Thursday, March 31, 2011

This morning outside the window cardinals invisibly "tutoyered" - tu tu tu.

Przyjdziesz w upalny, skwarny dzień/Pod złoty żytni bróg/I legniesz jak liliowy cień/ U moich nóg. Yes I know that I will, my question is - viendras-tu?

Later, from Corpus Christi, comes this search phrase that lands on the Fuseli nightmare image in one of my posts: "Paralysed force, gesture without motion." That doesn't sound good. I've been through that, with 1.0. Was this a message from you? I don't know the reference. I search, discover that it's from a T.S. Eliot poem, The Hollow Men, that I never heard of, much less read, which makes me wonder, whatever my pretensions or illusions, how literate I actually am. It turns out to be a very well-known poem. It begins,
We are the hollow men
We are the stuffed men
Leaning together
Headpiece filled with straw. Alas!
Our dried voices, when
We whisper together
Are quiet and meaningless
As wind in dry grass
Or rats' feet over broken glass
In our dry cellar

Shape without form, shade without colour,
Paralysed force, gesture without motion;

Those who have crossed
With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom
Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost
Violent souls, but only
As the hollow men
The stuffed men.
My mood lurches southward the more I read and think about this poem, especially since I wonder if it might be a message from you. (Then again, it might not be - forever and again the incorrigible uncertainty.) I know so little about you - I wouldn't have guessed you to be an Eliot cognoscenti - but my dear Dmitri, what is that grim realization of his? About everything mattering the most to him being hidden, and mattering the least being on the surface?

"Paralysed force, gesture without motion." Are your hands as tied as that?


Look, I'm not feeling happy at the moment for a number of reasons. It's the last day of March and however it came in or left, it seems that April will start cruelly with a snowstorm tonight. April means --- "this month." I've sustained myself for weeks now with the thought of our meeting "this month." And now that it approaches I don't know if it will happen or not.

If it doesn't I can live with that, but I do need to know - have that uncertainty dispelled. I can't dwell in deluded fantasy for the next three weeks only to arrive to find that I'm spending the week there by myself, again. (Alone Again, Naturally.) If that is to happen then please R.S.V.P. - ah eh ee oh ew - even the paralysed character in the Schnabel film Diving Butterfly, no that wasn't the title of it, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly - could communicate by fluttering a single eyelid, via which he dictated an entire memoir. Did I mention that he was physically, though not existentially, paralysed?

In other words, I will be fine by myself in B'klyn, but would like some time in advance to imagine myself there in that mode, so that when I arrive I am okay with that. So - please - one way or another...

the favor of your reply (bellehudson12534 at is requested


Alone Again, Naturally
by Gilbert O'Sullivan

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

One apron down...

Hello darling, wondering where you are. I have the idea that maybe you've flown away again, but this is based on - what? the pacing of page hits. Perhaps I'm psychic or delusional, or both or neither. If you could send me a message at some point just so I know (know - not talk myself into believing) that we're on, when (if?) for planning purposes (e.g., food prep I might do here to bring down) you might be arriving & departing, I would be grateful.

Excerpts of messages between My Friend in Finland and Belle, 28 March 2011
I just read your blog-writing on Whistler, Mallarmé and Poe. I found it highly interesting...

I'm glad you liked my Whistler/Mallarmé/Poe post. Connections,intersections, and cross-pollinations such as that, among genius personages, are amazing, aren't they? I would be interested in learning more, for example, about the fact that Whistler returned at least twice (in 1887 and in 1890) to the Annabel Lee image, subsequent to his 1866/1870 oil. Why was he so drawn to this particular literary figure, I wonder - I suppose it's her connection with the sea, or perhaps there had been an Annabel Lee in his personal life?

(I was an Annabel Lee to my first boyfriend - which did me, Annabel Lee, no good whatsoever! But I digress.)

Also, I loved the way Mallarmé perfectly captured the rhythmic, rocking cadences of Poe's English original...

I went back to edit a post from last week, in which I'd included a portion of the French Symbolist poet Stéphane Mallarmé's translation of Poe's Annabel Lee. It's rare for me to rework one of my published posts in a major way, but I removed the Ezra Pound poem, To Whistler, American, (it seemed too much for that post), and included the rest of the Mallarmé translation. I wonder if I have his text entirely right - it was the best that I could find online. But the online versions (here's one) had strange (it seemed to me) line breaks, or lack thereof; the poem, in French, seemed to be broken into paragraphs rather than into stanzas. Also, in the French versions, inexplicably the last two stanzas (or paragraphs) seemed out of order, which made no sense to me. So I took the liberty in my post to compare Mallarmé's translation to Poe's original (as published in a book of verse I own, and doublechecked online), and put in a "certified copy" (copie conforme) of Poe's line breaks, though I retained Mallarmé's punctuation as a sort of compromise.

I also wondered about a seemingly missing line from the Mallarmé, as compared to the Poe:
Et ce fut la raison qu’il y a longtemps, — un vent souffla d’un nuage, glaçant ma belle Annabel Lee ; de sorte que ses proches de haute lignée vinrent et me l’enlevèrent, pour l’enfermer dans un sépulcre, en ce royaume près de la mer.
And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her high-born kinsmen came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulcher
In this kingdom by the sea.
Why did Mallarmé - that is, if he did, if online versions are to be trusted - omit the rhythmic "en ce royaume près de la mer" of Poe's second line?

Yes dearest, I did think of you that evening, just as I recorded. He was the fellow who met up with us later on for drinks at (p.m.) and at the end of the evening he held my hand for balance as I clambered into the back seat of his surprisingly roomy mini-Cooper. He zipped the four of us in his tiny car up the back alleys to F's place - it was magical, not unlike Peter Pan & Wendy flying over London - being safely conveyed in the wee hours in his tiny bubble, the four of us packed in, hovering, seemingly, above the alleys. He first dropped off L, and then, a short distance down North Fifth, F and me. I extracted myself from the rear and he took hold of my hand again as I alighted to the curb.

Good night, darling, sleep tight. XOXO

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

My dearest, clasping your hands and kissing you hello. I hope you've been having a wonderful day. I've had a pleasant one myself, nothing strenuous. Dinner will be leftover curry chicken, made from a very good curry powder that I get from a hole-in-the-wall shop in Brooklyn. I know that purists disdain curry powder, but I find it's useful to have an excellent one on hand, even if it is inauthentic. (Or is it?) A couple of tablespoons of the stuff stirred into a pan of sauteeing onions, and with the addition of stock and plain yogurt, results in a headily fragrant sauce that suffuses plain chicken and colors it festive yellow. I've just used the very last of it, and would like to stop by that shop at some point to replenish my supply of spices. One day when we take a stroll up to Atlantic Avenue and the Heights (as we're bound to) - the shop's right along the way.

What else today? My pillowcase project went so well that I decided that I was game for more sewing. I have the hang of the machine, which I'm really happy about. It's working very smoothly and I've gotten past the learning curve of not having touched it in many months. I like to wear aprons in the kitchen, nice ones, and just this weekend threw out my last good provencal-print Williams-S. one, of which I had purchased three or four on sale years ago and wore them to death (the last one, along with matching potholders, to the point of unsightliness). A couple of years ago I sewed an apron from fabric from that lovely shop with the remnants, but I wasn't thrilled with it, it didn't seem as nice as the storebought one. My head has changed around that. Now I wear my original yellow expensive sophisticated French print apron with great enjoyment. This afternoon I used it as a template for several others, of a remnant I found today - a lovely pale green floral print. It's a bit of a project to piece it together and make the ties, but from fabric that cost about $4 I should be able to get 4 or 5 aprons easily. What do aprons go for at W-S? In the neighborhood of $25-30, last I checked.

My darling, how are you, I wonder. I hope you're not too much in starved gnat or Branwell mode. I hope you are experiencing 7/8th Vitruvian days, with the final eighth held in reserve til ---- me. Okay, I'll be very generous with you darling - go ahead and live your life 15/16ths - I'll understand - it's not even "half-magic" for me unless I think of you. That is - Whatever Works - to invoke the title and philosophy of one of my very favorite Woody Allen movies, which by the way I've made a note to pack (I own the DVD) for B'klyn.

