Dear friends and readers,
I was feeling that guilty about writing frivolous and personal blogs about my life, cats, flower bulbs and all I do — after I saw two extraordinary stories, one in the form of Sophocles’s tragic play, Antigone, at the Kennedy Center yesterday, and today, in the form of a remarkably candid film about what the experience of war is in these past two decades, Kilo Two Bravo — that I first wrote a blog (Barking up the Right Trees this past week), bringing together a group of stories revealing underlying semi-criminal behaviors (or criminal ones) in people like Kreon, in positions of tremendous power, who are responsible for present wars in Aghanistan, Iraq, Syvia … They are significant must-sees, both.
These experiences were part of another two weeks’ passing with memories of Jim: in August I had bought for myself alone and with Izzy, tickets for plays and operas (the first was Verdi’s Otello last week), across this fall and next spring. Kilo Two Bravo was the last of the summer’s film club and at long last Gary Arnold proved that he can offer a film worth getting up early to see, as well as his usual insightful information. Cinema Art is also going to have a season’s worth of operas and ballets from London (Covent Garden), only you have to phone that day (not buy ahead), lest it be cancelled. Not convenient, but they are on at good times for me: 4:30 and 7:00 (replays of HD productions or the HD production itself). I’ll try for them. Of Antigone, Izzy remarked we were sitting in around the same row in the second balcony in the Eisenhower theater the last time we came with Jim.
I did the usual things: teach, go out to lunch with friends, walk, Dance Fusion Workshop (I wish I had time to go there twice a week), almost finished my most recent paper for a coming conference (on Anne Home Hunter and Anne Macvicar Grant, two 18th century Scottish poets — I’ve told about this too often), read, posted to listservs, exchanged letters with friends (heard of yet more hideous deaths from cancer, of suicides driven by a medical establishment not telling the person of other choices), watched movies at night, blogged too. My friend, Sophie, is back from France for a while, and, taking Metro and bus to reach one another, she and I met at the National Gallery: there was a small exhibit of Vermeer paintings: I had forgotten how faded the colors and how out of seven known pictures, three have enormously pregnant women in the center. There was a new Pissarro on display too, a loan from the Louvre:
On the whole I prefer the peace of Pissarro to the reveries of Vermeer. Face-book objected to the Pissarro (“there are no faces to tag”): imbecilic.
I had planted bulbs first with my neighbor across the street, well this week on my own, in my garden I added daffodils, crocuses, narcissus, tulips. I had my gardening man set out and mulch two small plots in my garden right underneath side windows and remulch the circle around my small maple tree. It was not easy for me to do because my right arm is so weak, but I managed and then I watered them. I remember Jim said how important it was to water them, so I dragged that hose about to reach all three spots.
For the first time in a long time I went out to a review, a concert of Kander and Ebb songs, went back to my friend, Phyllis’s house and sat and talked and drank wine, and found myself driving him at night after midnight.
And I got ever closer to my cats — I have thought of a solution this week to the eternal problem of catness: as all know who had had much contact with cats at all, cats hate shut doors. But suppose like Yvette you want quiet to write, to sing, for privacy, after a long day at work. The problem is they don’t want to stay in the room with her. If she puts them out and they see my open door, they may come in for a while, but periodically they return to hers and cry. Now sometimes I would like to shut my door too — for quiet (not to hear Izzy’s TV program or music), to feel I won’t be interrupted — by said cats I suppose.
What we need to do is buy new doors for our rooms. Our present doors are more than 60 years old and not in good shape. We could replace them with doors with flaps on the bottom. I could push Ian in and out of each and then push Clarycat in and out of each. What I suspect is that if we resolutely left the doors shut, they would not be happy. They would spend time on one or the other side of these doors making complaining sounds and waiting.
Nothing characterizes catness more than this reluctance of theirs to tolerate a shut door and their way of sitting or standing expectantly waiting — or seeming to wait. Also going into tight drawers: both my cats will do this, though Ian more often. Sometimes I wonder how he got in, as some of my drawers are small and don’t open all the way and it becomes hard to pull him out. He has himself to cooperate and turn his body into a line and then push his head up and then he leaps out to the ground. One of my Internet British friends has rescued a new cat to join their family, Ella or Elly:
She looks nervous and sad in the way cats can — it is not easy to adjust to what will become her home. She waits looking about her.
Before Sunday is over I wanted to share another poem. On Victoria, a listserv, people were talking of whether women used the underground trains in 19th century England; I reminded them of William Egley’s (1826-1916) Omnibus Life in London (1859) where we see an intermingling of classes and genders:
at which someone contributed this good poem by Amy Levy, the later 19th century English Jewish poet: she had rather travel on an omnibus, wander about amidst everyone in ordinary life than live the privileged but restricted life or princess-women:
“To see my love suffices me.”
–Ballades in Blue China.
Some men to carriages aspire;
On some the costly hansoms wait;
Some seek a fly, on job or hire;
Some mount the trotting steed, elate.
I envy not the rich and great,
A wandering minstrel, poor and free,
I am contented with my fate —
An omnibus suffices me.
In winter days of rain and mire
I find within a corner strait;
The ‘busmen know me and my lyre
From Brompton to the Bull-and-Gate.
When summer comes, I mount in state
The topmost summit, whence I see
Crœsus look up, compassionate —
An omnibus suffices me.
I mark, untroubled by desire,
Lucullus’ phaeton and its freight.
The scene whereof I cannot tire,
The human tale of love and hate,
The city pageant, early and late
Unfolds itself, rolls by, to be
A pleasure deep and delicate.
An omnibus suffices me.
Princess, your splendour you require,
I, my simplicity; agree
Neither to rate lower nor higher.
An omnibus suffices me.
— Amy Levy
Sophie and I have promised to meet someone beyond the museum next time, perhaps the Penn quarter, find ourselves a cafe for less money, and then (like Amy) walk about the city — for later November when I hope the variegated leaves and balmy weather will not have gone altogether.
Poem and picture also remind me that Phyllis paints: and what does she paint? her oeuvre includes photo-like pictures of people on the Washington Metro, which has its own anonymous spirit, its feel. Which she captures. It’s not an especially kindly one, not abrasive, but you are given a sort of privacy in public a liberty to be, while in transit. The ambiance is quite different from the NYC subways:
In comparison do not Egley’s Victorians above look all crowded in and uncomfortable? See how the woman on the left looks so kindly at the rich family across from her, the daughter has already learned to keep a disdainful guard on her face and body. Amy Levy will have none of that. Our 21st century people have learned to live in their own space are and take advantage of the time and space to read …