Early Cezanne, Tree by the Bend (1881)

Mid-summer. Daily dreadful heat in Virginia, heat indexes at over 100 degrees fahrenheit

A paraphrase from Fitzgerald’s Great Gatsby: ‘Look here, old man [old sport] what are we going to do about all these corpses?’

Dear friends and readers,

Last night I managed to find a small hotel outside Dulles Airport where my Florida friend was staying for the night, as a stop-over on her trip to South Africa (2 and 1/2 weeks) and then on to Frankfurt, Germany (4 days) for a 3 week tour this summer. She’s using one of these tour groups, in the first case with a nearby neighbor, in the second to visit an old friend.

We enjoyed a long dinner together and then shared a chocolate ice cream dessert. We had a kind of talk that I’ve not experienced for a long while and had hoped we would reach last January when I visited her. After all our life stories have such curious parallels: utterly working class backgrounds, became stenographers upon finishing high school very young, went back to college, and then onto to do a Ph.D., married men of sensitive disposition, had a period of going out as a couples, visited, she eventually when retiring from her high income job (there not alike, her degree being in economics with a mathematical emphasis, finance), turning to teaching in colleges. We did for one day when we went to the beach for a second time together and stood by the shore with our legs wet up to near the knees and walked along. We had done that 50 years ago when we were 18 and 19 at Rockaway. Somehow the memory of that old time, previous moment came back. Austen says in Mansfield Park that siblings can mean so much more to one another than spouses because the time known between the two, the shared life, experience rooted, past goes much deeper and somehow that counts. It is one of her usual ironic moments, because the meaning or thrust is about how such bonds can be broken and even so easily: as is so common it’s misquoted here on the Net and in scholarly works too, to omit the full bleakness it ends on:

Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply, and it must be by a long and unnatural estrangement, by a divorce which no subsequent connection can justify, if such precious remains of the earliest attachments are ever entirely outlived. Too often alas, it is so. Fraternal love, sometimes almost everything, is at others worse than nothing (Mansfield Park, Chapter 24)

My friend and I were not siblings and had a long parting on and off, but we were able to talk and reach down to say things about being a widow in ways that resonated and how we are coping (similarly) that was again rejuvenating. She even half-remembered a line from Mansfield Park (“a hole in the heart” forever there)

Personal loss. How it occurs and what it means in the US today. Last week mass graves of dead immigrants, corpses, found in Texas. This is the anniversary of several black men killed last summer by police. All gone, close relatives and friends’ lives ruined, desolated

For two days Amy Goodman has conducted meaningful, splendid interviews on her DemocracyNow.org. Two days ago it was Ta Nehisi-Coates on being black, on having to live with fear all the time, in the violent US, from his new book, Between the World and Me. Yesterday she interviewed the actor, Theodore Bikel, which one of the members of Wompo (a woman poets’ listserv) paraphrases as “On being an ‘artist’ (yes, a poet…) in our world… yes, it needs saying, and saying, and doing…with care as ever”

‘I am an artist, but I do not stand apart from the world. I am a part of the world. And I keep on insisting, when I speak to students, for example, always, always, always be part of your surroundings. I do not trust theater students who only read the theater pages. I do not trust the financial people who read only financial pages. A financial wizard needs to read the arts pages, and an artist needs to read the political pages, in order to live in the world in which he or she functions. And that’s an adage that has not changed. I am an activist because I’m a human being. And I am, as the Greeks have said, a political animal. I live in the fabric of a society that forces me to partake in whatever it is that the society presents me with. And I cannot divorce myself from it. I am not—I cannot say to myself I’m a lofty person engaged in some mythical remove, and I’m not, because I’m part and parcel of everything that there is.’

” And there were some who did not participate in any of this, but they also did not open their doors and windows, either, to call a halt. And today, neither I nor you nor history itself can absolve these nice people next door of guilt and complicity, because silence speaks very loudly, and non-action is also an act.”

Sandra Bland, a black woman, was murdered because she recognized that a policeman had no right to pull her car over; because she protested when he demands that she come out of the car, one of the fundamental liberties (protest) the US constitution is said to afford every US citizen. Here is the mainstream news report, calling what happened “a mystery:” notice what she was indited for, notice the police officer(s) have not even been taken into custody. US citizens are also said to have the right to life and liberty, to exercise a right to protect themselves (see my paper on Liberty in Winston Graham’s Poldark Novels).

This summer in my class on Trollope’s Framley Parsonage (just concluded), we went over one of the political passages in the novel which drills down to the level of understanding where a character recognizes he has or has not the right to exercise a right supposedly given him, that liberty and power is contingent on who you are in a group, and what powers the others in the group are allowed to exercise over you.

Each of us should understand that such incidents corrode all our safety. This police officer and those who work with him in Texas have been trained to act on the assumption that US citizens may be subject to the total annihilation of life and liberty on his impulse — with impunity. That they will NOT be prosecuted or punished for such crimes in any meaningful way or at all. Each time such an act is not indited we are all more deeply at risk. Each of us should speak out in whatever way available to us.

