Friday, August 26, 2011

Friday Night Frolic — Reckoning With Forces

Downtown Providence, RI--1938 Hurricane (RI Historical Society)

Today's Frolic will be brief as we have visitors from Quebecnot to mention a swirling and churning she-storm making its way up the East Coastconverging upon us at any moment.

Our French visitors should be here this afternoon. Irene, if her wrath shan't dwindle, will make her presence known Saturday evening and she may prove to be a force that we New Englanders haven't encountered since the great New England hurricane of 1938. (Though we've weathered significant storms since, but not the sort labeled "Category 3" that also make landfall.)

All this dark, tempestuous she-talk of late reminds me of another force: Danish singer/songwriter Agnes Obel.

Obel's power can be found in the substratum of classical music, simple melodies and often morbid lyrics. You can find more about Agnes here. Her debut album, Philharmonics, was released in September, 2010.

Obel's pitch perfect voice lingers long after the storm has passed. 

Be safe, my East Coast friends. Be safe.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Passing By

Every day we should hear at least one little song, read one good poem, see one exquisite picture, and, if possible, speak a few sensible words.                                                            ~ Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe
One Exquisite Picture
(Or excruciatingly sad violin
farewell to Boston's downtown Borders.)

Oh, hello there. I wasn't sure when I'd make it back either. Then, there was the needling question: Am I prepared to come back?  One minor issue: I haven't settled upon a few sensible words. Which, incidentally, seems of no importance as I've once again misplaced my steno pad. And I'm surely not dressed for a big return—barefoot, in rumpled clothing and disheveled hair. As it were, my writerly chapeau is not fitting well and is in need of a large, pearl-topped hat pin to keep it sitting squarely, and securely, upon my head.

Frankly, I'm not fit to step out, to pass by if even briefly, into grid-swoosh. (Maybe I'm troubled by the potential for gridlock.)

But, I have one little song for you:

(Zaz speaks—or shall I say, sings—for herself. The song title means: passersby. Here are the lyrics in French and English.)

And more—one good poem:

Passer-By, These Are Words 
by Yves Bonnefoy

Passer-by, these are words. But instead of reading
I want you to listen: to this frail
Voice like that of letters eaten by grass.

Lend an ear, hear first of all the happy bee
Foraging in our almost rubbed-out names.
It flits between two sprays of leaves,
Carrying the sound of branches that are real
To those that filigree the still unseen.

Then know an even fainter sound, and let it be
The endless murmuring of all our shades.
Their whisper rises from beneath the stones
To fuse into a single heat with that blind
Light you are as yet, who can still gaze.

May your listening be good! Silence
Is a threshold where a twig breaks in your hand,
Imperceptibly, as you attempt to disengage
A name upon a stone:

And so our absent names untangle your alarms.
And for you who move away, pensively,
Here becomes there without ceasing to be.

* * *

Today the children are back in uniform and at school. Everything passes quickly. Even the things we think will never pass, like babies in diapers, toddlers of the terrible-twos, threes and fours, and sleepless nights pass. I look back and can barely see where those moments once stood. I've not done much to record them but for photos and a few scribbled notes. I remember little bodies scampering about and firm biceps that could pick them up or stop them in their tracks. I remember little voices, loud and exuberant, and often, chafing. All these things pass.

Now, junior high and high school have become a slice of what is here.

My fourteen year old son still has his pre-pubescent early twelve year old voice recorded as a greeting on his cell phone. "Hi, this is Max. Leave a message after the tone."  I thought I might mention this to him before the start of high school. But I couldn't. The under-six-foot intonation is too cute. It makes me smile—and for the time being, is my oral token of what once was there.

We are all just passing by. I'm glad to be passing by here once again. But I really should get dressed and find my notepad and some sensible words.

The real Exquisite Picture
By Étienne-Jules Marey

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

August Ease and Interlude

Out at the tip of Sandy Neck, a coastal barrier beach whose duck-bill tip dips into Barnstable Harbor on the north side of Cape Cod, one can anchor a boat at low tide and walk long stretches of sandy, rippled tidal flat. This gorgeous and well protected stretch of Cape coastline is the result of thousands of years of littoral drift, that began as swept sands collecting around a small nub.

The tide charts tell us when to set out to the tip and when to return. The sun tells us the time of day. And I wonder what these warm New England months would be like had I the luxury of designing my entire summer by tidal charts and sun... 

If I didn't pick up pen and paper all summer long... 

What I might be learning through a quiet, sunny osmosis of these slowed weeks without trying to analyze everything I absorb, like the restoration of St. Peter's Church in Osterville—where my husband and I were married—which includes a raising of the structure to accommodate a real foundation (so I was told by a construction worker, as I drove the children past the chapel that sits, teeters actually, alongside Nantucket Sound).

Photo courtesy of the Gallery--St. Peter's Church
Is everything significant?

I think not. But then, I wonder.

Along the intertidal zone at the crest of Sandy Neck, Max and his young cousin dig a trench and construct a hermit crab hotel. They muse over the small, leggy creatures, explaining that they need to protect the crabs, keep the family together. But they know when the tide shifts the crabs will scatter beyond the hotel, abandoning their fabricated home. They know, even, that as the crabs grow larger, they will eventually abandon their own borrowed shell in search of a roomier one. Yet Max and his cousin do their best to protect them while they can.

It is August. In three weeks the children will return to school and all the harried scheduling that goes along with the same. Summer is short and my boy and girl are getting older. The sands continue to spread. Many waters wait to be explored. And so...

For the next few weeks of this warm interval, I'm going to take a much needed sabbatical—a hiatus from the Friday Night Frolic and other self-imposed blogging demands—to explore more of New England, including what's here at home, with my ever growing children. It won't be long before they shed their shells and inhabit an alien framework. 

And while it may not be feasible to live by the sun, or even the moon, or the tide, and whatever they may bring, I think it may be viable (if not advisable) to utilize these remaining summer days, which have been so unusually beautiful—almost like days borrowed from a tropical land—for the purpose of shoring up the foundation, and enjoying the little muses while they are still little muses.

I'll be back, though, come late August—or sooner, as I'm sure to return to the grid periodically to see what's going on here and with you. Until then, my friends, enjoy this splendid summer.

* - Photo taken from my iPhone (yes, I dumped the android!).