Yesterday I read all of The Fire Next Time by James Baldwin and about a third of My Antonia by Willa Cather. I have read a good deal more of the Cather today.
The Baldwin is, of course, very brilliant. There’s not real space here to unwind my thoughts about it. And perhaps my thoughts and words about it aren’t needed. Everything I think of seems too little, and also too self-centered and too big and too presumptuous. Which does not get me off the hook.
As for the Cather. I started this book years ago but couldn’t make it stick. That has nothing to do with Cather and much to do with my personality and obsessive ticks and sins of omission. I am older now, and hopefully wiser, and more disciplined. I love this book, and I can tell that I will miss it, and its people, when I finish. It reminds me on one level of the Laura Ingalls Wilder books my grandmother read to me when I was very small: the descriptions of frontier life, the harsh winters, the sod houses on the plains. It also reminds me how very close, in a real sense, my grandmother (born in the 20s) was to this kind of life. She was raised in town, but spent time with her cousins on their homestead with their heavy work and homemade toys and pig bladder balloons. I remember very vividly the story about the doll frozen in the puddle in the field. I remember very vividly my Grammy reading to me about the houses on the prairie, and the comic strips in our paper, which she called the funnies, and I remember her stories of the Depression, her impressions, later, of things like segregation. I think about James Baldwin saying that the writer’s task is to excavate the experience of the people that produced them, and about Robert Antoni’s idea that what so many of us are doing, across cultures, is preserving and re-telling our grandmother’s stories. That is very often what I’m doing. And it started with her determination that I should be read to, and that there were certain things that I should know, that certain things were good and certain things were not worth gretzing over.
I have not read Laura Ingalls Wilder ever on my own. 1983, 1984 are not so far back as I would have thought they’d be by now. Grammy’s voice and warmth still very much surround me. I am fortunate and grateful.
This is a New Year. The calendar says so. I note the fact by marking it so when I wish to designate the day and the year as distinguished from some other day and year. It may be that my contract says so. It is indicated clearly in the lease I signed or the agreement I attested. It is curious how much difference can be marked between the two dates — December 31 and January 1.
Yet there are many things that move unchanged, paying no attention to a device like the calendar or arrangements such as contracts or leases. There is the habit pattern of an individual life. Changes in that are not noted by the calendar, even though they may be noted on the calendar. Such changes are noted by events that make for radical shifts in values or the basic rearrangement of purposes. There are desires of the heart or moods of the spirit that may flow continuously for me whatever year the calendar indicates. The lonely heart, the joyful spirit, the churning anxiety may remain unrelieved, though the days come and go without end.
But, for many, this will be a New Year. It may mark the end of relationships of many years’ accumulation. It may mean the first encounter with stark tragedy or radical illness or the first quaffing of the cup of bitterness. It may mean the great discovery of the riches of another human heart and the revelation of the secret beauty of one’s own. It may mean the beginning of a new kind of living because of marriage, of graduation, of one’s first job. It may mean an encounter with God on the lonely road or the hearing of one’s name called by Him, high above the noise and din of the surrounding traffic. And when the call is answered, the life becomes invaded by smiling energies never before released, felt, or experienced. In whatever sense this year is a New Year for you, may the moment find you eager and unafraid, ready to take it by the hand with joy and with gratitude.
– Howard Thurman, Meditations of the Heart
Now the battle is to keep fascists out of power and freedom in sight. Even the Daily Planet suffers at the hands of the villains, who fear the truth of their exploits will be exposed and therefore go after Lois and the free press. The struggle is to keep Brainiac from overtaking the world via mindless technology while trickster Lex Luthor works in tandem, to fool everyone into believing they need protection from a false enemy, while he shields the sun and becomes the lone source of energy for sale…”
Kevin Smith may have accidentally created our current timeline.
Shawn at The Daily Drunk put out the call earlier today. A few of us answered. I give you Dude poems, a collection of impromptu Lebowski haiku.
The rug was a prominent image.
I’m cool with him reading Marianne Moore and Wendell Berry, but he’s definitely into my unfinished drafts. The nerve of this guy.