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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.

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Clarycat shortly after Jim died

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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

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