The James

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When home, I walk along a beach or seawall and sometimes think of a conch shell. I hear the Atlantic’s breakers in the James’s soft laps, and I know the river hears the same thing.

Faulkner’s father once offered him a cigar. A teen at the time, Faulkner thought about it, accepted it, broke it open, dumped its contents into his pipe, lit the pipe, and, puffing, thanked him. Faulkner never outgrew his delight at telling this story.

Note: this post appeared first on Instagram @peterstephens

De tail

A day of trailing glories. A wonderful, critical review in this morning’s Post of the Phillips’s new Paul G. Allen exhibition sent us there. A Microsoft cofounder who’s worth just over or under $18B “depending on which side of the bed the market got up on today,” Allen collects art like souvenirs, Philip Kennicott writes. Allen visits the Grand Canyon, but instead of taking snapshots of it, he collects paintings of it, and several are here. Same with Venice: Canaletto, Turner, Manet, Monet, Moran. Allen also has a thing for volcanoes. Philip Kennicott calls him a cypher whose comments in the catalog interview are “disturbingly inarticulate and jejune.” But these big, bold paintings are fun.

Finally got to see Avery’s Dancing Trees. Victoria saw me weeping from across the gallery. Couldn’t hold it in, either, before Hopper’s Clamdigger, which I didn’t know existed. Victoria loves to find things in paintings, and Jan Brueghel the Younger’s Five Senses series occupied her a great deal. But I stumped her when I asked her to find the doggie in Klimt’s Birch Forest. Hint: it’s in the base of a tree trunk on the worthy catalog’s dust cover (image #6 in the press release). Really more of a coyote. Above: Detail from Paul Signac’s Morning Calm, Concarneau, Opus 219 (Larghetto)

Note: this post appeared first on Instagram @peterstephens

Paula

Gas. #winter #Hopper “Tinselations, tessalations, tessaracts — the cold captures the downward trajectory of tears.” Beneath that line, a kind composition of two icicles. It was her last post before the sickness that took her life.

This morning’s ice storm, and the branches and leaves I was drawn to, made me think of Paula Tatarunis and the thoughtful, twelve-year-long conversation between her poetry and photography. It and something of Paula’s spirit are still there, frozen in time: paulashouseoftoast.blogspot.com.

From the same post: “Close looking (while the eye lasts) rewards the eye: someone’s last breath, cast in ice, hangs inside a drop. [photo] For a single brief moment you might think you feel the comforting touch of a humanoid ghost.”

A photo posted by Peter (@peterstephens) on

And now?

The cars at 8:30.  35 inches, more or less, and it looks like it’s about over. The most I’d seen from a single storm up until the past two days was around 30 inches.

I graded yesterday and today, and I hope to get caught up over the next two days. Then lots of planning and some administrative work I’ve put off since the fall. I also want to take a long walk in the snow tomorrow morning. And to read more Walter Benjamin and the Baldwin biography I’m almost through. And to be with Victoria.

Against my ruins

Our cars at 10, 1, and 5.

430. V. Gerard de Nerval, Sonnet El Desdichado.


432. V. Kyd’s Spanish Tragedy.

 434. Shantih. Repeated as here, a formal ending to an Upanishad. “The peace which passeth understanding” is our equivalent to this word.

The end

637px-El_sueño_de_Jacob,_por_José_de_RiberaGot to page 13 today, and Evely’s That Man Is You is living up to its title’s promise of mistaken identity. After all this Christianity, he says, I don’t know God when I see him.

Evely quotes Saul of Tarsus: “Who are you, Lord?” An embarrassing question. Yet to find the Lord in such a place, at such a time, taking on such a tone, walking in such a skin, is to find also that I don’t know the Lord.

It is comedy. Jacob: Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not. Jesus: Surely the Lord is in this face, and you know her not.

It is the path to humility, to resolution, to the last curtain. Eschatology is comedy: Then shall I know even as also I am known. Life is a play inside a play inside a play. But living is dying: stepping out of one playhouse and onto the dark streets of another.

Eternity unfolds in unmaskings. During the play, it makes sense of the past. (The embarrassment of dramatic irony: it was laughter I heard: everyone knew but me.) And I find myself in a role I hate; only faith, that faintest smile, assures me I’m on the right stage. New lines come as the scenes change — or do I improvise? — and I discover my true character.

I am practiced, by the play’s end, in facing my unknown, and I trust that my unmasking will continue.

Saul to Damascus is two unmaskings. Saul doesn’t recognize the Lord, and neither does Ananias:

The Lord said to him, ‘Go to Straight Street, to the house of Judas, and ask for a man from Tarsus named Saul. You will find him at prayer; he has had a vision of a man named Ananias coming in and laying hands on him to restore his sight.’ Ananias answered, ‘Lord, I have often heard about this man and all the harm he has done your people in Jerusalem. Now he is here with authority from the chief priests to arrest all who invoke your name.’ But the Lord replied, ‘You must go, for this man is . . . (Acts 9:11 – 15, REB)

For this man is . . .

It’s the age of masks, the putting down and sorting out by the simplest codes and slurs. It is a tragedy. One hopes for the end, when all will be revealed.

Image: “El sueño de Jacob” by José de Ribera