On Sam's Tree
Photo by Margaret Jenkins

On Sam's Tree

On the tree planting at Jacob’ Pillow, in memory of Sam Miller

Hi all,

Saturday July 14th, Sam's tree was planted at the Jacob's Pillow collectively by those people who could come. It stands tall in front of the Duke theater, where Sam produced many shows, not too far from a bigger, taller older trees. Many familiar faces were there, but younger presenters and choreographers also attended. Generations of the people growing and "us" getting older.

If some of them did not quite know of Sam, surely they learned not only who Sam was/is but how Sam was/is by listening to the passionate speeches that started with Pam Tatge, the Director of Jacob's Pillow and a close friend of Sam, Koma, and me. It was sad but meaningful to hear everyone who spoke.  Liz Thompson, Norton, Kyle Abraham, Sam's sons Alex and Owen, brother Adam, Sam's wife Anne, Margaret Jenkins, Dana Reitz, John Killacky, Joan Myers. Many Sam, the same Sam. Amazing Sam. And it was also deeply emotional to feel the responding vibrations and emotions of others present.

Sam's tree looks young and strong near the more older trees. That feels right. Generations being together and shifting.

Sam's family brought Sam's ashes to offer to the tree.

Pam very kindly asked me to do "something before and as people arrive to the tree."  It was a big task but I was/am grateful that she asked. I tried to talk to Sam to come to the tree, time to time. I did not want to turn the occasion into a performance. I just wanted to help out, to make the tree feel like Sam's tree, rather than a tree that is named as such. We so love this man and I wanted to ask Sam to come to rest at the tree as one of many spots of his continuous journey. Pam and I hoped that this tree will be one such place where we can talk to him in a slightly different mode than we do at our own places.

I am grateful Dana Reitz and Margaret Jenkins joined. I am grateful Marg spoke about CCR with such love in her speech. CCR is a group of eccentric and not-so-young eleven choreographers Sam put together in 2005.  I am grateful Dana helped me to prepare the site and closed my evening by talking with me late into the evening. The collective and individual friendship that grew out of this group is surely one of the many gifts Sam gave me and other members of CCR.

The day for Sam was at the place I began to know him as a Director of Jacob's Pillow. It was also a place I met his family. Our two boys are close in age to his two boys--Anne sometimes took care of them together. It was the place I got very ill during the Pillow's first winter residency making Sam worry. He has continued to worry on me since.

As I performed and circled around the "Sam's tree" while people were arriving, I thought about how my body could remember his watching. I thought about other performers' bodies and minds Sam watched. Many of our friends who watched us have passed away. I have begun to think of a performer's body as a deposit of a gaze of the people who left us.

Many dear memories and the sense of a big hole that made me feel out of balance. There would not have been no Retrospective Project, or solo performances if Sam did not conceive or produce them. Many meetings, many walks, many meals, many laughs.

As audience began watching me more intensely, I felt more feeble, tense with a migraine that had just started.
I gazed at the few friends, then the tree, then the sky.

Then it rained. The tree drank the rain and perhaps had tears, or perhaps stood as quietly as Sam would have, without crying. 
I drank the rain and my tears.

The rain relieved my tension and melted my headache. Not sure where Sam was/is and how but it was as if he made the rain for the tree, for people there and for me.
It helped me to feel the rain and listen to Sam in his absence, the absence I have to accept--no matter how hard.
I could really feel his curation/dramaturg the way he did and still does.

In my speech later, I thanked Anne for having worked and nursed so hard to give him and us an extra 7 plus years and having tried again this time though it did not work out. I thanked her and his family for having been so generous to have shared Sam, his brilliance, time, and wit with those of us who are so grateful to be able to call him a friend.

I meant to be quiet but I heard my thank you became a cry.

I reunited with Sam's family, old friends, and the Pillow.
Thanks Pam. Thanks Sam from the bottom of my heart.

Please visit Sam's tree at the Pillow.

love to you all.
eiko