Godhead here in hiding, whom I do adore
Masked by these bare shadows, shape and nothing
See, Lord, at thy service low lies here a heart
Lost, all lost in wonder at the God thou art.
Seeing, touching, tasting are in thee deceived;
How says trusty hearing? That shall be believed;
What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there’s nothing true.
And yes, it's a children's book. And yes, it's about a talking mouse. Don't be hasty. No jumping to conclusions. (It's hard to get away from there once you've first made the leap.)
'Enchanted' is enchanting. I will say no more, for there are many people who might read this who don't want me to reveal anything before they see it for themselves.
'Bella' - everyone should see it. It has been described as 'melodramatic and predictable'. I might agree except that I didn't mind foreseeing the end and I have a tendency to view all of life with a little more drama than is generally required. Moreover, some people simply have serious problems. And sometimes those people meet up. And sometimes that intersection is worth narrating. Or filming. So I felt it was more than justified. It is also worth the two hours and seven bucks to see the most sympathetic eyes in the universe. That is what you will see. Divine sympathy.
'Persuasion' (1995) is a very good film for those suffering from shattered nerves. I realise that shattered nerves are rare this side of the nineteenth century, but when one lives through the piercing screech of our home's rigorous security system - particularly when one has set it off oneself after standing stupidly in front of the code box frantically punching in the wrong numbers - one is apt to forget that 'nerves' are a thing of the past. My back is still rather sore from the sheer physical tension of the event.
('Persuasion'  is rather good also, though I can't speak for its efficacy in the face of shock and disturbia. Slightly more... weepy, in general, but sporting the charming Rupert Penry-Jones as Captain Wentworth - who can wait for it's stateside appearance in stores this January? I confess great personal impatience with the release date.)
Tomorrow will be my first day working a good number of hours. That is, I might actually be earning enough to feed myself as well as pay off the creditors. Straight after work on Wednesday, I'll be driving to Long Beach to spend about 24 hours with my parents. I don't think I'll be there in time to serve Thanksgiving dinner to the homeless (they're serving it a night early, then a big breakfast the next morning), but there will be volunteers enough for that. Mom and I will wear our cornacopihats while making pumpkin pie and sneaking tastes of cranberry sauce. Were more people coming, I'd make the cranberry sauce Nick made last year in Edinburgh. It doesn't quite feel a year ago, but so time runs. The dish was incredible. Though I'll not be tasting it this season, I'll copy down the recipe all the same, for any who care to try it:
Nick's Cranberry Sauce
Dissolve 1 cup sugar in 1 cup boiling water. Reduce heat to simmer. Add the following ingredients:
1 (12 oz) package cranberries
1 orange, peeled and pureed
1 apple, peeled and diced
1 pear, peeled and diced
1 cup minced fruit, chopped
1 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
Simmer for about 30 minutes, until cranberries pop. Cool and serve.
I can assure you, it's better than the stuff in the cans. And I love the stuff in the cans. The little metalic grooves, the slippery way it ejects onto the platter, the silver of the spoon against the burgundy gel...
I'll get back to the desert sometime Thursday night, where Amanda will meet me on her way back from Minnesota. I think she's starting the long drive tomorrow morning. When I return from work on Friday, doubtless weary to the bone but of good cheer, my friend Martin will also appear on my doorstep after a less dramatic but still noteworthy drive from Arizona. I have not seen Martin in a year and a half - on the deck of the Midway. I am debating between putting him to work finishing the porch cover in the backyard (our own private Scottish monument) and actually entertaining him. Maybe he'll be wanting a wee nap as much as I will. :) In short, I will probably be busy till Monday. And since I've just told all I intend to do between now and then, there may not be much more to add when the freedom does come.
I am almost the only person to contribute, but I suppose that comes from the same impulse that makes me sit in the front of classrooms. If you're gonna do a thing, get it over with and do it with all you have. (I apply this impulse inconsistently; note the variation in my habits with regards to floor cleaning and phone calling.)
The new blog relates mostly to our reading habits, so it will not steal me away too often, nor should it deflect too many posts from this noble forum (if I may call such a self-centred site a 'forum').
There were other observations that I wanted to make, however, before they slipped my mind. Years hence, no, even now, they may only be of use to jog my own memory of the actual event - of no interest to my readers at all - but I will put them here anyway.
