Monday, January 31, 2011

Gray skies, snowbound earth, streak of phosphorescent apricot to the southwest where the sun has set behind the ridge. It's the last day of January, and as the days march forward hereon in, the sunset will move from the left end of the ridge (as viewed from the aerie) in a northerly direction, until - I don't know, mid-March maybe? - it sets due west. This house was such a mess when we first looked at it and decided to buy it. We didn't exactly do matrix analyses to measure and maximize whatever it is we wanted. The house was a bit of an idea for me. I had worked to rezone a small maritime island to help try to preserve some of its memory as built on the landscape. Now I desired, in the next step of my plannerly evolution, to save a solid, well-crafted house of pleasing interior spatial dimensions (airy rooms, tall windows, high ceilings), from sinking into the ground - and to make it our home. We'd seen a lot of grossly abused houses in our hunt. This one wasn't the worst, and had, perhaps, the most potential in terms of its essentially solid lines. What sold it for me, though, one of the afternoons we viewed it, was stepping upstairs into what I now call the aerie, pausing at the windows, and realizing that there was the slate blue Catskills ridge in the distance in an undulating, sinuous, silent, immovable line before me. Maybe not a million-dollar view (distant, partially obscured, seasonal - the view of mountains disappears when trees leaf out in spring) but still... a view - if only a glimpse, a hint - of mountains. Which is plenty! Sometimes the hint is just enough, just what one needs. If one lives on the ocean, does one really need a glass sided house to feel "at one" with the seascape? Or, will simply a portal, a porthole, a smaller window, an oriole, a glimpse - suffice to tantalize the eye and mind into savoring the sensational proximity and yet forever remove of the sea?

So we bought the house, and years later much has been improved - and D has saved it from literally capsizing into the clay - but much is still unimproved. So I hang out here in the aerie, which is much improved from the smoke-redolent pumpkin-colored walls and cheap supermarket plastic-wicker furniture that decorated it the afternoon I spotted the view that the realtor (setting a price on the place) hadn't. Since then, too, I've appreciated how beautifully light-filled this house is, and shudder to think - what if we'd bought a house down a hill, where even at midday or mid-afternoon, hillside or dell cast in shadow, there isn't direct sun?

I've always loved light, savored it, craved it. Many years ago, living on Union Street in Carroll Gardens in Brooklyn - D and I lived in a parlor floor south-facing apartment - beautiful space, lightfilled. Except that due to the configuration of buildings across the way, all forms of direct sunlight would vanish by three in the afternoon even in summer, which I found incredibly hard to take. Harder to take than trying to savor a sense of garden, or stepping outside into a quiet space, by easing myself precariously out the fire escape window, where, above the wild overgrown garden with, I think - an apricot, or perhaps peach tree, all wild and unpruned, and in the shade, but still bearing fruit - out of reach from us! - we had a hibachi, a tiny grill, and did our best to savor the pleasures, from a perhaps 2' x 3' black oil-painted slat landing, of a private aerie garden. Somewhere in a shoebox of photos is a snapshot of D, crouched on the tiny fire escape, grilling something, and holding a black umbrella over his head because it had begun to rain.

Not long afterward we moved quite literally a block north, to a parlor-floor apartment where we spent about fifteen years. There's a bit of a story there too. In the market for an apartment c. 1988, we'd gone around the corner to an open house to see it, one fine late afternoon in June - at the very moment an enormous rose bush in the center of the garden - which could be glimpsed as one stepped through the French door onto the terrace - was in full glorious bloom. I fell in love with the place, and when we returned to our rented apartment, I burst into tears because this place had everything we wanted - a garden, a terrace, a working woodburning fireplace - everything. It was only a one-bedroom - really, sort of a glorified studio - but it was an amazingly beautiful space. I lamented that I didn't feel that I was asking so much in life, just a place of my own I could step outside into, a place one could grill a steak for dinner without crouching on a fire escape with an umbrella.

I had a good cry that day, and a year went by. In the meantime, D and I were working hard, socking money away, etc., etc., and lo and behold one day, the owners of the apartment I'd fallen in love with, that had felt so unattainable - called us up. They hadn't been able to sell the lovely place - they were dropping the price - were we still interested?

Yes - we were! The price had dropped significantly, and our savings had improved - it worked! And so we made a deal, and D and I lived there very, very happily for many years.

Darlings, part of me wished to write something more of my weekend, and somehow I couldn't quite get there - had to approach it "slant," or "sideways" - in other words, change subject, or at least, not come at it head-on, or right away.

Loving you very much, you at the Pole, you at the Sea.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

My dearest, back up in the aerie thinking of you, after a whirlwind trip downriver and back. Waking up from a nap. Not feeling a hundred percent - woke yesterday morning with a scratchy throat that I thought might have been due to vacuuming dust and cat hair the day before, which overnight developed into a bit of a chest cold and cough. None of this prevented me, that evening, from having my fill of kielbasa, ham, stuffed grape leaves, hummus, candies, wine and the rest of an array of delectable party food and libations. When I arrived home this afternoon I went straight out for a walk with weights, as a preemptive measure.

Glad I gave you the window seat on the way down yesterday since there wasn't a riverside seat to be had this afternoon. I had a wonderful time once I arrived, but somehow I'm just not a good traveler, something about an overnight away tends to throw me off. I wasn't feeling so hot to begin with when I got to the station yesterday, in good time before the train was due to arrive. I had checked ticket prices online a few days before, and selected my trips based largely on price - $26 each way from where I live, for an hour-and-a-quarter ride south, to Croton-Harmon. So I blithely tell the station agent my plans, expecting a total of $52. He punches his computer and comes back with - $74. So incredibly exorbitant! I literally didn't even have that much on me. Fortunately D was there, having presciently made sure that I got the ticket okay - he put the figure, the new horrendous total, on his debit card. Honestly, had I known it would be that much - I probably wouldn't have gone. I asked the station agent - what gives? Why the price differential from what I looked up? He impassively responded, Oh we change the price minute to minute if we have to, based on supply & demand. So if 20 people cancel right now the price will go back down. !!!! Say what? I don't know. I've made my peace with this transaction - simply so that I could get on with my weekend - but we're talking about an offpeak winter weekend trip of a little over an hour each way. The lesson I've come away with is to pre-purchase the train tickets in advance - the day I look up the times, before I'm scheduled to travel. Which actually I've done in the past if only to spare a few minutes hassle the moment of the trip. So this bitter lesson has been late but forever now learned.

Okay, venting about this over. But it did somehow put me in a tearful mood yesterday as the majestic train pulled into the quaint little station on the cold winter day. It was a bit of stress I didn't need, along with all sorts of vague, tumultuous feelings - missing you so much, going by myself, feeling alone, looking forward to visiting with relatives yet dreading negotiating the ice floes of topics that don't work for me - e.g., "so - how are you and D?" and the nature of my writing.

My cousin picked me up at the train station in his van, and the two of us, plus his young sons, invisible except for a little voice commanding "Back, daddy, back" - or, "no, forward" - meaning go back a track or five on the Aladdin C.D. My cousin ambled his van southward, giving descriptive commentary of the towns along the way - the maintenance facility at Croton-Harmon ("Want a tour?", he asked with a note of glee. "Not really," I replied - oy vey, there it starts - we weren't even out of the station!), the story of Sing-Sing and Ossining, a stop at McDonalds at the boys' request - don't fill up now there's party food to come, I admonished them. There's a party? their astonished puzzled faces queried. Yes your parents are throwing a party tonight which means all kinds of fabulous party food - so you don't want to fill up on McDonalds. Daddy is that true? Yes it's true. Okay, let's go. Not exactly like that - but close enough. As the little boys ate their pasty cheeseburgers and packet of fries, sure enough my cousin cornered me - so how are you and D? And I know he means well, he's a sweetheart, the biggest heart of anyone I know, truly - but I just can't embark on that subject, but I don't have a smooth line about it. Plus I wasn't feeling well and he noted that I looked frazzled. Which I wasn't happy to hear because I was trying to keep it together - but okay, I'm sure the weary did show a bit on my face. Anyway, we both agreed that we wanted what God deems best - whatever the outcome, as I qualified - and my cousin knew precisely what I meant and we let it go at that. I don't know, we're all fiftyish now and have lived complicated lives - he is very much a man of strong faith - and I have my own strong faith -

I don't know. I'll leave it at that for the moment, my dearests. More tomorrow, on other very nice, wonderful impressions of my visit - I did have a very nice time.

