Saturday, May 25, 2013

Picture That

As I wandered the aisles of vendors at the Brimfield Antique Fair last Saturday, I was spending hours among items that predate electronic communications. The world in which a lady’s straw hat and a tilting easel table mirror and wooden printer’s type trays were first created was a world in which it had taken time and stationery and postage to send a message. There had had to be a physical place for a communication, a place as real as the physical space in which the item that was the subject of the communication took up room.

One vendor’s stall at the fair was devoted exclusively to vintage postcards. Each card had originally taken up space somewhere in a recipient’s home or among her effects and perhaps later at an estate sale. The gentleman who was displaying the cards at the Brimfield Antique Fair had arranged them in alphabetical order by continent and country and state and town. Used or unused, each of the cards had been slipped into a cellophane sleeve to preserve it from further wear and tear.

The inspiration was a sudden one. I would attempt to find a postcard of Portsmouth, Virginia, and send it to a friend who lived in that city. The friendship had arisen somewhat around his reading of Writing Cabin. I determined that I would send a piece of old-fashioned mail to someone whose familiarity with the things I regularly write about was the electronic experience that any blog offers.

I was crossing lines, I realized. I would need permission to do this. In our next exchange of emails, I attached a digital image of the postcard of High Street in Portsmouth, Virginia. I typed out a message on the screen of my laptop, explaining to him that I wanted him to have the postcard. I hit “Send.” From what he typed in his reply, my reader seemed delighted at the prospect of receiving the vintage image.

And then the days passed.

Early Monday morning on my way to work I had driven to the nearest post office and slipped an envelope into a mailbox. It was Thursday afternoon when my friend in Portsmouth, Virginia, got home from work and went to check the mailbox by his front door. The Boston postmark told him who had sent one piece of that day’s mail.

Brimfield Antique Fair had arrived at his door. Something had traveled from those aisles of vendors to a home with an address in the Virginia Tidewater. I received an image on my iPhone that evening, attached to an email sent to my Yahoo account. There it was – the postcard I had sent taking up space in another man’s home.

Picture that!

And on a rainy Massachusetts Saturday I got to write about it all.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Strawberries to Share

He stuck the spoon in the bowl. It remained standing as he carried in the dessert on the butler’s tray. Fresh from the backyard, the strawberries were the treat he gave himself for saying what he had wanted to say and hearing no demur. He could share those strawberries now.

Thanks to projectbuddy at 1 Graphic 50 Words for the inspiration to experiment with this genre.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

German Theology and May-blue Sky

If you are an art history enthusiast, you know this stained glass window from the cathedral in Chartres. You recognize Notre-Dame de la Belle Verriere. You recognize the Blue Virgin Window.

You may know that that this is one of the oldest windows in the cathedral, having survived a devastating fire in the twelfth century. You do not need to be Catholic or Christian to acknowledge that you are dealing here with what has become a cultural commonplace. There is no end of scholarly writing about this window, and even an untrained viewer will find things to say about it.

Note now the use made of Notre-Dame de la Belle Verriere in a dust jacket. Its distinctive colors reduced to monochrome, the image was chosen for a book of scholarly reflections on Mary by German theologian Karl Rahner. From the time this English translation appeared in 1963, it became a staple in seminary and divinity school and convent and retreat house libraries.

This is the third time I am reading through what started as conferences delivered in the University Church in Innsbruck. Drawn originally by the compactness of the volume, I have only twice before taken on the task of making my way through all eight theological meditations from beginning to end. I am not always sure I can explain the insights to which Rahner's text leads me. I will only say that while I am reading, I sometimes glimpse the reality of a God whose sovereign determination to love this world reveals the stinginess of my thoughts about Him.

German theology and a May-blue sky. Some writers can make those two sound companionable. Whether or not I have, they are linked for me this year.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

New Venues

Just as spring weather was deepening these past three weeks, I came across a restaurant business card that I had picked up last summer. A travelling friend and I had gotten up from a meal in a restaurant close to our hotel in Paris; satisfied and full, I had picked up the card on our way out. The card must have stayed on the desk in the hotel room amid accumulating receipts and Metro tickets and made it into my carry-on bag.

The business card might as well have had “Mission Accomplished” printed on it. I think I picked it up because I wanted a reminder of a successful search months earlier for affordable Paris restaurants that served up creative and authentic cuisine. The weather may have been just like this during last spring when I called the restaurant to make the reservation.

A business card coupled with the spring sun triggers memories that I barely thought could be this vivid. The memories are of a meal that I had wanted to be special. The memories are of a trip that I had wanted characterized by new venues, exploration, risk taking.

If I am not planning another such trip right now, I feel the spring sun doing its customary work nonetheless. I am ready to go places I have never been before. I am eager to know more about the mission on which I am now launched.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Friday Tired

It had been a long work day, with the last three hours particularly dense. Leaving the building close to six o’clock, I walked to my car through a parking lot that had largely emptied out. It was quiet and still, no one apparently out there for me to greet or wish a good weekend. I had the rare experience of being able to flag visibly, slow my pace, stop smiling.

Disabling the alarm from a distance, I disabled more and more of the professional me the closer I came to the car door.

Nothing was wrong. I was just tired.

It was still a sunny spring afternoon, later, though, and a little cooler than I had expected.

By the time my short drive home was over, I had mentally cancelled a tentative plan to catch 7:30 theatre. I had not yet bought a ticket nor had I committed to meet anyone there. It had been an intriguing Friday evening prospect at one point but no longer.

Dinner proved an easy this and that, a relaxing routine in the kitchen, full of cold ingredients that required no patience or waiting. It was healthy fare, celery and carrot sliced and chopped to add to a larger salad. It took no energy to be grateful for the clean colors and smells.

Nothing else to say about the evening except that an online jazz station stayed on through it and living room lamps stayed off. My parents’ china cabinet, illuminated by low-watt bulbs, provided all the light I needed for the next few hours of sitting.

I did look around at one point and ask myself what else was needed. I could not think of anything.