Imagine Sandra Bland’s mother — how she feels. I saw her the other night on a podcast — she was half-apologizing for her daughter’s conduct in a church (!), the agony of this woman. In Texas mass graves of murdered and dead immigrants have been found. This is all beyond monstrous: the killing fields are now in the US. I lost but one man to the cancer epidemic which no group of people with power, money, expertise to work out fundamental causes is doing anything fundamental about (only money-making techniques to prolong life, the agony), my friend another man to years of Parkinson’s Disease (the last four very bad while she took him where she could and nursed him herself).

Yvette is working on a new arrangement out of Snow Patrol’s contemporary Run which she will produce a video of and put here on the Net:

Singing, making music are Yvette’s way of speaking out herself.

Miss Drake

Mark Rylance as Thomas Cromwell (2015 Wolf Hall, scripted Peter Straughan)

‘Fortitude. … It means fixity of purpose. It means endurance. It means having the strength to live with what constrains you.’ — Mantel, Wolf Hall (a common theme in women’s novels since the 18th century)

Dear friends and readers,

I have ever found solace, comfort, models to channel in my reading. I am listening to a brilliant reading of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall by Simon Slater (CDs in my car), and find I am perpetually enriched by new thoughts, insights, reminders of what I know to be importantly true put in new ways. One character whose thoughts and behavior out of grief I find myself remembering, is Thomas Cromwell’s.

Early in the novel his wife, Liz, dies suddenly, swiftly of the sweating or sleeping sickness (as it was called in the 1520s). Albeit quietly, he is intensely grief-stricken, misses her. While he has an affair with Liz’s sister, Joanne, because Joanne resembles her sister and is there, and does not remarry for more and far different kinds of reasons than that he finds her as an individual who provided support, comfort, a kind of meaning and stable sane mood to his life irreplaceable, nonetheless he dreams of Liz, finds himself trying to grasp her ghostly presence in his thoughts, his environment, he re-enacts talk with her.

POV Cromwell, coming up to Johann (Saskia Reeves), his sister-in-law, now loved

POV Cromwell, a moment later seeing Joanne as Liz (Natasha Little)

He compares what he sees other women doing to what she did. I am nearing the end of the novel where he acknowledges in passing thoughts his relationship to Liz has changed now, his feelings altered. The first year of her death his household did almost nothing to observe Christmas, more than four years later all holiday and other customs are encouraged.

Two or three days ago Slater read the passage where Cromwell at home, once again picks up Liz’s prayer book.

Early in first episode we glimpse Liz’s prayer book, as Cromwell talks of the Tyndale that has come by mail (steathily) and Liz turns away …

She had refused to read the Bible in English, would not listen to the liberating theology of Tyndale. There had been this uncrossable space between them, and yet he cherished the book. We see him muse over it at his desk, take it down from what seems to be a shelf (presumably in his bedroom); next to her name is the name of her first husband, and then below his own. This has hurt him out of jealousy — as also the names of their children together, two daughters because they died of the same sickness not long after, so out of grief and loss, and a son, now living still whom he does all he can for. The moment that means much to me is when he finds himself looking at the entry and crossing out her other husband’s name. He finds he can; he finds he feels better for this, looking about him. The whole thing no longer means as much or means differently. Beautifully authentically caught.

In the book, in the film adaptation, Mantel as Cromwell, Rylance as Cromwell mourn for many others beyond Liz, and mourn for themselves too.

Steady now, steady on.

This morning I found myself remembering a passage from Austen’s Sense and Sensibility (no need for me to have it read aloud to me, much less read it myself) where after she has the searing relevation that he has been engaged for four years to another woman, she reflects that no matter how busy she keeps herself, how much she refuses to indulge herself by remembering in solitude, there is still time enough for thoughts of him and what had been to rise to consciousness. But she holds firm, writes on at her desk (Sense and Sensibility was originally an epistolary novel).

The 1995 S&S film, scripted by Emma Thompson realizes just this moment (Thompson as Elinor)

Steady now, steady on.

I had been overbusy for many days and yesterday gave in to myself or could not get myself to take a long trip in the deadly heat (officially it felt like 107 fahrenheit) so did not go to the adaptation of a play by Thomas Middleton playing at the Gallaudet College: car, train, then try to find it for at least a 20 minute walk, and after a possible hour or so of play, reverse the experience. I preferred to stay in, read an essay on Fielding which helps me see his true integrity, fineness of feeling,


go swimming nearby, a six minute trip by car each way while listening to Wolf Hall, and then home to watch a beloved mini-series. But I felt terrible too. My unwillingness to go was a sign Jim was dead: with him there it would have been no trouble to go (he would have driven us, and had no trouble finding the place, and little trouble parking), I’d not have given it any thought; without him, watching these plays can be desolating as I’ve no one to talk to about them afterward. I cannot yet cross this out and yet I’m beginning to have no need to re-enact.

This morning like Elinor I found the thoughts about this would rise to the surface. I made my routine up for the day, and determined that the way I am living is not done simply because I can’t break the yoke of what I used to do. These things before me — my writing, reading, task routine, my breaks (today again swimming nearby) however meaningless now or to others are what I am, what I enjoy doing, what I understand, get fulfillment from.

