Monday, January 10, 2011

ORDINARY TIME

BAPTISM OF CHRIST
ANDREA DEL VERROCCHIO, 1470s
I have taken down the Christmas decorations—so sad!

But around my room are bowls of camellias from bushes that are possibly as old as the house in which I'm living, which means they date back to the 1920’s. I am constantly out in the back yard, peering among the branches to observe that day's new blooms, trying to identify some of the many varieties. Double red camellias, snow white camellias, baby pink camellias (Debutante?”), white with pink stripes (“Extravaganza?”) Adolpe Audusson camellias: the buds as tight and hard as filberts, then day by day unfurling to reveal the tips of the petals arranged in a thrilling spiral.

photo: pbase.com/etfitz
Sometimes I feel like my life is one long, recurring cycle: deep solitude, segueing into the pain and isolation of too much solitude, segueing into the seemingly always fresh, always new discovery: People! What have I been thinking, I need more people in my life, more room for people!

Followed by a flurry of social activity, segueing into the restlessness and unease of too much “people,” followed by the seemingly always fresh, always new discovery: I’m a solitary! What was I thinking? I can’t both write and have a social life. Followed by…

SAGRADA FAMILIA, BARCELONA,  SPAIN
ANTONI GAUDÍ 
I have been working hard and Saturday “made” myself stay in bed till 3, reading, looking up every few pages to stare into space, reflect, and/or admire my camellias.

A pile of old New Yorkers: beautiful review by Jill Lepore of Isabel Wilkerson’s  The Warmth of Other Sons: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. 

The final years of the letters of Dorothy Day: even Day was a "prophet without honor in her own country," one of her biggest sorrows being that her only child, Tamar, turned her back on the Church, as did most of her many grandchildren.

An article in the November, 2010 Traces by Davide Perillo about architect Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926)  and the Sacrada Familia (Holy Family) church in Barcelona upon which construction began on March 19, 1882 and continues to this day.

The way Gaudí found the answer to the design for the interior columns by studying the tree outside his bedroom window...

HYPERBOLOID CEILING
"GAUDÍ STUDIED FOR YEARS BEFORE BEING ABLE
TO FINISH A COLUMN THAT AVOIDED USING BUTTRESSSES"

Insectopedia—"A stunningly original exploration of the ties that bind us to the beautiful, ancient, astoundingly accomplished, largely unknown, and unfathomably different species with whom we share the world"—by Hugh Raffles:

“As a child, [Jean Henri] Fabre [1823-1915, the great French entomologist] had been deeply impressed by La Fontaine’s Fables, though less by their moral complexity and social satire than by their ability to make the natural world serve as a vehicle of moral instruction. Nature was everywhere and at every turn offered occasion for inquiry and education. Insects, especially, were around every corner and beneath every footstep. And so were their secrets. Insects struggled, they triumphed, they failed. Their lives were full of drama both epic and homespun; they had personalities, desires, preferences, habits, and fears. Indeed, their lives were much like his own”…

I once let a giant cockroach (or maybe it was a palmetto bug) live under my toaster for a month because I felt he was lonely...

I lay there for awhile longer. And then I got up, went into the kitchen, and very quietly, very attentively, washed the dishes.
DETAIL OF JOHN THE BAPTIST
BAPTISM OF CHRIST
ANDREA DEL VERROCCHIO

4 comments:

  1. When heat or rain drive them inside, I kill whole colonies of little black ants with a borax-laced nectar. This causes me no inner conflict, since my cottage is tiny and the colonies relentless in their invasions. I want them out, pronto.

    But the individual ants arouse far softer feelings. I love their almost human gestures of assessment and hesitation. Perhaps someday we'll know what they know, which may well unsettle us.

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  2. So Heather, basically, it sounds like you stayed in bed and meditated, right? :)

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  3. In 1980, a nun gave me a box of old New Yorkers. I first got in the habit of finding the Roger Angell pieces on baseball--typically, there were two or three a year, but always one in the spring and always one summarizing the season. That was the year also that a great work by a Swiss author named Max Frisch appeared in the publication. The work, which appeared in its entirety, was called Man in the Holocene, to great critical acclaim. Frisch is almost unknown now.

    The New Yorker's fiction side, however, changed quite a bit when editors fled Tina Brown from 1992-1996. It hasn't really recovered.

    On another fiction note, I see Gore Vidal's novel Washington, D.C. made a flavorpill list of top novels about cities. But that is completely the high point of this very uneven list.

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  4. That is just it: "their almost human gestures of assessment and hesitation." That is why I kept my lone cockroach! And yet in larger numbers, and even in the end, with one, we seem to have no compunction in wiping them out.

    Raffles quotes Elias Canetti, who described insects as "outlaws," and who observed:

    "The destruction of these tiny creatures is the only act of violence which remains unpunished even within us. Their blood does not stain our hands, for it does not remind us of our own. We never look into their glazing eyes...They have never--at least not amongst us in the West--had the benefit of our growing, if not very effective, concern for life."

    Yes, someday we will know more...about ourselves, about the insects...and my sense is we will be very surprised...

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