(from a song in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night)
“The April’s in her eyes: it is love’s spring,
And these the showers to bring it on.”
(Mark Antony speaks this lovely line about a lady who is shedding tears of love and sorrow, from the play Antony and Cleopatra.)
Truly, the glory that is April is in our eyes. Spring enters the world singing a love duet between heaven and earth. Blossoming trees wave their all hail to the sun. The violets, the crocuses, the forsythia, the fruit trees, all the growing, flowering ones express such courage, such profound trust in the warming power of the sun. This year the journey toward the lovers meeting that is springtime resembles a formal processional, two steps forward with sun and warmth, and one step back with clouds and wild wind. The flowers and blossoms tenderly put themselves forward as the earth warms, and trust that the sun will continue its movement toward them enough to fulfill their purpose of glorifying life through beauty and prodigal abundance. As I watch this play of the sun and the flowers, I imagine that the beautiful flowers and trees put on their dazzling show to demonstrate their love for the sun. And the sun teases them by appearing for a few hours, then playfully going into hiding behind some clouds, then disappearing altogether while the rains come, and then feeling persuaded, perhaps by the memory of their overwhelming beauty, to come forth and shine again upon their upturned faces.
This love affair between the creations of the Earth and the rays of the springtime Sun reminds me, as many things do, of the love affairs in Shakespeare’s plays. In these first moments of spring – when the threat of a return to winter is omnipresent – many questions arise: will there be the right balance of sun and rain to create fruit? Will the bees come back to pollinate the blossoms? Or will everything be frozen? We stand at an edge of uncertainty, of hope, yes, but not assurance.
Similar questions arise when, as a playgoer, I watch these first meetings between lovers-to-be. What happens next? Will this love be fruitful or will it be frozen? No matter how often I see the plays or how thoroughly I know the result of this meeting, I still joyfully anticipate the delicious questions of that first encounter. Two characters come together and each recognizes something special about the other, or realizes that something magical could ensue.
The sweetest such moment in all the plays comes in Romeo and Juliet, in the scene where the two meet at a party given by Juliet’s father, which Romeo and his friends brazenly crash. A good director will stage this encounter so that when Romeo sees Juliet for the first time, the audience will experience almost as intense a response as Romeo’s: breathtaking. We see what he’s seeing, feel what he’s feeling and discover that our collective socks are knocked off. And that staged meeting has the power to transport us back to all those moments in our lives when our own personal journeys have ended in lovers meeting. From that transformative moment, a brand new story is born.
That first tangle of eyes provides an example of the depths contained within the Sacred Theatre Power of Incarnation. This Power reminds us that we come into life with unique gifts, gifts that require full expression in order to be given to the world with delight, purpose, clarity, and meaning. We come prepared to act, enact, and react. If we are lucky, we live long enough not only to offer freely the gifts we bring, but also to embody them totally, so that we become the gifts. Often an encounter with another living person (or flower or animal) provides a flashpoint that awakens and/or strengthens the capacity to embody our great gifts. When Romeo sees Juliet, his gift for love finds its trajectory, its object, its purpose, its reason for being. And in that flash of seeing, something new is born in the world. Just as, I believe, in the first movement of a tiny violet upward toward the sun, a new glory is born – not simply the lovely violet itself, though that would have been enough, but also a herald, a celebration of the possibility of spring, for the world and for our lives.
The meeting of eyes that bystanders can witness in old friends and/or old lovers, with years of shared experience, holds a different level of the Power of Incarnation. Here the gifts are known, often richly mutual, and it is the glance of the other that reminds and enforces the power of the gift. I saw the cellist Jacqueline du Pre exchange a glance full of such realized power with conductor Zubin Mehta when she completed one of her signature pieces, the Elgar Cello Concerto, with the Los Angeles Symphony. That was many years ago, and I still remember the power that poured from her eyes, and from her smile, at the close of the piece. She had embodied the music and she knew it; he recognized it and saluted it through his eyes. And they had created glory together. I have been watching her play on YouTube as I write this, and see again her absolute embodiment of her gift of music.
As sacred players, we make many appearances in other people’s life plays. It is possible to use our first glances to salute the other – the friend, the lover, the child, the dog, the violet – with the truth of our awareness of the Power of Incarnation: that is, a remembrance that each is here to bring, to offer, and to embody a sacred gift to the world. We can allow our eyes to see it, cherish it, become enraptured by it, and thus we get to live for a moment with the truth of Romeo’s eyes in our eyes. “O, she doth teach the torches to burn bright!”