Glanum? Ambrussum? Vaison-la-Romaine? Somewhere in Provence, in any case. RT has a distant but distinct memory of seeing an ancient Greek city while on vacation back in the mid-1970s. The site was small and gorgeous, oval-shaped ruins of marble sited among pine trees, not far from the sea. What made the experience especially memorable was the guide’s report of the city’s population, as high as one or two thousand people, if RT recalls correctly. And all of them sheltered in a space about half the size of a football field.
Now, RT, car-less as he often has been in his life, is doing a great deal of walking these days. It takes him about 45 minutes to walk into town by the legal but indirect route. He is actually fairly lucky, since a bike path constitutes part of the trek. At least on this section, he doesn’t have to worry about getting hit by a car. Still, there is something distinctly humbling about walking along the path, which lacks shade trees, park benches, and water fountains, while cars zoom past on the other side of the grass border. His almost daily excursions make him wonder what life would be like if we still lived in pre-industrial communities. Or, to put it another way, could we get rid of cars?
Here are some facts: ancient Rome at its height (population 1 million) occupied about 5 and ½ sq. miles; Manhattan could hold six cities that size. Nearly all Romans lived in concrete and brick apartment buildings (called insulae), some of them nine stories high; apartments of 1,000 sq. ft. (about the size of a modern 1-bedroom apartment) housed families of five or six people. Most of these apartments offered running water. Romans went to great lengths (pardon the pun) via their aqueducts to ensure water quality—and their diet in many ways appears superior to ours. Those who survived into their teens (infant and child mortality were very high), often lived to be 60.
So far, things sound pretty good. Now back to walking: horses were expensive, and carriages for the rich. Though vehicles could be hired for transport (some featuring primitive odometers), nearly everyone walked everywhere.
RT will let readers draw their own conclusions. What remains with him is the memory of a beautiful city in Provence, built to human scale; human-powered; and healthy, communal, and intimate in a way hard to imagine in our own lives. It’s a beautiful day; let’s walk to the store.
It could be just a fine landscape painted in the colder months in England, but RT feels there’s something prescient or even prophetic about this untitled painting by John Constable. The image, with its loose, impressionistic style, anticipates art that would have been considered avant-garde a half-century after Constable painted it (1811), and its subject is nothing tangible, but rather the mood it creates in the viewer. We see here a movement away from the heroic and romantic concerns of the 18th and 19th centuries towards a direct encounter with nature and experience, the commonplace that is somehow not commonplace. The beauty of humanity and nature are here in balance, a poise we need to encourage in our century. RT
Painting: Study for or detail of a larger painting? John Constable, 1811. WikiCmns; Victoria and Albert Museum. Public Domain.
october invites naps… RT
(reposted from carrieblueberry)
poetry is what
it is the ghost
Engraving: The Ghost of a Flea; William Blake. WikiCmns; Public Domain.
another great BLC post…RT
(reposted from Broken Light Collective)
Writing a poem is a serious thing. Whatever forces are called on to help the poet as he or she summons the act of writing, they are not trivial. Chance, luck, and fate, binding and love, are some of the deep tidal pulses that people wish to influence. The course of a life is at stake.
All this was clearer to people living more immediate lives than we do; as knowledge grows, the imagination dwindles. If poetry is a form of healing, then poets must seek to restore a civilizing balance in our hearts.
Below RT offers a poem based on an Anglo-Saxon charm.
A couple of notes, however, before proceeding. First, “fierce wives” translates an Anglo-Saxon term that literally mean “victory women” and is related to the Valkyries of Germanic myth.
Second, the text below from the Wikipedia article on swarming should help the reader:
“A new honey bee colony is formed when the queen bee leaves the colony with a large group of worker bees, a process called swarming. In the prime swarm, about 60% of the worker bees leave the original hive location with the old queen. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. Swarming is mainly a spring phenomenon, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season. Swarming is the natural means of reproduction of honey bee colonies.”
Against a Swarm of Bees
sit down, fierce wives:
forget the tangle and terror
of trees–remember me;
be tender in my need
and forsake your dark nest
for hearth and home.
© Copyright 2013, The Rag Tree.
Tarot Card: The Moon; Charles VI (or Gringonneur) Deck (15th century). WikiCmns; Public Domain.