None of us is a stranger to the need for endurance. It’s a universal theme; always returned to in stories.
We endure. And in the strength we needful gain in our small hero’s journeys, we encounter the requirement of meaning. Neither the smallest nor greatest of trials are endurable without that ineffable, elusive thing we all seek: for life to be meaningful.
It’s the only way to make sense out of the chaos that resides in the spaces we all (humans, gods*, nature) share. Time gives it and robs us of it. All is ever. Change is the greatest weapon of the gods; we convince ourselves the we are in control, but it’s they who pull the strings.
The gods love(d) us for our plodding predictability; made games for their amusement of disrupting and manipulating us. Some of the meaning we seek can be found in the ways we regard, respond to –and endure– these disruptions.
. . .
*I use this word in the sense of the gods as we’ve always invented them; stories of the forces which we do not understand made fathomable, endurable.
Also: read The Marriage of Cadmus & Harmony. It’s an incredible, applicable unpacking of Greek mythology, full stop.
I had one of those odd coincidences earlier this week. At my new job, we are sometimes availed of complimentary tickets to events— for example this week it was attendance to a two o’clock performance of Ravel’s Bolero (and two other pieces, but that was the star) by the NY Philharmonic on Jan 20th.
It just so happened that a few days earlier I’d been listening to Rufus Wainwright, in whose song Oh, What A World he introduces and plays off the primary riff of the very same piece (to wonderful effect). After listening to it, I felt compelled to track down the original and listen to it in full.
This precipitated a persistent dream last Saturday morning in which I was building a playlist consisting only of waltzes (for which I’ve a weakness, and to which category both Rufus’ and Ravel’s songs belong). So upon waking I slavishly began building said list*.
It was weird and exciting to be invited to hear it played by the philharmonic just days after. And I assure you I would be going, except I’d just secured tickets to see Farinelli & the King the same day at eight o’clock— and as keen as I may be, that would just be far too long a day to spend on Work Island on a weekend. : : sigh : :
Anyway. I love when shit aligns or collides out of the blue like that.
. . .
*You can listen to 24/7 Waltz People if you have Google Play. (Admittedly I overreached, and a few rags made their way on it, too. Whatevs.) Ravel didn’t make it on, though, as it’s all contemporary.
PS— Sorry I missed my Thursday post. Here it is, terrifically late. More to come over the weekend, relating to the animated short began last weekend.
Returned from the snow farm for the last few days of the year’s closing book. Serene here, too— quiet and white-blanketed. Few people are on the sidewalks, chilled and brittle. The emptiness of the playground today: a witness to the mercury, its height diminished despite bright sun.
And here we meet our fabricated bookends for time, believing we can hold or control it; we note it and name it to preserve the illusion. All is change, even the end of things, like the dying year to be replaced or born anew this midnight. Supplanted by new hopes, optimism in the dark corner of the year. Rebirth, Springtide: a crocus fighting her way up through a crust of snow.
Her bloom and demise are written in the maths that make her. Only we personify it, make a mirror of her. We with our imagined souls are infinitely fragile. So we make of her a beacon.
We’ll wait for her in the darkness yet to come. We’ll look for her as we burn through the woodpile, stacked under the eaves last fall. And as we watch the icicles melt, painting the days toothless, mild, and green again.
*from the poem ”To the New Year” by W. S. Merwin
It’s double-quilt weather and icy lashes weather as the wind stings saltwater rills from our eyes. Shoulders hunched, we retreat into our hoods like sheltering caves.
Convolutions and subtext slip away like shingles from a roof during high winds. Faced with the elemental force of cold, our needs simplify. Just as hunger renders food delicious merely by filling a need, warmth does same after a spell of shivers; muscles convulsing in their toil of keeping the blood from slowing in our veins.
The simplification is good. Makes us thankful for the ease of milder days. Which at length leads to contemplation; to philosophical meanderings and resolutions. We will never take anything for granted again!
But we tend to be creatures of reaction more than of action. So, always the ebb and flow: seasons without, seasons within.
We will be relieved when the plumbing returns. In the meantime, we recognize the relative ease of most days. We hope the pipes hold and do not burst. And we wait for things to thaw, to soften even a little, in their intensity.
The barn cats, huddled and hungry, have not ventured forth to beg in the dooryard today. The stalwart horses, shaggy in their winter coats and snugged in blankets, have chosen to remain in the shelter of their run-in stalls— those hard-wired grazers who prefer to spend days in search of remaining blades of green beneath the snow.
Even Wolf, of Siberian ancestry —built for the inhospitable, the brittle— ventured out in the morning, but resigned to coil himself in a windless corner of the porch rather than roam the fields as he usually does..
The frost is holding fast. The cold, recently settled in, is absolute. So too the clear blue of the cloudless sky. Not a single drip today from an earlier day’s sun-melt row of icicle teeth. Not even at noon on the south-facing eaves.
Here’s a scrap from one of my journals of youth. A page written when I was twenty-one, and newly out of college— my first summer spent in Brooklyn, as I’d always gone back to the farm in between the school years. Few of my schoolmates were in town that summer. I was broke, looking for work, renting a furnished room in a sublet with two roommates who were rarely at home. It was a lonely summer. (It was when I first began taking long solitary wanders in this town.)
I can see that I’ve apparently always had a penchant to write in all caps (when not too hurried), and a flair for flowery or not very day-to-day wording, though over the years it has seeped into my speech. When they say write the way you speak, I wound up doing it the other way round, haha.
Anyway, as I shall be back at the farm in less then 48 hours, a little homesick nostalgia seemed a timely do-dad to pull from the archives for this Winter Solstice post.
I want so much to write. I’d like to be still for a day or two; to draw. To draw at a rate more like I was in October— daily. Or nearly so. To have space for things to percolate and bubble to the surface from below.
Instead, I’ve been kept moving, pulled in multiple directions— and good ones. I’m feeling positive and interested in both the work and other pursuits I’ve been drawn to lately. But I miss the drawing, and its attendant writing.
I look forward to my week upstate at Christmastide, to be still some. And of course to time spent with my family and the animals. Wanders around the Farm to say hi to the Dudes*, take photos, and listen to the quiet of winter up there. Walk the fields. Watch murder mysteries with Mom; talk books and politics with Dad; see a movie with the brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews. (Probably the odd game of euchre or gin rummy.)
Some quiet nights in the second floor with a big orange cat lying on the bed as I read or type away on my laptop. Maybe he and I will get lost in the attic for minute, time traveling through old things, cast aways in an uninsulated room where the occasional bird finds her way in but not out— leaving behind, at length, a pile of airy bones in the low-ceilinged space beneath the pitched roof. A room mostly neglected and filled with the memories of several generations. (My kind of room)
All these things will make me feel rested and calm; remind me that no one is ever at the helm in this world. Not for long, anyway, and there is a comfort in that. Just as there is comfort in watching slow snow falling on the grass, gone brown in the fall in preparation for the long winter’s sleep.
. . .