Out of Time

[film still by Miranda Lehman]

I was copying out some passages from T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets earlier this evening and came to this (Burnt Norton V):


Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.

There is more of course, some of the most fertile and beautiful poetry I've ever encountered, but this passage was particularly interesting to me because of the following passage which has been mentally bookmarked (and then copied out, copied out again, and even pinned up on the wall above my bed). This is from V. Woolf's Between the Acts:

" ... a vase stood in the heart of the house, alabaster, smooth, cold, holding the stilled, distilled essence of emptiness, silence."


And with the necessary link to Keats' timelessly moving urn I have a trio of apparently empty vessles which nonethless exert and incredible influence over the mind. Its a meditative sort of calm that I feel when I repeat Virginia's words over and over in my head. The calm I feel in reading this passage of Eliot's is a different sort, perhaps more complex: The stillness of his jar is not like the stillness which words and music reach toward. It isn't threatened by the "living" element of words (which must be spoken) and music (which must be played).

...Words strain,
Crack, and sometimes break, under the
burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

Are we so drawn to these vessels because of their stillness? Because they stand out of time? They hold nothing but could hold anything? Because what they hold is richly metaphoric (emptiness, silence, stillness, potential, etc)?

I don't know, but to think of the urn through time, of the alabaster vase, of the Chinese jar, is almost to think a paradox (never comfortable). Which I suppose must bring us to the greatest receptacle/vessle of all: the chora in Plato's Timaeus. Certainly one of the most difficult ideas in this dialogue, but something that seemed to me to be the container of all that could be in the universe. The vessle of all potential, from which becoming would be possible.

And in the interest of not getting too esoteric on a Sunday evening, I will end here, abruptly and without any real logic, with these facts from my weekend.

Visits are always too short when my family is involved.
Halloween is the most fun holiday ever
Edward Gorey fans are more prolific than one would expect
J'adore les Croques Madames! Ils sont les parfaits dejeuner!
Goodness, my French is rusty (I apologize)
I have two new frocks. And a new scarf, a new bag (patent) and elbow length fawn-colored gloves
I wish there were a cat in my life. I wish the cat's name were Suleiman the Magnificent.

Out of Time

[film still by Miranda Lehman]

I was copying out some passages from T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets earlier this evening and came to this (Burnt Norton V):


Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.

There is more of course, some of the most fertile and beautiful poetry I've ever encountered, but this passage was particularly interesting to me because of the following passage which has been mentally bookmarked (and then copied out, copied out again, and even pinned up on the wall above my bed). This is from V. Woolf's Between the Acts:

" ... a vase stood in the heart of the house, alabaster, smooth, cold, holding the stilled, distilled essence of emptiness, silence."


And with the necessary link to Keats' timelessly moving urn I have a trio of apparently empty vessles which nonethless exert and incredible influence over the mind. Its a meditative sort of calm that I feel when I repeat Virginia's words over and over in my head. The calm I feel in reading this passage of Eliot's is a different sort, perhaps more complex: The stillness of his jar is not like the stillness which words and music reach toward. It isn't threatened by the "living" element of words (which must be spoken) and music (which must be played).

...Words strain,
Crack, and sometimes break, under the
burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still. Shrieking voices
Scolding, mocking, or merely chattering,
Always assail them. The Word in the desert
Is most attacked by voices of temptation,
The crying shadow in the funeral dance,
The loud lament of the disconsolate chimera.

Are we so drawn to these vessels because of their stillness? Because they stand out of time? They hold nothing but could hold anything? Because what they hold is richly metaphoric (emptiness, silence, stillness, potential, etc)?

I don't know, but to think of the urn through time, of the alabaster vase, of the Chinese jar, is almost to think a paradox (never comfortable). Which I suppose must bring us to the greatest receptacle/vessle of all: the chora in Plato's Timaeus. Certainly one of the most difficult ideas in this dialogue, but something that seemed to me to be the container of all that could be in the universe. The vessle of all potential, from which becoming would be possible.

And in the interest of not getting too esoteric on a Sunday evening, I will end here, abruptly and without any real logic, with these facts from my weekend.

Visits are always too short when my family is involved.
Halloween is the most fun holiday ever
Edward Gorey fans are more prolific than one would expect
J'adore les Croques Madames! Ils sont les parfaits dejeuner!
Goodness, my French is rusty (I apologize)
I have two new frocks. And a new scarf, a new bag (patent) and elbow length fawn-colored gloves
I wish there were a cat in my life. I wish the cat's name were Suleiman the Magnificent.

Isabella and the Pot of Basil

Isabella and the Pot of Basil (J. W. Alexander)


I took last Wednesday off of work to explore the two new exhibits at the Met: Ambroise Vollard (a Cezanne to Picasso extravaganza) and Americans in Paris. Both were a bit too showy for my tastes, but there are some heart-gladdening pieces in each.

I never tire of Cezanne and he felt happily familiar after so recently seeing the Cezanne in Provence exhibit. The Bonnards were especially interesting to me following Berger's comments on his bathing nudes which have so recently read. The Gauguins failed to impress--these were his showy pieces, after the spirituality had gone and all that was left was the mark of too much concern and effort.

The Americans in Paris exhibit was a little cluttered in my opinion, but well worth it for Madame X (the woman GLOWS) and for the above painting which I had seen before, but never with an appreciating eye. John White Alexander's Isabella and the Pot of Basil. There's a hint of de la Tour's Magdalene about her, but with the darkness of an Aubrey Beardsley character.

I had never encountered this story before so I did the customary research and found Boccaccio's version as well as Keats.' Following are some excerpts from Isabella and the Pot of Basil

[Young lovers Isabella and Lorenzo, Isabella's disapproving brothers, Lorenzo is murdered by them and Isabella convinced he has fled. Lorenzo's shade visits her]:

It was a vision.—In the drowsy gloom,
The dull of midnight, at her couch’s foot
Lorenzo stood, and wept: the forest tomb
Had marr’d his glossy hair which once could shoot
Lustre into the sun, and put cold doom
Upon his lips, and taken the soft lute
From his lorn voice, and past his loamed ears
Had made a miry channel for his tears.


Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spake;
For there was striving, in its piteous tongue,
To speak as when on earth it was awake,
And Isabella on its music hung:
Languor there was in it, and tremulous shake,
As in a palsied Druid’s harp unstrung;
And through it moan’d a ghostly under-song,
Like hoarse night-gusts sepulchral briars among.

He tells her of his murder and where to find his body

Who hath not loiter’d in a green church-yard,
And let his spirit, like a demon-mole,
Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard,
To see skull, coffin’d bones, and funeral stole;
Pitying each form that hungry Death hath marr’d,
And filling it once more with human soul?
Ah! this is holiday to what was felt
When Isabella by Lorenzo knelt.

She then digs him up, cuts off his head, and stores it in an urn, over which she plants sweet basil

And so she ever fed it with thin tears,
Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
Of Basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew
Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,
From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:
So that the jewel, safely casketed,
Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.

But the brothers are curious and they steal the pot away to discover how it could grow so lush. They find the head of Lorenzo, fear they will be caught and flee--the pot of basil destroyed.

Isabella ends in mourning:

And so she pined, and so she died forlorn,
Imploring for her Basil to the last.
No heart was there in Florence but did mourn
In pity of her love, so overcast.
And a sad ditty of this story born
From mouth to mouth through all the country pass’d:
Still is the burthen sung—“O cruelty,
“To steal my Basil-pot away from me!”

Isabella and the Pot of Basil

Isabella and the Pot of Basil (J. W. Alexander)


I took last Wednesday off of work to explore the two new exhibits at the Met: Ambroise Vollard (a Cezanne to Picasso extravaganza) and Americans in Paris. Both were a bit too showy for my tastes, but there are some heart-gladdening pieces in each.

I never tire of Cezanne and he felt happily familiar after so recently seeing the Cezanne in Provence exhibit. The Bonnards were especially interesting to me following Berger's comments on his bathing nudes which have so recently read. The Gauguins failed to impress--these were his showy pieces, after the spirituality had gone and all that was left was the mark of too much concern and effort.

The Americans in Paris exhibit was a little cluttered in my opinion, but well worth it for Madame X (the woman GLOWS) and for the above painting which I had seen before, but never with an appreciating eye. John White Alexander's Isabella and the Pot of Basil. There's a hint of de la Tour's Magdalene about her, but with the darkness of an Aubrey Beardsley character.

I had never encountered this story before so I did the customary research and found Boccaccio's version as well as Keats.' Following are some excerpts from Isabella and the Pot of Basil

[Young lovers Isabella and Lorenzo, Isabella's disapproving brothers, Lorenzo is murdered by them and Isabella convinced he has fled. Lorenzo's shade visits her]:

It was a vision.—In the drowsy gloom,
The dull of midnight, at her couch’s foot
Lorenzo stood, and wept: the forest tomb
Had marr’d his glossy hair which once could shoot
Lustre into the sun, and put cold doom
Upon his lips, and taken the soft lute
From his lorn voice, and past his loamed ears
Had made a miry channel for his tears.


Strange sound it was, when the pale shadow spake;
For there was striving, in its piteous tongue,
To speak as when on earth it was awake,
And Isabella on its music hung:
Languor there was in it, and tremulous shake,
As in a palsied Druid’s harp unstrung;
And through it moan’d a ghostly under-song,
Like hoarse night-gusts sepulchral briars among.