I slept on a made-up sofa in a study last night, missing you so very much, drifting asleep, and whenever I woke I thought instantly of you, wishing you were with me which in a way you were. It is a real comfort for me to think of you. I open my eyes, look across the unlit room at a half-parted shade at one window (light from another house distantly aglow), gauzy curtain at another. I lie under a light down puff on the narrow couch. You are there with me. I whisper your name, stroke your hair, touch your cheek, your lips, imagine the feel of your shoulders, your beautiful chest that I dream of. I feel the press of you against me as we lie together under a quilt on a narrow sofa, and we fall asleep again like that, in each other's arms.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Dear love, just a quick note before I throw a few things into my Trader Joe Victorian explorer bag and dash off to the train. But you're coming with me, aren't you? Of course I'll take you when I go! I am so incredibly bighearted and magnanimous too that I am going to give you the windowseat, on the right hand side of the train as we're going down - the river side. I know you will enjoy cruising along the shoreline. So beautiful. I walked at the conservation area this morning - the river was all white with ice, completely frozen over, and an ice cutter was just coming down, I guess from Albany/Troy. Maybe we'll pass it on our way. Maybe it's around Rhinecliff by now. Stopped by a bakery and got a baguette, and I'm going to make us delicious turkey sandwiches for us to snack on, plus a piece of lemon cake. I baked one to take down with me as my little offering, plus I baked another smaller one, to make sure it came out well, which it did. I got my hair trimmed this morning and mentioned it to my hairdresser, that I was inspired to bake it because I found lemons on sale, and I made it with plain yogurt not buttermilk, and that it's a Barefoot Contessa recipe, who we both really like. And my hairdresser as she blew dry my hair as I was describing it said, I have to have a piece right now. So when I went home, and before I went out the door again, I cut her a piece, and dropped it off to her while she worked on another lady, and she put down her scissors and gave me a hug, and all the other hairdressers were like, what's she doing here, is something wrong with the cut? And my hairdresser said I'm not sharing this piece, and I said, you shouldn't. And then I marched back out the door. Then I dropped D off in town and went to the supermarket and got confectioners sugar to sprinkle on the party cake and I bought flowers and put them around the house, cheerful dark and light orange and yellow ones. You know? I should bake some cookies too to bring down - I have just enough time - that cake isn't very big. I really do wish you were coming, or that I'd see you there - ah well, you know I'll be thinking of you, my angel. No time to proof - must run. Love you, love you, love you. XOXO

P.S. What to wear, what to wear? Breaking out the sayonara Xmas/bienvenue Valentine's Day bright crimson sweater set. With fierce denims. XOXO

Friday, January 28, 2011

Dearest loves, grateful to be seated up in the aerie with a well-deserved glass of ice-filled wine after a day of hair coloring, bathroom cleaning, upstairs vacuuming, lemon cake baking, bed linen changing, lunch (spinach feta omelet) and dinner prepping (fettucine with asparagus and turkey, salad), laundry monitoring, and most importantly - morning blogging - and now a quick note just to check in. Looking forward to my little excursion downriver tomorrow. That's what inspired me to get the house in great shape - leave it nice and clean for D, plus have a clean house to come home to on Sunday.

Thank you for your candle in the window from so very far away, four (or is it five?) time zones away. Are you going to be there a while? Of course I googled you (as I do now & then) and see that you'll be giving a talk there in three weeks - that's a long time... Ah - well. I'll never know. But I think of you anyway. And I see you do of me too.

And you, my other dearest one - because now I have my own inner-life Big Love thing going on with two beloved preceptors, which is actually pretty rough - on me, because I'm essentially monogamous, and - well, I know how Penelope gets if I pet one of the other cats. I'm feeling pretty torn. But it's all in my head - right? as Katie Couric would punctuate. No, it's not all in my head. My feelings are real. I am full of love, wishing very much to love. But not just anyone. I could see being fixed up with a Mister Lonelyhearts, and I would absolutely hate that - I might get sucked in for the wrong reasons because I have a compassionate side. But I absolutely need to feel a strong attraction, chemistry, electricity -

It was really nice to feel that, so unexpectedly -
Whenever - since time has passed - I start to think it's all in my head I just think back to that

I'd rather be a celibate nun than to compromise at this point
I know what a cost compromise or "settling" would be - it absolutely wouldn't work for me - especially not now, when I feel that I know myself quite well
Many many years ago I compromised - lived for a time with a guy I was absolutely not attracted to - I wanted it to work - and it just never, never did - it was completely useless and pointless

Anyway. All these ruminations.

Loving you - with all my heart.

nocturne in gray and gold

My darling, the pale gleam of sun through winter blur is like the headlight of a jet approaching in the fog, or a ferry boat trawling through vast depths towards its berth in a murky harbor. I stand on the dock in crepuscular dim waiting for you to alight, key to our room at the S. B. Hotel tucked safely in my pocket. Winter cold shocks my cheeks, but I know that as soon as I step into your embrace, you hold me tight and cover my face with kisses, we'll both be warm again. Come darling, the hotel's just around the corner. I've got a fire going in the grate, casting the room in rosy flickering light, and a pot of goulash is warming on the stove. You must be famished. Let me fix you a bowl, some silken noodles submerged in heady beef and broth. Come sit here, dearest, I'll have some too. It is a rare joy to gaze upon your beloved shining face, the sun coming out again after a long, long pall. My love, here is a steaming hot bowl for you, along with a fork, and here now too - a kiss. Tell me about your voyage, we'll lie down together after.

James McNeill Whistler, Nocturne in Gray and Gold, Snow in Chelsea, 1876, Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, MA

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Beautiful peaceful hour, late afternoon light saturating the upstairs aerie. I haven't quite finished saying Aloha, Halloween, what with a large frozen pumpkin on the back porch table, focal point of color in the monochrome snowscape. I'll take Amtrak this weekend to take part in a little festive party to bid adieu to the 73 days of Christmas, but tonight I'm all, thanks for the memories Thanksgiving, with half a turkey roasting in the oven, a pot of potatoes peeled for mash, and a pan of root vegetables set to roast - with a - oh you're still here? nice knowing you! - to the yam scrounged from the bottom of the vegetable drawer.

It's beginning to smell a bit like late November up here in the aerie, with the cozy aroma of the roasting bird. Turkeys got marked down at the market after Thanksgiving. We bought a few, D split them and froze each half separately. We paid $.99 a pound for a quality bird (not high-end organic, but very good) originally $2.79/lb. Consider turkey sandwiches - what's the price of deli turkey? $6 - $7 - $8 a pound any month of year - decontextualized.

I'd like to sing you a song, but it's one of those days - in advance of my upcoming weekend excursion - that I'm thinking, I need to color my hair, should vacuum the house and clean the baths before I go, I've booked a haircut for Saturday morning. I'm out of hair color, thought I had some. Not that I'm going gray, not yet (my family seems to go gray quite late) but the tint seems to improve the texture of my hair and brighten it (the shade I use isn't so different from my natural color).

hello dearest feeling reticent

- tag line from a page hit this afternoon

Spent some time this afternoon reading & editing a fairy tale. A pair of squabbling hunters... one ends up slaying dragons, the other writing poems... each in honor of a glimpse of the deer-maiden they'd fallen in love with and shot.

Aren't I the deer maiden? Why am I the one writing?

Where are the hunter-knights' poems already? And then I realize, they've been creating them, slaying the dragons, & etc., it's just that the fairy tale doesn't allow that the deer maiden creates as well - or that she can read.

Deer-maiden's splendid isolation

- but I, like other inhabitants of the kingdom, groove on others' words as well

Well, I haven't finished that Finnish fairy tale yet. It is very beautiful, as was the first.

hello dearest feeling reticent

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

My dearest Branwell, up in the aerie, musing about you. You're not an effaced pillar to me, I know that you are a Vitruvian man, in possession of a full range of faculties and sensibilities. Touching your hand. Very much love. Kisses, from one smoldering volcano to another.

Accepted an invitation this morning to attend a party downriver this weekend. I've never visited with them before. I'll take the train and spend the night. I just hope I don't get cornered into a marriage counseling intervention, as last month - I put my foot down at that time. I have mixed feelings about going, but felt I should, that it wouldn't be a bad idea.

I'm at low ebb, a bit. It's after five, still light out, but fluorescently gray, like a black and white TV image from the 1950s. Radio's on low. Penelope's asleep next to me, Claire's on the chair. She has taken to yowling vociferously when she's finished using the box. Don't know what that's about. I yell inelegantly down the stairs, shut up Claire - and she does. It's pretty funny. I guess she too just wants to be noticed. Walked today at the conservation area, ran into the charming elderly man with his floppy dog, and we exchanged greetings. Haven't seen him in a while. Otherwise had the place to myself, snow up to my knees, hard to walk on, except on the path, pre-trampled so very walkable, which I was glad for. Stopped by the supermarket afterward. Baby spinach, feta, parmesan, flour tortillas, plain yogurt, cat food. The tulips on my desk, and elsewhere in the house, have had it - time for fresh flowers.

Do you like dogs? You seem like more of a dog person to me, maybe. I've never had a dog really, don't have a lot of experience with them, but I feel very open-minded about the idea of having one one day. I've encountered so many charming ones here and there. To be honest, I never thought I would be so much of a cat person as circumstances have led to my becoming. Just sort of happened, creatures in need, and they're very companionable, not a lot of work.

I wonder how you're spending your week. I hope you're having a good time, doing something that "feeds your soul," a phrase that crops up on KZE - "music that feeds your soul." Yes. Here's another kiss for you, darling. John Coltrane's playing, What's New. Aaaahhh. Intoxicating musical perfume... which I hope one day to wear again...

Thinking about the impending visit this weekend, and about my marriage. I suppose from a Catholic point of view it's viewed as a failure - simply because it hasn't lasted forever, but I don't see it that way at all. I mean, I'm in the midst of a problem, conundrum right now, don't quite know what will happen next, what to do. But I don't feel that the marriage "failed" because it didn't last forever. I'm seriously very grateful for the twenty happy years. I think that's a huge - what? accomplishment? achievement? those words don't seem adequate. I'm just glad that I had twenty years of my heart soul and body (in a Vitruvian way) being all quite well-aligned in a happy union. I didn't feel tormented for twenty years. That's fantastic. So now I am. Well - things change. And I'm absolutely okay with that, I really am. I was saying at the table how in some ways I've never been more unhappy and that simultaneously in others I've never been happier. Yeah. But mostly I feel - if not happy, then really positive, and optimistic, and hopeful, and fairly confident that if I continue on this path, things will work out for me, most likely in ways I can't even possibly foresee. A marriage ending? Well, okay. But parts of me had been buried. And I see other doors opening, in myself, for my future... That's a good thing. That's why I don't want anyone looking at me with pity or disapproval or that it's rocking their world that I'm not going to get the Good Attendance award of permanent marriage someday. That's their ethos - and fine, I respect that - but it's not mine, and that should be respected - I feel.

