Saturday, November 13, 2010

Whitty can't cry

The English Cocker Spaniel will never let you see he isn't happy, and sometimes this is very difficult to discern. His tear ducts aren't reservoirs of protest, they are wellsprings of refreshment for his nostrils and his sight. If they close, you mightn't notice, so insouciant is his nature. Allergies can irritate him; genetics can play a part. Other things. 

We watch an English Cocker Spaniel at his play as some shimmering cuirass of our own wearing, against every knowable slight; crown, upon every gladness; lens, upon so much loveliness; panache, on so much mirth. None of the things we know to be true of his fragile gift to us can ever breach our bond, through him, with delight, curiosity, energy, and respect for rampant sauciness, fair play, wit, and gentleness. Where does it come from?

Very few things I believe are not passed through Whit's exemplary sieve in my assessment. I don't tax him with the weird occupations of one's life, any more than I inquire of him what makes a bush so damned interesting. But he shares. And this is the prettiest sight I can ever expect to contemplate. We give him medicines now, and prepare for his surgery early next month. He's a vigorous little guy, and we're very hopeful.

If this blog could be an English Cocker Spaniel's, it would be so sweet. This posting naturally raises fellow feeling, but it's not a complaint. It's a tribute. We can accept no comments; Whit wags, and pays it no mind. That's the spirit.

Georg Frideric Händel
Sonata, Anthem for the Duke of Chandos,
I will magnify thee
Harry Christophers, The Sixteen
Chandos Records, Ltd., 1989©

Saturday commute v

Out our window, we watch the UVA boys going off to swimming practice, flotation at the ready for their meet today with Princeton, valour unmistakable; while, in New Haven, Yale's pet implores the Tiger at the station, for some favours from the gridiron in the Bowl. The aviator's packed for any destination that will have him, no hip flask left to mar his symmetry. It's a day when we don't wonder where to be. 

Whit and I are at home to savour life in sweet alignment. It's the season's peak in the Piedmont, it's Pinot Noir weather again, and John Le Carré has a new book out. You just can't think of a suppler languour for an English Cocker Spaniel, than a master whose ankle has seen the last of his boots for the day, and has a sensuous Échézaux in hand to coax a text of intrigue from the best.

For as the sun is daily new and old
So is my love still telling what is told.

Translucent leaves of maple blaze, entrapt, in naked stems of lavender, and watercress shine green in practice rows for sandwiches. We still feel the light, but now it soothes, diffuse in reciprocity with seethings of the earth. There could be truffles for our quail, pale gnocchi for its foil.

Why is my verse so barren of new pride, 
So far from variation or quick change?

The Côte d'Or, when decanted, is our hour's natural scent; its earthiness, when glazed, will steep the air in plushest loam of garnet. The blood awakens as it warms to consanguinity discovered in its depth. Charlemagne, on Corton's molded peak, could claim no more than lendings of its fruit. Speak, cousin.

William Shakespeare,
Sonnet 76

Friday, November 12, 2010


Hark, hark! Just now my list'ning ears
Are struck with the repeated sound
Of labouring oars, and it appears,

Henry Purcell
Swifter, Isis.., 1681
James Bowman, counter-tenor
Robert King, King's Consort
Hyperion, 1992©

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Valéry Lorenzo has created a posting on Josef Sudek

In the United States, as he may not know, we have a saying, "Lowells speak only to Cabots, and Cabots speak only to ...". It's a hideous enough reflection on our inexpressibly empty 'social mobility,' to lay its cap of blasphemy aside. Although hierarchy is diametrically not in the nature of the humane art of photography, the saying runs through one's mind, on seeing the learnèd and candid posting Valéry Lorenzo has published today at his blog, on the illuminating Josef Sudek.

One values one's betters by their candour as much as by their work. M Lorenzo has designated Sudek as his favourite photographer, and has confessed to harbouring not the least interest in imitating him. But he'd be a grateful splashblock, he implies. And who knows how impermeable any of us is, to what we respect? I, ever querulous in photography, feel a happy enough debt to a Valéry Lorenzo to welcome it, as he would say, to my dreams.

An egg and a crust of bread from Josef Sudek (subtitled, "Poet of Prague" in my lone volume of his works). I had him in mind, with Paul Strand, when I spent a day recalled in "American veteran." I second this happy posting, and thank M Lorenzo for joining followers here - which term is surely backwards, for all one's readers.

We are a city of coffee, comprising wafts of crema in our whirl.