Dearest, very many kisses. I will think of you - the whole night through. XOXO

Monday, March 28, 2011

Carissimo, lounging at our villa in Tuscany
golden sun licks azure ripples, warms stone deck

I'm reclining with my book on a chaise longue
regarding you through my shades

I savor the moment, the vision of you moving
on a raft to and fro along the length of skytop pool

the pool sits on an overlook atop the valley
your fingers trail the surface as you skim through the water

now and then you give a little push with your hands
or feet, at pool's end, and then set sail again

we are here for a weekend
it is not an exile

it is a moment we can steal to be together
or to be alone, but by ourselves

down in the valley cypresses, individual and alone
ancient, grown, line the brown valley

I put down my book, sip from sparkling water
get up and stretch my limbs

I reach my arms towards the sky and close my eyes
feel the hot sun against my pale Slavic skin

we need 15 minutes of sun each day
for the vitamin D

when I open my eyes again I see that
you are looking at me

you smile, you with your pale Slavic skin
you might burn too easily

I'd better do something about that
and so I jump

no, I don't jump, I lightly step
along the stone tiled terrace

faces of gods interspersed in the squares
and try my foot in the water

step down into the clear cool deep
my foot changes appearance under water, then the other one

all is shimmery and moving below as
I step into the azure surround toward you

you are smiling there, beaming, as I approach
and then I set sail in the waves - take a quick splash

and dive to arrive by you
and we both profess we were worried

you were going to be burnt in this hot Tuscan sun!
so I've come to cover my body over yours

as a kind of sunscreen, caro
and you can do the same for me

or if we just stay here in the water, in the sun
our shoulders below the surface

we can explore what it's like
to be underworld sea creatures

making love underwater
while above the waves

in the approving gentle sun
our eyes meet and our lips and we kiss

and down below the tops of the cypresses reach
distractions for tourists driving below

so they don't see what you and I are up to
high above

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My darling, up in the aerie in platinum light at ten to six with my glass of wine, back from an afternoon's excursion to Great Barrington where I caught an intriguing, enigmatic film that I didn't quite grasp. I'm actually getting it better now as I peek at a few links in connection with putting together this post.
Maybe I was better off with the enigma. I didn't know the Juliette Binoche character was an art dealer. I thought they were married, if long estranged. I thought he was incapable of emotional intimacy - the reason for their long estrangement. Do you suppose I may have been projecting? I'll readily admit that I was, in trying to make sense of it - but that's okay I think, that's part of the beauty of a purposely unexplained, not all the clues filled in, dots connected sort of film - like a dream.

Main story aside, the film was beautifully directed - many scenes included, in the background, the concurrent orbit of everyday peripheral life that goes on, all these other people, each in their individual universes of moments and perceptions. If my attention wandered from the main character taking a seat in front of a beautiful nude statue at a fountain in a Tuscany village square, my eye (without ever leaving off the lovely Juliette Binoche and wondering a touch wantonly about the upper regions of the longlegged statue) might light on passersby on the other side of the fountain, as they come and go, their own little planets in orbit, in this - our - everyday multiverse.

My darling, the trip about paid for itself too. It's a bit of splurge to go for a long drive to GB for a matinee, especially since part of the ritual (as D well knows and factored in, leaving me more than enough money) is to stop into a beautiful cheese shop on the main street there to get camembert and if I'm lucky, "day old" bread that, if there is any, they put in a huge market basket at the front of the store near the register. Dear Reader, I came away with some eight loaves (three baguettes and five other amazing breads, raisin nut, olive, multigrain (2) and Italian rustic) - for which I was charged all of ten dollars! Which covered the full-priced lasciviously delicious French camembert. I had a few minutes before the movie was to begin, and I was hungry, so I went back to the car parked behind the main street in the municipal lot, and as delicately as I could tore off bits of the plump cheese that I took pleasure in unwrapping, as well as a baguette end that was so hard I had to almost gnaw at it - my haul, I surmise, may have been two-day-old bread.

My dearest darling, should tear myself away from writing to you (kissing you, under wraps) and attend to all that bread that should be sliced and frozen to be pulled out a couple of slices at a time in the coming weeks as toast for breakfast (and offerings for snow geese). Plus croutons to be made from at least one of the baguettes...

Perhaps you and I for real one day will drive around together - admiring cypresses, and one another


My dearest dear, melting into thoughts of you, wondering where you are. What wouldn't I give to be lying next to you, saying hi, touching your cheek, looking into your eyes, embarking on the project of memorizing every detail of your facial structure, your nose, via regarding and nuzzling. I conjure these reveries as I type. Late afternoon sun spills into the aerie, hot water burbles in the pipes, and the aroma of clay pot chicken rises up the stairs.
Dearest love, that was as far as I got yesterday afternoon with sitting down to write you a proper post. I was full of amorous thoughts and at the same time reticent. "Words came halting forth," to quote Sir Philip Sidney. It didn't help that I've been thinking of elegiac love couplets, reading Ovid's Amores. I would love to write something as beautiful as that about you and me. As much as I fantasize though, part of me doesn't wish to set it on paper so it doesn't become a script we feel compelled on some level to fulfill. (You might be thinking - isn't the horse out of that barn door already? No darling, that was a different apartment I had described.) I'd rather experience whatever it is we're going to experience and then later, in the fullness of poetic remembrance and reverie, set down the impressions and memories as they come. Still, I couldn't let go of the elegiac love couplet idea, trying to get the cadence down in my head so that perhaps my words might flow easily into the form. I realized that Ruth Reichl often seems to naturally fall into that rhythm in her tweets. Perhaps others do as well, that pithy form lends itself to poetic expression, but hers is the only twitter account I feel intrigued enough to follow.
Siesta time in sultry summer.
I lay relaxed on the divan.
One shutter closed, the other ajar,
made sylvan semi-darkness.
-- Ovid, Amores, Book 1, No. 5

Forsythia spills over central park walls.
Golden promise on this cold morning.
Salmon roe on crackers, dab of sour cream.
Spring is coming.
- Ruth Reichl tweet, 25 March 2011
My darling, let me send this little note off to you right away. A cup of Strongtrees awaits me, as the sun rises and robins chirp. Ah, bliss in a cup. I will use tiny scattered treats such as that as steppingstones to carry me through the next twenty-three days until we can say hi.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Hello dearest, up in the aerie with a well-earned glass of wine after a long day's journey in the sewing room. I exaggerate, it was just the afternoon, and actually once I got the hang of the machine again it was relaxing and fun.
I do marvel at that machine. At first the stitches were uneven and wobbly, but seemed to improve as the machine warmed up. Also, the stitches were too long, until I realized, consulting the manual, that I could adjust their length. I fiddled with the lever, which at one setting resulted in the tiniest stitches, thirty to an inch. One could do haute couture for a Barbie with that. Anyway, a Rolls Royce of a machine it seems to me, and it was well-used and well-maintained for decades by the previous owner, and I'm trying to do right by it too. And so now I have a half-dozen new pillowcases to show for some pleasant labor - fresh for spring!

One thing I recalled as I sat there sewing was that my grandmother used to sew too, up in her attic space. She made the most wonderful linens back in the day, duvet covers (before I even knew the term duvet, or comforter, or puff). She fashioned them from sheets, a pair of them or perhaps a king-size one cut in two and adjusted for size. She'd leave a diamond shaped opening in the center of the top half, into which a blanket could be stuffed. When it came to laundry, only the cover needed to be washed. I remember as a young girl sleeping in my cousin's room, underneath poufy bed linens, the covers that my grandmother had stitched - soft cottons with delicate patterns of scattered faded florals that housed a plain blanket - incredibly soft and luxurious, very soothing and comforting in the darkness. So I felt the tiniest connection with my grandmother today as I frugally sewed up pillowcases. My other thought was that my effort wasn't entirely about being frugal. Well yes, I was trying to save money - but the fact is that if - like my grandmother - you can sew, you have access to enjoying that much more soft, luxurious bedding. I buy remnants in the attic loft of a high-end shop that also has a retail space - which is actually very discounted, an "outlet" - and I think their pillowcases go for in the neighborhood of $20 (haven't priced them lately). They purvey to very exclusive venues where a pillowcase might go for twice that. One would really need money-to-burn (what I refer to as "hedge fund money") to afford that kind of luxury, especially in quantity. But make it yourself - suddenly, if you have the time, the materials, and a bit of skill - it's completely within reach.

Another thing that pops to mind is something my aunt once said, which stuck with me. So much better to buy something on sale from a really good store, than to buy something cheap, and cheaply made, at "everyday low prices." I couldn't agree more.

Best of all, I think, would be being really good about flea-market finds and secondhand stores and yard sales and the like. I love the look of all those "found" objects, putting together an eclectic, comfortable room, but somehow never got in the habit of searching things out that way. But that's really the best. It's amazing what people throw away, or that can be bought used for a song... That's something I'd like to become better at, without making it an actual "hobby" or projectual thing.

I love fresh clean linens - my own, not secondhand, and other than that - I love old, familiar, comfortable, well-made objects, made of real materials, wood, stone, glass, what have you...

Actually, at my friends' Brooklyn apartment is a tiny object lesson that I rue. They both have very artistic sensibilities, and their apartment is filled with his art, her eye for design, their eagle-eyes combined for street-salvaged gold. Among their lovely objects is a small woven wood Shaker basket. Yeah - I know that basket. I don't how many years ago - decades - I found it at a Shaker design shop on Atlantic Avenue, the antiques district. All I could afford at that shop was a tiny object - a basket. Over the years in D's and my apartment I tried to find a use for it, but it was a slightly awkward shape & size and didn't quite work with our stuff. I ended up using it to collect recyclables, lining it with plastic bags (such a bad use for such a lovely object!). Finally in an editorially severe bout of severe spring cleaning I put the basket out to the curb. Where it was immediately picked up by - guess who. And now the basket resides in serene simplicity as a paper wastebasket by a little antique desk in the bedroom. Oh - aarrrgh!

