“It all depends on us, on our own efforts. We are makers of our own future, we create our own welfare or misery as well as our own liberation.” ~ S. N. Goenka

Bodiam Castle in the Fog by Dean Thorpe FCC
Bodiam Castle in the Fog
by Dean Thorpe (FCC)

                   

Mea Culpa

In my post of January 12 of this year, I included an image by Dean Thorpe of Bodiam Castle in the fog. In the original post I cropped the image without noticing the photographer’s watermark on the bottom left corner. Mr. Thorpe brought this to my attention. I would be remiss if I did not correct this slight, so I replaced the image in the post, and I am also posting the original here.

If you would like to see more of Dean Thorpe’s wonderful photography, you can find his flickr account here.

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Aurora (from ageoldtree.blogspot.com)
(I am in love with this picture, and I really hope that I have attributed the correct source)

                   

I love Amy Lowell’s poetry.

Penumbra

As I sit here in the quiet Summer night,
Suddenly, from the distant road, there comes
The grind and rush of an electric car.
And, from still farther off,
An engine puffs sharply,
Followed by the drawn-out shunting scrape of a freight train.
These are the sounds that men make
In the long business of living.
They will always make such sounds,
Years after I am dead and cannot hear them.

Sitting here in the Summer night,
I think of my death.
What will it be like for you then?
You will see my chair
With its bright chintz covering
Standing in the afternoon sunshine,
As now.
You will see my narrow table
At which I have written so many hours.
My dogs will push their noses into your hand,
And ask—ask—
Clinging to you with puzzled eyes.

The old house will still be here,
The old house which has known me since the beginning.
The walls which have watched me while I played:
Soldiers, marbles, paper-dolls,
Which have protected me and my books.
The front-door will gaze down among the old trees
Where, as a child, I hunted ghosts and Indians;
It will look out on the wide gravel sweep
Where I rolled my hoop,
And at the rhododendron bushes
Where I caught black-spotted butterflies.

The old house will guard you,
As I have done.
Its walls and rooms will hold you,
And I shall whisper my thoughts and fancies
As always,
From the pages of my books.

You will sit here, some quiet Summer night,
Listening to the puffing trains,
But you will not be lonely,
For these things are a part of me.
And my love will go on speaking to you
Through the chairs, and the tables, and the pictures,
As it does now through my voice,
And the quick, necessary touch of my hand.

                    

Music by Andrew Belle, “Make It Without You”

“As far as we can discern, the sole purpose of human existence is to kindle a light in the darkness of mere being.” ~ Carl Jung

Spitfire Lake Reflection by Will Forbes (National Geographic Photo of the Day)

                   

“At the heart of all beauty lies something inhuman, and these hills, the softness of the sky, the outline of these trees at this very minute lose the illusory meaning with which we had clothed them, henceforth more remote than a lost paradise . . . that denseness and that strangeness of the world is absurd.” ~ Albert Camus

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and mild, thunder showers.

Carl Jung again. I’m finding more and more that I really like Jung, but I probably should read more of him before I become a devotee.

Foggy Landscape by Vadim Trunov (Voronezh, Russia)

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about mothers and daughters, the relationships that are carved from necessity and that  ineffable fragility that exists between the two. I’ve tried to think of the kinds of things that I’ve told Alexis over the years, and whether or not I’ve been the kind of mother that she has needed.

Truthfully, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’ve always said the right thing, and probably, I have not. I don’t know if I’ve always been the sounding board that she needed, or if I’ve shouldered enough or too much of the burdens that she has borne. No one gives you a manual when you take your first child from the safety of the hospital. Suddenly, you find yourself holding this tiny bundle who has needs, the kinds of needs you have never before had to consider. It gets easier with subsequent children because you have already had to learn what the different cries mean, what the different body postures may signal.

But that first time? You know nothing. It doesn’t matter how much you cared for other children when you babysat for the neighbors or how often you had to take care of younger siblings; with your first child, you enter foreign territory, and it is nothing less than terrifying.

Alexis is entering that territory. She told the family at Christmas that she is pregnant. Surprise!

I had wanted to wait until all of the tests were done and she had passed that iffy 16-week mark before saying anything. She has had to undergo more testing than the average pregnant young woman, mostly because of that unexplained seizure that she had a few years ago. Thankfully, everything seems to be good, normal, whatever that is.

