Found an old pair of capri pants in grey parachute silk and put them on after my bath this morning. The dog amazed and enraptured to see me in different clothes, fell over with surprise and lay on the floor wagging his tail and rolling his eyes at me. Great Danes are natural comics when they are not looking solemn or dignified. It would seem I have a limited wardrobe.
Ash Wednesday, a hot sunny morning. There is no supply priest, so no Masses at the Catholic church up in the disadvantaged community. Like many other Third World countries, we are moving towards more secular understandings, joining the climate of neoglobal scepticism. Is there a sense of loss? I wonder sometimes about the yearning that persists, how to understand that unmet yearning for something intangible, beyond, the numinous, otherness, the radiant and elusive. Words fail me. Reading the poet David Bottoms:
I am a believer in the power and the necessity of myth. I count myself a yearner after significance, as Robert Penn Warren called himself. I’ve experienced that personal yearning for meaning—call it the divine, if you like—and I take that yearning to be evidence of the possibility of the existence of its object. Why should I yearn for something that isn’t there? I believe pretty much what Huston Smith suggests in his book Why Religion Matters. This yearning for something greater, he says, is built into the human makeup and suggests the existence of its object—the way, say, the wings of birds point to the reality of air or the way sunflowers bend toward the light because light exists.
The ripened figs are falling from the trees, oak leaves browning towards autumn. No frost yet or morning mists, but a chill when I wake under a thin sheet at midnight, clambering out of dreams to find a quilt or light blanket. Acorns falling onto my neighbours’ corrugated iron roofing like pebbles flung against a window, cracking the night open.
This week, David Foster Wallace would have turned 50 years old on 21 February. That makes me feel inexpressibly sad, as well as cheated of more books, more of his giftedness and presence in the world. His The Depressed Person in all its unrelieved embarrassing intensity has been described as a rare accurate account of severe depression from the inside. The self-hatred, the crushing loneliness, the desperation of needing others while remaining unable to communicate or gain comfort from contact. Often in recovery circles, people suggest blithely to newcomers that they should phone someone and tell them how tough it is. Not a bad idea for many of us, but in severe depression this becomes a near-impossible ordeal.
The depressed person confessed that when whatever supportive friend she was sharing with finally confessed that she (i.e., the friend) was dreadfully sorry but there was no helping it she absolutely had to get off the telephone, and had verbally detached the depressed person’s needy fingers from her pantcuff and returned to the demands of her full, vibrant long-distance life, the depressed person always sat there listening to the empty apian drone of the dial tone feeling even more isolated and inadequate and unempathized-with than she had before she’d called.
In the garden the Great Dane is eating fallen figs, an ominous sight. He is fond of fruit and known as the Peach Thief because of his cunning theft of ripe peaches from a dish placed supposedly out of reach. But even though he has a cast-iron stomach, I don’t want him eating ripe figs, so I must go and rake them up, squelch them into jute sacks for compost. Outraged small birds, white-eyes and wagtails, screaming at the dog from upper branches of the old Genoa White fig tree.