21 April 2022

Twickenham Garden

The last couple of weeks were wild. Last week, I was exposed to Covid at an AVP workshop at the pen (which was a really excellent workshop), and so, out of an abundance of caution (because I'm fully vaxxed and double boosted) I isolated for 5 days except for brief forays for necessities with an N-95 mask firmly in place.  Covid test was negative, praise God. Boosters work!

Even wilder was the weather - we had 3 days of 50-60 mph wind gusts, and we all now understand why Beret in Giants in the Earth went mad from the wind. Seriously, semi-trucks were being blown over on the highway. 

And the South Dakota House Legislature voted to impeach AG Jason Ravnsborg for killing Joe Boever. This surprised a lot of us because the House Judiciary Committee voted against recommending impeachment. But then a lot of information leaked - such as the fact that the investigating officers were convinced that Ravnsborg lied, lied, and lied some more, and wrote it down, but the House Judiciary Committee refused to hear any of their evidence. (If you're surprised by this, you haven't been keeping up with my reports from South Dakota.)  It also didn't help that Ravnsborg put out the most incoherent, whiny letter you ever read defending himself (See HERE.) South Dakota can put up with a lot of misbehavior, but the key virtues up here are hard work, more hard work, and no whining. Ravnsborg's impeachment trial in the Senate will begin June 21st. 

Anyway, Allan and I began watching the Irish shows recommended by David Edgerly Gates in his The Irish & Their Discontents. The opening episode of Single-Handed had Jack Driscoll coming back to the rural Northwestern Irish community he grew up in, and finding out that nothing is as simple as he hoped it would be. The line that stuck with me was "I thought I knew the place. But it's a cesspit." 

And that is so true. Any community can seem beautiful, carefree and innocent on the surface. Look long enough and all the cockroaches come out; the mold's ankle-deep; and innocence - what happened to that? And it is, apparently, always  more shocking when it's a rural area, a small town, where everyone knows everyone and they appear - from the outside - to be all happy families together. (That's why Agatha Christie set so many of her stories in the countryside.) Our illusions die hard. 

  • Familiarity can breed contempt, but when you're stuck with the same people in a small area for life, what it really breeds is secrecy.  
  • It's pretty easy for the biggest bully and/or the richest person to take over, like the boss cow, because how are you going to stop them? Think of what's going on in Ukraine right now. At the beginning a lot of pundits said that NATO and the US could not even think about going in militarily - i.e., help to defend Ukraine - because Putin might use the nuclear option. Well, that's how bullies win and take over - they threaten to do something and everyone (see above) goes along or ignores it. 
  • There's always a group of wealthy and/or powerful (usually men) who run everything. If they like you, you get jobs and contracts and help and protection. If not... 
  • There's always a gossip, dripping with venom and spite, who's willing to let everyone know any little nasty tid-bit s/he finds out. (They're just as likely to be male as female.)
  • No one will ever talk about domestic or sexual abuse at all. "That doesn't happen here." If the victim runs away, there will be a lot of whispers. If they ever return for a visit, well, they won't be admired for their courage. That's a big can of worms, and no one wants it open.
  • For that matter, if you leave a small town to go make your fortune in the big city, at least some people will hold it against you. How dare you make us look bad? What's good enough for us should have been good enough for you.

All because humans are humans, whether rural or urban or in a monastery:

Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister
Gr-r-r--there go, my heart's abhorrence!
  Water your damned flower-pots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
  God's blood, would not mine kill you!
What? your myrtle-bush wants trimming?
  Oh, that rose has prior claims--
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
  Hell dry you up with its flames!
             - Robert Browning

(See the whole diabolical poem HERE)

John Donne © Wikipedia
Twickenham Garden
Blasted with sighs, and surrounded with tears,
Hither I come to seek the spring,
And at mine eyes, and at mine ears,
Receive such balms as else cure every thing.
But O! self-traitor, I do bring
The spider Love, which transubstantiates all,
And can convert manna to gall;
And that this place may thoroughly be thought
True paradise, I have the serpent brought.
                - John Donne

(See the entire poem - with interesting commentary - HERE)

We all carry the serpent with us, don't we?


  1. Glad you are free of the Covid and thanks for introducing me to Twickenham Garden!

  2. Thanks, Janice! I love John Donne.

  3. I’m so glad you dodged that COVID bullet. Whew, Eve! Good for you.

    Prevailing Winds

    I am also glad to see Ravnsborg brought to justice. I have concerns about Norm, but holding one crook’s feet to the fire is a start.

    I read both his letter and the attached document. Typos (quite instead of quiet, for example) and a couple of weirdly worded sentences in the document caught my attention. I generate typos and I recall you made one back in 1971, but I would have expected him to proofread his letter a few times and perhaps ask a secretary to glance at it.

    That suggests to me he’s feeling the pressure… unless he’s simply a bad speller.

    Eve, you (and RT among others) know about the Mistral, but for other readers, it’s a wind that flows down the Rhône Valley, seasonally averaging 45mph (75kmph)! Frankly, I didn’t mind it but the constant wind has been known to drive residents mad.

    Small Towns, Big Trouble

    Eve, small towns seem capable of hiding dark secrets. But on the other hand, if someone is angry with a neighbor, they’re quite ready to unveil those secrets.

    I haven’t experienced the last two items in the list. A local theatre owner had a thing for boys. Parents handled it by not allowing their children work for him and having ‘a quiet word’ with the man.

    Although they gave me hell when I transferred in (a whole 10 miles) my sophomore year, I have to admit my village was always welcoming when I’d return. Or perhaps they didn’t realize I was missing!

    I haven’t read Donne since college. Frankly, I had forgotten what a visual wordsmith he was. My mother kept a printed Browning quotation pinned above her kitchen sink:

    Thy reach must exceed thy grasp, else what’s Heaven for?

  4. There was a man who watched the ballet class undressing & dressing in a space next to his office - the only thing that was done about it was the woman who ran the ballet class kept taping over the peephole he had in the wall. So...
    But isn't Donne wonderful? I remember reading his poems when I was 18 and it broke my heart that he'd been dead for over 300 years because I fell in love with him. And Browning - boy, he was good. "Grow old with me; the best is yet to be."


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