Beautiful Prose: Excerpt #4

Here is the fourth excerpt from my collection of beautiful prose. I picked up this travel magazine in a doctor’s office and was mesmerized by the winter scene described by the writer, Peter Weller.

From Travel and Leisure Magazine, “Venice at Christmas,”  by Peter Weller

“Venice at Christmas is the city as it exists for the locals: organic, serene, beautiful.

Canals twinkle with holiday sparkle; campo, calle, church and museum are empty save for Venetians grateful for the respite from the crowds.

The enchanting and exalted Venetian light, immortalized by the paintings of Canaletto and Francesco Guardi, is even more hypnotic in winter, when moisture from the sea hits the chilled air, creating a haze off the lagoon that filters the sun into pink or gold, depending upon the hour.

Approached from the airport in a water taxi, the distant skyline of Venice appears like a mirage under this pastel. One winter, with a friend from Paris, I arrived at night during a snowfall. As we stood in the boat’s open cockpit watching the city’s lights twinkle through the flurry, the boat, with its one headlamp interrupted a flock of gulls nesting on the whitecaps. In slow motion, white birds burst forth from a white sea into the white falling snow. The dizzying image left us speechless until the boatman whispered, ‘Dio Mio…’”

 

 

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Sunday Visit

She’s already seated when I get there,
and dinner underway.
I take my place at the table
and the aide brings my plate.
The dining room is quiet today.
Her table mates are into their meals.
No chit chat. No scolding.
Mom complains she’s not hungry
as she steers the fork to her mouth. Continue reading

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The Oasis

Every once in a while you’re going about business as usual and find yourself in the middle of something special. Yesterday was that kind of day. It was a warm August morning in my part of Florida and getting warmer by the minute. I was meeting up with some people from my Sierra Club at a local park for what they were calling a Q & A hiking info session, with a walk afterwards.

We found each other at our appointed meeting spot, just four of us, and said our hellos. A spunky little fashionista in striking shades of turquoise and emerald green  who’d racked up hundreds and hundreds of miles on one trail after another; a pleasant white-haired lady who teaches art classes at a local Senior Center; and her mild-mannered, khaki-clad husband, the leader of this little gathering–with his clipboard, sign-in sheet and abundant good will. And me, a sporadic hiker with a mediocre track record but a love of the great outdoors.

Mr. Leader led us over to a shady picnic table facing a pond surrounded by cypress, oaks and other Florida trees and we got down to business. Exchanging information, asking questions, suggesting places to hike, commenting on the shore birds working the pond: a stork, a heron, some coots, a beautiful white egret, an osprey overhead. There was a soft breeze blowing towards us across the water and an easy feeling came over me. The pleasant conversation, the birds, the breeze, the shade. It was a little oasis in the blazing heat of summer, and everything seemed just as it should be.

I could’ve stayed in that tranquil space all day – the anxieties of living set aside for a while, my mind in low gear for a change, everything flowing naturally. But soon it was time to move on to our nature walk, and so we did – our leader pointing out little plants with big names I can’t remember, and shiny red bugs that he said earn their keep by eating their way through pesky invasive vines.

We chatted as we walked, learning things about each other along the way, and finally said good-bye, heading back into the real world. But I carried the oasis home with me, hoping to enjoy the afterglow, at least for a while.

Al Lopez Park, Tampa, Florida

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Home Alone

My live-in, jobless-at-the-moment, son is returning home tonight. He’s been gone four days. Four days of freedom and solitude. Not that I resent having him here. We get along fine and who else would haul me to the ER if I need it. And I like filling him up with home-cooked meals.

But I can’t play my music loud or bop around in my underwear or relax with an R-rated movie without worrying he’ll walk in the room in the middle of a flagrant scene.  Talk about awkward. So it’s been nice having the place to myself for a while. No constraints or compromises. I have no annoying habits when I’m by myself.

So a little while ago, after doing 300 twirls on my hula hoop, I put on my most uproarious Jewish music CD, cranked up the volume and started dancing my most liberated moves.

You should’ve seen me!  My arms were waving like a belly dancer, my hips were twisting and turning, my feet were doing a Jewish, whirling dervish, Sufi, cha-cha tango! All I needed was bells around my ankles to make it legit. It was delicious and totally unself-conscious, in a way I can never be in real life.

But it’ll be good to see him again. Time to start making dinner.

Posted in dance, emotions, family, human interest, humor, mother, psychology, relationships, senior citizens, Uncategorized, women | 2 Comments

Shrub Casualties

When I’m pissed off or frustrated or depressed because my life isn’t going the way it should be going, I can sulk, or I can suck it up, or I can  go outside and prune my big overgrown viburnum shrubs the way life seems to be pruning me.

