Sunday, October 30

Mina's dream

I closed my eyes, but could still see through my eyelids. (It is wonderful what tricks our dreams play us, and how conveniently we can imagine.) The mist grew thicker and thicker and I could see now how it came in, for I could see it like smoke, or with the white energy of boiling water, pouring in, not through the window, but through the joinings of the door. It got thicker and thicker, till it seemed as if it became concentrated into a sort of pillar of cloud in the room, through the top of which I could see the light of the gas shining like a red eye. Things began to whirl through my brain just as the cloudy column was now whirling in the room... Suddenly the horror burst upon me that it was thus that Jonathan had seen those awful women growing into reality through the whirling mist in the moonlight, and in my dream I must have fainted, for all became black darkness.

-- Bram Stoker Dracula

Saturday, October 29

soft anticipations

As Ichabod jogged slowly on his way, his eye, ever open to every symptom of culinary abundance, ranged with delight over the treasures of jolly autumn. On all sides he beheld vast store of apples; some hanging in oppressive opulence on the trees; some gathered into baskets and barrels for the market; others heaped up in rich piles for the cider-press. Farther on he beheld great fields of Indian corn, with its golden ears peeping from their leafy coverts, and holding out the promise of cakes and hasty pudding; and the yellow pumpkins lying beneath them, turning up their fair round bellies to the sun, and giving ample prospects of the most luxurious of pies; and anon he passed the fragrant buckwheat fields, breathing the odor of the beehive, and as he beheld them, soft anticipations stole over his mind of dainty slapjacks, well buttered, and garnished with honey or treacle, by the delicate little dimpled hand of Katrina Van Tassel.

-- Washington Irving The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

a nightscape of bonfires

The clear, kingly effulgence that had characterized the majority expressed a heath and furze country like their own, which in one direction extended an unlimited number of miles: the rapid flares and extinctions at other points of the compass showed the lightest of fuel -- straw, beanstalks, and the usual waste from arable land. The most enduring of all -- steady unaltering eyes like planets -- signified wood, such as hazel-branches, thorn-faggots, and stout billets. Fires of the last-mentioned materials were rare, and, though comparatively small in magnitude beside the transient blazes, now began to get the best of them by mere long-continuance. The great ones had perished, but these remained. They occupied the remotest visible positions -- sky-backed summits rising out of rich coppice and plantation districts to the north, where the soil was different, and heath foreign and strange.

...the next circumstance of which the beholders were conscious was a vision of the matron's broad form whisking off towards the space whereon the fire had been kindled. She was lifted bodily by [his] arm, which had been flung round her waist before she had become aware of his intention. The site of the fire was now merely a circle of ashes flecked with red embers and sparks, the furze having burnt completely away. Once within the circle he whirled her round and round in a dance. She was a woman noisily constructed; in addition to her enclosing framework of whalebone and lath, she wore pattens summer and winter, in wet weather and in dry, to preserve her boots from wear; and when [he] began to jump about with her, the clicking of the pattens, the creaking of the stays, and her screams of surprise, formed a very audible concert.

"I'll crack thy numskull for thee, you mandy chap," said Mrs. Nunsuch, as she helplessly danced round with him, her feet playing like drumsticks among the sparks... and in half a minute all that can be seen on Rainbarrow was a whirling of dark shapes amid a boiling confusion of sparks, which leaped around the dancers as high as their waists.

-- Thomas Hardy The Return of the Native

Friday, October 28


A good relationship has a pattern like a dance and is built on some of the same rules. The partners do not need to hold on tightly, because they move confidently in the same pattern, intricate but gay and swift and free, like a country dance of Mozart's. To touch heavily would be to arrest the pattern and freeze the movement, to check the endlessly changing beauty of its unfolding. There is no place here for the possessive clutch, the clinging arm, the heavy hand; only the barest touch in passing. Now arm in arm, now face to face, now back to back -- it does not matter which. Because they know they are partners moving to the same rhythm, creating a pattern together, and being invisibly nourished by it.

The joy of such a pattern is not only the joy of creation or the joy of participation, it is also the joy of living in the moment. Lightness of touch and living in the moment are intertwined. One cannot dance well unless one is completely in time with the music, not leaning back to the last step or pressing forward to the next one, but poised directly on the present step as it comes. Perfect poise on the beat is what gives good dancing its sense of ease, of timelessness, of the eternal.

