Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Portrait of the Author

So now, thanks to my granddaughter, we have my face on the blog. Or, as I like to think if it, one of my faces. It's not particularly discernible, because my tech opted for body language and background rather than a close up. Nice hat, though, you have to admit. It's new, an excellent design by Tilley - and it's already had a number of compliments, so any reader not liking it will not be listened to. My sister-in-law particularly likes it - she's seen the full photograph, via computer - and that clinches the argument, because she's always been very special to me. There was a time in the courtship of Shawn Harold when her ten-year old sister was the only person in the entire clan who liked me and thought of me as a suitable husband for the first born of the outfit.
Now as the Greeks so wisely said so long ago, "A thing goes into a man according to his disposition."
Even his own portrait must suffer the effect of this unbreakable law. I was not initially keen on Marianne's choice. I look too passive, perhaps a little sad. Just like Michael Gambon in the 2007, excellent, BBC filming of Elizabeth Gaskell's "Cranford". Not at all like the Billy the Kid image I'm actually feeling a lot these days. Those guns are slung low, tied down, with filed triggers and a pair of very itchy hands above them. I have this feeling that there are a lot of journalists out there, for one thing, who need to learn how to dance until the bullets stop. And I keep thinking of Peter O'Toole's film, "The Ruling Class", I think it's called, where the establishment wouldn't deal with a Jesus figure, so they got Jack the Ripper.
But as I thought about the photo, as I recollected over the years and the times that MT has proved her old teacher and still spiritual director dead wrong, I gave in and started to work with dear, dear, Michael. He is, he always has been, an excellent actor, and on Saturday night at the televison screening of a DVD, before the great Sunday morning encounter between Jack Hodgins and moi, he was Trigorin in the 70s BBC film of Chekhov's "Seagull", the play, directed in Nelson by John Stark, that brought me back to the stage after a six year absence. An impeccable Trigorin, was Gambon, in an excellent production. All this was simply too much to argue with, and so, dear public, I accept the comparison with Michael Gambon. My wife, on the other hand, doesn't see the resemblance. But then she is not, directly, writing this blog.
The background for the photo, which looks very "Rangerish", is the south wall of a little cafe on the East shore of Kootenay Lake, right at Kootenay Bay, where the ferry docks. The coffee shop is operated by friends of the lad who was our first renovator. He scared the crap out of me when he wanted to start with the roof - it has a very steep pitch - but we found other things for him to tackle and thus got a lot of very fine work done, including the renovation of the attic, where we now exercise on an erg, a dry land rowing machine.
Marianne and I started scouting the East Shore in 1998. She had begun to find herself profoundly depressed on Tuesdays, which happened to be John Paul's day off. February, 1998, was an unusually warm and sunny month, and somehow the North Shore bus service, originally set up to serve the good souls in Balfour, 20 miles east of Nelson, had rearranged itself so that Nelsonites could ride the bus out in the morning, and ride it back in at night. We rode the bus, caught the ferry, wandered around in the wonderful quiet of the East Shore. We even discovered salal over there. Salal is not supposed to exist east of the Cascade Mountains, the second barrier against the rain shadow that sweeps over BC from the Pacific. But there it was, shiny evergreen leaves, purple berries, just not as tall as the stuff I used to use a machete on when I was a surveyor at the Coast. We felt like professional botanists who had just made an important discovery. The old teacher, by the way, took a real whack over the head with identification. I trained her to be thorough, and by God, she's thorough, even when it means stuffing her old teacher in the trunk. It's reading that does it. Constant, dedicated, reading, of the right stuff. As Aquinas says, the Latin root for "reading" is related to the Latin root for "religious".
So, yeah, we'll go with Michael Gambon in the Mojo Cafe. He was, of course, the second Dumbledore. And JK Rowling and I have already had a bit of a push-me-pull-you via the mails.
So, think of the roles Michael Gambon has filled, so admirably, and think of Billy the Kid.
And think of Jack Hodgins and his "Broken Ground". There are some wonderful descriptions of stump blowing in that book. Incredible, actually, for my purposes, when I think of all my conversations with the angels. When I was eleven, on Lasqueti Island, sixty miles north of Vancouver, my father trained me as a powder monkey.
If not journalists, for those six guns, maybe bishops? It's interesting, how easily bishops get to imitate the Sanhedrin. Puffing and blowing like so many beached whales, blatting on about the decline of religion and the indiscretions of the young, yet themselves no more interested in perfection than a dog would be interested in a law degree. Emmett Doyle was one of the worst among them, of course, but others of my acquaintance have rarely been actually sensitive to the aura of spiritual purgation. Spiritually illiterate, basically, and apparently content to be so. Often ordinarily illiterate when it comes to literature as well. How else can one explain the pandering to the wonderfully sluttish appetites for inclusive language and almost filthy music for liturgy? It needs to be said over and over again: no one with any desire to accommodate inclusive language in any way has a spiritual life. It simply cannot be done. Therefore, we have a vast majority of bishops who have no real spiritual life. What a lovely situation for Christ's Church, especially when they don't even have the decency to apologize for the lack, nor show any inclination to take correction for the situation.
'Twas ever thus. This is the time of the year when Augustine, in the breviary, says most of his stern things about the shepherds. Then, when he's finished caning their butts, and got their attention, if not a little contrition, we have his letters to Proba, on - you guessed it - the life of the soul. It's a nice little schedule. One can only hope it gains a bit of a harvest this year.
As a little chap, I heard of the ten commandments. Later, as a young adult vigorously catching upon the catechism, I read of the two great commandments, love of God, love of neighbour. This is pretty much the schedule for most practitioners. But finally, what I really heard was the one commandment: Be ye perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. This really what it all boils down to, but why are there so few bishops sensitive to the fact?

No comments: