Sunday, November 1, 2015

Seascape: Storm and Stillness / Gathered From Coincidence

Now that I am self-employed as a medical transcription editor, early Sunday morning between about 5 a.m. and 9:30 is the only time during the week where I have truly unstructured time.  Unlike every other day, nothing is planned during that quiet time.  I just wake up and ask myself what would be a good way to savor that time.  I've been frequently surprised when the answer comes.  It is fertile time.

Last week I spent the entire time reading The Man Who Loved Dogs and a few days ago was able to finish that nearly 600-page book just before it was due back at the public library.  Fearing that I wouldn't finish it on time, I had renewed it, and after finishing it, I wanted to start reading it over again, despite the fact that reading it was mostly a painful experience.  Yesterday after entering the first pages of the book again with more insight than I had the first time, I realized that I wasn't up to living again through the experience of that harrowing fictionalized story of the lives of Leon Trotsky, Ramon Mercader (Trotsky's assassin who was sent by Joseph Stalin), and Iván Cárdenas (the fictional man Ramon Mercader entrusts with his life story).  It's a book I keep talking about with friends because it sheds light and talks about the mystery of compassion.

Leonardo Padura's book has been translated from Spanish to English. Leonardo Padura is Cuban, born in 1955 in Havana, two years after Joseph Stalin died.  Although the translation, according to book reviews, is supposed to be a good one, I found myself wishing that I could read Spanish because the translation seemed clunky to me.  Still, the disturbing story comes through.

The Man Who Loved Dogs filled in so many gaps in my understanding of history because it is based on extensive historical research.  By the time I was 5 years old in 1955, I had heard of Stalin but had no context for him except vague fear.  Could I have heard of his death on television?  I don't remember my parents talking about world events, but I do remember that I knew about Hitler from the same early age, probably through television or talking with other children.  I connected both Stalin and Hitler with what I would come to know as the word terror. 

Picasso said that art is a lie that tells the truth.  As a result of reading The Man Who Loved Dogs, I looked around for more information about Sylvia Ageloff, a young Jewish American woman who was cruelly used by Ramon Mercader and who seemed oddly one-dimensional in The Man Who Loved Dogs, and I found a very different picture of her from that painted by Leonardo Padura.  For fictional purposes, she was part of a Leonardo Padura's elaborate lie that nevertheless that has brought me much light as well as an unsettled feeling that may well lead to more light.

Coincidentally, the book begins as Hurricane Ivan was threatening Cuba in September of 2004.  As I was reading the book, Mexico was experiencing the threat of Hurricane Patricia, the most powerful hurricane ever recorded.

I hesitate to recommend this book, and yet it has had a profound effect on me, and I find myself thinking about it often and now wanting to write about it.

Anyway, what got me started on this blog post was a painting by Monet, titled "Seascape: Storm," that I saw clearly for the first time this morning in a stack of four open engagement calendars dating back to 1984, which is when I left an unhappy marriage and moved to this place where I look out on Scudder Pond.  Over the years, I have jotted down bird, animal, sky, and weather notes, and noted days that I want to remember in these engagement calendars.  When the days are filled with notes, I purchase a new calendar.  It's occurring to me that 2016 would be a good year to start a new one.  I've been so busy with being self-employed that, since sometime in September, I had only turned the pages of the engagement calendar which sits on the top of the pile and has the most current notes in it. This morning I flipped the pages of the three other calendars forward to today and was struck by the peculiarly familiar image of a boat on a stormy sea on the page of November 1, 1984, and was startled to realize that the boat looked very much like the boat in R's painting from the early 1980s.  Odd that I had never noticed that boat in the 31 years I have gone through the pages of that engagement calendar.  I have had R's painting since October of 1982, which was the year I stood with my parents at the top of one of the towers that fell on September 11, 2001.  We had gone to see an exhibit of sculptures by Rodin, but the exhibit turned out to be closed that day.

I went to look at R's painting, which is on the wall near my front door. Sure does looks as if R may have used Monet's stormy painting as a starting point for his painting which was done during that brief period of his life that was peaceful, during the time he was in college, taking art classes. Even if he didn't use that painting as an inspiration, it certainly is the same type of boat. What do you think?


Anonymous said...

R may have been inspired by that painting. It's an interesting thought. I love the new header painting on the blog. A beautiful piece of artwork.

am said...

Thank you, robin andrea!

bev said...

They do seem similar in shape, but unlike in many other ways. Agree with Robin about the new header painting. Beautiful!

am said...

bev -- Glad you like that painting. It was painted during my period of highest creative energy in the late 1980s. That good energy is finally coming back. Made time today to work on the current mandala early in the morning when it was still dark outside.

Nick said...

I'd not heard of that book 'til now. I must find a copy. Thanks for pointing me towards it. Regards, Nick.

am said...

I'm hoping to talk soon with that old friend with Latvian roots who didn't actually recommend it but chose to make a point of mentioning it to me in one of the few handwritten letters I receive these days.

Tara said...

I, too, enjoy the new header. Very lively and vibrant. The book on historical figures sounds very interesting....did you watch the movie Frida? That is where I know the Trotsky killing story. I might have to pick up the book. It all fascinates me, this falling out after the revolution, and the ego maniacs of Lenin and Trotsky.

am said...

Thank you, Tara. Until I read the book, I had completely forgotten that there was a connection between Trotsky, his wife Natalia, Diego Rivera, and Frida Kahlo. Our public library has a copy of Frida on DVD. Will put it on hold. My mental images as I read the book were in black and white and grey until Leon and Natalia Trotsky arrived in the colorful home of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo.