Finale: courtesy of Fellini and Shakespeare

Two endings to choose from:

A


B

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 19-27)
Happy New Year to all of you!

Finale: courtesy of Fellini and Shakespeare

Two endings to choose from:

A


B

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life's but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.

Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 19-27)
Happy New Year to all of you!

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

[Credit to this site]

In response to this tag by the very kind Tom Roper (an authentic librarian), I am happy to present the following:

Five [Astounding, Invigorating, and Swoon-Inducing] Things You Did Not Know About Clavdia Chauchat


1) Clavdia Chauchat is not my real name.

2) I have been known to spend ludicrous amounts of time in the pursuit of completing the newest Link/Zelda game; forgoing food, exercise, and normal human interaction. [This shameful, wonderful tendency has also manifested itself in reaction to Warcraft (PC), The Sims, (PC), and Fable (XBOX)].

3) I am not always alone. In fact, the people I never mention in my blog are actually quite present in my life. They also have names and are very nice, interesting folks. Sorry for not mentioning you earlier!

4) For 10+ years I was a bona fide athlete: field hockey and track for fun, swimming in earnest. I competed at a the NCAA D1 level and was not too shabby. It was the most formative and difficult thing I ever committed myself to. I gave it up to go to London for a few months and then returned to become a professional student/ student-in-waiting.

5) I have a cross-shaped scar on my right ankle; a trio of stars tattooed on my right hipbone, a seated mermaid tattooed on my lower left back, and a flying owl tattooed on my right shoulder blade. I faint when my blood is taken and cannot stand the smell of rubbing alcohol or baby powder.

Ahem, and with that, I tag the following people (my apologies!)

David
Maitresse
Olivia
Francesca
Estella

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!

[Credit to this site]

In response to this tag by the very kind Tom Roper (an authentic librarian), I am happy to present the following:

Five [Astounding, Invigorating, and Swoon-Inducing] Things You Did Not Know About Clavdia Chauchat


1) Clavdia Chauchat is not my real name.

2) I have been known to spend ludicrous amounts of time in the pursuit of completing the newest Link/Zelda game; forgoing food, exercise, and normal human interaction. [This shameful, wonderful tendency has also manifested itself in reaction to Warcraft (PC), The Sims, (PC), and Fable (XBOX)].

3) I am not always alone. In fact, the people I never mention in my blog are actually quite present in my life. They also have names and are very nice, interesting folks. Sorry for not mentioning you earlier!

4) For 10+ years I was a bona fide athlete: field hockey and track for fun, swimming in earnest. I competed at a the NCAA D1 level and was not too shabby. It was the most formative and difficult thing I ever committed myself to. I gave it up to go to London for a few months and then returned to become a professional student/ student-in-waiting.

5) I have a cross-shaped scar on my right ankle; a trio of stars tattooed on my right hipbone, a seated mermaid tattooed on my lower left back, and a flying owl tattooed on my right shoulder blade. I faint when my blood is taken and cannot stand the smell of rubbing alcohol or baby powder.

Ahem, and with that, I tag the following people (my apologies!)

David
Maitresse
Olivia
Francesca
Estella

Profondissima quiete

[Sunrise with Sea Monsters - JMW Turner]

It's grey and brown here. The branches of the trees and the vines interlaced between them recede into a tangled blanket of drab. It's raining also, with the slow mist-rain that forms more a veil of water than a sprinkle or shower.

I brought Magic Mountain home with me, as well as Mallarme and Leopardi, and I am ensorcelled. There is a black cat sitting in my windowsill, (and now precariously close to the keyboard), Emily Haines is playing in the background, and it's quiet elsewhere.

I found this yesterday, I wish I could know it in Italian:

Infinitive

I've always loved this lonesome hill
And this hedge that hides
The entire horizon, almost, from sight.
But sitting here in a daydream, I picture
The boundless spaces away out there, silences
Deeper than human silence, an unfathomable hush
In which my heart is hardly a beat
From fear. And hearing the wind
Rush rustling through these bushes,
I pit its speech against infinite silence--
And a notion of eternity floats to mind,
And the dead seasons, and the season
Beating here and now, and the sound of it. So,
In this immensity my thoughts all drown;
And it's easeful to be wrecked in seas like these.

