Wednesday, May 27, 2009

"Who'd Walk in This Bleak Place?" A Day for Sylvia Plath

What leads us to believe there is superiority in our misery?  What makes our hurt worse than others, our burdens harder to bear?  Isn’t it the same kind of vanity that tells us we are smarter/prettier/better than others?  Unquestionably, there are degrees of misery in different kinds of lives, but aren’t we all damaged?  We all have been through the fire.  Not one of us has escaped whole and unharmed.  We are all disfigured now.  The question becomes what will you do with this destruction.  What you become every day is up to you; as Sylvia Plath wrote:  “…each day demands we create our whole world over.”  No one has the monopoly on misery.  We all get tired from time to time of the chore of moving on, of plowing through what feels like air swarming with ghosts.  I suppose more of the people I have loved are dead now than are living, but I do not take that as permission to stop loving the ones who are left.  Sylvia Plath also wrote:  “Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.”  Find that one absolutely beautiful thing, whatever it may be to you, and live for it.  As long as your heart is beating, you owe a debt of gratitude to whatever god-force gave you life.  Keep your hopes low, and you will at least be comfortable.


Sylvia Plath

The air is a mill of hooks--

Questions without answer,

Glittering and drunk as flies

Whose kiss stings unbearably

In the fetid wombs of black air under pines in summer.

I remember

The dead smell of sun on wood cabins,

The stiffness of sails, the long salt winding sheets.

Once one has seen God, what is the remedy?

Once one has been seized up

Without a part left over,

Not a toe, not a finger, and used,

Used utterly, in the sun's conflagrations, the stains

That lengthen from ancient cathedrals

What is the remedy?

The pill of the Communion tablet, 

The walking beside still water?  Memory?

Or picking up the bright pieces

Of Christ in the faces of rodents,

The tame flower-nibblers, the ones

Whose hopes are so low they are comfortable--

The humpback in his small, washed cottage

Under the spokes of the clematis.

Is there no great love, only tenderness?

Does the sea

Remember the walker upon it?

Meaning leaks from the molecules.

The chimneys of the city breathe, the window sweats,

The children leap in their cots.

The sun blooms, it is a geranium.

The heart has not stopped.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Blogging Takes a Backseat

     I finished Brunelleschi's Dome by Ross King last week and need to blog about it, but I started reading The Birth of Venus by Sarah Dunant and haven't been able to put it aside long enough to do any blogging.   It's been quite a while since I've read a compelling page-turner type of book, so I am enjoying myself, even if blogging is getting behind.  Here are some pictures of my other hobby that is taking me away from the computer.  Disclosure:  I did not take these beautiful shots; my daughter took them on Mother's Day as we worked in the garden.  

Saturday, May 9, 2009

In the Name of Religion

     I finished two books this week:  Galileo's Daughter by Dava Sobel and Incantation by Alice Hoffman.  At first glance, these two books seem to be very dissimilar:  one a biography written for adults and one a work of fiction written for a mostly teenage-girl audience.  One important similarity between the books, however, occurred to me.  Both teach the dangers of religion run amok.  Both exhibit the damage that religion did in Europe for hundreds of years.  
     The church persecuted and imprisoned Galileo for recognizing and teaching the truth.  In Incantation, the main character's family is killed by the church during the Spanish Inquisition for remaining true to their Jewish identity.  The great irony to me in both of these examples lies in the church's persecuting and punishing people for speaking and living the truth, while continuing to teach the lessons of the ten commandments, at least one of which, I believe, addresses honesty.  

Sunday, May 3, 2009

And Here is One Example of What Words Can Do

Sonnet XXVII by Pablo Neruda

Naked, you are simple as one of your hands, 
Smooth, earthy, small, transparent, round: 
You have moonlines, applepathways: 
Naked, you are slender as a naked grain of wheat.

Naked, you are blue as the night in Cuba; 
You have vines and stars in your hair; 
Naked, you are spacious and yellow 
As summer in a golden church.

Naked, you are tiny as one of your nails, 
Curved, subtle, rosy, till the day is born 
And you withdraw to the underground world,
as if down a long tunnel of clothing and of chores:
Your clear light dims, gets dressed, drops its leaves,
And becomes a naked hand again.

I am watching the movie, Il Postino, about Pablo Neruda in exile in Italy.  In one section, Beatrice's aunt tells her that "Words are the worst things ever.  I'd prefer a drunkard at the bar touching your bum to someone who says, 'Your smile flies like a butterfly.'"    She warns Beatrice that once a man touches her with his words, touching her with his hands is not far off.  After this scene, Mario reads the above Neruda sonnet.  I'd have to say that this sonnet is a perfect example to use as proof of the old aunt's words.  Just reading that poem makes my heart full. I would imagine that even in my cynical state, I would be vulnerable to a man who had those words inside of him.  (Note to self:  need to warn my daughter now.  Life is not like poetry and literature.)

Less Sure About Less

" And at fifty, Less muses drowsily, you're as likeable as you're going to get." I experienced a strange transitio...