To begin with, the first dance (Nicole Haskins's 'Fading Shadows' from the Sacramento Ballet Company, featuring several couples dancing alternately in variations on more or less the same physical/aesthetic theme - forgive me for having no knowledge of the language used to describe or analyse dance as an art) reminded me of a familiar poem of John Donne's that I would like to post here. It is lengthy, but certainly worth the time, whether you have read it twenty times before or never at all. The innovative beauty of Donne's language strikes forcefully and without warning, though not inevitably, and it is good to be very still and willing in case this should be the time:
Moving of th' earth brings harms and fears ;
But we by a love so much refined,
If they be two, they are two so
And though it in the centre sit,
Essentially, I was reminded of the poem by the continuously repeated motion of spinning upon the stage - not in the twirling way that seven year old girls pretend to be ballerinas, but the influence of one body upon another so that a certain pull or pressure from one would cause the other to slowly spin as though feet and hands were rooted in place and the rest of the self spun upon these two opposing points. All the while, feet and hands were somehow held, if not in physical fact, then in nearness of relation by the partner. The presence of the one with the other, whether they moved apart or not, was always consistently influential. It reminds me now of the quotation from Jane Eyre, spoken by Rochester:
The second dance, vaguely alluded to in my semi-incoherent post of yestereve, was called 'Push'. It was the competition piece by Jennifer Backhaus, coupling the music of Zoe Keating ('Frozen Angels') with a two-person ballet. My first thought when the curtain rose was of a Depression-era farm couple. They were wearing brown burlap-looking material, or so it seemed from the mezzanine (and I ought to add that I haven't had my eyes checked in a number of years...), standing side-by-side, moving in slow-motion with the kind of weary gravity reminiscent of Steinbeck. I am sure, had he seen them at the side of the stage in those first moments, that he would have been inspired by their attitude to write several chapters of slow-moving, carefully-crafted prose.
As I was saying, they moved in slow motion, walking forward as if responding to a plow before them, or a window shade at the side. From the first moments to the end, from their molasses motion to the quicker turns they made around each other, they would continuously move as though in action upon or reaction to some external thing we could not see. But, like the couples in the first dance, they never moved far from each other. Though one would open a door while the other stood oblivious, it was one dance - their dance. Of course, when they moved with each other, it was far more beautiful than these abstract, unrelated activities. But, unlike the first dance, they did far more than come together and pull apart. There was a lot of gentle falling (and every time one fell, the other had to catch and right again) and, as the title suggests, necessary pushing - that they might move together and not askew. At times, one would have to be lifted by the other - a common sight in a partnered dance, but not so common to see the woman carrying the man with the same willingness that he has carried her but seven steps before.
This is what I meant last night when I said that it was like Life and Love. A small and silly way to say that I saw two people face the world last night. Outside of time, neither meeting nor ageing, but simply - yes, simply - Being together. So that the push which is pain to one and force to the other becomes a perfect balance shared (yet alternately willed and trusted in) between two - in order to make the two into one.
(A thrilling fear ran through me as the curtain fell - that I could watch them move like that ceaselessly forever, their motions seemingly random and yet in perfect harmony one with the other - It was good that the curtain fell, that other dancers took the stage with or without skill to shake me from the blinkless gaze I had fixed on them - though it be beautiful, it was not right to only watch them with the thought 'how beautiful is life' and not to go out and live it, like or not the dance.)
There were others, of course, but the only other one worth so many Words was Greg Sample's 'Hold Me to This', a dance commissed for the 10th anniversary, inspired (as were two others) by Maya Angelou's words: 'Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope.' Sample choreographed the piece inseperably with an original poem or set of poems, that I would love to have in writing (except for the sneaking suspicion that they should only be heard as they were last night - in tandem with the four dancers on the stage, doing whatever it was they did there that seemed to be speaking without mouth).
Whoever has had the patience to remain with this post so far, I hope that upon leaving your screen and stepping into the greater world, you will be able to see such beautiful things - whether in the washing of a teacup or the humming of a roommate - rather than relying on my own poor description of some random choreography. For the most beautiful of these was only so in that it took that life that is so common, found between waking and sleeping, and sometimes not even bound so far, and placed it concisely on a stage. What words here are nothing to the living.
p.s. 11.11. God bless Psalm.
My eyes are foggy with sleep and strain - sleep I have not yet taken but need, and strain for vision... as I've just returned from the 10th annual choreography festival at the McCallum Theatre. There is much I could say that I have no will for. Above, I have tried to post a video of clips from the Backhaus Dance Company, whose choreographer - Jennifer Backhaus - arranged my favourite piece of the evening. It was... like life and love in a dance (it is so horribly incomplete to say such a thing!). Two people, interacting with an unseen world, interacting with each other, being one and yet two, acknowledging moments of intimacy in a pattern of distraction and yet never veering far from each other's skin. There were other beautiful dances which I cannot describe or give credit to (the grand prize winner looked remarkably like the falling leaves scene from Hero. it was called Falling Leaves. hmm...) due to the state of my eyes, the fuzz of my brain, and the distance between me and my programme. Perhaps more tomorrow?
