“P I N E” by m i c c a @ Beach 81st, Far Rockaway
P I N E
January 16 + 22, 2022
Beach 81st, Far Rockaway
Created by: m i c c a
Performed by: Madeline Robertson, Kristi Cole, Sarah Chien, Therese Ronco, m i c c a
Lead Installer: Breeze
Inspired by and dedicated to Sam Jayne & Jeffrey McDonagh
Dedicated to friends and lovers lost. Dedicated to the 1,000 trees cut down in East River Park. Dedicated to the sea, which will one day in the not-too-distant future, consume this coastline and its condos and cars and asphalt, its all-nite delis and apartments and subways.
I disembarked the A train at Beach 67th and trudged along until I saw a cluster of dark bristly triangles emerging from the sand. People milled around, huddling in twos and threes against the wind. A truck stood behind two steaming stock pots filled with soup and cider. I joined the crowd and watched the waves, waited for the event to begin. We huddled around blown-out heat lamps, wrapped in blankets and scarves. Idgy Dean, m i c c a’s long-time musical collaborator, provided a benediction. The request: endurance. The offering: warmth for the spirit.
Over the course of a couple months, m i c c a and a crew of volunteer foresters built this memorial at Beach 81st to hold a pandemic’s-worth of memories, blessings, and incantations. m i c c a is an expert at making containers for sharing big emotions. Their work has a refined sensitivity to emotional and physical topographies. They are a maker for all seasons. Last summer, they unleashed wild, splattering joy on the racketball court nearby for the party-performance series Sundae Day Daze. This winter, they shaped an altar from cast-off trees.
Otherworldly forest, populated by phantoms and windblown space and dancers dressed in red. The four performers shuffled in and out, emerging from the branches like birds or elves, mythical yet human, bright among the dark green needles. m i c c a huddled behind one tree and hoisted it to obscure their body. Their legs moved back and forth in a spray of sand. The dancers filed up and down like a Greek chorus, wailing a haunting refrain and waving their arms towards us, inviting us in or warning us away.
PINE opened some eternal questions. What happens to Christmas trees after Christmas? What happens to us when we die?
I longed to be closer to the performers- to stand beside them in the trees, to embrace them as they extended their scarlet arms, to lean and fall and spiral. I wasn’t sure what to look at: Therese and Sarah and Madeline disappearing and reappearing, m i c c a wrestling the tree, Kristi standing in the space where m i c c a’s tree had been. Movement evolved in the periphery.
PINE played with and troubled a sense of seasonality. After all, grief has no calendar dates to restrict its arc. Waves pound the beach all year. Christmas trees grow under other names in April and October. These particular Christmas trees- spruces, my guess- will be mulched after the performances conclude.
m i c c a, a tree roped to their red chest harness, extended two hands to Kristi and fell face-first. They hauled the tree in widening circles, making furrows in the sand, while the other dancers unfurled their arms skyward and dragged their own limbs into heavy, splayed shapes. The group jumped and fell in a protective circle. Sometimes, grief is like this.
PINE asked us to withstand, to endure, to weather. This was an escape from reality; no, this was a microcosm. It was all here in the forest, the pain and the humor of the past year. Feet emerging from tree trunks, feet sliding into sand, faces contorting in laughter, bodies falling and being lifted.
I laughed because it looked like m i c c a was a tree, or the tree was becoming a human. I cried because I’ve also fallen hard and waited for someone to drag me to my feet again. I cried because the wind made my eyes water. I cried because we are all going to die and hopefully also become mulch. Heaven might be a beach covered in Christmas trees: a refuge as desolate and cheerful as this artificial island, this unseasonable oasis.
Later, Idgy Dean led us into the forest and signaled for us to offer our dedications to the trees. I tied a ribbon around a tree close to the edge of the forest. I put my arms around the dry branches, sunk my face between the needles. I remembered holding you like this before you left. I remembered when we did this without thinking. The tree did not become your body; the tree is its own body. A dying body that will make more life from its molecules, in a changed state.