Usually I don't feel my age. But I can honestly say that watching three children, well fueled with sweets, excited by a variety of new toys and surrounded by rooms full of admiring adults, is very tiring. The kids are charming, adorable and all that ... but very loud, energetic and hyped on Christmas, that is to say from the morning/breakfast gathering when the gifts were opened, until evening when dinner was served. They had a nap in the afternoon that renewed their energy while adults simply wilted -- or this one did.
I'm glad Christmas is over. I'm especially glad that my favorite radio station WFCC the classical station will no stop playing all those Christmas medlies and go back to their somewhat excessively baroque music. I'm glad the crowds at the various stores will thin out. And glad it will be another year before this madness hits again. Christmas comes but once a year -- how fortunate!
The longest night has passed. The Sun is reborn in Capricorn.
At 7: 30 this morning I could just see the sun beginning to rise orange in the southeast. The first day of summer and hereafter the days will begin to get longer, although that won't be obvious for a couple of weeks. As the poem above says, "the longest night has passed, the sun is reborn in Capricorn).
We are children of the Earth, of the weather, of where we are. The solstice is an earth-wide phenomenon, but is different part of the world, of course. Being in touch with the earthly events that are regular and are far older, far larger, far more important than our little concerns is important. How many stop to think about the turning of the seasons?
For twenty-one years I lived in the Midwest. Sometimes I read about great painters who sought "the light" in places like Greece. I had no idea what they were talking about. Then I went to Greece. On the island of Aegina I saw "the light" and recognized that it was very different than the landlocked light I knew.
Now I live on Cape Cod and I often gaze with astonishment at the light. Yesterday I went with a group to Provincetown, that little finger of land at the end of the arm that is the penisula of Cape Cod. A wintery day, with sun and clouds and the LIGHT! The top picture was taken from Franisi's the favorite local restaurant where we had lunch. This was my view, up the inside beach as it curled toward the end of land. The tide is out -- when it's high it covers all that sand
Between crab cake BLT sandwich, Bloody Mary, delicious fries and that view, I was enchanted. It was all the better that I was with a wonderful group of women who had so many topic to talk about.
The second picture is the kind of light that often entrances me late in the afternoon as I sit here at my computer looking eastward but watching how the light strikes the clouds and makes brilliant patterns
This semester at ALL in my writing course one of the class members is an art curator (retired) who wrote an essay about Edward Hopper. She went to the Metropolitan Museum over Thanksgiving and studied Hopper's paintings from both Cape Cod and of an urban (NYC?) perspective. She discovered that his city paintings actually have Cape Cod skies (light). She explained his techniques and the colors he used (she knew because she, too, paints) NYC has some of the light reflected from the water but it also has the city's pollution. I've seen the lucent light at about 4:00 on a winter afternoon in NYC. But Cape Cod light is very special. Part of the reason I dislike these gray winter days is because the light is not the radiance I love.
It's Beethoven's birthday! Maybe it was yesterday because he was baptized on the 17th and that was usually the day after a birth. It makes no difference, what matters is his music. Music that no one else could write. I'm not a musicologist just a music lover. I was listening in a particularly thoughtful mood one day last summer and felt I had discovered something that told me he never wrote anything that did not have a particularly strong pulse -- a heart beat, a footstep and that no one else had that particular underlying life force. This may not be a new idea but it was a strong feeling that I had identified what is totally true at the heart of everything he wrote.
Recently my daughter Leslie requested a new CD of the Pastoral -- Symphony #6 -- it's her go-to music when life seems difficult. I didn't know that my frequent listening to Beethoven when she was growing up had that effect. I love the symphonies, the piano concertos, many of the piano sonatas, the quartets. Last night "my" radio station, the local classical music station, WFCC, played the violin concerto. On my first trek in the Himalayas I took a little CD player and just a couple of CDs because I was limited to a not very heavy -=--- so I took only Mahler's First Symphony and Beethovan's Violin Concerto. Alone in my tent, before falling asleep -- tired but exhilarated to be in a great pasture at Thenbeoche Monastery with Everest less than 20 miles away on the horizon, those two pieces of music seemed the most appropriate possible in that setting ... that and, the next day, a folk song all the local Sherpa people were singing for their harvest festival.
Parents love dressing the little ones in adult clothing -- it makes sense, of course, when they're going to church or some fairy formal event. Here's Cole on his third birthday, "a little man" completely with hat and tie and vest. Yesterday we had a small family dinner yesterday for him and his Dad who also had a birthday this week.
I get a little nervous about children being pushed to be little adults although, I admit, I appreciate when they are taught manners, which Cole's mother attempts with all three. (He's the middle child -- his big brother is definitely learning to be pleasant at the dinner table; his little sister is an untamed cutie and no one minds at a year and a half. In fact, we all smile). It was pleasing to see that after Cole happily opened the package I brought with a Pooh Bear, he did not relinquish Pooh while gladly accepting a couple of action figures from the Spiderman series.
Children are being given these action toys at a very young age. I think sociologists probably have weighed in on what is becoming of childhood but I haven't read it, just speaking from a gut feeling because I happen to dislike all those toys that are based on cartoon series and have a narrative about "getting" the bad guy...or, it seems, most any guy. I suppose it's the role of a grand -- well great-grandmother to bemoan a loss of innocence. And it bothers me all the more that the action dolls are given by a grandparent who has had a lifelong fascination with toy soldiers, and such "typical" masculine matters. He is a peaceful man ... so what am I to think about this continuation of the macho interests?
Here it is the middle (almost) of December. We have had a whole week of gray skies, often spewing heavy rain, or sometimes just drizzling, even simply very wet and very foggy, but all gray, gray, gray. Today the sun was out all morning. The fifty-mile an hour winds were gone, even the slight breeze was a sometime thing. I did some errands in the morning and realized that that this was an opportunity, the first in about two weeks, possibly the last in just as long, to go walk on the beach. So I did. The beach was as serene as the new header photo.
How beautiful it was, one person in the distance, later a couple of dog walkers -- prints on the hard packed sand that sneaker-clad people with medium sized dogs had been there. Mostly I was alone with the blue of sky -- where cotton wool cumulus clouds floated like duvet stuffing -- and the deeper blue of the mile-wide harbor (cove, whatever the proper designation is). The relative quiet was lovely, the small tide rolling in, folding on itself at the shoreline, allowing a few gulls to ride up and down on its gentle waves, rolling the shoreline scatter of small shells each time it rushed a short distance up the sand. Fortune had put a nice log at the highest tide line, near the bleached marsh grasses, where I could sit comfortably (without my tush on the wet sand) and listen to the waves, watch the blues of sea and sky and think about nothing of any importance. If I had been inclined I could have attempted to clear my mind. But I'm rarely so inclined. I did the tai chi routine this morning in the living room. Had I not done that I would have planted my feet firmly and gone through the routine then -- I thought about it -- but I also just wanted to be quiet, watching a couple of people with their pairs of dogs meandering up the beach toward me.
