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Demonstration
A demonstration in NYC today by religious Jewish people on behalf of the Palestinians –

Evils that befall the world are not nearly so often
caused by bad men as they are by good men who
are silent when an opinion must be voiced

Dear friends and readers,

It’s been a long while since I wrote a political blog. I feel compelled to as in the past several weeks such horrific shameless slaughtering has been happening as well as (in the US) turn back on civil and legal rights for people of the US, that to carry on describing my particular experience of a death seems an egoistic blindness. This week I came across a number of genuinely explanatory essays on the killing and destruction as well as a group of essays pretending to show hopeful progress (on cancer) where there is no such thing. At the same time in the mainstream media, reporters have disgraced themselves by not reporting the full or real story of what is happening – I do not speak of the overt lies not only on Fox News but other channels where they are spoken and not contradicted (CNN, PBS, MSNBC).

The first essay is a must-read because so filled with information and perception and is by Owen Bennett-Jones, 36:14, 17 July 2014. Bennett-Jones expects you to know that for the last 40 years the US and its imperialist allies have overthrown every secular democratic leader that came to power (and there have been several, one in Iran in 1954) lest any kind of social or economic justice fro the average person out of the natural resources of this land interfere with the huge profits to be made by oil and other corporate companies ensconced in these lands. Bennett-Jones shows how Iraq had disintegrated, how the ISIS or ISIL triumph comes from a various disparate groups of local organizations. The indiscriminate reckless slaughtering (with suicide missions) is what many may come away remembering, and (perhaps) asking how groups of young men can become such crazed people, but what I suggest the reader notice is how Bennett-Jones shows that the Islamic religious regimes do not last precisely because of their continual resort to unrestrained extreme violence and because they do not provide what the majority of people of these regions want: peace, security and jobs. The latter, the article shows, the US and its backers in world banks had not only no interest in increasing but by privatizing corrupted what networks for jobs existed.

As a side area of further information, don’t neglect Patrick Coburn on the battle for Baghdad in the same issue. Nothing has been done about a similar group of young men: Boko Haram. The difference between the US and these others is the US uses massive assault and extreme violence followed by periods of restraint when they go about to set in place their forms of unameliorated capitalism and conditions which allow their companies’ businesses to thrive. The Kurds are operating as a state because these companies are dealing with the Kurds for oil.

To grasp why the leader of Israel used the pretext of the kidnapping of Israeli young men and the resumption of rocket firing (the point of which is to call attention to and bring an end to the the seige and blockade which is destroying Gaza) by Hamas after the burning death (while alive) of a Palestinian boy, to begin killing and destruction in Gaza again (last time 2012); you need to know that Hamas has been accepted by the Palestinian groups in Gaza and was accepting the terms of a treaty that could have led to a Unity government and two states (one Palestine and the other Israel); this is what this Israeli gov’t is determined to prevent. First read Ira Chernas on Israel’s strategy and American mythology. Then for live talk an informative discussion. You can just read the transcript. I recently read an anthology recording the horrifying cruelty visited on Jewish people in the Lodz Ghetto during WW2, and myself had relatives and know of so many people murdered and enslaved during WW2, so when I read of the malicious bombing of the only rehab hospital in Gaza, it is deeply distressing. A people who have themselves known what it is to be subject to barbaric attempts at extermination have now at their head leaders doing this to the Palestinian people. The Israeli prime minister, his gov’t and his army do not think a Palestinian state has the right to exist. Orwell would not be surprised at the absurd doublespeak I have now heard repeated even on PBS that Hamas is responsible for this latest massacre.

Again filling in more information, insight, another from the LRG, much shorter than Bennett-Jones, Mouin Rabbani (much shorter), 36:15, July 31, 2014. Live coverage from Sharif Abel Kouddous on the night of the ground invasion of Gaza by the Israelis. Remember this place has been blockaded for years, occupied and as the first article pointed out starved. Helpless civilians who cannot fight back or protect themselves.

Holocaustsurvivor

Two other areas are making the news where we see the same lack of any pretense of regard for life or humanity. The immiseration of 52,000 (I think that’s the number usually cited) children from Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. These are countries with a horrific murder rate and high incidence of extreme poverty, just now enduring drug wars made far worse by recent US intervention. This immediate reality in these three countries arises also from the overthrown of elected social-democracy regimes, installation of corrupt regimes backed by death squads. In this case Obama has tried to follow the law and, using funds he asked from Congress, to provide care and a long-term solution for these children. What is happening is the illegal and irresponsible deportation of these children with any adults who can be found belonging to them.

Some rightwing opponents have targeted shelters for these children. See also Amy Goodman’s essay on Jose Antonio Vargas.

A poem by the Israeli poet, Dahlia Ravikovitch:

Get out of Beirut

Take the knapsacks,
the clay jugs, the washtubs,
the Korans,
the battle fatigues,
the bravado, the broken soul,
and what’s left in the street, a little bread or meat,
and kids running around like chickens in the heat.
How many children do you have?
How many children did you have?
It’s hard to keep the children safe in times like these.
Not the way it used to be in the old country,
in the shade of the mosque, under the fig tree,
where you’d get the kids out of the house in the morning
and tuck them into bed at night.
Whatever’s not fragile, gather up in those sacks:
clothing, bedding, blankets, diapers,
some memento, perhaps,
a shiny artillery shell,
or a tool that has practical value,
and the babies with pus in their eyes
and the RPG kids.
We’d love to see you afloat in the water with no place to go
no port and no shore.
You won’t be welcome anywhere.
You’re human beings who were thrown out the door,
you’re people who don’t count anymore.
You’re human beings that nobody needs.
You’re a bunch of lice
crawling about
that pester and bite
till we all go nuts.