So that’s exactly what I did this morning.  Snap! Snap! Snap! went the branches.  Some of the more muscular ones fought back, but I prevailed. They were the innocent stand-ins for certain other seemingly uncontrollable things, and when I’m on a mission – watch out.

I felt no guilt. They needed it. The sunlight will get into them better now, and with all the rain we’ve been getting they’ll fill out nice and bushy in no time. Stronger than ever.

I wonder if it’s the same with me. I wonder if someone’s looking down and saying, “Yep, get that branch over there–and this one that’s all gnarled up. Off with them.  It’s for her own good.”  That’s probably not how it works, but I love metaphors.

Anyway, when I was done, the piss-off was sweated out of me and the shrubs looked like a couple of naked, bony plant skeletons with a few leaves here and there.  I’m sure they’re thankful these piss-offs of mine don’t happen very often.

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Beautiful Prose: Excerpt #3

The third excerpt from my collection of beautiful prose is from Beryl Markham’s The Splendid Outcast. Markham was a British-born Kenyan aviator, adventurer, racehorse trainer and author. She was the first woman to fly solo, non-stop across the Atlantic from east to west. She also wrote West with the Night, her best known work.

From The Splendid Outcast by Beryl Markham:

“He spat on his hands and
shouted an order, but it was too late,
thunder swallowed his voice,
and rain swallowed the forest.
It was a typical equatorial storm–
instantaneous, violent, and all-encompassing.
It made the world black,
then split the blackness with knives of light.”

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Beautiful Prose: Excerpt #2

Here is the second excerpt from my collection of beautiful prose taken from books I’ve read over the years. This one is taken from Desert Solitaire, a memoir written in 1968 by Edward Abbey about his time as a park ranger at Arches National Monument in the late 50s.

From Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

“Stronger than the storms, though not so grand and symphonic, are the flash floods that follow them, bursting with little warning out of the hills and canyons, sometimes an hour or more after the rain has stopped.

I have stood in the middle of a broad sandy wash with not a trickle of moisture to be seen anywhere, sunlight pouring down on me and the flies and ants and lizards, the sky above perfectly clear, listening to a queer vibration in the air and in the ground under my feet–like a freight train coming down the grade, very fast–and looked up to see a wall of water tumble around a bend and surge toward me.

A wall of water. A poor image. For the flash flood of the desert poorly resembles water. It looks rather like a loose pudding, or a thick dense soup, thick as gravy, dense with mud and sand, lathered with scuds of bloody froth, loaded on its crest with a tangle of weeds and shrubs and small trees ripped from their roots.

Surprised by delight, I stood there in the heat, the bright sun, the quiet afternoon, and watched the monster roll and roar toward me. It advanced in a crescent shape with a sort of forelip about a foot high streaming in front, making hissing sucking noises like a giant amoeba, nosing to the right and nosing to the left as if on the spoor of something good to eat. Red as tomato soup or blood it came down on me about as fast as a man could run. I moved aside and watched it go by.”

Edward Abbey

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Bee on Pink Flower

“The botanist should make interest with the bees if he would know
when the flowers open and when they close.”

Henry David Thoreau, 1906

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Summertime

Hot, liquid days
melt one into another;
green drenching afternoons
growing life over all and
reaching for the
long greedy tendril-ends of days.
And swarming nights
of rubber-throated frogs
and fuzzy, bloated moons.
And front-porch Sundays
with rainbow-tongue popsicles
and watching of butterflies,
and whirring mowers, and
children chasing life,
chasing Forever.

children running

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Beautiful Prose: Excerpt #1

I’ve read a lot of books over my lifetime, and some of the writing has touched me so deeply with its beauty or humor or originality that I’ve put together a collection of my favorite excerpts. I’ve decided to post some of them on my blog every so often.  Share the brilliance.

I hope you’ll enjoy these little gems of beautiful prose by gifted writers as much as I have, and perhaps be enticed to read the whole work.

From Cross Creek by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings:

“Folk call the road lonely because there is not human stirring. Because I have walked it so many times and seen such a tumult of life there, it seems to me one of the most populated highways of my acquaintance. I have walked it in ecstasy, and in joy it is beloved. Every pine tree, every gallberry bush, every passion vine, every joree rustling in the underbrush is vibrant. I have walked it…in despair, and in the red of the sunset is my own blood dissolving in the night’s darkness. For all such things were on earth before us, and will survive after us, and it is given to us to join ourselves with them and to be comforted.”

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