Rhetoric suspended


me voici sur la plage armoricaine

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Every now and again

Every now and again we're tempted to suspend our war on sepia. It's still unnatural and aberrant, it's still not countenanced in Leviticus. It still seems simply to be a perverse choice, one that could be cured if one could learn to make a pretty picture. 

But panic's such an exhausting faith. Suppose there aren't enough of us?

Answer the door

Andrea Palladio, Teatro Olimpico

Much is made, because it has to be,
of the act of proceeding through a
falsely sheltering door. But nothing
is unilateral. A door, a window, are
as much to be answered. Credit the
knock, hear the light.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

"Episódios Nacionales"

Although in my conscience I needed no amnesty, for I had done nothing wrong, yet I was forced to think of myself as a criminal in hiding awaiting a pardon.

O España, there is no dissimulation to cover thee, no mask to hide thy face, no ointment to adorn thee, because, wherever thou appearest, thou art recognised; one half of thy face in the mood of a fiesta, the other with misery grinning through it.

His Holiness Benedict XVI has descended upon Spain to consecrate Gaudi's masterpiece-in-progress, denouncing Spanish marital liberty in a stunningly impolitic curse upon the Republic of the 1930s. This is not a world away, it is not half a world away. Mormon bagmen buy plebiscites in California against our human rights, while sectarian hysterics front the corporate take-over of Congressional elections.

This is their evidence for God?

Manuel Cortes to Ronald Fraser,
In Hiding: The Ordeal of Manuel Cortes,
Random House, 1972©

Benito Perez Galdós, cited in
The Spanish Cockpit, Franz Borkenau, 1937©,
Foreword by Gerald Brenan, 
University of Michigan Press, 1963

Monday, November 8, 2010

"If you'll walk a little further"

I was just out with my resident genius, Whit, an English Cocker. We were walking on lead because it's Monday, and with sunrise, time was pressing. In an adjacent field, the herdsman had left his hay tractor in the shade of a stand of maple, casting a paradoxical reflection from its upper frame.

Immediately Whit bounded, bristled, planted his feet squarely in their frosty starting blocks, his nostrils steaming for that leap I've seen this spaniel sentry give our geese, arriving now.

I paused, Whit's alarm shunting tremors through the lead. He barked. I said, Come along, let's walk some more. If you'll walk a little further, you'll see that it's OK. Whit had taught me this, years ago, where parallax or some disturbance in a frame excites confusion, felt as threat.

We did walk on. 
It was OK.
Tell the old. 

Victor Norlander

For a purer extract of Monday

Aroma beyond irony.

Organisation man

The proverbial man-in-the-gray-flanneled-suit,

the pious Marriott novitiate in his white button-down collar,

the hangman discreet in his hood,

bow instinctively to the denizen of the deep in the suppression of affect.

The whole world over, it's Monday.

It's not your fault, Will. 
It's not your fault.

Script, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon©
Good Will Hunting, a film by Gus van Sant

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Customs in common i

After dinner, someone will reliably propose, in the mode of a parrot, declining a cognac, on va au bar. 

This will explain the prevalence of zippered jackets as evening wear. It cannot explain the parrot.

Mathias Lauridsen


I'm grateful to this portrait of a gymnast for helping to explain the feeling of flight to be experienced in rowing. The shock of the catch is at its center, and this image foretells that explosive sensation very well, as one demanding concentration, self-control, and readiness.

I am pretty certain that the comparative weightlessness of forward motion in a rowing shell at speed, as the oar is drawn back ("feathered") only centimetres above the water, is not much less than that of the gymnast's rotation above the bar.

Time cannot be minced in the mind as this takes place, as the body responds to the ten hundred thousandth time it has performed this lightning cycle. But make no mistake: awareness is never absent of being subject to tremendous power, propelled upon an arc of pure flight, by elemental counterpoint. 

All of one's strength, relaxed for a split second, is quite suddenly engaged against all of one's inertia accelerating in the opposite direction, as the oarsman cuts the surface by no more than a few inches, the shoulders burst, and he rockets in reverse trajectory. The gymnast knows this deflection, and still he comes back for it. He couldn't fly without it.

If you are alone, the complexity of the task is magnified, and its pleasures resemble the virtuosity of the gymnast's pursuit; but in a familiar scale of forces, of other rewards. If you are in a chorus of 4 or 8, nothing will ever allow you to forget the sound you made.

J.S. Bach, Credo: Patrem omnipotentem
Mass in B Minor, BWV 232
King's Consort, Hyperion, 1997©