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?