Dark Days

December 18, 2010 § Leave a comment

Joan Fontaine as Jane Eyre, 1944

Cake Picture from this site

It’s getting dark way too early. I want to settle down in bed with several fat novels and mismatched quilts like a seven-layer cake or geological strata, or like the contents of a chest left in an attic for a hundred years.

Does anyone do that anymore? Surely somewhere there are big houses that stay in one family for centuries, lived in by people who value the past but not enough to want to look at it. Well, maybe not, except for few belonging to members of what is sometimes referred to as the Greatest Generation. There are younger people trying to achieve that settled, country-house lastingness, but it will take a while to see if they’ve managed it. It seems to me you’d have bring up your children in the wilderness to instill that kind of devotion to a particular piece of land, but wilderness children don’t keep things in the attic. They don’t keep things at all, except secrets and memory, which is why they appeal to me so much, as books do.

I want to welcome the dark, to become the dark without this undertow of depression that is nothing more than panic at having to pretend a lively get-up-and-go when I’d rather not. I’d rather stay here. I’d kind of like to deliquesce and hide puddled under the bureau like mercury knocked unconscious—not staining or stinking or sinking into the floorboards, just faintly quivering. I could dream of myself as Quicksilver, the mighty magic steed no man can ride nor arrow find, while really doing nothing at all.

But someone has to make tea. Someone has to shop for lemons, parsley and sliced ham, French bread and French butter. Someone should bring éclairs and Jane Eyre and the Sunday Times from that one week in the 1970s when nothing was going wrong. And some single malt for the cats.

Lots of chasing and ass-biting going on among the feline contingent. Winter effects them like the Lost Colonists of Roanoke Island, who went mad in the howling wilderness and ate each other up, leaving not a scrap behind to debunk my story. Although it’s said there are plenty of skeletons in the attics, if you comb carefully through the old houses of what was then Virginia but is now North Carolina (because of what happened to baby Virginia Dare); and, no, the houses hadn’t built in the days of the Lost Colony, but skeletons keep. Even wilderness kids can drag a few with them. But that baby…No, never mind. It’s a winter’s tale and we don’t believe in winter’s tales anymore. We turn on the lights and take drugs.

Fire And Ice

Some say the world will end in fire;
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire
I hold with those who favor fire.
But if it had to perish twice,
I think I know enough of hate
To say that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.

Robert Frost

Medici

December 15, 2010 § Leave a comment


I’m betraying my cats with another, a Brooklynite named Medici, with long, thick, incredibly soft fur—tabby brown-black with white fluff on the belly. His eyes are that particular underwater sage green only cats have, and he has a short face, like Fitzroy’s, but much milder and dreamier. Philip says he named the cat Medici because he’s so princely, but in fact he’s more like what a prince would have in his cat harem, if princes had cat harems, as some surely must. This Medici wouldn’t poison his relatives or dominate European banking; he prefers to roll on his back for a strange woman, and nearly fall off the bed for his pleasure. If there’s any prince he reminds me of, it’s Prince Genji—gelded of course.

When I get up to write, he follows me into the living room and sits calmly at my feet, and then on the couch beside me. One of the 8,000 reasons I never had children was that I feared being watched all the time, and here in my near-dotage I am watched by cats, which isn’t so bad when it’s Medici and Sparkle (Medici’s roommate: large, gray, shy) but at home feels dangerous, because Fitzroy and Mouchette know too much.

They can’t report on me to anyone, but they can mirror me back to myself, they can react with unhappiness to my unhappiness, they can grow up sneaky and drawn to drugs (Mouchette) or seething with violent fantasies (guess who). Just imagine what my human children would have been like. I prefer not to.

But it is nice to have a cat like an ermine coat lie next to me purring loudly, and not even because he wants to be fed. Philip’s cats have an automatic dry food dispenser and don’t expect anything more. They love for the sake of love. They weren’t rescued from the street, like mine were. What does that tell you? In cats, it takes such a harsh childhood to produce neurosis, while in humans all its takes it being born. I know that, in theory, humans with lovely childhoods become lovely adults, but I haven’t actually seen that. Maybe it’s the ape ancestry that dooms us. Or maybe the key to male contentment is being gelded at birth and never let outdoors, and female contentment would follow (though we’d have to go out to do the shopping). The problem is that nobody wants to geld babies.

