Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Every death is life again (Mary Oliver)

And now as the iron rinds over
the ponds start dissolving,
you come, dreaming of ferns and flowers
and new leaves unfolding,
upon the brash
turnip-hearted skunk cabbage
slinging its bunches leaves up
through the chilling mud.
You kneel beside it.  The smell
is lurid and flows out in the most
unabashed way, attracting
into itself a continual spattering
of protein.  Appalling its rough
green caves, and the thought
of the thick root nested below, stubborn
and powerful as instinct!
But these are woods you love,
where the secret name
of every death is life again – a miracle
wrought surely not of mere turning
but of dense and scalding reenactment.
Not tenderness, not longing, but daring and brawn
pull down the frozen waterfall, the past.
Ferns, leaves, flowers, the last subtle
refinements, elegant and easeful, wait
to rise and flourish.
What blazes the trail is not necessarily pretty.

--Mary Oliver, Skunk Cabbage

Monday, April 29, 2019

Heart Fears (Anna White) & The Upper Room (Twyla Tharp)

  I name you today, heart fears.  I am small, but you are smaller.  You will not stop me.  You have a voice, fears, and I must listen, but then I will open my heart.  I will love you right to death.

--Anna White,      
Mended:  Thoughts on Life,      
Love, and Leaps of Faith       

Pondering the fears the disciples must have faced in the upper room, unsure of where to go or what to do, consider this dance, entitled The Upper Room, choreographed by Twyla Tharp with music by Philip Glass:

Image source:  James Tissot, Mary Magdalene bursts into the Upper Room, https://ignatiansolidarity.net/blog/2016/03/25/holy-saturday-upper-room/

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The bellringer of Notre-Dame (Victor Hugo)

   Today is known in the church as Quasimodo Sunday, so named for the first words of the entrance antiphon Quasi modo geniti infantes, alleluia:  rationalbiles, sine dolo lac concupiscite, alleluia, which translates, Like newborn infants, you must long for the pure, spiritual milk, that in him you may grow to salvation, alleluia.  After the events of April 15th in Paris, is perhaps fitting to revisit today the most famous Quasimodo, hero of Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre-Dame, excerpts of which can be found below.


   Sixteen years previous to the epoch when this story takes place, one fine morning, on Quasimodo Sunday, a living creature had been deposited, after mass, in the church of Notre-Dame, on the wooden bed securely fixed in the vestibule on the left, opposite that great image of Saint Christopher, which the figure of Messire Antoine des Essarts, chevalier, carved in stone, had been gazing at on his knees since 1413, when they took it into their heads to overthrow the saint and the faithful follower.  Upon this bed of wood it was customary to expose foundlings for public charity.  Whoever cared to take them did so.  In front of the wooden bed was a copper basin for alms. […]


   When [Claude Frollo] removed the child from the sack, he found it greatly deformed, in very sooth.  The poor little wretch had a wart on his left eye, his. head placed directly on his shoulders, his spinal cord was crooked, his breast bone prominent, and his legs bowed; but he appeared to be lively; and although it was impossible to say in what language he lisped, his cry indicated considerable force and health.  Claude’s compassion increased at the sight of this ugliness; and he made a vow in his heart to rear the child for the love of his brother, in order that, whatever might be the future faults of little Jehan, he should have beside him that charity done for his sake. […]
   [Frollo] baptized his adopted child, and gave him the name of Quasimodo, either because he desired thereby to mark the day, when he had found him, or because he wished to designate by that name to what a degree the poor little creature was incomplete, and hardly sketched out.  In fact, Quasimodo, blind, hunchbacked, knock-kneed, was only an almost.  […]


   Now, in 1482, Quasimodo had grown up.  He had become a few years previously the bellringer of Notre-Dame, thanks to his father by adoption, Claude Frollo…
   In the course of time there had been formed a certain peculiarly intimate bond which united the ringer to the church.  Separated forever from the world, by the double fatality of his unknown birth and his natural deformity, imprisoned from his infancy in that impassable double circle, the poor wretch had grown used to seeing nothing in this world beyond the religious walls which had received him under their shadow.  Notre-Dame had been to him successively, as he grew up and developed, the egg, the nest, the house, the country, the universe.
   There was certainly a sort of mysterious and pre-existing harmony between this creature and this church.  When, still a little fellow, he had dragged himself tortuously and by jerks beneath the shadows of its vaults, he seemed, with his human face and his bestial limbs, the natural reptile of that humid and sombre pavement, upon which the shadow of the Romanesque capitals cast so many strange forms.
   Later on, the first time that he caught hold, mechanically, of the ropes to the towers, and hung suspended from them, and set the bell to clanging, it produced upon his adopted father, Claude, the effect of a child whose tongue is unloosed and who begins to speak.
   It is thus that, little by little, developing always in sympathy with the cathedral, living there, sleeping there, hardly ever leaving it, subject every hour to the mysterious impress, he came to resemble it, he incrusted himself in it, so to speak, and became an integral part of it.  His salient angles fitted into the retreating angles of the cathedral (if we may be allowed this figure of speech), and he seemed not only its inhabitant but more than that, its natural tenant.  One might almost say that he had assumed its form, as the snail takes on the form of its shell.  It was his dwelling, his hole, his envelope.  There existed between him and the old church so profound an instinctive sympathy, so many magnetic affinities, so many material affinities, that he adhered to it somewhat as a tortoise adheres to its shell.  The rough and wrinkled cathedral was his shell.

If your only experience of Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is the Disney movie, you might consider checking out the full text of the novel, available free on Project Gutenberg.  Click here for details!