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

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