medieval art history, navel gazing, horizon scanning
Monday, June 13, 2011
Arma Christ. Musée Jacquemart-André, Paris
In the 10 minutes before I need to start gathering the kids from their play dates, I think that I can put into words why writing has eluded me of late. I've wanted to everyday, but the balance of navel gazing and horizon scanning has been thrown askew, and I can no longer oscillate happily between the two. My beautiful friend started the first of four weeks of chemotherapy today, and the cancer is rare (thus the incredibly arduous regimen of chemo) and we don't know and yes we have a GoogleDoc all set up to go get groceries and help out but we all feel helpless, but she's amazing and so we're just going to have to try. My mom's depression is very severe these days- it's been building up over the entire spring but it's quite sad and bad now and I don't know how to write about it and yet it's there each and every day. Everything else (not that I'm compartmentalizing - or maybe that's the problem?) is great but all over the place: the kids here and there and everywhere (and one realizes just how much social energy is absorbed by simply going to school; actually, I realize that for myself as well); the summer fellowship research on ecocriticism and nature and medieval art (think of Eden and the Apocalypse as the ultimate in climate change!) is moving forward and we are reading and talking about Jane Bennett and Bruno LaTour, and animals and cosmologies and all of that is coming together slowly (as it should, plus the course isn't until 2012-13 in any case); fiction has made a reappearance (The Chosen by Chaim Potok, and Unfamiliar Fishes by Sarah Vowell, and now On Beauty by Zadie Smith); and while I have not established a writing momentum for either the Chaucer or the Orientalism paper, I am researching and starting to think about a timeline for both. I keep reading about collapsing categories and paradoxes, but life right now looks more like a series of suspended wholes, like those Arma Christi (the weapons used against Christ) in the Book of Hours page above. I could write about each and every one of those weapons, and on different days different entities of my life would be that large Wound of Christ at the bottom of the page - but I can't seem to get started. When I want to write about things medieval (even the smallest cool discovery), the thrill pales in comparison to the enormity of my friend's struggle, to the indecipherability of my mom's depression, to the general fragmentation of things large and small. I actually don't want to collapse any boundaries: my friend's cancer has nothing to do with my mom's depression and there's something insulting about conjoining them at all (so I'll stop). So, how to live with suspended fragments, becomes the question. I spoke with a friend yesterday about writing, and we agreed to talk about writing (smile) and to try to take seriously for an hour the fact that we miss it so very much, and that it does do something, even when there's nothing to be done. The image above is an ode to suspended animation - I don't want to live the summer that way, but I need to keep thinking about this new landscape of suspended fragments, the love and worry that conjoins them, and the realities that keep them separate.