On this day, June 23, 1295, the current Pope, Boniface VII “entered Rome” as they say, and made it — for a time being, at least — the center of the papacy. This is perhaps an historical event of not too much current interest, except to historians and maybe some of us who were raised Catholic. Boniface and all his troubles and triumphs and troubles again (he was Pope only from 1294 to 1303, when he was perhaps murdered) represents a bloody period in the history of the Roman Catholicism as well as the history of Europe in general, so it’s not too surprising to hear that he was a bloody type. What is a little disconcerting is to hear the story of the sack of Palestrina, a city which had surrendered with the understanding that it would be left standing. Boniface not only saw to that the city was utterly destroyed, but also poured salt on the ruins. He appear in Dante’s Inferno inhabiting the seventh ring of hell. Not for his conduct at Palestrina, but as a simonist, one guilty of selling church relics and favors.
Several, maybe. There are so many wonderful places to be, it seems almost ungrateful to pick one, but I’m a fool for the ocean. The ocean never disappoints.
Growing up in a rural mountain area, I had never seen the ocean (except in pictures, of course) until I was well into my twenties. By then, even then, so many things that had been hyped in my childhood had turned out to be, if not, frauds, well, not as exciting as they were said to be. I’m not talking about sex or roller coasters here. Those are pretty reliable too. And I had not, nor have yet had occasion to see the Grand Canyon or the Taj Mahal. I’m talking about much smaller frauds here. Nonetheless, there was some fear. Suppose it was just a lot of water and so what? Among other things, I guess I mean, suppose I was not up to seeing it?
Well, you know why, don’t you? It’s all those pictures. When you’ve seen a million pictures of something it’s sometimes hard to really see it then. Some things — I’m being so tactful here — just look too much like their pictures. Yawn. And then there was the ocean. A definite Cortez moment (you know, silent on a peak etc.). The ocean was everything I’d hoped it would be.
I think it was the noise. One is never prepared, even by a lifetime of watching movies, for the actual noise the actual ocean makes as it throws itself, heedless. Second, of course, it’s much too big for a picture, so there you go. When you’re actually standing there looking into the face of the ocean, the first realization is that you can’t. The ocean is just too big to look at all at once. Part of it isn’t even visible, even though you can’t help knowing it’s there.
What really surprised me, what has really surprised me over a number of years, of decades, is this keeps on happening. The ocean continues to be too big to be boring, too noisy to be ignored, too beautiful. Some people maybe feel this way about standing on mountain tops. But the countryside, no matter how far the eagle’s eye can see, doesn’t move. Well, except if it does, that’s a very bad thing. The ocean threatens us and we love it. Well, I love it.
This last picture, is by Winslow Homer, and the thumbnail of the Maine Coast is from Wikimedia (many thanks). The other two are mine and were taken in Florida. But the remarks above apply to oceans everywhere.
Here it is, the street where that murder took place. Recognize it? I don’t either, but something in my bones tells me this is it. It looks so innocent and pre-war. Yes, it looks (to me) like 1927. Don’t look too closely at that surrealistic automobile,, lurking in the left vanishing point, or the worse one hiding behind the fence. They can’t help being there. It’s like the innocent bystanders who didn’t manage to get themselves indoors and out of sight before the police arrive. The sun is shining on this spot but it’s an ironic sun. This street speaks of exit. This street says, too late, too late. And it isn’t even willing to say what it’s too late for.
This is the kind of scene the crime leaves behind. That is, not streaked with blood, but after the blood has been all tidied away. This is a street trying to assume its innocence. That picket fence alone is worth a thousand lies. That spot of sunshine, pretending, perhaps, to be a sit-in for something else.
They once lived on this street, you know. I mean, the victims. It was green then and banked with flowers. Automobiles grazed its pleasant lea. Don’t look too closely into the windows of those houses, crouching behind the fence, or staying — far left — out of the picture altogether.
The impulse is to put names to the gangsters, but only stereotypes come to mind. Jay Gatsby could have been here. He would have been proud of this neighborhood. Or ashamed.
Am I saying nostalgia is murderous? I may be. Once you get going with automatic writing, it’s hard to say what’s going to come up. This photograph is like that. It’s only a blink in time. It’s only a little place, a spot on street that doesn’t even want to say whether it’s city, suburb, or rural (stops to take a look). Look how big those trees are! Whatever this place is, it’s been here for a while. Those trees — how heavily they hang their branches — have been looking down on the multifaceted transgressions of human beings for a long, long time. And when the sun shines on this road, this street, if that is what it its, it’s because they let it. They have been laced through and through with the bothering of civilization, the telephone lines, the electric wires. And they have witnessed.
