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9.03.2009

palms and jasmine

I have blogged about palms before (type 'poms' in the search bar above if you're really interested). I think i even quoted Elaine Scarry in that post. But I need to do it again, because every now and then, after dark or at sunset, I will glance up and catch the light between the sharply-lined fronds - and it will take my breath away. Elaine Scarry writes about the beauty of palms in her book On Beauty and Being Just, and I thought of this writing as I climbed out of my car a few minutes ago, my senses battered by a wave of night-blooming jasmine. I looked up at the night sky and saw the full moon still and silent behind the silhouette of a palm tree. Here's a passage:

'Something beautiful fills the mind yet invites the search for something beyond itself, something larger or something of the same scale with which it needs to be brought into relation. Beauty, according to its critics, causes us to gape and suspend all thought. This complaint is manifestly true: Odysseus does stand marveling before the palm; Odysseus is similarly incapacitated in front of Nausicaa; and Odysseus will soon, in Book 7, stand "gazing," in much the same way, at the season-immune orchards of King Alcinous, the pears, apples, and figs that bud on one branch while ripening on another, so that never during the cycling year do they cease to be in flower and fruit. But simultaneously what is beautiful prompts the mind to move chronologically back in the search for precedents and parallels, to move forward into new acts of creation, to move conceptually over, to bring things into relation, and does all this with a kind of urgency as though one's life depended on it.'

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