Sunday, November 6, 2011

Almost a Palimpsest

Little did I know when I wrote that last entry that it would herald a road to nowhere. Yeesh.  I have felt the slow erasure of all vitality this semester - a short series of rubbing away that has changed the picture. Nothing drastic, nothing tragic - but a change. Thus why we see king David praying to God on his own, his accompanying demon having been rubbed out by some later, cautious and more tremulous viewer.  I'm definitely more tremulous, weakened it seems. I have been involved in conversation, these past many weeks, with entities that can't talk back: my past via therapy (finally), and my body via a tenacious virus (and insistent secondary infections).  They strike back, yes, but they don't talk back.  And I can't talk about them, because they are at once incredibly too trite, and excruciatingly too personal.  And so here we are with erased muddles in the picture.

Yet, there are positive/extreme love erasures, too.  Drawings like the wound of Christ (and yes, we could go there about its form, but we won't tonight) which have been kissed and rubbed into near oblivion.  The third entity that I'm in conversation with but that doesn't talk back is our dog. Our big black dog who provides such comfort and surety, but has also so completely taken possession of us and the house that no one can come over without major barking and drama. We are eagerly going to, as Mac calls them, "dog re-education" classes, but the beast within and all his mysteries remain.  I love his animal presence, but am utterly mystified as to his gentleness with us and his crazy barking-ness with others.  Doesn't he see the conviviality?  There must be other parameters. More to feel out, to understand, to sense. These can't really be discussed either, as they are trite, too. But we're reading about the Holy Greyhound for my Gothic class (Jean-Claude Schmitt's classic) and I can't wait to read it with new eyes.

I keep thinking that if I can get through these trite but meaningful erasures, if I can (what?) see to the other side of the page, I might become that most wonderfully transformed of medieval matters: the palimpsest.  The manuscript scraped clean and rewritten. (Here is a current, fascinating example). There has been, equally in this semester, plenty of materials for re-awakening: a visit by Yo-Yo Ma and transcendence, a beautiful funny and true (more transcendence) story from my dear friend in Brittany, the exciting, energetic work of others...  I think that there's something transformative going on - or my attention is skewed, or I'm getting older and feeling some frailty (the ever-helpful French phraseology calls it a "coup de vieux"); or we're just far enough out from Brittany that we've lost the vitality that infused us all there; or maybe in all this summer's thinking about a world filled with the agency of non-living entities, I have lost some of my own - which I can't see as all a bad thing. A certain humility to one's past, to a virus, and to a dog may yet uncover new ways in which the world moves.


  1. This world of things is surely talking back, but without language: and that is what is so frustrating. What does the virus want? And the dog?

    (The dog you will be able to work on!)

    Sorry you have hit a rough patch. Mine was last winter into spring. We all go through them, we all come out better ...

  2. I've noticed the quiet and sorry to hear it was due in part to a virus. So glad to see you reappear!