Of late, and perhaps out of sheer frustration, RT has been speculating that Martinsburg, WV, might be a world navel. How this might be true has offered our mind-boggled writer a means of escaping certain unenviable realities of the moment.
To wit: RT and his mom are facing an infestation of insects–not the biblical locust, but the altogether more quotidian and infuriating bed-bug. M’burg has apparently already endured one wave of these creepy crawlies, and now they are paying RT’s life a visit.
Give credit where credit is due: bed-bugs are tough, and the duplex is now undergoing the first of several treatments to get rid of the pest. Everything is a mess in the apartment, and the BBs have given both RT and his mom a case of the screaming meemees. But this too shall pass…
In the meantime, and by way of further escape, RT has been assiduously reading Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation. TGT follows the spiritual development of four major cultures–Greece, Israel, India, and China from early times through the development of an Axial Age culture, Axial here meaning societies that encourage moral behavior in their members. RT singles out the book’s clear language and logical organization as it reports and reflects on the historical and moral development of the greater part of the ancient world. He also notes the sidelining of Assyria and Mesopotamia as, he assumes, a dead culture that serves to establish the baseline for Axial development. Bye bye, Gilgamesh!
Which is not to say that KA has a tin ear for mythological development–her reporting of certain Ancient Greek festivals has RT convinced that some parts of the Exodus story have links to Greek myth. Which brings to mind the ever elusive Elohist, one of the several projects awaiting further development in RT’s distracted mind. On the other hand, mom’s memoir continues apace.
In the meanwhile, there’s always the Martinsburg library to escape to when the bugs get too biblical. Which returns us to RT’s initial speculation about world navels… (happy spring equinox!) RT
Photo: A locust cloud over Juncus maritimus at Imililik, Western Sahara (April, 1944). Author: Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Source: Eugenio Morales Agacino’s Photographic Archive. Via Eugenio Morales Agacino’s Virtual Exhibition. WikiCmns; CC 3.0 Attribution/Share Alike Spain.
Reading a book is like visiting a city you’ve never been to before. The city must be glamorous in some way, if not overtly, than in the details of its construction and history, the beautiful building or courtyard that reveals itself via a quick glance aside from the street, and the story that glance implies of the building’s occupants. The city may be dirty, crime-ridden, a den of vice, but it must be intricate. It must be a navel of the world.
You are being born again. Forget whatever has come before; it’s been reduced to a reference chart, an album of old photographs. This is the best kind of culture shock; you chose it.
Reading a book is always true. You the child progress through the pages. You learn and you grow, you marvel and you despair. Situations arise that you can’t understand or even comprehend. The woman who tells you she runs the large school you attend may be your mother. The man wearing the jacket of a naval captain may be your father. He may be going to his death. He gives you a silver coin.
Reading a book is like falling in love. Serendipity. Somebody is waiting for you, someone who stops you in argument or conversation. Outside the chocolate shop, at the old library, in an empty room. Someone calls out from an open window, asking about the bicycle you’re riding or offering to take you where you’re going in their boat. They are the person you can’t believe is interested in you, so different, so crazy you wonder how they can exist at all. They are the one who brought you here.
You are dying. You have no family, no friends, no work. You have only this passion.
the muse of culinary arts recently whispered a few words in RT’s ear as he was perusing the offerings at Walmart, and, late that evening, RT was able to take advantage of her kind suggestions. here is the meal he produced in ten or so minutes:
Salmon and Artichoke Heart Salad w/ Blueberries
1 can pink Alaska salmon (red salmon might be better)
1 jar Reese’s sliced artichoke hearts
1 can Reese’s sliced water chestnuts
1 large box blueberries
garlic salt and curry powder
head of romaine lettuce
In a soup bowl combine three or four forkfuls of the salmon, five or six chestnut slices, and three or four artichoke heart slices. (You’ll notice that Chef RT is not into precise measurements.) Microwave for 30 seconds. Remove bowl from microwave and add two or three leaves of romaine lettuce. Add virgin olive oil, curry powder, and garlic powder to taste. Cover with a couple of spoonfuls of blueberries. Serves one.
well, the romaine lettuce is green, so RT will wish everyone, Happy St. Pat’s Day!