– translators Chana Bloch and Chana Kronfeld

Spectacularly, a planeload of people was shot down over the Ukraine and everyone aboard died. The plane was traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur with passengers from at least 10 countries on board, including 173 Dutch nationals, 44 Malaysians and 27 Australians. As many as 100 of the world’s leading AIDS researchers and advocates were reportedly on the plane en route to a conference in Australia, including the pioneering researcher and former president of the International AIDS Society, Joep Lange. The continued demonizing of Putin obscures that there is a second area in Ukraine right now being bombed: the US installed gov’t in Kiev has been inflicting death and destruction on the people of Ukraine in its area. the only discussion of this reality not so much as reported has been by Stephen Cohen on DemocracyNow.org; his recent article is the “Silence of American Hawks on the Kiev Atrocities.” See The Nation too if you are a subscriber. We must remember that NATO was seeking to displace the Russians in control of natural resources and labor in these areas.

This is not to deny that Russian or Moscow backed rebels are strongly implicated. Later addition (7/20, 1:17 pm): it’s emerged the people who shot down the plane were rebels with arms from the Russian gov’t: they are ill-prepared untrained people who did not understand they were shooting down a civilian plane and are now trying to prevent the UN from coming in; there are guidelines which airplane companies are advised to follow to avoid conflict and in this case the Malaysian airlines were not following the protocol (as were Air France, British Airways and others). This from a PBS report I found online. It is important if you want to understand what is going on not to demonize Putin, but rather understand there is a war going on in Ukraine where the US-backed Kiev gov’t is conducting war on recalcitrant cities and with the Russian-backed Ukraine gov’t. So the plane flew into a war zone — to save time and money on fuel.

sleeping

************
While on different planes of disregard for life or humanity, the first slanted news on research in cancer which is written to lull the reader into accepting the present situation as nobody’s fault and hopeless, and the second taking away rights by law from real vulnerable people and giving them to powerful people becauset they are incorporated:

I cannot resist pointing to a group of articles which purport to offer real progress in understanding cancer in the July 2014 issue of Scientific American. These articles differ from the others I’m point to tonight: they are the delusionary type one finds in the mainstream press. You know you are in falsifying territory by the opening paragraph which implies the reason we think there is a rise in deaths from cancer is that we are no longer dying from other diseases. Utterly wrong: there has been an exponential increase in cancers for all age groups, rare cancers no longer rare, far in excess of any decrease in deaths from diseases partly conquered. There’s been a 70 per cent rise in 20 years. Secondly it is presented as hopeless to eliminate the carcinogens in our environment. To the contrary read The Politics of Cancer Revisited.

The essays point to new findings in specifics of chemotherapy which may (may) help to predict outcomes for some sufferers from cancer, but as you make your way down the list, at the close you find what is important: no fundamental understanding of the underlying causes for malignant growth have been discovered: first and foremost no one can predict what will be the result of any particular cancer treatment to any person. Central to scientific understanding is to be able to predict.

What these articles show is we are still in a state of knowledge like that of the Ptolomeic picture of the universe. As astronomers added real information on bits and pieces of this and that place in the sky, a cumbrous and confusing picture emerged. Only when Copernicus revolutionized the perspective did everything fall into place. Until Darwin perceived and understood how natural selection worked (based on Lyell’s finding that the natural world is undergoing continual change and there are “laws” controlling the patterns of these changes) we were left with books like Vestiges of Creation, a Ptolomeic-like density of detail with no predictive or analogous capability. It is true that as researchers delve into this or that chemotherapy or operation someone may stumble upon or work out answers.

Anyone who has read any history of medicine will know that the result of this person’s findings which will threaten the huge income of the drug companies and doctors doing these expensive operations (the admiral called these “shows of force”) cutting away the cancers (which often don’t work and leave the person mutilated as he endures death) will find him or herself under severe attack or the subject of ridicule and dismissal. The reason for the startling lack of progress in medicine over the centuries is those making money or at the head of a craft or profession do all they can to maintain the status quo.

I do feel my beloved husband was treated as an excrescence (and thus part of Ravikovitch’s poem) as soon as it was ascertained he had a lethal cancer; before that we had a pretense of concern. There was money to be made on him for an operation, and then the shows of force to enact.

As to the Supreme Court’s decision on Hobby Lobby, see Linda Greenhouse of the New York Times. The principle that we should have a neutral public space where no religion controls what can be done or is done and none shall be allowed to impose its vision on others is being systematically effaced. Since that decision, the court has gone on to increase the numbers of companies who can refuse to grant insurance to cover women’s various contraceptive needs.

Here as a live conversation is Bill Moyers’ talking to Greenhouse and Dahlia Lithwick.

Sylvia

16EllenJimLaura1980
July 1980: Jim, me, Laura Caroline at Shorehaven (beach/pool club in the Bronx, now destroyed)

Dear friends and readers,

Another week lived through. I find the thought that comes to me as the days pass me is now I am doing this alone for the first time, now I am here alone for the first time, now there, traveling on the Metro and parking the car, like I’m toting up, counting each, sort of adding on. If I stand still and say and feel my loneliness, it becomes too much to bear. The car is (as I knew it would be) a central machine for me: I am finding that I do better, do not feel the same desperation, ontological desolation, if I go out and am among people. Breaking up the day. This means I am doing much less literary work towards projects but I find I can’t bury myself in these projects as I once could when the Admiral was beside me, or there for me to turn to and be with for breaks, interludes (sometimes lasting a couple of weeks, sometimes just an hour’s walk). I can’t post or blog less for that is a way of being with friends and acquaintances. Life is not yet getting a rhythm of sorts but one is slowly emerging.