1. the living room (not the family room), at the couch where no one can see you but where you can hear everything in the house just enough to know you are escaping it.
2. the tall tables by the windows in the French restaurant, reading Anna Karenina or talking to Tara about Jack.
3. the ledge outside St Giles Cathedral, particularly when escaping the flood and flow of tourists along the Royal Mile - watching them flood and flow, pleased in one's own stillness, with the fortress of Scottish Presbyterianism at one's back.
4. the fox bench at the park, where my Mom and I once fed Luke Carl's Jr. burgers at dusk and where, on a different nightfall, we thought the world was coming to an end. 'It can't be the rapture,' she said, only half-believing herself, 'because you're still here.'
5. underneath any Christmas tree.
6. on any empty ocean pier.
7. the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano, preferably beneath the broad white hand of St Peter.
1. A photographic blog-account of the wedding of Tara and Spencer, as much as might be interesting those who were not in attendance, i.e. you.
2. Another somewhat-mindless minimum wage part-time job so that I can buy groceries.
3. My First Things subscription, ordered two months ago and still not arrived.
4. Protestant clarity.
5. The return of Harry the Mailman. Since his absence, I have declared my love for him shamelessly to so many. Come back so that I can return to my silent and sensible self.
6. Ceilidhs and kilts.
7. Finishing one book. Just one. And being able to afford a coffee date to discuss this book with my new friend who is still merely an aquaintance who used to sit behind me in church and whom I silently acknowledged and secretly admired for being one of the marrieds without seeming obnoxious.
8. 26 more pages.
9. Making this list go to ten.
10. Being able to pay my library fine, now at more than six dollars.
Things no longer hoped for, but present and fantastic:
1. A MSc in Nation, Writing, and Culture from the University of Edinburgh. I did a dance in the office with whips and whorls. Glad no one saw it. Other than 'Yes!' I believe my first words were 'It's about time!' I suppose two months isn't too long to wait, but it sure felt more like six.
2. A roomie. Sort of. I think. She hasn't really moved in. But she has. It's complicated. Or maybe it's very simple, but since I keep typing about it, it's becoming unsimple more and more.
3. Protestant clarity.
4. But of course, and it should really be first, Mr and Mrs Smith. Though not quite present, being in Paris, yet realised and most certainly fantastic.
That might just be it. Right. I'll try to make sure the next post has illustrations. I can be a bit of a bore, I know....
On my way to my sister's, the fires had not yet begun. Or at least I had not heard of them. Trouble appeared on a smaller scale. At a stop light on my way into the city, I saw a group of men pushing a broken-down truck out of the way of traffic. For a moment, I felt sorry for their predicament, but then I looked in their faces, paused as I was with the red light, and I saw that they were enjoying themselves. There were about five of them, and the situation appeared anything but frustrating to them. There can be joy in calamity, I thought, as long as it occurs in the company of good friends. But that was before I heard about the spread of the fires, the numbers of evacuees, the children unable to play at recess for all the ash in the air. I mentioned all this to my mother, and she reminded me of what this must mean to people whose homes are burning, who are losing all of their belongings - from photo albums to sewing kits. It is massive and irrecoverable loss.
Even so, I will pray that the calamity may somehow be a joy for those with good friends. And for those without, that it may be the means of discovering them. As I write this, I am reminded of my own friends, soon to be married and off mooning in Paris. They have little to fear; there are many who love them. While it would be nice for calamity to keep its distance, nothing worth anything can be destroyed by accident. I have every faith in the strength of friendship and of love. Granted, the flames are not falling anywhere near my own home, but I trust that even in such a case I would remember this. Yes, I am being a bit sentimental. Consider it my toast. Beannachd Dia dhuit. Cheers.
