BootsnAll Travel Network

Blog breaks and movies

Ansie phoned this morning to be sure I hadn’t fallen off the edge of the universe. I was blogging my brains out for a while, and then suddenly I had nothing at all to say. I’ve had several delicious hour-long conversations with good friends far away. Every day is full–of what? Time seems to expand or contract to fit what’s available. When I was teaching five courses and trying to get my last chick safely out of the nest, the hours were filled. Now I’m doing nothing. And the hours are filled. A friend who was just in Portland, Oregon got me excited about the possibility of moving there, so I’ve been on the internet, reading everything about Portland. In a desultory way I’ve been packing, sorting, getting rid of more books, watching movies on DVD, reading, gazing at old photographs, doing yoga, walking, having migraines, and even coming to the computer to read other people’s blogs.

Nacho’s blog has been especially wonderful lately, as he quoted a choice bit of Pema Chodron’s wisdom:

“Discomfort of any kind also becomes the basis for practice. We breathe in knowing that our pain is shared; there are people all over the earth feeling just as we do right now. This simple gesture is a seed of compassion for self and other. If we want, we can go further. We can wish that a specific person or all beings could be free of suffering and its causes. In this way our toothaches, our insomnia, [our migraines–Kendall’s addition], our divorces, and our terror become our link with all humanity” (68). [The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times (Boston: Shambhala, 2001).]

I’ve been on a movie binge, encouraged by Szymborska (“I prefer movies./ I prefer cats”). I guess I’ve watched 10 movies in the last two weeks, including Lawrence of Arabia, The Lion in Winter, The Ruling Class, and Becket (I’ve been gripped by Peter O’Toole mania since I saw and loved Venus recently). Of those, my favorite is still Lion in Winter, with Katharine Hepburn as Eleanor of Aquitaine, though my memory (which may be wrong) of the Goldman script, which I have taught in acting classes, was that the great and unforgettable monolog “I married out of love, a man/woman out of legend” was Eleanor’s. In the film it’s Henry’s. A close second for me is Becket, which somehow I had missed all my life and never saw till last week. It includes some wonderful acting by Richard Burton and explores a conflict like that in Hesse’s Narcissus and Goldmund, between the life of spirit and the life of adventure; the Apollonian and Dionysian; the inner quest and the outer quest. That has always been of interest to me, although I see it as much more complicated if viewed from a woman’s perspective than from a man’s. A woman has to conduct her quest, whether outer, inner, or both, with children, or the possibility of having children, or the absence of children. That raises far more complex ethical isses and presents her with much more difficult choices than a man can even imagine. In the 70s I thought I might be the writer to tell that story. I envisioned a female take on Narcissus and Goldmund. As it happens I lived it, but in the living, I didn’t write it. I may yet.

The other movie that grabbed me most in this binge of mine is The Station Agent (those on dial-up beware this link with sound and video which will take a long time to download), a fascinating, quirky, brilliantly-acted, gloriously-scored little indy film that simply knocks me out. On the surface it’s about a taciturn man (physically a dwarf, expressively a giant) who takes early retirement, a gregarious and life-loving vendor, an emotionally volatile woman artist, a chubby little girl, and a pregnant teenage librarian: all of them loose screws in the universe, people who don’t fit in, people adrift with nothing much but their incompatible personalities to rely on. These unlikely characters find each other and change each other’s lives in a ninety-minute film. Beneath the surface it’s about loneliness, solitude, human connection, and human attraction and repulsion. It’s about the tensions in all of us who feel “different” from others. I fell in love with Peter Dinklage in the film–his sensitive face, his expressive eyebrows, his performance as a reclusive, intelligent, rather uptight guy who slowly and truthfully begins to discover the possibilities for comfort in relationship with all the other misfits. Worth looking at. I even looked at it a second time with the commentary turned on.

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