Sunday, March 31, 2013
Easter brunch at home with Mabel Watson Payne. She learned the word brunch as a scrunched-together form of breakfast and lunch. It pleased Mabel to understand about brunch. Daddy made an abundance of thin delicate pancakes. There were excellent strawberries and deviled eggs and meats and other things. Grandma provided the traditional Easter egg cookies, which always come from the Virginia Bakery in Berkeley and have remained their same excellent unchanged selves for my daughter's entire lifetime. She has rarely known an Easter without their presence.
Yet when I see an object like this in a museum or in somebody's expensive apartment, the first thing that occurs to me is how glad I am not to have the responsibility of caring for it and keeping it safe. This is a paradox. Ancient, cloudy, half-degraded mirrors fascinate me, especially those surrounded by gleaming giltwood carving of miraculous grace. Gazing and pondering is an absolute pleasure, but never without the nagging mental caveat that it would be horrifying to discover that I actually owned such a thing.
Saturday, March 30, 2013
Above, one of the sample borders laid out to raise ambitions and entice imitation among gardener-visitors to Berkeley Horticultural Nursery (known to all as Berkeley Hort). Friday morning I found myself there, rather than in my office at the library – since the campus where my library is located shuts down every year for Good Friday. We were choosing the first wave of new spring flowers for the East Bay garden of Mabel's grandma. And I particularly admired the chartreuse ceramic birdbath in the picture immediately above – but then reflected that at this point in her life my granddaughter would inevitably pull it over on top of herself – it looked to be just about her height – and intense as its charms might be, they could not justify the risk.
Friday, March 29, 2013
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Retreating from the world, all I can do
Is build a new world, one demanding less
Acute assessments. Too deaf to keep pace
With conversation, I don't try to guess
At meanings, or unpack a stroke of wit,
But just send silent signals with my face
That claim I've not succumbed to loneliness
And might be ready to come in on cue.
People still turn towards me where I sit.
I used to notice everything, and spoke
A language full of details that I'd seen,
And people were amused; but now I see
Only a little way. What can they mean,
My phrases? They come drifting like the mist
I look through if someone appears to be
Smiling in my direction. Have they been?
This was the time when I most liked to smoke.
My watch-band feels too loose around my wrist.
My body, sensitive in every way
Save one, can still proceed from chair to chair,
But in my mind the fires are dying fast.
Breathe through a scarf. Steer clear of the cold air.
Think less of love and all that you have lost.
You have no future so forget the past.
Let this be no occasion for despair.
Cherish the prison of your waning day.
Remember liberty, and what it cost.
Be pleased that things are simple now, at least,
As certitude succeeds bewilderment.
The storm blew out and this is the dead calm.
The pain is going where the passion went.
Few things will move you now to lose your head
And you can cause, or be caused, little harm.
Tonight you leave your audience content:
You were the ghost they wanted at the feast,
Though none of them recalls a word you said.
– Clive James (published earlier this month in the TLS)
When all my faculties are burning as low as those described here, I wonder if I also will find myself able (like Clive James, pictured above) to invent a new and rigorous verse-form. The actual message purports to be about aging – about the relentless increase of frailty and isolation – yet that message is delivered to readers in a container of such ironic beauty and strength that its sad truth seems somehow to be miraculously contradicted even as it is uttered.