I – WHERE TO LOOK

I

It is the day Ethiopia will plant 250 million trees to tackle climate change and yet another boat of refugees will sink in the Mediterranean; posts are viral with the reactions of Italian Navy officers rescuing dead bodies, of mothers, of infants, of newborns wrapped firm in their mother’s denim leggings; (globalization for all of us, baby; or the impression of safety you think denim leggings will give against the very blue waters of the Med? I was staring, spellbound, at the same sea only yesterday afternoon, from the soothing shores of Cape Posillipo, the ‘respite from worry’ of ancient Greek seafarers – this would have struck a discordant note with the death bulletins from south of Sicily.) This morning Vesuvius shows the bay and the city its sinuous flanks and round top, the middle ground being wrapped in clouds, white and light blue, like the clouds can steal the hues of the morning sky – anyone can wax poetic when it comes to the bay of Naples – guide books informing the impression-thirsty traveller where to look at dawn and where to look at sunset, where to be as the sun rises and where as the sun sets (then do whatever you like in between, explore what’s in between sunrise and sunset, like the vows some exchange at a wedding, for better, for worse, for rich and for poor, in sickness and in health, till death do us part – who’s us? – the Baroque absurdity of existence coming out in the crumbling palazzi, some wonderfully restored, which you will just stumble on, not visit, as they come to you unexpectedly. You can’t feel it unless you’re here.)

BACK TO THE COUNTRY – THE HERO

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It was time to think about getting the firewood for the winter, for the stove in the basement. Countrylike preoccupations. And tribulations, too. We were talking about it out in the back, dad sitting on the fence, he says grandpa’s got so much wood up in the old henhouse he will never use, not because he’s going on ninety-two, but because he doesn’t use his fireplace anymore on wintry Sunday afternoons, too much of a hassle, although last year we spent quite a sum to get the chimney all clean – the chimney sweepers came! – the chimney’s old, all bricks, you would need steel now, but they cleaned it anyway, grandpa won’t use it, so should we get all that wood, old and half of it rotten as it’s been out there for ages in that dilapidated shed, or just get it new? He says he’s done a few trips with his wheelbarrow up and down the hill from our house to grandpa’s: Is it worth it? “Honestly, it would cost me more to get the wood down here than get new wood” – sometimes it’s all about the cost of things with him.

And then the farmers, two brothers, who live at the very top of the hill and who, among other farming jobs, go around chopping down trees into firewood, pass by on their way home and well, “what a coincidence! I was just talking about all this,” father says – I’m being pointed at! – and a series of nodding and weird sounds that are not really words, eh, huh, bah, what are we gonna do?, the decision is made on the spot to go see straightaway, hop on the truck, dad will go up pronto with the two of them, in hindsight not such a good idea, grandpa will be eating, he’s not one to be disturbed while eating …

So we’re awaiting now the return of the hero with the solution for the firewood. The two professional farmers will have the final word of course, one look at the big stack of old wood in the old shed and they can tell instinctively how long it’s been rotting there, heads shaking in dismay, to think that grandpa was a better farmer than they – the wood’s been here at least 10 years! eh, huh, bah – and it’s never been grandpa’s job really, never had a farm, worked in a factory in the city, always had a garden with vegetables and fruit, grandma was into the flowers, this being the division of labor in the country for the old school, all year round. The hero seems to be following in these old-fashioned steps, on sunny days of hobby-devoted afternoons, in his house without firewood, which runs on electrical heating, cutting-edge solar panels installed a few years ago. But he’s got it. The rural understanding that nothing, however old, can be thrown away – nothing!

Reposted for: https://fivedotoh.com/2018/11/20/fowc-with-fandango-shed/

THE TWO EMPLOYEES OF THE NATIONAL ARCHIVES

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The two employees of the National Archives looked down at the avenue stretching before them, a straight mile or so, at the feet and wheels cutting it at right angles. They were smoking, small-talking. Their eyes suddenly caught a young man with a light-blue briefcase (A student! A scholar!) walking up the avenue in between the manicured hedges and the neatly parked vehicles; he looked up – they looked away, and kept small talking, hiding from each other and him the hope that the light-blue briefcase would reveal a soul interested in archives, so surprising when they had people come in, so annihilating when the dusty shelves stood untouched – no metaphor – for days on end. The young man stopped, opened his briefcase (A folder? Some files?) walked on a bit, reached the steps leading to the massive columns of the National Archives building and sat down (A book! He’s reading! Wonderful sunny day, huh?) Last puff, cigarettes down, backs to the avenue, flags on their poles swinging in the glass doors gently closing.

22. March 1, 1915

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1 March 1915

The belfry has been reduced to: “Isn’t that tree trunk big! Wait, it’s a belfry.” It is the abandoned convent that stands by the path through the woods. I was padding along the path behind a vision. I wasn’t walking. And I paid an imaginary visit to the empty frescoes and the gutted columns. The saints were smiling because they wanted me to stay on. It is a show, after all, and they know it. In the little time it took me to break in through the non-existent stained glass windows, they arranged a glorious tribute to their golden god and urged me to do something about the walls, and the columns, and the crypt. I don’t know if I want to.

The white clouds eating up each other in the blue sky today help.

What’s our world coming to, dear Paula?

I will write more on this tomorrow.

SO… THIS BOY HURRIES BACK HOME

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So… this boy hurries back home carrying a six-pack of water bottles, and he has a hard time finding his keys to the main door… A woman is walking down the steps of the building; she opens the door but doesn’t hold it for the boy. She lights up a cigarette in the middle of the sidewalk.

An elderly lady is approaching, while a… nameless, red-haired Lolita rushes out of a nail shop, doesn’t look out, bumps into cigarette lady and elderly lady. Bus D54 zips past to the next stop – too far! – but the traffic light, green, goes orange then red. The bus screeches to a halt.

Bread is being baked at street level… the smell rising in the mirror of a signpost. A car… backs up and hits a scooter, softly, then speeds away, almost runs over the old lady, and cigarette lady watches, and nameless Lolita gets on the bus, while… the door downstairs bangs, and the boy and his water are home.

13. “I came over on the Rodin”

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Sitting in a comfortable armchair, his big dreamy eyes on the flat expanse outside the windows.

The French littoral had vanished in the wake of the ferry, and the British coast lay beyond the low black clouds moving in from the ocean. The sea was choppy – half light, half pitch dark. He had tried to stay on the deck outside but the wind had pushed him out of his little shelter behind the lifeboats.

A wave, and the alarms of the cars had gone off and waken him from his reverie. He’d gone back in among the sad game arcades, the carpeted floors, le pub, and the posters advertising how cheap it can get for “frequent crossers.”

All of a sudden the famous white cliffs of Dover, in the fog, the rain and the gray clouds. It’s not the new world, but the thought is, “I came over on the Rodin.”