Steady now, steady on.

Pussycats (my household) this morning

Miss Drake

Who we are determines what we notice and what we regard as worthy of notice, what we find significant…
—Robert Coles, Doing Documentary Work

Breaking the Silence (see below)

Dear friends and readers,

From a long-time Trollope and Net friend who I’ve seen three times in Oxford now — we read Eliot’s Middlemarch on Trollope-l together several years ago now and hope to meet in London for a day for a change this September —

When people used to ask me (people did) about my relationship with Jim, or somehow what our lives were about, how we coped came up, I’d say “I live by his side.” And I really did. My guess was people didn’t believe me or listen to the words. Who listens to other people’s words? The rest of the world was around his other side. Now he’s not there I seem to see so many people doing things, the way they live as I never did before, many alone. I recognize that my cats live by my side, and that their inner lives are not visible to anyone but me — and when I’m not here Yvette.

Clarycat shortly after Jim died

Ian this past month

I’ve rediscovered what I used to be aware of in a different way: the world I encounter has many stray people — even at the half-way mark (let’s say over 50) of their lives and close up. Not that they will drop what they are doing and come with me (which used to happen when I was in my teens), but more steadily, they are not fitted in tight anywhere (as many are, maybe most into bands of family and friends); these others contingent, available for a lunch, cabaret, movie, coffee. Women mostly.

My new experiences keep mounting up — simple things I never did before, like cook a bowl of spaghetti for myself, pick a sauce, warm it, and sit down and eat this in front of the TV, liking my program. This summer again going to a slightly different choice of plays from the Capitol Fringe Theater:

One of their icons

Today I went into DC and saw It’s What We Do, a Play about the Occupation, at the Atlas theater in DC on H Street, Northeast, one of the many plays part of the Capitol Fringe. It is drawn from the testimonies of Israeli soldiers who could not bear to destroy the Palestinian people bit-by-bit through the relentless harrasssment and disruption and intimatidation techniques of the occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. Never mind murdering thousands and thousands in a few months every once in a while, it’s the daily corrosion, tyranny, humiliation, refusal to let these people work, get food, live and how this is done at the Check-points, through rampaging through their houses, through simply taking their land and destroying decades of family cultivation, through the ceaseless blockade. The Israeli gov’t is not able to exterminate so they are doing what they can short of that. Like the whites towards native Americans and in Australia aborigines, like whites in the south in the reconstruction period, like the US and French in Vietnam, so many in Africa over the centuries, like US police in many black areas of the US today. The parallels are ceaseless and new ones being made as I type.

A blog links providing context, perspectives, arguments: Going back before post WW2: the Greek and Palestinian regime today, the EU, the horrifying situation for immigrants in the US.

This was the second of five plays I’ve chosen; the first was The Hello Girls.
I had trouble getting an Uber cab back to the Metro: something about me, the way I was dressed (a new pretty blue sweater, my beige skirt and top) made the Uber man unwilling to somehow stop in front of me as if I would be offended. I intimidated him! There I was longing for my Uber cab in 95 degree heat, anxious lest it not show and I had given a wrong address. I was doing all that people do: I had my cell phone in front, watching the little image of the cab. Looking about me.

I’m beginning to face and accept that I don’t enjoy going to the Capitol Fringe shows alone. They are intellectually so engaging and they do expose what no one talks of but I wish they had more money to do them better. In England the theaters are still getting sufficient funds. It’s not easy to find the places; traveling by public transportation can take an hour and a half, and some of it is stressful (in areas I don’t know and am not comfortable in). And I need a companion to go with for fun. Sophie would, but she is so busy with her studies and her new partner. Maybe next summer I won’t go at all, if again I must go alone; and unless the play is in a place easy for me to get to. That it’s so dreadfully hot here during these trips doesn’t help either. I’d rather stay home and watch beloved mini-series on my computer — or read.

These new versions of old experiences entwine with my memories of his last year and months, our lives over the years, decades, but I feel guilty in the way of this profound poem in this week’s New Yorker:

Giving and Getting

I like that, he said in the hospital, where I was rubbing his feet
which were dry and smelled a bit.

Ahh, he said, ahhh, as I worried
what the nurse in the corridor might think,

pushing my thumbs into the pads and calluses,
the skin that had grown leathery and hard
over a lifetime of treets and shoes-

and me trying but unable to forget
some of the things he had done

over the course or our long friendship
Rubbing his feet was like reaching into some

thick part of my heart that couldn’t feel
and kneading away at it —

Blame caught inside the love .
like a fishhook or a bug in honey.

It is in my character, this
persistent selfishness —

one of my hand offering the gift, the other
trying to take something back.

Giving and getting
like two horses arriving at the same time

from opposite directions
at the stone gate

that will allow only one to pass.
— Tony Hoagland

Maybe I ought to have gotten Jim to do more by retiring with him earlier. I didn’t think of it. I console myself that perhaps he would not have wanted to live differently, say join an OLLI and play bridge with others (though he loved bridge). When I did propose this or that, he would often not seem to hear or say no. But maybe I didn’t propose enough, or think enough about what he might like to socialize over. At some level he intimidated me.

