Wednesday, 26 September 2007

hyacinths to feed the soul

Times are hard here in the Peaceable Kingdom, but there are bright spots too. I have found some literary things to ponder, to keep my equilibrium through the dark days. (Last September was very very hard, too. I hope this is not a trend.)

This first one is by Adam Zagajewski, translated from Polish by Claire Cavanagh. (People who translate poems are poets as well, methinks.) Blake was a nutty artist and poet, a great favorite of mine.

I watch William Blake, who spotted angels
every day in treetops
and met God on the staircase

of his little house and found light in grimy alleys --
Blake, who died singing gleefully
in a London thronged
with streetwalkers, criminals, and miracles,

William Blake, engraver, who labored
and lived in poverty but not despair,
who received burning signs
from the sea and from the starry sky,

who never lost hope, since hope
was always born anew like breath,
I see those who walked like him on graying streets,

headed toward the dawn´s rosy orchid.

(Blake did the picture at the top. That´s Isaac Newton, looking a whole lot more buff than the REAL Isaac Newton ever did, I bet! I like best all the mosses and plants. It took some nerve for Ike to sit his naked bum down on that rock.)

I am working very hard lately, on learning Spanish, on finishing the Chik-N-Hut, on keeping my chin up and hope alive. It´s part of my Protestant Work Ethic. Herbert Spencer, an English eccentric featured in the Aug. 13 New Yorker, gave me this good reminder:

¨Life is not for learning, nor is life for working, but learning and working are for life.¨

Herbert said that to a collection of America´s leading Victorian industrialists and politicians at Delmonico´s Restaurant on Nov. 9 1882. They were not impressed.
"Having administered that slap to the face of national virtue, Spencer steamed back to England."

Another very fitting item found recently is the classic cartoon setup of a hiker encountering a bearded old man perched outside a mountain cave. The old man says, "I´m not a guru. I´m just hanging out here till my renovation is done.¨

Not all the encouragement is literary. One of my favorite kinds arrives in the post. I have always adored surprises, and have been known to have things I don´t need delivered just so I can get a package in the mail!

This week my sister Beth sent me a package full of kindness: ten boxes of Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, three paperback novels translated into Spanish (my fave is ¨Dances With Wolves,¨ which in Spanish is ¨Bailando Con Lobos¨) and needful things like checkbooks and an updated charge card, already activated. Beth is my Power of Attorney in the USA. She lets me use her address, and she pays my bills for me. (she uses my money, however!) She researched our family history back to 16th century England, found a cousin nobody knew about, and sends every one of our dozens of relatives a birthday card every year. She is thoughtful. I think a person like Beth is a symptom of a functional family. Beth´s "Care Package" was impeccably timed. It made me cry like a baby.

I´m still plowing through the last Care Package, which arrived last week. It was sent by Kathy, my bud from California. This one was full of books about the myths and psychology of the Blessed Virgin Mary, a longtime fascination of mine. It also included a plastic sort of cookie-cutter thing you press into a slice of bread, to make BVM toast! (Our bread is the wrong shape, though -- Mary comes out all elongated and wavy. And using our toaster makes the lights go all brown. But Mary´s day will come, as God is my witness!) Paddy got books by Carl Popper, a superfine 20th c. philosopher who´s known only to doctoral candidates these days. And to Paddy.

Libby´s gone to walk the Road to Santiago. Anselmo still comes by to have dinner and help out with building chores and Spanish verbs. I gave him a haircut this evening. I gave Paddy one too, after dinner. There is something a bit too intimate about cutting someone else´s hair, it makes me uncomfortable but I am learning how it´s done. Both the men are now shaved almost bald. People are going to start thinking we run a monastery over here. (Just call me Abbess.)

We read, and work, and wait and wonder what will become of us when it gets cold. Maybe I should´ve left Paddy a little hair to keep him warm!

Lacking that, there´s always poetry. This one, that gave me the title for today´s entry, was oft quoted by my Mom, who is indomitable:

If of thy mortal goods thou art bereft,
And from thy slender store two loaves alone to thee are left,
Sell one, and with the dole
Buy hyacinths to feed thy soul.

- Moslih Eddin (Muslih-un-Din) Saadi (I think he´s a A-rab! OMG!)

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