-- Anne Morrow Lindbergh Gift from the Sea

Thursday, October 27

Last Days

Things are
changing; things are starting to
spin, snap, fly off into
the blue sleeve of the long
afternoon. Oh and ooh
come whistling out of the perished mouth
of the grass, as things
turn soft, boil back
into substance and hue. As everything,
forgetting its own enchantment, whispers:
I too love oblivion why not it is full
of second chances. Now,
hiss the bright curls of the leaves. Now!
booms the muscle of the wind.

-- Mary Oliver

Wednesday, October 26


from directions in a recipe:

Put the dough in a big, lightly oiled bowl, and cover with plastic wrap for three hours. Turn it out once again, cut it in half, spank it on the counter to get the extra air bubbles out. Let it rest for another fifteen minutes. Then slide your fingers beneath the dough, palm up, so that you're vaguely shaping it into more of a ball again. Pick the balls up and place each into a lightly floured bowl -- preferably something that breathes...


Cut an X or a C or whatever makes you happy into the top of the loaf with a super-sharp razor blade, slide it into the oven with a nice clean-and-jerk movement, and shut the door. Turn the temperature down immediately to 450 degrees, spray some water on the walls of the inside of the oven, and, quick, shut the door...

Have a glass of wine or three. Give it a good forty to fifty minutes. Take the loaves out when they are the way they should be. You know how it is -- the way you like them. Good and custy, but airy and cloudlike inside. When you knock on the bottom of the loaf, you know it's done when it sounds to your dog like somebody's at the door. Let them cool down, and then give them to people you love...

-- Matthew Batt, "The Path of Righteousness" Tin House 7:1

Tuesday, October 25

time outside of time

Artists have to find ways to pull the audience in, for only when people come to understand that within a painting or a sculpture they can find a time that is outside of time will they want to keep looking. Only then will they see that although nothing in a painting moves -- at least in the sense that sound moves in music or bodies move in dance -- everything in a painting is alive. And then the surface opens up, and effects multiply, and you see more and more. You enter into an intimate imaginative collaboration with the artist. If the very idea of instantaneous unity comes out of a feeling that in the world things can happen with this much speed, a more circuitous and layered way of looking suggests a release from the compressed, fast-forward pace of daily life, which has always troubled people, and surely does today. If you can unlock a moment, you can enter a realm of freedom. Artists show the way. To look long is to feel free.

-- Jed Perl Eyewitness: Reports from an Art World in Crisis

Monday, October 24


Listen to these violinists: the one who lets true musical harmony be heard is the one who gets close to the brink of catastrophic noise, he pokes around with his bow on this threshold. He is stirring up the flame in which the rosin would melt.

-- Michel Serres Genesis
Translated by Geneviève James and James Nielson

Saturday, October 22


The notion of revelation describes the condition quite simply; by which I mean that something profoundly convulsive and disturbing suddenly becomes visible and audible with indescribable definiteness and exactness. One hears -- one does not seek; one takes -- one does not ask who gives: a thought flashes out like lightning, inevitably without hesitation -- I have never had any choice about it. There is an ecstasy whose terrific tension is sometimes released by a flood of tears, during which one's progress varies from involuntary impetuosity to involuntary slowness. There is the feeling that one is utterly out of hand, with the most distinct consciousness of an infinitude of shuddering thrills that pass through one from head to foot; -- there is a profound happiness in which the most painful and gloomy feelings are not discordant in effect, but are required as necessary colors in this overflow of light. There is an instinct for rhythmic relations which embraces an entire world of forms (length, the need for a widely extended rhythm, is almost a measure of the force of inspiration, a sort of counterpart to its pressure and tension). Everything occurs without volition, as if in an eruption of freedom, independence, power and divinity. The spontaneity of the images and similes is most remarkable; one loses all perception of what is imagery and simile; everything offers itself as the most immediate, exact, and simple means of expression. If I may recall a phrase of Zarathustra's, it actually seems as if the things themselves came to one, and offered themselves as similes. ("Here do all things come caressingly to thy discourse and flatter thee, for they would fain ride upon thy back. On every simile thou ridest here to every truth. Here fly open before thee all the speech and word shrines of existence, here all existence would become speech, here all Becoming would learn of thee how to speak.") This is my experience of inspiration.