Not that I’m transitioning — that’s another of these grating phrases that impose a sameness upon a set of people, a generalizing interpretive device that falls like snow on individual emotional and psycho-social experience. I am not a caterpillar becoming a butterfly, but a complicated psychology getting through existing on. Part of it is I am finding pleasures and small fulfillments, I am also trying to do what I did with him, honoring him. Two weeks ago now when I saw Yvette trying to play the piano again, making a video of herself singing on the piano on-line, I made an appointment with a piano tuner. He came quickly and spent a long morning here. We talked and he showed me a website to find piano teachers on. When he finished the piano sounded bright and lovely again. It was not only Jim’s but also my father’s. My father bought it in the 1970s and tried to learn to play. He did not stick with it, but it was his and he gave it to us. I remember the day it arrived in a moving van. I took Yvette to a music store to buy a composition book; she looked for songs to sing but the items are not arranged by voice type, as in Mezzo Soprano, but rather famous shows or singers. So she did not succeed in buying anything. The people working there were all so helpful (music stores have a had time lasting since the Internet) and I was shown a modern digitalized piano which at the flick of a switch turns into an organ, and another, into a harpsichord. It helps the person compose, records what is composed, does not need tuning. Well I’m glad I have the wooden one, Spinet (now I know what brand, when it was made and by whom) and will keep it. All this to say this Wednesday I’m meeting with a piano teacher in Arlington (not far, I can find it) to start lessons, maybe. I can dance well but have no ear for real. Still for 3 years I took guitar lessons and I will see if I can find some pleasure in doing this (if the woman is willing to teach me) and keeping the piano alive again. Yvette was never one to practice; I’ll see if I do.

I did give up on any kind of garden and the mowing man I’ve had for years has mulched and planted grass. He was shocked to be told Jim was dead. “The last time I saw him, he looked fine and strong.” Here was one place where I was the one interacting with the workmen. The point of the two garden patches was to have flowers with Jim for our retirement. Without him I’m back to not knowing in the least how to grow anything. In the southeast Bronx we had many problems but vegetation was not one of them. I also solved the problem of the cable box: last week the exterminator killed the wasps and destroyed the nest, and now after visiting the Comcast office (bringing the death certificate), and 5 phone calls over a day Comcast finally sent a man to nail the cover on my Comcast box (attached to the front of my house) so I won’t lose connection to the Internet and TV. It was not as funny as it should have been when someone visiting here was worried that I don’t have vegetation of some sort (say a bush) in front of the box “to hide it.” Such people put cloth around their piano’s legs in Victorian times and in NYC would nail shut inner glass doors between rooms and paint them so as to pretend the doors were part of the wall. when Jim and I lived in a rent-control apartment in NYC (1970s), we hired someone to put the glass doors back to their original shape and walked between the rooms.

I discovered also how nice people are if you become a member of whatever it is. I am now a member of the Folger Library and have bought tickets for two Globe performances (the London company) which are coming to the Folger: for Hamlet this July and for King Lear this September. Caroline was over here, and encouraged me to get a subscription. I know if you have one, you can change your tickets around. She said if Yvette didn’t want to go with me to all four, she would make it her business to come to any Yvette didn’t want. She was eager for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead; another of the non-Shakespeare plays had people directing and performing whom she once knew and she wanted to go to that. The Folger woman has sent me a packet of coming lectures, poetry readings, concerts — rehearsals one can go to. It’s car to Metro and walk 5 minutes or so.

I joined the Jewish Community Center — a very friendly place, where I was offered a tour of the rooms filled with different sorts of equipment. I succeeded in finding something I like and can do. It’s called Dance Fusion Workshop. About 30 women for an hour follow a younger woman half-dancing, half-exercising to strongly rhythmic music — modern, All that Jazz, At the Hop, You Make Me Want to Shout, Frank Sinatra among them. I wonder if the woman realize most of the music is by men and about having sex with women; the two by women have one singer apologizing to a male (what she is sorry for we are not told), but the other shoots a man dead at the close of the piece because he is leaving her and is ever so nonchalant. Is anyone but me listening to what an all woman group dance and exercise to? I don’t know. I have tried the waterarobics and in theory ought to enjoy it: I used to love to swim when young; it was better than going a psychiatrist and I went twice a week with a friend to a Y in mid-Manhattan. I have lost all body strength and can’t get far if I swim, but still like the water. At any rate, it’s not working out so well as my feet seize up (spasms) from trying to follow the woman at the front — she is not in the water. This one has vapid Broadway Musicals and John Philip Souza! It brought me right back to high school where we would march and parade to John Philip Souza music whenever the girls in the small gym (where I spent my entire time in Junior High and High School, a subset of girls, some pregnant) joined the girls in the big (a couple of hundred girls who did stuff in teams). I’ll try another form of this class in two weeks; it is said to use Latin music. I don’t want a tour lest it be an attempt to get me to hire a trainer. I like how one can join in or not as the weeks of each “semester” pass.

