Sunday, November 10, 2013

Passing Time

On the wall hangs a framed poster. Its picture is a repro of a lovely line drawing, by, it looks from here, Leonardo. The large printing says: "Dessins Du Nationalmuseum de Stockholm"and "Musee du Louvre Cabinet des Dessins"1971. The small print is..too small.
I can see that the drawing, of a woman and torso is beautiful. Her head is averted, so that the beauty and harmony must lie in the drawing, the lines, the symmetry, rather than in her features. I expect that it has been analysed down to its ...whatever: but its whole: the grace, the calm, the serenity, is greater than its parts.

Once, it had a light pink wash, but it hangs by a western window and the sun has bleached it.  I am reminded of "The Women of the West":
"The red sun robs their beauty, and in weariness and pain,
The slow years steal the nameless grace that never comes again."
Well, the red sun has robbed Leonardo's lady of some beauty.  I sit here looking at it, with my knees spread wide, elbow on knee, chin on fist, and see that I have lost that "nameless grace" if indeed I ever had it.

My pose is identical to that of a gorilla, that poor first gorilla to reach, amid much fanfare and hullabaloo,Taronga Park Zoo, sometime in the 1950s or 60s. He sat there in his small cage, with sprawled legs, chin in hand, and stared back at us with a  confronting stare that seemed to express everything from accusation to contempt. Instead of feeling the pity that he deserved, or the horror that his situation deserved, I had an overwhelming feeling of shame for my species.

My knowledge of French is rudimentary. Our teacher had a daily exchange of greetings, which my friend soon corrupted into: "Bonjour Madame
                                Comment allez vous?
                                You say you have a pain in the head?
                                Well you give me one, too."
A record of our immaturity. Poor Mrs Grieves - (what an apt name) - a widow with children had a hard row to hoe in those days, no doubt. Her everlasting listing of her ailments - her headaches, her colds, her flu, her bad back, did not elicit any sympathy from me. I felt as if she was sucking me into a vortex of hopelessness, and in my heart I jeered. It felt like a survival mechanism.
Nevertheless, by some mischance I was selected for special classes to do "French Oral", and evidently I kept this illusion going until at the end of schooling I was faced with the panel of smiling examiners, at which stage I just confessed that I had no idea at all what they were talking about or asking me.
A similar situation was when I had a Viva for statistics in psych 1. Our lecturer was a young English woman, new in the role, who suffered from my own ailment in that her round healthy face made her look wholesome, a condition that made me weep for myself in despair. She also had a healthy dose of freckles, and was relentlessly heckled in lectures by the tens of male students  to the extent that she often fumbled, lost her thread or became quite inaudible,
Again, I confessed my total ignorance. She refused to accept it, and instead asked me a series of leading questions: is the answer this or Mickey Mouse? would it be X times y squared or pease pudding? I passed the test.  Perhaps she needed a certain number of passes to justify her position. or perhaps she was being kind, which was how it felt to me. There is a lot of kindness about.

Outside the supermarket today was a young darkskinned boy playing, if that's what you call it,  a didgeridoo. Its sound is, to me, elemental:  the deep strange throbbing sound of Australia. Miserly, tight fisted me put some money in his cap. He didn't raise his eyes, or thank me in any way, and I thought that that was absolutely perfect. Just as it should be.