-- Friedrich Nietzsche Ecce Homo
Translated by Clifton Fadiman

Friday, October 21

By a Waterfall

Over the sheer stone cliff-face, over springs and star clusters
Of maidenhair giving in and in to the spray
Through thorn-clawed crookshanks
And gnarled root ends like vines where the sun has never from dawn
To noon or dusk come spilling its cascades,
The stream is falling, at the brink
Blue-green but whitening and churning to pale rain
And falling farther, neither as rain nor mist
But both now, pouring
And changing as it must, exchanging all for all over all
Around and past your shape to a dark-green pool
Below, where it tumbles
Over another verge to become a stream once more
Downstream in curving slopes under a constant
Cloud of what it was
And will be, and beside it, sharing the storm of its arrival,
Your voice and all your words are disappearing
Into this water falling.

-- David Wagoner

Thursday, October 20

Spray of Dead Oak Leaves by John Ruskin
Spray of Dead Oak Leaves by John Ruskin

All this difficulty, however, attaches to rendering merely the dark form of the sprays as they come against the sky. Within those sprays, and in the heart of the tree, there is a complexity of a much more embarrassing kind; for nearly all leaves have some lustre, and all are more or less translucent (letting light through them); therefore, in any given leaf, besides the intricacies of its own proper shadows and foreshortenings, there are three series of circumstances which alter or hide its forms. First, shadows cast on it by other leaves, -- often very forcibly. Secondly, light reflected from its lustrous surface, sometimes the blue of the sky, sometimes the white of clouds, or the sun itself flashing like a star. Thirdly, forms and shadows of other leaves, seen as darknesses through the translucent parts of the leaf; a most important element of foliage effect, but wholly neglected by landscape artists in general.

The consequence of all this is, that except now and then by chance, the form of a complete leaf is never seen; but a marvellous and quaint confusion, very definite, indeed, in its evidence of direction of growth, and unity of action, but wholly indefinable and inextricable, part by part, by any amount of patience. You cannot possibly work it out in facsimile, though you took a twelvemonth's time to a tree; and you must therefore try to discover some mode of execution which will more or less imitate, by its own variety and mystery, the variety and mystery of Nature, without absolute delineation of detail.

-- John Ruskin Elements of Drawing (1857)

Tuesday, October 18

men with a gown

Petruchio. O monstrous arrogance!
Thou liest, thou thread, thou thimble,
Thou yard, three-quarters, half-yard, quarter, nail!
Thou flea, thou nit, thou winter cricket thou!
Braved in mine own house with a skein of thread!
Away, thou rag, thou quantity, thou remnant,
Or I shall so bemete thee with thy yard
As thou shalt think on prating whilst thou liv'st.
I tell thee, I, that thou hast marred her gown.

Tailor. Your worship is deceived. The gown is made
Just as my master had direction.
Grumio gave order how it should be done.

Grumio. I gave him no order; I gave him the stuff.

Tailor. But how did you desire it should be made?

Grumio. Marry, sir, with needle and thread.

Tailor. But did you not request to have it cut?

Grumio. Thou hast faced many things.

Tailor. I have.

Grumio. Face not me. Thou hast braved many men; brave not me. I will neither be faced nor braved. I say unto thee, I bid thy master cut out the gown, but I did not bid him cut it to pieces. Ergo, thou liest.

Tailor. Why, here is the note of the fashion to testify.

Petruchio. Read it.

Grumio. The note lies in's throat if he say I said so.

Tailor. "Imprimus, a loose-bodied gown."

Grumio. Master, if ever I said loose-bodied gown, sew me in the skirts of it and beat me to death with a bottom of brown thread. I said, a gown.

Petruchio. Proceed.

Tailor. "With a small compassed cape."

Grumio. I confess the cape.

Tailor. "The sleeves curiously cut."

Petruchio. Ay there's the villainy.

Grumio. Error i' the bill, sir, error i' the bill. I commanded the sleeves should be cut out and sewed up again, and that I'll prove upon thee, though thy little finger be armed in a thimble.