Though, ever so slightly in my defense, it was very hard to own "too much" in the one-bedroom where D and I lived, there just wasn't any room for anything "extraneous." Now that I live in a house, of course, with space to fill, and to fill in lovingly with cherished, unusual, beautiful objects - well -

I'm glad, very glad, that my friends plucked that basket out of oblivion and that it resides in their bedroom.

My dearest, I - like the light at this moment - am fading fast. Putting my arms around you, holding you tight. Who would ever have thunk it? And yet it feels right, and makes sense in a weird way. No need for a lot of explainery, not between us anyway. Well, we'll see. Good night, dearest friend, good night. Kissing you in the shadows. XOXO

Thursday, March 24, 2011

My dearest, up in the aerie, the sun is shining, and I'm in far better spirits this afternoon than I was yesterday at this hour. I think the weather got to me yesterday. It had been gray all day and after all the encouraging springlike advances it seemed that we'd been mercilessly thrust back to February with yet another snowstorm. But the bark was worse than the bite; several inches had been forecast, but by morning we'd gotten no more than half an inch, though that of course didn't stop the plows from coming through. I woke around dawn when I heard the thundering of a lowflying jet and thought groggily, I thought Kirsten had moved, plus it's Thursday, isn't she in D.C. - no, it was the Little Town's Finest, vigilant road-crew division.

The morning was iffy and cold, but by afternoon the sun broke through, the temperature warmed and whatever had fallen overnight had melted. I took a walk in the afternoon. The creek rushed with whitewater caps and the teeming waters along its serpentine length glowed an acid hue of silver green that put me in mind of Whistler's precisely atmospheric palette.

Ah perfume...

My dearest - good night to you too - are you as excited as I am? I am - very. I have the benefit of being familiar with the surroundings, I suppose, but it's okay - you will be at home within five minutes - I promise.

Very many kisses, my love, sleep tight.

'Ten o'clock lecture'

Good morning, darling.
Woke up in a watery mood this morning, thinking about Annabel Lee. Did some musing and online searching, and discovered that James McNeill Whistler had portrayed her in an oil as well as in pastels, a rare titled depiction by him of a literary subject.

I also learned that:
"On 13 June 1888 Claude Monet introduced Whistler to Stéphane Mallarmé. Mallarmé agreed to translate the Ten O'Clock lecture into French. The two men became regular correspondents and close friends. Whistler attended Mallarmé's famous Mardis, the Symbolist Salon, at 89 rue de Rome, and visited his country house at Valvins, Seine et Marne. When Whistler moved to Paris in 1892 they met frequently.

In 1889 Mallarmé presented Whistler with a copy of his translation of Les Poèmes d'Edgar Poe (Brussels, 1888), which included the poem Annabel Lee that had inspired an oil by Whistler of the late 1860s... and several pastel studies... Whistler's frequent use of colour and flower titles for his studies of women (e.g. Study for the Tall Flower; Design for a Wall Decoration, Blue and Silver: Forget-me-not, Rosa und violet, Cupid letting a bird out of a cage) reflects his friendship with the Symbolist circle around Mallarmé..."
Il y a mainte et mainte année,
dans un royaume près de la mer,
vivait une jeune fille,
que vous pouvez connaître
par son nom d’Annabel Lee:
et cette jeune fille ne vivait avec aucune autre pensée
que d’aimer et d’être aimée de moi.

J’étais un enfant, et elle était un enfant
dans ce royaume près de la mer;
mais nous nous aimions d’un amour qui était plus que de l’amour,
— moi et mon Annabel Lee;
d’un amour que les séraphins ailés des Cieux
convoitaient, à elle et à moi.

Et ce fut la raison que, il y a longtemps,
- un vent souffla d'un nuage, glacant
ma belle Annabel Lee;
de sorte que ses proches de haute lignée vinrent,
et me l'enlevèrent,
pour l'enfermer dans un sépulcre,
en ce royaume près de la mer.

Les anges, pas à moitié si heureux aux cieux,
vinrent, nous enviant, elle et moi -
Oui! ce fut la raison (comme tous les hommes le savent
dans ce royaume près de la mer)
pourquoi le vent sortit du nuage la nuit,
glaçant et tuant mon Annabel Lee.

Mais, pour notre amour, il était plus fort
de tout un monde que l'amour de ceux plus âgés que nous -
de plusieurs de tout un monde plus sages que nous --
et ni les anges là-haut dans les cieux,
ni les démons sous la mer
ne peuvent jamais disjoindre mon âme de l'âme
de la très-belle Annabel Lee: --

Car la lune jamais ne rayonne sans m'apporter des songes
de la belle Annabel Lee;
et les étoiles jamais ne se lèvent que je ne sente les brillants yeux
de la belle Annabel Lee;
et ainsi, toute l'heure de la nuit, je repose à côté
de ma chérie, - de ma chérie, - ma vie et mon épousée,
dans ce sépulcre près de la mer,
dans sa tombe près de la bruyante mer.

Til later, darling. Hope your day is going well. Thinking of you very much - many kisses. 

images: James McNeill Whistler (1834-1903)
Annabel Lee, 1886/1870, oil, 29 1/8" x 20", Hunterian Art Gallery, University of Glasgow
Annabel Lee (also known as Niobe), 1885/1887, 12-3/4" x 6-15/16", chalk and pastel, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C.
Annabel Lee (also known as Niobe), 1890, pastel on brown paper, Freer Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

not half so happy

... And this was the reason that, long ago,
In this kingdom by the sea,
A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling
My beautiful Annabel Lee;
So that her highborn kinsman came
And bore her away from me,
To shut her up in a sepulchre
In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in heaven,
Went envying her and me-
Yes!- that was the reason (as all men know,
In this kingdom by the sea)
That the wind came out of the cloud by night,
Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee...


Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), The Icebergs, 1861, oil on canvas, 64-1/2 by 112-1/2 inches, Dallas Museum of Art

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hello my love, missing you very much, here's a huge hug and kiss for you, hope you are doing well. I've just spent an hour in the kitchen putting together what promises to be a beautiful dinner. I've baked a nectarine frangipane tart with last summer's frozen fruit, a pastry crust, and almond butter layer - I'm inspired by the Polish apricot-almond Easter cake mazurek, variation on the theme.

The main course will be "clay pot chicken." I was inspired by a Mark Bittman recipe recently in the Times that suggested braising chicken with vegetables. The recipe was a little too involved for me, at least for a chicken. But it inspired me to resurrect my long-neglected clay pot cooker. I soaked the bottom and lid in water for a while so that the ceramic doesn't crack in high heat.
I filled it with pieces of cut-up chicken and rough-chop vegetables: celery, carrot, onion, whole garlic cloves, green beans, quartered russets, halved mushrooms, fresh-ground pepper, herbes de provence (fresh sprigs of rosemary and thyme might be nicer), and as an afterthought, a few glugs of red wine "for the pot." So it's sort of a very easily flung-together coq au vin. I'm letting the oven cool now - I've just pulled out the rustic tart - and when it's back to room temperature, I'll put in the dampened clay pot, covered, and set the temperature to 500. The clay slowly heats without incident, and once up to speed nukes for about an hour - I haven't made this in years so I'm a bit vague on the timing, but that's about right.

A very hearty, warming dish on a day like today - gray and damp all day, the sun never came out. It's okay, the day flew by - blessedly so, since I find myself if not literally counting the days, then just so looking forward to next month that every day ticked off makes me happy that I'm one day nearer to you. I did a lot of cooking today as it turned out, strawberry pancakes for breakfast, seasoned ground turkey, tomato, and kale pasta for lunch. I had the car for the afternoon so I went to the supermarket and took a walk at the conservation area. Then I drove to the library. I haven't been there in several weeks. Last time I went I got the speeding ticket on the return, which sort of soured me on going to the library. I'm simply not going to take 9H anymore, it's the fast, blank straightaway highway that gets me in trouble. I'll stick to 9 that is positively Massachusetts-like in its abrupt speed zone changes that keep me on my toes - 45 to 55 down to 35 forever then an excruciating 25 and back to 45 - like that.

Darling, darling. Am so not in a literary mood, as far as writing goes, this moment. Wish so much we were in each other's arms. At the library Ovid's Amores awaited me on reserve. I've just glanced at it, so far no "elegiac couplets" as wonderful as the Book 1, Number 5, Corinna at siesta, but this one's charming - and so see, in my bitácora way, I am writing you a longish letter (because, between you and me no news is bad news) spacing the lines close and filling the margins so it takes you longer to read.

Ovid's Amores, translated by Guy Lee
Book I, Number xi
Napë, the coiffeuse,
no ordinary maid,

backstage-manager of my love-life,
my silent prompter,

keeper of Corinna's conscience,
averting crisis --

please, Napë, take her this note,

You're flesh and blood,
no fool.

You must have suffered in Cupid's wars
so help a comrade in arms.

If she asks about me, say I live for our next meeting.
This note will explain.

But I'm wasting time. Hand it to her when she's free,
make sure she reads it then and there,

and watch her face meanwhile --
there's prophecy in faces.

