Sunday, August 26, 2007

Vacation poem

My throat's as long as a great white pine:
I breathe in gulps of mountain air.
A hill floats blue above the lake,
Hemlocks, birches, white and spare,
Waves of goldenrod and Joe Pye weed
Plus good Queen Anne’s exquisite lace.
Above– those white pines’ majesty,
Their simple lesson: lift your face–
Take the long view, stand always firm
But if you have to, lightly sway,
And thunderhead and meteor shower,
Will all soon fade and pass away.

More vacation blogs....

August 25

Still at the lake...

Last night was damp and warm and I woke repeatedly sweating. This morning was damp and warm and while I wasn't sweating, I felt yucky and logy. The first five nights were cold, and I slept very well, Andy’s body in the small bed cozy and warm. But this is what I remember bad about summer nights up here– unpleasant, buggy, sticky.

The big excitement yesterday was that Greg came for an overnight! We put together a big dinner– corn from the Whooooah place down the road from Taft farms, takeout ribs from the new Shaky Jake’s, pasta with the remaining tomatoes, cupcakes and a mesclun salad from Taft farms, bakery bread of course. I loved the ribs. I get so hungry for red meat, and never even know it. I don’t know if those ribs, Jamaican style, are especially good, but I was especially hungry for them.

So today Ellen came, and Greg left, and we all spent some time in the lake, and then Andy and I went to see Rough Crossing at Shakespeare & Co. by Tom Stoppard, with Jonathan Croy, Jason Asprey, Elizabeth Aspenlieder, and Malcolm Ingram, hung around a while and saw the actors coming out, Andy talked to Croy, told him about Joel still remembering his Bottom (“I die! I die!”– which Joel at the age of 4 ran around acting out for months), Tina Packer strolling around. We stayed for the second half of Scapin. It’s such a wonderful wholeness, feeling like we know the company, comparing this Dream with Nigel Gore as Bottom to that one with Jonathan Croy, wondering why Jonathan Epstein has moved over to the Berkshire Theatre Festival, discussing with Ann what has been gained and lost with the move from the Mount (out of doors and hard to hear but child friendly and will there ever be kids like Joel and Nathan and Leah and Jennie who got to play around and enjoy what they could of Shakespeare at the Mount?). An important part of our time up here: we skip Tanglewood and go to as many of the Shakespeare shows as we can.

More of my comments of Shakespeare & Company 's productions here and here.

I'm really missing access (easy access) to the Internet-- I've begun mentally rehearsing settlng in at home, running a wash, etc. But mostly my Internet activities.

August 23

David and Ann and Nathan left yesterday, and today, Thursday, Andy and I went to Williamstown to the redoubtable Clark Museum where we saw The Unknown Monet: Pastels and Drawings. It was very interesting to read on the walls about his determination to be known as an open air Impressionist, painting out of doors, all color and light, but in fact turns out to have been a careful draftsman, maybe not as involved in his lines and hatching as, say, Rembrandt, but very serious about it. And his pastels apparently important in his development, the connection between color and line. There were several small pastels of horizontal landscapes that he made in his early twenties that were just spectacular, barely representational, showing sunset over water and three of the same same clump of trees to the right with field and sky central and left under different atmospheric conditions: just spectacular.

Also at the Clark, their new bequest of Constables, Turners, and Gainsboroughs-- who all turn out to be forerunners of the impressionists, Constable in particular with lovely splashes of color and sky. Saw one School of Rembrandt, beautiful face and hand, deep in shadows.

