Clocks - Hourglasses, Watches & Rosemary
Saturday, February 05, 2022
|Rosemary - Mexico City -1968|
I remember back when I did not know what a computer virus
was. It was 1994. I first learned it by my then friend William Gibson. He also
told me that he liked Apple computers because they used ikons. I had no idea
what he meant. He also told me in those early days of the internet when my
email was firstname.lastname@example.org that there
was something called Altavista and that it was a search engine. By then I was
using my Rosemary’s office IBC Thinkpad (remember them?)
Now in this century I could not possibly think of reading
in bed without Google access with my phone. I can look up obscure words
I also use Google when I want to mate (combine a photo or
photos of mine with some poem or article or book by an author that I like. I
have used Google to find over 75 Emily Dickinson poems that fit my photographs
by simply putting fall, Emily Dickinson or death, Emily Dickinson.
I have a friend, Ian Bateson who likes to use a certain word
and expression that he knows annoys me. This is, “Alex you are reiterating
yourself." That hit home today when I spotted two photographs I took of Rosemary
in 1968. In one she is with an hour
glass and in the other I added a very large alarm clock.
I went to Google and put reloj, Jorge Luís Borges. I sort of
knew what I would find. It was his lovely poem on an hour glass called El reloj de arena. But I was most surprised when the second Goggle hit was this::
El Reloj de Arena - The Hour Glass - Jorge Luís Borges
What to do? I have decided to link that original blog and add
something new. I have re-scanned the two negatives so they will look better.
But I will also include here an essay I know all about by Julio Cortázar. One
part is the preamble and the other is the actual instructions on how to wind a
watch. Both are below in Spanish and in English. Cortázar had a very dry and unusual sense of humour. He wrote several of these odd little essays. Two are are blogs of mine. One is on how to go up stairs and the other how to go up stairs backwards.
Some who may have gotten this far might object that a wrist
watch has nothing to do with an hour glass or a gigantic alarm clock. Any excuse to put up pictures of my Rosemary is enough
justification for me.
a las instrucciones para dar cuerda al reloj. Julio Cortázar
Preamble to the instructions for winding the watch.
en esto: cuando te regalan un reloj te regalan un pequeño infierno florido, una
cadena de rosas, un calabozo de aire. No te dan solamente el reloj, que los
cumplas muy felices y sí esperamos que te dure porque es de buena marca, suizo
con áncora de rubíes; no te regalan solamente ese menudo picapedrero que te
atarás a la muñeca y pasearás contigo.
Think about this: when someone gives you a watch as a
gift, they give you a flowery little hell, a chain made of roses, a prison cell
made of air. They do not give you just a watch, may you have a happy birthday
and, yes, we hope it lasts you because it’s a good brand, Swiss with a ruby
clasp; they do not give you just that minute piece of stonework that you will
tie to your wrist and carry around with you.
Te regalan -no lo saben, lo terrible es que no lo saben-,
te regalan un nuevo pedazo frágil y precario de ti mismo, algo que es tuyo pero
no es tu cuerpo, que hay que atar a tu cuerpo con su correa como un bracito
desesperado colgándose de tu muñeca. Te regalan la necesidad de darle cuerda todos los días, la obligación de
darle cuerda para que siga siendo un reloj; te regalan la obsesión de atender a
la hora exacta en las vitrinas de las joyerías, en el anuncio por la radio, en
el servicio telefónico.
They give you – they don’t know it, the terrible thing is
that they don’t know it – they give you a fragile and precarious new piece of
yourself, something that is yours but is not your body, that you have to tie to
your body with your strap like a hopeless little arm hanging itself from your
wrist. They give you the need to wind it every day, the obligation to wind it
so that it keeps on being a watch; they give you an obsessive need to pay
attention to the exact hour in the shop windows of jewelers, in the commercial
on the radio, in the phone service.
regalan el miedo de perderlo, de que te lo roben, de que se te caiga al suelo y
se te rompa. Te regalan su marca, y la seguridad de que es una marca mejor que
las otras, te regalan la tendencia de comparar tu reloj con los demás relojes.
No te regalan un reloj, tú eres el regalado, a ti te ofrecen para el cumpleaños
The give you the fear that you might lose it, that it
might be stolen from you, that it might fall to the floor and break. They give
you its brand, and the certainty that it is a better brand than the others,
they give you the tendency to compare your watch with other watches. They don’t
give you a watch, you are the one given as a gift, they offer you yourself for
the watch’s birthday.