See she replies at once -- a long letter.
Blank wax is a bore.

Get her to space the lines close and fill the margins
so it takes me longer to read.

Wait. Why tire her fingers pushing a stylus?
YES will do, in huge block capitals.

I'll garland those writing-tablets with Victory's laurel
and hang them up in the temple of Venus

above this dedication:
'From Naso - in wooden gratitude.'
Darling Naso, next month when we meet, you won't mind will you if I take a break from my el blog? I know that blank wax is a bore, but I think you'll hardly notice in the half-light of one shutter closed, the other ajar, your hands and mine both all over the place running loose...


Monday, March 21, 2011

My dearest, gray day today, flurries and a squall this morning, snow since melted by mist and rain. A day of domesticities, including getting started on the pillowcase project. I began to reacquaint myself with my ancient Singer sewing machine. Most of the sewing projects I've ever done in this house I did on a tiny, shoebox-size made-in-China plastic machine that I bought at Sears in Flatbush for $30. It didn't work very well, but well enough, and most importantly, it was so simple that I could work it. It finally broke though, irreperably, definitely not worth fixing it was of such cheap construction. I liked that little machine though, it did the trick, plus it was portable, so I could easily set it up in the aerie. I would laugh about it, once one afternoon when I was working as campaign office manager for a local candidate. Somehow the subject of sewing machines came up and I laughingly described my little one, and then the candidate's partner bitchily totally one-upped me extolling some ancient heirloom Singer machine. She completely dissed me on my tiny Chinese thing, which was really a joke of a machine, only she didn't get the joke. It was as if my possessing such a thing proved something to her.

But when the thing finally died, I'd gotten used to having one, and being able to do miscellaneous sewing projects around the house, nothing fancy. So I looked at craigslists ads for some weeks, and finally pounced on one - $50 for a 1950s model housed in a wood cabinet, available in Woodstock. And so now it sits, mostly unused in the guest bedroom. I might use it more except - I don't like working in that room, I feel too cut off from the rest of the house. Also, for quite a long while now, I haven't felt very inspired to make anything for the house, I am so mentally out the door, I'm no longer actively feathering this nest, though of course I try to maintain things, keep things up neat and clean anyway - hence, fresh pillowcases.

It is an impressive machine, that Singer. Once I re-learn (a process anytime I sit down to it after a lengthy absence). It works like a dream, and sounds satisfyingly like a very well-made machine. Once it gets going it whirs and sounds like a high quality model railroad. D oiled it for me today - doing so involved a screwdriver, not that that was necessarily beyond me, but the whole, now-where-do- I-place-the-oil-dammit part - I didn't even want to go there. I don't wish for you to have any illusions about me - I am hopelessly unmechanical. I like to use machines when I can effortlessly operate them - so, for example, I like to sew when I'm actually sewing - but anytime I have to struggle in the slightest way with a machine - it's like my psyche can't stand it. I'm suddenly reminded of 1.0, he once wrote to me that he couldn't abide "emotional tension" of any kind, and honestly, I wasn't quite sure what he meant. But now I do - that's how I am with machines - I can't abide even the slightest difficulty. I have to say that in this regard D and I are very well-matched, in that he actually seems to thrive on figuring out the very problems that instantly vex me. He helped me today, for example. I plugged in the machine, flipped the switch - nothing. Instant vexation. I thought it might be the outlet, tested it by dragging over a lamp - no the outlet was fine. I could feel my blood pressure (figuratively) rising, so I left it, stood at the ironing board measuring lengths and turning up hems to be sewn up on the pillowcases-to-be. So I left it for D, and he came to my aid with it, and he wobbled the plug in the wall and then suddenly the sewing machine light came on. He left, and I tried to wind thread on a bobbin - the parts didn't seem to engage right. I asked D to help me, again, and he did - he patiently examined the situation, determined I had a faulty bobbin that didn't fit the dimensions of the housing, we fished out another one - I've now got a nice fat bobbin of beautifully wound white thread.

To boot, at my request, he oiled the machine for me, a prospect I've always found daunting (even D had to study the manual, fetch a screwdriver, figure out the various obscure spots to dot with oil from a tiny vessel that he cursed dispensed overly large droplets), though I know it's important for a Singer, like any machine, to be well-oiled.

Do you suppose that I pump my own gas or have the slightest thing at all to do with the maintenance of the car? Or of the major (or even minor) mechanicals of the house?

It's just the way I am, I'm afraid. But I can do other things. Wafting up the stairs now is the aroma of braising pork and cabbage, seasoned with caraway seeds. I try my hand at letters every day.

Here's where I don't feel the slightest "emotional tension" - all the moments of the day that I think of you, imagine being with you. That's interesting to me. I lay down for a bit this afternoon, couldn't quite fall asleep and it occurred to me that 1.0 had brought me nothing really but pain, but with you I feel this sense of pleasure, as though I had to get through 1.0 first.

Dearest, I should proof this post, but I am feeling really tired at the moment - so I will leave it "unfinished" -

Very many kisses my love - soon, soon -

Sunday, March 20, 2011

now, voyager

Darling, up in the aerie at this quiet hour, mingled aromas of tarragon and roasting chicken deliciously wafting up the stairs. Outside I hear birds twitter. Yesterday at the reading one of the poets - actually, she's not a poet, or no I guess she is, well anyway, she's a translator of poetry, from the Greek - remarked to someone in the audience something to the effect that Virginia Woolf didn't know what ancient Greek sounded like. To which I blurted out from across the room, "like twittering birds." What? The panel looked at me, mildly shocked that someone had spoken out of turn. "What?" "Like twittering birds," I repeated, and I'm surprised they didn't get it, because what I was thinking of was that (as I recalled) when Virginia Woolf felt herself at various times going mad, she was convinced that the birds were singing to her in Greek. Given that, what else could Greek have possibly sounded like to her?

Now I've been googling (virginia woolf birds greek) and up come numerous results, and I've glanced at some book excerpts. The association of birds singing in Greek turns out to be extremely rich and allusive - in a nutshell, birds singing of other realms. Ah, perhaps that's why my off-the-cuff comment landed like a lead balloon - Virginia Woolf heard birds singing, not twittering (a now co-opted word). My bad.

Darling, darling. I walked at the conservation area this morning - and heard cardinals singing wheat wheat and - in French - tu tu, just as I recall my Audubon guide says they do. And so I knew they were cardinals, as well as by the scarlet streaks darting in the thickets.

I hadn't been to the conservation area in ages, six weeks or more. I gave up when for weeks on end it was an unpleasantly slippery skating rink. In winter I frequently ran into a woman around my age who would come every day with her elderly mother - on X-country skis, and their little dog. I'll bet they were there all the days I haven't been over the last weeks, the three of them making their way around the park. And there they were today, pulling in as I was leaving. The park is all green now, snow and ice nearly all melted. It was nice - we waved and exchanged hellos across the parking lot - voyagers of sorts, reunited.

Ah, my voyager, in my ship's log -- in Spanish, bitácora, a beautiful word anglicized (in Spanish) to el blog as I recently read in a wonderful online bitácora -- I tick days off one by one as I make my way across the seas, you too, and someday soon, in the way that tectonic plates shift and perhaps eventually meet, we sailing islandmountainglaciers will collide together as one.

He waited. He listened. A sparrow perched on the railing opposite chirped Septimus, Septimus, four or five times over and went on, drawing its notes out, to sing freshly and piercingly in Greek words how there is no crime and, joined by another sparrow, they sang in voices prolonged and piercing in Greek words, from trees in the meadow of life beyond a river where the dead walk, how there is no death.
From Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf

Saturday, March 19, 2011

My dearest, checking in with you, with hugs and kisses. Back from the most delightful couple of hours at a reading and discussion of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets at the international arts colony in my neighborhood. I had such a great time, I am just glowing. I have enjoyed every reading I've ever attended there, and this one was no exception - actually perhaps more enjoyable for me, because it was more dynamic, not just writers reading their work aloud, but lively, intelligent, good-humored discussion afterward. More on that perhaps tomorrow or at some later point, but right now, frankly, I'm savoring my memory of - finger foods! There was such a lovely spread, I am hereby taking notes, and I asked the chef her secrets for a couple of the hors d'oevres, which she cheerfully divulged. I think I may need to buy a packet of toothpicks, they are possibly key. So skewered on toothpicks were the most delectable morsels of chicken, which (as I was informed) had been dipped in a mixture of Hellman's, curry powder, and turmeric, and then rolled in crushed dry-roasted peanuts and (I guess) baked til done. Then there was a perfect wheel of creamy camembert, possibly the Old Chatham kind, served with not only table-water crackers that we all know, but the most savory, delicious seasoned dry cracker rounds. I don't know what they are offhand, but I'll bet they're readily available at neighborhood posh markets. Then there were little bowls of amazing "green" dip of cilantro, parsley - all herbs green, plus EVOO and minced garlic, and the chef offered that the secret ingredient actually is mango chutney (who would ever know). This was the dip to go with a lovely arrangement of vegetables for dipping, thin barely blanched asparagus spears, haricots verts, cherry tomatoes. Plus there were little cheesey puff pastry things. Divine, divine, divine. Plus of course, wine. Plus, in this lightfilled space, glass doors open to a vast welcoming landscape, the sense of the day enticingly ending. Plus when this building first appeared on the landscape - it's only a few years old, built since we moved here almost six years ago - I didn't like it at first, it seemed incongruous, reminding me of the JFK Saarinen terminal only set down in a pasture. But I have to say the building has grown on me, perhaps not so much from the exterior (though it bothers me less and less) but inside it is truly a very, very pleasant space. It's the arts colony's visitor center, so obviously gatherings, such as the one this afternoon, occur there, and it's just perfectly designed for such events. I don't know - I just appreciated, as I stood around with a wine glass in one hand and napkin with a delightful morsel in another, that the very structure of the building allowed me, at the perfect comfortable level, to set down my glass - I just thought that was brilliant design -

Plus, sandwiched in between the pre- and post-prandial delights, was the "four course" meal, the Quartets. I so enjoyed that. That gathering took place in an adjacent daylit, sparely furnished room. On the seats where we took our places were tiny printed chapbooks of the Eliot poem. The conceit of the evening was that three young poets would read excerpts from the poem, afterward offer their individual views, and then lead whatever discussion might result.