He tells her of his murder and where to find his body

Who hath not loiter’d in a green church-yard,
And let his spirit, like a demon-mole,
Work through the clayey soil and gravel hard,
To see skull, coffin’d bones, and funeral stole;
Pitying each form that hungry Death hath marr’d,
And filling it once more with human soul?
Ah! this is holiday to what was felt
When Isabella by Lorenzo knelt.

She then digs him up, cuts off his head, and stores it in an urn, over which she plants sweet basil

And so she ever fed it with thin tears,
Whence thick, and green, and beautiful it grew,
So that it smelt more balmy than its peers
Of Basil-tufts in Florence; for it drew
Nurture besides, and life, from human fears,
From the fast mouldering head there shut from view:
So that the jewel, safely casketed,
Came forth, and in perfumed leafits spread.

But the brothers are curious and they steal the pot away to discover how it could grow so lush. They find the head of Lorenzo, fear they will be caught and flee--the pot of basil destroyed.

Isabella ends in mourning:

And so she pined, and so she died forlorn,
Imploring for her Basil to the last.
No heart was there in Florence but did mourn
In pity of her love, so overcast.
And a sad ditty of this story born
From mouth to mouth through all the country pass’d:
Still is the burthen sung—“O cruelty,
“To steal my Basil-pot away from me!”

A Gorey Hallowe'en

I adore Halloween--it is simply the most fun holiday we have. Thanksgiving and Christmas are nostalgia-ridden, and New Year's Eve is consistently overrated, but Halloween (for me) is a bit magical.

It's really just that I love dressing up. And this year I've decided to dress (along with my sister) as an Edward Gorey child. I'm choosing a pinafore, ribbed tights, and a tombstone inscribed with my fate:

"Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin"

(found on flickr)

My dream Halloween would be to go as the nocturnal owl--a tawny feathered cape, a fuzzy cream sweater dress, and a meticulously crafted owl-hood sort of thing (I'm not really sure where one would find these things, but it's a dream after all)

A Gorey Hallowe'en

I adore Halloween--it is simply the most fun holiday we have. Thanksgiving and Christmas are nostalgia-ridden, and New Year's Eve is consistently overrated, but Halloween (for me) is a bit magical.

It's really just that I love dressing up. And this year I've decided to dress (along with my sister) as an Edward Gorey child. I'm choosing a pinafore, ribbed tights, and a tombstone inscribed with my fate:

"Z is for Zillah who drank too much gin"

(found on flickr)

My dream Halloween would be to go as the nocturnal owl--a tawny feathered cape, a fuzzy cream sweater dress, and a meticulously crafted owl-hood sort of thing (I'm not really sure where one would find these things, but it's a dream after all)

Of Narwhals and the Like

Narwhal and Unicorn by Carisa Swenson


I spent this afternoon in Fort Tryon park, wandering along the brick pathways, admiring views, and coating my shoes with the dust of fallen leaves. I have never before been to the Cloisters--a trip that I highly recommend. It's not at all like visiting Canterbury or Wells or any of the other beautiful, history-ridden places I fell in love with while living in England, but it is a breath of rich air in this city.

I needed this visit--the beautiful stone carving, the devotion, the incredible detail. I was able to view Robert Campin's Annunciation triptych for the first time, the various Men of Sorrows (which always leave a knot of emotion in my throat), the beautiful Books of Hours (they have the miniature Jeanne d'Evreaux Hours as well as pages from the Duke de Berry's).

The Unicorn tapestries were a treat as well, seeing as how I have long stated that The Last Unicorn is my "all-time favorite" and that my first attempt at poetry was a new interpretation of "The Lion and the Unicorn" (ending with the line "the unicorn pierced the lion's heart with a smile and a grin," and recorded in a blank, bound volume with a coloring-book unicorn on the front. Other juvenalia in this edition: an original tale regarding the continued existence of unicorns on the moon; a copy of the gruesome passage from TH White's Once and Future King; and an imagined version of the Lady with Unicorn story).

But the true treasure was the easily overlooked tusk of geuine narwhal ivory--a thing never before seen by my eyes. This animal has always fascinated me, it's one of the creatures that just doesn't seem natural, like the giraffe or the seahorse. The seem like nightmares that have somehow slipped into our waking world.
The tusk is mounted on a small pedestal which rests on the floor beside the ornate fireplace in the Unicorn room. It stands about 4.5 feet high and the ivory twists and twines to a point, with an almost plait-like appearance. It was astonishing and delightful.

A rare double-tusked narwhal

But aside from spiral-horned delights and the champagne froth of Marie Antoinette (viewed this evening), there's a heavy blanket thrown over my mind. An increasing sense of futility, darkness, the works. Its Leopardi and Nabokov and Ibsen and entirely my own fault for choosing to read them all at the same time.
Also, the sobriety of my mind has lately translated itself into a decidedly somber way of dressing, and, I imagine, a look of almost school-m'arm-ish-ness. I doubt this is doing much to lift my spirits. Perhpas a costume party and general Halloween hilarity will help.

