Friday, February 24, 2006

The abiding earth

It's funny how ideas come at you in coincidental bunches, like learning a new word and then hearing it three more times in three completely unrelated contexts over the course of a few days. This happened to me this week with soil and what it means, and how I'm closely related to it, but not as closely as I all-too-soon will be.

Sometime early Tuesday morning while stocking shelves at Jewel I imagined myself sinking through the floor, down into the earth, dirt and strata at my face, pebbles in my eyes, the smell of black, loamy soil, worms crawling, root tendrils in my nostrils. I thought it my way of escape from the artificial, fluorescent-lit environment of the supermarket aisles. For some reason this image of earth, underlying, abiding, hidden, covered earth, stuck in my head the rest of the day.

I thought about my own disconnect from the soil, and how much I love the smell of the freshly-turned dirt on a warm spring day, and how the longer days will lead to warmer temperatures, the thawing of the earth, the release of dormant creatures from their own earthen slumbers. And I thought about my own disconnect from the earth. When was the last time I felt the earth beneath my feet? I have not allowed my bare feet to touch soil since the fall, and maybe not even since summer.

On Wednesday I substitute taught for a 10th grade English class and read a poem, "Thanatopsis," by William Cullen Bryant, that made me think about this image I had of sinking into the earth.

A few lines:
The planets, all the infinite host of heaven,
Are shining on the sad abodes of death,
Through the still lapse of ages. All that tread
The globe are but a handful to the tribes
That slumber in its bosom.

Today I read a chapter about caves in Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World by Linda Hogan. She says caves are feminine, womb-like, and have the power to give visions and inspiration to those who dwell in them.

"We are welcome here. I love this inner earth, its murmuring heartbeat, the language of what will consume us. Above is the beautiful earth that we have come from. Below is heat, stone, fire. I am within the healing of nature, held in earth's hand."

I remember once, long ago, at a party, I was profoundly high, laying on the floor, and had this horrible feeling of sinking into the floor, sinking and at the same time spreading thin and dissipating. At first I was terrified. I got up and slapped myself in the face to get all together again. That feeling of sinking into the landscape returned later, on a hike, brought on not by smoke, but from extreme fatique from exercise. This time, maybe because it was natural and not artificially-induced, and maybe because I was outside, I welcomed this sinking, spreading feeling. I fell asleep with this image in my mind of being flattened like a pancake, like a cartoon character run over by a steamroller.

Is this what dying is like? Is this what happens when you return to the soil from whence you came? In the absence of belief in an afterlife, I seek a physiological conclusion, and this seems as logical as any explanation. Yes, the elements of me -- we -- returns to soil, Dust to dust. Does consciousness return as well? I'd like to believe so.

Jon's various moods and activities at five weeks





I try to take Jon for a walk at least once a week. This week it was a little cool and windy (when is it not in DeKalb), and he didn't like it. Luckily, Esther brought a blanket to lay over the crib and keep him out of the wind, but also keep him from looking around. No matter. After the pictured crying jag, he settled into a long nap that just continued after he got home (see bottom photo).

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Jon Allen pics from 3 and 4 weeks old




The top two pictures, where Jon is proudly wearing his Green Bay Packers outfit, were taken on Tuesday, Valentine's Day, four weeks after his birthday. The bottom two were taken Feb. 7, three weeks after his birth.

Notice how much he grows from one week to the next? Probably not that apparent, except to his parents and grandparents. At four weeks he went to the doctor and weighed in at 10 pounds, 13 ounces, which means he gained 20 percent of his original birthweight in four weeks. That would be like me gaining 40 pounds in the same time period. Jon is going through some amazing transformations. He already coos and responds to familiar sounds. He cannot lift his head up when placed on his stomach, but he sure tries and succeeds, if only for a couple seconds.

He likes the swing chair and often stares cockeyed off into space when in it. He gets very worked up when its time to feed and even fusses when presented with the breast. Jon is not generally fussy, but is fidgety. He moves his hands and legs and makes funny faces, sticking out his tongue and curling his lips to make an "ooh" sound. I love to sit him on my lap and look at him experiment with his new body parts. He sticks his tongue out at me and makes wheezy blubbering noises. If I sing in a high pitch or imitate his cooing noise, he will often try to repeat it back to me.

When Jon wants to be changed or fed he cries and will cry until he's red in the face, lower lip trembling, and out of breath until he gets taken care of. But his needs -- food, swing, warmth, dry -- are easy to meet and Esther's got a few months grace until he's on his feet and into everything.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Prospero's Books


I have yet to see Prospero's Books , the 1991 movie version of Shakespeare's "The Tempest," but did check out the book about the movie. The famous "We are such stuff as dreams are made on" scene is well-described. Here it is:

(Pages 145-6 from Prospero's Books by Peter Greenaway.)

Section 83.4
A montage. The masque and its company begin to dissolve.
(1) Characters in the masque -- freeze and turn into whitened versions of themselves... a white dust falls on them.
(2) An acrobatic quartet of garlanded dancers freeze and dissolve.
(3) Three characters in a group crumple and fall to the ground like old clothes.
(4) Close-up of the faces of four dancers who fade into hair and paper masks.
(5) Silk banners are ripped off a podium, scattering flower-heads.
(6) Four characters dancing off to the left freeze in a statuesque pose and fade away.
(7) An archway decorated with flowers and ribbons -- in slow motion -- begins to topple... fruit scattering.
(8) Book pages whirl away in a sudden gust of wind.
(9) Close-up of a bunch of flowered garlands withering to greyness.
(10) Costumes are thrown into a hamper.
(11) An orange-bush is shaken and all the oranges fall off.
(12) Fingers pinch out decorated candles.
(13) Five fauns hurriedly roll up a large flag.
(14) Five spirits quickly untie masks and throw them in a trunk and slam the lid.
(15) Five dryads roll up a carpet.
(16) In slow-motion -- swathes of red ribbon fall to the floor.
(17) A party of eight dancers stripped to the skin.
(18) A section of flower-strewn grass turns white in a gust of wind.
(19) Six masque-players drag a painted canvas across the grass -- with two young fauns sitting on the canvas.
(20) A de la Tour-lit girl blows out a candle.
(21) An orange bush in a tub is wheeled away in a barrow.
(22) A length of carpet on the grass in scattered with charcoal.
(23) A pan of salt is thrown on a brazier -- its flames turn yellow and go out.
(24) A young faun blows out a cande.
(25) Water is thrown on a brazier -- it spits steam and blackens.
(26) A black rain falls -- staining white sheets carried by children.
(27) Grey smoke blows across a party of dancers carrying away props.
(28) A very young child blows out a candle.
The activity continues as Prospero describes the collapse of the play.

83.5 Wide shot. The curtains are drawn… each painted curtain shows an image we have seen before… the bath-house, the library, the beach, the forest…

Prospero:
… And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capped towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind.

The final curtain is pulled across -- the play has ended, the stage is bare… the rain falls, the wind blows.
Prospero, with his back to the curtains and stage, speaks to the lovers and, over their heads, to us, the audience.

Prospero:
We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with sleep.

83.6 Prospero in close-up -- he closes his eyes.