Saturday, April 30, 2011

Just because

Paris Pink

Because, predictably, one wants to be in Paris right now.
Paris Pink by fsudm on

Friday, April 22, 2011

Readings: The Ingenious Edgar Jones

The Ingenious Edgar Jones tells the story of a mysterious dark-haired boy, born ahead of his time on a lightning-filled night in the Oxford of the 1800s. Immediately upon his arrival, he disappoints and vaguely puzzles his mother- she had wanted a girl- and delights his father- but slowly, as his life goes on, this state of affairs is somewhat reversed.

The boy Edgar, while supremely gifted with what would now be called mechanical abilities, lags behind in reading and writing and thus remains functionally illiterate until as late as seven or eight. Constantly drawn to the great outdoors, he figures out ways to escape his lessons and roam free in the wilderness outside his home. Then, one day, on a sojourn right into the city, he comes across a fascinating place- an iron forge- and promptly offers himself up for an apprenticeship.

Later he is taken in by a Professor of Anatomy from one of Oxford’s colleges- the old man, never named, sees the spark in the boy’s creativity and takes him on in an apprenticeship of his own- for his grand dream project of a museum of natural history. But all the while, what Edgar wants as badly as he wants to invent things of metal and bone, is that eternal quest for most children- parental approval- and that espcially from his father.

His master at the forge, the Professor, and lastly his kindly master at the invention shop- Mr Stevens, all fall short of his desires for validation. Naturally. His father, William, is unable to look beyond Scripture and accept his boy’s somewhat different vision and talents.

And this is the crux of the story. A child, born both different and gifted; the religious climate in the England of the 1800s where Science and God are raging against two sides of the debate, and the devastating social justice of the time that Edgar finally comes up against.

The story ends with a somewhat different outcome- magical realism, almost, which did not jibe well with the rest of the story. However, Edgar is a curious and engaging fellow; you do want to follow along on his adventure, want to laugh with him (and he does laugh an awful lot) and weep when his brave heart is disappointed yet again. His inventions, whether of bone or metal or cloth, are marvelous, his imagination fierce and his spirit tender yet powerful.

Elizabeth Garner is a writer of both vision and precision, each of Edgar’s futuristic inventions outlined with spare yet well-rounded detail. Edgar's initial fascination with metal is well-structured into his curiosity for natural history, and then finally his joy of invention itself. The emotions are evoked more from the reader, rather than laid out on the page in grandiose prose. I enjoyed the tale as much as the telling, and would love to read more from Garner. (I almost wish for a sequel to Edgar.)

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Elephant Bells

He killed thirteen people, they told us. Would walk to a house at night, knock on the door. And whoever opened it, he would kill.
Well then, quite a story it was, especially for a Saturday morning in the shallows of a still, olive green river looking at his placid eyes. And he had a bell around his neck! Stories of horror seem hard to believe at this moment. I want to scratch his ears. And I do. I also wade into the water and lend a hand to his mahout in scrubbing him down- his tough, dark skin and massive body feel like a kind of living ship, a mysterious craft bound for the center of the earth rather than just the hide of a mere creature that can be tamed, be kept by the likes of us.
The rest of the afternoon flowed by in a mix of elephants (some so dangerous in mast, they are kept chained to a hillside) and black-faced langurs  waiting to eat off the scraps of elephant meals, and then a tiny orphaned elephant that wrapped her trunk around your finger and pulled. My heart almost stopped when she did that the first time- right from the bristly hair on her head to her oval toenails, she was a miracle of longing and heartbreak. Sigh.
Walking back to our cottage, a familiar sight- the goats. And a herd of spotted deer off in the distance, looking up at us critically. One has fine, large antlers and a proud stance. He looks like he doesn’t approve. They stand under the golden droplet flowers of an acacia tree, tense and alert. Framed with a backdrop of a looming, dark gray mountain, they are unaware of the beauty they give to human eyes.
When I go away from the city, this is exactly what I want to see. Places where the mountain almost overwhelms you, and you can see each spot on a deer, and can recognize the faces of the goats and that of their ancient, gap-toothed herder- these are the places I want. 

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

In the Company of Goats

It is a strange experience to be at eye-level with a goat: particularly one that is kneeling down to have a drink from the swimming pool that you are in. When I thought about ‘wildlife’- we were in a National Tiger Reserve, after all, goats were not the first creature on my list. But these goats came, and they wandered, they drank, and they squatted or walked up and down on the porch of our little dark-red cottage in the woods as if it were home. And it was, for all intents and purposes, surely.
That first afternoon, after the encounter with these other-wordly, marble-eyed creatures, we made our way like lemmings down into the rock-framed infinity pool that we had so longingly eyed on our way to the cottage. It was everything. First we each chose one of the flat rocks bordering the water, and like lizards in the sun, simply sat the afternoon away. Oh how transparently city-weary we were! To hear the silence and to count the ripples on the water were for us, bliss. Then, a plunge. There was even a tree-house as part of the view, weaving in and out of sight with the wind.
Later, the rain. Not the weary urban showers that fill the city like a teacup, but wild, fresh rain that sounds like a war on the tin roofs.
I may never leave. Luckily, we have tomorrow.
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