My darling gnat, so I have babbled on and on here to no avail, wishing very much that you and I could be together. I stopped by the library today, and came away with a beautiful cookbook on seasonal Hudson Valley cuisine - with sumptuous full-color photographs. The book fell open to a page on tagliatelle bolognese, a very rich, hearty, earthy, smokey wine reduction meat sauce, that we could savor with a glass of a big fat red.

Many kisses, darling.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

mile high club (#427)

My darling starved gnat
I ponder a way to start this post
I am a jet taxiing from the breezeway
setting forth in slow motion onto miles of tarmac
lumbering along
making a turn here
adjusting straight
waiting for the signal, clearance for takeoff
no - I'm not the jet itself
I'm a woman in coach in the middle of the jet
in a seat by the window, little shade rolled up
observing these deliberate movements
watching tiny lights on the darkening runway
last of sunset tatters on the horizon
in the middle of nowhere, on the outskirts of town
the jet begins to roar in earnest
sets forth laboriously from the blocks 
launching down the runway in an ungainly sprint
while I hold my breath
and after a straining, tentative moment
runway speeding past
the wheels lift off
the world tilts
and we're in - thanks to me - the air

my darling starved gnat
I try to think what to get you
I enjoy your #108 perfumed necklace so much
did you really send $1.10 plus 90 comics?
I have lost no time renewing it with my perfume
the fragrance you once gave me, one you adored
filigree pendant dangling to great effect - as you like
at my breasts, upright and stowed
beneath my thin soft sweater
I wait for the flight attendant to
come around with the drinks cart - do they still do that?
or does one have to bring one's own rosé these days?
darling, there's only so much traveling
I can do in my mind
I peruse a vintage comic catalog
what should I get you?
a piece of jewelry perhaps - a decoder ring
not the Orphan Annie kind
one for Kitty & Levin
the secret club of you and me
ah, one day I'll bound into your arms and you into mine
we'll inhale each other's perfume
you'll slip a necklace around my neck
and in the darkness when we're ready

we'll figure out
the combination of strokes and kisses
that unlocks compartments

my warm wet secret
your divine divining rod

miles above the sky so high

my beloved darling gnat

#108 Perfumed Necklace

My dearests, up in the aerie this overcast morning, fortifying myself with a hot cup of berry tea sweetened with honey made by bees a couple of miles from here on the other side of the creek. The dishwasher is running and I'm simmering chicken stock from carcasses that I've been collecting in the freezer. D is out working, and on the way back home he'll stop at the supermarket. I mentioned to him that I needed an item from the drugstore and he offered to pick it up for me. I described the product, and he said okay, as long as you don't mind me getting it. I said I don't mind as long as you don't mind. He said I don't mind - when I was six I was getting stuff like that for my mother, she'd write it down on a note for me to give to the clerk so that I'd get the right thing and wouldn't be embarrassed. Why didn't your mother buy it herself? She was busy.

As I moved about the kitchen fixing bacon & eggs this morning, this little exchange unleashed a flood of early childhood memories. The first place I remember living in was in Darien, Connecticut, a two-family house with a large garden and lovely neighbors and a little girlfriend a few houses away who had a teenage sister who played the Beatles on her record player. There came a day that I got yanked from my safe, familiar, beloved little world. My parents decided to move, to the next town over, to a rental apartment development - block after block, along winding drives, of identical attached lowrise brick "colonial" style buildings, called "Fair Lawn." There wasn't much lawn, and it wasn't particularly fair. I was very upset when we moved. I was in kindergarten I think. As I recall, or as I perceived it, my parents did nothing to emotionally prepare me (I can't speak for my brothers). Although I remember a new plaything, one of these gray cardboard pads that you scratched on with a plastic implement, which etched a black design or letters beneath the surface, and if you wished to erase the image, you lifted the gray film which peeled away audibly like scotch tape. It was a distraction for that first chaotic night of the move, consolation prize for being ripped from paradise. I think of that move in connection with the foreclosure crisis, with countless families losing their homes, how incredibly traumatic that must be for young children especially, to be ripped from the first places they've ever known.

We were crowded in that apartment, and one of the children (was it me? or perhaps my little brother) accidentally locked himself in the bathroom and through all the panic and tears could not figure out how to simply turn the tiny knob to unlock the door. Another time he got into the medicine cabinet, ate a bottle of children's aspirin, and with a big smile on his face said how much he loved the orange candy. He had to be taken to the hospital and I think he had to have his stomach pumped.

Instead of a garden in which to play and a quiet, tree-lined, shaded lane that I could stroll down and say hello to all the neighbors - now I had an asphalt parking lot behind the buildings. I found a few playmates in neighboring children, though no one in particular springs to mind. I remember once putting on a little theatrical production with them, I imagine the curtain was rigged from sheets pinned up on a clothesline.

My mother once sent me to a little stationery store, about a five or ten minute walk from the apartment for a pack of cigarettes. I came home emptyhanded. Much to my mother's annoyance the shop wouldn't sell to a minor. Didn't you tell the clerk they're not for you, that they're for your mother? Of course - I tried very hard to convince the clerk! (Not long after the Surgeon General's warning came out, and my mother quit smoking on the spot.)

I loved this shop. I haven't thought of it in many years, and it came to me vividly this morning. It was in a little commercial strip that I could easily walk to and access, on the Boston Post Road, fronted with a sidewalk. I never crossed the wide road.  It was much too busy.  The I-95 thruway ran below grade on the other side. Further down the hill was a White Castle. But I never went there myself.

I remember hanging out in the little shop, looking at magazines.   I loved bridal magazines, page after glossy page of beautiful ladies in enchanting white lace confections. My mother disapproved of bridal magazines - that shouldn't be your goal in life, she said. But the dresses were so irresistible - couldn't I do both? The magazines became a guilty pleasure.  I  looked at them when I was by myself.

And then of course there was the candy counter, and I remember buying, for a penny each, packs of bubble gum that came with a tiny waxy paper comic strip, whose hieroglyphs and cryptic balloon comments I'd pore over and often not understand. I tried to teach myself how to blow bubbles. Even at my tender age I had already encountered a few champion gumsnappers. One girl, a little older than me, could at will blow impressively huge bubbles, big as a balloon that would eventually collapse on her face, which she'd scrape and lick off with her tongue, fixing incredulous, impressed me with a great big satisfied grin.

That's about it, these little memories. A couple of shops down was a bakery that made awesome poppy seed encrusted crescent rolls, airy, flaky, and flavorful. I've never had better. They were delectable.

I hope D comes home with the right thing. At least I know they'll sell it to him. Perhaps I should have written it down...

Love you - very many kisses. XOXO

Monday, January 24, 2011

Is my problem an inability to compartmentalize? I was very happy with him for a long time and now I'm not and honestly today I turned over the thought in my mind, if I were to walk out the door today and never see him ever again that would be okay with me. It is that gone. And he's actually in better spirits these days, whatever funk he'd been in for years on end that caused things to ditch like a plane in remote woods - things seem to be lifting, he's starting to make ends meet I think. We don't discuss finances, or anything else really, except what's on the menu for the next meal. We used to discuss finances - I used to manage the finances, in fact. But the money got run through and he didn't blink an eye. Then we got in a hole - I guess, I quit asking, I just live here - and now, after a number of years of his not pulling in any money at all (expecting me with my fancy degrees to be made of the strong stuff that I wasn't, not on my own I couldn't, not without help, and moral support), now he's starting to, and it's nice too - the work he does is very "community-based" and it's about word-of-mouth, and building a client list, and referrals, and it's starting to happen, people like him, and they like his work. We should never have gotten into a hole - we were riding high - with a house entirely paid for, no children (which has its downside - except - no financial sinkhole there either). We should have been able to have a very pleasant, relatively anxiety-free (or anxiety-reduced) life together. But no. We moved here six years ago this spring, and I figured it would take about a year, year and change, to get the place liveable - that was, I figured, his "grace period." Four years went by before he went out, very reluctantly, tentatively, to earn some money. I was eaten with anxiety for the first few years, almost paralyzed by it. I still loved him, but could tell that the anxiety was building, and my anger, and at some point - four or five years ago, I said - if things don't change I'm going to not love you anymore, and if that happens I don't think I'm going to be able to get it back. I didn't mean it as an ultimatum about money - let's say there was an "alienation of affection," what amounted to a complete withdrawal of affection towards me on his part - and, sure enough, it had its effects.

I have no interest in being single. I can't just walk out the door, there's no place to walk out to. I've lived on my own before, and I can do it (heck - I'm doing it now, to a great degree). What I really wish is to love - and to be loved. All in the same relationship, a marriage. I had that for a long time. I wish it again but he and I have both changed. He's getting better, perhaps some of his stress and anxiety are becoming alleviated as he sees the light at the end of the tunnel of making ends meet. But the damage has been done.

I would like, more than anything else I think, to be in a very loving, intimate, longlived marriage again. But with someone else.

I can't fake it in my marriage, and I cannot will my feelings towards him back. I don't even see the utility or use of it at this point, except that it does make me feel uncomfortable that I am financially entirely dependent on him at this point - at the very point that I have ceased to love him - which is a very, very discomfiting situation to be in, for me. (All the previous years of our marriage, I was either working - at times pulling in either more income, or even the sole income - or we had joint savings.)