“Everything in life that we really accept undergoes a change. So suffering must become Love. This is the mystery. This is what I must do.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, from The Journal of Katherine Mansfield

So of course, I am filled with trepidation and joy, simultaneously. My daughter is not as strong as I was at that age; that is simply an observation, not a criticism. She is an entirely different kind of person. Everything worries her, and she becomes emotionally distressed easily. Having said that, I have noticed that she seems to be handling this rather tremendous life change with a kind of quiet grace.

Colibita Lake, Romania, by bortescristian (FCC)

This is not to say that she doesn’t have her meltdowns. Hormones, that and the fact that she cannot take her usual medications. She is a bundle of raging, unchecked hormones. Thankfully, Mike is very excited about becoming a daddy, and he seems to be balancing her well.

Now ask me how my mother took the news? Not well. She made a rather biting comment in front of everyone, and then said that she was joking and couldn’t understand why everyone got so upset. Luckily, she has since progressed a bit and is now purchasing baby clothes. Regardless, her initial horror at the news really affected Alexis adversely, understandably.

Which brings me back to my original thought: mothers and daughters.

“The tiny space I occupy is so infinitesimal in comparison with the rest of space, which I don’t occupy and which has no relation to me. And the period of time in which I’m fated to live is so insignificant beside the eternity in which I haven’t existed and won’t exist . . . .” ~ Ivan Turgenev, Fathers and Sons

I am hard on my mother, judgmental, critical. And I have to wonder if Alexis views me in the same light. I would like to think that this is not the case, that I have managed to carve out a good relationship with my daughter, even though I know that it has not always been good, that there have been times when the estrangement between us has seemed to vast to ever be repaired.

I have not always liked the males that she has chosen as boyfriends, nor have I always liked those she has chosen as friends. I think that those things are probably standard fare for mothers—thinking that the person with your daughter or son is not good enough, believing that your daughter or son does not make the wisest choices when it comes to friends. No matter. Alexis has a tight group of friends that she has been with since grade school, and she has been with Mike for nine years. Obviously, I was wrong about some things.

Morning Fog, The Meadows, Edinburgh, Scotland by keepwaddling1 (FCC)

But I suppose what I am really wondering is if I have instilled in her the knowledge that she needs to face this big new adventure in her life, whether or not I have shown her by example how important it is to love even when it is hard to love, even when everything within screams NO, I will not, because even though you may not want to, sometimes with children it is better to give that inch in order to gain the years.

Does that make sense?

When you are a mother, you subsume so much of your own personality at certain points in order that your child or children can become stronger individuals. You bite your tongue, or you walk away, even when you really don’t want to. And those mothers who are unable to do this, mothers like my own mother, are never able to retain their own identities, continue to live through their children, long after their children have become separate individuals. And conversely, mothers who have very strong personalities, such as myself, must take care not to try to impose that personality on their child or children.

It’s so easy to think of your child as a miniature version of yourself when you first start out. So many people come up to you and say things like, “She looks just like you,” or “She has your eyes and nose,” or whatever. It is much more difficult to remember that genetics are not destiny.

“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them.” ~ Aldous Huxley, Island

In other words, just because this tiny individual looks like you does not mean that she is you. And that’s a hard but important lesson to learn—early. And while I am talking mostly about mothers and daughters, the same is true of fathers and sons, or parents and children in general.

Morning Lake Mist by basheertome (FCC)

My god, it’s hard. It’s hard not to invest everything in this little person, and I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t invest everything. I’m only saying that it’s so important to remember that at some point there is going to be a separation, a time in which that little person is no longer little, no longer your mirror image, no longer content to live life as you see fit, and that point, that moment is when so many parents fail.

They try to hard to hold on with everything they have in any way that they know how, whether it is by proximity or money or guilt or something else.

As an only child, I have always felt that I could not move too far away from my mother because who else is there to be there in emergencies, like when she falls and breaks her leg? And even though I write often about my longing to be elsewhere to see other countries, I know that I am bound to this place indefinitely. I would be lying if I said that a part of me doesn’t resent this, but I also know that in the end, family is family, and my mother has me, only me, which is why she is determined to hold on so tightly, to try to control things in any way that she can.

“what matters most
is how well you
walk in the
fire.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “how is your heart?”

So in the end, what have I taught my daughter, my children? What things do I hope she retains in her reservoir of knowledge that may be of some use to her in the coming months and years?

