Sunday, May 4, 2014

Ah, ...

Every once in a while I get the urge to make jewelry. Though there are few things more awkward to look at, and to be expected to admire, than a woman wearing her own entirely homemade parure, still occasionally to string a few baubles on a cord and then wear them, a la the earnest and natural 1970s, seems a harmless habit. What you see below is one of my nicer attempts.

The peacock charm has been in my jewelry-making kit for I don't know how long. I like peacocks and once thought I might raise them someday. The hobby seems so Garbo-esque. Remember in Grand Hotel when Garbo's character despairingly muses she might "grow orchids ... or raise white peacocks" when her ballet career is at an end? But then the charming rakehell nobleman John Barrymore comes out of the shadows and gives her a new interest in life.

A friend of mine is packing up and heading to tropical climes tonight. He laughs at me when we emerge from the restaurant and I admire the lovely blue sky of a chilly spring evening. "That's not blue sky," he says. He points to a travel poster in a shop window. Palm trees, and so on. "That's blue sky."  "Yeah, yeah, yeah," I reply. And he can venture off to this tropical clime which has rather a reputation for violence, but wags his head at the idea of my going on my own to a little cottage on a Michigan lake. Unsafe, he says. Isolated. Anything can happen anywhere. "I don't want to be worried about you."

If anything can happen anywhere, perhaps I had better not stay home, either? Ah, men. Taking care they don't worry so often would involve doing whatever they say.

Here is the latest wine I have been enjoying. It's "new in the market."

"Chloe," Red No. 249. Delicious, of course. Ah, the California red blend. The marketing is excellent, too -- just a black and white photo of an elegant woman with her dark hair in a chignon, seen from behind as if she were a movie star on a red carpet calmly going out to meet a horde of oddly distant paparazzi. And who chose the name Chloe? A committee? One person brainstorming in a cubicle at The Wine Group? These are the good people, incidentally, who bring us Franzia and Cupcake. With Chloe they've gone superpremium, i.e. $16.99 a bottle.  Anyway the name seems just right, perfectly modern, not empty of meaning like Logan or Bailey, yet not burdened with simply being the ancient name of your grandmothers, aunts, friends, and neighbors -- Elizabeth, Fran, Debbie. I would just like to know what other names were on the short list. Zoe, Jane, Anna? Sophia, Becca, Meredith? Robin? -- talking of birds, and spring. Robin was actually on Margaret Mitchell's short list of names for Scarlett O'Hara, along with Storm, Pansy, and Angel. Garbo's character in Grand Hotel was called Grusinskaya, which simply won't do at all.

I type while the dear young folks are out, either working or seeing movies. Ah, the temporarily empty nest. The seared salmon with tarragon and wine reduction for one, the buttered potato, the glass of Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie for one, maker, Chateau la Berrière. Most interesting. The robins outside cheep their last loud throaty cheeps in the dark.

These are indigo-black storm clouds, not blue sky.Couldn't quite capture the color.

Recently, you know, I've treated myself again to those fine old Miss Marple television shows from the mid '80s that starred the great Joan Hickson. It may be their influence that leads me to usages such as "simply won't do at all." But, ah, speaking of birds and spring -- ah, the English garden (set), and ah! the English vicarage interior (set). The long lawns, the rose borders, the perfectly placed trees; within doors, the huge rooms, the abundant comfortable furniture, the gleaming wood and steaming teapots. And all the people sitting around with Miss Marple while she is so very firmly aware of good and evil, and of facts, and what does and does not "do." I am reminded a little of our friend Jacques Barzun, who wrote quite a few books on the slipping of Miss Marple's civilization down into our own. From Darwin, Marx, and Wagner, 1941, 1958:
I do say that the ideas, the methods, the triumph of materialistic mechanism over the flexible and humane pragmatism of the Romantics has been a source of real woe in our day. ...Romanticism valued individual freedom, subjective feeling, human reason, social purpose, and above all art. 
 By "materialistic mechanism" he means our modern way of looking at all things as simply caused and bound by scientific (to mean infallible, we trust) laws blindly governing matter, movement, development, decay. There is nothing else. "Denial of purpose," that is, denial of any Intelligent Design, God, was Darwin's prime goal, just as the denigration of the individual and and his will and purpose was Marx's goal. Miss Marple on the contrary, pre-Great War relic, brought up by German governesses who taught one the language of flowers, is humanely pragmatic when she tells this little story.
"Now I must just mention my maid Ethel -- a very good-looking girl and obliging in every way. Now I realized as soon as I saw her that she was the same type as Annie Webb and poor Mrs. Bruitt's girl. If the opportunity arose mine and thine would mean nothing to her. So I let her go at the end of the month and I gave her a written reference saying she was honest and sober, but privately I warned old Mrs. Edwards against taking her, and my nephew, Raymond, was exceedingly angry and said he had never heard anything so wicked -- yes wicked. Well, she went to Lady Ashton, whom I felt no obligation to warn -- and what happened? All the lace cut off her underclothes and two diamond brooches taken -- and the girl departed in the middle of the night and never heard of since!" ("A Christmas Tragedy")
What is that but a tale of subjective feeling, individual freedom, and human reason, as opposed to the nephew's up-to-date, rigid objectivity (and his "terribly innocent" mind)? I adore Miss Marple because I think she provides almost as good a look back into a different world and another, freer way of habitually thinking, as Barzun does. We need that, in a time uniquely  governed by insanity. "The replacement," he says -- in 1941 --  "of this productive Romanticism by the materialism of the mid-[19th] century was in fact a regression we are now paying for in the form of private neuroses and public massacres." Miss Marple agrees, in the  same story "A Christmas Tragedy" (1930). "Young people nowadays," she says, "believe in everyone and everything. And if one tries to warn them, ever so gently, they tell one that one has a Victorian mind -- and that, they say, is like a sink. Well, what is wrong with a sink? It's the most necessary thing in any house."

Finally I must tell you that I have learned a marvelous new word. Farouche. Meaning wild or savage, or "unsociable in a fierce or surly way." From the French forasche, ill-tamed, and ultimately the Latin forasticus, out of doors. To use it in a sentence you must be Angela Thirkell, writing The Duke's Daughter (1951). "She had observed Lord Lufton during lunch tall, so lanky, so farouche yet eating confidingly from a hand that he trusted...."

Ah, Thirkell. If you are going to attempt her, my advice is don't even try to figure out who everyone is and what is going on. You are being plunged into Barsetshire, you are a fly on the wall of the cowsheds there; if you are privileged to learn a word like farouche, your attention will have been well rewarded.


2011 Château la Berrière Muscadet Sèvre et Maine sur lie. Retail, about $10.

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