Personal evolution. What will happen? Will anything happen? I took a very, very long walk around here today, I must have covered 5-6 miles. Over the last couple of years I have worked very hard to keep physically fit, and as Alec Baldwin said in some recent movie - ladies, the pilates is really paying off. And it is. But there's a part of me, as I march with weights along the empty, frozen country roads here that makes me feel like a prisoner in a state penitentiary. What do they do to while away the time? Work out, keep strong and buff - write letters to the outside world even. (I should know, I used to work for an indigent-defense agency, and one of my responsibilities was to respond to prisoners' correspondence, all handwritten, usually many many pages, and amazingly, each misunderstood, innocent, hated their defense attorney who'd landed them in prison, and were disappointed when they'd confided in an A.D.A. that the prosecution had womped them anyway! Amazing. Dear Prisoner, First of all never confide anything to an A.D.A., you hear? They are not on your side, they're the ones trying to prosecute you, you clod ... No, my return correspondence didn't read like that, exactly...

So I'm sorry, my dearests, for this rather gloomy rumination, it was where my head was at today, I'm afraid, and - it's my blog I'll cry if I want to -

I'm actually feeling okay, there's a chicken roasting in the oven, I'm glad I've been becoming quite shapely (I think), and I'm glad D's stress is alleviating and some money is coming in to the point that he suggested that I look up the cost of a share in the local CSA (community supported agriculture farm, with weekly pick-ups of organic produce, flowers I can cut from their border, etc.). It's quite pricey, but he feels he can manage it with their installment plan. And he's even sprung for tickets to see a simulcast National Theatre production of King Lear one evening next week, a play neither of us has read or seen, and that I have truly felt that I would leap right off my deathbed if I were to die without seeing it. So - I conclude darkly - anytime after next Thursday evening will probably be okay.

Oh I don't mean that at all! I love you darlings, including the darlings I love now and have met, some more recently (than 35 years ago) than others, and maybe even a darling I haven't yet met - because, if we're meant for each other, he is surely alive right this moment.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

My dearests, just checking in this evening, no poetry in me tonight. I started off the weekend with a bang in my book, actually remembering a dream from overnight, writing it down right away, and finding that it quite naturally worked itself into a poem. I have to say I'm quite pleased with it. I did work on it some, but not all that much really - just yesterday morning, and no post-publishing edits either. Anyway. That was an unusual experience for me, but I'm getting so much practice, blogging daily, that perhaps I'm just starting to get better at it, maybe I'm crossing into another zone. God knows that never happened with my piano playing, but maybe I didn't practice enough.

Up in the aerie, aroma of peach crostata fresh from the oven wafting upstairs. Dinner will be steak, salad, and baked potato. Women of Note is on, but uncharacteristically I'm not listening to it, I can't seem to write with the radio on anymore. Had a very enjoyable weekend. Yesterday afternoon I attended a one-off workshop in a cappella polyphonic choral singing, led by a very spirited trio and attended by about 15 others, including myself. None of the music was all that simple - a swinging round, a 19th century American vernacular "shape note" hymn, followed by a Georgian (as in Republic of Georgia) antiphonal wedding chant that we all sang - in Georgian! The two-hour session was capped off with a multivoiced South African song. Darlings - it was amazing. I've heard music like that, such as on Graceland, this exuberant, sonorous, rhythmic, joyous sound. But it's quite another thing to be in the midst of performing such a piece. The trio taught us the song (the words written on large pinned-up sheets of paper) in the South African language (Afrikaans I guess), taught us pronunciations of sounds such as tongue-clicks that I found very hard to do (as I did the Georgian throaty, guttural chs), not to mention the different parts - soprano/tenor, alto, bass. On top of all that? Dance moves!!! I kid you not. We weren't quite ready for Broadway after the half-hour crash course - but man, we looked pretty good, the group of us in (semi)unison doing a choreographed routine including some very hip, cool steps that I wouldn't mind sneaking into my personal dance move repertoire.

I thought of you, dearest 3.0, from when we were all together at the train station on that snowy night and you all spontaneously broke into that Polish rap-chant. Encountering the Georgian wedding song reminded me of it, the sound was similar - same idea - polyphonic vernacular a cappella song.

Amazing though, the difference between listening to music - no matter how engaged one might feel in the listening - as opposed to actively participating in making the sound. It's a completely different experience. Really, I can hardly get over it - we credibly sang a very complex South African song, split in many voices, with whoops and drones and rich harmonies, in the native language, and with authentic moves along with it!

For today I was a bit torn - attend a book-signing of a celebrated chef who's written a cookbook that simplifies Indian cooking - and I love Indian food. But this was a number of miles away, on the eastern side of the county. (And it is just so so cold out - single digits or low teens, dropping well below zero at night.) Or attend a presentation of short artistic films on the subject of vanishing animal species, along with a talk by an expert on honeybees and beekeeping. I chose the latter - close to home, and something that in the end I thought maybe I "should" see. I can't say that I got all that much out of the films - beautifully done, technically proficient I'm sure, but I wasn't particularly moved by them (not yet anyway, sometimes images have to sink in or connect with something else - later).

But I was very glad to hear the bee expert. He loves bees, he knows bees, he knows everything about bees, he is a spokesman for bees. He spoke with great natural enthusiasm, and I learned more from hearing him field questions for half an hour, than I have in reading any account of bees (often dry on paper however fascinating the subject and dire the scenario, an impetus thus, perhaps, for the films - empathic shiftings of points of view, to jumpstart awareness).

I don't plan to keep bees but feel that I will, come spring, look at my garden in a new way, from the perspective of providing a delightful diversity of nutritious flowers of which amazing bees - upon which our very existence depends - may sustain themselves...

I am loving you very much and hope that you are happy and having a nice time and that things are going well. Very, very many kisses. XOXO

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Mabel's Dream

My love
I dreamt of you last night
a rare gift
you came to stay at my house
that was not my house
in the spare room for a month
you had doubts about the narrow bed
wedged in an eave against the wall
I assured you that grandmother had slept there
and it had been fine for her
the room is large and light, the sun is out
and on a low soft bed that fills the center of the room
we lie down together, and stretched full length
pretend to merely rest, chat about your stay
perhaps I'll come visit you at night, I say
and with that we turn to each other
limbs long, attenuated, and begin to kiss
our first time ever, lips lightly touching lips
the door is ajar and in the hall
an occasional faceless figure swirls past as we lie
oh your lips, your body, your involuntary groan --
a figure flickers soundlessly in, and in an instant withdraws
we freeze – hold our breath - have we been caught?
there'll be a tumult in a moment, invasion, noise
but there isn't - in the hall a clock distantly ticks
somehow we haven't been observed
or if observed, ignored, granted tacit reprieve
to return to our task, surged and suffused,
but I know we're pressing our luck so I say - wait
and get up from the bed to shut the door
feel the latch strike, give the lock a turn
and lie back down amid pale billowing sheets
in your arms on the floating bed in the center of the room
unpent to freely express our probative swoopings
in grace and earnest, no time to lose
I wriggle out of my blouse and on the roiling, rolling bed
lose my balance, and say, help me with my top
Venus de Milo astride, breasts exposed til the moment
you have seized me with your mouth and I moan
in my underlinens wondering how I'll ever get them off
in the swells of the bounding, weltering sea
and then the dream spools and tatters to a sudden end
catapaulting me from the mild spring air of a sunny room
onto the chill solitary raft of night
where I’m on my side of the bed
under heavy covers, hours before birdsong, before light
I lie in darkness
and go over the fragment, savor the tangible dream
grateful for its involuntary nature how
for the briefest moment I didn’t have to strain to make you appear
you flew on your own to meet me
on a mild spring morning in a house not my own
where strangers or family let us be
we got lost in one another, fused, stroked, and kissed
Austin - did you too, last night, dream of me?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Do you like cats?
Do you have siblings?
Your father died, I believe.
He had a cabin on a lake.
I was at your wedding. You were very tall.
Maybe that's the first time I met you
But I don't recall.
I remember a wedding in a suburban hotel
We spent the night
It was a very big expensive affair
I remember my uncle, presiding.
I was hidden in the corners somewhere.
Was I married already?
There was a video camera, roving gathering of
testimonials. So maybe that's something that can be looked up.
Trouble is, I went to two such weddings
very similar, of two sisters
weddings separated by not many years
and with the same sort of fanfare.
So it's hard to be sure which wedding I remember.
But I do think I remember seeing you
Maybe that's when I met you

Let's see - what else? A game of trivial pursuit
And your muttering of "taxachusetts" that set you back
in my book a few squares for years
not that I had much to go on
or ever viewed you in that way

You stopped by with family
one day a couple of summers ago
all very sudden, on the fly, and afterward
it had felt like a home invasion to me
all photographed with cellphones
to report back - to whom?
But until I went sour - way after - on that afternoon
I actually had a great time
I had cleaned the house, presciently
the day before
And had pizza dough ready, rising
And flowers about the house
So it turned into an instant party
We were dancing around in the kitchen
I offered you local camembert
You seemed to really like it

You seemed to like the bedroom,
remnants from a high-end shop
that I was starting to piece together
I love the way the bedroom's turned out
five, six, seven different patterns going on at once
yet the colors all go, and the patterns meld
I had a nice time that day, and a nice impression of you

I've been struck unexpectedly with an arrow - confirmed
when I saw you again
I felt a little sheepish stepping into your arms
in the dining room
since I'd written all that ribald stuff for -
I didn't know it was you
though I couldn't rule you out.
I'm hit now with an arrow
and maybe you too - or not - who knows really
I've been there before - concurrently
and it's all tangled
but who knows what will happen?
to me things feel fluid
neither of us would have chosen this scenario
or even imagined it

and yet life transpires as usual
perhaps you're hurtling over the ocean

I've dredged cod in milk and flour
to fry for dinner, with lemon rice and broccoli
I walked at the conservation area
knocked myself out trudging through foot-deep snow
cats snooze all around me
radio's off so I can think
a jet plane engine whooshes overhead just now
my fingers tap on the keys
I imagine you sitting on a jet
bent over a book, or a magazine
in the little overhead cabin light
heading home

you stood against the fridge
and I offered you my favorite
local camembert pressed on warmed baguette
you tasted - and I looked at you, thrilled
to see your eyes widen in sudden pleasure
I said - fantastic, right?
you nodded
and I, delighted, danced away

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Beautiful this morning, so glad the sun's coming out. The last couple of days the atmosphere has been a ceaseless milky gray and looking out the windows I've had the disconcerting feeling of being within a box construction, or glass dome, or snowglobe. Within the tiny domain, arranged with the cozy, colorful furnishings of a dollhouse, all is clear. Without, an affectless shroud surrounds. Indoors all is cheerful, bright, alive; on the other side of the glass - a mere membrane away - an icy frozen world, bleached and glossed as an old black and white photo, pervades.

