Monthly Archives: March 2011

test

This week:

Sat outside in late dusk….the tenderness of the evening, air so soft, color so lovely that green of trees had soft sulphur poured into the palette, wind so chimes were playing….an outdoor cathedral with my old and huge camphor tree as ceiling through which shadowing sky showed.

Seized by orchid fever starting by going to Orchid Express to have orchid replanted. They did it for free, and I walked among the ones blooming. Then Kroger’s and Whole Foods both had orchids for $9. So now I have three in all, two blooming creamy hopeful faces, one, repotted, hopefully to bloom in the fall.

Read Jessica Mitford‘s memoir, Hons and Rebels, in a day, the Hons being short for Honorable, which is the title given the daughters of lords. She was part of the extraordinary Mitford sisters, some six young women who took the 1930s world by storm. She ran off with a young rebel and anti-fascist, Esmond Romilly, at 19, and her memoir ends with his early death (the war, the second world war). She felt entombed by her English life and family and broke free like an eagle suddenly untethered. I think about my  life, no war, no earthquake, no tsunami, no radiation, no political unrest that involves guns– in a sense, no way to be extraordinary or not by a huge test of character, so my test must be making the best of it and looking at what is set in front of me and finding its story and practicing gratitude, hard for a restless spirit like mine, a spirit I soothe by reading the tales of others who flew the coop….

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karen blixen

Mother and I were watching Out of Africa, or I was watching and Mother was dozing. It was the scene where Denys has died and Karen  is about to throw clods of dirt into the grave, and my mind went tumbling back to my friend Robert’s death last summer, to our throwing dirt on the grave, to how long it had been since I’d been to a funeral, to how final the gesture is, an extraordinary gesture that puts what has happened into sharp focus. And then I was thinking about Karen Blixen and how amazing her life was. Do you know her? Isak Dinesen was the writing name she gave herself and I’ve read  two of her books of short stories, Out of Africa and Shadows in the Grass, and many of the exquisite overvoiced lines of the movie come from those stories. The stories are discreet, but her life wasn’t. Or maybe that’s the wrong paint color. She didn’t live soundlessly, in the box decent women were supposed to lie (and are still supposed to lie, for that matter). She loved a nobleman who didn’t love her back, married his twin brother for a title and security and who knows if spite was in the mix, went with her husband to Kenya to raise coffee, contracted syphillus from the philandering  husband, started a school for native children, refused to stay home and knit when war came, and loved an English nobleman’s adventurer son, Denys Finch Hatten. I didn’t like Out of Africa when I first saw it, thought too many dramatic moments were crammed into the story, so that it was all drama, without valleys, but I was intrigued by her, and I read her biography and her letters, and I learned the director had recreated what truly happened to her….that her life in Africa had been full of drama and full of real life, loving hard, loving badly, hard work, doing what she wished when society around her disapproved, failing, losing her health and home. I cried some tears from a seldom visited place in me for what the ending of the movie brought up–she began another life as a writer, but she had to say goodbye to a life and people she loved to do it–anyway, I cried from a place that was deep and that it hurt to cry from. And my thought was, the fragility of love and life, the smoke and mirrors of it, it can’t be grasped and held tightly, love itself does live, die, change, transmute, and I thought, to everyone young, be tender in your love, be courteous to one another, revere the sweet green…..

To Japan: faith and courage and may all the gods watch over you…..

A science fair for my granddaughter’s school’s third grade: hilarious: brilliant: horseshoes with springs so horses run faster; bandages with art on them so they look prettier; mechanical dogs for people who have dog allergies; a goldfish crackers’ cruncher so you can put the crumbs in your milk…..need I say more…..America is in good hands……..and how was your week?

fences

Well, I was going to cheat today and just hunt up an old blog post to repost, but as I read through them I liked them so much, I decided I would follow Ray Bradbury’s advice: Start writing more; it’ll get rid of those moods you’re having. This week the side fence fell over. It wasn’t much of a surprise; in fact it was leaning so much that it didn’t even make much of a racket smacking the ground. The neighbor’s house is gone, razed to make way for a townhouse at some point in the future, and the wind was just strong enough, the fence just weak enough, the lack of a barrier just lack enough for the fence to topple. At first I felt invaded. Anyone could see in. But now I’m growing used to it, and I like the space open to me and am going to feel boxed in when the fence is back. It made me think about my life. How boxed in is it? What old habits keep me small and cramped? Am I just so used to it all that I don’t even notice? My very dear Dunya, a practicing meditator and mystic, wrote this comment last week: the ‘seasons of the heart’ has new meaning for me; I truly am surprised now at my heart. As life progresses she turns her beating more clearly toward infinite joy and away from transient happiness, but this turning brings me into places and into contact with people in a fashion that mystifies me. Some joy is found right where it has always been, — in plain sight — and some is found where I had no idea I would ever look.

Turning toward infinite joy and away from transient happiness….how often transient happiness has been transient for me and how mad I’ve been when I couldn’t keep it in my hot little grasping hand. Somehow the fence’s blowing over swept away some cobwebs, and now I’m thinking of Rilke: Whoever you are: some evening take a step out of your house, which you know so well. Enormous space is near…….

Enormous space is near. What fences do you need blown over?