Leopardi (trans. Eamon Grennan)

So many times have I been there, so many times have I been obliterated by space and by time, standing in awe in front of the sea, a gust of wind, a great vista, a perfect phrase of poetry or music. And afterwards? The sediment of experience settles back on the soul/spirit/mind, and the mantle of "I" is resumed.

Profondissima quiete

[Sunrise with Sea Monsters - JMW Turner]

It's grey and brown here. The branches of the trees and the vines interlaced between them recede into a tangled blanket of drab. It's raining also, with the slow mist-rain that forms more a veil of water than a sprinkle or shower.

I brought Magic Mountain home with me, as well as Mallarme and Leopardi, and I am ensorcelled. There is a black cat sitting in my windowsill, (and now precariously close to the keyboard), Emily Haines is playing in the background, and it's quiet elsewhere.

I found this yesterday, I wish I could know it in Italian:

Infinitive

I've always loved this lonesome hill
And this hedge that hides
The entire horizon, almost, from sight.
But sitting here in a daydream, I picture
The boundless spaces away out there, silences
Deeper than human silence, an unfathomable hush
In which my heart is hardly a beat
From fear. And hearing the wind
Rush rustling through these bushes,
I pit its speech against infinite silence--
And a notion of eternity floats to mind,
And the dead seasons, and the season
Beating here and now, and the sound of it. So,
In this immensity my thoughts all drown;
And it's easeful to be wrecked in seas like these.

Leopardi (trans. Eamon Grennan)

So many times have I been there, so many times have I been obliterated by space and by time, standing in awe in front of the sea, a gust of wind, a great vista, a perfect phrase of poetry or music. And afterwards? The sediment of experience settles back on the soul/spirit/mind, and the mantle of "I" is resumed.

Scribble

[Marcel Dzama's Last Winter Here]

Lately, there have been too many days when I wade through the minutes with a mind either numb or in chaos. Not enough space and too much crammed into the tiny corners. I have been devouring stories and novels, movies, pictures, and people...but nothing persists. I'll catch myself thinking lazily, meandering through a few moments of free time, and alighting upon scraps of dialogue or a vivid mental image, only to find that it is an orphan, cut loose from its original place and wandering aimlessly through my head.

The truth is that I am stuffing myself with art and literature as if I were dining at a final feast of glory, never to taste such delicacies or well-loved flavors again. I hate it. I will be left with nothing but a nightmarish sequence of disembodied voices and hollow mannequin-characters if I keep this up.

And yet-- there is a stack of books beckoning me, some have been opened and explored already, some wait, fresh from print-on-demand, from the Strand and from the backorder lists in cyber-publishing world. I see Beyond the Visible: the Art of Odilon Redon; Phaidon's Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing; I see a volume of Baudelaire; A Rebours by J. K. Huysmans; the poems of Leopardi; Essays on Literature by Eco; a post-it-ridden copy of Eco's Baudolino, and looking at these, the pieces start to fall together.


Just as I can predict what my weekend will be like if I begin re-reading the Bell Jar or Villette, I can see the source of my mood in these works. I cannot read without feeling my entire environs shift around me, and my own way of interacting with the world change.


[Redon's Smiling Spider]

If I am reading Charlotte Bronte, the shadows in the streets become pearl-grey, the trees whisper in hushed voices, and I assume a mantle of quiet to conceal tumultuous thoughts and passions that bubble out of some chamber in my heart.

If I have dipped into a novel of A. S. Byatt's I become ambitious, vociferous, empowered. My world has vivid colors, sharp dialogue and I feel fantastic. If it's Eco's novels that I am reading I hush my ambition and wonder at the wealth of knowledge in the world, at the fantastic quality of reality and I stand humbled in front of history.

If it's Virginia Woolf I am reading, I feel most like a strong, swift river, rushing toward a goal that I know, in tune to my moments, aware of the power within me, of the calm I must maintain, and of the rich, variegated world existing around me.

And so, as I look again at a stack of books that will keep me warm through the next few weeks, I am preparing the me-that-is-now for the me-that-will-be: she will be a little dark, quite pessimistic, enthralled by luxury gentle dissipation; she will be drawn to rich, soaked hues, to deep shadows of sepia, to sinister images. She will laugh less and believe again in the irresistible power of malaise, of solitude, of silence.