Now that the sun's out color is leaching back into the landscape, the sky's turning pale blue, tree bark gleams brown in apricot sun - there's more equipoise between the dimensions, as in summer, as in osmotic exchange, between outside and in. As I look out the window, I feel less like a miniature in a shadowbox.

I glance at the dictionary to check the definitions of torpid and of shadowbox. A boldfaced word at the top of a page catches my eye: sexennial. Curious, I glance at the entry. "Occurring every six years," "an event that occurs every six years." No kidding! That's what it means? I thought it was about something else though the time frame roughly fits.

Back from a walk. We had an ice storm the other night and yesterday and today every branch, every twig, every twiglet, of every tree, every shrub, everywhere all around here is encrusted in ice. An amazing effect. A landscape draped in diamonds. Imagine if a Martha Stewart type set about to try to thus festoon the landscape with these crystal effects, painstakingingly painting each branch, each twig of every plant with white royal icing, confectioners sugar, and dragées. Couldn't be done! God's offhand extravagance, shaking out a boundless sack of A.P., getting it all over everything. Ah I know that effect well, from when I'm set to bake cookies from scratch, inevitable flurries and countertop dustings as I measure out the flour...

I noticed on my walk, besides dazzling visuals, an aural dimension: the roar of rushing rapids from down the ravine; overhead and all around, the crackling and crinkling of ice in trees; and at one house, faint and cordial stirrings of garden chimes.

(I rely too heavily on just sight and sound in my writing. And so as I noticed the sounds, I made a point of inhaling deeply - but really didn't smell anything. The air temperature was mild. Ah, that's touch! Oh, but thinking of scent, and taste, and touch - now my mind transports to another landscape altogether - yours...)

It was a day that contained moments of enjoyment with little creatures. Gwynnie loves my ivory cashmere sweaters, the ones I sleep in, and when I'm about to shower and take them off and lay them on the bed (I audibly pat the bed to alert her) Gwynnie runs into the room, takes a flying leap onto the bed, and claims her cashmere.

On my walk today no snow geese - phew, because I didn't have bread in my pocket and I hate to disappoint, especially since anthropomorphized they'd be gangster geese hurling cursing epithets at me for coming emptyhanded. Instead, by one house that I pass at the turn of road and creek, a pair of little dogs (Pekingese? I don't know dogs, really) become hugely excited when I pass and yap with great excitement. And there was another small young dog there too, a different breed, that leaped the little white plastic fence and bounded over to me on the pavement, just wanting to greet me and get a little pat and attention. Which I was happy to give - except that I was in the middle of the road at this fairly blind turn with notoriously clueless speeders who view pedestrians as strange alien anomalies - certainly it's unexpected to see a pedestrian in these parts (which is why where there used to be a gaggle of five magnificent snow geese with attitude - they're down to three).

So - evolution. The one young pup leaped the fence and into my redcoated arms, and the Pekingese, who hadn't dreamed or considered leaping over the no more than foot high plastic length adjoining a level snowbank, appeared in an instant to - flash, get it! - and they leaped over, for their first times ever, and into my arms except that at this point I was like, get off the road, get off the road! Because here I am in the middle of the road, in a bad spot, with three little dogs and a van whooshing past...

The dogs' owner came outside and I said, I'm so sorry, I had no idea the effect I had on your dogs - and he said, yeah, that's Brooklyn...

I guess that's the name of one of the dogs - not even of the feisty geese.

Darlings, no lives were lost (phew) and so off I went...


So many kisses, my love - thinking of you always - safe travels


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Thank you darling, for your warm candlelight in the window just now (5:10 pm). This morning, too, I happened to go online at the precise moment (6:53) that you looked in on my blog - the numbers bloomed & transformed before my eyes, and I knew it was you, wonderful evidence that we were thinking of each other at the same time. My mind is forever seeking to find meaning and pattern in things that perhaps are better understood as random. Honestly, a year ago just this time, I think my mind really got a bit unhinged, seeing patterns and connections and weird coincidences everywhere. I think of that these days. Though my spirits flag now & then (unsurprising, I think, due to strange, impossible circumstances, not to mention icy torpid weather) I am very much on an even keel now. It's strange looking back to last winter. In my entire life, before or since, I've never, ever had mental health issues to the point where my sense of reality seemed to be becoming unhinged - and hopefully, never will again. Someday I'll tell you. I should write it down, really, try to construct a narrative. When I mentioned it in passing to an old friend recently, the hard time I had last winter, she asked me to tell her about, and I couldn't give her an answer, didn't know where to start. It was just all these connections everywhere, what appeared to be obliquely pointed messages directed at me - not linear occurrences.

Ah anyway, so I'm of sound mind now, certainly a good thing. But in the spirit of Kitty-Levin, I try to make sense of this series of page hits, two days in a row:
Proust's Double
Morning Write
Evening Post
(a.m.) Outside the windows grizzled land and pall
[ed. note: yeah, this afternoon too]
New Age
Yuletide Mash

There are two others - because the last two days it's 8 page hits at a time - but I don't know what they are because the stat log has room for only so many, and someone else - several times a day, has been hitting on the "starved gnat" post from last September.

So little to report, today, dearests, and I'm not feeling very inspired or poetic, though I did read several short essays of the poet Ted Hughes, in his volume Winter Pollen. Which I really enjoyed reading, and felt very comforted by, as a poetic love letter writer who feels anxiety sometimes over writers block, and he offers such sage, gentle guidance from his own experience. How writing a poem (for him) is like hunting small animals, which he used to do as a child, or like going fishing, trying to glimpse let alone catch the shapes that flicker past underneath the water. In this context too, in startling parallel, I think of his poor son Nicholas, who as a grown man was a research biologist in Alaska, studying the movements of grayling fish (they're salmonlike, I believe). He took his own life a couple of years ago, unfortunately. I was very struck and moved by what I learned of him, the fact of him, his studies, his love of nature, of going out onto rivers and closely observing the movements of fish - like his father, who was able to take it a step further, metaphorically. I'm tired now, and it doesn't feel like my story of theirs to tell, don't wish to appropriate it, and yet in the back of my mind I've always wanted to write something about it. A couple of years ago, as an exercise in a writing class, I took a large journal page and jotted down, in a lot of balloons, connected with lines, thoughts, leaping associations, quotes, the "Pike" poem of Ted Hughes, a description of Nicholas' research. I went quite far afield on that sheet, with many other tangential thoughts as they came up. And here that page sits - looking quite official, almost like an organic organizational chart - but I've never felt that I could do anything with it somehow, as though the sheet itself sufficed. Which it doesn't, but there is a part of me that resists being the one to put it together in some formal fashion. I don't know why it feels so opportunistic to me - just not wishing to tread on others' lives, I suppose. There is a lot of palpable pain there. They're both dead and gone (Ted Hughes, who died of cancer, predeceased his son) and yet - they seem very immediate to me.

Sorry, darling, I'm just babbling here a bit, which I don't really like to do in my blog (yeah, I'm sure that shows).

What I'd really like is to be able to shut off my mind for a while, just lie in your arms in peace, hear about you for a change - learn about you. Maybe one day, or not, who knows.

It's getting late where you are. I imagine that you're in bed, or getting ready for bed. Or - who knows - perhaps you work late into the night, or overnight even. I have no idea. But whatever time it is that you go to bed, even though I'm not there, I'm kissing you goodnight, and making sure you have enough covers and that the shades are drawn and the room is nice and dark. Good night, darling. Sleep well.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My dearests, dreadful weather today, have been all but housebound except for a brief foray with weights up and down the length of my dead end road this afternoon in gray dripping sleet and with icy slush slicking the asphalt, soaking through my shoes, and seeping up my pants legs.

Indoors all is cozy, it was a good day to cook and so I made a few dishes: hummus (purée of sesame paste, chick peas, garlic, lemon juice, cumin, and EVOO), which became filling along with mixed salad for pita sandwiches; a beautiful plum tart made with farmstand fruit that I had frozen in August or September; and now, for dinner, chicken legs stewed in caponata (a mélange of eggplant, tomato, and peppers) to be spooned over penne.

But my darling starved gnat, you and I are still camping on the beach in St. John, where all is sunny and balmy and temperate breezes blow onto shore... We're not starved here at all, we're basking barefoot in the sunshine, peeling shrimp and cleaning fish that the driver whose brother's a fisherman provides to us each day from his daily catch... at night we make love and if one or both of us is a light sleeper it's because we wake to the sudden rhythmic rains pouring down onto the canvas roof... inside the spacious tent, all is dry and comfortable and cozy - it's a big enough tent that we can even stand and walk around... in the morning the driver comes around (we've hired him for the week, he was happy for the work and as it happens his paramour resides nearby)... while we're still waking in each other's arms he's lit the propane fire and set up coffee in an old tin pot and left us eggs from his wife's chickens along with a papaya from his tree...