Tailor. This is true that I say. And I had thee in place where, thou shouldst know it.
Grumio. I am for thee straight. Take thou the bill, give me thy mete-yard, and spare not me.

Hortensio. God-a-mercy, Grumio, then he shall have no odds.

Petruchio. Well, sir, in brief, the gown is not for me.

Grumio. You are i' th' right, sir, 'tis for my mistress.

Petruchio. Go, take it up unto thy master's use.

Grumio. Villain, not for thy life! Take up my mistress' gown for thy master's use!

Petruchio. Why, sir, what's your conceit in that?

Grumio. O, sir, the conceit is deeper than you think for.
Take up my mistress' gown to his master's use!
O, fie, fie fie!

-- William Shakespeare The Taming of the Shrew


At dawn she lay with her profile at that angle
Which, when she sleeps, seems the carved face of an angel.
Her hair a harp, the hand of a breeze follows
And plays, against the white cloud of the pillows.
then, in a flush of rose, she woke, and her eyes that opened
Swam in blue through her rose flesh that dawned.
From her dew of lips, the drop of one word
Fell like the first of fountains: murmured
'Darling', upon my ears the song of the first bird.
'My dream becomes my dream,' she said, 'come true.
I waken from you to my dream of you.'
Oh, my own wakened dream then dared assume
The audacity of her sleep. Our dreams
Poured into each other's arms, like streams.

-- Stephen Spender

Monday, October 17

my love is my weight

A body tends by its weight towards the place proper to it -- weight does not necessarily tend towards the lowest place but towards its proper place. Fire tends upwards, stone downwards. By their weight they are moved and seek their proper place. Oil poured over water is borne on the surface of the water, water poured over oil sinks below the oil: it is by their weight that they are moved and seek their proper place. Things out of their place are in motion: they come to their place and are at rest. My love is my weight: wherever I go my love is what brings me there.

-- Augustine Confessions
Translated by Francis J. Sheed


Light is fixed, immaterial, central. At once fire and ice, it is the symbol of both objectivity and eternity. It is heaven's gaze itself. Clear and serene, it traces outlines, delimits, distributes space into symmetrical areas. It is justice, but it is also the Idea, the archetype engraved upon a cloudless sky... Light: the essence, the realm of the intemporal. Water is diffuse, elusive, formless. It evokes time, carnal love; it is the tide itself—death and resurrection—and the gateway to the elemental world. Everything is reflected in water, everything founders in it, everything is reborn in it. It is change, the ebb and flow of the universe. Light separates, water unites... In the center, the precious stone... As light passes through it, the humid landscape... becomes an immense jewel: a golden sun, a silver moon, trees of jade. Light makes water a precious stone. It turns time into a mineral, makes it eternal. It congeals it into an impartial, uniform splendor and... it freezes its pulse. At the same time light transmutes stone. Thanks to light, the opaque stone—a symbol of gravity: a heavy fallen weight—takes on the transparency and dancing swiftness of water. The stone sparkles, twinkles, quivers, like a drop of water or blood: it is alive. A moment later, mesmerized by the celestial flash of lightning, it becomes motionless: it is light now, time arrested, a fixed gaze.

The precious stone is an instant of equilibrium between water and light. Left to itself, in its natural state, it is opacity, inertia, brute existence. The dreamless slumber of stone. But the moment it becomes luminous and translucid, its moral nature changes. Its limpidity is as treacherously deceiving as that of water... This ambiguity should not surprise us. Life per se is neither good nor bad: it is sheer vitality, an appetite for being. In life at the most elementary level, we discover the same unity as in spiritual meditation... The precious stone shares this indifference of life. A nexus of contrary meanings, it oscillates between water and light.

-- Octavio Paz Alternating Current
Translated by Helen R. Lane

Sunday, October 16

Early Sunday Morning by Edward Hopper
Early Sunday Morning by Edward Hopper

Early Sunday Morning, which Hopper painted in 1930, has haunted me as no other New York painting ever has. Hopper brought to the silent street -- the barber pole, the fire hydrant, the uneven line of window shades, the awnings over the shop fronts -- the intensity of his own perception. Every time I come back to it, Early Sunday Morning seems larger than I remembered it. Since nothing is so typical of New York as the certain disappearance of something we once loved, the doggedness of Hopper's attachment had to be painted large. Why does that row of low brick houses on lower Seventh Avenue rivet me? It is because the street has entered into Hopper's consciousness in a way that transcends realism. He has made the drab and the commonplace beautiful through the force of belonging. Every detail in the street belongs to us and we to it.

