This past Sunday, I had the privilege of attending a birthday party for the honorableand excellent Dali Lama, who had turned 79 on July 3. This party was held at a local Tibetan Buddhist temple and I was lucky to be invited. Actually, the person invited was a friend of mine. She was able to extend the invite to me as well and I was happy to go along. It was a real treat to see people in the town where I lived celebrating so venerable a person. The experience made me very aware of how many things spiritual and social rites have in common — even when they look a little exotic.
I wouldn’t normally be writing on a Saturday, but I missed a day this week, so this is for the continuity. That seems appropriate since the whole post itself is going to be about difficulty. The July – August issue of Hearing Loss Magazine has a front cover picture which I can’t reproduce, since it’s copyrighted — and i have no money for permissions. But try this: http://www.hearingloss.org/membership/hearing-loss-magazine/current-issue
Timothy Chambers, featured on the cover is a man who has Usher Syndrome. That is, he is not only deaf and getting deafer (like myself), but also losing his eyesight. This would be difficulty enough, one might think, but then there’s Timothy Chamber’s profession. He is a portrait painter. The rosebuds he has been gathering are graduallybecoming invisible. I can tell from the article about him — and I recommend reading it — that Timothy Chambers is a large-hearted individual. He is not just living with his difficulty. He is continuing to pursue his vocation. For as long as he can. As best as he can. And cheerfully, full of the faith that informs his particular life. That’s what it comes down to, for all of us, any of us. Life is full of losses and substitutions. From Anne Landers to Job, people have spoken of it more eloquently than I can. But i do want to notice it. It may be the essence of what I’m trying to frame this blog around. First there’s what we’re born with. Then, there’s what we keep on having. And then there’s what we do with it. It’s always a dance, no matter how you do it.
A peculiar thought has struck me about those rosebud gatherers. Not necessarily the ones in Herrick’s poem — they obviously are women he is urging, in a seventeenth century kind of way, to have sex with him, or somebody. Anybody! Those virgins are a figment of the imagination. The ones I’m thinking about today are these virgins: hard at work in a painting by John Williams Waterhouse, a preRaphaelite painter of some note in 1909. These women are hard at work. Just look at the expressions on their faces. Are they being paid? Or are they just succumbing to some kind of social pressure (“We need rosebuds for the parade, girls. Get to it!)? Either way, it’s work. I write this on a national day off, an occasion where there will be more rockets than rosebuds, but here’s the thought anyway. Gathering rosebuds, among its many meanings (both of rosebuds and of gathering) isn’t necessarily a frivolous thing. Even to the world of enterprise. I’m especially taken by the virgin in the upper right corner. She has a lapful of roses. A good day’s work! Let’s hope they get some time off to celebrate.
Blogging is just like real life, I say (in the utmost spirit of speculation), in this respect: you act it out sequentially. It comes out all backwards. Yesterday I talked about different kinds of rosebuds and the day before that I talked about why this should be an issue. Remember? Do I remember? I mean, what is memory but a successively dimming progression of posts? And that’s all in the privacy of one’s own head — where presumably one remembers the details of what went before — or most of it. But what happens when memory goes? Everything becomes stand-alone. What am I doing in this room? Looking for something? Did somebody call? Why is that book lying in the bathtub? It’s called a Senior Moment, but that’s just to remind seniors
how vulnerable it is to be senior. Everybody has some version of those questions. Especially: what am I doing here? It’s the pleasure of the mystery novel, which — no matter what some people say about it — is really all and only or almost only about this: the revelation of the thing that went before. I know. It’s supposed to be about righting wrongs and all that. But, really. What fires the engine is that question. It lurks there in
the background. Well, really, in the case of fiction, it’s been planted there in the background. And readers of mysteries are like dogs sniffing out, from the scents in the world, what happened yesterday, who happened yesterday. We are a little more passive than dogs. We don’t then respond to the revelations by adding our own markings. Well, as a reader of mostly public library holdings, i notice that some readers can’t restrain themselves from doing that too. One has to be glad it’s done with pencil or ink. Sometimes catsup too, but i think that might be accidental. Where was I? Oh yes: blogs are backwards. And of course, most people take care of that problem by making each day’s post relevant to its day, not to its past. Amnesiacs all, inviting other amnesiacs to take part in that moment’s activity. This is not a criticism. it’s a good strategy. It might even be in itself a form of gathering rosebuds.
It isn’t odd that there are a lot of things called “rosebud,” if you just think about it for a minute. Rosebuds are pretty common and pretty nice. That Kane’s sled was named “rosebud” was just an ordinary bit of prettiness. It could have been “Swan” or “Pretty Boy.” The symbolism that was intrinsic to the name was in its context, not its associations. Some other things called “rosebud” include: a hockey team, a Sioux Indian tribe, an Italian restaurant in Chicago, a county in Montana and a guitar belonging to Jerry Garcia.
Only the latter has any possible connection to Orson Welles’ invention of Kane’s childhood memory, and that, speculative. Someone speculates Garcia could have renamed the guitar — originally called “saint” by the luthier who made it — because he was “into film.” The same source notes also the rose in the teeth of that famous Grateful Dead icon, the skeleton. That seems a bit more likely to me, but who knows?
The Sioux tribe had its name a long time before any of these other things got named and apparently the hockey team has been around for a while too.
Personally, I’m very sympathetic toward the idea of naming a diner, “rosebud.” Rosebuds are so petite, diners so very not. Although some seem more so than others. As for counties and restaurants, why not?
The gist of all this? It’s not so remarkable that good endeavors get to be called rosebuds. The word, after all, has had plenty of practice.