I’ve also now gone three times to the Capital Fringe Festival. I’ve seen two remarkable plays, the masterpiece Master Harold and the Boys by Athol Fugard, very well done (a reasonable number of people at the Goethe Institute in DC), and a very witty development supposedly from Austen’s Emma: Miss Emma’s Making-matching Agency for Literary Characters by Alexandra Petri. Yvette has blogged about this one (see further comment), and I hope to tonight on Austen Reveries. The third was a play supposed to be a re-write of Shaw: Everything I Do by John Becker. Demoralizing. I couldn’t make up my mind whether I was to take the story straight or see it as a burlesque on the hideous relationships of people sexually and US foreign policy (intertwined by the story). One thread has this young woman begging this young man to marry her after she has had a miscarriage (which is presented with a gravity you’d think she’d given birth to a dead baby), and we are not to take his reluctance as a sign she should have nothing to do with him. It was Shaw-like in the talk-y-ness.

But my experience was really all about getting there. For the first time in all the years I’ve been going with Jim I realized some of the theaters are not easy to get to. There is much in DC that is beyond the Metro. Miss Emma and Everything I do were in the Atlas theater, an old movie-house in a neighborhood that is very slowly gentrifying. The admiral and I have been there many times, and with Yvette, to see HD operas, plays, some stores are also inside transformed into theaters. We saw Marat/Sade one summer. I never thought about how we got there: he drove us and sometimes it was a problem parking the car, but he did it and I just sat next to him. When we’d get out of wherever we were he knew where we were (often I did not) and I just walked with him.

I don’t have any sense of community though by now I’ve seen a couple of the same people twice — remarkable that given I’m going to only 7 of 3 and 1/2 weeks of events. Jim bought sometimes as many as 14 — and for rock shows and concerts in a central tent where one can get coffee and from a bar drinks by the central office. There is where we probably felt the sense of a community

How changed all is. The smallest thing of my days are utterly changed because he is not here; just this sort of thing confronts me continually. Well, I used my google maps and quickly discovered that some of the turns come at places in the highway not well marked, not signed a separate number (feeder roads): I usually miss these and get all messed up afterward. Even with a GPS. Yvette said we did have trouble parking. After much nervous stress I decided on public transportation as the lesser evil. I now have my car so no problem getting to the Metro (the worst of public transportation are Virginia buses). I used a cab to get to the place after I got off the Metro where it was a busy intersection (Gallery Place, Chinatown so-called) and an Uber cab to get back to the Metro. Each thing that happens in my life it seems teaches me that when Jim was here nothing seemed a problem because he did it, and now he’s gone each step is arduous. I went partly because I’d have been so angry at myself to say I couldn’t reach it — and it would augur worse for future attempts to go anywhere. I did manage it. The first trip to the Atlas was an anxiety-producing as going deep into Arlington two weeks ago to find a library where a JASNA meeting was held. The second time not so bad, but I don’t think I’ll go a third to this place as the after all the play is not that appealing and I have to take Yvette to the doctor that afternoon and that will be enough for me. So for me going too far from home is out for now. What seems nothing to others is an ordeal for me.

I knew he did all the planning after consulting me if I wanted to go — it was rare I didn’t. I liked what he liked and once there was HD opera and subtitles for the other operas, I liked these too. But I never realized quite how true the little sentence is used to say to people about my life was: I live by being by his side. (Where he wanted to go we went, where I wanted to go if he could, he came with me, took me there. I did some deciding — and had influence — as when we were able to buy this house because of my friendly correspondence with the landlady — but it was he who found and dared to rent a private house in a pretty neighborhood for us originally.)

All this still leaves a lot of time — so I’m working on my review of Unusual Suspects and when I get absorbed into it, I am okay and at peace. An introductory essay on Eleanor Sleath’s Orphan of the Rhine for a Valancourt Press edition (close reading and biography) with a bibliography has been accepted by Valancourt for a coming edition of this Northanger novel of which there are only two extant copies in the world! When I finish the review I’ll have to decide whether to do another on an interesting film study on how censorship has affected films or devote August to my book project, A Place of Refuge: The Jane Austen Film Canon. I so enjoy studying the films closely I probably will do the latter. I wrote a biography for the coming early fall course at OLLI at GMU in the gothic and will be going to Tallwood, the place where they meet for a belated sort of interview. Again the car a sine qua non. Mornings I read for listserv reading and talk and write and read friends’ letters; evening eat with Yvette, watch Amy Goodman and PBS reports; night blog and watch movies.

Sometimes I do blog during the day — like now, on Sunday late morning after food shopping with Yvette. She has a dinner with her social club this afternoon: I’ll drive her there and pick her up.

I listen to Nadia May reading aloud George Eliot’s Middlemarch in my car. I can’t resist it — it is such a comfort to me. If something has disturbed me, and I’m now calming down, and in the car I put it on and feel relief. I sometimes think the only moments of contentment I know come when I am watching Andrew Davies’s Middlemarch. The depth of feeling reaches my aching need.

When all activity ceases I am back to Square one, missing him achingly, realizing how impoverished all these experiences are without his talk, his presence, his fun.

Philip Larkin’s Aubade

I work all day, and get half-drunk at night.
Waking at four to soundless dark, I stare.
In time the curtain-edges will grow light.
Till then I see what’s really always there:
Unresting death, a whole day nearer now,
Making all thought impossible but how
And where and when I shall myself die.
Arid interrogation: yet the dread
Of dying, and being dead,
Flashes afresh to hold and horrify.
The mind blanks at the glare. Not in remorse
-The good not done, the love not given, time
Torn off unused-nor wretchedly because
An only life can take so long to climb
Clear of its wrong beginnings, and may never;
But at the total emptiness for ever,
The sure extinction that we travel to
And shall be lost in always. Not to be here,
Not to be anywhere,
And soon; nothing more terrible, nothing
more true.

