Friday, August 20, 2010

Dearest, beautiful autumnal day, cool and sunny. I tossed laundry onto the clothes umbrella to dry. The buddleia's grown through it and I felt too lazy to haul the big blue Ikea bag of wet jeans down the porch steps to hang it properly. Besides it was fun to toss it to the winds! I am not looking to collect a prize for neatly hung laundry.

If this post already is loopy it's because I feel sleepy yet too wakeful to shut my eyes for a few minutes and reboot. And maybe I'm written out for the day, since this morning I ended up editing yesterday's post quite a bit.

Am still puzzling over the mysterious "United States" hits that started when they did, and ended when they did. I believe you - or are you constrained? Mad, mad mission.

Have been reading a few pages a day of the Benfey book, Secret Life of Hummingbirds - no, that's not the title, but the book's in the other room and I'm not getting up to fetch it. It's quite an unusual book, tracing trajectories and connections and coincidences and correspondences among a set of disparate (but not random) characters, linked in part by their fascination with hummingbirds (and all that that implies of a cosmic view). It's nonfiction and scholarly, but Benfey has a wonderfully imaginative, poetic take, drawing these connections. He elucidates them in fascinating little narratives as he moves - hummingbird-style - from one subject to the next. It's not yet another dull linear biography (I do find most biographies dull, I'm afraid, and tend to read them Borges-style, consulting the index and reading pages at random as my fancy takes me. I may, over the years, have actually read most of the 700-plus-page The Power Broker this way). Not only that, but it continually occurs to me as I read that if Benfey didn't follow the hummingbird leads and other correspondences as he traces them - this book, those connections - the lines between the dots - simply wouldn't exist. Who would know? Not even the actors in the book themselves. The connections had to be, on some level, discovered, invented, collected, coalesced. They had to be written. I don't mean to imply at all that the book is less than scholarly - I have complete faith that the book is meticulously researched - it's that I appreciate the innovative, expansive, and imaginative approach. More "truthful" than those dull biographies I try dutifully to slog through - as Charyn said (paraphrasing from notes I jotted down listening to a radio interview) - "biographies are voiceless, like strange mirrors - you can't glimpse that far - I wanted to go right down the rabbit hole."

Also as I read the Benfey little connections "ping" for me - I have a bit of a personal history involving hummingbirds, and just now I read about how Henry Ward Beecher used to be quite lulled and pacified by simply staring at the beautiful light and colors refracted from gemstones he kept in his pocket for their tonic effects. I instantly recalled how as a young girl I had a tiny emerald ring that had been given to me at birth, that on rare occasions I was allowed to wear. Some of those occasions were Sunday mornings, when my parents would kick us out of the house and send us to church up the hill. I don't remember clearly, but it wouldn't surprise me if I negotiated that in exchange for going to church I be allowed to wear the ring. So I'd sit in the church pews (while Father Frog-in-the-Throat rattled on) gazing at the gemstone, putting it up to my eye, enjoying the tiny gleaming green facets, seeing how they reflected the brilliant stained glass windows that lined either side of the small church, and the sparkling chandeliers (I believe) above. Between that, and the fascinating human interest of the point in the mass when parishioners would form a line to take Holy Communion - I loved that part, the people-watching, women in fusty coats with whole dead animals - foxes, weasels, I don't know what else, but dead animals with faces draped along a woman's shawl collar - it was fascinating and horrifying both.

The rare occasions my parents made an appearance at church they never took communion and I never understood why. Nor did I understand why people would take it. I was pretty happy to make my First Communion, mostly for the pretty white dress and probably a sweet cake, but a few years later I didn't make it through to Confirmation, having at that point (6th grade? 7th?) declared myself an agnostic, or Unitarian, or existentialist, or all of the above, and left the dark boring Church one beautiful afternoon such as today when the would-be confirmees were being tutored, shrugged it off to go out and greet a glorious, glorious day.

Signing off for now, darling. I hope all is well with you. Many, many hugs and very much love.

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