Wednesday, March 13, 2013

A pagan tree.  Only a block away to the west is a mature holly tree that towers over the town street light beside it.  It is resplendent with clusters of red berries.  On its bark grows a mass of ivy.  The town light is a sacrilegious affront to it. 

A windy lunch.  Red Car and I stop at a rest area on the interstate for a picnic lunch.  I’m wearing warm overcoat and head cover, good things to endure against the cold wind.  The wind blows my lunch box down the table.  As I eat a salad and sandwich and banana, I notice cows grazing in the field opposite.  They are not uncomfortable in the wind.  Why should I be? 

A windy walk.  The day is windy and overcast.  The wind is high and blows the tree branches above and scatters clouds.  Sudden down drafts let me feel as well as see that there is power there.  I like to walk in strong wind. 

At the piano.  I read “Tango,” from Espana by Albeniz.  Della, where are you?  Bring your castanets!

Facebook.  Facebook is noise.  As I read postings, mine included, I feel that I am on duty in Sophomore Hall in a high school.  I have finished with it.  There are two friends who post photographs that show images of places and things close to them.  They reveal secure and strong souls.  I have emailed them and asked them to send me a photo through email now and then.  They will inspire me and help me on this journey.  The rest on Facebook, enjoy.  Blare on. 

Visitors.  The genial robin; the peaceful, calm cardinal; the Eastern bluebird, rightly associated with happiness; the modest, whirring dove; the self-important, squawking grackles; the stately crow; the rhapsodic songster mockingbird; and the ever-active frisky squirrel.  Good company, welcomed visitors. 

Fiction.  John Steinbeck, Tortilla Flat (1935).  Tortilla Flat is fun.  Steinbeck’s tone is humorous, and his characters, the paisanos that live in Monterey, are presented as intelligent, manipulative, spontaneous.  They are homeless, beggars, unmotivated by money, alcoholics.  Steinbeck presents them as totally likeable.  He loves them.  In the notes to the handsome Library of America edition, editors share this quotation from Steinbeck:  “When this book was written, it did not occur to me that the paisanos were curious or quaint, dispossesed, or underdoggish.  They are people whom I know and like, people who merge successfully with their habitat.  In men this is called philosophy, and it is a fine thing. . . . I wrote these stories because they were true stories, and because I liked them.  But literary slummers have taken these people up with the vulgarity of duchesses who are amused and sorry for peasantry. . . . [my characters] these good people of laughter and kindness, of honest lusts and direct eyes, of courtesy beyond politeness.”   One of my favorite scenes in literature is the scene in which the Pirate tells his five dogs, named Enrique, Rudolph, Fluff, Pajarito, and Senior Alec Thompson, of the blessed work of St. Francis, which he has heard at mass.  “The dogs sat patiently, their eyes on the Pirate’s lips.  He told everything the priest had told, all the stories, all the observations.  Hardly a word was out of place.”  There was quietness when he finished, a sense of holiness.  When he heard a “tiny sound” behind him, the Pirate noticed that the dogs looked up and then looked down.  Pirate assumes that the dogs had seen a vision of St. Francis.  When he asked the dogs, they “lept up at his tone.  Their mouths opened and their tails threshed joyfully.” 

Through the day in Monterey:  Quotations from Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat: 

“It is a time of quiet joy, the sunny morning.  When the glittery dew is on the mallow weeds, each leaf holds a jewel which is beautiful if not valuable.  There is no time for hurry or for bustle.  Thoughts are slow and deep and golden in the morning.”  (Chapter 4)

“The afternoon came down as imperceptibly as age comes to a happy man.  A little gold entered into the sunlight.  The bay became bluer and dimpled with shore-wind ripples.  Those lonely fishermen who believe that the fish bite at high tide left their rocks, and their places were taken by others, who were convinced that the fish bite at low tide.” (Chapter 5)

“It was purple dusk, that sweet time when the day’s sleeping is over, and the evening of pleasure and conversation has not begun.  The pine trees were very black against the sky, and all objects on the ground were obscured with dark, but the sky was as mournfully bright as memory.  The gulls flew lazily home to the sea rocks after a day’s visit to the fish canneries of Monterey.”  (Chapter 3)

Nonfiction.  Charlotte Hawkins Brown, The Correct Thing   To Do  To Say  To Wear.  This book was referred to at the Smithsonian Museum of American History in an exhibit on railway travel.  I had not visited the Palmer Memorial Institute, the school founded by Dr. Brown, between Burlington and Greensboro, now a state historic site.  I visited and spent a couple of hours there.  The docent, a graduate of the school, gave an interesting tour.  I will visit again before I write more about the experience.  This book was used in the school as required reading for one goal of the school, that students be “culturally secure.”  It is an etiquette book, directed to students.  Examples:  “Don’t mistake the classroom for a lunchroom or a bedroom.”  “Eat slowly and noiselessly, don’t ‘feed.'”  “Do not chew gum.  It is always bad taste to chew gum in public.”  “Whatever religion in any form may lack, the out-going of one’s self, the sacrifice of one’s desires for noble ends, which in itself is the very kernel of the teachings of Jesus, transcends any joy derived from acheivement of material gains.”  There are chapters on correct behavior at home, at table, at church, at concerts, at dances.  There are standards of behavior expected for both young men and young women.  It was fun to read and to consider.

Thank you for reading.  I hope you are enjoying these last days of winter.

About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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2 Responses to Wednesday, March 13, 2013

  1. Sandra S says:

    Bill, this week was especially enjoyable to read – thank you. I share your fondness for Steinbeck and Tortilla Flats is a favorite. I’m conflicted about Facebook. I stay away for a week at a time or longer and don’t seem to miss a thing.

  2. ewellons says:

    Oh, Bill. I hear my mother’s voice about chewing gum. Just don’t ever do it!
    Facebook. . . I go on it from time to time just to see if there are pictures of my grandchildren that I might have missed. Otherwise, who needs it? To answer my own question, apparently a lot of people do!
    Hope you’ll muse over the newly elected Pope. Been watching all afternoon — but am not sure why!

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