L M Feldman
YOU WILL HAVE ARRIVED: A Semi-Natural History

1. The Valley Green Inn

A WEDDING

You arrive alone
to celebrate someone’s love and hope and future (your faith in such things long gone,
a dry river).
You’ve donned your best shoes
(so no one will know)
and the suit that fit a former You.

The Inn is festooned in white and pale green,
the flowers arrayed in bowls of water.
Wedding guests (tamed by ties and heels)
are milling on the long dirt road
(what was it called before Forbidden Drive?)
in outfits that (more or less) fit.

You smile, greet, hug, laugh,
escape (at last) to join the geese.

Dirt.
Trees.
Wind.
Creek.
Facing out: the sky.
Facing in: incandescent bulbs, strung up like stars
(like chaos caged).

Later, you’ll carouse.
Make up words to songs you don’t know.
Sing yourself hoarse to songs you do.

Later still, you’ll make your way home.
Fall asleep alone
in the hollow of your bed.
Snuffling sleepsounds no one will hear.
(If a tree falls in a forest…)

But right now?
You breathe.
And laugh.
And stride your old suit inside
to toast the glowing newlyweds.

2. The View from the Bridge

A SCAVENGER HUNT FOR ADULTS

o Go to the midpoint of the bridge that’s between the two parking lots, and spell the word threshold.

o Press your back against a tree.

o Toast someone who goes untoasted.

o Say hello to a stranger.

o Check the dirt-or-mud for pawprints. If you find one, add your own beside it. Bonus points if you’re barefoot.

o Make up a forbidden thought song while you stroll Forbidden Drive.

o Find poison ivy. Is that poison ivy? Don’t touch it. Seriously, don’t touch it.

o Sit on 2 benches in 2 different ways.

o Spot 3 kinds of birds by sight or by sound.

o Use that gap in the wooden fence to walk towards the creek.
Bonus points if you submerge a hand in the water.
Double bonus if you wriggle your fingers into the silt.
Triple bonus if you taste the silt on your skin before returning it to the creek bed.

o Stand above and look down.

o Stand below and look up.

o Find an opening.

o Be a root.

o Exhale. Inhale. Repeat.
Bonus if you can catch a whiff of something elemental.

o Write the name of someone you miss in the dirt.

o Bonus points if you get rained on.

3. The First Fork to the Yellow Trail

A DIALOGUE BETWEEN THE SELF BEFORE AND THE SELF NOW

SB: Wait.
SN: What?
SB: Where you going?
SN: Forward.
SB: We’ve been going forward.
SN: So?
SB: So I wanna go up.
SN: So go up.
SB: But I want you to come with me.
SN: If you want to know what’s up there so much, go.
SB: But I don’t want to go alone.
SN: There’s wildlife, you won’t be.
SB: You’re being weird.
SN: YOU’RE being weird.
SB: What, you think you can’t do it?
SN: You don’t get it yet.
SB: Please don’t talk to me like I’m lesser than you.
(beat)
SN: If I go up, my ankle will roll, and my hip will slip, and my back will cramp,—
SB: No they won’t.
SN: And if they don’t,—
SB: Yeah?
SN: —then I will be tempted to keep going Up until they do. Because you’ll keep thinking there is something better up there – better air, better shade, better trail, better view – you’ll keep thinking surely the path up will at some point stop and You Will Have Arrived – but it doesn’t, it just keeps tempting you Up, further and further, and you think—
SB: Fine.—
SN: —you think: I want to see what I’m made of, I want to see what’s POSSIBLE, I want to know what EXISTS up there, and what seeing it FEELS like – and you know what, that’s fine. I wanted that too. But I’ve been there, and I’ve seen it, and I’ve learned that Up isn’t what you think it is and that I cannot be trusted to stop. And so I hope you’ll forgive me when I leave you here and say these days I just plain want to move forward.
SB: …
SN: Enjoy the climb.
SB: You suck.
(Self Now watches Self Before head Up.)
SN: Bye.
(After a while alone, Self Now continues just plain forward.)

4. The Entrance to Wises Mill Road

WHAT WAS HERE, WHAT’S NOT HERE, WHAT’S STILL HERE, WHAT WILL BE HERE? OR, A (SEMI-)NATURAL HISTORY OF THE WISSAHICKON* VALLEY

Ocean.
Earthly tumult.
Land shoved upright.
Waterflow.
Rock erosion.
A newly formed valley.