He did sometimes say I didn’t pay any attention to him — this way before the Net. I would laugh and say not so. I took it as a half-joke, the way he often said things. Now I’m thinking he meant the phrase in another serious sense than I could see then.

I seem to be going through another hard period. I’m doing a lot — going out to events (movies, plays, classes), sometimes with people and trying to keep up my reading and projects, interacting here with friends, reading with them and responding, sharing, watching movies, blogging, I get exhausted and puzzled. I’m not sure what my life is about, why I’m doing what I do. I’m pulled in different directions. It cannot be just to fill time though that is part of it. I think I do know who I am but am have lost the person I was myself with, through. I also used to say he was the blood that flowed through my heart and I meant that too.

Camille Pissarro, Lordship, Lane Railway Station, 1870

198 years ago today in Winchester, England, Jane Austen died, aged 42, after a horrific period of pain — she probably had some form of cancer. Think of the months of decline. Think of how she couldn’t walk; had to be put into a cart. Sitting on three chairs propped up by pillows, finally back to her bed. On July 18, 1817 died in Cassandra’s arms like Jim died in mine. I nowadays remember Cassandra’s phrase how the comfort, joy, gilding of her life was gone, and wonder how she did from day to day.

A silhouette of Cassandra, that’s all we have

Out of my friendship with Sophie, I’d love to take two months off all my regular work, start to listen to my French tapes or buy new ones, and read French novels once again so I could get my French back. I’d like to talk to her in French the way she talks to me in English. We saw Mr Holmes together.

Finally, some of my reading: as part of my Australia-New Zealand project I’ve come across a novel that crosses over into my interest in women living alone:  Sylvia Aston-Warner’s Spinster. Take that book of poems, Alibi, Italian on one side (by Elsa Morante) and French by Jean-Noel Shifano, on the other, on Morante’s cats and begin to translate again.

Spinster arrived this morning and I discover the heroine is a teacher of Maori children in remote New Zealand town, passsionate, uncertain, gauche, trying to help set her pupils free (“No man, dead or alive, can disturb the plot in the wild garden of myself where art grows, although mine is a self-sown personality, an enclosure of wilful wanton weeds, there is yet one dell of order. I am a flower reaching beyond …). It’s on a new TBR pile along with Penelope Fitzgerald’s The Bookshop (which came yesterday). Pissarro’s picture and these two books come from friendships here on the Net (Fitzgerald’s on how the class system can work against a person. It’s about a middle aged widow who opens a book store in 1950s East Anglia) and blogs I read by them or blogs they’ve pointed out to me.

Miss Drake

Vivian and me

I do like to be beside the seaside … John A. Glover-Kind

Dear friends and readers,

Today Bob Lapides, a long time member of Trollope19thCStudies send along 52 (!) photos of Victorians at the beach, from which here are two:

People, Leisure/Holidays, pic: circa 1900's, Four lady bathers dressed in bathing suits of the era, outside a bathing machine at the seaside  (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

People, Leisure/Holidays, pic: circa 1900’s, Four lady bathers dressed in bathing suits of the era, outside a bathing machine at the seaside (Photo by Popperfoto/Getty Images)

FRANCE - CIRCA 1890:  Bather. France, about 1900.  (Photo by ND/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

FRANCE – CIRCA 1890: Bather. France, about 1900. (Photo by ND/Roger Viollet/Getty Images)

Prompting me to share a modest holiday moment me, a friend and Izzy experienced this past Saturday evening.

Vivian, me and Yvette dared the traffic and puzzling instructions as to where we were allowed to park and where the Oronoco Park was (we bought our Pro-Quest maps and plugged in garmin), but found the place with no trouble. Law-abiding Yvette almost drove us from parking across the street in a private garage under a tall apartment house, but it was one (Vivian kept saying) that on the site it said was donated for the night, and before I succumbed to Yvette’s pressure, I jumped out of my car and ran over to a pedestrian and asked. Yes she said, she had just parked there.

So a less than five minute walk carrying light weight wooden chairs, a bag of chips and soda took us to a park not teaming with people to the point of a mob seen, but crowded enough to have blankets and chairs spread far and wide. Tents offering birthday cupcakes, the usual hotdog and ice-cream snacks, and in the front an open band stand. After the invocation (kept mercifully short), we had a not-bad poem read aloud by a native Alexandrian remembering her life until now, the up for singing the Star Spangled Banner (many did sing along, no matter how softly, and then an hour of the Alexandria Symphony Orchestra playing many movie scores, some of which I recognized. Yvette could name each and every composer and the movie from which it came as we went along. I got a kick out of the Pirates of the Carribean and could imagine the tongue-in-check presentation of the stealth ship; We heard a suite of beautiful music from the Lord of the Rings; the theme motif for Harry Potter was so lovely, sweet.

