Sunday, September 27, 2015

Spider Season and the Bowl of Hot Chocolate

Summer is definitely gone. We know this because our autumn visitors have arrived. They show up all of a sudden, a scurry across the living room floor, a captive in the kitchen sink, a still brown shape on the wall next to the bed, ugh...

Eratigena atrica, aka Common House Spider

Sorry, "Common" is a bit mild. How about "Scary House Spider", or "Giant House Spider", or "The Heart Attack"? Apparently the specimen pictured above is about average size for the "Air-uh-TIH-gen-uh-aa-TRICK-uh. This one looks like its leg span is about 2.5 inches. The largest can reach up to 4 inches!

My husband rescued this thirsty guy (gal?) from the kitchen sink. "C" used to be extremely arachnaphobic but for some reason, this year, he has decided these are good spiders, we should not kill them, we should rescue them and put them outdoors. OK, I get it, but they will just come back inside. According to Wikipedia:

"This species is native to Europe but was introduced to southern Vancouver Island, British Columbia in the early 20th century, and has since spread to mainland British Columbia as well as Washington and Oregon...Most specimens mature in the summer or fall and mate shortly thereafter. On warm nights in the summer and fall, the adult males wander in search of mates and may be caught scurrying across the floor when the lights are turned on. Females will typically construct more than one egg sac in their lifetime, and will suspend them in  her web...These large spiders help prevent 'hobo spiders' from becoming established indoors. They out-compete and displace the hobo spider indoors and the males often kill male hobo spiders (without necessarily eating them). Hobo spiders are not an indoor spider to begin with, but Eratigena atrica is helping to keep them that way."

Since "hobo spiders" are poisonous, and we do have them in this area, the Common House Spider is a good one to have around even if they scare the beejeezus out of me! It is the startle factor.

Colette has a charming little story about her mother's pet house spider. From My Mother's House, a memoir of growing up in Burgundy, Colette tells us:

"Have you ever heard tell of Pelisson's spider that so passionately loved music? I for one am ready to believe it and also to add, as my slender contribution to the sum of human knowledge, the story of the spider that my mother kept--as my father expressed it--on her ceiling, in that year that ushered in my sixteenth spring. A handsome garden spider she was, her belly like a clove of garlic emblazoned with an ornate cross. In the daytime she slept, or hunted in the web that she had spun across the bedroom ceiling. But during the night, towards three o'clock in the morning, at the moment when her chronic insomnia caused my mother to relight the lamp and open her bedside book, the great spider would also wake, and after a careful survey would lower herself from the ceiling by a thread, directly above the little oil lamp upon which a bowl of chocolate simmered through the night. Slowly she would descend, swinging limply to and fro like a big bead, and grasping the edge of the cup with all her eight legs, she would bend over head foremost and drink to satiety. Then she would draw herself ceiling-wards again, heavy with creamy chocolate, her ascent punctuated by the pauses and meditations imposed by an overloaded stomach, and would resume her post in the centre of her silken rigging."

Oh my. To be so in tune with the creatures who inhabit one's world. I would like to have known Colette's mother, Sido. She counted the four cardinal points as either friends or enemies (the East wind was always an enemy) depending on circumstances. Her world was one of nurturing family, farmhouse, animals, and every square inch of garden on her little plot of land. She was one of that ancient race who still believe in..."The mists of a  primitive religion--belief in fairies, in charms, in sorcerers--(that) everywhere lingers over French fields" (A. Maurois, A History of France).

Sigh, there will be nothing so romantic as a  garden spider or common house spider lurking on my bedroom ceiling waiting for the moment when I invite her to share my bowl of hot chocolate. Rather, there will be a cry for "C" to move the poor thirsty thing outdoors immediately.  

Monday, September 21, 2015

Free to Soar

One of my elders passed away yesterday. A beautiful woman in every way. My mother's cousin, best friend, confidante. Now they are both free to soar.

Reading Colette this morning, I found this lovely passage about aging, thought it worth saving here, and so:

Setting the scene -- Colette is remembering her childhood and the magic of New Year's Day, her most special holiday. She is in Paris and has just returned from an evening romp in the snow with her two dogs. They are now warming themselves by the fire.

"Still under the spell of my daydream, I am astounded to find I have changed, have aged while I dreamed...I could repaint on this face, with a tremulous brush, that fresh childish face, toasted with sunlight, rosy with cold, the firm cheeks curving into a pointed chin, the mobile eyebrows prompt to frown, a mouth whose sly corners belie the short, ingenuous upper lip...Alas, for only a moment. The adorable velours of the resuscitated pastel brushes off and blows away...The dark water of the small mirror keeps only my image, which is quite, quite like me, marked with light scratches, finely lined at the eyelids, the corners of the lips, and between the stubborn brows...An image which neither smiles nor becomes sad, and which murmurs for me alone: 'One must grow old. Do not weep, do not join supplicating hands, do not revolt: one must grow old. Repeat this word, not as a cry of despair, but as the signal for a necessary departure. Look at yourself, look at your eyelids, your lips, raise from your temples the curls of your hair: already you are beginning to drift away from your life, don't forget it, one must grow old!

'Go away slowly, slowly, without tears; forget nothing! Take with you your health, your cheerfulness, your coquetry, the small amount of kindness and justice that rendered life less bitter for you; don't forget! Go away adorned, go gently, and do not stop on the irresistible way, you will try in vain to do so -- because one must grow old! Follow the road, and do not stop for rest except to die! And when you do lie down across the vertiginous undulating ribbon of a road, if you have not left behind you one by one your curly locks, your teeth, your limbs one by one worn out, if the eternal dust has not, before your final hour, weaned your eyes from the marvelous light -- if you have, to the very end, kept in your hand the friendly hand who guides you, then lie down smiling, sleep happy, sleep as one privileged...'

Joy and Paula

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Podcasts and "Planet Ulysses": An Update

Opening Paragraph Part I: Chapter One

Reporting in with an update on The Ulysses Project. It is a long post because there is oh so much to cover. When I left you, I was on page 18 of "Mt. Ulysses" and bemoaning the slow progress. However, as I inch up the slope, I now understand why it has to be one small step after another. As I said in the beginning, Joyce is a Giant, and Giants must be placated or else! Where is that bag of beans? Oh, never mind...

Here is the thing. As I read along with Frank Delaney and his podcast Re: Joyce I am happy to move slowly because there is SO MUCH to glean from this masterpiece. Delaney explains the allusions, and points to references and influences that Joyce has woven into his story. Without awareness of the scope of Ulysses, reading all 783 pages would simply be an exercise. Yesterday I completed "Nestor" which is Chapter Two of Part I, and Podcast #89.

There are three main characters in Ulysses. Stephen Dedalus, a young intellectual, recently bereaved by the loss of his mother, referred to by Delaney as "the 'head' of the book; Leopold Bloom, who has yet to make an appearance, the 'heart' of the book, again per Delaney; and Molly Bloom, Leopold's adulterous and loving wife. The entire story takes place on June 16, 1904 in and near Dublin, Ireland.

Here are notes from some of my climbing aids:

From Monarch Notes:

"...there are three main parts: The Telemachiad, or account of Dedalus' morning; The Odyssey, or account of Bloom's wandering through Dublin; and Nostos, or the return home of Bloom to his wife and, symbolically, Stephen to his 'father'. Each part is made of chapters...named here in terms of their parallel in the Odyssey. Part One has three chapters describing Stephen's experiences at breakfast in Martello Tower on Dublin Bay, where he has been living (Telemachus 8 a.m.); Stephen teaching at a school in Dalkey, near the Tower (Nestor, 10 a.m.)..." We will see the summary of Chapter Three at the end of this post.

Delaney explains that Joyce packs meaning into nearly every word. Nothing is simple, nothing can be taken at face value. For example, Stephen's name: Stephen Dedalus. Our character Stephen is really the young James Joyce. His book A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is an account of Stephen's younger years and Ulysses picks up two years after A Portrait leaves off. Stephen was educated at a Jesuit school and the book is full of biblical allusions and Catholic traditions. These are fully explained by Delaney so do not feel intimidated. So, back to Stephen's name -- "Stephen" is the first Catholine martyr and "Dedalus" was the father of "Icarus". Remember Icarus from Greek mythology? His father (Dedalus) built him a pair of wax wings so he could fly but he flew too close to the sun, the wax melted, and he plunged to his death in the sea. Delaney says Dedalus was also a "cunning creator, innovator, and Knossos labryinth builder".  Monarch Notes says "Stephen is an intellectual Telemachus (Ulysses' son in the Odyssey), with the same qualities of the mythical Dedalus as we saw in A Portrait -- the artificer, the maker of wings of flight, all of this viewed partially ironically, since Stephen is still more the intellectual aesthetician than an artist." OK, now I need to read A Portrait next!