The address refers to the Arthurian heroine Elaine of Astollat, otherwise known as Shalott (that's an island, not an onion). In some stories, Elaine was cursed to dwell in her island bower unable to look out at the world outside her windows. In other stories, she was just a homebody, well-loved by her noble father and brave brothers. In both, she happens to fall in love with Lancelot who already loves Guinevere but admires Elaine more than all others regardless of his preference for married women. In all Elaine narratives, she dies of unrequited love - a mysterious illness that frequently infects poetic figures. Tennyson's two accounts of the story are my favourites. In his poem 'The Lady of Shalott', he implies that Elaine's death was not caused by her love, but by her longing to escape. She is trapped in her mirror-existence, only able to view the world through reflections - never through experience. Thus, when her dead body floats down to Camelot and Lancelot sees her lying pale and cold at the bottom of the boat, he simply observes, 'She has a lovely face. God in his mercy lend her grace.' Kind words for a stranger, signifying that the relationship between them was entirely a matter of Elaine's imagination. The world in Elaine's mirror in unreliable - it is her own vision of things, distanced from real experience, real relation. Her love of Lancelot is arbitrary - he is a traveler to Camelot, the city of her dreams, and she has placed upon his image all of her desires to escape her own walled-in existence.
Of course, it's also a nice melodramatic poem, good for Anne Shirley pageantries and long strolls through birch woods. I chose to use it for the blog because it represents the importance of point of view, of the distinctions between those who travel and those who remain - of which I am both, and of experiencing the world not through observations of cities or accounts of journeys so much as through individual interaction.
all alone in the back of the backyard
watching the sun slip behind the eucalyptus
I dig too deep.
Ankles first and then the knees
the snails are forfeit to my predicament.
Digging for snails
in the heat after the rain
my fingers smelling like the loam
of the garden
my shoulders itching from the roots of the crabgrass.
I have dug myself a snail
a snail without a shell
till the sun on my skin
makes me quiver in the soil.
It has occurred to me that I'm afraid of snails
of their formlessness and motion -
in the shell a menace to the leaves
planted so carefully
out of the shell, a horror
- but I cannot not become one
for I have dug myself too deep.
I begin to lose my toes, my fingers
my brain which is gelling up my skull
cannot find the Thing to Do
the lever to extricate
a rope or a branch to pull upon
to remove my slugging self
from the rain-wet soil
(and even then, how would I remove
the stink from the tail?)
After much to-do
and several vain attempts
I prop my snailish face upon the surface
of the soil
spread myself still to the warm sky
When God comes to dig for snails
like me, he must become one -
unlike me, he must not get stuck
but snail or no snail he is also a hand
and he removes me from the dug and dung
making of me also hands
that are also mourning doves
(Memories of Rainbow Wars on a dome-like screen, a gift shop with balloons of swirling reds and blues, photograph under a green tree over the green grass, wearing the straw hat with the polka dot ribbon...)
Self-contradictory, and intentionally so, because he clearly states at the beginning that we only have one take at life. There are no practice rounds, he says. No trial runs or initial read-throughs. Not for the characters, but for the author the story can be repeated ad infinitum. As long as he can find a new set of eyes (Tomas's estranged son, the dying pet, or the ex-lover's ex-lover in Thailand) he can tell the story in a new way. It cannot happen more than once, but once can happen in an infinite number of ways.
I have been thinking about the different ways to tell a story, because I am trying to write one myself. Not doing a very good job of it. I can't seem to make up my mind about the basic style. My impulse is to write in a manner similar to Kundera. Take a few small events that make up a story and expand upon them according to the variety of eyes peering out of each neighbourhood window. But then I think of what the story actually is - and I hesitate. My story isn't like Kundera's at all. It is neither light nor heavy. It is a self-proclaimed 'perfect narrative arc,' and like all good stories it begins en media res. It is not like Kundera, who goes from beginning to end and back again in so many circles. It is like Big Fish.
I have not read the novel by Daniel Wallace, but I have seen the film. Tim Burton's adaptation of Big Fish came out in 2003, and I must confess that I didn't really like it back then. I knew that I should. It was a perfect story. A careful narrative arc with a variety of characters both exotic and strangely familiar. I have no excuse for myself. Perhaps I was in the mood for something with less narrative integrity, something, let's say, closer to Hollywood. But I am older now (cough*ahem), and better able to appreciate a good story for being just that - a good story. I appreciate it because it is rare. And if I want my own story to be anything, that is it - I want it to be a uniquely well-crafted story, with characters both exotic and familiar, and with undeniable narrative integrity. Burton's Big Fish charms. It is unbelievable, yes, but it wills you to believe despite yourself. To throw out some bigger words (which are only acceptable because this was about Kundera to begin with), Big Fish dares to ignore all the postmodern claims on narrative by telling a story as Homer told stories. Dare I call such a method universal?
Don't get me wrong. I like The Unbearable Lightness of Being. I like it alot. I think Kundera is brilliant. I enjoyed every minute I read it. And I know that if I could write like that, I would be a laudable author. But I am not sure that I want to be a good author. I think I would rather tell a good story. Is it necessary to choose? Perhaps not. But I haven't yet figured out the balance between the two.