-- Alfred Kazin "The Art City Our Fathers Built," The American Scholar 67:2

Saturday, October 15

The Harbor Dawn

Insistently through sleep -- a tide of voices --
They meet you listening midway in your dream,
The long, tired sounds, fog-insulated noises:
Gongs in white surplices, beshrouded wails,
Far strum of fog horns...signals dispersed in veils.

And then a truck will lumber past the wharves
As winch engines begin throbbing on some deck;
Or a drunken stevedore's howl and thud below
Comes echoing alley-upward through dim snow.

And if they take your sleep away sometimes
They give it back again. Soft sleeves of sound
Attend the darkling harbor, the pillowed bay;
Somewhere out there in blankness steam

Spills into steam, and wanders, washed away
-- Flurried by keen fifings, eddied
Among distant chiming buoys -- adrift. The sky,
Cool feathery fold, suspends, distills
This wavering slumber....Slowly --
Immemorially the window, the half-covered chair
Ask nothing but this sheath of pallid air.

And you beside me, blessèd now while sirens
Sing to us, stealthily weave us into day --
Serenely now, before day claims our eyes
Your cool arms murmurously about me lay.
While myriad snowy hands are clustering at the panes --

your hands within my hands are deeds;
my tongue upon your throat -- singing
arms close; eyes wide, undoubtful
drink the dawn --
a forest shudders in your hair!

The window goes blond slowly. Frostily clears.
From Cyclopean towers across Manhattan waters
-- Two --three bright window-eyes aglitter, disk
The sun, released -- aloft with cold gulls hither.

The fog leans one last moment on the sill.
Under the mistletoe of dreams, a star --
As though to join us at some distant hill --
Turns in the waking west and goes to sleep.

-- Hart Crane

Friday, October 14


There is something mysterious about the stimulating effect of rhythm. You can explain what it is that creates rhythm but you have to experience it yourself to know what it is like. A person listening to music experiences the rhythm as something beyond all reflection, something existing within himself. A man who moves rhythmically starts the motion himself and feels that he controls it. But very shortly the rhythm controls him; he is possessed by it. It carries him along. Rhythmic motion gives a feeling of heightened energy. Often, too, it occupies the performer without any conscious effort on his part so that his mind is free to wander at will -- a state very favorable to artistic creation... The person who hears music or watches dancing does none of the physical work himself but in perceiving the performance he experiences the rhythm of it as though it were in his own body... Often the man who forms architecture also works rhythmically in the creative process itself. This results in a regularity which may be very difficult to express in words but which is spontaneously felt by those who have the same sense of rhythm.

-- Steen Eiler Rasmussen Experiencing Architecture

Thursday, October 13

The Well Rising

The well rising without a sound,
the spring on a hillside,
the plowshare brimming through deep ground
everywhere in the field --

The sharp swallows in their swerve
flaring and hesitating
hunting for the final curve
coming closer and closer --

The swallow heart from wingbeat to wingbeat
counseling decision, decision:
thunderous examples. I place my feet
with care in such a world.

-- William Stafford

let the heart be stirred

That gasp of which I spoke comes from the chest, which in the Kundalini Yoga is the place of the heart chakra. There, the sudden unexpected comings and goings of feelings are imaged by the fleeting gazelle glimpsed only rarely in its quick, startling movements and its absolute frozen stillness as it stands watching and listening, senses acute. Unless this chakra comes to life, unless the heart is opened and the gazelle awake, we remain deaf and blind, repressing despite our best intentions, simply because the organ that perceives beauty, that emits the gasp of the aesthetic response has not been stirred. The gazelle hides in the dense thickets of the soul or sleeps in innocence. So, above all else I have said... let the heart be stirred.