We hung out then in Williamstown a while, saw a student walking backwards in flip flops giving a tour to eager potential students and parents. I wasn't hungry (big breakfast at Uncommon Grounds) but Andy ate an Indian buffet lunch while I went down to a coffee shop called Tunnel City and got a cappuccino and a scone and used the wifi. Then we drove back down Route 8 via the touchingly turn of the twentieth century mill towns North Adams, Adams, and Cheshire. We got back, he biked, I nordic-walked and swam, and he's out taking a twilight turn on the lake with his motorboat to pick up a big chunk of floating styrofoam while I type this on the screened eating porch. It is all green this evening, the first day that hasn't been chilly, pleasant temperature, gray sky, green across the lake, green lake. Deep relaxation.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Grading Cleopatra

It seems that the Geller Weinbergers and the Willis Weinbergers went to entirely different performances of Antony and Cleopatra last night at Shakespeare & Company last night. David gave it a C minus (see his blog) and really didn’t like Tina Packer as Cleopatra; Nathan was disappointed, especially by the slo mo dance battles, which I found moving. Nathan gave it a C. Ann gave it a B minus and Andy refused to grade, but said it liked it. I agreed it was talky and static, (and for that reason it seemed appropriate that the battles were dance battles in slow motion), and I think it truly is in large part Shakespeare’s fault. I also agreed I suppose that Tina was too old, especially in the beginning when she’s kittenish, and then she becomes just teasing and with rather the style of an aging diva, but finally she convinced me, both of the performance it would be to be a queen, but also of how the character embraces being a legend, and stands up to become what she has been made and made herself. The love affair seems almost beside the point- and the history is, of course, assumed. What I took from this is that it is about being more than a normal sexual petty ambitious demanding or even brave person. It’s about being Great, or trying to be. Both Cleopatra and Antony (not to mention Octavius) are pretty unlikable. Somehow the play seems to me to be about creating your own immortality.

The most interesting question to me is why the five of us reacted so strongly differently: now David and Ann and Nathan had just been to see Midsummer Night’s Dream with a lot of the same players taking different parts, and they adored Dream, and I have to wonder that the fact Andy and I saw it weeks ago and weren’t really remembering the various actors from that– the mechanical who played Thisbe, for example, was brave warlike young Pompey here.
Antony and Cleopatra , much studied and not so much played, is a tough play, though. I was uplifted by Cleopatra’s rise out of spoiled (in many senses) sex kitten to bravely dying.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

August 20

I’m on the porch again, everyone is in town, still cool, and grayer today. Dial-up internet access is poor at best, but I got messages from Joel and Chrissie and gave up on some others. I took the canoe out and since the wind was going what we call th "wrong" way, I canoed against the wind to beyond To-ho-ne Shores and coming back took a nice long drift with the wind and almost back saw a terrific great blue heron just standing in front of an empty house, moving just like Taxicab only a hundred times taller with the long neck and long beak, but the same silence in the face of danger, the intense stare. Beautiful animal.

August 19

At the lake, on the porch, the parakeet through the glass in the living room on my left, Andy on the beach in the sun, cool but not windy, glassy lake. David is out for a run, Ann and Nathan asleep or reading upstairs. Crows slip by on the other side of the point, silently aware of us as they go about their business. I’m pretty happy this morning, reading Ed's fantasy manuscript, although so far it has blessedly little magic/fantasy. Last night David made vegetarian Chinese with various things including my chard, Nathan and Ann celebrating shabbos. We had happy hour with some good wine and a discussion about drinking among teens and college students.

Now I've done my nordic walking and been out canoeing. Everything slows down for me, the pleasure of thinking over what I might do next. Drifting in the canoe, sun on my bare legs and forearms.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Tomatoes and Private Ryan

Tomato Season...the smoothness...the smell!

Andy and I finally watchedSaving Private Ryan. This is primarily interesting because we got the DVD from Netflix about eleven months ago and has been sitting around the house all this time. So we have a long history with the movie, starting with Andy bidding on an enormous framed poster of it, with autographs, and, when no one else bid, getting the darn thing, which hangs portentously in the stairwell.

We knew we wanted to see it, but couldn’t get ourselves to sit down for a three hour war movie. People kept saying it’s the best war movie ever, that the opening sequence on Omaha Beach is a masterpiece, and if you can get through that the rest is easy, etc. etc.