Of Narwhals and the Like

Narwhal and Unicorn by Carisa Swenson


I spent this afternoon in Fort Tryon park, wandering along the brick pathways, admiring views, and coating my shoes with the dust of fallen leaves. I have never before been to the Cloisters--a trip that I highly recommend. It's not at all like visiting Canterbury or Wells or any of the other beautiful, history-ridden places I fell in love with while living in England, but it is a breath of rich air in this city.

I needed this visit--the beautiful stone carving, the devotion, the incredible detail. I was able to view Robert Campin's Annunciation triptych for the first time, the various Men of Sorrows (which always leave a knot of emotion in my throat), the beautiful Books of Hours (they have the miniature Jeanne d'Evreaux Hours as well as pages from the Duke de Berry's).

The Unicorn tapestries were a treat as well, seeing as how I have long stated that The Last Unicorn is my "all-time favorite" and that my first attempt at poetry was a new interpretation of "The Lion and the Unicorn" (ending with the line "the unicorn pierced the lion's heart with a smile and a grin," and recorded in a blank, bound volume with a coloring-book unicorn on the front. Other juvenalia in this edition: an original tale regarding the continued existence of unicorns on the moon; a copy of the gruesome passage from TH White's Once and Future King; and an imagined version of the Lady with Unicorn story).

But the true treasure was the easily overlooked tusk of geuine narwhal ivory--a thing never before seen by my eyes. This animal has always fascinated me, it's one of the creatures that just doesn't seem natural, like the giraffe or the seahorse. The seem like nightmares that have somehow slipped into our waking world.
The tusk is mounted on a small pedestal which rests on the floor beside the ornate fireplace in the Unicorn room. It stands about 4.5 feet high and the ivory twists and twines to a point, with an almost plait-like appearance. It was astonishing and delightful.

A rare double-tusked narwhal

But aside from spiral-horned delights and the champagne froth of Marie Antoinette (viewed this evening), there's a heavy blanket thrown over my mind. An increasing sense of futility, darkness, the works. Its Leopardi and Nabokov and Ibsen and entirely my own fault for choosing to read them all at the same time.
Also, the sobriety of my mind has lately translated itself into a decidedly somber way of dressing, and, I imagine, a look of almost school-m'arm-ish-ness. I doubt this is doing much to lift my spirits. Perhpas a costume party and general Halloween hilarity will help.

A Sketch

(Julie Verhoeven)


Leopardi-- simplicity and wit, fluidity of ideas. Nostalgia of poems, my parallel reaction: the hillside behind my home, the knowledge of forest and rock and water. Stars at night and crisp edge of moon.

Why does the onset of autumn make the lines crisper? Things seem more solid, more defined, but more distant. I look up at the buildings as I walk by and I can take them in with my mind, see them more vividly, roll them around like the pit of an olive in my mouth.

His thoughts/words on translation, the ineffable loss. The essential loss.

Amour-propre (Rousseau v. Leopardi) is it the only real component of man (the primary component?) Should it be then flushed out of artifice, made noble and shining (R.) Or eschewed for what it is--keystone of unhappiness, false deluder and seductress (L.)

"A thinker" Who are the thinkers now? Which minds beat in time with the infinite and the now? Which minds exert more force? Can we even ask this question anymore? (Is mind-energy, whatever that may be, diffused over too wide a range, valued too little, too illusory in appearance?)

Where are movements, ideas, meaning? These things exist because we can still recognize them, so why have we become complacent/trivial? Is there a remedy? Can one even expect it?

I miss dialogue. Heartily.

A Sketch

(Julie Verhoeven)


Leopardi-- simplicity and wit, fluidity of ideas. Nostalgia of poems, my parallel reaction: the hillside behind my home, the knowledge of forest and rock and water. Stars at night and crisp edge of moon.

Why does the onset of autumn make the lines crisper? Things seem more solid, more defined, but more distant. I look up at the buildings as I walk by and I can take them in with my mind, see them more vividly, roll them around like the pit of an olive in my mouth.

His thoughts/words on translation, the ineffable loss. The essential loss.

Amour-propre (Rousseau v. Leopardi) is it the only real component of man (the primary component?) Should it be then flushed out of artifice, made noble and shining (R.) Or eschewed for what it is--keystone of unhappiness, false deluder and seductress (L.)

"A thinker" Who are the thinkers now? Which minds beat in time with the infinite and the now? Which minds exert more force? Can we even ask this question anymore? (Is mind-energy, whatever that may be, diffused over too wide a range, valued too little, too illusory in appearance?)