-- James Hillman, "The Practice of Beauty" in Uncontrollable Beauty, Eds. Bill Beckley and David Shapiro

Wednesday, October 12


A friend of a friend chops and sautées
morel mushrooms leeks and celery root
punctuating the narrative of her life's journey
with Sufi epigrams such as
The candle is not there to illuminate itself
Deft with a knife and light on her feet
she decants a sauterne and declares
that she only cooks for strangers
food unlike love tenderness or true passion
so easy to give so readily received
For most men she says the more elaborate
the meal the greater the illusion of fulfillment whereas
If you are entertaining a dervish, dry bread is enough

-- Nicholas Christopher, from "14 rue Serpentine: a Paris Notebook"

Tuesday, October 11

on focus

During the shooting of a scene the director's eye has to catch even the minutest detail. But this does not mean glaring concentratedly at the set. While the cameras are rolling, I rarely look directly at the actors, but focus my gaze somewhere else. By doing this I sense instantly when something isn't right. Watching something does not mean fixing your gaze on it, but being aware of it in a natural way. I believe this is what the medieval Noh playwright and theorist Zeami meant by "watching with a detached gaze."

-- Akira Kurosawa Some Random Notes on Filmmaking

Monday, October 10

October 10

Now constantly there is the sound,
quieter than rain,
of the leaves falling.

Under their loosening bright
gold, the sycamore limbs
bleach whiter.

Now the only flowers
are beeweed and aster, spray
of their white and lavender
over the brown leaves.

The calling of a crow sounds
loud -- a landmark -- now
that the life of summer falls
silent, and the nights grow.

-- Wendell Berry

Sunday, October 9


Magenta mist outside the windows. A cock crows over at Boone's. Last evening, when the moon was rising, saw the warm burning soft red of a doe in the field. It was still light enough, so I got the field glasses and watched her. Presently a stag came out, then I saw a second doe and, briefly, another stag. They were not afraid. Looked at me from time to time. I watched their beautiful running, grazing. Everything, every movement, was completely lovely, but there is a kind of gaucheness about them sometimes that makes them even lovelier. The thing that struck me most: one sees, looking at them directly in movement, just what the cave painters saw -- something that I have never seen in a photograph. It is an awe-inspiring thing -- the Mantu or "spirit" shown in the running of the deer, the "deerness" that sums up everything and is saved and marvelous. A contemplative intuition! Yet perfectly ordinary, everyday seeing. The deer reveals to me something essential in myself! Something beyond the trivialities of my everyday being and my individuality. The stag is much darker, a mouse gray or rather a warm gray-brown, like a flying squirrel. I could sense the softness of their coat and longed to touch them.

-- Thomas Merton Dancing in the Water of Life

Saturday, October 8

oneiric* space

No sooner do we start to fall asleep than space relaxes and falls asleep, too -- doing so a little ahead of us, losing its struts and fibers, losing its structural forces and its geometric coherence. The space in which we shall spend our nocturnal hours has no perspective, no distance. It is the immediate synthesis of things and ourselves. If we dream of an object, we enter into that object as into a shell. Our oneiric space always has this central coefficient. Sometimes in flying dreams we think we are very high up, but we are no more then than a little bit of flying matter. And the skies we soar through are wholly interior -- skies of desire or hope or pride. We are too astonished at our extraordinary journey to make of it an occasion for spectacle. We ourselves remain the center of our oneiric experience. If a star shines, it is with the sleeper's radiance: a tiny flash on the sleeping retina evokes an ephemeral constellation, conjuring confused memories of a starry night.

-- Gaston Bachelard The Right to Dream
Translated by J.A. Underwood

*oneiric: Of or relating to or suggestive of dreams

Friday, October 7

Nelly, I am Heathcliff -- he's always, always in my mind -- not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself -- but as my own being.

-- Cathy, in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights


Probably one of the most private things in the world is an egg until it is broken.

Until then, you would think its secrets are its own, hidden behind the impassive beautiful curvings of its shell, white or brown or speckled...


Basic French Omelet

6 eggs
3 tablespoons butter (good oil if absolutely necessary)
salt and pepper

Be sure that the frying pan (8 or 10 inches) is smooth on the inside. Heat the butter in it until it gives off a nutty smell but does not brown. ("This will not only lend an exquisite taste," Escoffier says, "but the degree of heat reached in order to produce the aroma will be found to ensure the perfect setting of the eggs.") Roll the pan to cover the sides with butter.

