May 25th – June 9th I was in Pittsburgh, PA for The Body of Water Residency : Experimenting with Form in Playwriting. As a group ( there were fifteen of us ) we experimented with developing a playwriting methodology based on bodies of water. The end of the residency culminated with the presentation of our individual works in progress.
Instruction given to viewers:
Throughout the reading you are invited to merge in and out of the space that I am holding here on the tarp. I will be reading from a collection of my experiences with the Tijuana Estuary located at the border between San Diego ( where I am from) and Mexico. Feel free to sit with me and listen closely or to view the monitor with where the tides of the river mouth are on a loop.
I begin reading from a collection of research materials, journal entries, and emails that will be source material for a script in process.
Estuary – where the river meets the Sea. An estuary is a coastal wetland where freshwater that flows from rivers and streams mixes with the saltwater from the ocean.
The second time I visited, I walked towards the pier and there was a young guy chatting up a fisherman with a line cast out at the farthest end. This guy had an iguana on his shoulder. I could not help myself from being pulled into his conversation and I slowly dropped myself into it.
Tijuana Estuary is made up of freshwater from the Tijuana River that connects with the saltwater of the Pacific Ocean creating a large wetland habitat dominated by low lying vegetation known as a salt marsh. This connection of waters happens at the river mouth, and because of it, the water level in the estuary rises and falls with the ocean tides.
This was in December, during the time that the sewage pipes broke for over a week and they stopped counting the gallons of sewage that were being released by the hour into the ocean. Being out there in the middle of it, you could feel something was wrong. This guy was some kind of prophet. He spoke for the ocean. He spoke of morning, of grief, he described the process the ocean was taking to clean itself. The angry chopping and churning of water against water and into sand over and over again. This is a couple of days before my mother would pass, though I did not know this yet. I could feel the heaviness, the weight on my heart. A premonition. Without realizing it, I was mourning too. And this would become my spot that I would return to again and again in the next couple of months.
The Tijuana Estuary is an intact system with extensive marsh vegetation and is open to tidal flushing This helps alleviate the pollution problem.
The salt marsh is a very resilient ecosystem (it actually filters out much of the sewage) and remains fairly stable.
Over my shoulder as I read on, I could feel the presence and company of those I shared the past two weeks with, my fellow writers and our new friends at the Community Forge in Wilkinsburg, PA.