You climb the Holy Steps on your knees and pray.
You weep or you do not weep according to the Spirit.
You stand before the Pieta and pray.
You weep or you do not weep according to the Spirit.
You kneel before the crucifix and pray.
You weep or you do not weep according to the Spirit.
Here, it is different. You take your Bible to Starbucks. You underline verses, write in the margins, refer to your sermon notes.
Your Bible study meets you. They discuss the role of the Holy Spirit and how He lends a sense of peace to your decisions.
On the way home, you stop to fill the tank of the Accord. Your radio is playing praise songs. The emcee interrupts to talk about donations and God is Good.
The next day at work you try to share the Gospel with a coworker. You write it on a napkin during your lunch break. Afterwards, he uses it to wipe his hands from his microwaveable meal. What can you do but throw the Napkin Gospel in the trash? He agrees to join you on Sunday. You raise your hands. 'Praise God!' and smile.
You remember Rome. You remember faith being simple. You remember peace.
That was in winter. Now the Holy Steps are being photographed by tourist groups. Maybe it is not so simple. Maybe there is not so much peace.
But you remember.
And you weep.
Not from the Spirit, but like a child missing its mother. Your Mother.
Pacce. Pacce. Lord have mercy.
meeting friends for a big-screen viewing of the recent Bourne update
watching *!@"f! adolescents spray silly-string on shoulder-slumping loners in the Princes Street Gardens (i hate kids)
watching eager youngsters run down the aisle to their 'Sunday's Cool' lessons while the choir sings 'Alleluia' (i love kids)
watching an episode of 'Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction' in Flatmate Jess's room (i... uh....)
defrosting Angela's fridge
sipping a pot of tea in Kilimanjaro - for the last time?
maneuvering tourists, trying not to dream of Toby Stephens, planning my future, organising my inbox...
I have finished and turned in my dissertation for an MSc in English Literature: Nation, Writing and Culture from Edinburgh University (which noble institution I am presently advertising upon the soft navy hues of my first ever hoodie!!).
My bags are mostly packed for the return home - even though I will not actually be leaving for another week. I needed to see if I would have to mail things or pay an overweight fee. One or the other will be necessary, since it seems that I have an inordinate number of books in my possession. Bother.
Tomorrow, I will be meeting friends for post-dissertation drinks in the evening. Saturday, I am planning a trip to Newcastle and/or Durham with flatmate Jess. and Sunday boasts a most thrilling venture to the cinema for a showing of the Bourne Ultimatum - a film that I have been anticipating with unparalleled eagerness.
Beyond that, my schedule is bare. I will be pulling together last minute necessities, buying unnecessary tourist crap on High Street, and arranging the return of my accomodation deposit. I will be farewelling friends and swiping music off of the internet with mischievous abandon. I will bake lemon bars.
My flight leaves the Edinburgh airport in the early morning of the 30th, a Thursday, and I will be travelling for nearly 24 hours total in order to arrive the same evening in Palm Springs. If anything noteworthy happens between now and then, I will certain post of it. Now that the dissertation is through, 'interesting' just might happen. I am no longer a boring academic sod. er... snob. I am an Everylass.
None of this tells you anything about my life, of course. Mostly because it's been the same old thing as it has been for the last two months:
1. get up at an embarassingly late hour; eat some amazing cereal and drink coffee in my room while checking email and... oh my goodness, i just discovered the weirdest blister on my toe. Gotta go figure out what to do with it...
false alarm. It was one of Flatmate Jess's contacts stuck to my foot. No wonder the 'blister' was so remarkably round, shiney, and tinted of blue. No wonder I could not recall how or when it had been acquired. Yes, this is what I do with my days.
2. after breakfast and some scuttling about on the internet, I open up my word documents - the ones with all my notes in disarray - and set about putting them in some kind of order. I write a bit here and there, realize that I am not incorporating the massive quantity of quotations and references in my writing, try to correct that, forget, go off on tangents, cut the whole thing and place it in a separate document of useless but undeletable fragments, hear Flatmate Jess leaving her room, prop my door, pretend to work while chatting with her across the hall, create a new playlist on iTunes.