An evolving ecosystem over millions of years. (So much time you can’t possibly imagine it.)
The hynerpeton. (Probably the first amphibian.)
The rutiodon. (It was sorta like a crocodile.)
The phacops. (One of the trilobites.)
The hypsognathus. (Kinda like a lizard.)
Eventually, dinosaurs. (Yes, even here.)
And an Ice Age. (Brrrrr.)
Nearby glaciers.
Widescale melting.

A different ecosystem evolving over thousands of years. (Think of how long it takes you to change.)
Old and new growth forests, shrubs and scrubs, rivers and meadows, wetland and woodland.
Black willow, river birch, silver maple, arrowwood, elderberry, chokeberry, winterberry, sycamore.
Nodding trillium, eastern hemlock, tulip poplar, wild ginger.
Opossum, deer, woodchucks, chipmunks, foxes, raccoons, turtles, snakes.
Frogs, toads, and salamanders.
The hickory horned devil. (A hugely dazzling caterpillar-moth. Seriously. Look her up.)
The great blue heron. The pileated woodpecker. Indigo buntings. Canada geese.
(To say nothing of warblers and thrushes and owls and hawks.)

The Lenape people, moving through and living among this lush, ancestral vivacity for at least 2000 years.

The arrival of British and German colonists.
The undoing of thousands of years of human history and millions of years of planetary life.
Dispossession. Displacement. Demolition.
Property laws.
Roads and dams.
(The dam(n)ing of *this very creek, indigenously named for its once-thriving population of catfish.)
Inns and hotels.
Mills and quarries.
Clear-cut logging.
The loss of nearly every old growth forest in the region.
(One remains, not far from here: Carpenter’s Woods – a splinter of its former self.

Meanwhile: “a Victorian wonderland” of “semi-detached homes with ample yards.” (Thank you, Philadelphia Historical Commission.)
Local extinctions of the Canada lynx,
Delmarva fox squirrel,
cougars,
wolves,
wolverines,
and moose.
(They each exist elsewhere, but no longer here.)


Let’s pause. For a breath.
Exhale, Inhale, Repeat.
Find an opening.
Be a root,
lush with loss and reckoning.

Okay. Yes. There are also survivors.
Wildlife sanctuaries.
Neighborhood associations.
The Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania.
Parks and trails and national landmark designations.
A registry of all remaining old growth forests in PA.
The seedlings in all the new growth forests.
Your Before Self.
Your Now Self.

And then?

5. The Picnic Area & the Dam

THE DAMMED WILDERNESS, OR WHERE TIMES INTERSECT

SB: Hey.
SN: Oh hi! How’d it go??
SB: …
SN: You okay?
SB: …
SN: Did you find what you were looking for?
SB: I wish you had come with me.
SN: I wish I had too.
(beat)
SB: I got really lost.
I was walking in trees and then suddenly I hit a road and the cars were going really fast—
SN: Bells Mill Road? It cuts right through the Wiss—
SB: –and it was like the trailmarkers no longer correlated to the landscape.
And when I realized that, then the trailmarkers disappeared altogether, and then I REALLY didn’t know where I was. For like a really long time. When you start out, there’s always a map, and you assume if you just follow the map…
(beat)
And when I get lost, I get lonely.
(beat)
And hungry.
(beat)
And hurt.
(beat)
SN: You found your way back down…
SB: I thought everything would make sense when I found it.
I’d be like: Ohhhhh, that’s how all of life fits together.
And then I’d understand where to go next. And who to love. And how to mark time. And what everything comes down to.
But it never— …
(beat)
How long was I gone?
SN: Years.
SB: Whoa.
(Self Before notices something.)
SB: You brought a picnic?
SN: Yeah, for whenever we reunited.
I became a good cook while you were gone.
(beat)
SB: Could we, like, sit here, by the dam, and just listen to the water?
SN: I’d love that.
(beat)
SB: Oh look, geese.


L M FeldmanL M Feldman is a Philadelphia-based queer, feminist, GNC playwright who writes theatrically audacious, physically kinetic, ensemble-driven plays that are both epic and intimate. Her plays include S P A C EThrive, Or What You Will;  Another Kind Of SilenceScribe, Or The Sisters Milton, Or Elegy For The Unwritten;  A People; Tropical Secrets, Or All The Flutes In The Sea; The Egg-LayersGrace, Or The Art Of Climbing; and a forthcoming play about circus, healing, and middle-age athletes. An alum of the Yale School of Drama and the New England Center for Circus Arts, L has been nominated for the Herb Alpert Prize, Wasserstein Prize, ATCA/Steinberg Award, NY Innovative Theatre Award, Doric Wilson Independent Playwright Award, and twice for the Blackburn Prize.

L M Feldman photo credit: Joanna Eldredge Morrissey

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