This is a special way of being afraid
No trick dispels. Religion used to try.
That vast moth-eaten musical brocade
Created to pretend we never die,
Specious stuff that says no rational thing
Can fear a thing it will not feel, not seeing
That this is what we fear-no sight, no sound
No touch or taste or smell, nothing
Nothing to love or link with,
The anaesthetic from which none come round.

And so it stays just on the edge of vision.
Asmall unfocused blur, a standing chill
That slows each impulse down to indecision,
Most things may never happen: this one will
And realisation of it rages out
in furnace-fear when we are caught without
people or drink. Courage is no good:
It means not scaring others. Being brave
lets no one off the grave.
Death is no different whined at than withstood.
Slowly light strengthens, and the room
takes shape.
It stands plain as a wardrobe, what we know.
Have always known, know that we can’t escape

Yet can’t accept. One side will have to go.
Meanwhile telephones crouch, getting ready
to ring
In locked-up offices, and all the uncaring
Intricate rented world begins to rouse.
The sky is white as clay, with no sun.
Work has to be done.
Postmen like doctors go from house to house.

****************

He’s writing the poem out of fear of death. Part of my problem is I don’t want to die. And so I know death-in-life. We have Larkin’s poems which Jim read through and knew several quite well. He didn’t like Larkin personally (and we haven’t got the letters), but he did admire the poems. They spoke to him.

I write this because I haven’t got him to talk to. I can’t reach him to tell him how many things I now wish I had done differently; that I had paid more attention to him, really been with him more during his retirement years. I came onto the Net because I missed my father. How I’m on the Net is a function of what he was too.

Still the cartoon remains true:

Bookspowerful

Sylvia

He was the sun of my life, the gilder of every pleasure, the soother of every sorrow (coined from Cassandra Austen speaking of Jane two days after she died)

sous-le-sable
Charlotte Rampling (she was a favorite actress for the Admiral) in Sous la Sable, a film club choice (which I saw some 14 years ago but have not forgotten), about a woman who wakes from a nap on the beach to find her husband who she last saw going in to bathe gone …

Dear friends and readers,

Some people take showers; I do water therapy. This month hits hard since during the first 3/4s of it last year (I can date the first day of doubt, July 17th when he had a mysterious pain on his side), we thought he was getting better and would live for a few years yet — maybe in my deluded hopes more.

Living through it again the time presents itself as the first July without Jim here by my side, or, as twice happened, when he went to England for a few weeks, emailing me on and off during the day and the phone call each morning as he drove to work because once he was let into the compound no phone calls out were permitted. (Yes he could drive on the left; he was working for NATO.) How affectionate were his emails, how relieved I would feel each morning to hear his voice. He has departed and left a deserted sky.

Cassandra’s well-known words capture that intense lack I feel. Only someone who has lost someone genuinely beloved — can know how just about every moment, everything I do is changed, felt differently, quite apart from all the many things changed to become difficult or quickly fraught. Yvette and I did think maybe to go for 3-4 days to New York City this middle August, but after sitting in front of our computers and considering it, we put it off to mid-November. It will be cooler, New York City is now lovely in November, she will be able at long last to go inside the Metropolitan Opera for real, good plays are on, and it’ll be near Thanksgiving so maybe when that arrives, we will at least have been taken out of ourselves just before.

I am just now reading two excellent books on the reform movement in later 18th century England that was ruthlessly crushed by those running the English parliament, those in charge of local counties, those with power and influence to get many others to destroy people’s lives directly and indirectly: Albert Goodwin’s Friends of Liberty: The English Democratic Movement in the Age of the French Revolution. Were he here I’d have talked with him about it, how so many of the ideas and needs voiced in the 19th century by the chartists (universal manhood suffrage, equal representation across boroughs) are right here, and he’d have been able to tell me so much more than I know as I read for he knew a lot about this era, from Burke to Paine, to the kind of skullduggery politicking followed by Charles James Fox and the ruthless war-mongering of Pitt the Younger, his equivalent quiet Reign of Terror and starve them out politics. Jim would have supplied quips, jokes, made the reading so much richer and I could have told him things he was interested in and would like to know. Maybe he would have looked into John Bugg’s Five Long Winters and the remarkable M. Ray Adams’s quietly prophetic Studies in the Literary Background of English Radicalism, with special reference to the French Revolution. In 1947 Adams wrote of the vilification then of Enlightenment thinkers and their legacy and the real world results of this then and predicted more was to come. I’ve been reading reviews of John Barrell’s Spirit of Despotism: Invasions of Privacy in the 1790s: where Princess Diana’s successful attempt to be familiar (though she could not take care of herself when divorced from the protections of the monarchy) is compared to George III’s failure, the problems of taxing hair powder, and where John Barrell in his Dark Side of Rural Landscape talks about the smooth erasures of museum policies which refuse to recognize how the poor are depicted in Gainsborough, Morland, John Constable. I could have showed Jim the pictures too: he loved to look at and understood the pictures the way I do.

Morland
George Morland, The Door of a Village Inn (detail)

He liked 18th century poetry!

We’d have laughed together; and noow there is no one to talk to of this with even minimally, only silence.