With any luck at all, they will still be here, after the murders have been forgotten. After it’s all been tidied up. But luck, that’s what we’re all hoping for, right?
[This has been a spontaneous writing exercise in an enterprise called Writing 101. No humans or animals — or trees — were harmed in the making of it.]
But no pressure, right? As I browse through the postings from Blogging 101 — and with that, all the other delicious postings the Reader tells me about — I begin to think: my dream reader would be somebody who has the time to read. Or the patience. What a lot of words there are already in the world! So, Dream Reader, here’s what I’m thinking:
I won’t expect you to understand my life choices. Wow. When I read that possible prompt (“maybe your dad, so he’ll finally understand your life choices”), I had a moment’s almost dizziness. Imagine what it would be like to have someone — Dad, anybody — who understood your life choices. Imagine — for just a precious moment, say — what it would be like, being able to understand your life choices yourself. Oh, that would be something. Reader, I don’t expect to understand your life choices either. That’s okay with me. Life choices are very confusing.
I am curious about them. Really, deeply so. And I hope you’re curious about mine. Even if just a little. In a kindly way. With willingness, if not identification. With interest and not aversion. With, well, patience. There might be something there.
I like new ideas. Hope you do too. Even better, I like new corroboration of my old ideas. Bet you do, too. And the old viewed from new angles, reader. I want you to like that too, because I do. And I send out my pictures and perceptions with some hope they might tickle some sense of recognition, of mirth, or compassion, or just plain interest.
Reader, you and I, we face each other, in a kind of blindness, getting glimpses of this and that. When I read something, I hope it will add to my day — maybe my life — and if I only could, I’d be that for you too.
First Post for Blogging 101/ January 2015
Who am I, etc. It’s a fair question. The About page of this blog gives a lot of the basic “facts.” Retired from a bunch of things, I’m looking to see what I can do with this medium. So far, I’ve been posting mainly photography. I’d like to expand that a little and I’m using this course as a jumping-off point. I hope to do memoir, essays, things like that.
I do keep a personal journal and it’s just that: personal. With the blog i’d like to be in touch with others. Maybe the real question is: why not Facebook or something like that? That’s harder to answer. I see a lot of people doing interesting things on Facebook. I think the answer to that is I’m looking for a little room to turn around in.
The first topic that comes to mind is memoir, probably because I already edit a memoir section in an online magazine, so it’s a subject that interests me. Also, I think writing about the past can lead to insights about the present.
Well, of course I’d love to connect with anyone who’s interested in hearing what I have to say — and who will have things to say back to me. I’d really love to get some conversations going. I suspect most of my readers will come from my age cohort, but I don’t assume it. When I was younger, I was interested in what some of the oldies had to say. I’m guessing there may be younger people out there who may connect with me in the same way.
If I blog successfully throughout the next year, I would hope to have written at least a handful of repeatable essays and
connected with some interesting people. Oh yes, and not least, I hope to learn more about how to use WordPress.
My schedule this semester is putting me behind the eight ball, but I didn’t want to miss Halloween. I have some neighbors who really do justice to the season and so most of this is from their display.
This is what happens when you don’t brush your teeth, right?
I guess this is her sister, bad orthodontistry.
And these guys — not from anybody’s seasonal display. But don’t they look as if they’re saying trick or treat?
Hope yours is full of fun.
Even getting to work (this was taken in the employee parking lot of a local hospital).
And there’s getting around just for the fun of it
and in the imagination
and by train (Yonkers, New York, taken from the train)
Or on foot
or just catching a ride.
The circle is such an attractive shape. Even if I had the ability to speculate why, I wouldn’t get into that here (books and books about it), but the ghost of all that speculation — geometric, psychological, occult and esoteric — hangs around it. Around, indeed. Around and around, circles draw the eye and they draw my eye, maybe more than most any shape.
Even when they’re not particularly beautiful, circles compel attention.
invoking all those ideas about them — unity, fullness, ripeness, oh we could go on and on.
and we could remark about their usefulness
but wouldn’t that be redundant?
and beside the point?
But the circle would still draw the eye.
Even when it’s not quite there.