I so enjoyed the out-loud reading of the text part. I sat in my seat by myself off to the side, there were perhaps 25-30 others scattered in the audience about the room as well. The three young poets at the front of the room, and one from the audience besides, a young woman with a Slavic accent, read the first "movement" of each of the four major poems that comprise the "quartets." And it was just so peaceful and - I don't know, liturgical - to hear the readings, the cadences, the impassioned yet simple rhythmic readings - really - and it was about five o'clock, or a bit after - but it felt like a five o'clock mass. Well, T.S. Eliot did convert to Catholicism at some point in his life, and the poems are suffused with - well, I don't know if Catholicism, precisely (was J.S. Bach Catholic? that quality, circling, searching, eternal return, "the end is the beginning...")

Anyway. I just so appreciated and savored sitting there hearing the four beautiful individual voices reading aloud from the work. And from time to time as the light shifted in the room or I'd see movement outside the windows, a flock of dark birds flitting past in the screen of light - it was just beautiful.

I thought of you, and think you would have been at home there at that moment. We might have smiled at each other and touched hands...

Many kisses, darling, good night.

From message from Belle to My Friend in Finland, 17 March 2011

... It's actually a bit late here where I am, nearly 11, I'm back from the theatre, that is, a screening of a time-delayed filming of
a performance of a National Theatre (London) production of a new play,
Frankenstein, based on the Mary Shelley novel. I wasn't as familiar with the metaphor as I might have been going into it - so thought of the latest Japanese disaster unfolding in terms of "monsters of human creation turning to overwhelm us with a vengeance." Well, there is always that problem, of course. But after having seen this Frankenstein, I see now how truly human/humanist a story it is, a sort of through-a-glass-darkly Adam & Eve - God you who made us complex human beings with souls why have you seemingly forsaken us?

The production was astonishing. The opening scene showed the newly hatched, embryonic creature - played by an actor, a man -
very agile, physically, very spastically and spasmodically finding its sea legs as it finds itself born, thrust out, cast henceforward to make its way outside the womb. The creature's - the man's - the actor's - naked, raw, spastic, contorted movements were highly expressionistic - visually they reminded me (I think?) of Francis Bacon paintings...

I am very interested to learn more about the poet Uuno Kailas... Well, he was a poet - that is saying a lot, it seems to need saying these days. It's funny, in the music elements in the Frankenstein production, a sort of vague, ethereal quasi-vocal, quasi-instrumental, electronic atmospheric musical effect seemed to keep intoning the word "po-em, po-em, po-em" as if it was a solution somehow to the creature's problems, or what he was searching for. Which is what I believe, actually, though perhaps it was a bit obviously stated ...

Francis Bacon, Paralytic Child on All Fours (from Muybridge), 1961, oil on canvas, 198 x 142 cm., Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, Netherlands

Friday, March 18, 2011

My dearest Branwell, up in the aerie, feeling exhausted, overtired, contemplating not posting at all, so this is just a quick hello, a big hug and kiss on the cheek. I went to bed too late last night, got home after the play and couldn't seem to settle down, drank some wine, a little too much especially given the late hour, before finally feeling wound down enough to go to bed. I'm still feeling a little out of sorts, or maybe I just needed a day to crash, a bit. You've been so scarce today, but my imagination has been taking leaps and connecting dots, and I'm guessing you're not alone, and that there's a pilgrimage, perhaps, to a museum town. Ah, I don't mean to be unnecessarily cryptic - well, either I'm way off the mark, or I'm not. Is it you who landed on the Ovid poem I'd once posted? That really is lovely, isn't it, and I found myself rereading it, and googling "elegiac couplets," of which that poem is an example, and a term that confused me because I thought that elegies were sad, remembrances of things dead and gone. And I thought, I would like to write one of those, but I have only love to look forward to, not, at this point, to reflect back on - so how am I in a position to write a series of elegiac love couplets? (With 1.0 I more than exceeded myself - expressing myself voluminously - elegiacally - though never, I don't believe, in the form of couplets.)

It is very tempting to me to try my hand at one at some point, but this evening isn't the moment, I'm much too tired. The sun is shining, it's a beautiful day, even though I was feeling a little hung-over (yes - that) I did do a workout and took a long walk. My new workout M.O. is to do it at nine in the morning. I was getting so bored with the routine I just needed some other input. So now I do home-pilates to reruns of Law & Order Special Victims Unit on Fox. Which is a little warped, the scenarios on that show (I've watched it three times this week, while crunching, stretching, leg-lifting, push-upping, and the like) are so extreme. I don't wish to admit impediments into my serenely above-it-all salaciously lurid thoughts, all so clean and delightful and scented with lemon verbena.

My darling, I took my big journal notebook out onto the porch this afternoon in an attempt to perhaps sit in the sunshine and try my hand at an erotic elegiac love couplet starring me & you. It didn't work out at all, the cats wanted in and to be fed, so I left my notebook, and when I came back outside the rough wind had riffled the pages and snapshots and loose papers were flung like leaves all over the porch. I gathered them up, including pics of you & me et al., and thought I was missing one, and thought that perhaps - just my luck - it had slipped through a crack between the porch floorboards - but somehow it turned up again, and I gathered all the papers together, but then found that I had, in sitting on a cushioned chair on the porch, sat in one of my cats' recent hairballs, and I had just put on a clean pair of jeans fresh from the drier. So curses abounded, and I scrubbed my seat, and threw the cushion in the wash - and well, no, "siesta time in sultry summer" reveries were about to issue forth, not from me. I did, however, go online and reserve the Guy Lee translation of Amores, the single copy of which in the regional system resides in Kingston, and that I'm sure will be waiting for me in K'hook early next week.

And so that's it for now, darling, I hope wherever you are you're having a very nice time. Sweet dreams, sleep tight. Love you. XOXO

Thursday, March 17, 2011

My dear, just a quick post tonight. I'm going out in a little while to see a time-delayed broadcast from the National Theatre in London of a production of Frankenstein, a metaphor that seems all too grimly apropos these days, what with monsters of human creation turning to overwhelm us with a vengeance.

How are you, I wonder? Is it springtime where you are? It certainly is here, it seems miraculous, the sun and suddenly mild temperatures, so balmy that I hung laundry out to dry this afternoon. On my walk this morning I saw beautiful iterations of "midwinter spring," grimy remnants of snow banks and poised above them, springing from elemental rock and earth and roots, unfurling ferns and bright green mosses.

Other than that I vacuumed the house, took a nap, cooked breakfast (spinach omelet with feta) and made caesar dressing and salad for lunch (another delicious variation for the roast half-turkey that keeps on giving). My mind's in a jumble now, I'm having a glass of wine because I can hardly resist at this hour but of course don't wish to have too much before the show. Pleasant sensations here and there today. At the front of the drive of someone's house on my walk, a pile of downed pine branches producing a lingering Christmasy scent as I passed. Neighbor's chickens this morning perched on a low branch or fencing, I couldn't tell what - they looked so funny as if pinned on a line, "six hens a laying." The rat problem seems to have abated, apparently D was quite clever about where he set the poison. Neighbor has given us some of her eggs, which I eat with a tad of trepidation. But D assures me that she says she eats them too - rinsing them first!, so if we go - well, I guess we all go. The long trailing fronds of willows when not yet in leaf are a bright unexpected yellow. I think of you as the hours go by, and I mentally tick off the days. I think of you on my walks - up hills and down dales my imagination runs free; in bed under the covers waking up (though lately "ten tons of fun" fireplug Claire has been leaping up on the bed, landing on my back with a thud, and settling on top of me - her additional presence constituting a ménage à trois I could do without); or just as I am now, clothed in jeans, tee, and a black sweater, seated at my desk at this peaceful, in-between hour while pot pie for supper warms in the oven. I will whisper in your ear the nature of what I think about when I think about you...

