It is hard to be moved anymore by films about concentration camps. The grainy images of scarecrow figures; maniacal guards firing pistols on a whim; parents dragged away while children stare—Hollywood has managed to turn such horrors into stock visuals. It has made the unspeakable not only speakable, but almost rote.
The snow in North Dakota asks a question with no question mark, no capital letter, to indicate where it begins and ends or what lies in the middle, for that matter. The question is white and drifts above the cab of the snowplow while in its orange light people lean into the wind along the curb, digging out cars that vanish in the night.
At home their dogs are silent, hearing no sound. The cattle huddle and freeze, and buffalo crossing the buried fence, free now to roam, stand silver and stiff as nickels in the dawn— eyes frozen wide and blank as if they tried to comprehend the question while they died.
“When you pray, go into your room,” He said, so each green dawn as spring light stirs, I sit, womb-snug, in my small room, hushed high above unfurling leaves, with Luke who’s all of five days new, but solid as a loaf of bread, and, oh, such wisdom; petal-soft, in and out, I hear his breath. Receive. Release. That’s all there is. Just this. Quiet. Nothing more.
Purporting to deliver the straight goods on modern sexual interactions, Closer is glossier than last summer’s similarly themed We Don’t Live Here Anymore, and it has a more impressive pedigree—an award-winning director (Mike Nichols), a highly acclaimed British stage play (by Patrick Marber) for its source, and a glamorous cast: Julia Roberts, Clive Owen, Jude Law and Natalie Portman
Gun metal gray the sky this morning and along the shore at dead low tide an on-shore wind blows spume across the wave tops. Rain before dark, they say, and even some late snow to dash our dawning dreams of green and blossoming. Undaunted, a new pair of mallards— splendid headed male and female—inaugurate the new-thawed pool beside the dog run of our ocean-front retirement home. Silent, they move across, now venturing among the reeds to break their long migrating fast, and seek a secure nesting place to lay the future. Blessing their ancient quest, I call to mind one week ago, on this same daybreak dog walk, I was surprised, almost alarmed, by one great, stately snow white egret, with his mate, also foraging among the weeds, as the larger of them rose, spread his quite angelic wings, and wafted a bright unexpected blessing to my aging head, as he moved on in search of richer waters.
When Toni Morrison taught creative writing at Princeton University, all her students had been told in previous classes to write about what they knew. She said to forget that advice because first, they didn’t know anything yet, and two, she didn’t want to read about their experiences. She told them to imagine people outside their own experience, such as a Mexican waitress in Rio Grande who could barely speak English. It was amazing what these students came up with, Morrison said, when they were given license to imagine something outside their realm of experience (American Theatre, March 10).