Beat eggs lightly with a fork, add seasoning, and pour into pan. As soon as the edges are set, run a spatula under the center so that all the uncooked part will run under the cooked. [By now I know, fatalistically, that if I am using a pan I know, and if I have properly rolled the precise amount of sweet butter around that pan, and if the stars, winds, and general emotional climates are in both conjunction and harmony, I can make a perfect omelet without ever touching a spatula to it. Such occasions are historical, as well as accidental.] Do this once or twice, never leaving it to its own devices. When it is daintily browned on the bottom and creamy on top, fold it in the middle (or roll if you are a master), slide it onto a dish, and serve speedily.

-- M.F.K. Fisher , from How to Cook a Wolf

Thursday, October 6

the way the world is

There is no way the world is.

-- Nelson Goodman, "The Way the World Is" Review of Metaphysics 14

Wednesday, October 5

on being together

Only -- but this is rare --
When a belovèd hand is laid in ours,
When, jaded with the rush and glare
Of the interminable hours,
Our eyes can in another's eyes read clear,
When our world-deafen'd ear
Is by the tones of a loved one caress'd --
A bolt is shot back somewhere in our breast,
And a lost pulse of feeling stirs again;
The eye sinks inward, and the heart lies plain,
And what we mean, we say, and what we would, we know.
A man becomes aware of his life's flow,
And hears its winding murmur; and he sees
The meadows where it glides, the sun, the breeze.

-- Matthew Arnold, from "The Buried Life"

Tuesday, October 4

Country Syllabub

Mix half a pound of white sugar with a pint of fine cider or of white wine, and grate in a nutmeg. Prepare them in a large bowl, just before milking time. Then let it be taken to the cow, and have about three pints milked into it, stirring it occasionally with a spoon. Let it be eaten before the froth subsides. If you use cider, a little brandy will improve it.

-- Miss Mary Deas Ravenel Charleston Receipts (1950)


A man's conscious wit and will, so far as they strain towards the ideal, are aiming at something only dimly and inaccurately imagined. Yet all the while the forces of mere organic ripening within him are going on towards their own prefigured result, and his conscious strainings are letting loose subconscious allies behind the scenes, which in their way work towards rearrangement; and the rearrangement towards which all these deeper forces tend is pretty surely definite, and definitely different from what he consciously conceives and determines. It may consequently be actually interfered with (JAMMED, as it were, like the lost word when we seek too energetically to recall it), by his voluntary efforts slanting from the true direction...

When the new center of energy has been subconsciously incubated so long as to be just ready to burst into flower, 'hands off' is the only word for us; it must burst forth unaided.

-- William James The Varieties of Religious Experience

Monday, October 3

matchup: Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali

The fighter turned to her suddenly and asked, "Mrs. Moore, what have you been doing lately?"

"I have been subduing my apartment," she said in her high, thin voice. "I have just moved in from Brooklyn to a new apartment which is strange to me and needs taming."

"Is that so?" The champion ordered a glass of water. "Yes," he said to the waiter. "We is tiptop at Toots." He turned back to Miss Moore. "Well, I am considering farming, myself," he said. "I'd like to sit and look across the fence at the biggest bull in the world -- just sit and rock back and forth and look at him out there in the middle of the field, feeding."

"Oh yes," Miss Moore said. She was quite shy with him, ducking her head and peeking at him. "Can we come and look with you?"

"You can sit on the porch with me, Mrs. Moore," Ali said.

She made a confused, pleased gesture and then had a sip of her tea. He ordered a bowl of beef soup and a phone. He announced that if she was the greatest poetess in the country, the two of them should produce something together -- "I am a poet, too," he said -- a joint effort sonnet, it was to be, with each of them doing alternate lines. Miss Moore nodded vaguely. Ali was very much the more decisive of the pair, picking not only the form but also the topic: "Mrs. Moore and I are going to write a sonnet about my upcoming fight in Houston with Ernie Terrell," he proclaimed to the table. "Mrs. Moore and I will show the world with this great poem who is who and what is what and who is going to win."

"We will call it 'A Poem on the Annihilation of Ernie Terrell,' " Miss Moore announced. "Let us be serious but not grim."

"She's cute," Ali commented.