Many kisses, darling. Sweet dreams. A bientôt.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

My dearest, up in the aerie, it is unbelievably gorgeous out, I should be outside writing to you while sipping from my glass of wine. The sun is shining, temperature's mild, things are greening up fast, chickens are wandering over to our yard, cats out on the porch are basking in the light. I am missing you very much and at the same time feel a sense of great wellbeing and happiness. I've got a pot pie baking in the oven, that I made with a phyllo pastry crust and leftover turkey mixed into a sauce of stock, onion, mushrooms, carrots, peas, and a bit of milk for cream. Today was a day of domesticities that way, and I enjoyed myself. Stopped by a shop I really like that in its attic loft sells beautiful high-end remnants for a song. We need new pillowcases, I like to bring my own sheets to Brooklyn, and I stopped by a big-box store yesterday that just opened (I had two $10 gift cards that they'd mailed to our house as teasers) and sheets are just ridiculously overpriced, I'm not going to spend $18 plus tax on two harsh-white not very nice cases made in China. So today I came away with a length of sprightly tiny green gingham, smooth and soft, for $13, which is more than I usually spend there, and when I rummaged through my sewing things when I got home, I found some fine white-and-green striped cotton that will make four more cases. That fabric I probably purchased for all of a dollar or two. I've measured and cut the pieces already and figure that (counting thread) for $15-$16 I'll have, once I'm done, six beautiful fresh new pillowcases.

My dearest, this is a kind of "midwinter spring" time - the light is so refreshingly warm, yet it's too cold to open the windows and let in the air. So I'm between worlds. It'll be nice in B'klyn, with the windows open, I'm sure they will be, spring - the full-force warm kind - always seemed to hit for real around April 15. I'm looking forward to being in shirtsleeves or naked or in underwear or not or whatever, as the mood and hour (the latter possibly having little to do with anything) strike, in various modes of mostly, and very comfortable, déshabille, yours too. You have beautiful hands darling, I look forward to seeing them, touching them, holding them, intertwining my fingers with yours, experiencing your hands, regarding them occupied with something other than peeling a clementine.

Very many kisses, darling. Sleep tight.


Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Slow Ride, a Little Giddy

Darling, I've never done Slow Ride on the piano and my friends don't even have one but I'm sure we'll manage with other furniture and the floor. I don't know the song, but boy I love the lyrics. Breath of fresh air - not like that unhealthy "midwinter spring" stuff. Read it this morning when I woke up and my soul's sap quivered, sopping at sunrise, without my even having to look up words such as sempiternal (if it means eternal why not just say so?) or brazier (not what it sounds like, you bad boy). T.S. Eliot must have been insufferable at Scrabble.

Are you too feeling suspended in time, between pole and tropic, or is it hot in here? Ah, darling, another month to go, we're getting there. I can't wait to stir your dumb spirit, smell your earth smell, imbibe your bloom most sudden. We can roll all night. And to think - no scheme of generation - I'm that "peri."
If you came at night like a king
Or if you came by day for just what you came for
It would be the same
There are other places
Which also are the world's end
But this is the nearest, in place and time,
Right here right now in the Empire State.

I'm in the mood, the rhythm is right
Move to the music yea, we can roll all night, yea
Ooooh, ooooh

Oh baby. Dreamily channeling "Walter." There are three conditions which often look alike Yet differ completely, flourish in the same hedgerow...

You know, I didn't think I'd ever want to play Scrabble with T.S. Eliot. Now - I'm not so sure.

Here are my tiles.


What can be done with that? Lean in, darling, as I adjust my shawl over my naked brazier-less altogetherness, darling, and I'll fill you in...

Oh so many kisses, darling...

When the tongues of flame are in-folded
Into the crowned knot of fire
And the fire and the rose are one.

Slow ride! Yea!

Midwinter spring is its own season

Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading,
Not in the scheme of generation.
Where is the summer, the unimaginable
Zero summer?

If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.

From Little Gidding (No. 4 of Four Quartets), by T. S. Eliot

Monday, March 14, 2011

My dearest, I'm at the end of an afternoon, after a day comprised of wholly mundane moments, fixed in the here and now of the house behind the hedge on a dead end road, my mind a teeming (at times) mix of glancing in not quite belief, a state of can this be happening, about the news from Japan, reflecting on, trying to parse out any meaning from the annihilation, reflecting on God and Nature, and on Man and Nature, reading too, in bits and pieces, T.S. Eliot's Koyaanisqatsi of a poem (or poems), The Four Quartets, in which he rolls up the universe in a ball and rolls it to an overwhelming question and I, reading along, accompany him on his visit. That last bit is actually a paraphrase of his Prufrock poem - but it's what comes to mind as I try to make sense of his poetic leviathan.

I google Koyaanisquatsi for the proper spelling and see that the word means "life out of balance." What I was thinking of initially was that in my first read-through of Eliot's Quartet (it took me a couple of days), the imagery, epic scope and rhythm reminded me of the 1982 film with the Philip Glass score.

My darling, how are you doing? In the midst of all of this - plus asparagus trimmed, pot of rice set up, steaks thawed for D to pan-fry (long tradition - he does the red meats) - I think of you. I got the dishwasher to work on the first go. I'm up here now, in the aerie, sun bursting through the gray occasionally only to vanish again, the light, and perhaps my mood in reflection as a result, in daylit savings flickering as well.

I enjoy these quiet moments - so quiet that the radio was too much, I tried a couple of CDs and their music distracted me. So now it's just silence, except for the whir of the machine, the clacking of the keys, outside the occasional rumble of, I suppose, a passing truck.

Sometimes when I think about what Japanese culture (of which admittedly I know very little) means to me, I think of an individual who knows how to savor a moment not so different from the one I'm enjoying now. A peaceful hour, contemplative mood, thoughts of love towards a beloved, a sleeping cat, birds twittering outside, mountains in the distance, silence.

All those individuals, the survivors, in Japan now, as I sit here so peacefully, ripped away from what they're so exquisitely gifted at - finding the peaceful, the eternal in the here & now. Dailiness will be a long time coming for many there. I can't imagine, I really can't.

I'm not mooking out on you, it's just that I'm almost pinching myself, willing myself to be conscious of this moment, while at the same time more acutely aware of what a luxury such a moment would be to someone else, who used to enjoy much the same in his or her home.

In America, we give our lives to our jobs. It's time to take them back.

Dailiness. Home.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

My dearest, up in the aerie at ten after six, half a turkey roasting in the oven along with baking potatoes, sliced tomato salad arranged on a plate, butternut squash frozen last fall melting in a small pot with dabs of butter and a bit of maple syrup. Have just scanned the KZE playlist from the afternoon, and note The Ballad of the Ancient Decoder as well as, a few songs later, Belle/Banana Pancakes (live). Not to mention that "girl from Ypsilanti" song of Elvis's, the other one. So Belle your anxious decoder, wearing underwear, made strawberry pancakes this morning, though usually it's banana. Beneath my thin sweater layers - no bra. Straining to come up with a lyric about girls in some U.S. burg going braless... no kismet yet.

Dropped D off at a job in town, and took myself down Route 66 north, about a twenty minute drive - comme il faut, obeying all speed limits - to the main street of Chatham, where I saw a wonderful movie called Company Men, with an amazing cast, all turning in very moving, credible, powerful performances, including Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, and Chris Cooper. It's about the sudden and severe toll that brutalistic corporate downsizing has on individuals (in this film, particularly the expended males, especially those of "a certain age"), their families, and in a larger way, on whole swathes of industrial landscapes, in this movie's case, abandoned and crumbling shipbuilding factory lofts that employed thousands and gave rise to a burgeoning middle class back in the day, last century. It's a really strong movie, required viewing, I feel, for anyone who wants to get in a nutshell the impacts of shifts in the U.S. economy have had on the 99.9% percent who didn't make out like gloating, self-satisfied bandits in the deal. I remember hearing about what you went through, and of course I thought of you, and this time in this particular regard, that you've been through that wringer, you know.

I don't understand the distribution strategy for this movie. It was completed last year I believe, and to my mind deserves wide release and lots of "best" nominations. But for some reason I was seeing it as a feature presentation of a "local" film club - albeit a film club with powerful Hollywood connections, I gather. Anyway, great movie, I'm really glad I saw it. Having just now googled to come up with an image, I see that the movie's playing in Albany too - so perhaps it's just now getting wider release. I wonder what, upon viewing and subsequent discussion, say over a dinner table, corporatist apologists - ever ready with a speech - would make of it.