Where are movements, ideas, meaning? These things exist because we can still recognize them, so why have we become complacent/trivial? Is there a remedy? Can one even expect it?

I miss dialogue. Heartily.

Spinning tales



[Saint Eulalia
by JW Waterhouse]



This is the season of the gloaming and I feel it strongly:

The hermit--if he be a sensible hermit--will swallow his own thoughts, and lock up his own emotions during these weeks of inward winter. He will know that Destiny intended him to imitate, on occasion, the dormouse, and hi will be conformable: make a tidy ball of himself, creep into a hole of life's wall, and submit decently to the drift which blows in and soon blocks him up, preserving him in ice for the season.

I always return to Villette when the chill enters my bones. Immediately after the above passage Charlotte Bronte goes on to say:

Let him say, "It is quite right: it ought to be so, since so it is.' And, perhaps, one day his snow-sepulchre will open, spring's softness will return, the sun and south-wind will reach him; the budding of hedges, and carolling of birds and singing of liberated streams will call him to kindly resurrection. Perhaps this may be the case, perhaps not: the frost may get into his heart and never thaw more; when the spring comes, a crow or pie may pick out of the wall only his dormouse-bones.

The dangers of hibernation are real and frieghtening. I must remind myself that the dark night is somethng to be endured, that I cannot dwell too long in the vaulted halls of Dis.

And the best way to combat the cold hush of winter is with the telling of tales, something that I lately cannot stop thinking about. (So much so that I have been wishing that there was some sort of story-spinners club...do these things exist? Where bone-weary people can convene over wine and fire and take turns in the serious creation of a story?)

I finished Don Quixote (finally!) and found myself weeping at the end, not merely for his passing, but more for the end of a tale so well told. The strangest and most unexpected element of the last 400 or so pages was the obsession with establishing the veracity of the second part of Don Quixote (over the "False Quixote" which was written by Avellaneda between the publication of the first part of Don Quixote and Cervantes' second part). It's such a huge concern of the characters that Don Quixote forgoes the jousts at Zaragoza simply because the false Quixote attended them. There's an immense amount of subtlety that lies beneath the apparent simplicity of the tale, a tale that seems to recount the actions and beliefs of two characters so transparent that anyone they encounter is immediately amazed at their strangeness and simplicity. Sancho and Don Quixote are mad, but they are the lifeblood of stories:

'Oh Senor,' said Don Antonio, 'may God forgive you for the harm you have done to the entire world in wishing to restore the sanity of the most amusing madman in it! Don't you see, Senor, that the benefit caused by the sanity of Don Quixote cannot be as great as the pleasure produced by his madness?'

What are we without madness? Without illusion? Without fantasy?

I've been listening to about four CDs on constant repeat: Neutral Milk Hotel's An Aeroplane Over the Sea, The Decemberists' Picaresque and their new release The Crane Wife, and Regina Spektor's Songs. All of these artists are consummate storytellers. They sing of things that I puzzle over and try to untangle and understand. But when I get to the center (or something that passes for the center), I am left as bewlidered as when I started. I am left feeling as though I have arrived at the gateway of myth.

The great story requires equal parts fantasy and simplicity, and a core of something that can only be so well-known that when one considers it closely and with concentration, the well-known turns into mystery. I mean that the core of a story is something like the core of a myth. It is utterly recognizable and always elusive. I remember reading the stories of the Norse and Celtic gods and experiencing a moment of utter amazement when I realized that I was reading the familiar, beloved stories of my youth, but that they had donned new and strange garb.

I had been raised on the sunshine and honey of Greek myths, where the darkness is of such a different shade (a fuzzy ebony, or perhaps something liquid and limpid as the river Lethe, but never, ever like the frozen ice-shrouded dark of Odin hanging from the tree). And despite being able to recognize the differences in tone and concern and motive, the stories began and ended with the same things.

So with darkness and cold creeping in through the window and the layers of clothing, and with the Crane Wife playing on my stereo, and with Don Quixote surrendering his lance, his armor, and his dreams, I seem to have fallen into a spell of morbidity.

Book-shopping yesterday resulted in quite a few new titles, but all with the chill of winter layered in beween their lines. I'm embarking upon Nabokov's Pale Fire for the first time, I found Borges's Book of Imaginary Beings, I retrieved a new, annotated copy of the Waste Land, and I've been re-reading my favorite phrases from Dylan Thomas' stories. And with every word silently mouthed in my mind I find myself rushing on, seeking to lose myself, to wrap a shroud of lightly printed text around my shoulders and settle in for the long goodnight.

Spinning tales



[Saint Eulalia
by JW Waterhouse]



This is the season of the gloaming and I feel it strongly:

The hermit--if he be a sensible hermit--will swallow his own thoughts, and lock up his own emotions during these weeks of inward winter. He will know that Destiny intended him to imitate, on occasion, the dormouse, and hi will be conformable: make a tidy ball of himself, creep into a hole of life's wall, and submit decently to the drift which blows in and soon blocks him up, preserving him in ice for the season.