Photo: Processing salmon fish meat; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. WikiCmns; Public Domain.
Surely one of the finest portraits painted during the 19th century! Anselm Feuerbach, superb colorist and classically inspired painter, deserves to be remembered among the greats. RT
Painting: Self-Portrait, Anselm Feuerbach (1873). Alt Nationalgalerie, WikiCmns; Public Domain.
RT has been busy cleaning up the duplex he shares with his mom, translating a difficult but very beautiful Chinese poem, doing laundry, and listening to the fierce wind outside (temps are dropping precipitously–it’s not quite spring yet).
RT notes with distress the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. The process of global harmonization that has been moving forward by fits and starts (RT also notes the International Criminal Court’s recent conviction of Germain Katanga on five counts of war crimes and crimes against humanity) since the creation of the United Nations, is surely filled with moments of dismay.
Why are we still in the game? The universe is only beginning to reveal its wonders (and unexpected happy endings) to us… RT
Photograph: Carbon dioxide ice in the late summer of Mars’s South Pole, part of the permanent polar cap. MRO/HiRISE (7-29-11). NASA/JPL/University of Arizona. WikiCmns; Public Domain.
Last Sunday, after careful deliberation, RT surrendered to his book-buying impulse and brought home the newest member of his literary litter, Karen Armstrong’s The Great Transformation. His short list also included John Dominic Crossan and Marcus Borg’s The First Paul and Oxford University’s New Oxford Book of Romantic Period Verse. RT’s local bookstore has never disappointed him.
Speaking of which, during his deliberations, RT was moved to compose some off-the-cuff verses. He re-positioned the chess set on its side table to safety a few feet away, sprawled out in the generously padded wicker chair, and produced the following:
the moon married the alphabet
& founded a city; somewhere in there,
she produced a cow, a cow, take note,
that walked by the waters that stream westward
past the kings, the Queen of Night, a blind man
even to Bharata, Axum, Gades, that cow; the
hundred gates of the world: the fence of humanity
and the hero who stands guard there–
lion pelt on his shoulders,
club in his hand.
He made the mountains, they say,
let loose the winds, that
flock of doves–
the archer chases them.
© copyright 2014, The Rag Tree.
Woodcut: Cadmos and the Spartoi (Engraving by Virgil Solis for Ovid’s Metamorphoses III, 101-130) 1562. WikiCmns; Public Domain.
RT is continually amazed by the richness of Biblical stories; reading one is often like sifting through an archaeological dig, going down through layers and layers of writing, spotting priceless and beautiful artifacts along the way.
1) Jonah is almost pure narrative, the only example of nearly unbroken storytelling in the minor prophets. But storytelling is a hallmark of the Elohist.
2) Jonah’s story has been heavily edited, and in fact consists of two original, much older, stories: a) the escape to Tarshish and 2) the prophesy against, and God’s forgiveness of, Nineveh. The two stories reached their combined final form in the book about 500-400 BCE.
3) The appearance of elements suggestive (at least to RT’s eyes) of the Elohist Psalter (roughly, psalms 42-83); sorry, at the moment, without further study, RT can only call this a hunch.
4) The fact that God does not destroy Nineveh. The second half of Jonah must predate the destruction of the northern kingdom, and probably dates from the era when Israel was a client state of the Assyrians.
The first half of Jonah is even older than the Elohist, RT senses, its roots stretching back into the lost world of the Samarian prophets. How this story relates to the rest of the E author’s work is a question that might be worth pursuing.
Image: The Prophet Jonah, as depicted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel (1471 – 1484). WikiCmns; Public Domain.