My dearest. I don't even need the idyllic setting. I think of you, the whole night through...

Monday, January 17, 2011

My dearests, whatever shall I write tonight? I ask myself this every day around this time. Is that you, dearest, in an elaborate proxy cover whose sole consistency - because the page hits range from a former Soviet republic, to South Dakota, to Lombardy, to Germany - is an engraved illustration from Dorian Gray. I do not beseech you imploringly as in that image - rather, with reference to another Oscar Wilde work (I think? or is it P.G. Wodehouse), I ask merely for information. Darling if you're stateside, then -- well then, I guess you switched off with someone, or perhaps the schedule isn't quite so rigidly menstrual (oh the mechanical tyranny of 28 or so days). I can't even be sure it's you. Which is okay, I totally get it, my darling Dmitri. I do think of you, even though I still can't quite conjure your face as I try to summon you - so frustrating. Because if you were here before me - the way I saw you - you'd be so immediate, so standing here in the fullness of you - of course it's you, and only you, and Oh! it's you! that's what you look like, what you feel like as I put my arms around you. I mean there's this immediacy where you're so very very vividly completely there - so frustrating not to be able to easily conjure up at least the expression on your face as I try to recollect. And the memories aren't fading exactly, but they are receding, time is passing, it's scant birdseed to go on (I have to refill the feeders every day). It's just hard to keep it going - on my end anyway - you've got Scheherazade's prosody to keep you going. What sustained Scheherazade, I wonder? Perhaps I should make a study of that fairy tale. It can't just be out of fear of death that she kept singing her song, surely it was out of a more positive impulse. And now why do I think of Bluebeard and his dead wives, and of Henry VIII?

I suppose I've laid down a few threads that I'll have to follow, but not at the moment, not this evening.

Right now, darling, let's go swimming in St. John, in the Virgin Islands. I visited the island one afternoon, a number of years ago. Amazingly, D actually won a Caribbean cruise for us. He was at a music-industry convention in L.A., and everyone threw their business cards into a bowl. The time came for the drawing - a card was drawn - the winner's name was announced. But the person wasn't in the crowded hall - which was required, to collect the prize. So a second card was drawn - D's! And he was there and his colleagues were all OMG you just won a seven-day cruise!

It was an amazing cruise, all expenses paid, airfare and everything. Except we did shell out money in the sense that I was a bit freaked out by this Great White Whale that had landed in our laps. We - I - didn't have the clothes for it, or even any sense of how people dress for cruises. So I spent too much money (that is money we couldn't quite afford), buying garments not on sale, including a long Carole Little colorfully patterned crinkled caftan which I really wish I hadn't more recently put into the Goodwill bin, since that dress had many memories, and besides I might very well fit in it again now.

Beautiful cruise, we had a cabin to ourselves on an upper deck, with a balcony, and it was amazing at different times each day to wake to see - oh, either open sea, or one night in the middle of the night very distant thunderstorms over the island of the Dominican Republic/Haiti, and another morning a very closeup green mountain like a top hat of St. Maarten. It was incredible.

On various days there was a selection of day-trips that passengers could avail themselves of, and so the day the ship (a refurbished dowager of a storied oceanliner, the S. S. France) docked in St. Thomas (shopping/dutyfree perfume/liquor, etc.) we took a ferry to the nearby wild (or perhaps more accurately "wild" - that is, managed wild - not tourist-trappy anyway) island of St. John.

We were there for only a couple of hours. There was some sort of snack or drink in an open air pavilion where tiny birds openly and charmingly marched around begging for scraps, and there was a precarious jeep ride up along a steep mountain road (fresh gourds hung overhead as we passed!). And then we arrived, the island driver, D and me - was that it? I don't remember anyone else - at the most beautiful, idyllic little cove on the sea. It was a campground, I now recall, one could camp there for days or weeks at a time - and there were tents there. But we seemed to have the tiny beach to ourselves, and the island driver laughed and disappeared for a while (perhaps for a snap). And I went into the water, which was azure and clear and pristine and wild and the perfect temperature and the sun was bright but not overly so. It wasn't a bare exposed vast empty beach at all. It was this tiny cove nestled and surrounded by leafy shade and green. Amazing.

So that's where I would like to be with you, darling. And to see your face very clearly as we hold hands and step into the water.

There's no one about, not a camper, not even the driver. We've had lunch. What should we do now, up to our necks in azure sea, toes springing against hidden sand. You kiss my mouth and slip swimsuit straps off my shoulders and I take hold of you underwater and lose myself in the voyage of your mouth...

Sunday, January 16, 2011

My darlings, up in the aerie after a very pleasant day out in country and town. A morning walk around the conservation area, making my way through a foot of snow in many places, quite a workout. Chatted with a guy on cross-country skis who marveled that on a day like today the park isn't better used. I agree. It's spectacular, what with the generous open space (several hundred acres), and both mountain and river views. (The park sits on an expansive bluff above the river.) It was interesting to observe the man ski, he really flew, so much faster than my bootstep after single bootstep. I don't know that I'm all that interested in skiing ultimately, I'm easily frustrated by paraphernalia (honestly, I find it tedious to get on my boots and lace them up - I much prefer slipping bare feet into sandals or loafers). But snowshoes might not be a bad investment, as the guy suggested, so that taking a hike in the snow isn't quite so arduous and hard on the joints. Am I going to do anything about this anytime soon? No, but still, I'm amazed that I'm even thinking about cross-country skis (is that what they're called? why does that phrase seem odd to me, as if I have it wrong?, I think of cross-country runners) and snowshoes - with reference to myself!

Returned home, changed into a nice outfit, what I wore at Christmas, a blue cashmere sweater set and new pair of jeans. I put on my good tweed coat and bright red scarf tied in a nifty French way (it forms a very neat silhouette on the collar, shortens the length, and stays put - it feels like a magic trick!). I drove into town and took myself out to a very delightful lunch out at a very good regional-cuisine restaurant in town.

The place is overpriced and out of our budget, but I had a coupon that I had purchased for $12.50 - that was good for $25 here. I ordered what turned out to be a beautiful and delicious yellowfin tuna confit, a chilled mixture of bits of tuna (which perhaps ultimately got lost) with tiny white beans and frisée lettuce, all lightly dressed in a basil pesto. (I am inspired to duplicate this dish at home - I'm used to seasoning white beans with sage - the basil pesto was unexpected, and really worked. I've got pesto in the freezer...) I asked the young woman server to suggest which white wine by the glass would go best, and she seemed delighted - you'll trust what I suggest? absolutely, I replied. She immediately indicated on the wine menu (which I could hardly even see - somehow I had managed to leave the house without a pair of reading glasses) a white bordeaux graves. It was perfection paired with the light, savory confit. Oh and a tiny basket of slices of hot baguette, and cold triangles of possibly local butter. I savored each bite and each sip, and greatly enjoyed being out. I finished the meal with a cup of coffee (good but not great). The bill came to $26, and I left a $5 tip. Which is quite overpriced I think - but, really, I had only paid about $18.50 - which felt just right to me.

Then I went to the movies and caught The King's Speech, with Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush. Wonderful story, and a great pleasure to see them act together. And there was a lovely depiction of the marriage of the then-youthful "Queen Mum" (played by the ever spry, sly & delightful Helena Bonham-Carter) and her husband the stammering future King (Colin Firth - whom you, 1.0, resemble, which had me running an instantaneous alternate scenario in my head - it wasn't Colin Firth, or an English king - it was you writ large on the huge screen in the darkened theatre - your mouth - your lips - your set of jaw - as I remember you, and as I imagine how over the years you may have aged...) - my idea - surely anybody's - of a happy, strong, very loving marriage.

And that was about it. Went to the supermarket, started to buy "fair trade" roses but at checkout realized I was in more of a tulip mood, so after paying for my whole chicken, spinach, tomatoes, "spring mix" salad, and the rest, and dropping them off in the car, I went back in and bought two bunches of orange and yellow tulips. They're in various places around the house now, a vase on the dresser, one on a sideboard, and a bunch in a mustard jar on the kitchen table.

I topped off the bird feeders, the birds are ravenous. The temperature's supposed to drop precipitously. I keep warm with thoughts of you. I thought of you so much as I ate lunch out this afternoon. I imagined you sitting across from me. Do you like lunches out? They're my favorite. I imagined (sips of elixir wine made me feel instantly amorous) that afterward we'd retire to what an old friend from Minnesota, as she once wrote to me, refers to (and highly recommends) as a lunch hour "snap" - meal, sex, and a nap - just the thing for a cold snap.

Loving you so very much, always.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

oh take me with you when you go!

Vincent Van Gogh, Bulb Fields, 19" x 26" oil on canvas on panel,
The Hague, April 1883; Washington, D.C.: The National Gallery of Art

Claude Monet, Tulip Fields with the Rijnsburg Windmill, 26" x 32" oil on canvas, 1886, private collection.

And here is another very beautiful related image...


