I live in a strange quiet place where my heart beats slowly.
And I can hear icicles melting on a winter morning — Lise Menn, “None, I think”
I thought I’d record that Izzy and I had pleasant later afternoon yesterday: The Folger Shakespeare Consort followed a program they called Playing with Fire, a mix of dance, instrumental and choral music. They cheated: by having a guest player on the violin (so they had an instrument not yet invented in Bill’s era). Bu otherwise, part of the delight was the way they played the real instruments at the time touchingly, quietly, gayly. I especially liked the bagpipes, the use of castanets, the drums, fifes, recorders. I recognized music I’ve danced to and music I heard played and danced to in the film adaptation of Wolf Hall (Hilary Mantel’s book, script by Peter Straughn), so I imagined Clare Foy as Anne Boleyn dancing away.
The latest exhibit in the Folger Great Hall of fragile books and manuscripts related to Shakespeare necessitated putting the concessions into the older reading room. It was apparent to me many of the audience members regarded this as quite a special treat. The place brought back memories of my years reading poetry by Vittoria Colonna and Veronica Gambara, Anne Finch’s poetry in manuscripts, and (my last project) Anne Murray Halkett’s later 17th century autobiography. In all the years I was there I never looked at the tapestries above the highest shelves. A kindly woman helped me photograph one with my cell phone and you see it adorning this blog on top.
No one sang in this consort, but the next performance is a selection from Purcell’s Fairy Queen (opera, I believe by Dryden) and Shakespearean songs from his plays set by Purcell. I’d like to go as well as to the lecture beforehand. Yesterday’s experience was an oasis of delicate beauty, cheer, charm, harmony. I cannot find anything on the Net in YouTube one-quarter as lovely, controlled, sparkling, clear and somehow modern too as this consort produced. I may buy the album the next time I got to the Folger, and thenplay the CD on my laptop here in my room.
It was cold and wet getting there and back, but it ended a quiet fulfilling day insofar as Izzy and I can manage this. She had spent the earlier and mid-afternoon part of the day watching Junior World Ice-Skating and tennis, then writing and reading, and I similarly (writing to friends, reading letters and postings, blogs) and then immersed in a number of books, beginning with essays on Elizabeth Gaskell: Margaret Homan’s second book on l’ecriture-femme: Bearing the Word, 2 and 1/2 chapters out of a Preface, Postscript and 10 are devoted to Gaskell’s books; Chapter 4 is given over to Jane Eyre, 5 to Shelley’s Frankenstein. George Eliot gets Chapter 9 for Romola. The postscript is on Woolf. and towards the end Angelica Rosenthal’s study of Angelica Kauffman’s art. We stopped off for Chinese take-out to bring home. In the later evening she set herself to watch hours of Daredevil (Netflix serial); I shover-dosed on three episodes of Cranford Chronicles (script Heidi Thomas), where they dance walzes, and which series I find so touching.
Is there any filmic story which provides more roles for older women? many in this series my favorite older actresses and actors.
Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth!
Cursed be the social lies that warp us from the living truth!
Well — ’tis well that I should bluster! Hadst thou less unworthy proved
Would to God — for I had loved thee more than ever wife was loved ….
The past is not past but makes the present what it is. I wake sometime between 6 and 7. One cat curled inside my arm, the other between my legs, a favorite moment. I wish I didn’t have to dislodge them. For me grief’s not past, it’s present. Every day I am missing Jim, sometimes with more intensity, say around 4 pm. I miss my life with him more acutely than ever. I hoped to “build” some kind of life or routine that would provide equivalent satisfactions outside. Naive of me. Improbable, given what he was, where I am. What I call “deep” reading assuages the loneliness: Elizabeth Gaskell has been doing that for a couple of months for me: books where the author’s presence leaps from the page to the reader, a friend. What I call ‘deep movie” watching also assuages the need. I can be cheerful when I’m with congenial people or just more superficial socializing — if all is pleasant. (At the Folger a man asked me about the reading room and I told him my history of work there for some 15 years; explained the pictures from the 18th century; he looked interest and said he would try the tour.) The past is in and fills immediate time, the present and as time goes on my missing Jim remains as strong as ever.
Today was not as good, today was harder for both of us. I now know why Jim made some of the choices he did, from the ways he would choose to travel to a place (now matter how inconvenient or long the car drive until his strength gave out), to how in his last years he did not want to go anywhere in the US but a few high culture places and only looked to Europe for when he reached 70 (that’s when we had to spend the money he said we had in an account I’ve turned into money by now and just invested as I didn’t know what to do with it), to how he turned away from most people, saying I was enough, spent his hours on the Net reading good things, all of it comes clear now. I come to his point of view with understanding after 2 years and 5 months. I seem ever to have a new naivete to peel away. But if I can stay with it, this is the path to at least some peace; this is the way to have good days: minimal expectations, bookish quiet art, music.
Lisa Dillon and Judi Dench photographed and photograph colored so as to look like a 19th century painting: women have ever lived alone in effect and when rarely lucky supported by one another is Gaskell’s underlying theme