Wyoming Road Trip

September 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

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So we asked the woman in the rental car place if she had any ideas on where we should go (though we had our own ideas) and she mentioned a brewery, and when we didn’t seem overly excited about that, told us about another place that serves ice cream. This was our running joke as we drove through one gorgeous landscape after another—round, pointy, bald and forested mountains, huge calving rocks, stands of white birch surrounded by spruce, a glittering lake shore—that if you live here, the beauty gets so blah that soon all you look forward to is beer and ice cream.

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The pictures will give you an idea. But the scent of sage and spruce, the peculiar feeling of being hit over the head with tranquility; the Sonoma County–Russia–New Hampshire quality of the woods turned indisputably Wyoming by the jagged peaks with their red tips and long flanks of boulders; that stoned, breathless daze of 10,000 feet—that you have to visit to understand.

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It was only a four-hour trip. We got out of the car five or six times, climbed a little, ate lunch, walked by the lake. But the moments of happiness in those four hours equals my collected happy moments of the last half-decade. Today, we’re gong to see the laccolith, Devil’s Tower.

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‘For joy’s sake, from my hands,’

For joy’s sake, from my hands,
take some honey and some sun,
as Persephone’s bees told us.

Not to be freed, the unmoored boat.
Not to be heard, fur-booted shadows.
Not to be silenced, life’s dark terrors.

Now we only have kisses,
dry and bristling like bees,
that die when they leave the hive.

Rustling in clear glades of night,
in the dense forests of Taygetos,
time feeds them; honeysuckle; mint.

For joy’s sake take my strange gift,
this simple thread of dead, dried bees,
turned honey in the sun.

Osip Mandelstam

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Jewelry, Cabbage, Happy Birthday

February 1, 2013 § Leave a comment

I’ve been making jewelry for Valentine’s Day, playing with my pearls and glass and polished stones, feeling dragonish. I started a jewelry blog a while ago and haven’t kept it up, but I’m going to start writing more. So for those of you who are interested, here’s the page. Remember, buying handmade goods in this era of industry befouling the earth is an act of great virtue, for which you will be rewarded in the next life, if having beautiful necklaces and earrings isn’t enough for you. I’m no good at raising pastured chickens or making artisanal cheese, although my fruitcakes are pretty amazing. In any case, check it out (or don’t, see if I care).

We’ve been living a frugal life, eschewing the gaudy luxuries of dining out, theater and music (with some exceptions) and that’s been fine. Now I’m taking it to the next level, determined to use every scrap of food I buy, turning leftovers, soft onions and old cabbage-ends into brilliant meals. It helps that I’m reading and writing about this for work: globally, we waste nearly 50% of food produced. I’ve dreamed about this the last two nights, though I won’t discount the possibility that my unconscious has found a handy new metaphor for its fear that I am wasting my life. Nevertheless, scouring the fridge and eating what I may not be in the mood for doesn’t feel like deprivation, but a challenge.

But I buy crystallized ginger and chocolate bars and ice cream, so I’m not quite living like Russian poets under Stalin. (I know it wasn’t just poets, but they’re the ones whose lives I’ve read about.) I eat better than medieval royalty, and so do you, unless you dine at Krispy Kreme.

I’m also going to splurge on the Outsider Art Fair this weekend, because I want to and in celebration of my brother Jimmy’s birthday: he’d be 62 today, if he’d made it past 14.

He was a very good artist, as well as completely charming and lovable. I miss him all the time.

The poem that got Osip Mandelstam sent to Siberia, referred to as

The Stalin Epigram

Our lives no longer feel ground under them.
At ten paces you can’t hear our words.

But whenever there’s a snatch of talk
it turns to the Kremlin mountaineer,

the ten thick worms his fingers,
his words like measures of weight,

the huge laughing cockroaches on his top lip,
the glitter of his boot-rims.

Ringed with a scum of chicken-necked bosses
he toys with the tributes of half-men.

One whistles, another meows, a third snivels.
He pokes out his finger and he alone goes boom.

He forges decrees in a line like horseshoes,
One for the groin, one the forehead, temple, eye.

He rolls the executions on his tongue like berries.
He wishes he could hug them like big friends from home.

–Osip Mandelstam

Translation by W.S. Merwin

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