I'm afraid of flying by jet
but not I think afraid of hot air balloon
so that's how I'll come
I'll lower down from the blue sky
from that chink in the clouds
in a big balloon the very color of tulips
stripes of red, yellow, and green
and blue too - but who ever saw a blue tulip?
so perhaps those are hyacinths
well it is called "bulb fields" not tulip fields
you've been pacing by yourself
my dearest love
I was supposed to be there hours ago
but I had trouble deciding what to wear
what does one wear on a hot air balloon trip
to meet one's lover in a tulip field
one wants to be unencumbered, wear a skirt
which works pretty well for biking, too
but as the balloon descended I found
that the skirt would swoop up above my head
in a Marilyn Monroeish way
only I'm not blonde
I had to keep swiping it down, hold the folds between my legs
as the balloon sank to the ground
you looked up from the parterre grating of blooming bulbs
and beamed at me
I hope you have something more for me than just kisses
darling, after all that
some gouda maybe, or smoked edam
and can I tell you that I have never found wooden clogs
to be all that comfortable
or sexy?
oh and here I was all worried about my skirt
as I valiantly tried to keep it down
and what's the first thing you do
after you kiss me, and offer me a snack
I'm glad it's a full skirt, and not one of
those ultra formfitting skinny ones
otherwise there's no way we could be doing
what we're doing right now in the shadow of the
hot air balloon
collapsed in a huge colorful heap on the ground
with my skirt hitched up at my waist

my darling loves

Friday, January 14, 2011

My dearests, just checking in this evening, at low ebb a bit, feeling inflamed somehow, a little flushed. Missing you very much. It's January 14th, so one-24th of the year is done, it's the 1 a.m. of the cycle. Vacuumed downstairs this morning. Had Chinese for lunch. Went for a walk around here. Lay down for a short nap and woke with great delight to find tulips from you at my desk. Missing you. I look at photos of you. I'm glad you like my salad dressing. I was so winging it - usually D's the one to make it - but I guess I did have the recipe down - it was good! One of the first things I did after the holiday was to go to the supermarket for a jar of honey mustard - I think that's what saved me. But I'm glad to impress you anyway I can, in the completely inadequate proxy ways that have to stand for something else. Googled for an image of a painting of a vase of tulips, Dutch or Flemish, Renaissance or Baroque, to no avail at the moment, but did come across a couple of wonderful paintings of tulip fields, one by Van Gogh, the other by Claude Monet. Much, I suppose, as I imagined them, on our little weekend cycling excursions.

What else today? Watched a Charlie Rose interview with Patti Smith, who recently won the National Book Award for her memoir of her coming-of-age friendship with Robert Mapplethorpe. I don't have a firm grasp on Patti Smith, never did - I remember in college a brusque friend of mine would drunkenly air-guitar mime her singing some song about Patty Hearst being a good girl and "now she carries a gun." But I had no firsthand experience of Patti Smith - only this friend acting "cool" quoting her. (She was trying to ingratiate herself with a cool set on campus who were very well acquainted with Patti Smith - I was the polar opposite of that set, just out of cluelessness, lack of exposure.)

Anyway, I was just amazed by the interview because Patti Smith in person was so different from anything I might have expected (that is, aloof, cocky, full of attitude). She's in her sixties now, quite youthful (in spirit certainly), and absolutely disarmingly charming, unpretentious, smiling, natural - as she tells stories or speaks of herself, one almost gets the sense that she's blushing shyly. I found her quite inspiring - ah - so that's what an artist looks like - we're not some grand mythologized being - we're just folks - or - the title of her memoir - Just Kids. I appreciated her unassuming humanness, in this era of celebrity culture. And I grew up in a family that supposedly revered art and artists - but only if it was Great Art, as if sprung full-blown without any process from the - what - forehead of Zeus? Or whatever the right metaphor is, there.

I've been musing lightly, off & on these days about the concept of evolution, how annoyed I felt when I heard a Catholic priest take a silly swipe at it. (I don't expect intellectual priests in that parish - I suspect, without making a study of it, that the Vatican and Pope Benedict have, let's say, more ecumenical views on evolution). What am I saying? Patti Smith's memoir, from what I gathered from the Charlie Rose interview, traces the evolution of two budding artists who happened to find each other and become friends and lovers, and then just friends (loving) for a very long time til death did them part. Personal evolution. Because when I think about my sense of spirituality, my sense of the universe -- it always seems to be in motion, about becoming, about the possibility of becoming, of transformation, of a movement towards. It's not fixed rigid machinery. There's evolution of species on a grand epic scale in the natural world, and in the course of any individual's life, there's personal growth - personal evolution. Not just in sheer physicality - from womb to old age, think about the incredible "evolutionary" changes we each go through, but even within that, always, if one endeavors, or is given the opportunity to avail one's self of the full range of one's full faculties and sensibilities...

But it's not amorphous. Another little idea I toy with these days is the idea of growing into one's looks, inner beauty and outer physical beauty somehow merging. Because I'm no great beauty in the way it's commonly understood, and for a long time I let myself go, not quite knowing better the impact "lifestyle" choices had on my body. And looking in the mirror and not liking, or hardly even recognizing who I saw.

Sometimes I feel that if I had a daughter then I would simply try to encourage her to see the connection between lifestyle inputs and the effect on the body. And also the idea - let's say she's obese - as so many American daughters of the post-McDonald's age are - and prediabetic or diabetic - I mean, one sees so many morbidly obese people. Well, maybe I'm not talking about them so much. I mean - the obesity covers up the inner beauty, not just hides it but distorts it.

I would try, in my imagination, if a young person like that were my daughter, to encourage her to become the most beautiful person she can be, the person (I feel) that God intends for each of us to become... beauty, definitely, develops from striving, even if very imperfectly, for the balance...

Evolution... growing... becoming...

My dearest darlings, I know I should proof, but I am amazed that I wrote as much as I did. So in the spirit of a spirited punk rocker - let me let this one fly, with very, very many kisses for you. Love you very much. XOXO

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Liquid fire like stained glass behind a latticework of trees, amber light framed in an abstract mesh of lead.

Good evening, my dearests. In a reflective mood all day, especially now, as I slowly download and watch President Obama's speech in Tucson yesterday evening. I read the transcript this morning and was very moved. I am grateful that the President was able to find words to help lead us out of the wilderness. Also, in learning more about the individual victims who were killed and injured, or who found uncommon strength in themselves, and acted to quell the situation, or to save, or to comfort others, how strikingly this miniscule sampling of individuals (what, hearkening to graduate school days, wouldn't be considered a statistically valid sample) represents - in fact - an amazingly representative, eloquent, diverse sample of Americans (like a cup dipped into water (?) - it brings up a representative sample of water), ordinary Americans, the very best of Americans, living - including within an instantaneous, catastrophic moment of crisis - "throughout the full range of their faculties and sensibilities," to borrow from Hawthorne (via, recently, a friend).

I turn on the BBC newscast now at 6, and watch horrifying images of the Brazil floods, a woman trying to save herself and her little dog whom she clutches. In ravagingly tumultuous brown floodwaters she manages to hang on and is hauled to safety, but she wasn't able to save her little dog...

I turn my attention away from the TV screen, the images, the news are upsetting and I don't feel I can do anything about them. And what good am I, despondent or upset? It is not easy to strike a balance between being cognizant and aware of events, even if they're beyond one's control, and being in sheer ignorance, willful turning away of attention from them. I struggle with that.


Words help. The President's words. I'm glad he clarified that it wasn't incivility in public discourse that caused this tragedy. Because the media, of course, in knee-jerk fashion, seized on precisely that aspect as they do time immemorial. (I remember as a girl many, many years ago hearing discussions as to whether A Clockwork Orange caused youth violence - none of this is new - it probably wasn't new even when as a young girl I was hearing the argument for the first time.) I am glad that the President - the Office of the Presidency - can for a moment rise above and be heard above so much sheer noise.

I'll leave it at that. I am missing you, page hits seem very scarce today, particularly from beloved quarters, but at the same time, it's totally okay. One thing I struggle with - and perhaps this does unfortunately qualify me as a bit "needy" (as much as I hate that word) - is that I have little faith, faith in others, in abiding love. Some part of me keeps thinking - oh, it was something I said, or, they changed their mind about me. And honestly, there's a part of me that hurts, the part that reacts that way - but there's another part that says - they're busy, or - they came to their senses, there's just too much at stake - but I have to keep trying to have faith in abiding love. Because I do believe in it, even if I don't have tangible (or intangible) evidence for it all the time. Ah, anyway - faith. A lifeline, for myself.

Good night my dearest darlings.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

My darlings, snow day today, about a foot fell overnight and into the morning, the plows came through and here comes one now, they're all out in force. I've got an enormous stockpot of homemade chili simmering on the stove, a dish I make once a year, in January, perfect for a cold snowy day. I am missing you very much. It's not so easy being housebound. I mean, it's not so bad either, but it's not always easy figuring out what to write, and my imagination runs amok in the amour department - to what avail? It's cold comfort to think that it might not be so different, in some ways, for you. Elvis just sang something about - as long as he can dream. Maybe somewhere birds fly in heaven.

I don't mean to wax melancholic, I'm actually in a good mood, feeling fit, ash roses smoldering on my cheeks, managed to get in a long walk with weights on the plowed roads around here.

It's not so easy to write to more than one preceptor at the same time. Sort of like Big Love (the HBO epic drama-comedy series of suburban Utah Mormon polygamy), only with Northeastern progressive female protagonist up in her aerie with small swirling cast of beloved men forever out of her reach.

I'm not going to strive for anything literary tonight. Not that I do usually, but sometimes the pressure feels a little more so than other times. I'm going to write as though I have but one beloved preceptor. Even though I have - I'm not going to count right now. One, or two, or two-and-a-half - maybe. And I don't mean that silly series.

