A Bloomin' Miracle
James Lipton prepares for a promising Spring.
It’s that most promising time of year. At last. And, given the global stresses of the past few months, not a moment too soon.
My wife and I live in a town house on the upper east side of Manhattan. Yes, we know how lucky we are. And, if you’ve read my book “Inside Inside,” you know how far I’ve come, and how many reasons I have to be grateful for this urban bounty.
I mention our house because this is the season when a miracle happens there.
To digress (but not really), one of the facts of my life is that it takes me two weeks to prepare the hundreds of blue cards with which I await each guest. That’s two weeks, seven days a week, twelve or more hours a day, without exception and with only two days off, Christmas and New Year’s, from the moment the school-year begins in September until it ends in June.
Inside the Actors Studio and my life are bounded by the school-year because, as you know if you watch the show or have read its history in “Inside Inside,” what you see on your screen at home is a classroom in the Actors Studio Drama School of Pace University, of which I was the founding dean.
The result of that timetable is a life I wouldn’t trade with anyone in the world: I prize the school, its students and our show, which takes us into 89,000,000 homes on Bravo in America and 125 countries around the world. But sometimes the schedule and its deadlines can be daunting.
Which brings me – and you, if you’ve stuck with me this far – back on the track of the miracle I mentioned a few paragraphs ago.
The twelve or so hours devoted each day to preparing for my next guest are spent in my study on the second of our house’s four floors. The study is a large, wood-paneled room with a marble fireplace and very tall ceilings. And best of all, it’s quiet because, though our environment is mostly townhouses and therefore surprisingly peaceful for a city street, my study, facing the garden, is utterly, blissfully silent.
In Chapter Seventeen of “Inside Inside,” when I offer the reader several pages of the best (and unbleeped) answers to the Pivot Questionnaire with which I conclude every episode of Inside the Actors Studio, I reveal (finally) my own answers. And my response to “What is your favorite sound?” is, “The most underrated quality of contemporary life: silence.”
I suspect that that answer is prompted by the fact that I’m a writer, and for every writer, alone with his or her coy, elusive muse, distracting sounds are the enemy, and deep, velvety, enveloping silence is the friend.
So, to paraphrase Paul Simon, the sound of my study is silence. And the joy of it is its massive bay window: three eight-foot-high panes of glass, embedded with rondelles of glittering stained glass depicting, in the left panel, Cardinal Richelieu, l'Éminence rouge, founder of the Académie française and patron of the arts, studiously wielding a feather pen. In the center panel, Penelope sits patiently at her loom with the words Ora et Labora (Prayer and Work) inscribed in the bright jewels of the framing glass. In the third panel, attired in sapphire blue, to contrast, presumably, with the Cardinal’s ruby red at the other end of the triptych, Sir Thomas More pores over a thick volume of either law or scripture, since he was both lawyer and martyr.
A very Christian window, and on a sunny day, my personal answer to the marvels of Chartres Cathedral. When the muse is late in arriving, I can stare at it, dazzled, for minutes on end.
And now, finally, the miracle itself.
Spring. In our garden. Seen through the stained glass. Framed by the central panel, stands a tall magnolia which, as I write this, is heavy with fuchsia buds opening into exotic, erotic flowers. The left panel offers two flowering fruit trees, and the right panel another, each of them for some mysterious reason a different color, one pristine white, one saucy red, one chaste pink.
The three fruit trees will soon catch up to the magnolia, turning the entire north wall of my study into a blaze of radiant color to rival Notre Dame’s Great Rose.
That’s the annual miracle, and, with those propitious buds, it’s beginning to happen as I write these words.
And in a moment, when I’ve pressed the key that will send these words through cyberspace to my blog – and you, with the hope that you’ll forgive their subjective indulgence, I’ll return, refreshed, reanimated and restored, to the task at hand: preparing for my next four guests, whose names (every one of them worthy of a headline) will be revealed by Bravo shortly with the customary network fanfare. This much I can confidently promise you: every one of them will arrive with the springlike promise of a brand new explosion of incandescent color...and maybe even a miracle or two.