Lovely! MY beach that I was willingly sharing -- or so it seemed. Moving my legs, planting my feet in the soft top layer of sand, watching the changing clouds. I hope there'll be more almost warm days this winter. Usually there are. And I'll take advantage of them whenever I can. I am given gifts and I believe in unwrapping them, enjoying them immediately.
I've had the pleasure of an email correspondence with a multitalented woman -- an American who happens to be married to a Swedish man and lives in Sweden. She is the most prolific poet I've ever met (virtually or in the flesh) -- thoughts flow from her pen day after day and it's got to be poetry rather than some other genre because she is as much a musician as a poet. I think the music came first -- back in her teenage years.
Arlene Corwin is a jazz musician as well as a poet and, in fact, actively engages a life that seems almost pure creativity. She recently turned 80 and gave a concert. You can see by clicking here. This is a wonderful musician or what? I'm sure it's her music and her poetry and her beloved husband that keeps her so young and beautiful and vital. I'm very much in favor of music in one's life -- whatever music gives you the most pleasure.
I was probably 12 or 13 when I discovered women's fashion magazines. I've been hooked ever since. Even now when all the models are far, far younger than I, I look at the pictures both of the fashions and of the hairstyles. In the last several years I've been horrified by the very high, spiky heels that I wouldn't even think of wearing -- what are men designers trying to do to women? Give them the illusion of being taller than many men while crippling them, ruining their feet, making running impossible -- is that a sneaky, down right nefarious thing to do to women? Why are they putting up with it?
I've been pleased to see that skirt lengths are arbitrary. Women have choices for skirts from ones that barely cover the buttocks to ones that sweep the street. Good. I see a lot of long skirts these days and not so very many short ones except in the summer when it makes sense. I'm noteing that practically all dresses, blouses and sweater have low necklines or are unfastened way down to there and everyone in the magazines seems not to need or simply not to wear (bras). Well, I guess that's all right but I'm very certain bra sales have not dipped appreciably, at least among those who are over, say, 25.
Today I'm thinking about hair because I saw an article in the style section of today's newspaper saying that a messy, loose single braid of hair is THE look to wear with formal gowns to parties this coming season. You gotta be kidding! I thought. The hair was even messier than the top right and bottom left dos in the picture I've added here. I know too that very straight hair is in style and women are using straightening irons. (I have a long enough memory to think "been there.") Straight hair is not particularly attractive and does nothing to flatter most faces. Messy hair, like the bottom left picture, simply looks like she doesn't care and suggests--which may be the purpose--that she just got out of bed and stuck some kind of clip in her hair.
At the moment I'm unhappy with my hair and dithering about whether to get it cut or let it grow some more. I've always disliked the cliche that older women with gray hair should keep it short. Yet short is easy and usually attractive. But cliches suggest all these women are slaves to fashion. However the older women I know may be more slaves to their salons and stylists than to fashion themselves. Most of us are by no means slaves to fashion otherwise. We've discovered the kind of clothes we are comfortable in and that fit our lifestyle -- which is largely casual as most of my contemporaries are retired.
That brings up another subject I'll touch only lightly. The women I see (and this is Cape Cod, not a fashion center at all!! very New England) are often in jeans and fleece, certainly this time of year. Me too. I never would have imagined I'd have a wardrobe of jeans at this age but I do and I'm comfortable. Fleece is a wonderful textile invention for these temperate climates. I'm very fond of some species of fleece. Unlike a great many of my contemporaries I draw the line at sneakers. I'm fond of moccasin style flat shoes and only wear sneakers for serious walking. For many older women sneakers are their every day wear. Fine, and many of them have foot and knee problems which makes sneakers a good choice -- far more attractive (well, let's say interesting) than those awful old lady shoes of my mother's day. My feet and knees have held up well, so I don't NEED sneakers.
Well, that's it for my run down of the current fashions. I'll leave the matter of skin care and make up for some other time. And I have no idea what I'm going to do about my hair, but I do know that the messy styles simple make me feel slovenly. I'm not turning in my comb and brush -- ever!
I thought of listing yesterday's headline which were dire. But I had a generally pleasant day, personally, so I didn't make note of them. Today has been a bit more fraught, and I just got home, read the NYTimes on line and here are many of today's headlines:
Inquiry Cites Abuse by Cleveland Police
Putin Tells Naton Russia's Destiny is in (his) Hand
Vatican Finds Stash (hundreds of millions of euros) Tucked Away
Dozen Die in Wave of Car Blasts in Iraq
Few options for Homeless as City (San Jose) Clears Camp
Uber Adds a Billion Dollars More to it's Coffer
Agreement Now on Extensions of Terrorism Issues
Strong Voice on Fast-Food Fight for $15 an Hour
So much to take in and deal with and think about but Donald Brooks takes a sanguine view towards we seniors who sigh over the headines: Elder happiness is an accomplishment, not a condition. People get stadily better at living by handling life's chalenges.
And I say, We damned well better.
The headlines change every day of course, but the bad news outweighs the good and as many elders are apt to say, it looks like the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
I have been meditating on the picture of Stella and wrote a poem that I will take to my poetry class today. I'll be interested in the reaction -- which may very likely be no reaction because most people write less wonderingly, more descriptively about nature and every day life.
The speech was only six minutes long, it was spoken slowly and with pauses. Ursual LeGuin spoke upon receiving the National Book Award. A fantasy writer, for the most part, she is by no means out of touch with what's going on in the world -- the world of publishing, the world of capitalism where the sales departments sometimes have editorial sway.
She said, ”We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine
right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human
beings. Resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our
art—the art of words.”
I have been feeling, thinking, despairing because it seems to me that capitalism is a force impossible to combat -- no one seems to be trying and no one can do it alone. I'm sure that my feelings about the ugliness of capitalism's power in American, and in the world, as everything is seen in terms of financial worth, are not mine alone. I SO much hope there are many writers out there just as fearful as I am. LeGuin referred, indirectly but very obviously, to the tug of war between Amazon and Hachette that has, perhaps been resolved.
It's wonderful to hear a quiet, reasoned voice say that capitalism can go the way of the divine rights of kings. The world needs a philosophy far more humane than the profit motive, far more attuned to the ecological disaster the world is headed into. Perhaps I can allow myself to be a little bit hopeful -- it's a new thought for me.
Stella is likely to become my "cover girl" with occasional photos posted here. Yes, you guessed it, she's my great-granddaughter and her mother, granddaughter Cori, takes an interesting variety of photos of Stella and her two equally photogenic older brothers. I love this pensive pose -- it's not snow in which she sits barefooted, it's the fine white sand of a Cape Cod beach. I feel such occasional photos of a great-grand child is a great-grandmother's prerogative.