"The" Martello Tower

From Chapter One, Stephen's "flat mate" in the Martello Tower is the bombastic Malachi (Buck) Mulligan, a medical student. Buck bullies Stephen, especially around Stephen's massive intellect and his lack of faith. Delaney explains that Buck Mulligan is based on a real-life person, Joyce's false friend Oliver Gogarty. Notice the syllables -- Malichi Mulligan -- Oliver Gogarty. In later life Gogarty confessed that he was ruined by the publication of Ulysses because people who knew him and Joyce easily made the connection.

Joyce did have a massive intellect. Delaney tells how Joyce admired the 19th-century Norwegian playwright and poet Henrik Ibsen so much that he learned the Dano-Norwegian language so he could correspond with the great man. And, Sylvia Beach, the publisher of Ulysses, writes in her memoir of life in the bookstore of the same name, Shakespeare & Company, that Joyce had "a memory that retained everything he had ever heard. Everything stuck in it, he said". On a hospital visit to Joyce while he was recuperating from eye surgery he asked, "Will you please bring The Lady of the Lake. The next time I went to see him, I had the 'Lady' with me. 'Open it,' he said, 'and read me a line.' I did so, from a page chosen at random. After the first line, I stopped, and he recited the whole page and the next without a single mistake. I'm convinced that he knew by heart, not only The Lady of the Lake, but a whole library of poetry and prose. He probably read everything before he was twenty, and thenceforth he could find what he needed without taking the trouble of opening a book."

As an aside, I admire and envy people who have a photographic memory. In my lifetime, I have known two such persons and remember one of these people asking someone to wait a moment while she "found the passage from a journal article" they were discussing. She was quiet for a few seconds and then recited the passage. The other person could discuss any subject, in great depth, anytime. Wow.

Now let's move on to Chapter Two, "Nestor". Stephen is teaching a history class at a "prep" school near Dublin. At the end of class, he tutors a student who needs help with his algebra. Stephen then goes to the headmaster's office to collect his weekly pay. Mr. Deasy (the "Nestor" character who was an aged mentor to young warriors in The Iliad, later sought out by Telemachus for information about his missing father, Ulysses) expounds, as an old man will, on political themes (Protestant vs Catholic, English superiority); financial wisdom (save money, buy a mechanical wallet to dispense coins); displays his bigotry toward the Jews and sexism "in its primal form", according to Delaney, when he reminds Stephen that "A woman brought sin into the world" (the odious excuse through the ages for discrimination against women). Stephen cannot wait to get out of Mr. Deasy's office but is held up while Mr. Deasy finishes typing a letter and asks Stephen to deliver it and a copy to any newspaper editors he may know. He wants the letter about foot and mouth disease in cattle to be published because he is sure he has the solution for preventing outbreaks. An old man's crusade, and like many of the Headmaster's opinions and "facts", ironically erroneous.  As Stephen takes his leave, Mr. Deasy makes a crude joke about Jews as he walks away. Stephen is resolved to quit his position at the school.

I made a few notes about Joyce's influences and references as I listened to the Delaney podcasts:

Ancient Irish myths
Shakespeare's Hamlet
Dante's Divine Comedy
Greek mythology
William Blake
Symbolist poet Jules Laforgue
Catholic religion

Thank goodness for Frank Delaney. He holds Joyce and Ulysses in very high regard. Here is what he says about Joyce and the contribution he made to the literary novel going forward.

"Joyce is a restless intellectual, an artist wandering the shores of thought and inquiry and art."

"He didn't just tip his toe in the exotic water, he plunged in the whole foot and sometimes the entire body."

"Using as literary material, as art, the most ordinary aspects of life. Real, mundane facts, details, occurrences, tiny incidents such as Mr. Deasy tweaking his nose -- all going to build the imagery of the novel...the ordinary lives of ordinary people on an ordinary day in an ordinary city BUT through James Joyces' writing the human condition thus becomes elevated through art. THAT IS GENIUS."

So now, we are moving up to Chapter Three "and Stephen walking on the beach at Sandymount, north of Dalkey ("Proteus", 11 a.m.)." -- Monarch Notes

Delaney warns us that "Proteus" will be a very intense experience. I will be reporting back to you when I finish Chapter Three.

