Thursday, May 26, 2011

So Few of Us Then

'Christianity was a death cult,' a friend said after she had seen the catacombs in Rome. I thought of her words as J. and I left the theater after seeing The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, a film about the prehistoric drawings on the walls of the Cave Chauvet. 'It's not about death,' I said. 'All about life.'

'Energy,' J. said.

While I'm cautious about idealizing the life and work of Aurignacian and earlier people, and most attempts to re-enact and revive the past--remember Leni Riefenstahl--the work of our ancestors fascinates and awes. There were so few of us then.

At Chauvet. The legs of the bison are also the legs of the woman. We see her from the vulva down. (Thanks to S.L. for posting this photo.)

The tiny figurine, carved from wooly mammoth tusk, found in a cave in southwestern Germany, is 35-40 thousand years old. There's a small loop at the very top through which a string could be threaded. The figurine may have been worn as an amulet. (A flute carved from a vulture's bone was found near this figurine. I couldn't find a photo of the flute.)

Figurines from the Grimaldi Caves, often called Venuses.

The horses at Chauvet, 32-33 thousand years old, as is the hand in the top photo, also at Chauvet.

And these--can you see the wooly mammoth on the right? I hope you get a chance to see "The Cave of Dreams" and to read such books as Preshistoric Art by Randall White.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Our Species & the Scent of Figs

Monday morning. The beach is overwhelmed by trash, mostly plastic. Weekend, beach-party trashers were here. I did not photograph the litter. If I had I would have had to look at it more closely. Instead I looked east and walked on, but for a moment I thought: This place needs a swarm of eco-prophets to patrol the beach. Never mind, 'Beware the end of days,' rather, 'Beware drowning everything in trash.' Mind almost rinsed clear, I watched a huge tractor plow under seaweed and garbage. Near South Point the tractor stopped. Coming abreast of the tractor I made the mistake of looking at the driver in his high seat. His bulk filled the cab. He was enormously fat. "It's almost over," I said to myself, "our species and this planet." The thought made me smile.

At South Point Park there were more birds than people, the human figure small in relation to water and sky--the right proportion.

Without planning my route I headed home and found myself in front of a clump of fig trees I had found weeks ago. There hasn't been much rain. The figs are unripe still, yet the broken fig gave off a subtle perfume--depth without musk, new green, and pale yellow honey. Untended, the fig trees still flourish.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


South Beach is tropical--the same longitude as Vietnam. In May the temperature reaches the nineties. It's a common notion that life in the tropics slows down as the temperature rises. Human life may slow down. People may stroll rather than race--stroll with their parasols. You see them here. While the human pace slows, plants, compared to those up north, seem to riot and bolt. The passion vine races, poinciana speeds, palms shoot up. It's wild. The plants could be running on Cuban coffee. If I drank it I'd be jumping out of my skin. For me: green tea, a parasol, and a willingness to stroll, though I don't stroll easily. I've lived up north for years, where people race and trees need a hundred years to reach their full height.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Post Office Pleasure

A child plays at the fountain inside the United States Post Office on 13th Street in South Beach, where I like to buy stamps. If I time it right, there's not much of a line and I can speak with an actual person. FedEx and UPS have been useful but I don't want to give up the post office. The writer Zadie Smith called people like me and herself, '1.0 people.'

On the ceiling above the fountain the light makes a lessor sun. The painted-on stars shine.

Do you send actual letters? Do you go to the post office? I confess: I go less and less. This morning I was glad I dropped mail into the post office slot.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fine Morning

It was good to go out this morning after a difficult time, walk to Provence, a cafe in South Beach, drink a coffee and eat a brioche before the place filled up. Province is a good cafe. (Forget about pricey "Paul" on Lincoln Road.)

Travelers from Germany scanned the menu.

From toothsome pleasure at Provence, I walked on to bookish pleasure at the library and checked out the 18th century, Chinese novel, Dream of the Red Chamber, which I would not have chosen if it weren't for my reading group friends. The title of the first chapter: "In which Chen Shih-yin meets the Stone of Spiritual Understanding."

The South Beach Local went down Washington Avenue, the elegant man in the red cap among us.

Please tell me what you are reading. What did you see today that held your interest?