  • That voices raised in anger can say things that can be as damaging as a hand raised in anger
  • That a hand raised in anger can do irreparable harm
  • That the words I love you cannot be spoken too often
  • That calling a child a hurtful name is the same as marking that child
  • That hugs are for sharing
Old Gate in Fog by elias_daniel (FCC)
  • That it is more important to listen than to hear
  • That promises are meant to be kept
  • That a child remembers if you break a promise
  • That children learn trust from being trusted
  • That there is no good time to lie to a child
  • That compassion for others helps you to be a better person
  • That beauty can be found in unexpected places
  • That the toilet seat should be down
  • That body image is cultivated at home first
  • That tenderness should be expressed frequently
  • That hatred for others who are different is learned not inherited
  • That it’s okay to be silly at weird times
  • That we are stewards of the earth
  • That music and art are important aspects of life
  • That it is impossible to spoil a baby
  • That babies are meant to be held
  • That Law & Order is the best show that has ever been on television
  • That your children see and hear more than you realize
  • That truth is paramount
  • That a loving relationship with your partner helps your children to form loving relationships
  • That respect should never be taken for granted
  • That you only have one body and you should respect it
  • That you should always look someone in the eye when you shake their hand
  • That being tolerant should never be underestimated
  • That animals are sentient beings and must be treated as such
  • That until you have walked in another’s shoes you should not judge
  • That stuffed animals do in fact need homes
  • That words hold more power than you can ever imagine
  • That the rich should pay more taxes
  • That simply being a celebrity of any sort does not imply being a good person
  • That the Golden Rule is the most important rule of all.

“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.” ~ Sarah Kay

I know that I’m running long, but what it boils down to is this: I cannot remember the last time that my mother told me that she loved me. It has been years, maybe even since my father died.  I tell each of my children and Corey that I love them anytime they leave the house and before I hang up the phone. Is this too much? Can you say such a thing too much?

My mother’s constant patting of body parts and the tsks that followed taught me to be ashamed of my body. I hate my neck because she spent years telling me to do exercises to get rid of my double chinssss. I hate my belly because she does not hesitate to pat it and say something like “you’ve gained weight.”

Bridge in Mist by jamtea (FCC)

My mother’s inability to trust, especially my father, made it very hard for me to trust men. And her difficulty in showing intimacy gave me very mixed signals as a teenager. I was taught that sex was dirty and an obligation, and while I realize that this is a generational thing, don’t think for a second that being taught such a thing didn’t screw me up.

I want my daughter to bring her daughter into this world full of hope and a recognition that there are always possibilities. That heredity is not destiny and that we are only limited by ourselves. And one more thing: I will actually be a real Lola now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Peter Bradley Adams, “I May Not Let Go”

                   

Miracle Fair

Commonplace miracle:
that so many commonplace miracles happen.

An ordinary miracle:
in the dead of night
the barking of invisible dogs.

One miracle out of many:
a small, airy cloud
yet it can block a large and heavy moon.

Several miracles in one:
an alder tree reflected in the water,
and that it’s backwards left to right
and that it grows there, crown down
and never reaches the bottom,
even though the water is shallow.

An everyday miracle:
winds weak to moderate
turning gusty in storms.

First among equal miracles:
cows are cows.

Second to none:
just this orchard
from just that seed.

A miracle without a cape and top hat:
scattering white doves.

A miracle, for what else could you call it:
today the sun rose at three-fourteen
and will set at eight-o-one.

A miracle, less surprising than it should be:
even though the hand has fewer than six fingers,
it still has more than four.

A miracle, just take a look around:
the world is everywhere.

An additional miracle, as everything is additional:
the unthinkable
is thinkable.

~ Wislawa Szymborska (translated by Joanna Trzeciak)

“Pick a theme and work it to exhaustion . . . the subject must be something you truly love or truly hate.” ~ Dorothea Lange

crashinglybeautiful:Bad Trouble over the WeekendI am trying here to say somethingabout the despised, the defeated,the alienated.About death and disaster.About the wounded, the crippled,the helpless, the rootless,the dislocated.About duress and trouble.About finality.About the last ditch.—Dorothea LangePhoto by Dorothea Lange, Last Ditch series, 1964. Thank you, melisaki.

 

Bad Trouble over the Weekend

I am trying here to say something
about the despised, the defeated,
the alienated. About death and disaster.
About the wounded, the crippled,
the helpless, the rootless,
the dislocated.
About duress and trouble.
About finality.
About the last ditch.