Over the the last two days I've enjoyed such quality entertainment it simply solidifies my sense of doing very, very well without TV. I'm currently taking a film course at the Academy for Lifelong Learning called Wit of the Brits. In this case wit isn't limited to comedy. Yesterday's film was The Madness of King George, based on fact about George III (played by brilliantly by Nigel Hawthorne, who, incidentally in his sad, thoughtful moments looked a lot like Prince Charles to me). I saw it in the late '90s when it was new and truly enjoyed seeing it again. All the performanes are wonderful, including a then not well known Helen Miran as his queen -- the first of a series of roles as Britsh queens in which she has excelled. The harsh treatment of George was experimental and possibly kind at the time. His illness would have abated it seems, as it was porphyria.
In the evening I went to a monthly gathering called Blithe Spirits where the somewhat changing group bring poems and short plays to read. We had 17 people which is twice the usual group and heard many short pieces. The second half was the first act of The Bald Soprano, a play I've been wanting to have them read. I printed a copy from the Net and found a book of Ionesco plays at a used book store and someone else found a copy at a library. It's a hilarious surreal farce and was given a very decent cold reading -- which I was not involved in so I could just enjoy it.
This afternoon I went to a simulcast from the Metropolitan Opera of The Barber or Seville which is my favorite comic opera because of the richness of the music (although some numbers are repeated a few more times than seems absolutely necessary). Bartlett Sher did the stage direction. At the height of a fine career as a director of stage comedy he crammed in every possible comic effect from prat falls to wonderful facial expressions by all the singer at all times.They were always in character. The bel canto singing was as delicious as sweetened whipped cream
So much quality entertainment in so short a time is almost too much. But I'm bearing up admirably.
And looking forward to an evening of quiet reading.
I know a man who will not, and never has, read fiction because "it's not true." Well, it's "fiction", duh! I have not retorted -- but it's on the tip of my tongue -- that the scientific papers he reads and the opinion/review articles (as in New York Review of Books) he reads often are not "true" either. Scientific papers are disputed all the time and many are highly misleading, (which is to say, far from"true"). Reviews and essays are opinions, they cannot be taken as "true" beyond their author's expertise and beliefs.
Any lover of literature knows that the best fiction shows truth in a non-didactic way, often in a very entertaining way, and just as often involving our emotions and taking us into truths we recognize but would not have been likely to see otherwise. I'm pondering the two movies I wrote about in the previous post, one I felt was very untrue and one very true (although it showed a truth of human nature, i.e., Fletcher's sadism, I have not seen and hope never to see in reality). Yesterday two more untruths in fiction bothered me. I saw the weekly foreign film, Today's Special, full of unlikely characters and events. Frequently the flow of scenes reeked of Screenwriting 101; each scene added on, often exaggerated, to build a story to it's entirely expected end. Story and characters were so depthless, it was utterly untrue. The woman who introduced the film remarked that it was "forgettable" -- indeed.
In the evening I finished reading Bel Canto by Anne Patchett which I would not have bought from the Goodwill store if it didn't have a printed on stamp "Winner Pen/Faulkner Award). How bad could it be? Not quite as bad as either of the films. The premise: a terrorist kidnapping at a party in the home of the vice president of an unnamed South American country where, after four months of standoff, both terrorists and guests act as if they're at a vacation resort, people fall in love, alliances are formed, the terrorist leaders are totally indolent. The story devolves and the author's ability to imagine either the leader's deep frustration or effect of boredom on the prisoners becomes bearable only because after the midpoint of the book she fouses on love stories. A waste of several evenings of reading time. And the final short chapter is a disaster of ridicluousness.
All the above are opinions, of course, which doesn't make them any more "true" than the fictions I don't like -- except, for me they are factual because they illustrate what I seek in fiction and how disappointed I am when I find that mediocrity has been give an important prize.
Whiplash is essential a two-character movie, the young, aspiring drummer and the violent, demanding, deceitful, possibly diabolical teacher who pushes the young man to the point of being abusive -- as, finally the young man's father realizes. The film finally asks if this is the way to unlock the passionate needs of a talented artist. It is an old question, it seems to be answered positively -- although not with out much negativity.
The film doesn't offer much nuance in this duel and I hope there will be much discussion about the validity of the premise. As a film it is dynamic, has enough of Andy's family (really just his father), and just enough humanizing of the tyranical teacher, Fletcher, to keep us enthralled. Finally, who can't fall for this kind of story? Andy has the talent and in the long final scene overcomes the diabolical trickery of Fletcher to thrill the theatre audience and even the cold hearted Fletcher. Finally it is the age-old quest story, the young knight overcomes the forces of against evil and prevails.
Recently I saw the other much talked about art film now showing, Birdman. A very different film, a different kind of dementia at play. In Birdman a has-been actor, schizophrenic. The script was wildly imaginative, untterly unbelievable, messy, violent and self-deluded. The reviewers feel more positively. I don't believe a minute of this movie and it doesn't raise any new questions. I know actors/writers/directors can be ego driven to the point of insanity -- but they don't manage to get their indulgences on Broadway. The whole script seems a fantasy, not only his flying sequences. Whiplash left me with a head full of music (albeit not a kind of music I normally listen to) while Birdman left me wondering at the sick egos we are told inhabit the theatre -- which I think is vastly overblown.
Prompts are meant to trigger memories and stories for writers. In my poetry class a couple of weeks ago the prompt for the next week was "letting go". This is a class full of older individuals -- and I do mean individuals, usually less than half the class actually write to the prompt. Other poetic subjects are on their minds. But several did write to the prompt, including me. My thought upon hearing the words was immediately about the often unrecognized moment of letting go that is drifting into sleep. And the corrolary of being unable to turn off the day's concerns and sleep -- a subject written about by a woman in my writing class (no prompt given) who described her methods for inducing sleep: deep breathing, mantas, etc.
I offered the prompt a small, informal writing group that formed over the summer. We are all women, all of retirement age with a wide variety of backgrounds. Six of us met yesterday and read our letting go experiences. At this age everyone has let go of man things, children leaving home, mariages, parents dying, dreams, resentments, disappointments. As I've always found in groups, especially women, but also men (in their own masculine way which is nearly always different than for women) there is an surprisingly deep openness and sharing that goes beyond what is written. Others speak of their experiences of that particular kind of letting go, the writer may explain more of the percipitating events. An emotional closeness becomes a gauzy bubble around the group. A usually unspoken (but sometimes plainly stated, especially in groups of men and women) guideline pertains: "what's said in this room, stays in this room." Everyone respects one another's vulnerability that made the sharing possible.