You certainly see why it got the Oscar, and you certainly admire the acting. Tom Hanks is a real American master, and Spielberg too: the emphasis is on the American, though because in the end, it really is maybe the best ever but still a war movie like the ones I used to watch with Daddy in black and white late at night on t.v. This one was more realistic in any number of ways– the core group included a Jew and a hillbilly but no black soldier. It had lots of blood and gore and the suddenness of death, but at its heart it is (is Spielberg's work always?) that all-American combination of shocking violence and sentimentality.

There is one truly cheesy part too: the German that the intellectuals, Hanks and The Kid, let go (rather than allowing the working class G.I.’s to just shoot him like a normal redblooded American would want to do) shows up at the final sequence kills the people who said if they let him go he’d just go on to fight some more plus plenty of others. Then the weepy wimpy Kid kills him, but is still left with the full horror of how his “weakness” has destroyed his friends.

I’m not saying you should be kind to people who are trying to shoot you– if you’re in a shooting war, you have to shoot, and if your nearest and dearest are in imminent danger and you have the means of offing the attackers, who wouldn't do it?

But the fact that this German is brought back neatly at the end as a monster is what I consider prime Hollywood cheese. Andy said he didn’t think it was the same German (he liked the movie better than I did), but we went back and looked, and it was.

Spielberg, I'd guess, identifies with the intellectual Kid who doesn’t fight very well and ends up with much guilt.

Well, it was entertaining (which is also what makes it Hollywood) and fantastically realistic (more Hollywood) and the Omaha Beach sequence had me holding onto the arms of my chair to keep me from running away. All Hail Hollywood.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Boat Dream

The keys on the computer are sticky this morning. We had thunderstorms in the wee hours, sickly sun now, the fan on me, heat misery ahoy.

But I had a satisfying dream, not quite a free flying dream, but a nice one: a lot of people around, big trestle tables with food, some people at a labor demonstration, bright light.

And suddenly I was driving a tall motor boat, ocean-going style, around a lake. Rationally, it was the wrong location for this big boat, but it was easy to steer even in shallow water, and when I misjudged a turn and ended up on a grassy slope, I just sort of hopped out and pushed it back into the water as if pumping a scooter.

There was no motor sound, just voices of pleasant crowds of people. I was up so high in the bright air.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Early August...

Bridge over Troublesome Creek, Hindman Settlement School, Hindman, Kentucky: Beloved of Appalachian Writers, web spinning
spiders, and many others
August 7, 2007

I had an easy trip on Sunday, listening to the Coal music and to some lectures on literature and the law. Now I've got a lot to catch up on before we go away. I cleaned dead leaves and dust off the porches yesterday, but had a Coalition meeting and didn't do anything in the garden but pick cukes and tomatoes and basil and beans. I cooked the beans my mother's way-- well, not quite. I put a little butter in the bottom of the pan and sauteed them for a minute, then added hot water to cover and cooked for a while. They were good. Andy got corn at a farmer's market, and I made a salad of cukes in yogurt and garlic sauce. Also grilled turkey cutlets on the George Foreman. Anyhow, except for the heat, it's always good to be back in your own space.

Joel has signed a lease on an apartment in San Francisco. He was so happy and said, "Now I can sleep in on week-ends and I don't have to go apartment hunting!" It's in a former Catholic hospital: actually, his apartment is in the convent section!

August 6, 2007

Today in 1945: The nuclear weapon "Little Boy" was dropped on the city of Hiroshima, followed on August 9, 1945 by the detonation of the "Fat Man" nuclear bomb over Nagasaki. They are the only instances todate of the use of nuclear weapons in warfare, in this case, against a large civilian populations.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Appalachian Writers Conference

August 3, 2007

I'm in West Virginia after one of the magical Appalachian Writers workshops at the Hindman Settlement School. I realized when I stopped at a rest top on I-64, somewhere between Huntington and Charleston, that I was expecting the people smoking and buying drinks from the vending machines to nod and smile. I felt deprived of the warmth and welcome and general caring that underlie the serious work in poetry and prose that goes on there everything year.