Spring Fundraiser 2016, Day Four
Well, thanks, y’all! Gratias plena! The pace of donations is picking up and we’re feeling much more encouraged and energized as a result.
It’s akin to the wonderful feeling I got when Tommy prevailed in court… there are not words sufficient to describe my sense of renewal. And all of you must know by now how seldom an Irishwoman is short on words.
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When you depend on the generosity of others, you must pay meticulous attention to your audience. In the beginning, we wrote for ourselves, as a way to maintain contact across the miles, so we answered only to one another.
Now, with all of you, and the necessity to ask for money from you, the scope of our vision has long since changed: who we’re answerable to, and for what, and why. Thus each of these week-long events requires us to step back. We take the opportunity to look at our work and at our direction; we spend even more time than usual talking about both the content and the process of our child, this website.
Yes, really. Gates of Vienna has evolved into a something we cherish and nurture. The conversations we have about it are similar in process to the talks we used to have as our son was growing up. Imagine if parents got report cards four times a year! If real live kids got the attention we give this blog, the future of next generation would be less parlous than it seems now.
To put it in strategic terms, the Quarterlies function in a way to maintain our situational awareness and to remind one another why, after all this time, we’re still here doing this every day…
This is a question worth asking as long as you’re comfortable wandering in the cloud of confusion between the query itself and whatever answers show up. At the risk of being thought sentimental (not something I’m accused of very often), I can sum it up in one word: love. Love in all its permutations and emphases, but love nonetheless is the engine that drives Gates of Vienna.
Perhaps I can clarify this with one of my favorite poems. This is probably Richard Wilbur’s most famous and most studied work. In a deceptive simplicity he pulls together the components of — as he might say — a quotidian process: the way in which we come back to life each morning and so begin to pull the pieces of ourselves together, however scattered they may have been by sleep.
Love Calls Us to the Things of This World
The eyes open to a cry of pulleys,
And spirited from sleep, the astounded soul
Hangs for a moment bodiless and simple
As false dawn.
Outside the open window
The morning air is all awash with angels.
Some are in bed-sheets, some are in blouses,
Some are in smocks: but truly there they are.
Now they are rising together in calm swells
Of halcyon feeling, filling whatever they wear
With the deep joy of their impersonal breathing;
Now they are flying in place, conveying
The terrible speed of their omnipresence, moving
And staying like white water; and now of a sudden
They swoon down into so rapt a quiet
That nobody seems to be there.
The soul shrinks
From all that it is about to remember,
From the punctual rape of every blessèd day,
“Oh, let there be nothing on earth but laundry,
Nothing but rosy hands in the rising steam
And clear dances done in the sight of heaven.”
Yet, as the sun acknowledges
With a warm look the world’s hunks and colors,
The soul descends once more in bitter love
To accept the waking body, saying now
In a changed voice as the man yawns and rises,
“Bring them down from their ruddy gallows;
Let there be clean linen for the backs of thieves;
Let lovers go fresh and sweet to be undone,
And the heaviest nuns walk in a pure floating
Of dark habits,
keeping their difficult balance.”
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If you read it slowly you’ll see not only the profoundly simple truth of his images, but the fun he is having juxtaposing those brilliant, quickly changing images on the page (and in the mind of his reader). For example, notice how he begins with the opening of his eyes, but then moves immediately not to what he sees, but to what he hears as a clothes line is sent squeaking down a pulley, its load of laundry flies into the morning. Not only sight and sound, but the unseen hands working the pulley and its accompanying joy… for many of us, that joy doesn’t arrive until we’re holding cup of coffee, ready to face the day’s offerings.
Opening Gates of Vienna each morning is much like that for me. I sit/lie on the chaise longue in the sunroom off the kitchen, listening to the Baron’s morning sounds as he makes coffee. I already have my own cup (espresso brewed in a Bialetti on the stove); with the comments page open I begin the ‘laundry’ of overnight comments while the steaming coffee revives my soul. It is most often in the morning, not quite awake, that those verboten words get past me, but then, I think y’all know that already.