for 1. 1. 2020

 

for 1. 1. 2020 postgutenberg@gmail.com

It was such places as this, such moments that he loved above all else in life; she knew that, and she also knew that he loved them more if she could be there to experience them with him. And although he was aware that the very silences and emptinesses that touched his soul terrified her, he could not bear to be reminded of that. It was as if always he held the fresh hope that she, too, would be touched in the same way as he by solitude and the proximity to infinite things. He had often told her: ‘It is your only hope,’ and she was never sure what he meant. Sometimes she thought he meant that it was his only hope, that only if she were able to become as he was, could he find his way back to love.

— Paul Bowles, The Sheltering Sky

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H A P P Y    N E W    Y E A R 

 

for 25. 12. 2019 

 

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Was Charles Dickens turning vegetarian or fruitarian, if not vegan, when he wrote A Christmas Carol — in 1843? 

That thought is unlikely to have occurred to anyone before this year beginning to drift into the past, in which Tom Parker Bowles — the stepson of Britain’s apparent heir to the throne — has actually published a review of vegan alternatives to the traditional Christmas meats. ‘Ban this sick filth,’ his verdict on one offering, includes the word furky for reasons that anyone curious enough will want to read about independently. About a seemingly inoffensive butternut, almond and pecan nut roast, he thunders in deepest gloom: ‘If this looked at me in the street, I’d cross the road to avoid it.’ 

A quick trawl through Dickens’s Christmas story, in the hope of rereading a luscious tribute to a crisp-skinned, succulent, (de-)feathered beast — surely one appeared on the Cratchit family’s table to a chorus of oohs and aahs? —  proved pointless. It contains nothing of the kind. What Dickens says about ‘the Turkey’ that the newly reformed Scrooge buys at the novella’s end makes it merely a tragicomic victim of gigantism, or morbid obesity: ‘He never could have stood upon his legs, that bird. He would have snapped ‘em, short off, in a minute, like sticks of sealing wax.’ In the scene that Scrooge is served by the Ghost of Christmas Present, Queen Victoria’s favourite writer states simply — about the goose that the Cratchits feast on — that its ‘tenderness and flavor, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration.’ 

No — hard as it is to believe — the foods for which Dickens reserved his peerless powers of evocation are virtually all fruits: 

There were great, round, pot-bellied baskets of chestnuts, shaped like the waistcoats of jolly old gentlemen, lolling at the doors, and tumbling out into the street in their apoplectic opulence. There were ruddy, brown-faced, broad-girthed Spanish Onions shining in the fatness of their growth like Spanish Friars, and winking from their shelves in wanton slyness at the girls as they went by, and glanced demurely at the hung-up mistletoe. There were pears and apples clustered high in blooming pyramids, there were bunches of grapes, made, in the shopkeepers’ benevolence, to dangle from conspicuous hooks, that people’s mouths might water, gratis, as they passed; there were piles of filberts, mossy and brown: recalling in their fragrance ancient walks among the woods, and pleasant shuffling, ankle deep, through withered leaves; there were Norfolk Biffins, squab and swarthy, setting off the yellow of the oranges and lemons, and in the great compactness of their juicy persons, urgently entreating and beseeching to be carried home in paper bags and eaten after dinner. 

Now, compare those enchanting flights of imagination with Dickens’s repetitive sizeism, whenever his Turkey is mentioned:

[ Scrooge ] was checked in his transports by the churches ringing out the lustiest peals he had ever heard. Clash, clang, hammer, ding, dong, bell: bell, dong, ding, hammer, clang, clash! 

Running to the window, he opened it, and put out his head.

… ’What’s to day?’ cried Scrooge, calling downward to a boy in Sunday clothes, who perhaps had loitered in to look about him.

‘EH?’ returned the boy, with all his might of wonder. 

‘What’s to day, my fine fellow!’ said Scrooge.

‘Today!’ replied the boy. ‘Why, CHRISTMAS DAY!’

… ‘Do you know the Poulterer’s in the next street but one, at the corner?’ Scrooge inquired.

‘I should hope I did,’ replied the lad.

‘An intelligent boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘A remarkable boy! Do you know whether they’ve sold the prize Turkey that was hanging up there; not the little prize turkey, the big one?’

‘What, the one as big as me!’ returned the boy.

‘What a delightful boy!’ said Scrooge. ‘It’s a pleasure to talk to him. Yes, my buck!’ 

H A P P Y     C H R I S T M A S

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for 21. 4. 2019

Jackrabbit tracks 1 postgutenberg@gmail.com

Easter 2019 (3) postgutenberg@gmail.comWhere the outdoors matters more than indoors, and in the right habitat, today’s master of ceremonies is an elusive animal that last put in an appearance on this site three years ago — with an incontestable claim to being the true Easter leporid (sorry, fluffy bunnies, you know you did your best). Sightings of the typically solitary, nocturnal, hare — or certainly of the branch of the clan known as Lepus californicus or black-tailed jackrabbits — tend to be most common at this time of year. It is peak breeding season. Dazed by romance and romancing, these beasts can forget how essential extreme caution is to their survival.  

But the photographs here were taken two months ago, during an attempt to keep up with one — a doomed, quixotic chase, because although they run awkwardly, as clumsily as kangaroos waltzing, jackrabbits can travel at forty miles or sixty-four kilometres an hour. 

The paw prints stopped at a bush and not a rabbit hole (below) because jackrabbits do not burrow. They make nests and hide in shallow depressions in thickets, under the most dense shrubs they can find.

As disappointing as it was not to meet the paw print-maker in this series for the briefest encounter, the reminder of their skill at evasion was welcome. As one nature writer has put it — rather tactlessly, from a jackrabbit’s point of view — they exist to transform leaves into food for the coyotes and hawks that prey on them.

That’s not a welcome thought for anyone who cares about Osterhase-borne baskets of festive eggs, so let’s delete it immediately.

HAPPY    EASTER

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Jackrabbit and human tracks postgutenberg.com

For comparison: jackrabbit and human tracks

 

for 1. 1. 2019

red truck, high room postgutenberg@gmail.com

The Room above the Square

The light in the window seemed perpetual
When you stayed in the high room for me;
It glowed above the trees through leaves
Like my certainty.

The light is fallen and you are hidden
In sunbright peninsulas of the sword:
Torn like leaves through Europe is the peace
That through us flowed.

Now I climb up alone to the high room
Above the darkened square
Where among stones and roots, the other
Peaceful lovers are.

Stephen Spender (1909-1995), New Collected Poems

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How is such a mystery to be explained. None of the details fit your circumstances, nor does the story to which they belong, yet the poem could not be better suited to your state.

There are bonuses. It softens the world’s unyielding — adamantine — edges, and reminds you of its magnificence. Rare as this is for blank verse, it plays in your inner ear as a melody.

H  A  P  P  Y    N  E  W    Y  E  A  R

new year's day cactus 2019 postgutenberg@gmail.com