Someone in a Tree

26 May

When I awoke this morning, I realized I had been dreaming about walking in a park–not any park I know, but a generic dream-park near water with lots of winding paths. In the dream, I kept encountering stray dogs. Many of them were still attached to leashes, but their owners were no where in sight.

What was that all about?

I am taking the day off from work, so I felt the need to vary my routine. I went for a bike ride before settling in to write a blog. I am still working with my stream of consciousness, but it is a little late in the day to call this Morning Pages. More like early afternoon pages.

In 1976 I went to New York city for the first time. I was on a high school Humanities field trip and it was one of the most amazing  experiences of my life. The first Broadway show I ever saw on Broadway was at the Winter Garden Theatre.  It was the Stephen Sondheim musical Pacific Overtures– a show about what happened to the isolated country of Japan when visitors from the West arrived. The show starred Mako. His name may not ring a bell, but I promise, if you ever watched the TV show, M.A.S.H., you’ve seen Mako. He is an Asian actor who guest-starred in a variety of roles on that show.

The only reason I bring up this up is because there is a song in this show that I love and, for some reason, is currently stuck in my head. The song, called Someone in a Tree, is about a moment in history when, because they can find no other way to deal with the unwanted Westerners, the rulers of Japan decide to work out a treaty. The representatives meet in a specially built house to hash out the agreement. Because there is no authentic Japanese version of what occurred, the narrator (Mako) tells us there is no true account of what happened inside of the treaty house. He is interrupted by an old man who tells him he was there–as a 10 year old boy, he climbed a tree and watched through the window. So, because he was a witness, we have an authentic account, if only a visual.

And there’s someone in a tree/Or the day is incomplete. Without someone in a tree, nothing happened here. I am hiding in a tree/I’m a fragment of the day/If I weren’t who’s to say/Things would happen here the way/That they’re happening…

Soon we learn the Japanese have placed a warrior underneath the floor of the treaty house in case they need some muscle. The warrior can’t see anything, but he can hear what is happened. So, he can provide an authentic account, if only a auditory one.

Between these witnesses, we get an account of what occurred inside the treaty house.

I always saw this song as an example of “if a tree falls in the forest and there is no one around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

I think this song occurred to me because I was watching You Tube videos taken by eyewitnesses to the tornadoes in Joplin, MO–someone hiding out in a convenience store freezer and then walking around the devastation afterwards.

We live in an era in which very little happens that is not recorded in some fashion. This is a very recent phenomenon.

John Kennedy was shot in an open car in broad daylight, but we only had the Zapruder film to bear witness to the event. Ever since then, reporters follow the President everywhere with cameras, afraid to miss anything. When Reagan was shot, the country saw the images almost immediately.

There is a lot of footage from 9/11–but remarkably, there is even footage of the first plane hitting the World Trade Center because some French film makers just happened to be nearby making a documentary.

I guess what I am saying is, we’re all someone in a tree now. That is often a good thing—though not always so great for politicians (Macaca, anyone?)

It is so easy to capture images and sound, I can’t imagine anything important will ever happen again without someone recording it for everyone to see on You Tube or cable news.

It’s the fragment, not the day.
It’s the pebble, not the stream.
It’s the ripple, not the sea
That is happening.
Not the building but the beam,
Not the garden but the stone,
Only cups of tea
And history
And someone in a tree.

Happy Thursday.

P.S. Amazingly, someone has posted a video (or film to video) of this scene from the original production of Pacific Overtures.  If you have a moment, watch. This is truly a great song:

2 Responses to “Someone in a Tree”

  1. That Weather Girl May 26, 2011 at 1:32 pm #

    What was that all about, you ask? Easy – you have been dreaming of the rapture of dog owners. Which, in a way, makes sense to me. Dog owners are usually exceptionally good people. Yeah, except for the whole Michael Vick thing and those like him.

    And we are all someone in the tree now – what a great concept!

  2. Pamela N Red May 26, 2011 at 10:04 pm #

    Weather Girl and I think alike. I was thinking the same thing. I’m a bit disappointed those doggies didn’t get to go to heaven too. It seems most dogs are better people than…well…people.

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