When the darkness started to gloom and the air turned purple-y and the water a turquoise, I saw the barges and tugboats with their flashing lights begin to line up. They are there in case of a fire really erupting, and then the 1812 overture egan, a cannon kept just for this purpose began to fire and pound away (big noise) and the fireworks show began. I like these — there is something child-like pathetic about them, like balloons. I had a bad moment for a second like I have had at the beach as it crossed my mind how terrible it is for Jim no longer to exist, to experience these things, but I was able to bring this under control. I felt Izzy noticing my sudden dive and understanding. It went on for quite a while as the crowd had been patient. Lots more music. Now classical — Aaron Copeland, music for the common man. Then the final crashing display as the orchestra moved to John Philip Sousa and everyone began to clap.

This was the first fireworks display I’ve actually been at since 1976 when Jim and I dared to go down to the bowery and found ourselves in an area so crowded with people, it was scary. My parents had insisted we wrap belts around our chests and to one another and I realized they had been right. The Anthem sung by so many created a sense of some larger entity than ourselves and I could see how dangerous such a sense of overriding emotions could be. This one remained benign. We had Handel’s music for Fireworks I recall, and then dispersed to the subway, hurried along by the people we were with. And then before that one more enjoyable happy memory: Jim and I were 24 and 27, staying in my father’s country house-shack on Long Island; an aunt (my father’s sister) invited the whole family who were around (most now dead or scattered) to her house for a barbecue on a large lawn and then we all retired to a small nunnery near by, Little Flower it was called, where a very modest fireworks display proceeded. Very pretty. Quiet, relaxed, serene under the stars.

Our ride home from the Potomac took over an hour, but no one accident, people patient.

Later the next morninng Yvette tweeted her photo of the sky:


We had had a mysterious power outage for several hours before or Yvette might not have come with us. Vivian and I were sure glad she did.

In the last few years Jim had not been willing to go to any fireworks or sit under the sun for hours and hours (me neither on the last) but to see them from far on the top hill of the Masonic temple (where a band is provided) is just not the same as being inside that friendly crowd. The people next to Vivian, me and Izzy shared their cookies with us, we talked with them, I took photos of them as a group so no one would be left out. Part of what the expeirience is about. I did feel the people who took their dogs along were wrong, the animals were not happy and some did take the dogs home early. No cat would tolerate this sort of nonsense. What? sitting there for over an hour and a half (for us it was two hours to get a good space and yet not be there when it was super-hot). This is a human phenomenon.

On July 11, 1921 my father was born. So it was his birthday too. He would have been 94.

Miss Drake

Stumbling along

My friend, Sophie and I last week at Cinema Art Theater where we saw Gemma Bovery

Dear friends and readers,

Stumbling along is an accurate characterization of my life this summer in my 2nd year as a widow. In the UK people used to say they were “muddling through,” but that implied a goal to somewhere, which I’ve not got. My attachment to all but a very few things I do and few friends is artificially sustained so I may remain absorbed (reading, writing, watching movies) or active (out to see and participate in events, with friends and acquaintances, mostly the latter) simply because if I let go, I fear I will not know what to hold onto, and what then? If anyone objects to my frank characterization of myself as a widow, which is what I am seen as well as relate as, I ask them why: it’s no longer acceptable to object to people characterizing themselves as GLBT, or disabled, or depressed, or simply on their own in whatever way. So why is the designation widow kept so sotto voce?

A high point, a good evening out with a friend, Sybilla, my neighbor across the street who is a widow of four years, her husband died at age 67 of pancreatic cancer. I got the tickets, she drove us to Wolf Trap. Both brought picnic baskets to share with one another. We were too late to have our picnic in the first area beyond the roofed theater, but we managed to see and hear directly and intimately enough by walking into the area just after the theater and sitting on the stone quarter-size wall. John Fogerty had been Sybilla’s choice but I immediately recognized, the songs, the voice. He’s extraordinary; he gave enormously. He had with him a remarkable band of musicians. He told of his family, had his grown son wit him; the son also plays the guitar very well. His wife in the audience. What a light show, videos, fires …. sparkling balls. The crowd became alive with the music, people standing, swaying, dancing in their seats.

Many years ago:

It was not just nostalgia, but there were new numbers, contemporary ones. I haven’t been to anything like this in years or even before. He just never stopped singing and playing with and without his band. He did not stop for an intermission and was still going apparently strong as most people began to leave. He meant to do that, to make us remember him playing his heart out and entertaining us with all his might and soul and body …

Had also enjoyed a lunch date with a scholar friend (decent meal at Darlington House in DC) and planned for a coming panel at EC/ASECS: Forging Connections among Women. I’m loving Anne Grant’s Letters from the Mountain, Essays on Superstitions and Memoirs of an American Lady. Like me she reaches out to friends by her writing.


Jacob Lawrence, from his Migration of the Negro (at the Museum of Modern Art, NYC)

I probably ought to write separate blogs about two museum exhibits I saw, except that while recommending them if they come near you, I found them disappointing so I cannot say that you should go out of your way for these. At the Philips, with another friend, Vivian, I saw a room full of small abstract-kind of paintings by Jacob Lawrence called “The Struggle.” These were a pendant to his Migration series: the pictures show the inception, origination of the US was in violence, and it specifically used and excluded from citizen rights to right, slaves, women, non-property owners.

