31 August 2002
Parish Church of St. Mary the Virgin
Great Brington, Northamptonshire
"I visited Althorp as well as this church
where Diana's father / family crypt are.
It was elegant, moving, poignant
-- an interesting and sweet experience.
Up the Republic!"
2 July 2002
Spanish language, to Silver City. But Paris . . . "
21 September 2002
"Happy Autumn Equinox! How I love fall
. . . beautiful sweater weather.
DIY is a fact of life: painting, steaming wall paper,
removing carpet, hanging blinds, new flooring.
Madonna christened her son here -- it's lovely."
27 September 2002
I start teaching on Monday . . . not overly excited.
I really do envy you your freedom, and while I know
you have responsibilities, they're such lovely ones.
I just feel . . . so very weary of attitude . . .
But don't you just absolutely love this time of year:
Is the ghost in the window?"
28 October 2002
Happy All Souls Day!
Happy Dia do los Muertos!
Happy Wiccan New Year!
Have a marvelous & scary time!
Boo! Boo! Boo! Boo!
Well, it wasn't Paris, but I enjoy being back in Romania.
Next year I am doing the Transylvania Tour!
I didn't see any ghosts, but I certainly met a lot of odd people.
It has triggered a renewed interest in ghosts and paranormal activity.
What's your take on the afterlife?
Are there famous haunted sites in Philly?"
I responded to all the postcards at once,
sometime in late October 2002
I still laugh whenever I read your card from the summer: "Spain . . . Spanish language . . . Silver City." Such a brief yet far-reaching list; seems to say it all! How was it spending the summer there, in Silver City, I mean? Well, and Spain too if you found yourself there? I know what you mean, though, how is that Spain and Spanish didn't make it onto our academic landscape? Is it just our Brit - Lit snobbery? Hmmmm.
How are your DIY projects coming along? I know that they can be very stressful . . . not like those chirpy little shows on the Learning Channel! Gerry thrives on his Home Depot projects (he loves that place!) and always feels hugely satisfied upon their completion. Me, I just do what I'm told and vacuum up the aftermath!
Have you come across any new ghost poems yet? How did you like "Edith Conant"? I'm so glad that you went to Althorp. Was Diana's ghost there?
You asked about Priscilla, my lace house ghost? I've just changed her bow, and she is hanging bravely in the entry foyer, a bit bedraggled, like Faulkner's Miss Emily or Miss Havisham. Maybe I should spruce her up a bit, get her one of those Betsy Ross caps that all the colonial ladies wore. I feel pretty sure that at night, she can glance out the window and see Wm. Penn, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin out on Pine Street -- so close you can just about reach out and touch them. It wasn't all that long ago, was it?
Here in Philadelphia, I often have the eerie sense that there are plenty of ghosts in the woodwork! Not to mention dozens lurking right outside the door! I was hoping to make some of the old occupants feel welcome to stop by and pay a visit from the afterlife! Looking over all the old real estate records for the house, going back to 1805, seemed like an appropriately mystical exercise for Halloween, when the veil between the two worlds is stretched to its thinnest.
Just finished The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen. Gerry and I both enjoyed it, especially the dual setting: the Midwest (which for better or worse I can always relate to) and Philadelphia (always very intriguing to read about fictional characters living in the very houses that you walk past every day of the week!). As you know, I walk almost everywhere, so I was able to read Franzen's novel like a street map. Not so with Jennifer Weiner's novel Good in Bed; while reading it, I had to wonder: did she really walk around all the Philadelphia neighborhoods or only just pretend to? Too many details just weren't right.
Similarly in Sixth Sense: that little kid is all over the way place! The church he stops by to visit on his way from home to school is miles away from his house! And he rides the bus right past our house on Pine Street, but the next thing you know, he's out in the suburbs! And in the Rocky movies a number of forgivable inconsistencies become evident once you actually know the area.
Franzen, on the other hand, does a great job of describing Philadelphia, especially in the autumn:
" . . . the October angle of the yellow light, the heart-mangling intensities of the season" (p 315).I loved The Corrections for all the beautiful and beautifully accurate descriptions of autumnal Philly. It really is so lovely now, truly the best time of the year. All I have to do is walk outside and glance upward to be filled with the significance of Samhain.
Teaching? Yes, at times it can be such a drain on the spirit. Can you pick texts that you will enjoy for yourself? Movies, poems, novels? Shall I send you a list of my recent favs? You are right that I am so lucky to be at home with my flexible schedule and my piano, and my books, and my e-mail, and my grocery store just around the corner, and my kids across the street in their little brick school house. I can live without practicing my profession, though at times I do feel rather useless and non-contributory, and non-revenue-generating. Still, it's hard not to love such a great life.
Even so, Gerry and I have lately been haunted by the feeling that it's time for a drastic life change of some sort and that waiting for the accepted retirement age might be too late. What then? At any rate, after our travels this summer, I think we have ruled out leaving Philadelphia for the cozy hometown life of southern Missouri! It was quaint to visit but too sad and, as you so rightly point out, there's no going back, only forward. I'm not sure why we are feeling so restless here in Philadelphia these days. We were determined to make a go of it in the city and we did. Then we were curious to try moving right down into the heart of things (from 48th St. to 3rd St.). Now we've done that. Things are not altogether better here, just different. E.g., the city services are better, the historical significance and beautiful architecture; but the taxes are high, the park bench loitering is worse (hey - no park benches to speak of in our old neighborhood, thus no park bench loitering). The good things about city life are intensified here, but so is the bad side.
So now the question is do we commit to city schools for the boys and enjoy the life we have made here for the next few years or move ahead to that new goal, whatever it may be? Should we re-locate to the UK? Gerry always swore that he would never go back. The puzzle is how to know whether you're leaving, in good faith, the path that has no heart or just randomly walking away from the meaning of life. The logistics seem so complicated. Whatever happened to Simplify, Simplify? Where is the quiet life and the big bowl of cabbage soup that Pasternak longs for at the end of Zhivago?
I've been reading an autobiography, Expecting Adam, by Martha Beck, who is awaiting the birth of her Down Syndrome Child. She says
"I did, at long last, realize that it didn't really matter what anyone else's opinion of my decision might be. What mattered was that I had made a choice that felt as though, in the end, it would bring me to the place I needed to go."I guess that's what it means to make a decision. If you had all the information you needed before the fact, then it would be obvious; it wouldn't even be a decision. I know the truth that all of our choices add up to where we find ourselves at the present moment, yet I still find it impossible not to play the "shoulda coulda woulda" game inside my head. Probably not too healthy, but so seductive.
Well, that's enough heavy - duty introspection for now! This was supposed to be a short light-hearted note to let you know that fall is in the air and that I received and loved both of your recent post cards: Dating Advice from Colgate Toothpaste -- hilarious! And the Cathedral where Madonna's little son was baptized -- v. touching!
"The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky . . . "
~ W. B. Yeats ~ "The Wild Swans at Coole" ~
Autumn Birches, 1916 ~ by Tom Thomson, 1877 - 1917
Golden Autumn, 1895 ~ by Isaac Levitan, 1860 1900
See comment below: "Birches" by Robert Frost
and on the Quotidian Kit: "Swinger, Slinger, Malingerer"