From A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,
it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness,
it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity,
it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness,
it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair,
we had everything before us, we had nothing before us,
we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going — “
— Speak for yourself, Mr. Dickens!
From Blindness by Jose Saramago:
“Images don’t see….
You’re wrong, images see with the eyes of those who see them….“
Monday was a best-of-times day, temperatures in the mid-60s, no rain for a change, with enough clouds to give The Photographer some soft shade over tiny new plants popping up in the ‘hood. I’d considered making a trip to Atlanta Botanical Garden, wanting for a while now a day nice enough to stroll around with a couple good lenses. But Monday was a worst-of times day also … more people got sick, red dots on maps developed into larger red clusters, stocks tanked, nearby schools announced closures, and I found myself wondering who dropped me into the “elderly” category that ought to be practicing “social distancing” — a practice that now applies to everyone. So I skipped the Botanical, lovely as it is — with its crowds and lines and enclosed greenhouses — glad, instead, for the nearby presence of parks and gardens where I could walk around on sparsely-peopled paths, screaming “STAY BACK SIX FEET!” if I encountered another human … which actually never happened.
The opening lines to Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities is of course a well-known, somewhat cliche, encapsulation of cultural anxiety and dysfunction, written at another time and written about a time before that. But it also serves as a reminder that the normalcy (if you could call it that) of a few days or weeks in the past can dissipate like wisps of candle smoke — poof! — leaving an unsettled scent behind… while we all sort of sit and ponder which “times” we are in, and when the script will flip. I wonder, when he wrote it, if he knew how many generations would remember it….
Blindness by Jose Saramago is like Dickens at Burning Man. It’s a strange, intense, violent little book about the sudden emergence of an epidemic of blindness that afflicts nearly everyone in an unnamed city. It was written in 1995, years before the more recent appearance of novels and movies featuring characters whose physical senses are hobbled — like A Quiet Place, Bird Box, and Perfect Sense — and was itself adapted into a movie by the same name. The movie does a decent job of capturing the dark mood of the book, while suffering — like a lot of movie adaptations do — from too much focus on sensational elements from the novel rather than character development. The book, on the other hand, is exhausting to read, mostly because Saramago uses a stream-of-consciousness style with (as Wikipedia says) “many long, breathless sentences in which commas take the place of periods, quotation marks, semicolons and colons” … which is a literarily subtle way of saying it goes on, and on, and on, and on. And with the book’s tendency to switch spoken dialogue from one character to another without telling you, it’s a jarring and disconcerting read — that being, I suppose, the whole point. Obviously this isn’t a book recommendation (and you probably shouldn’t be consuming apocalyptic books (or movies) right now anyway) — it’s just about my state of mind — though I was pleasantly surprised to find that short quote above about the power of images in a tiny bit of dialogue.
Speaking of images!!
Monday’s outing got me a nice collection of new photos that I think I’ll sort out by color, so here are the white ones in two galleries below. The first gallery shows tiny blooms of a spring snowflake (nice name!), just starting to make their appearance. The second gallery — according to the identification I got from Plantnet Identify — may show a strain of baby’s breath; I’m not convinced that that’s correct (because the stems look too thick for baby’s breath), so if anyone knows for sure, let me know.
Thanks for reading and taking a look! More spring colors soon … be safe!
Hi Dale – I’ve seen that first snowflake flower growing along the Keuka Lake outlet, but probably doesn’t appear until early May.
I am no plant expert, but one of my grandmothers used to grow baby’s breath, and it looked different. I wondered if this is bridal wreath spirea? (Which she also had growing in her yard) But that is mostly a guess, not certain at all.
I am certain, though, this is a nice album! 🙂 And I’m interested by your book review. I know some Spanish and Latin American writers, but nothing about Portuguese. “Dickens at Burning Man” is great.
Hi, Robert Parker! I think you may be right about that second plant being spirea; I’ll have to go back and take a closer look. Plants should come with little nametag leaves… “Hello, my name is…..” 🙂
If you decide to read Blindness … well, uh, have fun! ! It’s fascinating and tormenting at the same time, but worth reading, best consumed in small chunks to avoid brain drain. If you’re really ambitious, there is a second book called Seeing that continues the stories of the characters in Blindness … for a grand total of 700 pages of “breathless sentences”. Ha!
“Dickens at Burning Man” … started out as “Dickens at a bonfire” but then I searched for bonfire images and Burning Man photos popped up! Perfect!
Thanks for the comment!
I’m not sure which I like better: the images or the words. I think it’s a tie.
Thanks, Michael … much appreciated!
Exquisite pictures of white and green. And such a thoughtful post. Yes, these are hard times. As you noted, how fast they came on. My March calendar has gone from having a delightful assortment of social outings to one of pretty much staying home. According to the CDC, I am elderly at 62 and should practice social distancing. Who am I to argue?
Thank you! I’m the same age so am trying to do that too, though the “elderly” label makes me cringe!
I was thinking that all that rain I was complaining about kept me at home a lot for the past couple of months, and may have been a good thing after all. So I guess I should stop bitching about it … but probably won’t. 🙂
Thanks for the comment!
Yup. I hear you. Despite my creaky knees, I don’t feel elderly. But there you are. Stay safe, be well!
Thanks! You too!