Struggle Series No. 1

There are too few was the problem. Lawrence’s unforgettable Migration series makes the effect it does because of the plenitude of pictures. For all the efforts of local Washingtonian media to speak well of the Philips (and they do host remarkable lectures and readings of plays and poetry), their permanent collection is singularly uninspiring and small. Their cafe remains awful because they are perpetually understaffed — I feel for the staff working there who look so nervous.

With Sophie, Yvette and Sophie’s partner, I went to the Caillebotte exhibition at the National Gallery. It was oddly disappointing. Not because there were too few (5 rooms of paintings from a scarcely believable number of places disparate geographically so this was a major effort of cooperation and curator negotiation) but that they were not accounted for in an insightful way by the curator. The obvious was said (that we look at from a rich person’s window, that he painted family and friends, still lifes meant to make us think about how we treat animals, and landscapes very much in the mode of Monet). They were generally thematically group (as here are river landscapes, here the city seen from this window, here ordinary people going about their business). The exhibit led with “scrapers:”


It included superbly beautiful design work:

Boulevard Des Italiens Painting by Gustave Caillebotte; Boulevard Des Italiens Art Print for sale
Boulevard Des Italiens

There was nothing on the technique, on how Caillbebott differed from other impressionists — considerably. He uses lines heavily, and is impressionist rather with water and rain. Sometimes Caillebotte seemed to anticipate pointillism; there were Manet-like street scenes. I was impressed by how expressionless his people were. He does include animals in a sad state on the street — so perhaps someone should write about his capturing the vulnerable stray again and again:

On Le Pont de l’Europe long since gone to his or her grave

For the first time Yvette and I ate at the elegant 2nd floor cafe — we’ve been going to this museum for 30 years and never tried it before. My friend’s partner apparently would have hated the “plebian” cafe downstairs. The food was dolled up bits of meat, potatoes and vegetables, almost unrecognizable, overdone salad dressing on wilted stuff, undrinkable tea (with no milk) — at probably a horrendous price. This is to tell you if you go there, don’t be fooled. Get yourself something edible downstairs at 1/4 the price in 1/10th the time.

I’ve bought myself 5 tickets to plays at the Capitol Fringe Festival and hope to find the places and see some Shakespeare (A Winter’s Tale), his contemporary Middleton, and a drama about women’s roles working during WW1. I had my worst experiences of STUGs (sudden tremendous upsurge of grief) last summer as I realized the joy of going to these events was with Jim. Sophie is coming to one of them with me and three are easy to get to this time. So it’ll just be one that might be hard — at Gallaudet College (perhaps a long walk from the Metro), a Thomas Middleton play somewhat abridged and adapted. I’ll tell about these plays here.


Ippolito Nievo, The Confessions of an Italian (Italian text).

Framley Parsonage is doing well at the OLLI at Mason (I’ll blog separately on some Australian books and films my post-colonial project have led me to): I work away at my projects. I read and post with and to others on my listservs (Ippolito Nievo’s Confesssions of an Italian as translated by Fredericka Randall on which I will write when we’ve done), not to omit blogging on the new Poldark mini-series, women artists, and Bernie Sanders.


I’m beginning to see my way in teaching Fielding’s Tom Jones, starting to reread it slowly once again (there I had a recording I realize was appalling as the reader worked hard to make the text into a comic romp which it is anything but) and see the usefulness and depths of perspective and information in approaching it the way I did the Poldark books, by going into the real history of injustice, law, custom, the era’s revolutions. I still love the 1997 Tom Jones mini-series movie though I now know it utterly misrepresents the tone and attitude of Fielding who remains behind a mask of double-turned intricate ironies.

Low points include the Dance Fusion Workshop becoming hard to get into. The instructor has decreed only 15 since we have to go down to the Dance Studio (more fun if you are there, immersion with a mirror) and there are about 40 women who came regularly. I find I have to phone on Sunday morning around 8 am at the latest to be included in the Tuesday session at 8:30 am. A small thing it will be said, but I need to get out each day and be among people. So I re-joined the Chinquapin Alexandria Community Center about 6 minutes away from me where there’s a pool and I’ve begun swimming 5-6 laps (very slowly and I’m collapsing by the end of the 6th) to swim a few later afternoons each week. In this 90+ degree heat (I don’t look at the humidity) the water is refreshing and between 4 and 5 there are no camps, no people home from work.