3. make dinner (because breakfast was too late in the day to allow for lunch) for at least an hour - even if it's just chicken nuggets, turn on the news to catch up on the flood levels in western England, go back to my room and look up clips of favorite tv shows or random interviews online - trying to avoid the tacky music montages, check my email
4. chat with emily for about three hours
5. watch a movie with flatmate(s)
6. check email several more times, say goodnight to everyone, close my door, curl up in bed with my laptop, and google myself to sleep
What a dreary existence. I don't think I should admit to it publicly. There are exceptions, such as today, when I update my blog, put on real clothes, and go to the library to pay off my now astronomical fines. Or yesterday, when I went to the shop on the King's Buildings campus to buy milk and orange juice. Sometimes I bring my notes to Blackford Lounge and sort through them over bad cappuccino and cheesy campus-decor. There are all sorts of ways to spice up one's life, and I take advantage of them all! Sometimes...
Macpherson’s Ossianic narratives were composed in the midst of changing definitions of poetic genres and shifting standards of literary values. As a result, they both represent these changes and influence them. I will be exploring the specific influences of the literary studies of Blackwell and Lowth upon Macpherson’s writing, and the influence Macpherson had upon Blair’s literary theories. My arguments will be specifically focused on the definitions of the poet, the bard, the epic, and mythology in the context of the studies of human and societal development in the eighteenth century. Ultimately, I wish to show that the confusion as to the genre of these poems has caused them to be generally disregarded in critical conversation. [Assuming that they are not being ignored simply because they are boring.]
the resulting confusion of genre
why establishing genre is important for critical consideration; why it is unimportant for the ultimate purposes of literature (that is, the confusion led to Ossian being forgotten, but it did not hinder the popularity of the poems among a wide international audience for many years)
the need for an epic:
the preservation of Gaelic tradition
Macpherson’s own literary aims
the standards of the epic:
Primary or Oral Epic
Blackwell’s vision of Homer and how it influence Ossian
Secondary or Literary Epic
the role of the bard in ancient society
how the ballads lasted for so long
the history of preserving them
how Macpherson’s Ossian participated in this preservation
eighteenth-century literary fashion
ballads in writing
the sentimental ‘bard’
how Ossian embodies this fashion
Gaelic traditions and superstitions (fairies and Druids and the second sight)
how Macpherson avoids this and why
superheroes and gods
how Macpherson got one and got rid of the other
why Ossian would have benefited from familiarity with the Supreme Being, and how Macpherson decided against introducing them anyway
why Macpherson chose to write like King Solomon, and what Dr Lowth has to say about it all
I'm lookin' forward to her coming - we're gonna hunt us a Haggis, get the low-down on the Nessie situation, and hit up some of the more widely frequented apparel shops over in New Town. Be prepared.
Yesterday, I went into Glasgow with Linsday and Jess in order to take the latter to a performance of some orchestral Russian stuff. Rachmaninov headlined with his second piano concerto, and it was good to hear it live. Almost as fun as being able to bust out my tweed heels, which replaced the tennies in a Burger King ten minutes before the performance. Short-lived posh, since the concert hall is literally right across the street from the bus stop. We didn't have far to go once the music had stopped.
Other than that, the days have mostly consisted of scribbling notes down at the NLS only to come home again and type them all into my laptop. Next week will be organizing and preliminary writing - so much excitement! and perhaps I will plan myself some sort of Trip to break up the monotony.
Central to the Judaeo-Christian notion of martyrdom is that one gives up a good in order to follow God. What God is engaged in is the hallowing of life. God first called Israel to be a "holy nation" (Exodus 19.6). But the hallowing of life is not antithetical to its fulness. On the contrary. Hence the powerful sense of loss at the heart of martyrdom. It only becomes necessary because of sin and disorder in the world: because, e.g., a Nebuchadnezzar or an Antiochus Epiphanes requires that Israelites worship idols or otherwise violate the Torah. Or, to turn to the paradigm Christian case, that Christ's teaching led to his crucifixion was a consequence of evil in the world, of the darkness not comprehending the light. In the restored order that God is conferring , good doesn't need to be sacrificed for good. The eschatological promise in both Judaism and Christianity is that God will restore the integrity of the good.
Charles Taylor, Sources of the Self (218, 219)
(Strangely, it puts me in the mood for Narnia. Possibly because of the desire for escape coupled with a yearning for childhood tales round a warm hearth with a cup of tea.... Perhaps it's about time to visit Oxford.)
I have done little but study for the last week and a half since returning from Prague, and even before that there was little but books in my world. And yet, one can see how easy it is to surround one's person with the relevant material for hours on end, and still find that all there is to show for the time is a new blog entry, a revised sketch of the tattoo I've been putting off for years, and a fresh cup of tea.