I always return to Villette when the chill enters my bones. Immediately after the above passage Charlotte Bronte goes on to say:

Let him say, "It is quite right: it ought to be so, since so it is.' And, perhaps, one day his snow-sepulchre will open, spring's softness will return, the sun and south-wind will reach him; the budding of hedges, and carolling of birds and singing of liberated streams will call him to kindly resurrection. Perhaps this may be the case, perhaps not: the frost may get into his heart and never thaw more; when the spring comes, a crow or pie may pick out of the wall only his dormouse-bones.

The dangers of hibernation are real and frieghtening. I must remind myself that the dark night is somethng to be endured, that I cannot dwell too long in the vaulted halls of Dis.

And the best way to combat the cold hush of winter is with the telling of tales, something that I lately cannot stop thinking about. (So much so that I have been wishing that there was some sort of story-spinners club...do these things exist? Where bone-weary people can convene over wine and fire and take turns in the serious creation of a story?)

I finished Don Quixote (finally!) and found myself weeping at the end, not merely for his passing, but more for the end of a tale so well told. The strangest and most unexpected element of the last 400 or so pages was the obsession with establishing the veracity of the second part of Don Quixote (over the "False Quixote" which was written by Avellaneda between the publication of the first part of Don Quixote and Cervantes' second part). It's such a huge concern of the characters that Don Quixote forgoes the jousts at Zaragoza simply because the false Quixote attended them. There's an immense amount of subtlety that lies beneath the apparent simplicity of the tale, a tale that seems to recount the actions and beliefs of two characters so transparent that anyone they encounter is immediately amazed at their strangeness and simplicity. Sancho and Don Quixote are mad, but they are the lifeblood of stories:

'Oh Senor,' said Don Antonio, 'may God forgive you for the harm you have done to the entire world in wishing to restore the sanity of the most amusing madman in it! Don't you see, Senor, that the benefit caused by the sanity of Don Quixote cannot be as great as the pleasure produced by his madness?'

What are we without madness? Without illusion? Without fantasy?

I've been listening to about four CDs on constant repeat: Neutral Milk Hotel's An Aeroplane Over the Sea, The Decemberists' Picaresque and their new release The Crane Wife, and Regina Spektor's Songs. All of these artists are consummate storytellers. They sing of things that I puzzle over and try to untangle and understand. But when I get to the center (or something that passes for the center), I am left as bewlidered as when I started. I am left feeling as though I have arrived at the gateway of myth.

The great story requires equal parts fantasy and simplicity, and a core of something that can only be so well-known that when one considers it closely and with concentration, the well-known turns into mystery. I mean that the core of a story is something like the core of a myth. It is utterly recognizable and always elusive. I remember reading the stories of the Norse and Celtic gods and experiencing a moment of utter amazement when I realized that I was reading the familiar, beloved stories of my youth, but that they had donned new and strange garb.

I had been raised on the sunshine and honey of Greek myths, where the darkness is of such a different shade (a fuzzy ebony, or perhaps something liquid and limpid as the river Lethe, but never, ever like the frozen ice-shrouded dark of Odin hanging from the tree). And despite being able to recognize the differences in tone and concern and motive, the stories began and ended with the same things.

So with darkness and cold creeping in through the window and the layers of clothing, and with the Crane Wife playing on my stereo, and with Don Quixote surrendering his lance, his armor, and his dreams, I seem to have fallen into a spell of morbidity.

Book-shopping yesterday resulted in quite a few new titles, but all with the chill of winter layered in beween their lines. I'm embarking upon Nabokov's Pale Fire for the first time, I found Borges's Book of Imaginary Beings, I retrieved a new, annotated copy of the Waste Land, and I've been re-reading my favorite phrases from Dylan Thomas' stories. And with every word silently mouthed in my mind I find myself rushing on, seeking to lose myself, to wrap a shroud of lightly printed text around my shoulders and settle in for the long goodnight.

Ages

renoir

[Renoir's Moulin Galette]

It has been too long since my last post, but in my defense, I still have no internet and must covertly steal moments at work in order to create these posts. My cable man is supposed to arrive tomorrow though, so all should be well.

Since my last post I have celebrated a lot. Last Friday was spent celebrating work-related things with expensive drinks and very fun people. Saturday was spent celebrating Saturdays, uninhibited people, and how fabulous it is to dance. (Incidentally, I met a very interesting young man who goes by "Uncle Jesse" and who spilled no more than two of my drinks on my head, all while dancing and celebrating life in his own very elastic fashion). I celebrated silence on Sunday with Don Quixote, The Cherry Orchard, and Hedda Gabler.

