. . . he made such melodious sound . . .
His legs they were fourteen yards long
His ears they were broad
Round the world in half a day
On him I could ride
This makes me cry.
(A favorite song of mine when I was about fifteen.)
The Wikileaks story has taken over the headlines. The private who leaked the cables will no doubt spend many years in jail. As a condition of his security clearance, he would have had to sign an agreement not t disclose what he released. Politicians are calling for prosecution of Wikileaks and Julian Assange. But whose laws did he break and where was he when he broke them? Prosecution may be more difficult than we think.
Most of what we have seen so far is more embarrassing than strategic. An ambassador here or there may have said some sharp things about a foreign leader. So, how do you vote? Is Wikileaks a positive force for transparency or an act of treason?
Having gone to sleep around 12:30, I woke at 5:48. It was my habit to sleep about 5 hours a night, staying up late to have some time for myself, and waking up relatively early to tend to J. (I was not too sleep-deprived because I’d take a nap sometime later in the day.) That schedule seems to be stamped on my nervous system for the time being. Anyway, I had to pee.
The window was full of pale light, but dawn wasn’t visible yet. (I suppose we had already entered astronomical twilight.) It was the half moon — technically third quarter — shining directly overhead, so brightly that the sand was silver and there were sharp black shadows under the palm trees and the beach chairs. Despite the bright moon, the first few stealthy photons of sunlight, and the light pollution at both ends of this island, I could see quite a few stars. Especially Orion, my favorite constellation, standing foursquare and manly above the Gulf of Mexico, framed right in the center of my window.
I sat down and answered an e-mail from Pat, and minutes later, when I looked again, the moon had dimmed and the stars were gone, erased by a rolling fog.
Sent by dear friends, “Felix Randal” by Gerard Manley Hopkins (the speaker is, as Hopkins was, a ministering priest):
Felix Randal the farrier, O he is dead then? my duty all ended,
Who have watched his mould of man, big-boned and hardy-handsome
Pining, pining, till time when reason rambled in it and some
Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended?
Sickness broke him. Impatient he cursed at first, but mended
Being anointed and all; though a heavenlier heart began some
Months earlier, since I had our sweet reprieve and ransom
Tendered to him. Ah well, God rest him all road ever he offended!
This seeing the sick endears them to us, us too it endears.
My tongue had taught thee comfort, touch had quenched thy tears,
Thy tears that touched my heart, child, Felix, poor Felix Randal;
How far from then forethought of, all thy more boisterous years,
When thou at the random grim forge, powerful amidst peers,
Didst fettle for the great grey drayhorse his bright and battering sandal!
Warmest thanks to Chris Davis for scanning most of these photos.
empty wheelchair van
as launch pad is to orbit:
loose straps’ job is done
I was frantic today to find someone good to take care of my cats while I go to Florida. Then it hit me: it was Thanksgiving 1971 when a friend who had been looking for a pretext to introduce us anyway thought she had found it in the fact that Jacques Sandulescu was going away for Thanksgiving and needed someone to feed his cats.
Unfortunately, I was also going away for Thanksgiving and needed someone to feed my cats. So that didn’t work out. We wouldn’t meet till the following March. But I did exchange a few words with this exotic character on the phone. Since he was from Transylvania and had a rich accent, I imagined him in a black cloak, looking suave and smoldering like Dracula. (In reality, he looked more like Frankenstein if the operation had been a smashing success.)
Thirty-nine years later, and I’m STILL looking for someone to feed my cats. Different cats. Same problem. Full circle.
First contact to last: exactly 39 years.
P.S.: I found someone to feed the cats.
I will slowly get around to writing about the cataclysm that’s hit my world. Can’t get words around it, may be able to pick a few paths of a few steps through it here and there before they falter out like the footprints of the settlers of some vanished colony. There will be a lot of false starts.
But meanwhile . . .
I spent all day with friends yesterday (a disorientingly novel experience in itself). In between sitting in an outdoor hot tub and walking in the woods on the path of an old NASCAR raceway, we watched part of David Attenborough’s Planet Earth on hi-def, flat-panel TV. I was duly impressed, but also disturbed.
It is so awesomely, breathtakingly beautiful, this Earth of ours — too beautiful. Mountain peaks are impossibly pristine, airbrushed of blemishes; polar bears are bowdlerized of their fleas; autumn hillsides change color with the orchestrated precision of The Wave in the Superdome, or a flashcard display by Communist Chinese kiddies — all in obedience to the wand of digital totalitarianism.
The implicit message: digital is better than real. Man trumps Nature. Mother Earth needs a facelift and silicone falsies.
There is a connection between this triumph-disguised-as-tribute over nature and 15-year-olds getting nose jobs as quinceañeras presents, boob jobs for Sweet Sixteen.
Our experience of nature is always mediated and manipulated by art — I realized that when, writing the introduction to a book of Thomas McKnight’s paintings, I was struck by the insight that what we remember as our intense, naïve, direct early-childhood perception of the world is in fact already powerfully shaped by art in the form of children’s-book illustrations. All my life, for example, I have appreciated the beauty of the woods through the filter of Walt Disney’s Bambi. Seriously. And as for women’s beauty, is it really such a big step, other than technologically, from plucking your eyebrows to boosting your boobs?
But have our powers to imagine and manipulate become Faustian? Do the digital wonders of Planet Earth enhance, or demean and diminish, the actual experience of living on Planet Earth? To steal a page from W.B. Yeats:
The fascination of what’s digital
Has dried the sap out of my veins, and rent
Spontaneous joy and natural content
Out of my heart. . . .
I thought friends who visit here but not Twitter ought to know that late last night Annie relayed sad news:
J. died at 10:48 PM tonight. Pretty peacefully. Thanks to all who have sent thoughts and prayers.
As Theo said this morning:
Please know that you and J are in our thoughts and prayers. I think you’ve taught us all something about caring, love and devotion.