Owl by Robert Mezey

Nightlong waiting and listening, being schooled
To long lying awake without thoughts,
I hear him calling from the other world.
A long silence, and then two flutey notes-
The cry of nobody, but urgent, cool,
Full of foreboding. He’s in the cedar tree
Not twenty feet beyond my window sill;
The other world is very far away.
When, towards morning, he ceases, the
    air seems
More visible, although it’s not yet light,
The black sky drained and all our
    speechless dreams
Fading into thought. Lord of the night,
Thy kingdom in which everything is one,
Come, speak to me, speak to me once again

Sylvia

A first dream

IanJuly2014
Ian this morning

Dear friends and readers,

Some time in the early dawn hours of this morning I dreamed of Jim and woke to remember that I had done so. I dreamed he had come with me to the film club this Sunday; he hadn’t wanted to, but found he liked it after all, and when we were driving back — me next to him, me driving — I asked him if he would like to come and see another film for next time and he said yes. I felt glad he was going to come. This is the first time this has happened since he died.

This morning Ian too cuddled himself up against two pillows catty-cornered amid the quilt which I bought for him last year around this time — thinking he would use it for his separate bed. I imagines what Jim would have said had he seen that cat there like that — in an affectionate teasing voice, “You look very comfortable there, don’t you … ” — a kind of stance and comic-affectionate tone he took in part from his mother.

I did drive to the NVJCC this morning and discovered I find Tai Chi stressful: not relaxing. I gather this is unusual — except that maybe those who do react the way I do don’t tell. I could see the gestures we were practicing, learning, imitating, came from aggressive-protective fighting, the names gave this away, and the teacher enacted a sudden aggressive gesture at someone who had taken the course before and she countered with a protective one. I wouldn’t have liked that. While there didn’t seem to be much exercise, yet from the way we were asked to turn and our legs and bodies and put weight down, my left knee began to hurt (I have arthritis in both knees probably) and my back felt stiff and tight. I just can’t swing it about; I don’t loosen upon command. I realize I don’t move it much and am subject to low back pain. The teacher offered an exercise but like the other things he did, there was not much explanation, or I didn’t understand it very well. I found myself holding my hands as I stood there inbetween. So although Tai Chi looks so beautiful, uplifting, relaxing in Calendar Girls, after all there is Patrick Doyle’s score, the place high on a sunny hill (we were in an over-air-conditioned auditorium), the wonderful women actresses. I did like the waterarobics and found the 3 minute relaxation exercise afterward was relaxing; and there is another kind of swimming class and two different exercise ones to choose from too. So I have other choices. There’s Yoga too, but it’s at night.

I am just now listening on my Macbook Pro to the beautiful score that is found on the CD of Joe Wright’s Pride and Prejudice, music by Dario Marianelli, piano played by Jean-Yves Thibaudet. I have played the Patrick Doyle score of Ang Lee’s Sense and Sensibility today too.

Most of the rest is much like the opening; Marianelli lacks the deep feel of order I take from Doyle’s music, that rhythm, but he fills the silence with flowing beauty:

From the opening in the film; “Dawn” is its raison d’etre:

Dawn

Opening
Keira Knightley is seen in an (improbably) plain brown dress reading a copy of an old book whose running headers seem to read First Impressions

Sylvia

Carrying on

I miss him.

photo
The notebook is now Yvette’s

Dear friends and readers,

This week I remembered how the Admiral read aloud three of Kipling’s Just So stories to Caroline when we had no TV; how he read aloud to me and I to him when we were first married and living in Leeds, and then it was a volume of Virginia Woolf’s letters. That was a happy memory, one I can now scarcely believe happened but it did. And I remembered too how my father read aloud to me Dickens, RLStevenson.

Now that I have my driver’s license back over the last two weeks: Yvette and I have been able to keep a busier schedule and be around people more. We’ve a weekly shopping schedule, and this week I went to my new grief support counselor, saw and talked with my financial advisor and consultant (two hours!), joined the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia and went for my first session of Waterarobics (I did enjoy it, especially the relaxation exercises at the close); joined the Cinemart theater’s Sunday film club (once every three weeks) and saw a truly great 2 and 1/2 hour film by Jan Poellen, The Last Sentence, went out to lunch at Clyde’s (well-known local restaurant for office lunches) with a friend, went to a JASNA meeting (suggested really doing charades as an alternative for the ball); and took (with Yvette) wildly protesting cat (Ian, who escaped out of his carrier after desperate chases around the house to put him in it) and quietly mewing one (Clary) to Vet.

I knew I needed him for basic help in life: well I now manage some of these basic things by myself — which includes doing bills, managing taxes. I can now get to the bank again. I have a professional level PC and a IT man who can enter by remote control and helps me out whenever I need it (he will come to the house too). Those things I cannot do and do not need to do I never will, whatever the loss I must endure it. The worst still is driving alone in unfamiliar routes and to unfamiliar places — but familiar streets hurt bad too. Then listening to a great intelligent novel beautifully read aloud helps. I still remember him sitting beside me and how I never thought about where we were, how we got there and back. It’s so lonely in these vast anonymous roads. What an ugly world the highways and cement overpasses make. People have showed me Road Scholar: I get anxiety attacks trying to find a library in Arlington I’ve not been to before. Have to say a direction aloud over and over as I go, and then when I reach the new direction say that. At any rate I’m not ready for it.I have avoided anguish since a week ago last Thursday — again partly prompted from the fool flat back screen TV — and will try to avoid in future. PBS is making it easier for me: I tried to watch the new Mystery Masterpiece programs: they are violent drek, cynical in the stupidest ways. Trash wastelands.

As to plans, I bought 7 different events (plays, concerts, music events) for the Capitol Fringe Festival over 3 weeks in July; if I’m not too late I’ll buy for July 5th, a matinee of a supposed hilarious satire on these increasingly debased ubiquitous crime-police procedural programs at Signature (we’ll get there by cab as here is no parking). I could find only one matinee for Wolf Trap for us and it conflicts with one of Yvette’s social club days: I cannot see myself driving back on the highways at night (it’s a complicated route); Castleton festival and the Shenandoah Shakespeare out of reach. I did look at the schedules and have thought about the fall at the Kennedy Center and Folger Shakespeare Library.

