actors start arriving a little bit later than the tech crew, you know. They rush into the dressing rooms to get ready and suddenly the theatre is alive with chatter and people running around. If you were to peer into the door of the dressing room you’d see a flurry of movement, some sitting at the mirror putting on their makeup, others pacing and running lines. One person might be helping another with her hair, and everyone is doing vocal exercises, moving into the brainspace they need to enter in order to be ready to perform.
The stage is set. Everything is put in order, and the stage manager has put the house lights on and started allowing the audience in to wait. The curtain still hangs, quietly, not revealing anything, and the pre-show music filters in over the loudspeakers. Some people gather ’round the concessions stand, sipping coffee or nibbling snacks. They talk about other performances they’ve seen and compare notes, their tickets sticking out of their pockets. The lights flicker and the lobby begins to hush as the audience makes its way into the seats, while the assistant manager reminds the actors that places are coming.
There is a moment where everyone is caught on the cusp. The house is silent, breathless, waiting, and the lights are down, plunging the room into dull darkness illuminated only by the faint emergency lighting that runs along the floor. The actors have settled into their places backstage, with a noise that might be heard as a rustling sigh, if you concentrate. Everything is waiting for the stage manager’s word, and everything is perfectly still. The slightest fidget in the house is magnified.
And then the stage manager says ‘go’ and suddenly the curtain rises and the theatre explodes.
Most people would say that their favourite moment is that one, when the silence is broken and the preparations come to fruition and the show is on, when spring has arrived and everything has burst out in full colour. But my favourite time of all is the beforetime, when the grass is just starting to turn green and make its preparations for the season ahead, when the long series of inevitable events is set in motion as the days get longer and longer after the solstice, winding up for the spring equinox and the confirmation that the Earth will in fact eventually be bathed in warm sunshine again.
I like the preparations, the flurrying, the coordination of all of these little things coming together, and I never cease to marvel at it, even though it has occurred billions of times. I like the frenetic coordination and the delicate dancing that happens as all of these elements weave into and around each other to make it happen, to raise the curtain on spring or the change of any other season.
I like all the possibility that lies in the preparations, because even though it’s happened billions of times, it is still different every time. You never know which performance will be the performance of our lives, after all.