~ Dorothea Lange

Photo by Dorothea Lange, Last Ditch series, 1964

from crashinglybeautiful

“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.” ~ Dorothea Lange

Sea of Stars, Hubble (NASA)

 

“Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… it remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything.” ~ Aaron Siskind

Busy editing graduation photos. More later. Peace.

Theme from Apollo 13

“Here among the thirty thousand days of a long life, a single day stands still.” ~ Donald Hall

“Silent Dawn” by Walter Launt Palmer (1919, oil on canvas)

A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future.  ~ Leonard Bernstein

Frozen Afternoon on Indian Lake, by L. Liwag

Cold and grey here today, this after temperatures in the high 50’s yesterday. All fleeting feelings of spring fever have evaporated. 

Big loss for the Democrats yesterday in the Massachusetts special election to fill the late Senator Kennedy’s seat. We were spanked. Hard. 

Of course, everyone is commenting that this win by a virtually-unknown Republican is a clear indication that the country’s support for President Obama is waning fast and that the mid-term elections could be a toss-up. 

A few reminders: The mid-term elections are almost always a toss-up when a new party takes office. There is no stopping that trend, which results from the incredible impatience of the American voter. That’s right—impatience. 

Might I just suggest that since President Obama has been in office just one short year, those of us who are complaining might want to exercise a bit more of that commodity that is so lacking. One year. No, all the change hasn’t happened. Get real. Did we really expect it all to happen in the first year? And yes, people are afraid of the healthcare bill, mostly because it has been labeled as a giant tax increase, the death of Medicare, a deficit buster. Excuse me, the majority of Americans polled said that they wanted healthcare reform. 

Now that the hard work is under way, people are backing off, saying that they never agreed to higher taxes. Ya da ya da ya da. Tax and spend Democrats. Ya da ya da ya da. Look, Corey and I are already in a fairly high tax bracket, not because we are rich, because if we were rich, we would have all of those wonderful loopholes to keep us from being in a high tax bracket. But I would pay a bit more in taxes if it meant real healthcare reform, available healthcare for anyone who needs it. 

Personally, I have always favored a flat tax: Everyone pays the same percentage, no deductions, no loopholes. If everyone paid the same flat rate, we could get rid of much of the IRS (save a whopping amount there), and the system would be fair. Just imagine if everyone who pays taxes paid a flat 10 percent. For us, that would be a huge savings. For the budget, it would mean an incredible influx of cash from the wealthier sector, you know, those really wealthy people who, in the end, pay about 6 percent. 

Ah. I can dream, can’t I? 

“Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other” ~ Erma Bombeck

Lita looking decidedly unglamorous while freezing at Indian Lake

Yes, I am disappointed in President Obama in some ways, but at the same time, I remind myself that it’s only been a year. Given the eight years that W. had to run this country in the ground, I think that we can allow the POTUS a bit more time to try to enact his proposed changes. I can be more patient, and so can you. 

So the stars are coming out for Haiti. Telethons. Glitz, million-dollar donations. I say, let them. It makes them feel useful, and many of those who are on the forefront are known for their charitable giving anyway. 

I didn’t watch the Golden Globes because those ceremonies bore the crap out of me. However, I will admit to watching the after shows in which the fashion police bash the people who appeared on the red carpet. Apparently, ruffles are big this year. Some women looked like they were going to the junior prom in a dress made by their mom. I’m sorry but peach colored ruffles? Yuck. 

Of course, I can sit here in my flannels and holiday socks and say such things because I do not walk red carpets. No one is shoving cameras at me and asking me inane questions. Personally, I’d rather sit here like the lump that I am than have to endure that kind of mob mentality: Ryan Seacrest leering at Mariah Carey’s over-exposed chest yet again. (When is that woman going to realize that she is not 20; her shoulders are really wide, which is not diminished by her humongous globes, and she just looks baaaaa-d in the clothes that she chooses?) 

But I digress . . . 

“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedures is everything and outcomes are nothing.” ~ Thomas Sowell

Corey in his shades, what else?

Didn’t post yesterday because I was busy sorting through more forms from my doctor, trying to figure out which ones were ready to send to more prescription companies. Managed to get another four packages ready to send, one of which is for my Cymbalta. I just have three left to do, and those are for headache medications. My headache doctor, who isn’t nearly as nice as my back doctor, wouldn’t sign until he had seen me again (even though I just saw him). Luckily, I have already scheduled an appointment for February. 