I think this kind of openness happens in support groups, in AA groups, and perhaps others. As a writer, I feel that a group of writers (some new to writing, most wannabes, some experieneed), delve deeply to find the right words -- have the time to think through what they are writing. This can't happen in spontaneous discussions. I find myself leaving such gatherings touched by others experiences. My own perceptions are deepened. I know how rarely deeply felt experiences are discussed among friends, and how wonderful that such groups often are made up of people who barely know one another ... but after a few weeks of sharing writing, actually know one another better than they know long time acquaintances. Rather than an immediate need to share a problem as in the support groups, these writers are usually people with the equanimity to look at past experiences and explore them for new insights.
I am grateful to the woman who brought the group together, that is a special talent. The classes I teach are self-selected. They sign up for a 12-week course. They are not obliged to attend, it is not a school per se. The group I'm writing about has a different dynamic. I'm very happy to be an equal, looking inward for what a prompt means to me.
"November -- the word suggest chilly, gray days, rain, spitting snow, maybe a little sleet, occasionally an early snow storm. November is not an inviting thought. But that does November a disservice. November is not so different than we septagenarians. So far, in thirteen days, we've had a nasty nor-easter, and this week three beautiful warm days with gentle sun and no chilling breeze at all. Mellow -- that's the word for November so far, well, mellow with moments of fierce reminders that far worse will come when winter really begins.
I know people like that -- well, honestly I feel like that. I have just written a found poem from today's newspaper that is in the fierce mode, called "Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid" a report about drones as weapons that, not in the future, but today, strike targets based only on data in their software -- without human intervention. The deadly weapon chooses a target "efficiently" says the article. Yes, and the atom bomb that destroyed Hiroshima was efficient too, I think. It's scary and I am afraid of weapons like drones. We WILL have wars in this century -- worse wars than we witnessed in the past century -- as surely as we will have at least one blizzard this coming winter. I am very afraid for the world and for many people I will never meet in parts of the world I will never visit. I am afraid of the weapons industry and the men who strive for "efficiency".
That's the harsh side. But there is a warm side. Rachel and I walked around Hathaway's pond (stopping a moment to look at the rippling water from this vantage point) early yesterday morning. It was a quiet, 50 degree morning. The path was carpeted with fallen leaves. We had much to catch up on since we're both busy with our various commitments. It was a lovely walk. At one place where the path went downhill steeply, we looked at the leaf-covered slope and she said to me, "Be careful, shuffle down. There are roots and rocks." I knew that. I did wish I'd brought my trekking pole because I have a small fear of falling. But I knew in that instant that she is very aware of my age and was as a thoughtful and dutiful daughter caring for me. That was very kind; and it was (maybe not the first) hint that someone is taking care of me as I grow older. I had no difficulty on the slope but I'm aware that the next time I walk around that pond (which I sometimes do alone), I will have with me both my trekking pole and my cell phone. I don't stumble and fall, I am sure footed, but I am too old to take foolish chances. So my experience of the good autumn days, beautiful, serene is nevertheless mixed as is November. The season is advancing, my age is advancing, it's a fact, simply that. I have no fears about winter but, of course, I have warm home and someone else will remove the snow. I have adequate clothing and I have always appreciated the beauty of winter's snow. I like taking walks after winter storms - that leads to other timely thoughts.
Wednesday the documentary about Phillipe Petit's tightrope walk between the World Trade Center Twin Towers was shown again. This film fills me with happiness. It was beautifully made, telling the story of how Petit saw a newspaper article about the not-yet-built twin towers while he was in a dentist's office and immediately wanted to walk between them. He began practicing, kept tabs on the progress of the buildings and finally gathered a team of people, some of whom were strangers to him, to make it possible to sneak in, rig up the wire -- all sureptitiously, and then do it -- walking back and forth for 45 minutes, lying down on the wire. The feat is astonishing. But what's happifying is the man's joie de vivre, his need to accomplish something so exciting, so astonishing. He went into another zone when he stepped on the wire, he proved that it is possible to overcome our natural fear of death. His rational mind knew that he could die, until the moment he had both feet on the wire, and then he went into a different state of mind. This was a work of art. Some people in the audience did not undertstand that it was. One bone headed man spoke of how his sneaking in suggested how easy it is for terrorists to foil guards. It was not about that. The whole movie was about human achievement.
It's a period of different weather every day. Also since the clocks have been reset I will see beautiful dawn skies. This one is all cloud although I love that the lower bank of clouds look like snow capped mountains.
We're had heavy rain, and then warmish sunny days. It will continue this way probably through most or all of November. Perhaps more dynamic than usual because of climate change.
It's the golden week. We have one in the spring -- the week all the forsythia suddenly burst into bloom and it seems every house has it's golden decorations. That's sometime in April.
In the autumn we have a golden week too, when all the trees that have leaves that turn yellow or gold seem to have turned all at once. Then every walkway, every drive along a tree-lined street is golden. Most golden, of course, when the sun is shining. But the gold and yellow are so brilliant even the rainy, gray days become lighted with color. This is week is IT and I'll be driving in it around noon as I was yesterday.
At a gathering last weekend, where we read poetry and plays, I chose to read James Whitcomb Riley's "When the Frost is on the Punkin" -- a poem I grew up with, being a Hoosier like Riley, and speaking the dialect in which he wrote it. I'm not sure the exact date when it was written but it's pushing 100 years ago. Growing up in a very rural area I knew what he refers to but I asked the group sitting in a very modern home on a misty lake if they knew what a "shock" is. Educated guesses approached it but no one knew corn shocks were once common in the fields as shocks of wheat were. I explained that I remember my father cutting the corn stalks after the ears had been harvested, and standing them in shocks until the field was cut and they could be taken to the barn.
They became "fodder", something else my city-bred contemporaries did not know -- food for cows and pigs in the winter as was hay. Nor did they have a picture of the corn's dried tassels of which Riley writes. Sometimes I think my memories contain a complete mechanical revolution. I have been working on a poem that says so. Maybe I'll post it tomorrow. For now here are the first two of the four stanzas of the poem.
No one writes dialog in English better than an English writer. I just saw Skylight by David Hare, one England's very best playwrights who perhaps writes dialog even better than Tom Stoppard (who after all is not a native English speaker -- but brilliant all the same). This was a National Theatre Live showing, not a simulcast but a live performance with Esther Freud as the intermission ineterviewer talking to David Hare about this reprise of hin 1996 play.
This is a love story, of its own sort, one of the few plays Hare has written with just three people on stage in an intimate drama. He has written much that is historic and politica. This play is political too but mainly personal. The dialog is brilliantly delivered (as directed by Stephen Daldry). Bill Nighy plays the one time lover, whose wife has died and who is ready to reignite a love affairs with a woman who walked away and totally changed her way of life. The man is a selfish shit as is said many times, not only by his ex-lover but by his son who visits also. Bill Nighy played the same role in the first production in 1996. He is a brilliant actor; it was a wonderful performance (and he wore a magnificently elegant bespoke suit and coat), but I couldn't help thinking he must have been so much more appropriately cast 18 years ago. He is well into his 70s and emaciated. I couldn't help thinking if they were reprising a play with a woman in such a role she wouldn't stand a chance of being recast 18 years later. Men can get away with being sexy at that age but not women.