P.S. Delaney refers to Ulysses as "Planet Ulysses". I think that is more apt than my "Mt. Ulysses", but I am going stick with my name for this wonderful book.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Panther

Artists and Their Subjects at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris

I abhor all zoos, game parks, marine parks, aquariums, animal circuses, and any other commercial venue for wildlife captivity. I do not include centers for the rescue and rehabilitation of sick and injured wildlife as they do good work. I am talking about scenes such as the above. It just makes my skin crawl to think of the misery these poor creatures endured.

The roar of a captive lion woke me in the night last week. I was staying with friends at the beach near Bandon, Oregon. A "game park" is nearby and the lion is in residence there. A poem came to mind before sleep returned that night. The poet Rainier Marie Wilke visited the Jardin des Plantes. His visit inspired this:

The Panther:

His gaze against the sweeping of the bars
has grown so weary, it can hold no more.
To him, there seem to be a thousand bars
and back behind those thousand bars no world.

The soft the supple step and sturdy pace,
that in the smallest of all circles turns,
moves like a dance of strength around a core
in which a mighty will is standing stunned.

Only at times the pupil’s curtain slides
up soundlessly — . An image enters then,
goes through the tensioned stillness of the limbs —
and in the heart ceases to be.

- English translation by Stanley Appelbaum

Monday, September 14, 2015

Oregon Coast Getaway

We will return to the Ulysses Project and check in with other reading but today I will tell you about a relaxing little sojourn I took to visit friends at the southern Oregon Coast. As you may know, the best time to visit our seashore is in the fall, particularly September. The weather was perfect, except right on the beach where the summer fog lingered into the afternoon. Here are a few pictures (not taken by me).

Beach near Bandon

Face Rock


Bandon Lighthouse

My friends live on a farm and I was delighted to meet two miniature donkeys, two tiny goats, five or six big goats, many cats and chickens. The rooster was magnificent! He looked like an Old World rooster, quite colorful, and very much in charge of his hens. There was a lovely garden too. Perfect.

Nearby "wildlife" woke me from a sound sleep. There is a Game Park nearby and the lions can be noisy!

In case you ever wondered why it is foggy and cool on the Oregon Coast in summer, it is due to the influence of the California Current (my dad always referred to this as the "Japanese Current"). The effect along the Oregon Coast is significant, especially between April and September. The day I left it was sunny, warm, and beautiful just slightly inland from the beach. When I drove by Face Rock on my way home, I could not see anything for the fog.

Here is what Wikipedia says about the current:

"The California Current is an Eastern boundary current and is also part of the North Pacific Gyre, a large swirling current that occupies the northern basin of the Pacific. The movement of northern waters southward makes the coastal waters cooler than the coastal areas of comparable latitude on the east coast of the United States. Additionally, extensive upwelling of colder sub-surface waters occurs, caused by the prevailing northwesterly winds acting through the Ekman Effect. The winds drive surface water to the right of the wind flow, that is offshore, which draws water up from below to replace it. The upwelling further cools the already cool California Current. This is the mechanism that produces California's characteristic coastal fog and the negative temperature anomaly we measure in California's coastal waters during summer (Mann and Lazier, 2006). This translates into cold coastal waters during the summer, stretching from Oregon to Baja California. Note, this does not include the coastal water surrounding San Diego. There is a warm water anomaly off San Diego (Mann and Lazier, 2006)."

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Ulysses Project

James Joyce
(February 1882 - January 1941)

Not much has been going on here at Road Map headquarters. It has been a low-energy week. I have been inching up Mt. Ulysses with Frank Delaney, now on page 18. I know, it does not seem like progress, but you would not believe how much Joyce packs into one line of text. Sometimes into just one word. However, since I do not plan to devote the next year to The Ulysses Project, I will need to speed things up. Delaney's podcast is weekly, and he has about 275 episodes up on his blog, so I can move ahead with resolve until I have caught up with Frank. Then, I will be on my own with whatever commentary I can find to assist.

There is a lot to say but I am going to let it keep until I know more about Joyce and this wonderful book. Note the Aegean Blue cover.  Nothing is simple with Joyce. Think about the waters Ulysses sailed to reach his home in Ithaca.

1922 First Edition

Here are some more pictures of Joyce and Joyce-related things.

James Joyce

Sylvia Beach and James Joyce
Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore in Paris

James Joyce, Sylvia Beach, Adrienne Monnier
Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore

 James Joyce Pub Award

Joyce Statue, Dublin

Joyce Statue, Trieste

Joyce Statue
Szombathely, Hungary

Joyce Statue and
Grave in Zurich, Switzerland

Bloomsday Festivities