I also found out today that my hearing for my Social Security benefits may take up to a year to schedule because of the backlog. Luckily, I don’t really have to do anything for that except sign papers and wait. The company representing me does all the hard work. I just show up when/if they finally schedule me. Supposedly the judge hearing these things actually looks at the paperwork and speaks to the person applying to assess validity. 

However, this drawn-out process really makes me wonder how those who supposedly con the system to go on disability ever manage to do so. There seem to be checks and balances at every single turn. But perhaps the checks and balances have been instituted in recent years because of the number of people who have managed to con the system. Who knows. Just more waiting, something I do in my sleep. 

“In its early stages, insomnia is almost an oasis in which those who have to think or suffer darkly take refuge.” ~ Colette

Close-up of Brett at Indian Lake

Speaking of sleep, I fell asleep around 6 a.m., only to wake up about an hour later to take Brett to school, which means that I didn’t really bed down until 7:30. This is getting to be ridiculous. Who does this? I mean, besides people who work the night shift. I don’t work the night shift, and I still don’t sleep at night. I don’t really remember what I dreamt last night, but I have this horrible feeling that Paris Hilton(?) was in it, and that’s just too depressing because it’s a waste of perfectly good dream space. 

Normally Corey takes Brett to school, and I pick him up, but I knew from listening to Corey’s breathing that he didn’t fall asleep until after 5, and he was asleep when Brett came into the room, so there was no point in awaking him when I wasn’t really sound asleep yet. That’s how insomnia is: Either you are fully awake, or you sleep in fits and starts, or the least sound will break your sleep, or all three. Bah. 

Brett has had a bad few days, and I’m not sure as to why. He had seemed to be adjusting to his new medicine, so I don’t know if this is just a hiccup or what. I’m hoping that’s what it is because he only has half a year left to graduate. I would hate for him to crash and miss a lot of school again. 

Anyway, my birthday is coming up this weekend. Have I mentioned that I hate birthdays? I really do, always have. I really don’t know that we’ll be doing anything, maybe a movie. There are a couple that I would like to see. We’ll just have to see how it goes. And then next week I’m having a caudal done on my back for some intra-spine cortisone. Love my life. 

No really, I do love my life, just hate the individual pieces in it sometimes. 

As for the not sleeping, well I imagine that sometime in the next year that, too, will resolve itself. Thankfully, it does not require a form or a signature to do so. Until then, I will try to appreciate the dawns that creep into my bedroom, moving my sight from darkness to pale light: 

It’s at night, when perhaps we should be dreaming, that the mind is most clear, that we are most able to hold all our life in the palm of our skull.  I don’t know if anyone has ever pointed out that great attraction of insomnia before, but it is so; the night seems to release a little more of our vast backward inheritance of instincts and feelings; as with the dawn, a little honey is allowed to ooze between the lips of the sandwich, a little of the stuff of dreams to drip into the waking mind. ~ Brian W. Aldiss 

More pictures from Ohio trip. More later. Peace.  

Music by Enya, “Stars and Midnight Blue” (Don’t know why I don’t think of her when I cannot sleep) . . . 

  

                                                                                                                                  

The Second Room

The maple that trembles in front of our window
Is like another room we enter
Only when falling asleep and near
Dreams, when it’s difficult to know
What distinguishes the soul and the body, and the night.
Then we become little by little this foliage
That endlessly whispers and perhaps travels
With our sleep which it takes in and leads right
To where roots plunge, the very depths,
Where the top of small branches wanders under the wind.
We sleep, the tree keeps watch, it listens to the words
The dark tree of dreams murmurs as it sleeps.
 

~ Jacques Réda “The Second Room” from Return to Calm (found on Crashingly Beautiful)

 

 

“Veritum dies aperit” (Time discovers the truth) ~ Seneca

Staying Put Zink Arkansas 1935 by Ben Shahn

One of the few remaining inhabitants of Zinc, Arkansas, October 1935 by Ben Shahn

Time does not change us. It just unfolds us.” ~ Max Frisch

“Time stays long enough for anyone who will use it.” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

I think that Corey took a smartass pill when he woke up today. He’s showing all of the classic signs. I could tell that it was going to rain as soon as I woke up because I had  a sinus headache. When I commented that everytime the barometric pressure drops, I get a headache, Corey replied, “Aren’t you glad that you are so in tune with mother nature?” Funny. Very funny.

