Day 4: Letter to a friend
The light at this time of year stretches seductively far into the evening—even at 9:30 or 10, a honeyed lucence falls on everything—it leaves me drunk with wakefulness, my nerve endings silkily keyed up, and wrestling around on the bed, unable to sleep. Then I wake too late in the morning and scold myself for getting to work haphazardly. Unrepentant I.
Today I went to the Musee Jean Moulin, where I learned anew how important propaganda was during WW2. Now we have pedestrian advertising, but then both sides, Allies and Axis, sought to gain entrance into hearts and minds. And did you realize how many French were conscripted to work in Germany, to feed the industrial war machine?
When I returned home, Mme Durand waited at my door. Had she been inside my apartment? Weirdest feeling, like octopus tentacles writhing, that she had! Her stern face gave away nothing. She said, “I have too much pain today with my hip.”
“I used to be a healer, shall I try to help you?” I asked, holding up my hands, palms out.
She muttered something in French which I translated into a directive ordering me to keep my *!@# * hands to myself. She thrust a brown-paper-wrapped package at me. “You will take this to the Gare du Nord and deliver it to Francois at 4:00. Do not be late.” Then she bustled into her apartment and slammed the door before I could query her further. Who is Francois, and how will I find him?
I took the package inside and examined it without opening it. Darned if it wasn’t the package given to Mme Durand by the argumentative couple. To my inquisitive fingertips, it felt like a painting in an elaborately carved frame. I must confess—I took the painting to the window and checked out the tape that sealed the edges—Wanted to know if I’d be able to unwrap and rewrap. Curiosity etc. But the tape was firmly applied. I couldn’t get inside undetected, and the coy light through the paper revealed only the indistinct ridges of a frame.
Jean-Sven heard me leaving at 3:30 and rushed down to inform me that he was taking me to dinner. Angelique has a gig and she’s rehearsing today. “Wear something sexy,” he said, his blue eyes smiling.
“By sexy, you mean clean?” I clarified. I’ve been writing a lot, so I’m usually in stinky yoga togs, and throw on whatever’s at hand to go out. This is my writing space; personal grooming is, while not exactly optional, certainly pared down to a minimum.
Jean-Sven gave me a look of pure exasperation. You’d have to be half French and half Swede to look that disgusted. “A dress, one that is superbe,” he commanded. So I am glad that the Wayward Countess advised me to pack the long red silk sheath. “One never knows,” she said. Indeed.
I arrived at the Gare du Nord promptly at 4:00—you remarked once that I was extraordinarily punctual, it’s an old, bad habit of mine—I wasn’t there for two minutes when a man bumped into me. He murmured something in Hebrew and took the package. He winked and vanished into the crowd. I was left standing with my mouth agape. I hope that was Francois!
On the way home I wandered into the Luxembourg Gardens, and an exquisite, soul-ravishing Chagall show. His works were burned by Nazis and shown in their “Degenerate art” show.
Now I’m sitting at my little desk, gussied up enough to please even the most exacting Franco-Swede. I’m posting my latest missive and waiting for Jean-Sven, whom I shall remind about my marital status. You are probably entirely unaware of these notes, which come to you so fondly and so gratefully for your part in this. If you even care; you are so very well defended, and have forgotten that we are not all that way. Some of us are open. Well, til tomorrow, with my warmest thoughts.
The Newington-Cropsey Cultural Center Foundation held its annual award dinner last night. My husband Sabin and I are friendly with the ineluctable Jim Cooper, as we all share the same taste in art–real art, the kind that takes skill, talent, education, hard work, and an actual aesthetic to develop. Slow art, art that has meaning. Art that is beautiful to behold.