[Marcel Dzama: Untitled]

And when that spell is over, it will perhaps be time for some Chaucer, Donne, and Maria Edgeworth!

Scribble

[Marcel Dzama's Last Winter Here]

Lately, there have been too many days when I wade through the minutes with a mind either numb or in chaos. Not enough space and too much crammed into the tiny corners. I have been devouring stories and novels, movies, pictures, and people...but nothing persists. I'll catch myself thinking lazily, meandering through a few moments of free time, and alighting upon scraps of dialogue or a vivid mental image, only to find that it is an orphan, cut loose from its original place and wandering aimlessly through my head.

The truth is that I am stuffing myself with art and literature as if I were dining at a final feast of glory, never to taste such delicacies or well-loved flavors again. I hate it. I will be left with nothing but a nightmarish sequence of disembodied voices and hollow mannequin-characters if I keep this up.

And yet-- there is a stack of books beckoning me, some have been opened and explored already, some wait, fresh from print-on-demand, from the Strand and from the backorder lists in cyber-publishing world. I see Beyond the Visible: the Art of Odilon Redon; Phaidon's Vitamin D: New Perspectives in Drawing; I see a volume of Baudelaire; A Rebours by J. K. Huysmans; the poems of Leopardi; Essays on Literature by Eco; a post-it-ridden copy of Eco's Baudolino, and looking at these, the pieces start to fall together.


Just as I can predict what my weekend will be like if I begin re-reading the Bell Jar or Villette, I can see the source of my mood in these works. I cannot read without feeling my entire environs shift around me, and my own way of interacting with the world change.


[Redon's Smiling Spider]

If I am reading Charlotte Bronte, the shadows in the streets become pearl-grey, the trees whisper in hushed voices, and I assume a mantle of quiet to conceal tumultuous thoughts and passions that bubble out of some chamber in my heart.

If I have dipped into a novel of A. S. Byatt's I become ambitious, vociferous, empowered. My world has vivid colors, sharp dialogue and I feel fantastic. If it's Eco's novels that I am reading I hush my ambition and wonder at the wealth of knowledge in the world, at the fantastic quality of reality and I stand humbled in front of history.

If it's Virginia Woolf I am reading, I feel most like a strong, swift river, rushing toward a goal that I know, in tune to my moments, aware of the power within me, of the calm I must maintain, and of the rich, variegated world existing around me.

And so, as I look again at a stack of books that will keep me warm through the next few weeks, I am preparing the me-that-is-now for the me-that-will-be: she will be a little dark, quite pessimistic, enthralled by luxury gentle dissipation; she will be drawn to rich, soaked hues, to deep shadows of sepia, to sinister images. She will laugh less and believe again in the irresistible power of malaise, of solitude, of silence.



[Marcel Dzama: Untitled]

And when that spell is over, it will perhaps be time for some Chaucer, Donne, and Maria Edgeworth!

Merry-go-round

amelie-of-montmartre-6

(Amelie)

It's the season for parties, and I've danced, nibbled, and sipped with the best of them. Tonight is for gift-finding, tomorrow for parties and family, and I'm hoping to have Sunday free.

The Christmas cards (hand-sewn this year, thankyouverymuch!), the wrapping (scraps of paper collaged onto brown paper), and the seasonal movies (A Man For All Seasons and The Lion in Winter) will all be attempted on Sunday.

And in the meantime, what better time of year to reflect on oneself? I have kept, over the years, a number of journals (paper and electronic), and I am quite often amused and/or saddened by what I read.

I found this entry on my old LiveJournal; it captures the spirit of my hamster-wheel thoughts a few years ago:

I've been thinking a lot about the necessary incorporation of imperfection into our ideas of beauty and love...that was what my thoughts on Ruskin were about. But Rousseau says something that seems very different. His image of true love is basically an adoration of the illusions of perfection. True love is the fastidious maintenance of chimeras.

Is that true? Reality means intimacy, intimacy means revealing flaws...and thats where my questions about inperfection enter. And I think that's why I love Rousseau...perhaps erroneously...because he seems to say that it is possible, no, necessary, to maintain the illusory veil of love. That love will naturally and inherently obscure imperfection from the eyes of the beholder.But how does one do that, how does one maintain the veil? or is it up to the beloved to maintain the illusion for the lover?