My husband the wit.

So Izzie the Trooper is going to be coming home tomorrow. We still need to buy a new battery and a spare tire before our trip to Ohio. I’m not driving through the mountains of West Virginia without a spare tire. Not with our luck. But once the Trooper comes home, I plan to try to clean her insides top to bottom, rid of her of the tobacco atoms that are clinging to everything. Of course, once Eamonn starts driving her again, it will all be for naught, but until that time, she’s still mine, and I want her to smell clean, even if it means that I Febreze the hell out of her.

Itenerand photographer in Columbus OH by Ben Shahn 1938
Itinerant Photographer in Columbus, OH, by Ben Shahn (1938)

We haven’t been able to make the trip to Ohio in years, mostly because of my back problems. This will be the first time that I have been on such a long car journey. I’m hoping for the best, but if I arrive shaped like a pretzel, I won’t be surprised. The trip is to celebrate Corey’s dad’s birthday, and our arrival is supposed to be a surprise. The whole family is going to Indian Lake.

Corey took us to Indian Lake one year when the boys were still relatively young. Corey and the boys rented a paddle boat and went all around the lake. I sat on a blanket in the sun and read a book. Everyone was happy. But I’m pretty sure that we ran out of gas either to or from the lake. That was when we owned the big gnarly Buick that I hated, and if I remember correctly, Corey ran out of gas with that car more than once.

He still does that—runs out of gas—only not as frequently. He also gets lost, but won’t admit it. Don’t ask me why he does these things. It’s just one of those Corey things. The first time that he did it with the boys in the car, they were young, and they became very anxious. They kept asking us if we were in a bad part of town. We were somewhere in Richmond on our way to Ohio. Eamonn had obviously learned the term “bad part of town” from somewhere, so I explained to him that being out of gas and lost is always a bad part of town.

One of these days I’m going to be able to afford a Magellan for Corey, which will at least take care of the getting lost part.

Oh well. Not really what my subject is today.

“Time is not a reality (hypostasis), but a concept (noêma) or a measure (metron).” ~ Antiphon from On Truth

A few months back David Bridger, one of the writers who I visit frequently, posed a question on his blog: If you could go back in time, where would you go? Who would you see? What would you do? Good idea for a post David (who is busy working on his book, preparing for two fall weddings, and taking care of wife Janette: Hello to everyone).

I’ve kept that post in the back of my mind for a while now without tackling it because my answer (of course) wouldn’t be just one point in time. I have managed to narrow it to three different points in time: the Renaissance, the Great Depression, and France during WWII, all for very different reasons.

The Tudfors S3 Henry
The Tudors (season 3) Jonathan Rhys-Davies as Henry VIII

Being a writer and a lover of great literature, the Renaissance is probably the most predictable answer for me. Granted, the Renaissance is a pretty broad time period, beginning after the Middle Ages and ending with the Reformation (approximately 1450 to 1600). However, the time in which I would be most interested would be during the Elizabethan period of literature, during which writers such as Shakespeare, Marlowe, Donne, and Spenser were prolific.

Granted, living conditions in Tudor England would be a tad hard to adapt to, what with chamber pots being emptied out of windows and a lack of a central drainage system. Threats of the plague might put a damper on things; although drinking ale for breakfast as opposed to a hot cup of tea would be interesting, if not an engaging way in which to begin the day.

Obviously, life would not be a brilliant pageant of color and intrigue like Showtime’s The Tudors (alas, alack), which, by the way, I am not enjoying as much in Season 3 as in previous seasons. Probably the lack of spark provided by Natalie Dormer as Anne Boleyn.

But as usual, I digress . . .

My real interest in looking in on Elizabethan England would lie in the relationship between Shakespeare and Marlowe. Did Shakespeare actually steal from Marlowe? Was Marlowe as prolific as Shakespeare? Could Marlowe have been the better playwright if he had lived longer? Actually, conspiracy theorists about the Bard contend that Shakespeare’s works could have been written by Sir Francis Bacon, Ben Jonson, and Edward de Vere. Why such a reluctance to attribute to Shakespeare that which is Shakespeare’s?

Who knows? But it would be wonderful to go back in time to see the literary masters at work, to look over Shakespeare’s shoulder as he created his own version of Richard III. To visit with the man who created Falstaff.

