Thursday, August 26, 2010

Hello darling. Up in the aerie. Beautiful day today, sunny, clear, not too hot. I have pans of halved plum tomatoes with garlic and olive oil roasting in the oven, fragrance rising up the stairs. Spent a little while on the porch today, reading Christopher Benfey's A Summer of Hummingbirds, which has prompted my recent thoughts of hummingbirds past and present. I'm enjoying the book very much - a perfect, delicious nonfiction read, perhaps especially refreshing on what - in their actuality - Henry James deemed the most beautiful words in the English language - summer afternoon. Benfey traces the unusual intersections and crossed paths of a host of more- and lesser-known luminaries and literati, including Emily Dickinson, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Henry Ward Beecher, Mark Twain, among others. (Tom Stoppard might like this book and find inspiration for one of his conjectural plays.) I like the charmingly meandering paths Benfey takes - and I'm happy to follow. I laughed when he came right out and tartly observes -- as in an intimate debriefing, guests gone, after a dinner party at one's home, one might adduce -- "Twain was shrewd enough not to waste good liquor on a prig like Higginson." Soon the subject turns to Harriet Beecher Stowe, followed by the then-Emperor of Brazil's visit the United States. And when I looked up smiling from the book and gazed at the buddleia, no hummingbirds at that moment - but it was festooned with butterflies, and against the blue sky a monarch flitted and danced through the air - rather like Benfey's writing. So: a nice melding of sight & sense.

I just finished a section where, curiously, it turns out that Emily Dickinson had very close friendships with three men (Higginson, Rev. Charles Wadsworth, and Samuel Bowles) who, independently and in turn, were disdainful if not downright sabotaging of Mark Twain. As much of a fan of E.D. as I am - it does make me question her taste in men! Ah well, perhaps they had other attributes - cactus-splitting beards, of sorts.

I tend my flowers for thee--
Bright Absentee!
My Fuschzia's Coral Seams
Rip--while the Sower--dreams--

Geraniums--tint--and spot--
Low Daisies--dot--
My Cactus--splits her Beard
To show her throat--
All sorts of wildlife around, not just hummingbirds. The crazy spider still hangs in wait, in the very same spot for weeks now. The neighbor's russet chickens come over and root around the porch. They're a bit of an invading army, wending their way through the garden, scouring for bugs, clucking under their breath, coming up the porch steps - I'll have to watch that they don't march through the cat door into the house one day! They're as big as cats and our four cats, lounging on the porch or basking on the driveway, leave them be.

Kisses darling. Unsigned yet signed, with love.

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