Friday, June 06, 2014

A grassy field in late summer

A single click on the picture will enlarge it.

Here is another of my mother's slides from about 1954. It reminds me of a scene from a movie. I like the oddness of the composition. The woman is my mother's sister, Aunt Hazel and the man below the barn is my Uncle Howard. They had come all the way from California to visit us at our new farm near Grooms Corners, NY, with their two children. I can see Dennis behind Aunt Hazel and I think that is Susan in the grass closer to the house. My baby sister, Marjory, is in the foreground in red and white checks. At the right edge I can see one of my brother's arms; Richard's arms were slender like that. And the blurred man at left is my prince of a father, whom I know by his stance and his engineer's white work shirt, which became farm garb by gutting off the cuffs and sometimes even the collar.

They are all in the field below the house where we often grazed the horses, looking out toward the Mohawk River downslope. A few years after this my father was transferred by GE and we had to leave this beautiful place, which still has a main place in our family folklore. I like this picture because of its unusual composition. It tickles me that the grasses are more definite than the people. Also, I can imagine building a novel or a play with just this material even if the place and the people were unknown to me beforehand.

As part of my adventures through literary biography I have today finally finished Peter Conradi's biography of Iris Murdoch, the British novelist. I had kind of avoided her novels for many years, but I always remembered that Dorothy liked them, and I respect her judgment. Iris seems pretty intense and we might have not liked each other much, but she surely did have a lifelong gift for friendship.

She kept journals throughout her life. This is from one of them:

25 May 1984
Last night a strange scene in the garden. Just before twilight, a very vivid darkish evening light (after a sunny day), we saw from the window [a] deer . . . daintily walking and feeding in the longer grass of the lawn. Such a pretty graceful brown animal. We watched for a while, the deer lifted her head, then there appeared, like an entry of dandyish quarrelsome youths in a theatre, three large fox cubs, who stood insolently displaying the tawny frills of fur round their necks, just under the yew trees by the new lawn. They approached the deer, who lowered her head menacingly, ran at a cub who approached her and drove him away. Then the three began to run round, one always appearing behind her, while she kept turning aggressively. This game, I think the cubs just playing, went on for some time, until the deer suddenly raced away. The fox cubs stayed and played on the lawn where we watched them for a long time until it got dark. It was like something out of a Book of Hours, the colours were so vivid.

Iris Murdoch,
a journal entry as quoted in Iris; The Life of Iris Murdoch 
by Peter J. Conradi, Norton, 2001, pages 557-8.

I wish I had seen this; I wish I had written this! I wish I had kept a journal. . . I love the reference to those small vivid paintings in Medieval books. I wish I had finished a tiny fraction of the things I planned and started. I see now I never wrote here about the deer dance I witnessed near dawn at the place in Michigan. (Probably because I was disappointed in the photographs. So I'll fix that, hopefully tomorrow.

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