Monday, June 21, 2010

Happy summer solstice, darling. I think of you in that place of nonstop day with tomorrow no shorter. I imagine you and your crew as tiny figures on a vast landscape, miniature molded action figures. You wear colorful space suits and helmets. The air is cold but the sun is strong and so is the wind. The set is minimalist, as is the action, a cross between Sartre's No Exit and the reality show Survivor. Or a Beckett play maybe, barren stage surrounded by ocean. Spare dialogue. Has anyone been voted off yet? Don't be silly. We're all team players. We're here to figure out what happened to the ones who were voted, chased or force-migrated off. What happened to them? What did they do while - like us - they were here? Dig we must.

On your end of course reality is immediate and pedestrian. It's a typical day at the "office." There's plenty of oxygen and it's a balmy 43 degrees. Breakfast is long past, lunch too maybe, too soon to ask what's for dinner but someone does anyway. Someone's knees hurt. Another complains of a sore back. A third surreptitiously checks his or her cellphone all the time. One is ridiculously obsessive about proper methodology, prompting another to make exasperated eyerolls when the person isn't looking.

I wonder about mundane details. Do you all put in a set number of hours in a given working day? Where do you sleep? What do folks do in the "off-hours" - besides, what - sleep, read, write, text home. Is the food decent? Is privacy possible? Is there ever a day off? But if so - what would one do with it?

I suppose I might ask precisely the same questions of deployed troops anywhere.

After five now, up in the aerie, etc. Walked at the conservation area (getting good about the bug spray), came back home, showered again, donned skirt outfit (hot sunny day), packed Rafe in catcarrier & car, drove down Route 9, then down Warren Street, left on 9J, over Rip Van Winkle bridge, then down some road that leads to downtown Catskill where I parked and went into HSBC to deposit checks, then back to car to continue to vet with Rafe who needed yet another steroid shot for his inflamed gums. Returned over bridge, stopped at supermarket, found half-price fresh wild caught salmon plus a discounted lamb shank (starting to collect them again in anticipation of future fancy braised dish with roast garlic & orzo.)

Read more of Lives Like Loaded Guns. That Lyndall Gordon is a regular Agatha Christie, demystifying E.D. Oh well, there's still plenty of mystery and wonder left. You know, the Victorian age doesn't sound half-bad, not if you had means anyway. Apparently epilepsy ran through E.D.'s family, and in Amherst three family members were (or are now thought to have been) afflicted. Each was paired with a family member who became their lifelong essential caregiver. Thus sister Lavinia lived with E.D. and took care of her and Guarded Her Secret. On one level it sounds so terribly repressed and restrictive, but I don't know. My family, for example, is so completely blasted out of interconnectedness (Lives Like Loaded Cannons), that I admire and rather envy the close familial ties that bound a Victorian family such as Dickinson's, and provided roles in an era when (particularly for an unmarried woman, even one of means) it was exceedingly difficult to self-invent. How nice, perhaps, to slip into an essential, loving, bonded role. (And theirs, the two sisters, did seem loving - not its nightmare flipside Whatever Happened to Baby Jane - perhaps that movie was propaganda to hasten the demise of such familial arrangements!)

E.D. seems to me to have had extraordinarily deep personal connections - 20th century alienation was not a problem for her. Of course that's a later concept, but still.

Dickinson's family system encompassed close connections and allowed room for newcomers, cherished gems who might become part of the inner circle. This seems richer to me an idea than the brutalist mid-20th century concept of strictly circumscribed "nuclear" family.

So, 1830-1886 E.D. predates the "nuclear family" model, and late 20th-21st century me - I believe I postdate it. Though I'm a first generation American of a family system that got completely disturbed by trauma of all kinds. So maybe it's not a fair equation.

But still, Jane Jacobs saw it coming - the demise of the "nuclear family" (demise brought about due to the imperative, in recent decades, of the two-earner couple to make ends meet). But maybe - good riddance? Because what predated it - intergenerational, flexible connections - seems like a much stronger model.

Tried to nap and couldn't. Feel achey and tired. I feel guilty writing this, compared to what you might be feeling if you've been on your hands and knees.

I sit in the aerie and look northwestward, out the west-facing windows. I guess very imprecisely where my gaze would have to be for it to form a line that if drawn from here to there I could send kisses (baskets thereof) along the wire. My own private supply line to you - forget those earthbound flights!

Perhaps I'm a miniature in your mind! xoxoxoxo

Have a good High Midnight, darling.

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