Summer afternoon—summer afternoon

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon,” Henry James wrote late in his life, repeating the phrase with evident relish, as if to squeeze the full pleasure out of it, “to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.” It’s easy to see his point, to follow him into the meadowland that those two words conjure effortlessly. Surely “summer afternoon” suggests a lovely aimlessness, with time as a friendly spirit guide, not a haunting, hectoring ghost. Lemonade, ice beading the glass, comes to mind, and a fat 19th-century novel that you’ll never actually finish but can drift into, and then let fall open on the grass, as you get lost (you’re in a hammock under a big shade tree) in a drift of clouds passing overhead, shaping and reshaping themselves. That’s “summer afternoon” for you. It gathers you up, paradoxically, when you give up hunting for it. Keep it simple: Walk the dog, let her sniff to her intelligent nose’s deep content—no rushing her along to get the job done. Pausing, gazing, staring idly—this is the odd discipline of leisure. Let it find you on a park bench, with a bag of stale bread for the ducks in the pond…A nap occurs somewhere in the midst of this summer afternoon, the kind where you don’t really fall asleep but glide around in your mind, surprised by a memory, a moment, a regret, maybe your mother’s hands, her rings swiveling, your father and his deep frown, or that bully in second grade you kicked in the groin, glad to hear him howl and stop teasing you. Now you’re smiling. Your mind floats among these drifting bits that suddenly seem intensely worthy of attention, valuable. Just pause over these lost details, the collection you didn’t even know you’d amassed.Maybe that’s the way to practice for the launch of a successful vacation—not with a plan for two weeks freighted with expectation but with a single afternoon at full and indulgent ease. Call it a summer afternoon, not quite vacation time. It leads you past the fretful workweek into this sweet shimmering season you’ve been waiting for all year long.

~ Patricia Hampl, from “All of Summer In a Single Afternoon” (wsj.com, June 21, 2018)


Photo by Ali de Niese titled Lemonade (“I have a great love and admiration for the paintings of the Dutch master Johannes Vermeer. I love the combination of yellow and blue with a touch of white which is used in some of his paintings (e.g. Girl With A Pearl Earring, The Milkmaid). I’ve tried to create my own version of a yellow and blue still life, ‘after but nowhere near Vermeer’, if you like.”

And how good it feels, the heat of the sun between the shoulder blades


Photo: Delano Hotel, South Beach. Post title: Mary Oliver

Saturday Morning

hammock-gif

To rise early, reconsider, rise again later
to papers and the news…
Another day of what we bring to it-
matters unfinished from days before,
regret over matters we’ve finished poorly.
Just once you’d like to start out early,
free from memory and lighter for it…
nothing
to shrink from, nothing to shirk,
no lot to carry that wasn’t by choice.
And at night, no voice to keep him awake,
no hurry to rise, no hurry not to.

Tracy K. Smith, from “The Ordinary Life


He sees that this emptiness of self—that this alone—makes a life worth living, a life worth writing. He has been rinsed of ambition, of pride in himself, rinsed of shame over his failures, emptied of his grudges. He has even let go of time, of history—the sources of our regret, our sense that we have done it all wrong. Once reality has stabbed you in the heart like this, you are indeed free—or, when that sweet pain does leave you …the realization remains, a sure memory. This realization, not your ego, is your true self. Alone, outside time, but paradoxically within the moment. There he is, a poet suspended on planet earth in that most ephemeral piece of furniture, the hammock, swinging in the eternity of the moment, and he is empty of himself—at last. The whole world rushes in.

~ Patricia Hampl, The Art of the Wasted Day (Penguin Publishing Group. April 17, 2018)

 

Nirvana (-ish)

pelican

This morning. (And not Fake News, mostly.)

Sleep in till 7:45 am. Wow. Let’s do that again, and again, and again.

Read the morning papers. Read a few chapters of Patricia Hampl’s new book: The Art of the Wasted Day. And commit to workin’ on this Art today.

A heaping breakfast. Two-egg ham and cheese omelette. Bacon. Pork sausage links. Fresh cut fruit. Fresh baked pastries. And that would be plural on the pastries x 2. These same pastries were dipped in home made strawberry jam.

A short walk to the beach. Me and my breakfast hangover land heavily on the beach chair.

81º F.  Partly sunny. (Feels like 92 F.)  Warm winds @ 7 mph from the NE.

Miles of soft sand in both directions.

The Atlantic laps the shoreline.

Wispy clouds provide intermittent relief from the sun.

