By Heather McHugh
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear.
Calm comes from burning.
Tall comes from fast.
Comely doesn't come from come.
Person comes from mask.
The kin of charity is whore,
the root of charity is dear.
Incentive has its source in song
and winning in the sufferer.
Afford yourself what you can carry out.
A coward and a coda share a word.
We get our ugliness from fear.
We get our danger from the lord.
I knew I had a hectic Wednesday schedule, so I folded laundry early and watched Agora. A few people I knew had seen it, but none of them warned me how absolutely enraging it is -- plot-wise, I mean, not because it isn't excellent, though several of the characters and some of the dialogue are definitely shaped by ideological concerns rather than dramatic or historical demands. I only know the most superficial facts about Hypatia of Alexandria, so I don't know how accurate the film is, and while I do know that women, Jews, and nonbelievers were treated atrociously by some of the Christians rising to power as the Roman Empire was declining, I thought it was soldiers and not a mob that destroyed what was left of the Library of Alexandria. Hypatia is most interesting as a teacher and astronomer, her politics seem surprisingly naive, though she has complicated relationships with two men who are in love with her and both support and damage her in different ways. Rachel Weisz and the rest of the cast are all terrific, though I wish the minor characters had been more developed in the context of their era instead of in some cases coming across as anti-Fundamentalist propaganda.
The rest of my day involved running around -- I had to collect Daniel's travel things, pick up Adam in front of his high school, drive over to Daniel's high school to leave his robotics bags and take home his school stuff, then drive Adam across the county to his orthodontist appointment. Thankfully, the Beltway wasn't crazy and we got there early enough for bubble tea, plus the orthodontist got him in pretty quickly despite an absolutely packed waiting room. Then we needed to stop at CVS on the way home to pick up a prescription and school supplies for Adam. I did manage to take a quick walk along the flower-filled paths in the neighborhood -- there are blossoming trees everywhere -- and after dinner we watched the Nicol Williamson Hamlet, which I hadn't seen in two decades; he's not my favorite Hamlet, but Anthony Hopkins is a terrific Claudius, Marianne Faithfull is a very entertaining Ophelia, and you can see a ridiculously young Anjelica Huston as one of the ladies of the court in the background of many scenes. Here are some more photos from Meadowlark Gardens in Virginia from the weekend: