"A commonplace book is what a provident poet cannot subsist without, for this proverbial reason, that “great wits have short memories:” and whereas, on the other hand, poets, being liars by profession, ought to have good memories; to reconcile these, a book of this sort, is in the nature of a supplemental memory, or a record of what occurs remarkable in every day’s reading or conversation." - Jonathan Swift, "A Letter of Advice to a Young Poet"

Monday, April 22, 2013

Happy Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, I thought I'd jump back on the blogging wagon after a long absence (travel, final papers) and writing a little post about what it's like today living on the other side of the earth from my home.

Well, spring has sprung. This is mostly proven by the fact that I was invited to a barbeque today. A barbeque? In April? In England? Indeed. Spring fever has caught on and people are getting wild and crazy.

Not that winter's chills have completely let go, but the down jackets have been put away and the sun has come out. It's chilly and bright, perfect weather for the beginning of spring (never mind that it should have begun about a month ago).

The best thing is the sudden profusion of flowers. First there were crocuses - yellow and purple so bright and rich, and so unexpected after a grey winter, that the color seemed like it was vibrating. Then the daffodils. I've never seen so many daffodils in my life - in flower beds, lawns, meadows, cemeteries, median strips. Not to mention the daisies and other little buds dotting every green patch in sight. It's all utterly pretty.

I must say I haven't felt particularly in touch with the earth over here. I live in a very suburban atmosphere without the easy access to vast national parks or to the Pacific ocean that I have back home. I spent a few weeks at home over spring break and the contrast was amazing. I was in awe of how much open space we still have, even on an overpopulated planet.

And it's not only the calm of staring out at a big landscape, or not being able to see any man-made thing at all for miles that I miss. It's also feeling and moving with the rhythms of nature. I went hiking a lot in the desert when I was home, and in desert you just have to pay attention to the rising heat, the moment of sunrise and sunset, the movement of rain clouds, in order to stay alive.

It's scary sometimes, especially for me because I scare easy, but not nearly as scary as guns or bombs or any of the awful things that happened this week all over the world. The violence of humans inspires anger and sadness and reaction. The violence of nature inspires respect and adaptation.

As the weather becomes more hospitable over here, I'm going to make a lot of effort to get outside and see this portion of the world. The landscape is actually one of my favorite things about England, part of the reason I wanted to come here. I got to explore it a little last summer and the hiking was absolutely stunning. This summer I'll be doing more of that, trying to make the most of my time here and to keep myself sane as I write my master's dissertation. And right now I'm just appreciating the sun and beginning to emerge from the cocoon of my wintertime coziness - starting with that barbeque.

Monday, April 1, 2013

March Things

Food: Hazelnut Butter

It's not the best thing since sliced bread, but it's the best thing on sliced bread....hehe... Well, the point is, this stuff is so, so delicious. I found it at the corner store (an unlikely place to stock exotic treats like this), and have been putting it in everything ever since. PB&Js, oatmeal, pancakes, you name it. I absolutely love anything with hazelnuts, so obviously I love this, but if you're just looking for something to mix up a routine of peanut butter or even almond butter, this is just the thing. Plus, the one I found is that nice, just ground, crunchy style of nut butter, which is the best.

Entertainment: Three Colors Trilogy by Kieslowski

This is a loosely associated trilogy of films by a polish director who wanted to make a kind of homage to France, his adopted country. The first film is Bleu (blue), the second Blanc (white), and the third Rouge (red), and they each tell a completely different story, but with a few subtle links. The stories, as you may have guessed, touch, in turn, on the ideas of liberty, equality, and fraternity, the trifecta of values which I believe sort of correspond to the three colors in the French flag.

I'd seen Bleu and Rouge about five years ago, but when they all three popped up again on Mubi, I decided to complete the trilogy. Blanc was good, too, kind of a black comedy about a Polish guy who takes a complicated kind of revenge on his ex-wife. Then, because Blanc reminded me how great Kieslowski is, I re-watched Rouge, which is a very bittersweet story about a young, idealistic Swiss model who meets a cynical retired judge. This film plays a lot of the interconnectedness of different lives - there's a secondary storyline which intersects with the main one, without either of the main players being aware of the other characters whose lives they pass so close by - a concept which I love. And of course, the visuals are stunning, especially in the use of the thematic color.