Monday Morning Musings:
“Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”
–Ann Patchett, Truth & Beauty: A Friendship
“Those dripping crumpets, I can see them now. Tiny crisp wedges of toast, and piping-hot, flaky scones. Sandwiches of unknown nature, mysteriously flavoured and quite delectable, and that very special gingerbread. Angel cake, that melted in the mouth, and his rather stodgier companion, bursting with peel and raisins. There was enough food there to keep a starving family for a week.”
–Daphne du Maurier, Rebecca
“Art bears witness to human existence through the prism of beauty.”
– – Wajdi Mouawad
Art, the creative impulse,
my husband and I
witnessed it in many ways over the past few days
We see the movie Manchester By the Se,a
the acting is exceptional
making us feel like we know these people.
We’ve met people like them,
ordinary and unique,
as we all are,
the New England backdrop reflecting the characters,
gritty, hard, seemingly unyielding, but fluid,
and grief comes in waves like the sea.
Later, after our dinner at a Thai restaurant,
I say to my husband,
We didn’t discuss the sound track.*
It was beautiful, but I was so aware of it—perhaps it was even a bit intrusive?
What was in the soundtrack? I didn’t notice it.
He tends to listen to music when he is working.
I do not. It’s already in my head.
We carry the essentials with us.
The next day we go to tea.
More accurately, we go to lunch
in a tea room.
He gave me the gift card almost a year ago,
we finally use it.
The room is quaintly Victorian,
or perhaps Edwardian.
We chose our teas and have a full spread.
(More than the essentials.)
We talk of this and that,
cozy in dining room
with Christmas music playing in the background
a break from work,
a small retreat,
and I understand how this became a ritual,
it is difficult to discuss weighty issues over small, crustless sandwiches
and dainty iced cakes.
I think of tea parties and Tea Party,
attempts to return to a time that never was,
like this tea room,
an escape from reality.
He eats some of my sandwiches,
I take home some of my sweets.
Afterward, we go for wine,
we have a shipment to pick up at a local winery
We sit, sipping wine
discussing this and that again
watching the sky,
warmed by space heaters,
music comes from a frog speaker nearby
and I wonder if there’s a metaphor there
but I can’t find it,
it slips away,
and there is already too much that I carry
in my heart and mind.
The day after,
(Sunday by now)
we visit the museum
we get there just after opening,
Again, we go through the exhibition on Mexican artists
who painted the revolution,
who were revolutionary,
(And perhaps all artists are)
overturning the flotsam and jetsam in their brains,
discarding the unnecessary
salvaging the essentials from the debris.
We see Diana surrounded by Christmas lights
I share a moment with Renoir’s “Washerwoman,”
So many forms of art
created and collected.
We stop for free coffee (also essential)
It is members’ day. Yay!
Next we go to a play
I must say I’ve never seen anything like it
The artist asks:
Qui sommes-nous? Qui croyons-nous êtres? (Who are we? Who do we think we are?)
I should mention that the play is in French—a bit of Arabic—with the English translation projected on a screen.
It is a one-man show,
not autobiographical exactly
but based somewhat on Wajdi Mouawad’s life
As a child, forced by war in Lebanon,
his family left for Canada,
his and his character’s,
As a child, Harwan, the character,
counted the stars in the night sky,
he tried to paint them
he wanted to be a shooting star.
When they left Beirut, they brought only the essentials.
What happened to his paintings, he wonders?
and what if they had never left?
Harwan is struggling to finish his doctoral dissertation,
to find a conclusion.
His relationship with his father is fraught with words unsaid
in French or Arabic,
and broken memories–
it is the story of immigrants
Harwan, goes to St. Petersburg,
he has mistakenly packed paint instead of clothing.
Only the essentials?
His father is in a coma from an accident.
Or is he?
We travel with the character, with the artist
to a place inside his mind,
The story of the prodigal son is told,
a son’s journey
a father’s forgiving heart,
a story told and retold
we paint the story of our lives,
we bring the essentials,
we paint over truth and lies,
we create new truths
we are alone—together–
and on a stage, the artist is alone
but we are there with him.
After the play, I say
We will have much to talk about.
I need to think about what I’ve just seen,
My husband says.
We walk through City Hall to the courtyard.
Once the world’s tallest building,
completed in 1901.
Now there are taller buildings
but this one is unique,
beloved cultural icon topped by the statue of William Penn
we walk through the Christmas village,
we drink hot, mulled wine
I watch my husband watch the children posing for photos
with a man dressed as The Grinch
they shriek and laugh as he changes his pose
my husband laughs, too.
We stroll some more,
I wonder what creatures from other worlds would make of
our need for light
to brighten the darkness,
our joy in tea and wine,
and Christmas baubles,
We carry joy and sadness
in our souls,
we create and recreate light in the darkness,
we generate new worlds within our minds
construct, paint, and
imagine the impossible
to discover the essential
bearing witness to our existence.
*Lesley Barber, “Manchester By the Sea Chorale”
We went to Amelia’s Teas & Holly
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Seuls, Written, Directed, and Performed by Wajdi Mouawad
At the Wilma Theater
Christmas Village in Philadelphia