It takes 10 or 15 minutes to catch up to the shorthand narrative style of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the fifth film based on the J. K. Rowling novels (released at about the same time as the seventh and final book in the series).
In this painting, on a wagon’s perch, a man, reins invisible on his lap and his face a smudge of umber, further tarnished by the turkey red that day remainders on dusk. And around him, the hauler of fence posts, a dark outline, waxy as the outline of a child’s less practiced hand. Through the body’s black trace glows a little of the background: the going sun, its rusty flare.
Where it all seems to be this way, a little insubstantial around the edges, perhaps either will suffice to weigh us down: a load of fence posts to rut us into the snow and earth on the soft road home or the knowledge that we are not beautiful— at best our clothes hang on us like an angel costume made out of bed sheets hangs on a girl in a pageant, her tinsel halo letting through the dark of the stage curtain drawn behind her as she bows.
A Load of Fence Posts is a painting by Lawren Harris, a member of the Canadian Group of Seven. The painting can be found in the McMichael Gallery, near Toronto.
(translated from the Macedonian by Nola Garrett and Natasha Garrett)
I lift this skull that just hours ago the tempest dug out. How raw is his innocent death, exposed after centuries here in this hill where now I lay him down into a fresh grave, dewy among wild thyme buzzing with bees. This hill now seems greater with a new human stance. I have added to it my heart’s force and love, so I can comprehend where this resurrected one will go and what he might tell me, thought he covers himself with this umbrella, because it is darker out here than the light he blazes underground.
Remember when children would learn key life lessons from their parents—when core beliefs and specific values would be passed down from one generation to the next whenever an opportunity for a lesson presented itself? With the continued splitting of the nuclear family, more and more kids are relying on the media to instruct them on the vagaries of growing up and finding a place in the world.
The feel of awl and augur in his hardened hands, the rough hull rimed with salt, a whittled plug he made himself, so tight he set his teeth! His handiwork behind him, Norway a miniature carved in the distance, he watched the gray Atlantic like a ravenous whale devour everything between.
The story ends, and yet begins again. Here in a foreign port, his touch begins to read each sign, the curves and swellings, splintered keel and patchwork. How his heart quickens when he finds his father’s fishing boat, familiar as his name, the family build, their house nailed fast above the rocky harbor.
And yet begins again. How the found word both fits and startles, an oracle recovered just in time, just when it’s needed, just before faith slips away like my great-grandfather’s wedding coat, ruined in a flooded basement with old books and portraits, speckled sepia like a gull’s egg, water-marked and too far gone to keep.
Nathan Eckstrom teaches English in the Boston Public Schools, one of the most diverse school systems in the country. Its more than 9,000 students come from about 100 countries, and they speak more than 80 languages. Instead of taking a vacation this past summer, Eckstrom went to Haiti to find the places where several of his students live and to visit their extended families. He knows that he will be able to make better connections with his Haitian students after learning about their culture and country. Over the past ten years, Boston teachers have made similar trips to Cape Verde, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and other countries. Fund for Teachers, a Houston-based nonprofit, helps fund these trips (Boston Globe, September 12).