Carrie Mulligan was wonderful. Although I enjoyed all the brilliant repartee, I was not truly satisfied with the ending. Feminist that i am, I nevertheless did not want her to cling to her high minded teacherly vocation, and I wanted her to be more truly loving of Nighy's very flawed (often insufferable - although enormously clever) persona. But that's my feeling. I guess I still believe "amour omni vincit". It was a wonderful production and brilliantly acted.
Never could I have imagined when I moved to Cape Cod I could enjoy so many first rate performances -- opera, theatre, dance as are on the agenda for this season at the local art movie house, the Dennis Cinema -- all live, simulcasts. I skipped the fall's first Met Opera simulcast, Verdi's MacBeth, but went to today's Nozzi de Figaro (Mozart). I was aware that the dated form of farce would be tiresome but I went because I realized, although I've heard it often on radio broadcasts, I had not seen it on stage since I was 17. It was the first opera I ever saw and that was way back when I was in Cincinnati for my first summer of office temping, and went to the outdoor opera at the Cincinnati zoo. Of course there was no such thing a subtitles at the time and, although I read the plot, I didn't understand anything but the sight jokes and Mozart's brilliant arias. Today's broadcast had good subtitles, the usual intermission features, a cast of mostly non-American singers I had never heard of although all had Met-level voices and James Levine was conducting his 75th Nozzi de Figaro.
The future holds eight more operas of which I will probably go to five, certainly to the Meistersinger von Nurnberg (Wagner) which I have wanted to see ever since I first heard it back in my teen years of listening to the Saturday broadcasts.
Besides the Met simulcasts, there well be, for the first time here, four ballets from the Bolshoi that Rachel and I look forward to with excitement. And the list of National Theatre Live broadcasts starts this coming Thursday with Skylight by David Hyde - a play new to me. I skipped their Streetcar Named Desire and will skip the Mice and Men -- fine plays but far too familiar to see again unless some major star were in them. Add to this stunning array of things to see, the high level of art films at the same theater, the weekly foreign film series at the college and the documentary series I've been attending. So who needs a TV? Not me. All of that rounds out my reading in a very nice way. Plus we have here on Cape Cod a very respectable symphony orchestra and occasionally fine theatre at the Cotuit Center for the Arts. All of these are affordable as such really are not in New York City. Oh, and sometimes there are fairly good art shows both here and in Boston.
Philosophically I want to prefer books written by women. But, from childhood, I found the conversations of men more interesting than that of women. Not that, in childhood, any family conversation was very interesting to me: women about garden, cooking and canning, men about crops and weather but occasionally about politics. Ours was not a story telling family; really, I found most family conversation uninteresting.
Studying literature, of course, most of the writers were men, probably 99% of them. Then came Feminism and books by women that told me about the world I lived in. Mostly nonfiction but I found some wonderful women writing fiction too, Doris Lessing, Iris Murdock, Eudora Welty, Mary Lee Settle, not so many as there were men. But things have changed and now women seem to take up about half the space on the new books tables. A good thing.
In the past couple of weeks I've read two novels by women, Tracy Chevalier's Virgin Blue and Anita Desai's Zigzag. Strangely their essential plot line is the same: aimless mate in a foreign country where husband/wife are deep into their own career so the aimless one begins researching his/her family's connection to the area only to find unpleasant facts. Strange to hit upon the same plot in a random way! At the same time I've picked up a fat book containing six of Jim Harrison'a Brown Dog (title story) novellas. I had read the first Brown Dog story and never forgot it's strongest image, a drowned and frozen Indian deep in Lake Superior.
It bothers me a little that the two books by well respected women with wonderful adjectives on the book's jackets, are frail and superficially imagined compared to Jim Harrison's extremely rich details of the life. B.D. may be part Chippewa, certainly has an affinity with various Natives. Of course Harrison is twice the age of each of the women, he's honed his craft much longer. But the truth is he's not only a far better writer, his world is far more interesting. While I can imagine myself in the Provence or Yucatan of the women's books, I find myself transported to the forests and small towns of the UP. And I believe B.D. as a person (one I would actually not like if I met him even though he has various redeeming qualities). Through Harrison's writing I enter a world. Through the women's writing, I see characters who are familiar with some historical background that is interesting, their psychology is superficial, I don't care about them much as people.
Okay, so I'm years behind whether I'm reading books or watching foreign films. They've stood the test of time and I'm catching up. Yesterday's foreign film at the college was The Sea Inside, to me a near perfect movie. The subject was serious and explored with humanity, depth and variety, emotional and moral as American movies almost never do -- as if American audiences can't handle really looking at a serious subject. And the subject was a serious as possible: Ramon broke his neck at age 23, has been a paraplegic taken care of by his truly loving and sincere family ever since. It's been over 20 years, he doesn't want to go on living but he cannot commit suicide without help. They, for moral reasons and out of love for him, will not/cannot help him.
This is rural Spain. Old morals are strong, the Catholic church is strong, but so is the family. In an American film the family would be messed up, dysfunctional. Not here, they are strong, they have given up much, but they are not resentful, somewhat unhappy, of course. But this is their brother/son, uncle. He manages to find a woman lawyer who will take his case to court, she herself is ill and knows her time is limited. A rather simple neighbor woman falls for him, possibly out of her own need (a thread not explored), no one takes her very seriously. The story is simply told, the actors are all superb, especially Javier Barden as Ramon. The simply young woman is the one who comes to love him enough to understand that helping him die is the most loving thing she can do. It's enormously touching. Each character is a good and strong person in his or her own way. Such people DO exist -- almost never in our modern hyped-up movie and story telling. A few movie makers and writers see the world as a harsh but compassionate place. Bless them!
The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga won the Man Booker Prize in 2008. Adiga attended Columbia and Oxford and has written for various newspapers. His story is about Balram Halwai, a young man from the sweet making caste whose father escaped sweet making to be a rickshaw puller -- a physically more difficult job. He saw to it that his youngest son, learned to read and write. Baltram does not intend to stay in the small village and be hungry all his life. He manages to become a driver for a member of the family that owns the property of the town, mean greedy men who live off the work of the town's few families.
Balram drives for the American-educated one in the family, a sort of softie married to an American woman who is not a Hindu. They move to Delhi, the better for his boss to deliver the bribes that are demanded by those who want to collect taxes from the family. Balram understands what is going on and that he is meant to remain poor the rest of his life and to be totally subserviant to his master, live in a cockroach infested little room and come running when called, keep the car spotless and take the rap when the master's drunken wife kills a beggar child while driving wildly one night.
