• Tag Archives Rome
  • Falling in Love

    Imbolc                                                                 Valentine Moon

    “I really fell in love with that part of the world,” says Cynthia Hopkins of the Arctic, where she journeyed with other artists in 2010. “I also fell in love with the boat we were on.”  author of This Clement World opening at the Guthrie

    My promiscuity.  I shamelessly fall in love over and over again when I travel.  Bangkok’s quirky Chinatown, especially on the weekend with all those restaurants set up on the sidewalks and folks walking in the densely trafficked street.  Angkor in all its viney, scorpion infested, land-mined Hindu strangeness.  Inverness and its smoky river, walking there with Kate.  Why do we ever have to leave?  That little restaurant, Crispie’s was it, just down from the Internazionale in Rome.  The Ringstrasse in Vienna.  The left bank in Paris.

    (oh, yeah, Romania.  A more recent love.)

    Then there was Ushuaia, that frowsy scamp of a town as far south as you can get in the Americas.  And, god, just before her, those Chilean fjords.  Let me off the boat.  Give me a small house, an internet connection and forget about me until, well, forever.  Montevideo, too.  Friendly, beefy, colorful.  Old world European with a Latin twist.

    I suppose I’d have to mention those old, first loves, too.  Chicago, city of roast beef sandwiches, the Field Museum, the Shedd Aquarium, Hyde Park.  D.C. and all its power, its monuments and museums.  And yes, like so many before me, I had a brief fling with San Francisco, but she’s so expensive, a real high-maintenance gal.

    Of course, there are a few I keep, stable-like, harems of places that I visit like a ghost Sultan, flitting in and out, but always returning for one more time.  Lake Superior, especially the true north shore, the part in Ontario.  The Georgian bay of Lake Huron.  Those rocky mountains lying just at the limits of my home turf here in the U.S.  All majesty and purple.

    Savannah and Charleston, yes.  The south is a guilty pleasure, that one with the dark desires, visited always with an eye to the road back north.  New Orleans, oh yes.  Dark queen of the south.  I’m sure I could return to the Okefenokee swamp.  And I confess to two trips to Red Cloud, Nebraska.  Those Grand Tetons.  Yes.  Cody, Wyoming. Yes.  Ely and the north woods.  Yes.

    You see, I’m the tramp really.  Letting my heart go, letting it all go.  Loving this place and that.  I’m easy, I guess.

  • More Fun With Ovid

    Lughnasa                                                 Waning Harvest Moon

    More fun with Ovid.  The curtain has begun to roll back a bit more.

    Many of my friends have second and third languages, but until now I only had the one.  A bit of French.  A little Hebrew.  A little Greek.  But nothing solid.  The ability to look on a page filled with Latin words, words I would once have brushed over with little attempt at comprehension, and see meaning emerge delights me.

    The words still look strange to me, foreign, but now they carry a pulse of meaning, one I can get if I look a bit longer, or turn to a book.

    The same work I mentioned above, All Things Shining, that critiques Western individualism, has a section on the decline of craft, the disappearance of embodied learning, of skill at making.  Again, I find myself pushing against their analysis and in this instance Latin came to mind.

    To translate requires a subtle knowledge of the original language and an idiomatic grasp of the home language.  This type of intellectual work is a skill, a craft like that of. woodworkers or, the example used in the book, wheelwrights.  It requires a mind numbing series of early, simple steps that build only gradually into a suite of skills.  My guess is that the traditional seven years to move from apprentice to journeyman is not far off for Latin.


  • Natural Disasters on the rise in the United States

    Lughnasa                                                                         Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    “This has been a devastating year,” National Weather Service director Jack Hayes said. “Natural disasters are on the rise in the United States,” he noted, including records for heat, tornadoes, floods and fires, and with the bulk of hurricane season still remaining.

    So.  The economy has tanked.  The climate has raised hell, at least that’s one explanation that the right wing might find congenial.  Much warmer in that theological realm.  And, it might well have come up first through Texas and Oklahoma, seems possible to me.

    Then.  Our political parties stumble over themselves in making ridiculous policy, then bending the knee to the most extreme right wing and  apologizing for not having made worse policy.

    If these are the end times, it will be because the Great Spirit got so distracted from laughing at our self-defeating ways that She forgot to run the universe.

    Consider that the natural disasters Jack Hayes refers to are probably caused or at least dramatically reinforced by human action.  Then, consider the all to0 human disasters in Washington, Rome and Athens.

    If shooting ourselves in our collective feet were an Olympic sport, we’d all be medal winners and hearing our national anthems over and over again.

    It is also human that our Asian brothers and sisters, especially the Chinese, see all this as evidence of the inevitability of their rise.  Well.  Probably not.  World history shows the rise and fall of great powers to be a rule, played out over and over again on continent after continent in era after era.  The Qin Dynasty.  Rome.  The Khmer.  The Mughals.  The Macedonians.  The Persians.  The Greeks.  The Maya.  The Aztecs.  At some point in world history others will add, the United States of America, Europe and, yes, even China and Japan and India.

    We need to step back, take a look from the long view.  These are neither the worst of times, look at the fate of Carthage, for example, nor are these the best of times, see the Song Dynasty or the Classical Mayan period or Persian culture.

    Yes, I find the politics of our time, of this millennium, disheartening in their mean-spiritedness, their lack of charity and compassion, their polarization, but, as Cicero said, “No reign lasts forever.”  It could be that our knuckle-headed policy directions will put paid to the human race, it’s possible, for sure, but history tells me that we’ll muddle through somehow, in spite of ourselves.

  • Hail, La Nina

    Imbolc                                New (Bloodroot) Moon

    A while back I asked John Harstad, then the naturalist at Cedar Creek Nature Center, a wonderful place run by the University of Minnesota and only about 15 miles from home, about first signs of spring.  His answer coincided with a local master gardener, “Bloodroot blooms.”  Since that should happen within the waxing and waning of this moon,  I’m choosing Bloodroot Moon for its name.

    The snow began to come down this morning and has some legs.  The sky has turned sheet metal gray and the wind blows in from the northeast.  If I recall correctly, such wind direction can foretell deep snow.  Not predicted though.

    This is the half-way point in my stay here at Blue Cloud.  I’m feeling it, too.  I’ve been working almost twice as long each day as I usually do when I write at home.  Though I love it, I’m getting tired.  Might be another 10 am nap coming on, too.

    Conspirata, a novel about Cicero’s life, has been my casual reading.  I’ve finished 60% of it; I know this because the Kindle gives you a percent read number for each page since you don’t have the sense of the book’s length but its heft.

    The other reading I’ve been doing is Livia Kohn’s introductory text on Taoism.  As with most things that interest me, I find as I get deeper into it that my opinion begins to change, split along certain lines where my own sensibilities face challenges.  In the instance of Taoism I find myself drawn more and more into the mystical, physical aspects:  the Dao, the exercises, meditation practices and pushed further away from the political implications, or wuwei (inaction) applied to political affairs.

    This doesn’t bother me as I’ve learned, quite a while ago, that I don’t have to swallow the whole message to be enlightened by a school of thought.  Part of the creation of dogma comes as an institutional base emerges around any school of thought.  The dogma supports the creation of certain organizational structures, then the structures become a conservative force clinging to the original dogma, thoughts most often far removed from what Max Weber called the original “charisma.”

    Thus, by the time most of us enter into a body of religious or philosophical thought the original genius behind it is hidden by layers of defensive structure and dogma hardened over time, often hardened against the danger of the original charism.

    And so forth. Time to pick up the tablet and get to work.  Bye for snowy now.

  • Ante Nixem

    Imbolc                                              Waning Bridgit Moon

    The bubble of calm before the winds begin to blow and the snow to fall.  Predictions have increased the amount from 8-10 to 12-18.  I’ve never outgrown my joy at a snowfall, so I’m looking forward to this one.

    My plan for the snow is this:  Ovid and some reading.  I’m translating the story of Diana and Actaeon right now since Titian painted a large canvas on this theme, a painting now in the MIA for three months.