(what you can't tell is that a vast and lovely night view of the city is stretched out behind us.)
the Amsterdam Airport, a layover
I just finished an apple and almond tart which I shared with a beautiful sparrow - or some such bird - that seems to have made it his home in here. It did occur to me that it might not be wise to encourage dependent habits in the bird, but the thought came to me that it is my duty, or at least my role, as a daughter of Eve to give to those creatures of the wild as they have need. The bird was not unusually plump, and I did not give it more than two pinches of tart flakes. So I don't think it is any more spoiled from me than it would be from scavenging empty trays in the food court.
When I arrived at the hostel, 'The Boathouse,' Courtney was waiting for me on the lawn next to the river. We took the tram into the city, wandered in and out amongst tourists, ate dinner in the Old Town Square, and fumbled about with the new, confusing currency.
Before heading back and to bed, we wandered up in the fading light to the palace and took some nighttime photos:
We met up with two Australian blokes, Rob and Will (may the rest of your travels fair well, boys! may you not lose anymore tickets, passes, or sense of direction), with whom we spent the next two days. Back up to the palace we went, this time wandering about briefly indoors, climbing over 280 steps to the top of the Tyn Cathedral and a stunning view of the city, and - to my buried chagrine - taking photos of ourselves with the palace guard. The poor man. I think I would prefer turning hot dogs behind the counter at Target to his job:
the Jewish Quarter
the graveheads like the children of Sinai
surge, the silent remnants of a tectonic collision.
Is it this or that marker that means you?
Under which do you lie, your ashy remnants?
I think the rock must crush,
if you leave behind any bones to break -
though, even if dust alone remain, take heart
(you without a heart to beat
but barely soul to wait along):
Soon the sands will rise between the grasses
with an earthy, unearthly surge.
The stones will slip and crumble like bones
while your bones arise above the slipping stones,
awaking from their pieces -
pulling their parts from the grasses and the roots.
Yes, you Yakov, will walk this yard again
with footsteps heavy
and breath warm.
(and when you do, please find my face,
fallen as it is in the silence of this place
and, with your own, lift it up - a last and holy praise):
Museum of Communism, riverside restaurant, and a hike up a holy hill
I am sure this was nothing in comparison with the education Tara received while she was here. Ah well...
Two meals with little inbetween but some happy wandering and a chapel. A lovely couple, Bill and Hazel, sat with us at a table on the water and suggested a church on a hill - the basilica of Peter and Paul - which we went to too late to go inside. It is surrounded by a beautiful park, seemingly maintained by the nuns at the abbey next door.
There were several beautiful views of the city along the river from the hilltop as well. Here is one:
Wandering the city without Courtney
So, it only took me about three hours to find a place to eat despite the fact that there are three restaurants on every corner. I'm not sure what my mental criteria were, but I am becoming so difficult to please.
Regardless, I crossed the river into Mala Strana and have found myself in a small, cool courtyard - cozy relief from the burden of the sun and the cobblestones - and am being served by a hyperactive, cheerful albino fellow. The cloud cover is darkening and I am wondering if the light showers predicted by weather.co.uk are about to show themselves. He just put up the umbrellas, so I wouldn't doubt it.
Thinking of Tara and how it would be so much better to have her leading me everywhere around here - out of the tourist areas to begin with.
Thunder and rain in Slavic measure.
I kneel before the crucifix in St Nicholas' Cathedral amd shake my hair. Still it drips on the pages. What is there to do?
the tiles and the tourists
30kC to kneel in worship with the sound of the voice of the tourguide leading her wayward crowds with trivia and tidbits of history.
Before me, you are bleeding on the cross, a bit too quiet for my taste - I, no longer kneeling, but thinking of the rain, wonder when you will rend cloud from sky and come down. Meanwhile, I am chilly here on this wooden bench.
(I think I may have just driven out a tour group by praying in here. Flustered tour guide. Huh.)
Leaving the church, a guard in a clean black business suit was keeping people from coming in the exit door. He spoke to them sternly and closed the door firmly in their faces despite loud protest - only to turn and see me quietly waiting to get out. He had a beautiful face, like the guard in St Peter's who let Chaeli pray in the pews after the five o'clock mass. From stern refusal toward those without, he saw me and transformed. Gentling laying a hand on my shoulder, he opened the door again as though he had kept the others out just to make space for my exit. Perhaps he had seen me praying... I think I could live well from the love I glean from strangers alone.
(and what would be European travel without my trusty Keens? here against the kneelers of St Nick's) :
The rain having let up without wholly ceasing, I finished off my camera batteries (which lasted probably a total of an hour) on the Charles Bridge and hopped on the tram back to the hostel. Read George MacDonald by the river, chatted with a girl newly returned from a year in Russia about Putin and the frightfulness of crossing the Ukrainian border.
