Monday, September 24, 2018

Miscellaneous autumn notes on the eve of another journey

…la morte deve spaventare ma non troppo. La natura che ci circonda, gli uomini e gli esseri viventi sono una cosa sola. Come non si deve offendere le persone, così non si offenda la natura. Il campo troppo sfruttato si rifiuterà di produrre e così le viti e gli alberi da frutto. Anche dagli animali non si deve pretendere troppo, perché il troppo li rovinerà.

—Paolo Jacob, Chiomonte: Tradizioni, ricordi, e un po' di storia, p. 153

SEPTEMBER. The light is a little lower, the evenings more golden-colored; and not only because of the smoke in the air. The Zinfandel is nearly ripe; already birds are at the grapes, and fox-scat is full of grape seeds. I love this season, but it inevitably brings on an autumnal mood. I’ve just turned 83 and can’t expect too much more patience from that lady with the scissors, what’s her name, Atropos…

Atropos: without swerve. Most of the pagans seemed to think of fate as linear, implying that life was seen (and still is, I think, in general) as a progression from birth through lifetime to death. (And possibly beyond: that was the promise of Christianity and afterward Islam; and a hollow promise I think it is.)

But as I grow older I think otherwise. The Self no doubt is linear, which makes life necessarily tragic and possibly even futile; but I am more than my Self. I am also all those things — events, persons, awarenesses — that accumulate within my ken during my lifetime. Some years ago I read a beautiful passage in a book about tradition and local memory in an Italian valley:

“... death must frighten but not too much. Nature, which surrounds us, humans and other living beings are all one thing. As people should not be offended, so we should not offend nature.The field too exploited will refuse to produce; likewise the vines and fruit trees. From animals, too, we should not expect too much, because too much will ruin them.” [My translation.]

The same with time.

Just as a spider secretes the thread down which she climbs, so you secrete the time you need to do whatever you have to, and you proceed along this thread which is visible only behind you but usable only ahead of you. The key lies in working it out properly. If the thread is too long, it goes into loops and if it's too short, it snaps.
Réné Daumal, A Night of Serious Drinking, p. 38. 

Maxwell: Ancestors, 307-8:

It is not true that the dead desert the living. They go away for a very short time, and then they come back and stay as long as they are needed. But sooner or later a time comes when they are in the way; their presence is, for one reason or another, an embarrassment; there is no place for them in the lives of those they once meant everything to. Then they go away for good. 
When I was in college I was wakened out of a sound sleep by my own voice, answering my mother, who had called to me from the stairs. With my heart pounding, I waited for more and there wasn't any more. Nothing like it ever happened to me before, or since. 

Ilya Pfeiffer:

Emigrating is like writing a new novel whose plot you don't yet know—not its ending, nor the characters who will prove crucial to how the story continues. That's why everything I write has something tentative about it.
La superba , p. 91


…Ye mountains and ye lakes,
And sounding cataracts, ye mists and winds
That dwell among the hills where I was born,
If in my youth I have been pure in heart,
If, mingling with the world, I am content
With my own modest pleasures, and have lived
With God and Nature communing, removed
From little enmities and low desires—
The gift is yours.

[Quoted in Types of Scenery and their Influence on Literature, by Sir Archibald Geigke, 1898, repr. Kennikat Press, Port Washington, N.Y./ London]

from a recent exchange on Facebook:

Cecilia: “The poet wants to drink from the well of origin; to write the poem that has not yet been written. In order to enter this level of originality, the poet must reach beyond the chorus of chattering voices that people the surface of a culture. Furthermore, the poet must reach deeper inward; go deeper than the private hoard of voices down to the root-voice. It is here that individuality has the taste of danger, vitality and vulnerability. Here the creative has the necessity of inevitability; this is the threshold where imagination engages raw, unformed experience. This is the sense you have when you read a true poem. You know it could not be other than it is. Its self and its form are one.” [—John O’Donohue]

CS: Absolutely. As Jean Coqt wrote: Mon esprit est partout. Au fur et à mesure que je vieillis, il va encore plus loin, jusqu'à ce qu'il me quitte complètement.

Cecilia [quoting]: Mettez un lieu commun en place, nettoyez-le, frottez-le, éclairez-le de telle sorte qu'il frappe avec sa jeunesse et avec la même fraîcheur, le même jet qu'il avait à sa source, vous ferez œuvre de poète. Tout le reste est littérature.

CS: Yes but Jean Coqt loathed Cocteau, who he called qu'un parisien, il cause il cause c'est tout qu'il peut faire, and went on to say Duchamp's pun lits et ratures was made with Cocteau in mind. Of course Coqt was a savoyard, and probably annoyed about the similar surnames, which must often have got him into trouble…