I'm tired of corrupting the people I encounter with my imperfections and my darkness. I'd rather co-mingle darknesses than try to bring in the light. I guess I'm looking for a companion in solitude (is that possible?) But someone to make the darkness at least a bit more acute...so its not that muffling, shroud-like, numb darkness, but the kind of darkness that splinters and shatters and breathes and wails. A rainbow of darkness...I feel like I've said that before.

I was very devoted to Rousseau for a couple of months, he seemed to me to believe that the attainment of serenity and nobility was actually possible in life.

I hope everyone is having a joyous holiday season!

Merry-go-round

amelie-of-montmartre-6

(Amelie)

It's the season for parties, and I've danced, nibbled, and sipped with the best of them. Tonight is for gift-finding, tomorrow for parties and family, and I'm hoping to have Sunday free.

The Christmas cards (hand-sewn this year, thankyouverymuch!), the wrapping (scraps of paper collaged onto brown paper), and the seasonal movies (A Man For All Seasons and The Lion in Winter) will all be attempted on Sunday.

And in the meantime, what better time of year to reflect on oneself? I have kept, over the years, a number of journals (paper and electronic), and I am quite often amused and/or saddened by what I read.

I found this entry on my old LiveJournal; it captures the spirit of my hamster-wheel thoughts a few years ago:

I've been thinking a lot about the necessary incorporation of imperfection into our ideas of beauty and love...that was what my thoughts on Ruskin were about. But Rousseau says something that seems very different. His image of true love is basically an adoration of the illusions of perfection. True love is the fastidious maintenance of chimeras.

Is that true? Reality means intimacy, intimacy means revealing flaws...and thats where my questions about inperfection enter. And I think that's why I love Rousseau...perhaps erroneously...because he seems to say that it is possible, no, necessary, to maintain the illusory veil of love. That love will naturally and inherently obscure imperfection from the eyes of the beholder.But how does one do that, how does one maintain the veil? or is it up to the beloved to maintain the illusion for the lover?

I'm tired of corrupting the people I encounter with my imperfections and my darkness. I'd rather co-mingle darknesses than try to bring in the light. I guess I'm looking for a companion in solitude (is that possible?) But someone to make the darkness at least a bit more acute...so its not that muffling, shroud-like, numb darkness, but the kind of darkness that splinters and shatters and breathes and wails. A rainbow of darkness...I feel like I've said that before.

I was very devoted to Rousseau for a couple of months, he seemed to me to believe that the attainment of serenity and nobility was actually possible in life.

I hope everyone is having a joyous holiday season!

Laughter and Forgetting

[Statue in Opatija, Croatia (from Google image search)]


I read Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting for the first time two years ago. I think about it now and then, especially a passage (which I won't be able to excerpt now), wherein the narrator speaks of the glut of publication in our world. He attributes it to the lack of listeners--to the lack of people willing to sit at someone's feet and hear a story told. Children do not want to remember with their parents and their grandparents any longer, they want to read someone else's stories, or act out their own on the television screen.

And with no one nearby to listen, people have taken to pen and paper, hoping that they are visited by some muse of good writing who will help translate their stories from memory to prose.
But there is a great power in the spoken story, in the memory weaving together a tale instantly and without the benefit of editing or revision. This power is something disappearing from our quotidien lives, and from our basic abilities to tell and to listen.

My grandmother passed away last Wednesday, after 91 years of life. She was my only remaining grandparent and a woman who I had only recently begun to know. All of my grandparents were formidable people. I never knew my mother's father and her mother, my Nonie, remains in my memory as a woman who always had a story to tell, and a delicious meal for us to eat. She had a lilac tree in her garden which we loved and a treasure chest full of trinkets which I still wear. We visited her hometown, in Italy, a number of years ago; when she came to America with her family her name was Ophelia Grace Muraro, the officials at Ellis Island changed it to Ethel.

My father's father was a true old world patriarch. He emigrated from Croatia and brought with him a way of life I will never truly understand. His name was Mirko and during the same trip we took to Italy, we also swung around the adriatic to visit Kukuljanevo, the small town where some of my family still live. What does it feel like to visit places where you have history? History you never knew, would never have known until going there?

