This morning, I wrote to a professor, and included a few lines at the end about the March-time Malaise that seems to spring up every year. Her response, with its accompanying wisdom:
MALAISE MAY BE some terrible wisdom. I gardened, sort of, the other day and was amazed at the difference it made. Outdoor exercise, in all weathers, is essential. But it’s not just moving around; it’s locating an animal appetite, an unwisdom–not foolishness but an absence of knowing better. So go outside, to a real outside, like the river or Central Park, and just walk around thinking how insipid the advice is and what you could better be doing with your time, and maybe you’ll feel some irrational lift. It is March which matters. Be well. Bad things are every bit as temporary as good things.
A few passages from the beginning of EL Doctorow‘s 1975 novel Ragtime, transcribed for landscape and setting purposes, with all materials pertaining to matters outside the realm of landscape/setting segregated by double brackets. I feel like a troglodyte for even saying this, but if you haven’t done so yet, you must read and own this book; and then, you must go out and read Heinrich von Kleist‘s 1811 novella Michael Kohlhaas, which you should own as well. Trust me.
In 1902 Father built a house at the crest of the Broadview Avenue hill in New Rochelle, New York. It was a three-story brown shingle with dormers, bay windows, and a screened porch. Striped awnings shaded the windows. The family took possession of this stout manse on a sunny day in June and it seemed for some years thereafter that all their days would be warm and fair.
Sea birds started and flew up. This was the time in our history when Winslow Homer was doing his painting. A certain light was still available along the Eastern seaboard. Homer painted the light. It gave the sea a heavy dull menace and shone coldly on the rocks and shoals of the New England Coast.
The afternoon was a blue haze. Tidewater seeped into [[his]] footprints. [[He bent down and found]] a perfect shell specimen, a variety not common to western Long Island Sound. It was a volute pink and amber shell the shape of a thimble, and what [[he]] did in the hazy sun with the salt drying [[on his ankles was to throw his head back and drink]] the minute amount of sea water in the shell. Gulls wheeled overhead, crying like oboes, and behind [[him]] at the land end of the marsh, out of sight behind the tall grass, the distant bell of the North Avenue streetcar tolled its warning.
My father took these pictures from our balcony in Palm Beach just as the clouds rolled in from off the Atlantic, reminding me that there’s something magical about the weather down here. I remember when I was younger playing a soccer match a few miles south of here, the clouds coming in low but it still being bright and hot as though there were no clouds at all. The coaches didn’t hear lightning. The game went on. Continue reading