I am writing this on Saturday morning, when I expect to be out and about . But it’s raining
and I can’t see that getting wet in a country awash with infections, and all the attendant difficulties in treating them, is a wise thing, the susceptibility of age, and so on. There is a terrible nervousness for which I have no logical explanation which says I must go and buy food – as if I would starve if I didn’t. No I am not a secret hoarder and I have only gone hungry through mismanagement and inexperience, and that a very long time ago. But the anxiety is real enough, and has to be arm-wrestled into quiet through what we used to call common sense,
now as rare as hen’s teeth.
As the television news media collectively has become less impressive, more repetitive and flies increasingly under the banner of “nothing sells better than bad news” – I have taken to a newspaper. Well, I started with three, came down to two and ditched one over a year ago when, after three approaches and a personal introduction, the editor didn’t acknowledge, let alone reply. So I am down to one. Not Holy Writ but reasonably informed and not extreme, I do well with it for the most part but I seem to spend a lot of time avoiding certain images.
There are faces I don’t want to look at, my initial distaste reinforced through repetition.
There are images that may be politically popular but I don’t like them. I am prepared to be told that I am culturally indoctrinated – who isn’t ? The form of mine is more benign, generous even, than a lot of other people’s. And when I was showing my son my commonplace book, into which nothing makes it unless it is very important and lasts, I found “Beauty refers to a high level of coherence existing everlastingly in the world.” Of course your view of beauty isn’t mine, though we might share certain kinds of image or idea … and as I wrote this, a card arrived, a Japanese woodblock of morning glory from John, who wrote “I was in the Ashmolean last month and this gave me as much pleasure as all the amazing artefacts.” I can see why. It cheered me up no end,
I love a woodblock – linocuts too.
It was particularly welcome because of the conditions described above but also because we are in the seasonal dearth of good cards. We’ve just had Christmas and New Year, a certain level of birthday is probably fairly constant, there is that group of enthusiasts like me who like their cards blank so they can be used for apology, enthusiasm, acknowledgement and so on but they were thin on the ground yesterday when I had an all purpose and a birthday to find, and not much to choose from.
Cards mean different things to different people but while I am prepared to send you the gift you’d like rather than the gift I would like to give you, I can’t send you a card I wouldn’t put my name to. Unreconstructed snobbery, personal taste and aspiration to the importance of the aesthetic described in the quote above by Barry Lopez.
image of coherence
I keep articles, images, books and I go back to them, absolutely sure that this happens when the time is right. And it only has to be right for me. Which is how I came to be re-reading The Incredible Journey last night, the story of how three animal companions cross the wild land of Canada to go back home and meet their returning human family. It was written in 1961, I’ve read it before – but not with such understanding. I believe in re-reading. You see something else … and the written pictures are wonderful. I wonder how much of that wild world remains.
Like most city slickers – and I have lived by choice in a city most of my life – I like my country quite wild. And while the news labours this death, this shock, this regrettable, I want to save more land and plant more trees. That would make me happy. Even on an overcast and miserable Saturday.