Balram's insight is stated: “See, the poor dream all their lives of getting enough to eat and
looking like the rich. And what do the rich dream of? Losing weight and
looking like the poor.”
Balram finally kills his master, and knows that he can escape with a suitcase of money meant to pay off bribes, because millions of poor men like himself look exactly alike to the authorities. He uses the money to become an "entrepreneur". While the story is unrelenting, the prose is fluid and easy to read, never preaching, never whining. Fiction, of course, but with such a grasp of the truth of the underclasses one can only think of the billion people in India, what degradation still exists. And that we know bribery is pervasive almost everywhere. (What else are the campaign donations by America's big corporations?)
I wrote a sort of manifesto poem when Peter offered the poetry class a prompt form a favorite poet of his (wouldn't you know, I saw his book yesterday and today forgot his name?). It was "I did/not follow the script". How could I resist? I didn't. The poem may not be a good one in poetic terms but it tells the story and ends with the lesson learned. The story was discussed in class with recognition. No one actually remarked on the lesson -- I think they did not get it. Truly revolutionary feminism is not in style, certainly not among our senior citizenry, which is the make up of the class, male and female.
But it seems to me the only way to end these horrible wars is for the women to be more active than those in Lysistrata -- to indeed kill the warrior when he returns victorious.
This is a still from the Broadway production of 33 Variation, a pay by Moises Kaufman. On B'way it starred Jane Fonda (in photo) as the musicologist studying Beethoven's composition of 33 Variations on a little theme by Diabelli (known as the Diabella Variations). The story parallels Katherine's discoveries in a Bonn archive with Beethoven's composition while at the same time parallels between her increasing disability due to ALS and Beethoven's final illness are drawn (too obviously for my taste). I saw it Sunday afternoon at the Cotuit Center for the Arts where I was delighted to discover that it's artistic director, David Keuhn was trained as a classical pianist as a young man but chose a more varied career than that of concert pianist. Throughout the production he played the appropriate variation for the subject being discussed. I am less than enthralled with the modern day story of mother and daughter although adeptly handled, than I am with Beethoven's struggles with composition and his increasing deafness, his personal irrcrasability. The lead was a weak choice (but in a specific community as Cape Cod is, finding actors with the required skill is VERY difficult) for the main character. But overall the rest of the cast were fine as was set, costume and especially mostly astute direction. The tour de force scene was given to Beethoven and the pianist as he talked through his composition of variation 32 - a musical breakthrough. It was beautifully acted I almost had to sit on my hands not to applause as one does a grand aria in an opera -- it deserved bravos. I talked to another music lover yesterday who said he DID applaud, and was chastized by a friend but was not apologetic for interrupting the flow of the play. And others joined him in applause. I wish I had done the same. Some plays are written with set pieces just as operas are written with major arias. When briliantly acted (or sung) they deserve to be recognized.
I don't like overly neat and obvious parallels and I'm saddened when I don't feel real passion in the heart of actors. I wish I could have seen Jane Fonda in this role, although I still wouldn't have been
happy about the playwright's contrivance.
Saturday and Sunday were incredibly gorgeous, high 70s, a cooling breeze, perfect sky. Beach weather and many, many people took advantage of it. Saturday was the only time in my life I have been so desperate for a parking space, I parked in a handicapped space. And then worried about the ticket I'd surely get. I didn't.
Could a beach be more beautiful? Only if there were no people on it except me. That happens when I get there early enough, but not this past Saturday.
The roses are gone but they've left behind fat, gorgeous rose hips, like so many Christmas decorations among the thorny vines and leaves which have begun to change color.
Since early August the horseshoe crabs have been molting. Their shells often line the beach.
They are ancient creatures, 450 million years old, a group of them spawn on other beaches, but apparently not this one -- at least I've never seen them. But they molt, all sizes and many colors from very light tan to dark, nearly black. The largest are not only the oldest they are also the females, so I've read. I am fascinated by them.
So many pile up sometimes that the tide line looks like a battle field after a massacre. But most of them are survivors and are roaming the bottom of the bay, with their relatively delicate new shell. They eat sea worms, some mollusks and the occasional tiny fish -- or so I've read.
The season is ending, I will continue morning walks on the beach when I can and when the weather is not too chilly. I think my barefoot walks are numbered and the tan I've acquired over the summer will begin fading very shortly. It was a beautiful summer from just after the Fourth of July -- until then it was chilly and damp. Since then we have had one of our driest summers, record numbers of tourists and beautiful days with very few above the mid-80s and most not too humid. It was a summer to really enjoy and I did.
Summer isn't quite over. It's still warm on the beach, the sky is cloudless blue, and the great-grandchildren had a wonderful time while Mama, Cori, snapped photos. Stella, 20 months, Cole, two, Finn (apparently leviating) four. What a place to be a child! What a place to be an adult!
We are having a wonderful gift of beautiful pre-autumn days.
As "Great" (gradmother, that is) I can say these photos capture something essential about each of these children.
There are going to be a lot of films in my life this fall. This week, fewer than last. The foreign movie of the week at the college was an oldie that made me feel very old indeed. Fellini's first Oscar for best foreign film, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, three farcical sketechs with unbelievably youthful Marcello Mastroiani and Sophia Loren. The sketches have aged into ridiculousness. The two who were in each section are just gorgeous but did far better work later in their careers.
This week I didn't go to any documentaries -- the ones shown I'd seen and didn't wish to see again. But today I went to see the new My Old Lady with many reservations. I'm not a Maggie Smith fan but no one else could have been more perfectly cast. Originally a play by Israel Horowitz, it began a bit broadly but developed into a much deeper and more complex story between Kevin Klein, Maggie Smith and Kristan Scott-Thomas than I expected. It's not really a spoiler to say that I think we Americans, as a people and especially writers, make too much fuss about extra-marital affairs. But given that attitude the story becomes truly tragic-comic. The three carry the movie. This was a play, the screenplay adapted by Horowitz, and another Horowitz was the independent producer. The story depended on character and uncovering a difficult past. As so often small Broadway plays a man's lack of success in life goes back to family trauma. My quibble would be that about five minutes from the end there was a very dramatic bit I thought was overdone, too Hollywood drama-ish. But the movie redeemed itself with a touch of opera at the end -- I mean operatic music that I didn't expect and absolutely loved. Only an indy film would put in that operatic bit. Hurray!
A small buddy film with a small budget and two actors not known to most of us -- a road trip in Iceland of all places. I enjoyed it because I've thought for a long time that it would be very interesting to visit Iceland and drive around its so-called Golden Circle, see the rugged landscape, geysers waterfalls, lonely farm houses. Reykivik doesn't interest me much -- but then I've had cities up the gazoo and I like countryside.
The two retired men are in their later 60s it seems, they are former brothers-in-law married to sisters (until one got divorced and one died--the sisters, I mean). Not a lot happens but the men reveal habits, attitudes and inner life in subtle ways which is very rare in movies. Of course it's an indy film and not likely to be seen many places, which is too bad. We older people very rarely get to see our contemporaries treated so insightfully .