I don't know how those last two slim volumes have slipped past me for so long, but I found myself immersed and tangled up in each within a matter of moments. It's funny though, reading a play feels to me like reading a translation. Something has slipped out of the work, something that is vital and breathing and rich, but paradoxically unnecessary. What must a great work contain for it to survive translation and still remain great? What emotion must reside in a drama for it to be stripped of the players and still be able to play so perfectly upon a silent reader?

On Wednesday I celebrated a birthday and I now have 24 years behind my name. In true festive spirit, I had a surprise lunch outing, two cakes baked by a wonderful new friend (one butterfly-shaped and one bird-decorated), a half dozen well-wishing messages, a bouquet of delicious smelling flowers from a wonderful old friend, a small German-crafted owl from my Aunt, and the promise of a visit from my surprise-laden family in about two weeks.

It was fantastic!

And with all of that champagne-fizz fun behind me, I expect even more tonight, tomorrow night, and Sunday. Tomorrow will be a belated birthday dinner with sangria and small plates and friends, and Sunday will be a trip to the bookstore for my much-awaited copy of Leopardi's Moral Tales.

It's too much sometimes--the delight of it all. It feels so strange to be swept up, to enjoy, drink deeply and dance. There's a sententious voice at the back of my head lecturing on the end of all these sweet moments. But I think there's some truth, beauty and goodness to the celebration of life and family and friendship and love. I may be ordinarily made of sterner stuff, but a few gossamer-cloud weekends shouldn't hurt.

Ages

renoir

[Renoir's Moulin Galette]

It has been too long since my last post, but in my defense, I still have no internet and must covertly steal moments at work in order to create these posts. My cable man is supposed to arrive tomorrow though, so all should be well.

Since my last post I have celebrated a lot. Last Friday was spent celebrating work-related things with expensive drinks and very fun people. Saturday was spent celebrating Saturdays, uninhibited people, and how fabulous it is to dance. (Incidentally, I met a very interesting young man who goes by "Uncle Jesse" and who spilled no more than two of my drinks on my head, all while dancing and celebrating life in his own very elastic fashion). I celebrated silence on Sunday with Don Quixote, The Cherry Orchard, and Hedda Gabler.

I don't know how those last two slim volumes have slipped past me for so long, but I found myself immersed and tangled up in each within a matter of moments. It's funny though, reading a play feels to me like reading a translation. Something has slipped out of the work, something that is vital and breathing and rich, but paradoxically unnecessary. What must a great work contain for it to survive translation and still remain great? What emotion must reside in a drama for it to be stripped of the players and still be able to play so perfectly upon a silent reader?

On Wednesday I celebrated a birthday and I now have 24 years behind my name. In true festive spirit, I had a surprise lunch outing, two cakes baked by a wonderful new friend (one butterfly-shaped and one bird-decorated), a half dozen well-wishing messages, a bouquet of delicious smelling flowers from a wonderful old friend, a small German-crafted owl from my Aunt, and the promise of a visit from my surprise-laden family in about two weeks.

It was fantastic!

And with all of that champagne-fizz fun behind me, I expect even more tonight, tomorrow night, and Sunday. Tomorrow will be a belated birthday dinner with sangria and small plates and friends, and Sunday will be a trip to the bookstore for my much-awaited copy of Leopardi's Moral Tales.

It's too much sometimes--the delight of it all. It feels so strange to be swept up, to enjoy, drink deeply and dance. There's a sententious voice at the back of my head lecturing on the end of all these sweet moments. But I think there's some truth, beauty and goodness to the celebration of life and family and friendship and love. I may be ordinarily made of sterner stuff, but a few gossamer-cloud weekends shouldn't hurt.

"Daughters of Decay"

[Hans Baldung Grien's Eve, The Serpent, and Death]


By way of a small collection of stories and essays by John Berger (Sense of Sight), I found the following passage in the essay "Leopardi." The text is taken from Leopardi's Moral Tales, as translated by Patrick Creagh, a book I'm now frantically trying to track down. I think it's fitting for fashion week, especially considering the drama surrounding fashion's influence on young, impressionable minds.

FASHION. Madame Death!
DEATH. Go to the devil. I'll come when you don't want me.
FASHION. As if I weren't immortal!
DEATH. Immortal? Already now the thousandth year hath passed since the times of the immortals.
FASHION. So even Madame can quote Petrarch like an Italian poet of the sixteenth or the nineteenth century.
DEATH. I like Petrarch's poems, because among them I find my Triumph, and because nearly all of them talk about me. But anyway, be off with you.
FASHION. Come on, by the love you bear the Seven Deadly Sins,
stand still for once and look at me.
DEATH. Well? I'm looking.
FASHION. Don't you recognize me?
DEATH. You must know I'm short-sighted, and that I can't use spectacles because the English don't make any that suit me, and even if they did, I haven't got a nose to stick them on.
FASHION. I am Fashion, your sister.
DEATH. My sister?
FASHION. Yes, don't you remember that both of us are daughters of Decay?
DEATH. What do you expect me to remember, I who am the mortal foe of memory?
FASHION. But I remember it well; and I know that both of us equally aim continually to destroy and change all things here below, although you achieve this by one road and I by another.