I am also trying to figure out how anyone googling images relating to genesis picture da vinci would find my blog. I am always the eager, if not necessarily anxious decoder, but that one stymies me. I try to recreate the search, and don't see how it lands on my blog. Okay then, so perhaps it's a message. But if it is - then what does it mean? Did you get transformed too, the way I did? Not exactly what's typically meant by "born again" - but, I don't know, I suppose I do feel that way. There was a lot of pain in the midst, and I do still very much think about 1.0, because he was an agent of my transformation, and good - really great - stuff came of it, but also, very much, a lot of psychic pain, to this very moment. That's what I wish to bury - the pain part. Other parts - the "genesis picture" parts - I want to keep, am so glad to reclaim them. I sit here typing, but this morning I did a vigorous workout and a walk, and I feel really aware of my body. I'm not exactly lean & mean, but I'm leaner, and I have muscle tone, and I've shrunk a few sizes, and I look good in jeans, and now that I'm doing crunches even my abdomen's flattening - all good. As I google-searched images to figure out how someone via Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man image lands on my blog, there was a yoga-related ad showing a woman in an exquisitely athletic, well-balanced pose, that if you can pull that off, truly you must feel really good about yourself in your body - Vitruvian yoga. It's funny, I think for my mother, or her generation, that word yoga was a turnoff, made exercise suspect. And what do I know? I have never done yoga in my life! Though I would like to try, after all the workouts I do, the Vitruvian efforts of mine. You too, my darling, perhaps you too have discovered the possible too -

love you

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My dearest, up in the aerie trying to regain my equipoise of most of the day. I went to the movies and found myself missing you very much, acutely, but I thought about you and felt close to you and it was all manageable. Afterward I did some shopping at the supermarket, then picked up D from a job in town. He's taken the car and gone back to work, and I set about organizing myself in the kitchen, pleasantly moving around it as I went about light tasks, making myself do them, the reward for which would be a glass of wine and sitting up here in the aerie writing and communing with you, an hour I look forward to greatly every day. I'd bought strawberries at the market, so I thought, strawberry pancakes for breakfast tomorrow, so I mixed together the dry ingredients. I put groceries away, put more time on bath towels in the drier, cleared the sink of lunch dishes and loaded the dishwasher, folded dish towels that were dry, fed cats, and then as the final gesture - pushed the buttons on the dishwasher to get it to go - only nothing. Not for the first time, or even the first time this week. It's not set right in the counter, it pulls away and something doesn't engage. It doesn't get fixed, I can't work it, but D can get it to go. It just instantly sent my mood tumbling, because it feels as though everything around here is broken, or in disrepair, or slow, or I can't get it to work, or I need D to get it started. It's very discouraging to me, it wears me down, and makes me feel that I am not in control of even very small domestic things. I'm brought up short by my utter lack of mastery, and feel a sense of helplessness at all the disrepair and dysfunction. Tacks coming out of the carpet runner on the stairs, so that in places it bulges out or is loose. Two enormous cartons containing bathtubs still in the dining room. The beat-up asphalt driveway that I hate (exposed now that the snow's melted) that I wished we could have mostly torn up, filling it in with garden and a narrow, pretty path. I could go on and on - I won't - I know you get the gist. Honestly, one reason I'm looking forward to Brooklyn is that their apartment is in good repair. It's small, it's modest (but charming and pretty) but everything works the way it's supposed to, it's easy to negotiate, I don't have to struggle with it. I didn't in our old apartment either, it was very manageable in every respect. I like living in a house - I really enjoy the extra space, after 15 years in a glorified studio, and a couple of years before that in an actual studio apartment no more, I don't think, than 250-300 s.f. total. That had rats, as it turned out. But that's another story. But I'm reminded of it now, actually, because next door neighbor with the chickens now has a rat problem as a result, for which she's requested D's help in eradicating. D mentioned it to me the other day as I stood at the kitchen sink, I glanced over their way, and I could hardly believe it - I saw the brown forms scurrying across the not-yet-melted snow covered yard. Out of control. But neighbor doesn't like cats, it seems, the one sure "green" thing that would get rid of the rats.

Ah, I am feeling better, darling, I just got frustrated, my mood having gotten derailed by things, machines. Now I'm smiling, and there's relaxing Bach on guitar on the stereo, that I put on deliberately to try to relax and soothe me. It's working.

How was your day, darling, I wish I could know. Do you have a weekend? I'll be an hour closer to you starting tomorrow, I was very surprised to realize that Daylight Savings Time starts tonight. I'm very happy about that - with the longer day and everything melting and suddenly greening up, it's going to lengthen the sense of "warm weather months." I should probably starting tomorrow start wine o'clock at six rather than five...

My dearest, last night in my groggy sleep I reached out my hand to try to touch you - and then woke up. At least I didn't inadvertently call out your name. I called out a wrong name in my sleep a couple of years ago, which got me in an instant forcibly kicked out of bed, I woke up as I got ejected to the floor. Things are much calmer these days, that was a bad time. Pretty much there's an unspoken 'don't ask don't tell' policy in place now, which actually is working pretty well, it buys time. Things were in a much more raw state that other time.

I liked the movie I saw this afternoon, Barney's Version, starring Paul Giamatti, along with a great Dustin Hoffman who plays his father. The film depicted a crazy, improbable yet real story of a love affair and marriage, how things happen in ways one wouldn't predict, the Greeks weren't all wrong with the deus ex machina type surprising twists and turns that happen. It was really very sweet and charming, and I guess I thought of you a lot during it, and missed you very much, because I felt a little like the Paul Giamatti character thinking about the Rosamund Pike character - and maybe you, yourself, are a bit like the Paul Giamatti character in your regard for me. Well, we'll see. I look forward to finding out. Now see, I have reached this point in the post and now a smile has crept back on my face and I feel calm and happy again and in your presence. Ah, sigh, breath, breathe, end of a partita.

Darling, wherever you are, I hope you are having a very pleasant evening. Very many kisses.

Friday, March 11, 2011

In the wake of today's news of the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan, I have felt a mix of emotions, among them a sense of gratitude that I lead a life of quiet desperation - that is, that it's quiet. It's not horrific, it's tolerable. That's a lot to be grateful for, given circumstances elsewhere for others. Another thought I have is the sense of wonder I often feel that for the most part, for most of us on this planet (I hope anyway), the way the natural world has been ordered seems on a manageable scale that supports life. The sun rises, and it sets, it appears or it doesn't and skies are gray. Somehow temperatures are, if not always comfortable, usually within an acceptable range - or at least within a range that makes life possible. It's never suddenly 375 degrees out, for example. We might get two or four inches of rain at a time - but it's not as though a typical shower is some outlandish amount, dozens and dozens of feet, say. And so today I found myself thinking about, and feeling chastened by the sense of usually wieldy scale, earth in its familiar commodious equipoise for the living (that is, in densely populated regions where the living in circular fashion tend to live) going completely out of whack, out of balance, rendering habitat uninhabitable. An 8.9 magnitude quake is the strongest in recorded history - it's almost literally off the charts. And seas don't as a rule rush up onto land swallowing everything in an enormous inundating wave. And so I feel very bad for the victims of this natural disaster, and at the same time particularly aware of and grateful for my quiet, uneventful, peaceful day, which has unfolded on a scale that is very lovely and sustaining of life. The sun has come out, it has felt like the first day of spring, neighbors have smilingly greeted one another on walks, even the geese seemed more chipper, bulb shoots are springing up, the snow is receding, spring is coming. We made it through. Winter was long and rough at times on the psyche, but we made it through. It wasn't always pleasant - but it was bearable. I will be grateful for things remaining this way. And I'm glad we don't live down by the creek. The creek is swollen and has swamped lowlying banks on either side, bottoms of tree trunks standing in water. The creek looks like a sea or lake, gray-green with whitecaps, not the bucolic meandering feeder to the Hudson. Even so - all, here, manageable.

My dearest, just now the light here is so beautiful, at 5:30 p.m. Is it golden, or platinum? Magical, anyway, illuminating a peaceful quiet interior space, the aerie.

I'm on the email list of the local international arts colony here and was delighted to receive a message from them - an invitation that led off with three words that put together, instantly filled me with delight. POETRY! WINE! FREE! You got my attention! It's for an event next Saturday, a discussion of T.S. Eliot's poem, The Four Quartets. I'm really psyched, for a number of reasons - yeah, poetry!+ wine!+ free!, but also I've never read this Eliot work, it's quite lengthy so it gives me a project to focus on for the coming week, trying to come to some preliminary understanding of it, and plus the event itself to look forward to next Saturday, which brings me one whole week closer to you, the jump from this rock to that one as in a shallow creek, an eternity made suddenly more endurable, time collapsing just as I'd like it to these days, though I will wish to put the brakes on it and savor every instant - next month (Love! Kisses! Darling!). Ah, but for now - Poetry! Wine! Free!

Right now, as I look out the window of the aerie, dark gray cloudbanks merged with mountains, just past sunset, are rimmed with fire - that's a "ring of fire" that gladdens the soul. I see it, and am very grateful.

I hope all is well with you, my darling. All my love, thinking of you always. XOXO

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Darling, is that why you made no show for Morn - a long long sleep? I'm sure you needed it, I wonder how you manage. Here's a wake-up kiss hello. Stir your lids while I stretch my limbs to put my arms around you. Ah, 'twere idleness always like this. We'll bask a week away in siestas, lose ourselves in kisses, and Not once look up - not for Noon, though probably for hot coffee and verbena soaped showers and divine finger foods.