In the spring I saw the name of a friend I haven't seen for a few years on the cover of a magazine. I read the article about her and looked at the photos of her art work which were in her familiar style. I cannot put a picture of her work here without her permission but here is a link you can click
I could not imagine she would not respond with a brief note or something because she's that kind of person. But time went by. Now and then I remembered her and thought ... Oh, dear. We are both in our 70s, things happen to people. But if she were very sick or dead surely her husband would at least respond with a brief note -- if my note were somewhere that seemed to be unanswered. I hated the thought that I might not know.
Yesterday the voice on the telephone was unmistakeable her. She was sorry not to answer sooner. We talked a good while, she is working as always. The link above takes you to a wonderful gallery of her fairly recent work -- they are all marvelous mandalas. Just beautiful and so in keeping with who she is, a person whose work was always complexly metaphorical and yet truly accessible. I am so happy she is still with us and sounds healthy and happy and making the art that flows out of some deep place inside her. It's wonderful simply to know we are in the same world as certain other people.
I'm on mental and visual overload. I've seen three films in 24 hours and I almost couldn't get to sleep. Some people watch one film after another, or one TV show after another. Perhaps I have visually deprived myself because I don't have a TV. So films have a big impact. Frankly I like it that way but this probably might continue fo the next twelve weeks. My own fault.
I will not give up the free Tuesday afternoon foreign film. The first one was a 2013 French film called 2 Autumn, 3 Winters. It was dreadful. A scruffy guy with an empty life (no apparent job, few friends) meets a girl with an empty life. They hang out with another couple with empty lives. They are all inarticulate, superficial and aimless. They are all early 30s. Is that what it means to be that age? I just read also that Max Nichols (son of Mike) has made his own version of The Graduate, his father's first hit with a mid-20s protagonist who also is aimless, inarticulate, superficial. Boring movies, depressing statement.
Yesterday two documentaries, one after the other interrupted by a long discussion period of the first which was the doc about Joan Rivers. I had seen it quite a while ago and forgot much of it. A driven woman who, as everyone knows made her mark as a potty-mouthed, driven, obsessive who used cosmetic surgery to grow younger looking as she grew older. Almost anything I could say about the insights in the movie could be construed as anti-semetic so I will stop there. It was painful to watch someone so narcissistic. Of course the discussion went on and on.
The third was Errol Morris's masterpiece The Thin Blue Line and to say almost anything about the subject of the film is to sound prejudiced about the state of Texas and the culture of the South. This is about a murder in which an innocent man was convicted of shooting a cop and a psychopathic killer was allowed to run around free. The whole story was told with a rather flat affect, the murder was shown (reenacted) several time always much the same. The many Texans--law enforcement, lawyers, judge, pseudo witnesses, friends of the real killer--were superimposed on Philip Glass's metallic and repetitive music. A long discussion afterwards of course. I came home convinced as I have been at other times that although emancipation of the slaves was important and necessary, we should not have fought a horrible, bloody war to prevent secession. They should be a separate country as they have their own ethos that is diametrically opposite that of most of the North. And Texas (Dallas and a small Texas town was the locale) should have become a separate country as it nearly did at one point.
We'll see if I can handle this kind of overload for another 11 weeks.
Okay, the photo is up-to-date (too bad that's not me), but the poem is old fashioned, the sort that used to be printed in a number of popular interest magazines. It's not a deep or serious poem, it's not even a poem I'm proud to have written but it almost wrote itself one day. A poetry writer, older than I, recently sent me his locally printed chapbook that contained a version of the title. That set me off thinking about a gathering I had very recently been in where everyone was 60 or older, some considerably older and I witnessed an understanding and acceptance in the group toward one another that is reflected in the poem. Those are my apologies; in the poetry class I take no one is allowed to make such self-derogatory remarks. A good rule but I have a certain amount of pride and had to say it.
Things Only Old Folks
The lost word or name is not a disaster
It doesn’t mean dementia or Alzheimers
It happens to everyone quite often.
That blank look and unresponsiveness is okay,
It isn’t snobbishness, anger or ignorance,
Our hearing isn’t what it used to be.
Sitting quietly as others leave the room
Isn’t disinterest or disagreement,
It’s just so damned hard to get out of the chair.
The shrug and sigh at news of scandal
Isn’t indifference, it’s boredom with the stupidity
And arrogance of celebrites, stars and politicians.
The shaking head with the downturned mouth
Isn’t sudden onset of Parkinsons’ disease,
We’re not surprised the world’s going to hell.
The lavish sprinkling of salt, pepper or hot sauce
Doesn’t mean the cooking’s lousy,
Our taste buds have been dying one by one.
What those young folks -- whippersnappers --
Don’t know has to be forgiven. They’ll learn
When they’re lucky enough to become one of the old folks.
I wish I'd taken my camera yesterday. Sitting under the pergola at the Chat House restaurant in Dennis with 7 other women a perfect way to spend a late summer afternoon. That pergola, unlike the one in the builder's selections here, was against the buiding and covered with vines. Beyond it was a perfect little patio with four or five tables. We had our own tables and chairs, coffee and pastry or lunch for those who hadn't eaten. Our gathering was not purposeless.
The sun was perfect, the shade was perfect, the group was entirely enjoyable -- we even began a discussion with the topic "fall" with a basket full of heavenly smelling grapes that we could imagine had grown on that pergola over our heads (except, it's greenery was flowery and not grape-y). This group began meeting at the Chat House over a year ago and eventually began calling ourselves "the Chatererers", of course that's a name that befits a gaggle of women.
But it is not purposeless group. Members were gathered (and new potential members arrive often) by Lynn who is people gatherer, a catalyst. Everyone makes something, or several kinds of somehting. Lynn does collage, we have a couple of painters, a jewelry maker, a floral arranger, a weaver, a pedagogue who can be far more entertaining than that term suggests and me, usually writing something or quiting something. Our donor of grapes brought a painting as well. So we talk about our creations and just keep on talking and laughing and sharing and constantly getting to know one another better. At this age, major careers and family raising duties are behind us. We explore in a very relaxed way, who we have become ... people who have found creative ways to express ourselves. I find vivacity as well as wonderful relaxation under the pergola.
Nature enfolds us, sky -- clear or cloudy, changing colors constantly, showing sun, moon, stars -- the ocean -- calm or atoss, lapping, ebbing, sparkling -- the earth -- rocky, sandy, marshy, grassy, tree covered, dessert, much, much more. We cannot resist playing with it, not only as children digging a hole or sifting the sand, as adults, moving the rocks around, even here on the beach, building circles (with a rock that shows quartz white in contrast to all the browns, cairns (this year's more sloppy than in past years) and tiny markers along the edge of the sea (new this year). I speak really only of a small, small area seen here at the end of Long Beach on which I walk as much as I can in the summer, and often in other seasons as well. Every summer the rocks at the knobby end of the beach, which is really a spit between sea harbor and an inflowing creek, a nature reserve, not a public beach with lifeguards and such, the rocks are differently arranged -- Greek letters for fraternities, hearts with initials, various runes. A long-lasting circle of stones about six feet across filled with white stones. I am not a folklorist but I feel the achetypical impulses that have made people arrange these stones.