She wrote, in part:
Broken by Traci L. Slatton is both a story of supreme selfishness and selflessness. It centers around Alia, a beautiful fallen angel who has chosen to live life as a human in Paris right before the Nazi occupation during WWII. She willingly chose to fall when Ariel, another angel dear to her, fell from Heaven and she now spends her days enjoying the once forbidden fruits of sexual activity with humans, despite Michael the Archangel, who sometimes comes to persuade her to return to Heaven. Sex with humans is forbidden because angels are completely irresistible, and to do so takes away a part of the human’s free will, along with a portion of their “light,” leaving them with a need and desire that they can never again fulfill. It’s cruel, but Alia doesn’t care about any of that. She is merely trying to forget her angelic days and the pain she suffered when Ariel fell.
What, or rather who, she does care about is the young girl who lives next door, Cecile, who often comes to visit Alia. Cecile’s mother, Suzanne, is a Jew although they are both French citizens, and Alia, who is often beset by visions of the future, fears for Suzanne and Cecile as the Nazis approach and Jews are more and more persecuted.
Broken has some incredibly graphic sex scenes and these may take some readers aback, but they are meant to shock, as well as explain Alia’s selfishness, desperation and hopelessness after becoming a human. It took me a few chapters before the book really had its hooks into me, but Broken is incredible and, much like Immortal, had me in tears as I finished it.
I knew from our email exchange before she posted the review that she enjoyed the book even as it troubled her. I’m grateful that Psibabe expressed herself so eloquently, and that she took the time to think about what she had read. Readers like Psibabe keep me writing. They encourage me to take risks.
This is what it’s all about.
I have been reading Rumi.
I do this whenever I am heartsick, soulsick. Usually it’s for something I can’t identify, though there’s always some exterior thing like a convenient hook to hang it on: my dog bit my little one and had to be surrendered; my 14-year-old told me a great big whopper; my in-laws have rejected their own grand-daughter and disinherited my husband as a means to communicating their supreme dislike of me; my husband is cranky with exhaustion and overwork and a long string of fourteen hour days; the publishing industry is in a stupid place, and largely, in my view, because publishers publish the same damn crap rather than searching out interesting work, and then they wonder why people don’t want to buy it; our financial situation is fraught, as is our situation with our two former spouses…. There’s no end to people and matters that will serve as an excuse. Rumi says, “Everyone chooses a suffering that will change him or her to a well-baked loaf.”
But I think that is preferable to avoiding the suffering, and failing to rise. That happens, too.
So there is all this stuff amenable to being blamed for my anguish, not to mention that it is that time of the month. But is the body or its relationships or its contexts really the reason for this melancholy seeking without an end?
Yesterday this poem of Rumi’s manifest itself to me, in a moment of bibliomancy, or at least I like to think that the Divine was smiling wryly at all my flailing about, and granted me this mouthful of grace.
Coleman Barks calls it THE MOST ALIVE MOMENT:
(THE SOUL OF RUMI, translations by Coleman Barks.)
I cried after I read it. I found excuses to cry all day. It’s something I rarely do. And then my husband showed me this photo on his iPhone of his Apollo’s outstretched arm. Even in process, it was beautiful: gesture and form, a supreme example of artistry. I cried some more, alone, in my bathroom, so no one knew I was being so silly. And I remembered why this man, this life, this set of choices that has led to this moment in all its bittersweet, empty fullness.
I have definite opinions. They’re idiosyncratic, but usually carefully considered. Take my stance on the Buddha, whom I revere. I’ve had palpable experiences during meditation of the Buddha’s radiant compassion. The Buddha is enlightened and I am not. Still, as much as I sense the holiness of this archetypal being, I think the human Gautama made a mistake when he abandoned his wife and child to seek enlightenment. God and liberation are eternal; They would have waited for Gautama’s child to go off to college and his wife to start a career as a caterer so she wasn’t stuck with empty nest syndrome. Maybe this life is an illusion, but the illusion must be lived with integrity.
One of the joys of being an author involved in promoting her books is discovering book lover blogs. Fictitious Musings “where bookish people share their thoughts” is one such, kept by (I think) a husband and wife team who are avid readers, writers, and bloggers. She’s even a librarian by day.
Catch their thoughtful review of FALLEN here.
“…From every angle, Fallen is a captivating adventure with just enough romance to keep you enthralled and begging for more. …”