What To Do With The Ends

No, I am not at all cynical, I have merely got experience, which, however, is very much the same thing.
– Oscar Wilde, Complete Shorter Fiction, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime (24)

DSCI0030

Swedish Cardamon Bun Twists

With a change of season/change of life momentum I made a Herculean effort to finish all of the books that are lingering on various tables, in my bag, or car. Things were a little out of control and all the loose ends were begging me, please, to come together in a completed knot before I move on.  I had amassed a haphazard mix of material: perhaps it was end of term overload, indecision or stress of the unknown future but I suddenly felt I was reading too many books. The one quality they had in common was put-down-ability. By which I mean, a book of essays or short stories which make a fine and proper reprieve from it all. It. The It of it all-  an overwhelming mountain if its crushing the soul beneath- quick, where’s my book? True, in some cases, the put-down-ability derives from lack of a compelling reason to pick-up-again-ability, if you will. I had Oscar Wilde, Vincent Scully, biographies of Jane Austen, Lawrence Durrell and his first wife Nancy, all on rotation. Books are a little like buns- some never proof, but others bake up beautifully.

In this materialistic and half brutalized age, it is still the faith of great architects that noble men can be formed and made by noble buildings.
– Vincent Scully, Modern Architecture and other Essays (63)

Scully is a wonderful writer with such an open love for his subject; the way in which I look at architecture has been so enriched by his perspective and insight, it’s truly invigorating. For him, architecture is art, philosophy and psychology. Every building he discusses has a narrative and meaning, an essential, and through his eyes, beautiful place on the path of progress. Maybe it is because everything is swarming with a verdant freshness. Maybe it is because I am simply, finally, looking up again, but a book that places you in the world is surely superior to one that offers mere temporary escape from it. It seems to me there is always an element of hope in any work of art- hope as a reason to look up and forward.

I made Swedish Buns the other day. I was meant to tie them into some sort of an effortless twisted knot. With every bun I would manage the first end with beautiful clarity and then something would go awry with the final twist. I kept finding myself in an awkward moment of holding a fast drooping twisted end without the slightest idea what to do with it. At a certain point my hand would just take over- roll, tuck, spin, hide, hope, whatever. Once I had achieved some semblance of a sphere I would put it down, having no idea how I had formed it.

Life, my outlook on life,  is a twisted knot of cynicism and, yes, I will admit-  hope.  I try not to, I really should, but sometimes a plateful of sweets presents, and a cynic can never swallow joy.

A dear man sent me this wonderful poem. “What blame to us if the heart live on.” The heart is the mother of all yeasts.

Chaplinesque

We will make our meek adjustments,
Contented with such random consolations
As the wind deposits
In slithered and too ample pockets.

For we can still love the world, who find
A famished kitten on the step, and know
Recesses for it from the fury of the street,
Or warm torn elbow coverts.

We will sidestep, and to the final smirk
Dally the doom of that inevitable thumb
That slowly chafes its puckered index toward us,
Facing the dull squint with what innocence
And what surprise!

And yet these fine collapses are not lies
More than the pirouettes of any pliant cane;
Our obsequies are, in a way, no enterprise.
We can evade you, and all else but the heart:
What blame to us if the heart live on.

The game enforces smirks; but we have seen
The moon in lonely alleys make
A grail of laughter of an empty ash can,
And through all sound of gaiety and quest
Have heard a kitten in the wilderness.

Harold Hart Crane


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27 responses to “What To Do With The Ends

  1. I have a growing pile of half read books – I start one, then buy another and start reading it on the way home, then I find another one… Four at a time is getting ridiculous.

  2. petrujviljoen

    I often deliberately have more than one book going at a time, comparing writing styles and so on. Ray Bradbury, may he rest in peace, and Ursula le Guin, writing about the same topic and supposed same genre and one got very different impressions. I currently favour Doris Lessing and Laurie Lee at the top of the list of writers whose style I’d like to imitate should I have the courage to try and right a full length novel.

    • Yes, I like that- but at this moment it seemed to me there was no rhyme or reason to the particular combinations I had amassed. I think that was the problem…and certainly Scully dominated my attention and drowned out the others rather than any interesting interplay coming about- but who knows, maybe somewhere in some recess of my mind something brilliant will come of the combo platter.

  3. your prose is poetry, and i am continually in awe of your talent to weave together all that is on your plate – metaphorically and literally. your words, like you, are a true and rare gift.

  4. p.s. lovely photo!

  5. re: Donna’s lovely compliment. A humble suggestion. I have, several times, received compliments on my writing. It was suggested by someone far wiser than me, that the gift, to myself and to the person offering the compliment was to simply say “Thank you.” I discovered that it was rather hard to do because it left me wide open, defenseless, even, to affection, admiration and even love.

  6. She is lovely isn’t she, Dear man? And you are right, of course. But as I said to her, you should have seen what I erased!

    Thank you Lovely Donna. Truly.

    • No, you did not say “You should have seen what I erased” but that would have been just another squirt of squid ink between you and her compliment. “Squid ink” is how I describe what we do when frightened or feeling like we need to escape. Like the creature (Sometimes even feeling that we truly look like a cephalopod) we throw out an abashed, mumbled and self effacing murky word cloud and while the other person is attempting to see through it we escape. Effective? Sometimes. Exhausting? Always. Especially if the squid in question is as brilliant, talented, gentle and giving as you consistently show yourself to be.

  7. Wow, into this amorous and rather inspiring/inspired dialog, all I have to add is that the photo is a wonderful self portrait Jessica. I laughed out loud when I saw it.

  8. Tasha,
    Don’t encourage Jessica to post any more pictures of herself in that kind of pose. At first glance it is a very artistic and romantic image but it is actually her Irish version of an old Jewish lady going “Oy! Everything’s fahklempt! Oy! I haven’t finished the blog or my papers or driving my kids to Seattle…Oy!” Come to think of it, the Irish do pretty much the same worrying as we Jews do except we worry then eat and they worry then drink. (Oy! Now maybe I’ve offended Irish people! Oy!)

  9. Keep on loving your posts, your writing, your creativity, your thoughts and feelings!

    Love,

    C.

  10. To Dear Man,
    Re: “Donna’s lovely compliment”
    From: Donna
    I’m teaching Jessica the art of saying “Thank You” as well – as I was taught to do by two very amazing and wise (sadly, now deceased) Jewish parents. If we are both supporting this nascent ability, then I have confidence it will grow stronger, which is a good thing considering she will be faced with countless compliments in the days to come. I’m first in line!

  11. Boy. Am I blessed to be in this company…

  12. Pingback: A Polarized Flow, like love. | so very very

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