Out in the distance, hulking ocean freighters and their giant steel containers carry their cargo to ports away.

Pelicans, with their massive wing spans and beaks, cruise three feet off the ocean top, and plummet, splashing in search of breakfast. And they come again, and again and again — feeding. I look closely for a wing flap wondering how the maintain their locomotion. Can’t see it. Miracle. All of it.

Paragliders float up high, held aloft by giant multicolored rainbow parachutes.  Muffled sounds of jet skis in the distance.

Families and beach goers begin to arrive. Hundreds and hundreds fill the shoreline quietly and peacefully milling, settling, reading, playing, sleeping… children pull out their plastic shovels and pails out of Mom’s beach bag and start building castles…

My toes auger into the soft sand, dark and cool a few inches down.

And, oh yea, there’s a little of something else.

[Read more…]

A Journey Around My Room

In Lin Yutang’s view, you must possess the capacity to open yourself to seeing what’s in front of and around you all the time, not just when you are on a special trip. He gives us a sizable translation from a Chinese philosopher who expands on this, explaining that seeing the beauty and grace in the most majestic mountains means nothing if you can’t see beauty and grace in “a little patch of water, a village, a bridge, a tree, a hedge, or a dog….”

A travel book that takes this philosophy as far as it can go and then further is that remarkable little book: A Journey Around My Room. This is book was written in 1790 by a young French officer named Xavier de Maistre. […]

With nothing else to do, he wrote a guidebook to his room, visiting over the course of those weeks various bits of furniture, paintings, his bookshelf, letters he’d kept, and his own memory of a charming and slightly rakish life … De Maistre makes a case for traveling around his room as the truest kind of travel … “The pleasure you find in traveling around your room is safe from the restless jealousy of men; it is independent of the fickleness of fortune. After all, is there any person so unhappy, so abandoned, that he doesn’t have a little den into which he can withdraw and hide away from everyone? Nothing more elaborate is needed for the journey.”

Like all good travel writers, de Maistre begins his book by giving us the lay of the land and the route he intends to take:

My room is situated on the forty-fifth degree of latitude, according to the measurement of Father Beccaria; it stretches from east to west; it forms a long rectangle, thirty-six paces in circumference, if you hug the wall. My journey will, however, measure much more than this, as I will be crossing it frequently lengthwise, or else diagonally, without any rule or method. I will even follow a zigzag path, and I will trace out every possible geometrical trajectory if need be. I don’t like people who have their itineraries and ideas so clearly sorted out that they say, “Today I’ll make three visits, I’ll write four letters, and I’ll finish that book I started.” My soul is so open to every kind of idea, taste and sentiment; it so avidly receives everything that presents itself!…And why would it turn down the pleasures that are scattered along life’s difficult path? …

But when he wants to be awakened to what is going on in the world far from his window, and learn more about the human condition, there is another destination in his room that he can visit—his bookshelf, which is filled mostly with novels and a few books of poetry. These take him out of his room while allowing him to stay in it, and expand his experiences a thousandfold. He writes, “As if my own troubles weren’t enough, I also voluntarily share those of a thousand imaginary characters, and I feel them as vividly as my own.” …

After reading A Journey Around My Room, I vowed that I would take a trip to my room every few months, and these have been some of the happiest days I’ve spent. It’s an incredible luxury to be home and not sick, to wake up with no agenda other than to wander around the apartment all day. I can lie on the sofa and look at the light as it plays across a glass table. Or see the way it catches on a cracked ceramic vase. I can play with the shells I’ve brought back from the beach. I can admire our hearty little African violet. And I can visit my books, flipping through this one and then that to light on a passage.

This only works if I remain totally unplugged. The rules for such a day are simple—no electronics at all (except for music).

~ Will Schwalbe, from “A Journey Around My Room. Traveling.” In Books for a Living.


Notes:

Jane’s Summer Vacation (60 sec)


For direct link to CBS Sunday Morning video: Jane’s Summer Vacation

Saturday


Source: Marina VernicosSani Beach Holiday Resort, Greece

Saturday Morning


Photo by David Godlis via Craveonline.com – Take a trip back in Time to Miami Beach, 1974

Saturday


Source: Fubiz.net with A Beautiful Series of Beach Photographs by David Behar (Manhattan Beach, CA)

TGIF: Things to Do Today

Things to do today:

1) Breathe in.
2) Breathe out.

Ned Vizzini, It’s Kind of a Funny Story.


Photo: Huffinton Post.  Quote: The Vale of Soul Making

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