To see the some cool pix…Cats of Italy click here

Which I found on an interesting site about an expatriate in Italy (also recipes!). Click here

The Cat

1
Along the hallways of my thought,
As if at home, there prowls a cat,
A strong, sweet, charming, splendid cat.
He mews: the sound is barely caught,

So soft and diffident its tone.
Cries of contentment or complaint
A throaty resonance contain,
A charm, a secret of their own.

A voice that slakes and saturates
The deepest shaded parts of me
And fills my soul like poetry;
Like magic, it rejuvenates.

It lulls to sleep my cruel malaise,
Contains all ecstasy as well;
There is no need of words to tell
The long complexities of phrase.

No bow could rasp across my heart,
Though perfect instrument it be,
And make it throb more royally,
More resonant in every part,

Than does your voice, mysterious,
Seraphic cat, eccentric cat;
An angel’s song is in your throat,
So subtle and harmonious.

2
His fur is dappled brown and blond,
And has such sweet perfume, last night
When I had touched him with one light
Caress, my hand became embalmed.

He is the soul of our abode:
The judge, the king, the inspiration
Of everything in his small nation.
Perhaps a demon, is he God?

When, as by a magnet’s spell,
This cherished cat has caught my eyes,
Then, docilely, to analyze
They turn and gaze into my self,

With what astonishment I see
The fire within his pallid pupils,
Lighted beacons, living opals,
Which contemplate me fixedly!

Charles Baudelaire (translator unknown)

Three Ladies

December 9, 2010 § 1 Comment


Leopardskin Jasper and Brilliant Glass Necklace

I used to make fruitcakes for Christmas gifts. Scoff if you like, but they were delicious. I miss having the space to do that, to allow six or eight cakes to bathe in generous spirits for a month, while the ground turned purple and dimmer and crackly and Charles walked around wearing a blanket to conserve heat. Now, I make jewelry, and oddly enough it takes up even more room (though it doesn’t tempt me to add rum to my tea in mid-afternoon). Of course, I make jewelry to sell, which is why it takes up so much room.

I mostly sell over the Internet. I prefer selling in person, because the quality of the work is much more evident, and I can talk to the customer. But on the other hand, I like surprising people (I get effusive emails). I’m shipping overseas today, which means standing in line at the post office, because no matter how often I do it, I can’t ever get the customs forms right.

The post office ladies are very kind. They’re swift too, though there aren’t enough of them, which is why the powers that be removed the clock from the post office wall. Every time I go, I learn from their firm, efficient friendliness. One has an unfailing cheerfulness, brisk hands and a depth of calm like an African lake (she’s Korean), and I envy her family, though it may be that she’s so calm because she has no family; one has a sardonic eye and a crackle of irritation that make me cringe when I’ve been especially stupid, and feel an equivalent relief a moment later, when her crooked smile forgives me; and the quiet one lets her boredom show in such a way that her off-duty pleasures become almost visible, reminding me of my off-duty pleasures.

I like all three ladies, and after so many years, think of the three as if they were aspects of one. When occasionally there’s a man working, and he’s never as fast and rarely as friendly, I feel impelled to protest (of course I say nothing). This is a woman’s job, to stand and receive all those confused about customs, about whether to spend $20 overnight postage to get grandmother’s card to London by her birthday (I say nothing about that either), whether insurance is worth it and which stamps are prettier. Not that I’d mind if men could do the job. But they can’t. They haven’t yet. Not as well. Not in 20 years.

The Three Ladies

I dreamt. I saw three ladies in a tree,
and the one that I saw most clearly
showed her favors unto me,
and I saw her leg above the knee!

But when the time for love was come,
and of readiness I had made myself,
upon my head and shoulders
dropped the other two like an unquiet dew.

What were these two but the one?
I saw in their faces, I heard in their words,
wonder of wonders! it was the undoing of me
they came down to see!

Sister, they said to her who upon my lap
sat complacent, expectant:
he is dead in his head, and we
have errands, have errands…

Oh song of wistful night! Light shows
where it stops nobody knows, and two
are one, and three, to me, and to look
is not to read the book.

Robert Creeley

The Triumph of Death, or The 3 Fates. Flemish tapestry (probably Brussels, ca. 1510-1520). Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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