Tuesday, July 16, 2013

With "completeness and intensity"

"That afternoon was brimming with a loveliness peculiar to that particular place; he knew that I was appreciating it, and I knew without any doubt how profoundly he was penetrated by it. He was a man who, with the help of the right wife, had finally found himself the place and the life that fulfilled him, and lived it with a completeness and intensity more often seen in an artist than in someone who should have been a farmer, had to become an army officer, and ended by teaching people sailing, and growing oysters, on the edge of the North Sea. What filled him as death approached was not fear of whatever physical battering he would have to endure (in fact there was not, at the end, any of that), but grief at having to say goodbye to what he could never have enough of."

(Athill, Diana: Somewhere Towards the End, Granta, London 2008, p. 74)

Books about ageing and dying might not seem the most obvious choice for summer holiday reading, but nature at its most alive and abundant is an indication of the passing of time as acute, if not more, as when the trees go bare later in the year.

The extract above describes an afternoon Athill spent sailing with her brother shortly before he died. Most of the women in her family made it into their nineties, and she wrote this book in her ninetieth year (she is 95 now). While parts are inevitably depressing, it is imbued with her acceptance of old age and death and written with a lightness of touch, at times approaching cheerfulness, surrounding the subject matter. 

The quoted passage, despite its heartbreaking melancholy ("His trouble was that he resented [death] because he loved his life so passionately." p.73), serves as a reminder to live life with the "completeness and intensity" her brother lived his.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Connections (cutlery, crystal)


Not feeling the best, I haven't ventured out much apart from a short walk in the woods and onto the cliff beside the beach (Tolkienesque woods and beach just a few minutes apart is heaven) - and to the local swan rescue. Most of my time has been spent in bed reading The Secret History and tending to domestic things.

Amidst the chaos of moving in, my sister somehow conjured up a three-course meal (berry crumble pictured), and my brother-in-law played his first gig with his old band at the weekend - I can only marvel at how fast they are settling in.

I drove away from their house with boxes of books from my childhood room - my entire art library - that came in one of their containers, as well as fancy glasses my late grandmother had given me and the extensive set of cutlery that had been stored away in my mom's basement for 20+ years, one of those gifts "for the bottom drawer" that relatives contributed to over a few years.

I washed the glasses and cutlery and made space in my kitchen and only noticed then how dull the cheap cutlery I had been using all the time looks in comparison. There are many areas in which I still don't feel like an adult at age 30, but I am in possession of sparkly silverware that includes tiny forks for cake and crystal glasses that I am determined to use for non-alcoholic beverages, seeing how rarely I drink at home. I don't believe in reserving things for special occasions.

But more than giving a semblance of grown-up-ness* at a time of doubts and financial insecurity, these objects are a reminder of home and a link to my family and past, and my inner minimalist recedes in respect for their significance (though I do seem to have way too many books on art!).

* I don't intend to ever grow up fully - note to somebody who keeps saying I act/look like a 4-year-old!