A pen was produced. Ali was given a menu on which to write. He started off with half the first line -- "After we defeat" -- and asked Miss Moore to write in Ernie Terrell (which she misspelled "Ernie Tyrell" in her spidery script) just to get her "warmed up." He wrote most of the second line -- "He will catch nothing" -- handing the pen over and expecting Miss Moore to fill in the obvious rhyme, and he was quite surprised when she did not. She made some scratchy squiggles on the paper to get the ink flowing properly. The fighter peered over her shoulder.
Marianne Moore and Muhammad Ali
"What's that say?" he asked.

"It doesn't say anything. You could call them 'preliminaries.' Terrell should rhyme nicely with 'bell,' Miss Moore said tentatively. I could see her lips move as she fussed with possibilities. Finally, Ali leaned over and whispered to her, " 'but hell,' Mrs. Moore."

"Oh yes," she said. She wrote down "but hell," but then she wrestled with it some more, clucking gently, and murmuring about the rhythm of the line, and she crossed it out and substituted, "he will get nothing, nothing but hell."

After we defeat Ernie Terrell
He will get nothing, nothing but hell,
Terrell was big and ugly and tall
But when he fights me he is sure to fall.
If he criticize this poem by me and Miss Moore
To prove he is not the champ she will stop him in four,
He is claiming to be the real heavyweight champ
But when the fight starts he will look like a tramp
He has been talking too much about me and making me sore
After I am through with him he will not be able to challenge Mrs. Moore.

-- George Plimpton Shadow Box

Sunday, October 2


BŒLDIEU: May I ask you something? Why do you make an exception for me by inviting me to your quarters?

RAUFFENSTEIN in close-up: Why? Because your name is Bœldieu, career officer in the French army, and my name is Rauffenstein, career officer in the imperial German army.

BŒLDIEU in close-up: But ... all my friends are officers too.

RAUFFENSTEIN disdainfully: You call Maréchal and Rosenthal ... officers?

BŒLDIEU: They are very good soldiers.

RAUFFENSTEIN with contempt: Yes! ... [Modern warfare, the nation in arms!] ... The charming legacy of the French Revolution.

BŒLDIEU smiling: I am afraid we can do nothing to turn back the clock.

RAUFFENSTEIN rises and puts out his cigarette by the window.

RAUFFENSTEIN: I do not know who is going to win this war, but I know one thing: the end of it, whatever it may be, will be the end of the Rauffensteins and the Bœldieus.

BŒLDIEU: But perhaps there is no more need for us.

RAUFFENSTEIN: And don't you find that is a pity?

BŒLDIEU: Perhaps!

RAUFFENSTEIN seems thoughtful as he looks at the window which opens on a sheer drop of one hundred and thirty feet. The pot of geraniums stands on the inner ledge, next to a small watering can.

BŒLDIEU: I do admire the way you look after your geranium.

RAUFFENSTEIN turning back to him: Do not think that I have turned into a botanist, but it's the only flower in the castle... He sits by BŒLDIEU ... Ivy and nettles are the only plants growing here.

-- Charles Spaak and Jean Renoir Grand Illusion
Translated by Marianne Alexandre and Andrew Sinclair

Saturday, October 1


Of course, it is impossible to state objectively that everyone can find this transcendence in certain specific works of art. It suffices to note that the level exists and it is possible to experience it in some works of art. One of us will find it in a landscape by Leonardo or a poem by Goethe; another will find it elsewhere. But in any event we may say that this experience can be gained... only by those who are open and prepared for it. For even when the highest form of artistic reality has achieved objective existence in a work, it must be reborn in subjective human experience.

And it seems to us that one of the principal functions of all art is precisely... to bring the individual himself to transcendence -- that is, to raise him above time and epoch and also above the limited eternity realized in any limited archetypal form -- to lead him to the timeless radiant dynamic that is at the heart of the world.

In this sense the greatest art is a learning to see in the way described by Rabbi Nachman of Bratislava: "Just as a hand held before the eyes conceals the greatest mountain, so does petty earthly life conceal from view the vast lights and mysteries of which the world is full, and he who can withdraw it from his eyes, as one withdraws a hand, will behold the great light of the innermost world."

-- Erich Neumann Art and the Creative Unconscious
Translated by Ralph Manheim