The current header photo of a circle of horseshoe crab shells (they molt and the tide brings them in) with an arrangement of seashells inside was done by sunbathers/swimmers who came here this week. It has the simple elegance of the circle, a symbol, of course, of wholeness, of the world itself, here we can read that within the ancientness of the horseshoe crabs, younger shellfish have their place, having taken many graceful shapes.
I was walking along the beach today interfering with nature myself: I was picking up horseshoe crab shells at the water's edge and laying them on the sand further up. I don't really know why I do this, but I have been doing it for several years now. It seems to inspire others to do the same, for I find lines and clusters of shells, each day. I arranged a few together and a couple, who I had not seen walking behind me, paused and the woman to said, "I like you art. You put them in families." I just said "thank you" because I do think of the biggest shells (the dinner plate size ones) as belonging to a grandfather and the salad plate size ones as being mother and father and the saucer size ones as the children. I'm sure humans have always manipulated nature, probably ever since they sheltered in caves and rearranged the rocks for comfort and safety, found grottoes further in where they painted the wonderful animals that they preyed on and which preyed on them. Now we call it art; we think they called it magic. But then isn't that what all art tries to be? Magic.
Woody Allen's latest is another nostalgic return to the '20s. Woody's old but not THAT old, a magic time for his parents, maybe. But certainly not on the Riviera in grand homes. The story of a magician (Colin Firth) who debunks psychics, and a sweet faced psychic for Kalamazoo (Emma Stone) is predictable until the twist near the end that I admit I didn't see coming. Then there are two more predictable plot turns just to tie the ending up with a bow. Colin Firth was very elegant, Emma Stone the kind of pretty girl from the Midwest who's bound to be much smarter than she looks. The delight of the movie was Eileen Atkins, an actress I see to infrequently, who plays Colin's aunt. They are given a dialog near the end that must have been fun to write and maybe to act, but which is so expected it's hard to enjoy -- a bit too much icing on the cake.
I'm interested in how prolific creative people mature. For a while I thought Woody was never going to mature but, staying out of this film, just writing and directing, it's a kind of dessert, not deep but elegantly done, a good afternoon's entertainment, not much more. The scene that supplied the title seemed superfluous to me, the title doesn't do much for me anyway.
Tales of Wonder is Huston Smith's autobiography, a short one. I've known his name and read about him and read his writing for decades. He is now in his 90s and, if Wikipedia can be trusted, still among us. He could be called Mr. Religion. He has written about the many world religions for decades and I probably used his first comprehensive book back in college. That book omitted the Native American and Aboriginal and other "primative" religions, as he mentions in this book. But he has rectified that omission the way he learned about all the other religions -- by deeply immersing himself in them. He was born in China to Methodist missionary parents. Religion is in his blood, maybe in his genes, although his parents were strictly Methodist he has immersed himself in all the other religions, living them for up to ten years -- but always remaining a Christian too.
The autobiography touches on all those periods of learning but does not go into any of them deeply -- he doesn't need to because he wrote about them "from the inside out" and not with the condescending tone that most people write about religions other than their own.
I was especially moved toward the end of his book when he spoke of chosing to go into an assisted living facility because of crippling osteoporosis. His loving and deeply beloved wife Kendra understood his decision. He writes that his mother, in her 90s, was in such a home and, although nearly blind, went from room to room going in to talk to and cheer the other residents. Now he does the same in a similar situation. The concern for others that he learned as a child from his parents was so deep-seated that even their own handicaps doesn't stop them for being concerned about others -- to me that is a deeply Christian trait. I supposed it's part of other religions but the "do unto others..." as a way of life is exemplified by both.
Houston Smith has written: Religion is the call to confront reality, to master the self. He is speaking broadly and he has been living that life whether whirling with dervishes, taking LSD with Timothy Leary, meditating in a Japanese monastery, sweating in a lodge with Native Americans, walking the song lines with the Australian aborigines. He has lead a life of seeking but never lost touch with his earliest childhood lessons.
I've been fond of horseshoe crabs since I discovered them here on Cape Cod; I never saw them before. They are "fossil" creatures, not really crabs. One shell decorates my wall -- painted by Rachel with an oriental face. en she and Patrick first came to the Cape they used all their artistic skills to earn a bit here and there. Rachel came upon the idea of painting these faces on the shells of molted horseshoe crabs, and sold quite a few for a couple of years.
That was then (25 years ago). Now I am here and walk on Long Beach and each August observe the many sizes and colorations of the molted shells I find lying on the beach. Some are quite small, some are huge and encrusted with other crustations, occasionally one is black with age (or polluted seabed ). Sometimes there have been enough that I and other people gather them into "conventions" like the picture here.
Last week, after the very high tide that came with the very huge summer moon, I walked on the beach early in the morning and saw, in the sea wrack at high tide line, literally hundreds of shells (and not all empty, many with dead crabs in them). They were nearly all the same size, about as big as my hand, all the same young shade of beige. There were no big ones among them and certainly no ancient ones. They seemed to be the same age. I'm no expert at all but I guess about three years old. The strewn shells at tide level stretched for a good half mile. I did not attempt to count them, it was more than hundreds.
Again I saw Stehanie as I was returning toward the parking lot. She was aghast as was I. Who could answer the question: why? We didn't know. She felt the Cape Cod Times would be unwilling to print anything about an obvious die-off which would hint that something might be wrong with the water, at high tourist season. I don't read the paper so I don't know if they have written anything. I called the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute because they surely have someone knowledgeable about these creatures that were here before the dinosaurs. But it's summer; the operator didn't know to whom to direct me and the Information Center was manned by a young woman who was "filling in." She said she would leave a message to whomever. I got a call the next day suggesting I call the town enrvironmental director since this person thought it might be the water also. I met other locals on the beach who were concerned and had said they would call "somebody". I was remiss and did not make more calls. (I admit to a nearly neurotic aversion to making phone calls -- imagine that in this day and age of everyone on their smart phones. Well, not me, I don't have one and don't want one.)
So it's a mystery and perhaps an answer will turn up -- after the tourists are gone.
The mid-70s are a surprise! Part of me remains in the 50s -- age, I mean, not decade of 20th century. It's a joy ride, new experiences land in my lap and I've become a better quilter, poet, writer than I expected. It's a rich life for a person never rich financially. Hey, this is what the mid-70s are like!