Henry Ossawa Tanner's "The Banjo Lesson," 1893
By Janice Harrington
How does it feel to run the tip of one
finger along the edge of a banjo wire?
Which is heavier, a banjo
or an old man's breath?
The sound of banjo strings
plucked by a colored boy is the sound
of twanging, of tur-pen-tine, pine tar, plank,
of pennies of rain spattered on scalded tin.
Boy and man frailed by light and strokes
of paint, surrounded by chair, table, kettle,
crock, a cooling skillet, a pipe exhaling
smoke, and mystery: beside an unseen
pane--a black coat: journey, the small
griefs we throw across our shoulders.
Between daylight and firelight,
these bright emberes, O trembling
strings! Darkness is never satisfied.
Beside the useful plates, pitcher, and bread,
on the table's altar cloth, these questions:
Should we buzzard lope and knee bone bend
in a ring dance of stuttered steps, or strike
the drumhead, strum, strum, strumming
strident chords? Should we pluck the reeling
notes or embrace and blow embers into flame?
Pull a vein from your right ventricle,
stretch it taut, slant one thumbnail and pluck it.
Listen--does it sound anything like rain?
From Harrington's book Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone.
Having missed a visit to Claude Moore Colonial Farm on Saturday out of concern about the weather, we went on Sunday after the morning rain stopped. The farm was having a Colonial Fair this weekend as they do several times a year, which is the perfect time to visit. It's probably a bit more crowded touring the farm itself and there are probably more volunteers tied up with the fair, but the fair itself is wonderful -- it's not as big as any of the local Renfaires, but it's a lot less expensive and there's still plenty to do in an afternoon. We watched a weapons demonstration conducted by two women, saw woolens being produced at every level from the freshly shorn sheep to the carding, spinning, dyeing, weaving and stitching, played with 1700s toys, listened to fiddle-playing, watched bookmaking and illustrating, drank lemonade and root beer, and ate cheese sandwiches and pie. Plus we walked around the farm, which has turkeys, geese, chickens, pigs, sheep, cows, and lots of resident wild birds.
Swords crossed during the weapons demonstration.
Adam and Daniel played a traditional balancing game in the recreation area.
Chickens and sausages were cooked over an open fire.
Vendors sold silver, pewter, fabric, wax, and wood items produced on site...
...as well as imported items (or at least items that would have been imported in the British colonies).
Boys sold eggs and apples for hungry fairgoers.
Adam visited with one of the turkeys that lives permanently on the farm.
In the evening the kids had some homework to finish, so we put on the PBS Celtic Woman special on the theory that they'd rather do math than watch it. Then, when they were finished, we watched The Tudors season finale. Given the various revisionist myths on the series about Henry's other women, I was curious whether they'd give uneducated teenager Catherine Howard a break. Hah -- well, unless being characterized as a natural-born nympho with no self-restraint is considered "a break"! At least I don't envision Henry being shocked to learn that she was not a virgin on their wedding night; they actually steal one of my favorite scenes from Les Liaisons Dangereuses and have him working on correspondence while using her naked bum as a pillow.
Moreover, the Anne of Cleves situation is not improved any. Evidently Henry can get an erection, just not with her, which we're expected to believe is because she's as ugly as everyone keeps telling us she is, which is simply preposterous; she's prim and nervous and lacks both the formal manners of the English court and the private manners of the English bedroom, but she's obedient and eager to please -- it isn't as though she looks dour or shrinks away from being touched. Cromwell leaves the franchise without the writers ever really deciding whether he is a man of principle or a social climber; he dies as horribly as the records indicate, and makes a tearful speech, but it's touching only in that a life is being taken, not because he seems to have had any spiritual or social revelations. I think this season suffered a great deal by not having Natalie Dormer's ferocious, fearless Anne Boleyn.
Late thefridayfive: Names and Pets
1. What is your favorite girl's name? If I'd had a daughter, she was going to be Kira.
2. What is your favorite boy's name? It would be unfair to my children to choose one.
3. What is the weirdest/most obnoxious name you've ever given to a pet? We had a parakeet named Ruffles (because she always ruffled her feathers) whom we often called things like Beakus or Squawky Bird.
4. What is/was your favorite pet? That's like asking which is my favorite child!
5. What is your most cherished dream for your future? Grandchildren? Circumnambulating Mount Kailas with my kids? Standing at the Dome of the Rock in a Jerusalem open to everyone regardless of religion, ethnicity, gender, etc.?
Late fannish5: Name the five best uses of parallel universes. I'm not sure that some of these really count as parallel universes as opposed to alternate realities, but since they're all science fiction, tough. Also, I demand the right to name six.
1. "Mirror, Mirror", Star Trek
2. "Resurrection", Deep Space Nine
3. "Turn Left", Doctor Who
4. "Normal Again", Buffy the Vampire Slayer
5. "Vegas", Stargate Atlantis
6. "Yes, Virginia, There Really Is a Hercules", Hercules: The Legendary Journeys
Monday the plumber comes to try to fix the kids' bathtub. *sighs*