An exterminator was here, so wasps and bees nests all gone; the landscape and mowing man will grass over the two small plots I had planned for flowers for Jim and I; and tomorrow a man will come to tune the piano. It was my father’s and then Jim’s. I’ve cleared the his song books off of it as Yvette has begun to sing and play again. Here she is singing so beautifully. I mean to retrieve it and take good care of it as what is left from my father and Jim. Who knows? Maybe I’ll take lessons to keep the piano alive. I have good precedent in Jane Austen. I have a website to explore and am told music stores today which survive are like bookstores: make worlds of social music to participate in.

I will force myself to look at Angie’s list and Yellow Pages later this week to find a handyman to do another needed thing for the house. One thing at a time. I do dislike doing these things because of bad experiences with contractors over the years.

While at home by myself I have my early morning time reading — sometimes for as much as nearly 3 hours. I read again and watch movies at night and try to blog (like now). Central day time: I wrote my introductory essay for the Valancourt edition of one of the Northanger Novels and am reading towards a review of Kenneth Johnston’s Unusual Suspects as well as making efforts at the edition of Smith’s Ethelinde (I’m proof reading the text and doing arduous notes) and slowly watching and taking down the screenplay for the marvelous The Jane Austen Book Club. I have my good online friends, am still reading with others, talking on-line thoughtful conversation. I listen to music on NPR.

All this no longer keeps at bay the central fact of my life now: that the Admiral no longer exists. In a way I wish he had not said he wanted to be cremated, for at last his body would exist even as a corpse. Now nothing but the dust in that urn. What I find I’m facing for the first time fully is how much I miss him, his company his conversation, his ideas, his wit, his quiet kindness. I am still blocked off from him in the sense that I can’t imagine specifics; I still have trouble remembering what it was we talked so much of — night after night over wine and coffee, during the day over lunch, walking, doing things together. I don’t look at his letters lest I go wild with grief for him: they were so filled with affection for me, he valued me, my ways, my character, he thought me pretty still because he loved me. The last time now will be when I put that flapper dress on for Caroline’s wedding and I saw his eyes light up as he looked at me; I pleased him. August 3rd. I can’t ever hear his voice again. He had lost a good deal of it after that operation which mutilated him and then shortened and rendered wretched the rest of his time.

I am left in the silence. I imagine this is what it is for other widows and widowers. I miss him all the time now. When I wake, I am aware of it, when I fall asleep, coming in, going out. He said among his last words that he did not want to die. I sometimes think what we might have been doing this summer. Last year at this time on this day I was hoping he’d live for even years to come. He’d make it to 70 at least. I didn’t think about whether he’d live to be old, just that he might have more life, more pleasure eventually. We thought he was getting better. We were taking our daily walks. Walking for life, for strength.

As to what killed him: as individual after individual is killed off by cancer much earlier than they needed to die, there is no core constituency, no sizable body of people identifying with one another, no organization adapted for political intervention, no where to intervene it seems — well there is (for a start these powerful medical institutions and insurances companies); the people to act must be those left, but each lives isolated outside these seeming family and job clans; the world constructed to be that way. The world is not constructed for widows of 67 to find true companionship. Maybe you are not supposed to seek it, not supposed to want it. Remember (someone said to me this week) what other people want and do not want.

Talking of flirting on one listserv this week I wrote: I can recognize it, but it makes me uncomfortable. I don’t know how to cope with what is a sort of game. When I was younger I did try to reciprocate in kind and was elephantine, ludicrous. So I think now — for the most part it has not happened in a long time — what I used to do was just look at the person sufficiently hard and silent to convey the idea of “please stop.” I am in accord with the person who cannot understand why people play such games with one another. I experience flirting as a distraction which gets in the way of getting to know the person. Whether you like or are satisfied with it, depends not only on whether you can pull it off (and one feature of an Aspergers/autistic personality is not to be able to because performances manipulate the unwritten rules), but what you seek to get out of a relationship or friendship and what you long to put into it.

Cats as a species seem to be constructed differently. Both have become so much more affectionate to me, and I interact with them as personalities. They love reciprocation. Maybe that’s why some people keep them. It is to be remembered they have been bred this way (by taking them too early from their mothers?)

Do those couples who love one another exist much of the time in the reflected gaze of the other? Honestly I’m not sure I still don’t feel he’s there somehow. His presence is in my mind. And though he’s not there literally it’s a comfort to me to feel this even if I can’t reach him and miss him so.

I am very sad tonight because last year at this time we both hoped he would live. We didn’t think he’d make it to 80, but we hoped for 75. He would be weak, he would not be able to eat and drink as he had, but he would have a number more years of life: we even dreamed of going to England once more, just spend a lot of money to make him comfortable. Now he’s gone forever. Damn all those who hurt him directly, all those who were indifferent to his sufferings and made them worse, those who never told us about the dangers of acid reflex, and all those who pollute the environment and are responsible for doing nothing about this epidemic.

Sylvia

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vlcsnap-2011-08-13-23h33m32s51
From Frederick Wiseman’s Central Park — the Admiral downloaded it from somewhere on the Net for me so that I might watch it again and again

Dear friends and readers,

Someone sent me this poem this week: it’s not a good translation but it captures enough of Pablo Neruda’s poem

A man’s life

How long is a man’s life, finally?