I think it was actually going to Italy and Croatia, walking the streets through towns that could have been my own, hearing languages that I could be thinking in, that's what made me realize the power of memory and listening. This small realization happened in 2003; I had already lost my mother's mother and my father's father, but Anna, my father's mother was still alive and well, though with her share of health problems.

I can't say that we became much closer, or that I made an enormous effort to get to know her, but I did start listening. Really, truly listening. And she had stories to tell. She had a fantastic memory and clear image of the past. She came from a very different world, lived a very different life, but we shared a heritage. Learning about her life and about the country from which she came (the Istrian peninsula, which has been Croatian as often as it has been Italian), has made me realize that there is much forgotten in my life. There are dusty tracks that I never knew existed, there are tendencies and affinities and affections which may stem from a past that does not exist in America, but rather on the coast of the Adriatic, immersed in the dust of centuries and underlined by violent pasts, difficult life, pungent flavor, and the poetry and music of those particular hills.

The ability to hear the stories of those people who are closest to you is a gift. It is the gift of an entire world, of an enormous, living book, and it is most of all the gift of a deeper past and a richer history.

Both of my grandmothers were wonderful people; I can only hope that in my tiring, ceaseless quest to discover something about life that I reach something close to their innate understanding of what everything is about.

Laughter and Forgetting

[Statue in Opatija, Croatia (from Google image search)]


I read Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting for the first time two years ago. I think about it now and then, especially a passage (which I won't be able to excerpt now), wherein the narrator speaks of the glut of publication in our world. He attributes it to the lack of listeners--to the lack of people willing to sit at someone's feet and hear a story told. Children do not want to remember with their parents and their grandparents any longer, they want to read someone else's stories, or act out their own on the television screen.

And with no one nearby to listen, people have taken to pen and paper, hoping that they are visited by some muse of good writing who will help translate their stories from memory to prose.
But there is a great power in the spoken story, in the memory weaving together a tale instantly and without the benefit of editing or revision. This power is something disappearing from our quotidien lives, and from our basic abilities to tell and to listen.

My grandmother passed away last Wednesday, after 91 years of life. She was my only remaining grandparent and a woman who I had only recently begun to know. All of my grandparents were formidable people. I never knew my mother's father and her mother, my Nonie, remains in my memory as a woman who always had a story to tell, and a delicious meal for us to eat. She had a lilac tree in her garden which we loved and a treasure chest full of trinkets which I still wear. We visited her hometown, in Italy, a number of years ago; when she came to America with her family her name was Ophelia Grace Muraro, the officials at Ellis Island changed it to Ethel.

My father's father was a true old world patriarch. He emigrated from Croatia and brought with him a way of life I will never truly understand. His name was Mirko and during the same trip we took to Italy, we also swung around the adriatic to visit Kukuljanevo, the small town where some of my family still live. What does it feel like to visit places where you have history? History you never knew, would never have known until going there?

I think it was actually going to Italy and Croatia, walking the streets through towns that could have been my own, hearing languages that I could be thinking in, that's what made me realize the power of memory and listening. This small realization happened in 2003; I had already lost my mother's mother and my father's father, but Anna, my father's mother was still alive and well, though with her share of health problems.

I can't say that we became much closer, or that I made an enormous effort to get to know her, but I did start listening. Really, truly listening. And she had stories to tell. She had a fantastic memory and clear image of the past. She came from a very different world, lived a very different life, but we shared a heritage. Learning about her life and about the country from which she came (the Istrian peninsula, which has been Croatian as often as it has been Italian), has made me realize that there is much forgotten in my life. There are dusty tracks that I never knew existed, there are tendencies and affinities and affections which may stem from a past that does not exist in America, but rather on the coast of the Adriatic, immersed in the dust of centuries and underlined by violent pasts, difficult life, pungent flavor, and the poetry and music of those particular hills.

The ability to hear the stories of those people who are closest to you is a gift. It is the gift of an entire world, of an enormous, living book, and it is most of all the gift of a deeper past and a richer history.

Both of my grandmothers were wonderful people; I can only hope that in my tiring, ceaseless quest to discover something about life that I reach something close to their innate understanding of what everything is about.