Instructions on how to wind a watch - Julio Cortázar (in Spanish and English)
para dar cuerda al reloj
fondo está la muerte, pero no tenga miedo. Sujete el reloj con una mano, tome
con dos dedos la llave de la cuerda, remóntela suavemente. Ahora se abre otro
plazo, los árboles despliegan sus hojas, las barcas corren regatas, el tiempo
como un abanico se va llenando de sí mismo y de él brotan el aire, las brisas
de la tierra, la sombra de una mujer, el perfume del pan.
quiere, qué más quiere? Átelo pronto a su muñeca, déjelo latir en libertad,
imítelo anhelante. El miedo herrumbra las áncoras, cada cosa que pudo
alcanzarse y fue olvidada va corroyendo las venas del reloj, gangrenando la
fría sangre de sus rubíes. Y allá en el fondo está la muerte si no corremos y
llegamos antes y comprendemos que ya no importa.
There at the corner is death, but do not be afraid. Put
on the watch with one hand, with two fingers go to the winding knob, turn it
gently. Now there is a different stage, trees display their leaves, ships run
in regattas, time like a fan fills itself with its being and from it air
emerges, the earth’s breezes, the shadow of a woman, the perfume of bread.
What more do you want, what more do you want? Fasten it
immediately to your wrist, give it liberty to tick, imitate it with longing.
Fear rusts the anchors, everything that was found was forgotten and has
corroded the watch’s veins, gangrene sets in on the cold blood of the rubies.
And there at the end is death if we do not run and arrive and understand it is
no longer important.
At Odds with Jorge Luís Borges & una canadiense
Friday, February 04, 2022
|Rosemary in Chapultepec Park 1968|
Buenos Aires as a little boy my knowledge of Canada was next to zero.
grandmother would tell me the story on how when she became a widow in 1918 and because she was of a patrician family she could not find a job. She and her son and two daughters took a Japanese ship to a place with mountains
and trees called Van-koo-ver. At the train station (it must have been the CP Train
Station) they boarded a train to Montreal and from there to New York City where
they settled in the Bronx
until my return to Buenos Aires in 1965 to do my military service in the
Argentine Navy that at the Retiro Train Station I spotted a curious structure.
It was a Canadian totem pole that had been erected the year before. It seems the Canadian government had sent it to
Argentina as a gift.
In my Jorge
Luís Borges – Atlas (1985 translation in English from 1984 book in Spanish) I
have always known how Borges had no liking for Indigenous culture of any kind.
He preferred Milton and Shakespeare.
found out that the original totem deteriorated and it was removed in 2008 and
replaced by a new one in 2012.
When I left
Buenos Aires to my home in Veracruz, Mexico in 1977 in an Argentine merchant
marine ship (ELMA) called the Río Aguapey I was unaware that the Victory Ship
that it was, had been built at the Burrard Shipyard in North Vancouver.
latter part of 1977 I met Rosemary Healey who told me all about a man called
Pierre Trudeau and of a lovely city she pronounced as Kebec. I fell for her
blonde hair, her legs and married her. With our two Mexican-born daughters we
drove our VW to Vancouver in 1975. I have been a Canadian Citizen for many
paradoxical that the first totem Rosemary ever saw was one in Chapultepec Park
in Mexico City. Until yesterday I had not known that I had photographed
her by the totem not only in b+w but in
colour. A year ago when I finallly finished Julio Cortázar's Rayuela, from front to back, and then to all of his recommended variations, I discovered that in wintry Paris he wore a plad, flannel shirt that he called una canadiense.
Borges. I like Milton and Shakespeare but I also admire and respect Indigenous
culture, too. He was a man of that other century and I am doing my best to be
one of this one.
Susan Musgrave - Formless, as the divine
Thursday, February 03, 2022
|Susan and Stephen - October 12 1986|
When I sent poet Susan Musgrave my blog on poetry, Poetic Justice , she and I discussed the grief of a loss. In her case it was about the
recent death, September 14 2021, of her 32 year-old daughter Sophie, and, in mine the loss of my
Rosemary on December 9 2020.
