Feb. 12, 2009

The Bat

by Jane Kenyon

I was reading about rationalism,
the kind of thing we do up north
in early winter, where the sun
leaves work for the day at 4:15

Maybe the world is intelligible
to the rational mind;
and maybe we light the lamps at dusk
for nothing...

Then I heard the wings overhead.

The cats and I chased the bat
in circles—living room, kitchen,
pantry, kitchen, living room...
At every turn it evaded us

like the identity of the third person
in the Trinity: the one
who spoke through the prophets,
the one who astounded Mary
by suddenly coming near.

"The Bat" by Jane Kenyon, from Otherwise. © Graywolf Press, 1996. Reprinted with permission. (buy now)

It's the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, born on this day in Hodgenville, Kentucky (1809). He was born in a log cabin, he had barely one year of traditional schooling, he was 6'4" and his pants were always too short, and he ended up as the 16th president of the United States.

Charles Darwin, (books by this author) was born in Shrewsbury, England in 1809 — the exact same day as Lincoln. After Darwin visited the Galapagos Islands, he cemented his ideas about evolution, but he didn't even want to tell his friends about them, much less publish them, because he knew they would be seen as anti-religious. He finally decided to publish a book as a way to support his children, and On the Origin of Species (1859) became a huge success. He said, "A scientific man ought to have no wishes, no affections — a mere heart of stone."

It's the week of Valentine's Day, a week to look back on great love stories.

There is Lolita, the controversial love story by Vladimir Nabokov, (books by this author) published in 1955 in Paris. It was heavily censored and wasn't published for another three years in the United States. The novel begins: "Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta. She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita."

Lolita is narrated by Humbert Humbert, a middle-aged man who is obsessed with young girls. He is a scholar who moves to New England to write. He looks for a room to rent, and he meets Charlotte Haze, a prospective landlord, and he is attracted to her 12-year-old daughter, Dolores, who becomes Lolita.

Another love story is the real life romance between Anaïs Nin and Henry Miller. On this day in 1932, Anaïs wrote a letter to Henry, and said, "You make me think of Casanova, except that in between the erotic, Casanova was boring, while you, in between eroticism and even because of it, you get profound." Henry Miller was an American, living in Paris, struggling to write Tropic of Cancer. He and Anaïs Nin became lovers, despite the fact that she was also in love with Henry Miller's wife, June. Anaïs and Henry wrote hundreds of letters for more than 20 years, which were later published. So were Anaïs Nin's diaries, which detail their love affair.

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.®




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