“It is one thing to photograph people. It is another to make others care about them by revealing the core of their humanness.” ~ Paul Strand

Fiddlin Bill Hensley Asheville NC by Ben Shahn
Fiddlin' Bill Hensley, Asheville, NC, by Ben Shahn

Another time that I would like to visit would be the Great Depression, specifically that period during which Roosevelt’s photographers for the WPA were in service.

The WPA was the Works Progress Administration, a government-funded program for artists during the mid 1930’s to mid 1940’s. Artists who received funding during the WPA included Mark Rothko and Jackson Pollock. Among the writers of the Federal Writers’ Project were Zora Neale Hurston, John Steinbeck, and Claude McKay. But my interest lies with the photographers, people like Dorothea Lange, Ben Shahn, and Walker Evans, the individuals who created an enduring photographic record of a period in American history during the artistic period known as social realism.

I am in awe of these masters of the genre who took the art of photography to new heights with their achingly real depictions of people and places. Personally, I have never been very good at capturing the essence of a person in a photograph, which is why I tend to stay with nature and architecture. I believe that it takes an artist with great insight to be able to capture that moment of greatest personal revelation on film, and I know of none better than Lange, Evans and Shahn.

Of her famous picture of the migrant mother, Lange had this to say in an interview in 1960:

I saw and approached the hungry and desperate mother, as if drawn by a magnet. I do not remember how I explained my presence or my camera to her, but I do remember she asked me no questions. I made five exposures, working closer and closer from the same direction. I did not ask her name or her history. She told me her age, that she was thirty-two. She said that they had been living on frozen vegetables from the surrounding fields, and birds that the children killed. She had just sold the tires from her car to buy food. There she sat in that lean-to tent with her children huddled around her, and seemed to know that my pictures might help her, and so she helped me. There was a sort of equality about it. (From Popular Photography, Feb. 1960).

The photographers worked for the WPA for about $23 a week as starting wages. Many felt fortunate to be able to plie their trade in a period in which so few had any meaningful work. But as the Library of Congress collection reveals, what may have begun as merely a way to make a living became an intense affinity for the American people, a record of their hardships, sorrows, and sometimes, their small celebrations.

So while a journey back to one of the most painful periods in our country’s history may seem like a bizarre choice, being able to watch these artists, perhaps even to emulate them would be an amazing opportunity.

“Le jour de gloire est arrivé !” ~ La Marseillaise

My last choice probably seems like the oddest of the three: France during WWII.

I do not view World War II as a particularly wonderful time in history. On the contrary. However, I would like to think that if I were living in France during this dark period in history that I would have participated in the French Resistance movement.

French Resistance Croix de Lorraine symbol
Croix de Lorraine, Symbol of French Resistance

Essentially, there were two main movements. The Conseil National de la Résistance or the National Council of the Resistance was created by John Moulin. The CNR directed and coordinated the different movements of the French Resistance: the press, trade unions, and members of political parties hostile to the Vichy France. Eventually, the CNR  coordinated with the Free French Forces, led by Charles De Gaulle

The French resistance included men, women and children from all social classes, religions, and political movements who worked against the Nazi occupation in France. Although the Resistance was responsible for blowing up key targets, members also published underground newspapers, helped Allied soldiers to freedom, collected and disseminated military intelligence, and raising awareness among the French populace.

Even though women were not allowed many leadership roles in the Resistance, I still think that it would have been admirable to work on one of the underground presses, churning out anti-Nazi propaganda. It’s that anti-establishment streak that runs through my veins, not a glorification of the Resistance that has been depicted in so many movies that makes me think that I could have participated in such a movement. Doing something, standing up for your beliefs.

“Come on and cry me a river, cry me a river” ~ From “Cry Me a River,” by Arthur Hamilton 

Other notable eras of which I wish I could have played a part: The era of great torch singers (Etta James, Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Lena Horne ). Oh those bluesy, unrequited love songs, like “Can’t Help Loving That Man of Mine” and how they just rip at the very fabric of the heart. Other eras that I wouldn’t mind visiting would be the age of the emerging confessional poets (Anne Sexton, Sylvia Plath, Adrienne Rich) , as well as Europe during the Impressionistic period in art—Van Gogh, Cézanne, Monet, Gaugin—all of that angst amidst all of that beauty.

For now, I’m sitting here in 2009, with my old soul and my dreams of other days.

 

 

More later. Peace.