Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Imagery of the South

While reading Pamela Petro's book Sitting up with the Dead: A Storied Journey through the American South, I came across a piece of particularly striking imagery. She writes about talking with Nancy Basket, a storyteller in Walhalla, South Carolina, who tells her about the Cherokee towns being drowned for reservoirs. "There are some of us... who can still hear the drums sounding underwater."

Petro relates this to her time spent in Wales, where towns were similarly drowned for reservoirs for the English. There, the story goes, you can hear chapel bells tolling underwater.

It's a bit of a triangulation, but these images reminded me of, as Jacob might say, the time I spent in Tori Amos purgatory. Amos talked in one interview I remember about hearing the bells toll in the South. One lyric to "Here. In My Head" says, "The bow and the bell, and the girl from the South, all favorites of mine, you know them all well."

Bells and drums signify multitudes for me. War drums. The bells that tolled by the quarter-hour on campus, which I could hear from my freshman dorm window if the air was still enough, which echoed ominously through the quad if you were standing in the right place when they sounded. The drum of distant thunder. The phrase "for whom the bell tolls," which I'm well aware is a book but fascinates me only as sounds, kind of exactly like "roll of thunder, hear my cry."

On the Gulf Coast of Mississippi, they call the Pascagoula River the "singing river," because of the songs of the tribal people there, who walked into its depths rather than face fate at the hands of white men. I'm drawn intimately to water as well, something we have plenty of here in the South. I could never imagine being a desert child, a Pine Belt kind of girl.

Show me a trail and I want to walk it.

It's still autumn here, which is lovely because I've fallen in love with walking again. I just finished reading A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson, in which he hikes a good portion of the Appalachian Trail, sort of on a whim.

I've hiked parts of the trail before, but I was quite young, and I don't really remember much about it. In fact, about the only things I do remember are being scared to death of bears, and falling down dangerously close to the edge of the trail as it wound up a mountain. I still have a scar on my knee from that fall.

I've batted around the idea of hiking more of the trail now that I'm older and enjoy those sorts of things. I don't imagine I could ever do all 2,200 miles of it--for now I've settled on hiking the entire Georgia portion, a distance of about 78 miles (plus the 8 mile approach trail from Amicalola Falls). I'll most likely have to do it in chunks, what with work and all.

In the meantime, all this reading about hiking has inspired me to get off my butt while the temperature is still in the 50s. Friday I walked around Murphy Candler Lake and marvelled at how much it's changed since the weather turned cold. Yesterday I walked around the Dunwoody Nature Center, which was very autumn-colored and enjoyable.

Today I headed up to Roswell to hike through Leita Thompson Memorial Park. I ended up doing the 2.25 mile trail twice, plus an extra .25 miles around the lake. My first time around was glorious, and as I reached about the 2 mile point, I took a little side trail up the crest of a hill and discovered three deer grazing happily.
They watched me warily for a long time, and I took a few pictures and some video, then scared them as I put my camera away. I didn't know before that deer made a weird grunting/whining noise to warn each other of danger, but I heard it clearly just the instant before they all bolted out of sight.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Book: Madame de Pompadour, Mistress of France

by Christine Pevitt Algrant (2002).

Algrant takes a fairly condescending and judgemental tone in her discussion of the life of Louis XV's mistress. I don't think this is entirely justified, as the material she quotes only rarely backs up her remarks. Regardless, it was interesting to learn about the life of little Reinette, the bourgeouis girl who grew up knowing it was her destiny to be the king's lover. I had to peel away the layers of derision, but underneath was a fascinating woman.

I think her death says the most to me about her grace: "A moment, monsiuer le curé, we shall go together," were her last words, as her priest was trying to slip quietly out the door.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Some true things

"It's a kindergarten motherfucking sense of entitled, playground morality that assumes just because A is an asshole, B is blameless. It's possible for B to grow the fuck up and act in accordance with a stable morality, instead of leveraging their evil based on some kind of flimsy "Mommy, he started it" excuse. At the end of the day, A is not your problem, because A is not your responsibility. Your behavior is your problem, and what you did to excuse it, because you are the person in charge of you. There are a lot of unanswerable questions here, but that is not one of them, and somebody should have told these motherfuckers when they were younger, because now they are grown up and I am ashamed for them. Your personhood doesn't go in the closet until things get easier -- that's like the one thing I disagreed with Tigh about, down on New Caprica -- it's there all the time. You can't write your bullshit self a hall pass to be "your worst" or commit atrocities right up until the very second that things get perfect and awesome, at which point like a wonderful jackpot prize you get to be who you are "at your best," and how one of these days, you'll get to be that you. As soon as nothing bad ever happens, nobody ever calls you an asshole, and everything is perfect and quiet and still. I'm not saying don't "wipe 'em out," I'm saying be really damn sure you know why you're doing it, because that's the only question that matters. Fucking…be better. It's the easiest thing of the world."
--Jacob on Battlestar Galactica

"Think for yourself, because I won't be there with you. Nobody tells you when you're young that pain must eventually lead to pleasure, and vice versa; that a man must break his back, to earn his day of leisure. Think for yourself, because I won't be there with you. Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight."
--Jacob on Doctor Who

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Stamp carving and travel journals

I spent pretty much all of today carving stamps at my desk. I've had a sudden burst of creativity, nicely coupled with a fair amount of free time, and though my back and neck ache from craning to see, I am satisfied with what I've done. I've noticibly improved my skills at designing and carving. I wish that I could draw these images by hand, but I've never been good at freehand drawing. I'll just have to resign myself to that.