"Daughters of Decay"

[Hans Baldung Grien's Eve, The Serpent, and Death]


By way of a small collection of stories and essays by John Berger (Sense of Sight), I found the following passage in the essay "Leopardi." The text is taken from Leopardi's Moral Tales, as translated by Patrick Creagh, a book I'm now frantically trying to track down. I think it's fitting for fashion week, especially considering the drama surrounding fashion's influence on young, impressionable minds.

FASHION. Madame Death!
DEATH. Go to the devil. I'll come when you don't want me.
FASHION. As if I weren't immortal!
DEATH. Immortal? Already now the thousandth year hath passed since the times of the immortals.
FASHION. So even Madame can quote Petrarch like an Italian poet of the sixteenth or the nineteenth century.
DEATH. I like Petrarch's poems, because among them I find my Triumph, and because nearly all of them talk about me. But anyway, be off with you.
FASHION. Come on, by the love you bear the Seven Deadly Sins,
stand still for once and look at me.
DEATH. Well? I'm looking.
FASHION. Don't you recognize me?
DEATH. You must know I'm short-sighted, and that I can't use spectacles because the English don't make any that suit me, and even if they did, I haven't got a nose to stick them on.
FASHION. I am Fashion, your sister.
DEATH. My sister?
FASHION. Yes, don't you remember that both of us are daughters of Decay?
DEATH. What do you expect me to remember, I who am the mortal foe of memory?
FASHION. But I remember it well; and I know that both of us equally aim continually to destroy and change all things here below, although you achieve this by one road and I by another.

Alas and Alack

Durer's Little Owl


My wireless karma has finally given out and I am left with no internet connection until I pay for it myself (I knew this fateful day was coming up).

Thus, entries will be even more sparse than normal.

Though I should mention quickly that I spent the past weekend completing a lovely puzzle and thinking about how much I love activities like puzzling or gardening or even a game of solitaire. I found my mind engaging in little drifts of thought, moving about quickly and not resting anywhere for very long. It was a wonderful stretch and quite refreshing.

I also purchased a lovely little hand-carved wooden owl charm, a vial of amber-scented oil, and two blank cards printed with vintage-looking pages out of a naturalist's handbook: How to Identify Mushrooms, and Cloud Formations. (I have a tendency to collect little things, scraps of paper, printed cards, lovely pencils, thin volumes, tiny figurines, &c.).

Saturday evening was spent watching Rear Window at BAM and then deep in conversation in a sad but convenient midtown bar. On the big screen and as a member of an audience, the film became even more thrilling, amusing, and beloved; and I fell a little further in love with Grace Kelly (I watched To Catch a Thief on Sunday night to prolong the feeling).

I was about to end this post when I remembered the order I placed this weekend for a copy of Dylan Thomas' Quite Early One Morning. In the story "The Crumbs of One Man's Year" there is a line I have always loved:

...it was a message from the multitudinous nowhere to my solitary self.

A fitting phrase for these unaddressed epistles I think.

Alas and Alack

Durer's Little Owl


My wireless karma has finally given out and I am left with no internet connection until I pay for it myself (I knew this fateful day was coming up).

Thus, entries will be even more sparse than normal.

Though I should mention quickly that I spent the past weekend completing a lovely puzzle and thinking about how much I love activities like puzzling or gardening or even a game of solitaire. I found my mind engaging in little drifts of thought, moving about quickly and not resting anywhere for very long. It was a wonderful stretch and quite refreshing.

I also purchased a lovely little hand-carved wooden owl charm, a vial of amber-scented oil, and two blank cards printed with vintage-looking pages out of a naturalist's handbook: How to Identify Mushrooms, and Cloud Formations. (I have a tendency to collect little things, scraps of paper, printed cards, lovely pencils, thin volumes, tiny figurines, &c.).

Saturday evening was spent watching Rear Window at BAM and then deep in conversation in a sad but convenient midtown bar. On the big screen and as a member of an audience, the film became even more thrilling, amusing, and beloved; and I fell a little further in love with Grace Kelly (I watched To Catch a Thief on Sunday night to prolong the feeling).

I was about to end this post when I remembered the order I placed this weekend for a copy of Dylan Thomas' Quite Early One Morning. In the story "The Crumbs of One Man's Year" there is a line I have always loved:

...it was a message from the multitudinous nowhere to my solitary self.

A fitting phrase for these unaddressed epistles I think.