Monday, August 30, 2010

Vin Aigre

August is making one of its signature last stands: bright, hot, in-your-face summertime. It's picked the Clairol shelves clean of Midsummer Green and is thinking of buying a motorcycle, or at least a leather motorcycle jacket. But it hasn't convinced me. Evening comes early, and the cricket song's at the andante that precedes largo. The DCR landscape crews have once again rampaged through and reduced the riverside meadow to playing-field lawn, and ravaged most of the cultivars by the bike path, leaving knotweed and discarded drinks cups and bottles to have their way with everything.

The end is near, folks. And you know what that means.

There is a point where existential emergency becomes chronic disease. Summon the surgeon !

Just as there is no island midriver, there is no Via Media between form and emptiness. Sink or swim.

The Mysterium Tremendum et Fascinans of yesteryear has gone into hiding

and the cantor is singing showtunes with a fetching, light vibrato.

At the passing of the peace she recoiled from my hand as from a devil's hoof. (Nothing can mask the stench of sulfur.)

It's the noonday demon, sun snaking straight through the roof. Sweat, somnolence, siesta, sleeping sickness -- no quantity of diet coke and ice cubes can ward it off.

And yet. And yet.

Let's reprise our perpetual vacation book, Moby Dick, and turn to Chapter 87, "The Grand Armada," in which our young hero, Ishmael,

his whaling skiff trapped at the placid center of a circle of tumultuously rioting Leviathans, peers down into the water and sees a paradise of cows and calves.

And thus, though surrounded by circle upon circle of consternations and affrights, did these inscrutable creatures at the centre freely and fearlessly indulge in all peaceful concernments; yes, serenely revelled in dalliance and delight. But even so, amid the tornadoed Atlantic of my being, do I myself still for ever centrally disport in mute calm; and while ponderous planets of unwaning woe revolve round me, deep down and deep inland there I still bathe me in eternal mildness of joy.

The end is near ?

Centrally disport in mute calm.


Thursday, August 26, 2010

A Sort Of Trinity

Against the claims of solitude

there is image --

the reciprocating love of eye and world.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

With A Hey Ho The Wind And The Rain

We'd planned four days in Falmouth for two main activities: for Camerawoman, taking pictures of weeds, and for Bicycleman, bicycling. As we set out, all meteorologic signs were ominous,

as were the usual semiotics at the approach to the Cape.

Over the years we'd stayed at the Resort many times, including the year we had to evacuate with Hurricane Bob nipping at our heels. The joint was, the website announced, "under new management," which, in retrospect, could have been read as ominous as well. The lobby was starker, more pomo, with the whole wall behind check-in taken up by a stark, white bas-relief of vertigo-inducing waves. The rest of the lobby was busy proclaiming an abstracty "beach grass" motif. The grandmotherly concierge was gone, the little gift shop replaced by a photo studio. The rugs had been pulled up and the lobby echoed painfully.

Needless to say, our desk clerk couldn't find our reservations. The other desk clerk was busily flirting with a tall, patrician man about thirty years her senior who was boasting about his golf exploits. Our clerk seemed more interested in joining the golf conversation than in disentangling the snafu that could have left us facing no room in the inn. Eventually, between holes of golf, he found us a room. He rattled off some information regarding meals: the restaurant was no longer open for dinner, but there was a "barbecue" we could attend.

Great. A barbecue. You'd think after all these years I could deal with the traveling-while-vegan thing. I'd already been confronted with a veggie burger slathered with mayo (note to self, remember to ask them to HOLD the goddamned mayo) and, later on the trip, would encounter the certified meat-free "Tomato Basil Soup" that was actually "Cream of Tomato Soup."

"Can we get the Globe in the morning ?" we thought to ask, realizing the gift shop, the purveyor-of-yore of papers, was no more.

No we could not. USA Today -- that Wal-Martian lowest common denom of newspapers -- was available. There was a "convenience store" up the road we could try if we really wanted something as retro as a real newspaper.

Did I mention that it was raining ? Raining really hard ? And that the wind was blowing at about 40 mph ? And that trees were falling into the road ?

The first thing that caught my eye was a big sticker of an airplane on our room's mirror. It annoyed me. I reached up to pull it off and the cockpit came off in my hand. Demoralized, I stuck it back on.

We unpacked. Our room was damp, machine-chilled and

better rendered in crime-scene black-and-white.

The books I'd packed

were definately thematic.

And the next morning, not surprisingly, the Hotel Lobby, the former site of free cups of morning coffee, was javaless.

After a bad movie, a lot more rain, some drizzle and mist thrown in for variety, a tour of the family mansion of nervous industrialists (complete with an exhibit of abstract art fit for the MOBA) and (half of) a sophomoric, over-priced summer theater production of a musical that the brilliant Stephen Sondheim should disown* -- we cried uncle and came home early. In the rain.

Via, appropriately enough, the evacuation route.

*A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum

Saturday, August 21, 2010

In the fullness of time

In August, in the meadow just over the hill, I found the fullness of time.

Time and space have as many outskirts as Dante's hell had circles -- the outer darkness, beyond the pale, the city limits, the marginal, the liminal, places of exile and ostracism, beyond-the-end-of-the-line places.

"She's over the hill," they say, casually, dismissive, relieved not to be there themselves. And, yes indeed, I am over the hill. I am sweating in the August heat alongside bindweed and toadflax,

in a purple seedhead cloud

by the upraised arms of the fading Queen Anne's Lace.

Elsewhere, springs have failed; hailstorms of derision slice the air. Syllabi of Error are promulgated with new codicils every week, and as the universe of what is valid shrinks, the legions of the deficient and disordered increase.

As the poet asked, "What will suffice ?"