So it’s not that the old pleasures aren’t still strong for me: I’m just revelling in listening as I drive in my car to a brilliantly alive reading of Mantel’s Wolf Hall by Simon Slater (unabridged). The text is extraordinary. But all around me so hollow feeling, my existence so impoverished, hopes I once entertained for the future for both of us gone. The worded-truth is:

I can no longer convey how not okay it is that my beloved friend and companion and lover of a lifetime died so young, in such an agony and I have to carry on without any meaning, any deep companionship or understanding, any validation of how I see the world and relate to it. Yes time and new experiences change the nature of people’s grief and sense of loss, the meaning of what happened: the acute anxiety has subsided; but my sense of justifable anger at how he was treated, at how I now realize cancer is not discussed has hardened as I see more from my new knowledge. I’ll never forget what I witness and it will shape my conduct towards doctors and the medical establishment — all those cold hard people taking our, his money — ever after. My feelings are now turned into more clear awareness he’ll never be back. I can’t conjure up a ghostly presence (I’m not the type, the sky is the sky, nothing on another side of silence) and my memories are not pictorial or very physical. there are physical remnants in my arms, hands, central body. If I had been younger and could build a new or other life, it might have been different, but I cannot. I would not want to have been younger for that would have destroyed him earlier. Now the feelings as transformed and by new realizations become unspeakable as they go deeper and deeper, seep into my veins.

Clarycat stayed snuggled up to him until very near his death — late September 2013

Miss Drake

and the civil war and World War 2:

Zinn points out that war is the indiscriminate killing of huge numbers (often thousands and thousands, millions sometimes) of people for uncertain ends. Maiming of thousands and sometimes millions more.

War is a top-down exercise; it cannot be carried on by any group in society but those who have their hands on great wealth, law and courts, power. And so when the war is done very little reform the average person wants is achieved. After the Revolutionary war, very wealthy people made the constitution about property. After the civil war slavery was turned into state terror and semi-slavery for black people. Did World War Two end fascism? Not at all; turns out fascism lay low for a bit, and then emerged strengthened.

Inbetween war and passivity there are a thousands possibilities of what we could do about something.


Miss Drake

Ian last month

Dear friends and readers,

I want to record a theft that I witnessed and put a stop to last week and, having seen it, I was on the alert for to stop again. I will also connect many people’s love for their pussycats with today’s world via Manglehorn’s Fanny (movie directed by David Gordon Green, screenplay Paul Logan, featuring Al Pacino).

For at least thee years now I’ve been suffering chilblains on the skin of my hands. This is the 18th century word for a condition where your blood doesn’t circulate efficiently and if you experience sudden heat or cold, your skin turns red, burns, feel itchy and no cream seems to be able to soothe it. I first noticed it in supermarkets in the summer where the air-conditioning is fierce. I now take with me when I go out a pair of thin wool gloves because I’ve learned the best way to deal with this condition is to not let it happen. It’s worse when it’s a matter of burning cold, but I’ve suffered from chilblains in sudden heat. I’ve had people look at me strangely, but I explain and tell them they should look at Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg’s hands. She is never without white cotton gloves. I don’t know where she gets her beautifully thin lacey pairs; I’ve not been able to duplicate it on the Net. The only thin gloves I can find are the sort used in hospitals, throw-away gloves that don’t warm you. And thin wool gloves are not everywhere either.

I’m now on at least my third pair of such gloves. I often lose gloves but in this case what happened was I found now and again when I went into my handbag, there’d be only one thin woollen glove. The other had gone missing. I blamed myself but now I feel that at least some of the time the culprit was my ginger tabby, Ian.

Last week I happened to turn around and witness Ian on the floor of my study patiently pulling at a piece of leather that forms a kind of tie to the zipper of my handbag. He had discovered what I know to be true: the leather stips facilitates pulling the zipper open. He pulled and pulled until he had the handbag about 1/3 of the way open. Then he put his paw in, rummaged about, and managed to lift one of my gloves. Next thing he has it in his mouth and is trotting away with it! I headed him off at the door, and plucked it back. I put the two gloves in a drawer in my bedroom bureau.

But I have to use them, and each time I go out remember to put the gloves there. I usually do because I also have to remember (nowadays) to take my cell phone (unplug it from the wire where it is continually being re-charged). But I’m not so good at remembering to take the gloves and cell phone out again.

Two days ago, there he was at it again. This time he had pulled the handbag opened, secured the glove and all I saw was him trotting away. Again I thwarted him. Tonight I know there were no gloves in the purse, but I saw him nonetheless with the purse one-third open fishing.

What to do? Put the handbag high up somewhere? he can climb high. Reason with him? He doesn’t speak English. About a year and a half ago my lower partial denture went missing from the supper table. I didn’t think I had dropped it. To replace it cost me $1600. Now I know for sure who took it. It’s probably behind one of my 43 bookcases.

He mews at me on and off during the day in an effort to get my attention, to say something to me, to get me to play with him, or hug, and I usually talk back before leaving the room. He knows I’m talking to him and will follow me about. He likes to climb very high on the bookshelves — believing I surmise he is out of sight. (When he was a kitten, he’d hide 2/3s of his body under a stool under the impression he was invisble that way — my little Snuffle-upagus). I have to take a broom to get him to come down and then while leaping he can break something if he hits it — like a glass. Nowadays when he comes into a room, he often murmurs and meows softly to let Yvette and I know he’s there. He will jump up on my lap and press his body stretched out against my chest, and put his head next to head, rubbing. He brushes up against my legs when I’m eating, tries to climb on my lap during breakfast and after supper if Yvette and I sit there talking. He will re-discover, as if it were new, an old spot; and then inhabit it obsessively for a few days — these past few days he re-found his grey cat pad in the front room and has been staying in it for hours.