I'm also thinking of new ways to document these endeavors, new ways to journal and keep track of things like roadtrips. I want to be able to look back and say, we went here and it looked like this and felt like this. I haven't settled on anything yet, but here is what I know: every journal in my room already has something written in it, and I want to start fresh. I want to keep records of every trip Jon and I make and have made.

I need to find a way to scan images like my stamps into my computer so that I can post them. My camera can't take pictures at that close range.

Today on Flickr

I am really really jealous of all these people with their art skills and their cool travel journals.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Film: Marie Antoinette

I just got home from seeing this film, and of course I loved it. Of course, I would have a hard time not loving anything involving both Gang of Four and a big orgy of frothy period costumes.

I don't want to say too much about it, as it feels unnecessary to overthink this one. But of course, Sofia Coppola has made her into all of us, and the minutae of her life feels very contemporary, very understandable to me which I think is somewhat of a generational thing. This was the right movie for this particular moment.

Marie Antoinette
directed by Sofia Coppola, 2006

Today on Flickr

I discovered Fontainebleau.

Fontainebleau is the name of both a forest and a château (once a royal hunting ground and the largest royal château, respectively) located about 35 miles southeast of Paris. Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour spent some of their first weeks together at this château. The court went to Fontainebleau in the autumn every year, as Louis XV loved to hunt and did so with much of his free time.

And in a strange bit of synchronicity, Fontainebleau is also the name of a state park in Louisiana that I hope to visit next weekend. I've been working on a series of letterboxes based on French women I admire; Madame de Pompadour will hopefully be the first carved and planted. I chose Fontainebleau, obviously, for the matching name and season. But the park is interesting in its own right: it contains the ruins of a sugar mill built by Bernard de Marigny de Mandeville in 1829 (it is of further note that de Marigny was also the title of Mme de Pompadour's brother, Abel Poisson, though I'm not sure if/how the titles are related). M. de Mandeville named the area after the Fontainebleau of France. The park has hiking trails, and is quite near part of the Tammany Trace, a 31-mile rails-to-trails conversion. I doubt it's quite as beautiful as the royal Fontainebleau, but I'm excited nonetheless.

Autumn and roadtrips

It is undoubtedly autumn here, and driving up the small ridge on my way to work everyday makes my taxing schedule just a little bit more bearable. The trees are tall and all different shades of red and orange, with just a bit of green still peeking out. I am terribly excited to drive the highway outside of Birmingham, on my way to Mississippi this Thursday. I rarely make the drive during the day, but the landscape has so many secrets only seen in daylight.

Autumn is the season when I think about how I need to be doing autumn-y things. In the summer it all comes naturally--trips to the lake, cookouts, cold beer--I don't even think about it at the time.
But when it starts to get cool outside, I suddenly find myself thinking of all the things I need to do: visit cemeteries, drink apple cider, go to the corn maze, buy new sweaters, drive in the mountains, eat stuffing and mashed potatoes with my mom, go iceskating, visit Christmas light displays, on and on and on.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

St. Petersburg: The State Hermitage Museum

Heidi is on her way to Russia right now, or at least really soon, and I am sitting here at her desk being very jealous. She gets to visit St. Petersburg, and the Hermitage, where Sokurov made my favorite film of all time, Russian Ark. The films spirals through Russian history as though through a dream, never stopping, never staying in one place. The camera work itself is a feat: the film was shot in one take, with a steadycam, a cast of hundreds, the entire Hermitage as the set, and three live orchestras. Particularly affecting are the depictions of Catherine the Great as an aging queen, still spry enough to take a run through her snow-covered gardens with a courtier supporting her, and the scene from the Second World War, with all the frames empty and on the floor, the great rooms dark and bare.

The Director of the Hermitage ordered everything packed up during World War II and shipped off to safety. The frames remained, however, as a sign to the Germans that Russia would be back to display the glory of its gallery once again. Debra Dean chronicles this devastating time in Russian history in her novel The Madonnas of Leningrad. In the book, Marina, a young docent at the Hermitage, helps to pack the paintings and other pieces away; at the same time, she takes daily walks through the empty rooms, remembering by sheer force of will the pictures that once hung on the walls. She is drawn to the Madonnas in particular; I, on the other hand, wish I could see in person Fragonard's The Stolen Kiss, or any of the Poussin paintings they hold. More than that, I simply wish I sould walk those halls and see the mouldings, the staircases, the gardens.

I'll most likely never make it to Russia, and that saddens me to no end.

Today on Flickr

Castles are cool. So are monks.