Yet another damp gray day here but I'm finally shaking my cold and managed both a walk and a workout. D will fry pork chops for dinner, to go with a side dish I'm cooking right now from a recipe in yesterday's Times, cabbage with tomatoes, bulgur wheat, and chickpeas, seasoned with sauteed onion, paprika, cider vinegar, and dill. A slightly unlikely combination of ingredients to my mind, but I had everything except fresh dill, which D picked up on his way home for lunch, and which I like to have on hand in the freezer anyway, for chicken soup, or salmon, or picklemaking. I've just now shut the heat under the dish, the bulgur wheat absorbing the liquids, and it does smell homey and comforting, the colors warmly gold and red, truly nice on a day like today.

On Charlie Rose the journalist Jeff Greenfield was on talking about his new book, novelistic "what if" scenarios of alternate versions of history. This morning I woke, and the thought lingered for a while of how I ran into you in the darkness as I rummaged through my bag, and we greeted each other, and I wish (don't you?) that we could have kissed, it was impossible, but that moment - oh that moment, and all the time that's gone by since but I still remember, thinking of you, seeing the outline of you standing in the shadows, so very close to you, people about, me rummaging, good night, yes you too. We were this close. An amazing moment really, that tiny tiny conjunction. There is no alternative history to that moment, it had to be just precisely the way it happened. And here we are now.

And that's all I have for this evening, darling. There was other stuff - read more of the Patti Smith but am growing bored with it, it's trailing off into a not-reflective-enough, and frankly a little less than believable "Forrest Gumpish" celebrity memoir. Paraphrasing, I was short a dime at Horn & Hardart and Allen Ginsberg - who I recognized - hit on me and stood me the missing coin and thought all the while he was trying to pick up a guy, sorry I disappointed him, and then, somehow she takes up with Sam Shepard the unbelievably sexy cowboy playwright (especially back in the day) and while she's hanging out with him - he takes her out for a super-expensive meal - the whole while she's not even aware of who he is. I don't know, that little chestnut strained my credulity, it just did. I did love the anecdote, ingenue that she is, that someone snarkily referred to her as looking like Joan Baez, with her long flowing hair, and Patti Smith soon after takes shears to her hair and gives herself a shag, and comes out looking uncannily like Keith Richards, which scores her unbelievable points in the androgynous "cool" department. But see - even that is almost accidental! Okay, I'll stick with the memoir, but - oh man, I'm not quite getting her, she was an "It" girl for being in the right place at the right time - but that can't be all of it - can it? Maybe so. And in other news Gwyneth Paltrow is an up and coming country music star...

Sweetheart, sweetheart. What else today? Based on a recommendation from My Friend in Finland who in his academic pursuits is required to study Swedish language and culture I watched an Ingmar Bergman DVD on my computer this morning, Autumn Sonata, with Liv Ullmann and Ingrid Bergman (her last film, she was dying of cancer, though she appears in good health and is full of vitality in the film). I'm glad my friend recommended it, it's a very truthful look at not-unusual family dynamics, I mean they're heightened in this film, but I could relate on some level - well, that's Bergman's (Ingmar's, that is) brilliance of course.

And that's it, darling. Where are you, I'm sure you've woken up by now, had some nice coffee I hope and a good meal. Thinking of you as the night goes by, dearest -- hope all's well.

Here's the kiss now darling, if we could have kissed when we encountered each other that night in the bustling shadows - brushing of lips, insistence of tongue, good night, good night, sleep well, you too, as we pull apart

#654, by Emily Dickinson (c. 1862)

A long - long Sleep - A famous - Sleep -
That makes no show for Morn -
By Stretch of Limb - or stir of Lid -
An independent One -

Was ever idleness like This?
Upon a Bank of Stone
To bask the Centuries away -
Nor once look up - for Noon?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dearest, up in the aerie, fragrant pan of coq au vin on the stove, redolent with mushrooms, red wine, herbes de provence, garlic, chicken stock, and tiny potatoes. We lost power for a little while this afternoon which threw things off for me a bit, though it sent me right back to the out-of-tune clanging piano, so what does that say about what I might do if forced to be unplugged for a long while? We have an old Steinway, a venerable model from the 1920s, but I rarely play it, mostly because I don't actually like the way it sounds. It must need a major tuning, or something, and also it's in the uncarpeted dining room, so the sounds harshly bounce off the walls. I just don't like it. Also it's been an albatross, a Thurberian seal-in-the-bedroom in our marriage. D acquired the piano many years ago, years before we were married, and he's been only the second owner - in what 70, 80 years. He took up piano in college and in fact majored in music, studying with a noted pianist, and he's always wanted (or so he claims) to devote himself to it. Only he never did, never does. And honestly, I know this really isn't very nice of me to say at all, but - well, let's say that I think some sort of illusion has been harbored. I feel guilty writing this, it's not quite my story to tell. And yet, it has always sat there in our marriage. Honestly, I wish he would sell the thing - I've thought that for years. Given that it's a fairly rare Steinway there might be a taker for it who could restore it properly, we could use the cash, and we might have gotten a piano that (to my mind anyway) sounds better. But talk about a hot-potato in a marriage. It has always been a sore point, and now - for the last several years - it's not even an issue really, since the marriage is all but over. And so there the piano sits in the frigid dining room. I dust it once in a while, and when the power goes out (and along with it, the radio) I'll bang out a couple of tunes. I do enjoy playing piano - if the instrument is a bit better than I am, a little more forgiving, so that I don't feel that I'm banging and clanging and loudly thrashing through a piece.

The other night as I lay awake I found myself recollecting the first piano teachers I ever had, when I was in grade school. My first one was a ruddy woman who'd show up, husband in tow (I guess he must driven her), in a fur coat floridly reeking of liquor, perfume - both. She was much bigger than me. She and her husband seemed to fill the space, suck up all the air from my parents' small dining room where the upright (that my parents had purchased from them), not the greatest, stood against the wall. Mrs. Sheldon would squeeze onto the bench with me and she taught me "the notes" - said that she'd get to rhythm later. And I never did really get rhythm very well, ever in my life, that is setting a beat, keeping to it. But I got the notes all right.

My second piano teacher reminds me a little of Emily Dickinson, only because of her physical appearance, and plus Miss Emily Donaldson - her name - was truly an ancient relic born, bred, and held over from the previous century. (And here I was in the 1960s, dying to play Bacharach and folk songs.) Miss Donaldson was amazing. I wonder how my mother ever found her. By the time she taught me she must have been well into her seventies, a thin, spare, elderly woman who wore her hair pulled back in a bun. She lived in a room, or small apartment possibly, in a handsome old Victorian house near the center of town, a stretch of beautiful houses, a whole era, that has long since been torn down in favor of condos and parking lots. Miss Donaldson was a very private person with her firm limits - I never did catch a glimpse of her dwelling space. I wonder about it, now.

Miss Donaldson didn't drive or have access to a car and driver - no, she walked everywhere. She'd walk from her upstairs abode on - was it Forrest Street? - a couple of miles easily, or more, to our house, once, possibly twice a week, for my lesson. My parents had no money, I doubt she charged much, though I can't put a figure on how much she might have received per hour.

Miss Donaldson was a spare dry relief after the luridly over-aroma'ed Mrs. Sheldon. Plus Miss Donaldson and I fit together on the single bench much better, my third or fourth grade self and Miss Donaldson's trim, spare, dark-dressed figure. She took me through the John Thompson books, and Czerny, and a weekly ritual gesture of hers on taking her place on the bench by me was to pull out a russet-orange packet of eucalyptus cough drops and offer me one. That was such a treat, I developed an affection for those cough drops, and they were always intimately tied up with sitting on the bench with her, admitting (as in a confessional) how little I had practiced that week, and then the two of us companionably figuring out the fingering and rhythmic dots and stops of intricate Hanon exercises.

Poor Miss Donaldson, truly frail elderly, all the times without fail and with exacting punctuality she'd show up on back stoop steps ready to give me a lesson. She'd always walk back too, in all weather. My mother for the longest time didn't drive, but I think around this time perhaps she'd started to - anyway, Miss Donaldson never got a ride, not from us (my father was at work, so he was never an option). But Miss Donaldson seemed never to expect or desire a ride, either. But eventually, inevitably, there came the day that the lessons ceased - she'd sprained an ankle, or broken a bone in a fall - you know, the sort of infirmities that eventually befall the frail elderly - befell her. (Her injury wasn't - I don't believe - sustained on the way to or fro our house - though, then again, how do I know all these years later that it wasn't?)

Thinking about Miss Donaldson now, I don't really have a handle on her. And yet somehow I think she had aged gracefully, weathered sea changes of eras and ethos and kept skromnie (what is the English translation to that word?) to herself, true to herself, and yet ventured out daily, on her intrepid walks to give lessons to not so much ungrateful, as oblivious and clueless kids of a different era from hers, such as me.

My darling, in case you haven't noticed I just typed that whole little piece out as it is, without going back over it, not enough anyway - let it suffice, for now.

Thinking of you so very much, my dearest, hope you've had a wonderful dinner, and that your evening is going swimmingly -- very many kisses, my love - all sorts.