Is it a thousand days, or only one?
One week, or a few centuries?
How long does a man’s death last?
And what do we mean when we say, “gone forever”?

We can ask the philosophers,
but they will tire of our questions.
We can go to the priests and the rabbis
but they are too busy with administration.

So, how long does a man live, finally?
And how much does he live while he lives?
When it comes to us the answer is so simple.

A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,
for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,
for as long as we ourselves live, holding memories in common, a man lives.

His lover will carry his man’s scent, his touch;
his children will carry the weight of his love.
One friend will carry his arguments.
another will hum his favourite tunes,
yet another share his fears.
And the days will pass,
then the weeks, then the months,
And then there will be a day when
the knots of grief will loosen in the stomach.
and the puffed faces will calm.
And on that day he will not have ceased,
but will have ceased to be separated from us by death.
How long does a man live, finally?

A man lives so many different lengths of time.

Translation by Brian Patten

It doesn’t really apply the lines about friends. The admiral has only me to know his arguments and tell of his views, present the music he loved and my grief does not loosen, my face is not puffed.

Have I done anything with a good meaning I can record publicly this week? I began again listening to Nadia May reading aloud George Eliot’s Middlemarch while in my car driving here and there.

I also was able to see the PBS documentary Frederick Law Olmstead: Designing America on-line. Here it is, don’t miss it!

http://video.pbs.org/video/2365197253/

The Admiral and I lived down the street from Central Park for over a year and we went walking there so many times that and other years and we were to a number of the parks featured. I was cheered to see what was our favorite spot when we went to Niagara Falls (Goat Island) and how the rushing waters were also thought by Olmstead to be one of the most uplifting beautiful spots in the park. I was amused to see quite a number of those speaking were “eminent citizen” types, older women volunteers who form parts of the conservatory organizations which protect and maintain these parks. The documentary shows how central to the concept that a great city must have great parks was Olmstead, his life history, his art, and goes over the realities of several parks. It includes his early travel book (a copy of which I now own) journeying across the south — an accurate and moving (devastating for not being overdone) account of what he saw in these slave states.

I read some good books, I wrote some decent postings and read interesting replies, and communicated with true friends by email letters; Yvette and I had our early evenings together.

Miss Drake

JimandmeNIagaraFalls

IzzyandMeNiagara2YearsAgo08

Dear friends and readers,

The above two photos were taken in 2008, the year Yvette graduated from Buffalo University with an MLIS, Masters in Libraranship and Information Technology. The first of the Admiral and I was taken by Yvette, the second of Yvette and me taken by the Admiral. We did love Niagara Falls, and went twice, once during the day and again in the later evening, walked and explored the place as far as our strength allowed.

Today was father’s day and Yvette and I remembered together this evening over our roast chicken and rice, a glass of wine for me and Tropicana orange juice for her. The admiral was never much for ritual demands for celebration, and saw both father and mother’s days as commercially motivated originally, but the first year we were mother and father (after the birth of Caroline) we did buy one another mother and father’s day presents. He bought me a Cuisinart Food Processor, something for the house you see — and proceeded to use it himself to cook with. Over the years we went through three. I forget now what I bought him that first year but it was also something for the house. We were imitating a conventional sort of family.

I remember tomorrow is Bloomsday. Two years ago the Admiral volunteered to read a passage from Joyce’s Ulysses and was given two. He did so well — no one knew him and they were surprised — that he was asked last year. He never lost his British accent altogether and he could do Irish and Scottish accents very well; also Hampshire (from which he came.) It was that he read with understanding too. He originally intended to participate again, but after the operation on June 3, 2013, he found he was still too weak. We thought at the time he was getting better and would do it again this year. Two years ago tomorrow I went to hear him the second time in an Irish bar, and that weekend we went a barbecue given by some of the leaders of the local Joyce society. Yvette came too. No more.

As I wrote in my obituary he was good father to his daughters, selfish and non-imposing, trying to give them advice to lead to remunerative careers, independence, but beyond that they could spend the four years of college learning what mattered to them. Yvette had a date today, with an Indian young man who said in Indian families there would have been a gathering. Well Yvette and I did our best at dinner.

Today I remembered my own father too, grieved again at his death in December 1989. Like my husband, my father died relatively young; the walls of his long irregularly-beating heart crumbled when he was 68. I’ve opened up to remembering how much I miss him for the first time since about a year after he died (I grieved for over a year). He was an important companion for me in my developing years, the central influence for my reading, my politics, so much, and in the last ones of our shared lives together we phoned once a week, talked for over an hour.

The missing him was strong for years afterward and is re-ignited because while the Admiral did not replace my father (they were such different people), Jim was at least here with me. My book on Trollope was dedicated to my father who loved reading Trollope and set me on the road back by bringing to me in a hospital after a dreadful car accident (I was the pedestrian hit by a woman under the influence of valium) with The Vicar of Bullhampton. I said in that book I came onto the Net to find a substitute for the companionship my father had given me. That is not an exaggeration for the first weeks I was here.

Jimlater1980s

I like to remember my father in above photo, September 1980 just before we went to Virginia, up in the Hudson River park, my mother taking the photo. I am dressed in a style commensurate with his; there’s my Jim (not yet the Admiral, his hair still very dark). My father read well too: as a child he read to me Dickens (I remember the ice-skating scene from Pickwick Paper, and the famous passage ending “Sagacious dog, very.” And R.L. Stevenson’s “Sire de Maltroit’s Door” and “A Lodging for the Night.” I never forgot those stories afterward and probably that experience led to my love for RLS.

Sylvia

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