Camera Obscura

Schiele's Autumn Trees

Pardon me while I unfurl two weeks' worth of collected thoughts.

I spent this afternoon in the park, walking from the Met up to the 110th street barrier. It's much quieter in the north end of the park. The runners are still out and there are certainly groups of people wandering, but nothing at all like the procession of faces further down. I found myself atop a rocky hill, actually hearing the few remaining leaves rustle as little birds danced about in the bushes and the wind continued on its way. I sat for a while above the Conservatory Gardens, high up on the hill, and closed my eyes.

I need that sort of quiet, to feel something else sweep by me, to feel the sensation of expanding outward and diffusing a little. The paradox is that once I lose myself a little, relax my grip on the now, everything sharpens and my mind starts to move again. I wonder if this is the feeling that accompanies meditation (which I am rarely successful at). After recharging a little and feeling my senses sharpen and become more responsive, I hurried down the hills to the almost bare garden.

I had never been there before and felt, much like I had at Fort Tryon Park, a sense of astonishment that there weren't more people here. It was beautiful in its cold, grey austerity. There were some tenacious, bright flowers still blooming, but the majority of the garden had settled into its winter garb: dark, snaking boughs, heavy green foliage, and a plethora of seeds. There were grass seeds, the fuzzy-feathered tufts meant to be carried by gusts, there were hard shells, opened up into hollow chambers from which seeds had been plucked by birds, and there were my favorites, the wisteria pods. These, if you are not familiar with them, have a velvety case and an elongated shape. They hang straight down from the twisted grey vines of the wisteria plant, alongside the remaining leaves which, at this time of the year, turn a brilliant yellow color. The effect was spectacular, especially with the late afternoon sun lending a fuzzy aura to each dangling seed case.

Schiele's Fuschias


There are cats in these gardens as well, at least that's what one of the caretakers told me as he placed a fresh tin of cat food beneath a hedge of yew.

Wandering as I did this afternoon brought something into clear focus for me; I wrote a little (finally) on Murakami last night. And in doing so, I found the following passage and realized the true effect that this book had on me.

Murakami is trying to show what it means to lose the physical; he does this by a variety of methods (important, as the way one loses the physical is accomplished in a variety of ways), two of which are through graphic descriptions of sexual and violent encounters. And while I'm normally not very good with either sort of graphic descriptions, his had the effect of making me very aware of the physical, and of how unaware, or numb, I had been before the scene.

So in a sense, he plays with the reader, lulling with a myriad of stories from incredible characters, and a twisty, fantastic plot, and then throwing these passages which are like those firecrackers that explode and leave a film of color spiderwebbing across your eyes.

All the while, he is writing about the necessity of detachment. In order for Toru to find his cat and then Kumiku, he must step outside of himself, outside of the action of his life, and peer closely at the workings of it, the wind-up mechanics of fate and action. Toru does this by climbing down into the well and shutting himself off from all distraction. He brings everything to focus on himself, on the sensation which, with nothing else to engage him, becomes overwheming. The feel of a soggy shoe, or of a scrape on the cheek, the smell of earth and his own body--these become his world. He places himself in a context where the boundary between "reality" and [what to call the opposition? illusion/ truth/ magic?], where that boundary fuzzes out until it can be permeated.

Another character describes a different method, something I think I'm more familiar with. Where Toru's method of separating from the physical can be seen as a concentration of sensation until the sheer pressure of sensation causes the mind to pull itself back from the physical, the Lieutenant's description is of the diffusion of the mind until the physical no longer feels so close:

Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, an individual human being, is slowly coming unraveled. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one's own being. The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the
physical self. That is what I experienced in the midst of Mongolian steppe. How vast it was! It felt more like an ocean than a desert landscape. The sun would rise from the eastern horizon, cut its way across the empty sky, and sink below the western horizon. This was the only perceptible change in our surroundings. And in the movement of the sun, I felt something I hardly know how to name: some huge, cosmic love.

It's a wonderful thing to be able to separate from the physical. Its the path to a greater, richer sense of the physical.

And I'm stopping here, I have quite a few things wanted to speak about but they'll have to wait.

Camera Obscura

Schiele's Autumn Trees

Pardon me while I unfurl two weeks' worth of collected thoughts.

