Happy birthday to my close and dear friend. I used to be a letter writer and he was too. We loved to get letters; we loved to write letters. We didn't write novels and poems because we were writing letters though we'd both have thought it wonderful to be a novelist or a poet. If we weren't together, and were doing something worth writing about, we were mentally composing our next letter to one another.
And it is amazing to think of what he didn't encounter because his time was cut short by lung cancer: e-mail; YouTube; Facebook; 9/11; Nirvana; Keith Olbermann; cellphones; digital-this, digital-that; the embarrassment of having an idiot for a President; and the thrill of having an intelligent graceful man replace the idiot ... on and on and on.
And I wonder ... if he were still alive would we be writing letters or would even we have succumbed to emailing, or to encounters on Facebook?
I miss you everyday, my friend. Happy birthday!
Tears want to fall but I squeeze my eyes against them. It must be the tons of yellow pine pollen in the air. I'll drive to Orleans, sit in a cafe, and read, but I'll be thinking of a letter I could write to Dennis and wishing he was back there in Lansing to receive it.
There's been no one that's come close to taking his place.
Pathos rules the day that is his birthday!
I took this picture of blue-eyed curly-haired him when we were in Paris in 1966.
Monday, May 25, 2009
Friday, May 22, 2009
I quote from Isabelle de Courtivron's biography Violette Leduc:
The [final fifty pages] of La Chasse a l'amour* center on Violette's discovery of the Provencal region and her attraction to the little village of Faucon ... [alternating] between the description of the narrator's first enchantment with the area during the early 1960s and passages written from her present vantage point, ten years later, when she is happily settled there. These pages are filled with lyrical descriptions of the perfumes and colors of Provence, of the simple earthiness of the villagers, of the freshness of the food, and of the peaceful atmosphere. Although it is not an easy task to gain the approval of the distrustful community of villagers or to locate an available house, a determined Violette succeeds in obtaining both. The book closes with a description of her cherished monastic existence as the narrator shares with the reader her reconciliation with both her self and the world.
She is buried in Faucon's tiny cimetiere.
Engraved on the marble, and gold-leafed (but, alas, photographed poorly by me):
1907 - 1972
It was very moving to me to sit on her stone, with a book in my hands, paying homage to her. I owe a debt of deep gratitude to my French-speaking brother for his travel guidance, and to Alain Coullet, a Faucon resident whom we were fortunate to have met outside a local boulangerie; Monsieur Coullet kindly showed us which house Violette Leduc lived in, and made it easy to find her resting place in the cemetery.
*I don't know that La Chasse a l'amour has been translated into English; I can only wish that it were.
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Tomorrow I'm flying out of Boston to Dublin and then on to Paris. From there various trains will take me here and there until at some point I'll be in the southeastern city of Orange. I'll get a bus from Orange to Vaison la Romaine, which is just 4 kilometers from the tiny town of Faucon. I'll get to Faucon one way or another ... taxi, hitchhike, or walk. Faucon is where Violette Leduc bought a home once she had had some publishing success, and it is in a cemetery there that she was buried in 1972. I will place a pebble on her stone.
Here is the opening of her first novel In the Prison of her Skin:
My mother never gave me her hand ... She always helped me on and off pavements by pinching my frock or coat very lightly at the spot where the armhole provides a grip. It humiliated me. I felt I was inside the carcass of an old horse with my carter dragging me along by one ear ... One afternoon, as a gleaming carriage sped past, splattering the leaden summer with its reflections, I pushed the hand away, right in the middle of the road. She pinched the cloth even tighter and lifted me off the ground like a chicken being carried by one wing. I went limp. I refused to move. My mother noticed my tears.
"You try to get yourself killed and now you cry!" It was she who was killing me.
I'll return on May 21st and, on May 22nd, post a photo of her tombstone.
Please stay tuned.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
There are over 5,000 trees in Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Mass., many imported. The diversity of the horticulture makes it a coveted place for bird watchers, as the different species attract particularly unusual species of birds for this area.
Among these more than 5000 trees, I think this camperdown elm is pretty cool.
Monday, May 4, 2009
In memory of four students who, exercising their freedom of speech, were shot dead thirty nine years ago today by agents of their own government.
When the Tiananmen Square event happened in 1989 our politicians and statesmen expressed a great amount of outrage. I was thinking: Isn't the pot calling the kettle black?
I love my country. I've hated a number of my country's leaders.