Amsterdam airport again
I am grateful for the young man at the information desk in Prague, though initially brusque (since I was asking for help an hour and a half after my plane had taken off), who was kind to me in my confusion. Especially when chasing after me with my passport, which I had left behind his little window. 'Take it easy,' he said, and then brought me to a special lady to check in ahead of the others.
So, I had pulled out just enough crowns to pay for a cab from the hostel to the airport at four in the morning, then slept in a full hour and a half - obviously missing my taxi. Took public transport, by this time up and running regularly. Took the Metro the wrong way, wandered around baffled that there would be no sign for the airport shuttle, almost took a cab the whole way, asked a handful of people who didn't speak English, and finally found a hidden ticket window where the woman there told me in frustrated gestures that I needed to ride the Metro back the entire length of the line. So I was late.
What's a good vacation without a few unnecessary travel woes? And spending twice as much as planned? And feeling a slight sense of relief that, despite all the beauty and happiness, you are secretly glad to get back to the familiar work of research and writing?
1. After about eight months of ridiculous inconvenience, I have finally purchased a belt. I'm pretty sure this is the first belt I've ever bought in my life, though it's only the second or third that I've owned. I've been wearing it for a grand total of ten minutes, and already I feel better. Note to self: do not purchase brand new jeans immediately before making radical changes in physical lifestyle (i.e. walking alot).
2. I got my hair cut again by a lovely professional named Lisa. She's a senior stylist at Mosco, but since I booked with a junior stylist who fell ill, I got the better experience for half the price. It looks more or less like it did last November, so there's no need to upload fashion photos or anything. Besides, there will be pictures enough when I return from my trip to . . .
3. Prague! On my way there sometime tomorrow morning. It was kind of a spur-of-the-moment decision to go, but I'm glad that I made it for several reasons. For one thing, it's Prague. For another, it gave me a good mental deadline for some important initial dissertation research (which I will be spending most of the rest of the evening on). Furthermore, my travelling buddy and flatmate Courtney, who left this afternoon, had made her plans with someone else who just dropped out a couple days ago - so I'm glad to keep her from wandering by her lonesome. I am headed to Prague with next to no knowledge of the city, its history, its sites of interest, or its mother-tongue. Mostly, I just want to sit at cafes, walk around and smile at lots of people, and learn how to be a tourist with humility rather than shame.
4. Oh yes, and I finally bought another alarm clock. Jess, you can keep your bouncy ball of indecent morning energy, that explosion of sound, your alarmclock to yourself. I thank you for your sacrifices and your generosity.
The clothing of socio-political concerns in a mythic narrative, or any narrative for that matter, is hardly the sole habit of the Enlightenment. Even Macpherson himself, in the dissertation with which he introduces the 1762 publication of Fingal, writes: ‘This is the true source of that divine inspiration, to which the poets of all ages pretended. When they found their themes inadequate to the warmth of their imaginations, they varnished them over with fables, supplied by their own fancy, or furnished by absurd traditions’ (xi). Whether Macpherson is subtly identifying Ossian’s own heroic tales as fables or accidentally giving us a hint towards his own manipulation of the epics might be too presumptuous to assume. Regardless of the specific applicability of the statement, the assertion remains – fables, myths, and all tales of more imaginative than realistic content serve the purpose of embodying those ideals which in plain clothing would be difficult to recognize and lessened in their moral effect.
These are only some of the concerns that went into the composition – translation or manipulation – of the Ossian epics. Their source was a thematic concern, not a narrative interest, and the product of these issues clearly reflects such original emphases. It would be doing both Macpherson and his writing an injustice to claim that these were the only interests driving the epics. That national concerns and curiosity as to the nature of social humanity found their form in an interest in ancient poetry may say as much about the poetry itself as the more social motivations. In an age of passion towards anything ancient, it is only natural that national and philosophical motivations would find themselves embodied in a wider intrigue. Unwritten history, fragments, unburied artefacts, vestiges of things forgotten – the romance of the past provided a popular vehicle for the exploration of these more academic and political concerns.
Baking somewhat crazily... (the saucepan on the left serves as a mixing bowl, and yes, I am cracking the egg into a wine glass. you learn to be creative when resources are few.)
Possibly one of the most attractive meals I've ever made, this could not have been completed without Courtney knowing just when the salmon and asparagus were done. And oooh, wasn't it tasty. That's a butter sauce with lemon, basil, red onions and garlic, topped with reduced balsamic vinegar and diced tomato. A variation on the scallops with kataifi served at our Greek dinner a year ago.