I spent this afternoon in the park, walking from the Met up to the 110th street barrier. It's much quieter in the north end of the park. The runners are still out and there are certainly groups of people wandering, but nothing at all like the procession of faces further down. I found myself atop a rocky hill, actually hearing the few remaining leaves rustle as little birds danced about in the bushes and the wind continued on its way. I sat for a while above the Conservatory Gardens, high up on the hill, and closed my eyes.

I need that sort of quiet, to feel something else sweep by me, to feel the sensation of expanding outward and diffusing a little. The paradox is that once I lose myself a little, relax my grip on the now, everything sharpens and my mind starts to move again. I wonder if this is the feeling that accompanies meditation (which I am rarely successful at). After recharging a little and feeling my senses sharpen and become more responsive, I hurried down the hills to the almost bare garden.

I had never been there before and felt, much like I had at Fort Tryon Park, a sense of astonishment that there weren't more people here. It was beautiful in its cold, grey austerity. There were some tenacious, bright flowers still blooming, but the majority of the garden had settled into its winter garb: dark, snaking boughs, heavy green foliage, and a plethora of seeds. There were grass seeds, the fuzzy-feathered tufts meant to be carried by gusts, there were hard shells, opened up into hollow chambers from which seeds had been plucked by birds, and there were my favorites, the wisteria pods. These, if you are not familiar with them, have a velvety case and an elongated shape. They hang straight down from the twisted grey vines of the wisteria plant, alongside the remaining leaves which, at this time of the year, turn a brilliant yellow color. The effect was spectacular, especially with the late afternoon sun lending a fuzzy aura to each dangling seed case.

Schiele's Fuschias


There are cats in these gardens as well, at least that's what one of the caretakers told me as he placed a fresh tin of cat food beneath a hedge of yew.

Wandering as I did this afternoon brought something into clear focus for me; I wrote a little (finally) on Murakami last night. And in doing so, I found the following passage and realized the true effect that this book had on me.

Murakami is trying to show what it means to lose the physical; he does this by a variety of methods (important, as the way one loses the physical is accomplished in a variety of ways), two of which are through graphic descriptions of sexual and violent encounters. And while I'm normally not very good with either sort of graphic descriptions, his had the effect of making me very aware of the physical, and of how unaware, or numb, I had been before the scene.

So in a sense, he plays with the reader, lulling with a myriad of stories from incredible characters, and a twisty, fantastic plot, and then throwing these passages which are like those firecrackers that explode and leave a film of color spiderwebbing across your eyes.

All the while, he is writing about the necessity of detachment. In order for Toru to find his cat and then Kumiku, he must step outside of himself, outside of the action of his life, and peer closely at the workings of it, the wind-up mechanics of fate and action. Toru does this by climbing down into the well and shutting himself off from all distraction. He brings everything to focus on himself, on the sensation which, with nothing else to engage him, becomes overwheming. The feel of a soggy shoe, or of a scrape on the cheek, the smell of earth and his own body--these become his world. He places himself in a context where the boundary between "reality" and [what to call the opposition? illusion/ truth/ magic?], where that boundary fuzzes out until it can be permeated.

Another character describes a different method, something I think I'm more familiar with. Where Toru's method of separating from the physical can be seen as a concentration of sensation until the sheer pressure of sensation causes the mind to pull itself back from the physical, the Lieutenant's description is of the diffusion of the mind until the physical no longer feels so close:

Sometimes, when one is moving silently through such an utterly desolate landscape, an overwhelming hallucination can make one feel that oneself, an individual human being, is slowly coming unraveled. The surrounding space is so vast that it becomes increasingly difficult to keep a balanced grip on one's own being. The mind swells out to fill the entire landscape, becoming so diffuse in the process that one loses the ability to keep it fastened to the
physical self. That is what I experienced in the midst of Mongolian steppe. How vast it was! It felt more like an ocean than a desert landscape. The sun would rise from the eastern horizon, cut its way across the empty sky, and sink below the western horizon. This was the only perceptible change in our surroundings. And in the movement of the sun, I felt something I hardly know how to name: some huge, cosmic love.

It's a wonderful thing to be able to separate from the physical. Its the path to a greater, richer sense of the physical.

And I'm stopping here, I have quite a few things wanted to speak about but they'll have to wait.