A cathedral as big as the world ? A black cushion in the corner of one's hermitage ?

And what about this "fullness of time" ? How can that which flows be full ? What do the texts offer ?

when we were minors, we were enslaved to the elemental spirits of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman

The meadow-over-the-hill is a place of elemental spirits.

There is a fullness of time in the meadow. Come here often, season after season, year after year, and you will come to believe in the resurrection of the body. Maybe not in the way the Creed intended

and maybe not in the way you would like to believe,

but something in the general neighborhood of resurrection -- a model, a scaffolding, a simulacrum, a satire, a parody, a parable, a variation on a theme.

I am walking in the meadow over the hill, a woman who is herself way over the hill, contemplating apostasy. Is there a degree of translation that strays so far from authorial intent that it becomes abdication ? Abduction ? Abdictation ?

In my dreams, the seductions of orthodoxy -- of any -doxy --continue. I awaken in a sweat.

In the night I hear the rumble of the distant factories of faith, the cacophony of gears and belts and pistons, the screech and clangor of alarms, the jotting and tittling of canon and catechism, of confession and covenant. Are the bigwigs asleep ? And is their sleep sweet and sound, these keepers of the contraption, or do they also wake in a sweat ?

How would I know ? It is not a company into which I am welcome, being woman, being apostate, being over-the-hill and always gravitating toward

the outer darkness.

I have desired to go where words all fail.

And here, in the meadow-over-the-hill, in the fullness of time, I may have arrived.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Kankamangus 2

We weren't even out of Massachusetts when the traffic jam hit. It was Saturday morning, summertime, and the populace was hell bent on recreating itself. We certainly were, DK and I, headed toward the White Mountains. As I gazed morosely out of the window, I wondered whether a black plume of smoke up ahead had anything to do with the current unpleasantness.

It did. The fact that a gaggle of policemen was standing nearby and calmly watching the conflagration reassured me that there were probably no people being incinerated, nonetheless it was horrible.

So I pulled out my camera.

After the blaze, the traffic eased and we resumed our northward trajectory. The next thing that caught my undercaffeinated attention was a castle-like building on a low, green hill. I sighed: it was Danvers' infamous House on the Hill, a decommissioned State Mental Hospital.

The signs, so far, were not propitious.

Perhaps lunch would help. We followed a New Hampshirian Highway Icon consisting of a plate and cutlery off the highway. We found ourselves on a dull stretch of road peppered with corrugated metal buildings. After a few miles we encountered a "Chinese Buffet." I had an instant flashback to a "Chinese Buffet" I had once experienced, the only one in fact, somewhere in the midwest.

"Oh, no you don't," I said to DK who was pulling into a depressing and nearly empty parking lot behind the restaurant, "no Chinese Buffet ! No way !"

I remembered a vast, seemingly endless room, and a labyrinth of steam tables through which silent crowds of enormous hungry ghosts were drifting with heaping, mountainously overfilled plates. The horror, the All-U-Can-Eat horror.

He reasoned with me. We were hungry. It wouldn't be so bad.

I sent him ahead. A scout. He came back and reassured me: this was a small scale operation. I could handle it.

He was right, dear DK, the guy who makes this scary awful modern world livable for me. So we had lunch.

We were still miles from the mountains. There was a tarp-covered mound outside the Chinese Buffet to whet our appetite for mountains, but still miles of ghastly Live-Free-Or-Die, a-toll-booth-every-2-miles fueled traffic between us and our destination.

We eventually arrived in North Conway. This would be my first Sunday away from church in years. I'd informed the priest, and the Altar Guild crew reassured me all would be well, everything was under control.

There would be churches in New Hampshire, if I cared to partake --

even, ecumenically, an establishment that sold "OTF knives, fairies, dragons, gargoyles, e-cigs and Buddhas,"

and even a branch of TEC, barely recognizable except for its red door,

a few blocks from the local headquarters of the Ursine TreeMasons.

But I was vacationing with my personal good shepherd, who tolerates my churchgoing with not a little irony and bemusement, and we only had two days in which to see the mountains. So I decided I would not insist on Mass.

You can pray in the bathroom, he commented.

Given my ongoing existential emergency, I decided that a quick check of the Motel bedside drawer for the Gideon Bible would be the extent of my devotions for the weekend. I held my breath and opened the drawer. At the last Motel where we stayed there had been no Gideon Bible. It was unsettling. Had someone taken it ? Or had the Gideons simply -- forgot ? Who were these Gideons, anyway ? Some subspecies of book-doling angel ? Please let there be a Gideon Bible in here, I thought. I looked down. There it was, neatly pushed into he corner of the otherwise empty drawer. I relaxed, irrationally reassured. Amen.

The next morning, adequately forewarned about the wildlife, we set out for the Kankamangus. My heart sank as DK pulled into the LL Bean parking lot. When I mentioned our trip to North Conway at work, the first response was -- Oh, so you will be shopping at the Outlet Stores !

I do not do recreational shopping. They know that. I am a freak-of-nature. Sometimes I don't even do utilitarian shopping.

So, of course, I objected. I had my reputation as an anti-commerce radical to uphold. How could he !

It would be a quick trip, said good shepherd. He was after some shorts he couldn't find online.

I sighed and followed him into the store. I tried and failed to tune out the screaming baby and the floral shirts in unnatural colors. And the kayaks. And the khaki.

Well, we did, finally, see the mountains. And the rivers.

And our fellow humans recreating themselves,

including my dear good shepherd at whose behest

I photographed this big rock.

I did, albeit briefly, lift my eyes unto the hills,

into the altitudes that absolutely transcend existential emergency. From whence cometh my help ? Hills, good shepherds, minor orders of angels, books hidden in drawers ?



home ?