Caroline remarked that if I didn’t have a video of him persisting at my purse, it was almost as if it didn’t happen. She has her cat on a video slowing opening a cat-proof container and taking out food to eat. Who says cats don’t execute plans? don’t remember the past? they do when it’s repetitive and people are creatures of routine.

Face-book by one of its algorithms sends me photos from years ago I put on face-book. This week it was one of ClaryCat that Jim took five years ago. She is two:


The photo was taken by Jim close-up and brought back memories. Chris Hedges’s is over-the-top and he is blaming technology when the way technology is used is a reflection of a deeper malaise of skewed values and social structures: The Lonely American.

The bowl of varied fruit, the different wines, the treats in tupperware, another world, a previous life over now. For Yvett not such a happy time that year — she had finished graduate school and seemed unable to get a job of any kind. I now love & understand Clarycat and Ian more than I did then. How close she came to me. How in character is that pose I now realize. In the mornings when I wake she is snuggled up to me; most of the day she’s not five feet from, often a lot closer. She never disappears for several hours the way Ian does. She does still hold on fiercely to her favorite toys, and will hiss and growl at him if he tries to take one away she is playing with at the time.

I believe for a long time afterward both were affected by Jim’s death. Upset by the long dying over 4 days and then when he so totally disappeared. When I take them to the Vet, it takes Ian several days to trust us again.

Sometimes I hear one or the other of them crying in another room — or they are making a complaint-like sound. I get very upset when I hear that and rush over to see what’s happening. If it’s nothing or they can’t stand that Yvette has her door closed, I tell them “don’t cry! I can’t bear it!”

When you allow yourself to get into an intimate relationship with your pet, you identify with other like animals. This Sunday the film club was disappointing: for the first time the Cinema Art Theater owner picked the film — it seemed. It is one he means to show in the theater anyway! I thought the idea was to show us films we would otherwise not see chosen by Gary Arnold, a Washington Post film critic-reviewer. On top of that it was awful: Manglehorn, well-acted by Al Pacino (now 75) but a senseless movie where we were to believe he behaved indifferently to everyone because he could not get over the loss of a girlfriend to whom he was writing letters for years; all sent back by the post-office. He is implicitly criticized for telling hard stories of death when he goes to group meetings. What is wrong with him is the feel of the other average people there. What they talk about we are not told. The ending was sudden reform (“redemptive”) because he begins to go out with Holly Hunter who is so dismayed by him. Her view is he needs to work at being a 12 before she will open again.

The reality was a depiction of a depressed man who does not understand himself; who is deeply disappointed by a shallow son who seems to spend his life pressuring others meanly in order to make money off of them; whose wife left him (we are not how that came about). It is another one of these films where we see such lonely people; a distraught man half-mad in a bank; a vile noisy brothel where in fact people are desperate, hideous neon lights, people dressed in the ugliest of ways; everyone alone with memory objects. The film-makers offered no understanding of the deeper human realities and misbegotten society they were visualizing and dramatizing.

The film features a cat called Fanny, a long hair white cat who I worried very anxiously about. This depiction was the best thing in the film. Manglehorn pays for an expensive operation to remove a key she swallows by mistake and seemed to have affection for her and nothing else. But I didn’t trust him; he’d leave the house without checking to see that she was not caught in a closet. We did see her hide in closets the way Ian does. He’d take her out on walks where there was no leash keeping her securely attached to him:


Or he’d put her on a branch near where he was sitting, or sit high on a branch with her in his arms, looking like they were going to tumble down.

I noticed this particular cat was picked because her face was probably seen by the people who made the film as grumpy (a factor in her genes probably). Since the unexamined acceptability of cat pictures and messages have flooded the Internet, it is more acceptable for even men to love cats, and this is the second recent movie where a man’s close relationship to a cat was the only element in the film that was believable or absorbing, the only comfort in sight. The cat’s affectionate nature has not been perverted by the false structures around her. She is oblivious to them because they are absurdly irrelevant to her basic (eat, sleep, play) and emotional needs.

Jim used to say that most social experience in the US nowadays is dysfunctional. The dismaying isolation seen in Manglehorn is depicted from an upper class older woman’s point of view in I’ll Dream of You, from a working class Milan man’s in L’Intrepido.

If man could be crossed with the cat, it would improve man
but deteriorate the cat. —Mark Twain

My two cats are my last companions before I go to sleep. In the morning Clarycat is there and soon she is nudging her head at me, licking me. Ian comes to greet me from elsewhere, somewhere else on the bed, in the short cat-tree near my bed (with a green pillow), from one of the cat pads around the house, from where Jim used to sit. He puts his paws out as hands to me. She does too.

50JimClaryASept2013 (2)
Jim and Ian, September 2013

Miss Drake


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