You see this is the epistolary equivalent of you and I out on a date, say at (p.m.) for a drink, or a nice shared pasta at a neighborhood trattoria, this would be the quiet interlude moment that we touch hands across the little table, in soft votive light, while waiting for coffees and our check. I reach across to lightly touch your hand, regard your beloved face, your eyes downturned, your smile absent and content as a cat's in the flickering light, while waitstaff swirl around and about offering parmesan and pepper to the table next to ours.

Maybe one day my dream - yours and my dream? - will come true. In the meantime it's silent up here in the aerie, wind chimes clang outside in some rising wind, chili mellows on the stove, I am alive, you are alive, I think of you, you think of me, I love you very much, and now one of us must reluctantly release fingers because the cheery waitperson has arrived with our check and we busy ourselves to pay, and to leave...

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Today is 1/11/2011. At 1:11 last night I was in bed asleep. At 11:11 this morning I was at the conservation area, making my rounds around the snow-covered trails. It's been really great there the last several days with all the thick white powder instead of last week's sketchy, slippery ice. Snowshoers and cross-country skiers have been out (I used to regard these as exotic winter activities but now though I don't practice either, they seem everyday), including a woman about my age and her elderly mother. The quite ancient woman appears to be in her late 70s at least - and she's the one on skis! (She strikes me as European, Balkan perhaps, as though she spent formative years in the midst of remote high mountain crags - and here she is now, determinedly making her way in a managed park, accompanied by her kindly, patient daughter.) I've been seeing the two of them and their dog every day for the last week or more, no matter the time of day I go. We exchange hellos and today I remarked to the younger woman - "you must think that I'm always here - because I think you're always here" - we're like daily recurring apparitions, or so it seems. She seems bright and friendly - I sense that I like her - a vibe. Well, uncommon people gravitate. Yesterday I ran into the two of them, and their little dog started barking wildly when it saw me - the younger woman had to restrain it. Later in my walk I crossed paths with them again, and the dog ignored me. The younger woman remarked with a smile, "Now that she's found a bone she's not barking - I guess that's what it takes." I laughed - and only a minute later - too late - thought of a response which I wish I could have instantly come up with - "yeah, well I know how I am."

Darlings, another snow storm is gathering for overnight, but things are cozy here, with a chicken and a pan of orange root vegetables (carrot, squash, yam) roasting in the oven. Have read a couple of chapters of the George Washington biography, and am reminded of a reason I was attracted to it when I read reviews - I feel as though possibly I'm getting a bit of insight into you, dearest 1.0, the way he was full of very strong passions and impulses that he carefully learned how to cover or screen, create a workable persona for; how he was at home both in genteel society and the wilderness; how in his early days he would venture out with surveying instruments and notebook and basically do a lot of little in-the-field consulting jobs. A little uncanny. I love you, sweetheart (always have), it's nice really, to read of one very human sounding man (the biography deals of the man, not the Myth) and to think, quite unexpectedly, of you.

I've been thinking of 3.0 too - are you in Poland now? Someone - or more than one person in Poland - has lit on my blog three times today from that Bonnard siesta image. Okay, I don't look exactly like her - she's taller. But from the back it may not matter so much, to paraphrase Ben Franklin. Close enough. Oh grrrr.

No, I'm okay, really. Still going over the tiny little seashell scraps of the amazing weekend when I intuited it was you. I know one isn't supposed to go through an entire Catholic mass in a cathedral so as to get to the part where everyone shakes hands and says peace. I was waiting for that moment, and sorry, I couldn't help myself, I threw my arms around you. That, possibly, isn't what that moment is meant for, is it? Darling - you see, I self-selected myself towards attending a Seven-Sister school - but for other reasons, prudently self-selected myself right out of the Catholic Church. But I would gladly attend with you any day, seriously - for the aesthetics of it, and the general message, the divine part (less so the social control stuff), and just to be with you. To be with you. Now a Beatles song is going through my head (or is it Lennon? or is it McCartney?) - to be with you -

Darling, you may self-select your way out of any amorous feelings you may have towards me when I tell you that - I think that the beatniks, and the Beatles, and John Lennon - they're the ones who had it right. I'm with them.

Love you, darling(s). Peace. Hugs. Amen.


Monday, January 10, 2011

My dearests, sitting at my desk as night falls outside, lamps on inside, rosé poured in an ice-filled glass, musing, thinking of you, wondering what to write, needing to find just the right moment to set the needle on the phonograph record, to start playing something, a line that flows, makes sense. I've been reading here and there, sporadically, I used to be a voracious reader, now it's more happenstance. I've started a new biography of George Washington, by Ron Chernow, not that I have any particular fascination with that eminent historical figure, but I was amazed at how much I loved the HBO series John Adams, so when I read several extremely glowing reviews of Chernow's book, and saw it on the new non-fiction shelf at the little town library the other day - I checked it out. Along with (a couple of days later) a returned copy of The Master and His Emissary, not that I plan on rereading it, but now that volume feels like a cherished object to me - I like having it around. I do wish I had the money to actually purchase works of writers and other artists that I enjoy so much. I would, I absolutely would, if I were able to. Certain books are fine to get from the library - but others, one really wishes to own. Plus I would like to be in a position to in the tiniest consumerist way, to support writers and artists - of whom I've been in some way considering myself one.

I carefully download my favorite Stella the Artist, 40 Dogs: Romeo and Juliet, and Moment Changes Everything - and everything goes smoothly on my computer for a couple of days and then it all crashes and the songs disappear. I do wish to purchase those artists' albums - but mostly because I would like to support their work. Because if I did own the CD's, I'd probably burn out on them fast, they'd join the untidy mess of CD's, haphazardly piled or lined in wicker baskets that I rarely listen to anymore. There is something about the work I have to go through to manage a voluntary listen to David Gray or Bob Schneider that makes them so special. I'm going to try not to download them for a few days - I have been overlistening to them, and I don't wish to use them up. Proust had a collection of photographs of people and personages he cherished - and he took care not to view the images too often, lest they lose their psychic power.

That said, I'm glad I have a few images of you, that I glance at now and then and cherish. I think we've both lost weight since that summer afternoon you came over. Isn't it a nice thing to lose weight? I think you and I both look younger now - and why not? I'm glad.

I wish I could remember what you look like better, though, voluntarily. But I do remember what it was like to step into your warm, enfolding arms, that welcoming, restful sensation. I hugged you (and everyone else) a few more times than was strictly necessary - the train was several minutes late. We stood outside on the station platform in the darkness, snow falling all around, you all breaking into some crazy ancient Polish rap-like chant that I didn't know, but I loved being included in the huddle, and then the brilliant torchlight of the enormous locomotive approaching through the swirling snow, an apparition lighting all of us in the darkness, we were in its looming, approaching, Industrial Age magisterial headlamp. It was like the Flying Dutchman ghost ship, this huge apparition bearing down on us, seemingly, but then absolutely safely lighting to a halt.

Yesterday at the library, too, I scored a couple of old New Yorker magazines, for a dime each. (Again - I'd wish to subscribe...). And read a wonderful piece - about a work of art - the Ghent Altarpiece - that if I'd ever heard of it (which I can't say I have) I had long since forgotten about, but turns out to be regarded as one of the most amazing, cornerstone pieces of Western art ever, an enormous double-decker (like that train) stacked altarpiece of painted panels.

I wasn't aware of that work of art, and now I am, and I'm glad.

I started out this evening wishing very much to write you the most beautiful, beautiful thing I could possibly think of to write to you, that's how it feels.

Perhaps several of us are leading double-decker lives, like that stacked altarpiece, each panel of which tells a wondrous story or shows a beautifully rendered amazing image. Perhaps - no not perhaps - except for the multitudes, that's how it feels. Kisses my very dearest, cherished Dmitris.


This World is not Conclusion
A Species stands beyond -
Invisible, as Music -
But positive, as Sound -
It beckons, and it baffles -
Philosophy - don't know -
And through a Riddle, at the last -
Sagacity, must go -
To guess it, puzzles scholars -
To gain it, Men have borne
Contempt of Generations
And Crucifixion, shown -
Faith slips - and laughs, and rallies -
Blushes, if any see -
Plucks at a twig of Evidence -
And asks a Vane, the way -
Much Gesture, from the Pulpit -
Strong Hallelujahs, roll -
Narcotics cannot still the Tooth
That nibbles at the soul -

Emily Dickinson, c. 1862
The seven pictures on top are surely all Jan van Eyck's work, except for later retouchings. The central painting is a mystery: Is the youngish, enthroned and bejewelled male figure, holding a crystal sceptre and raising two fingers in blessing, Christ the King or God the Father? Might he somehow be both? The third member of the Trinity appears as a tiny dove in a sunburst over the Lamb. (And isn't the lamb a symbol of Jesus? The altarpiece still defies thorough interpretation.) The figure is flanked by panels of John the Baptist, who points to him, and the Virgin Mary, who reads a book. (She is beautiful and heart-tuggingly personable: somebody's daughter, somebody's sister.) On either side of them are the musical angels. At the far left and right stand Adam and Eve, naked and melancholy, presented like statues in narrow niches but naturalistically vibrant with carnal candor. One of Adam's feet protrudes, appearing to rest on the frame. When the wings are closed, the Adam and Eve can be swung back open on either side of the central male figure - returned to grace.

-- Peter Schjeldahl, "The Flip Side: The secrets of conserving the wood behind an early masterpiece," The New Yorker, Nov. 29, 2010, p. 42-47.

image: Hubert Van Eyck and Jan Van Eyck, The Ghent Altarpiece (or, The Adoration of the Lamb), completed 1432

Also today: a vigorous walk at the river's edge along powdery snow-covered fields and woods -

Love, and very many kisses -