    The reading right now is Empire, a s0-so novel of imperial Rome.  I’m sure the idea seemed like a winner when the guy started.  Take one non-imperial family and follow them through the years of changing emperors.  If the through in were stronger, it might have been strong, but it’s more like a pastiche.  He throws in well known stories of this emperor or that, trying to palm them off on the reader as if they were imaginative leaps, but I know too much of the history.  The saving grace to the book is that it is a decent survey of the changing fortunes of Rome under emperors from Augustus to Hadrian.  So far.  I’m almost done and look forward to a new novel written with more narrative flair.

    Can you tell I’m sort of caught up in Rome right now?  That’s the way it goes for me.  Ancient China.  Ancient Egypt.  Ancient Celts.  Ancient Greece.  Ancient Rome.

  • Still Reading Romance of the Three Kingdoms

    Summer                                              Waning Strawberry Moon

    “if your vision is for a year, plant wheat. If your vision is for ten years, plant trees. If your vision is for a lifetime, plant people.”- Chinese Proverb

    Ever have days that just happen, disappear with little trace?  The last couple have been like that for me.  The ear, the fuzz from the infection and a slow take on things.  That’s the extent of it.

    I’m now in the last quarter of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  I’ve been at it since sometime early June, late May.  Now, I’ve been a little slow, I admit, but it is 2,340 pages long in print.  I’m reading it on the Kindle.  It carries a slow, but steady course in Chinese logic, especially as related to war and politics, Confucian and Taoist influences on Chinese culture in general and the courts and military in particular and a careful rendering of the demise of one of Empire, the Han.  The Han Empire, the Tang, the Song and the Ming have pride of place as golden ages of the Chinese people.

    (this is the entry way to the tomb of Cao Cao, the arch villain of the Romance of the Three Kingdoms.  Chinese archaeologists discovered it last year and opened it on Chinese television last month.  this stuff is still very relevant.)

    It’s interesting to consider that the Chinese have not one golden age, but four when culture flourished and the nation was at peace.  I don’t know the whole well enough to say for sure, but one of the long lasting appeals of this 14th century (Song dynasty) novel may be the dissolution of the first of those.

    My interest in China will never be more than that of a journeyman’s, perhaps no more than an  apprentice, but it fascinates me.  Part of that fascination is imagining what it would be like to live in a culture with that much depth, where a person in Shanghai today could read the Romance of the Three Kingdoms and recognize not only names, but the culture of this ancient past.

    In one view those of in the United States can look only as far back as 1776, in another 1602.  If we stretch our gaze back further, we can cross into European history and follow it back into the world of ancient Rome and further back yet, ancient Greece, but there, for the most part, it stops.  Yes, you can argue the history of the Jews and the Egyptians are also our history and they are in terms of influences intellectual and artistic, but I don’t have a personal bond even with the ancient Greeks.

    The closest I can get in experience to that of the contemporary Chinese is to follow my Celtic line back into the mists of Celtic myth and legend.

    Anyhow, it’s been an interesting read and I’ll be sorry when I’m finished.  Not sorry enough, however, to pick up another Chinese classic for a few months.

  • Night Casts Round A Cloak of Quiet

    Spring                                                  Awakening Moon

    Night has fallen, the temperature, too and quiet dominates.  It is, as I have written here before, a meditative time, a free time, a time when the world is little with us and the mind can roam free over its own landscapes. The spinning of the planet then creates a certain amount of time in every 24, almost everywhere (with the polar exceptions), when we can all become hermits.  Yes, it’s harder in, say Manhattan or downtown Las Vegas, but even in these places where the bright lights and nocturnal activity pulse away, even there, the night is still a time of refuge for the soul, at least if we choose to take it.

    I’ve begun watching another John Woo film, Red Cliff, which recounts the fall of the Han Dynasty in the early 3rd century A.C.E.  Red Cliff is a battle site, so recognized that it might be named Gettysburg or Bunker Hill or Pearl Harbor were it an American battle of equal renown.  Gradually Chinese film makers have begun to explore the long, long history of Chinese civilization and create films at least representative of key times in that history.

    The Han Dynasty covers the same time period, roughly, as Rome immediately after Caesar, the time of the Emperors.  I find it interesting to keep these cross cultural time lines in mind, to know that as the battle of Red Cliff rages in China, the Emperor Diocletian has decided to sever the Roman Empire into its Eastern and Western halves.