While I am not a poet I find a measure of relief in writing
about grief and in reading poetry. That she sent me the recent poem she wrote of Sophie, I consider not only an honor but it also does provide me with a measure of escape from my own loss by sharing someone else's.
And she sent me a poet's advice: Oh, I am so sorry to hear of Rosemary's death, Alex. 52 years. Joan
Didion's books — her husband's death and her daughter's — are bibles of
grief. Julian Barnes has some beautiful books about his wife's death — Levels of Life (the third section) and of course C.S. Lewis. A Grief Observed.
Of her daughter she wrote:
My daughter, Sophie (Stephen's daughter) died of a
Fentynal and Benzos overdose on September 8, 2021, in Vernon. She went off her
Suboxone, cold turkey, in late August and then started using Fentanyl to stop
from getting sick.
She was found on the 4th without a pulse or heartbeat.
They revived her using CPR for an hour, but there was too much damage to her
brain and kidneys. I brought her ashes home to be with Stephen's. Sophie was
I never knew such pain existed. There hasn't been a day
since then that I haven't wept. Sometimes for hours at a time. I wrote this for
her on the plane flying home.
September 14, 2021
For Sophie Alexandra Musgrave Reid (January 4,
1989-September 8, 2021)
reckless seek death the way the poets seek rhyme, the patient
the prisoner freedom.”
Rumi, The Fire of Love
The day you are cremated a girl modeling
a black hoodie,
like the one I’ve chosen for you to wear, lights
up my Facebook page:
I survived because the fire inside me burned
brighter than the fire
I hear you laugh at the irony as
they fire up the retort,
a laugh dragged through the ashes of a
thousand cigarettes, tokes
of crack, my sweet dangerous reckless
girl, what could I do
but weep, the way I did when you were four,
candy cigarette you scored from the
showing him your vagina through the split
you, next time, baby, hold out for a
brave, the way only a mother could. Now
plain cedar urn, the remains of all you
smaller, portable size. Not even you
this time, your light in ashes now,
as the divine.
Monica Vitti - Rome, 3 November 1931 - Rome, 2 February 2022
Wednesday, February 02, 2022
|Monica Vitti - Bert Stern|
Because I am a remnant being from that past 20th century it is understandable that I eschew most of the films made in this century.
I was raised by my mother to appreciate the likes of Leslie
Howard, Ronald Colman. Katherine Hepburn and Jean Simmons. It was only when we moved to Mexico
City from Buenos Aires in 1954 that I saw Mogambo and fell for Grace Kelly.
While in Buenos Aires my father often took me to see movies
on Lavalle which was a street with shoulder to shoulder movie houses for at
least three blocks. We saw swashbucklers, war movies and films which we
Argentines called de conboys.
In short my level of film sophistication and sophistication
of any other kind was low. My grandmother had given me subscriptions to
Selecciones del Reader’s Digest and Mecánica Popular.
When I returned in 1965 to do my military service in the
Argentine Navy I met two women who became my girlfriends. The first one, Uruguayan-born
Corina Poore, introduced me to the music of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul & Mary.
She had a lovely voice and played her guitar very well.
My second girlfriend, Susana Bornstein was much more
critical of my lack of sophistication. She invited me to the Teatro Colón where I
saw my first two operas, Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel, and Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice.
If that wasn’t enough she took me to see the Beatles in Help! and the
eye-opener Japanese film The Woman in the Dunes. But my level of sophistication
did not rise to her liking and one grim Buenos Aires winter afternoon she called me to
tell me that I had no future, that I was not to call her ever again and that
she was leaving me for a violinist of the Teatro Colón Orchestra.
There was one glimmer of hope for me as I had discovered
Astor Piazzolla in 1965 and had attended a concert with Susana. I wrote about
Once I returned to Mexico City in 1967 (before I was to
meet my Rosemary Healey) I was under the wing of Raúl Guerrero Montemayor who
taught me how to teach English and with his multiple languages made me curious.
He helped by taking me to films I had no idea existed. These were the three
films of Michelangelo Antonioni, L'Avventura, La Notte and L'Eclisse. They introduced me to the freckles and other wonders of Monica Vitti. By
the time I saw Antonioni’s Blow-up he was part of my new sophisticated radar.
I believe that it was Monica Vitti who gave me the
ability to appreciate Charlote Rampling and Molly Parker.
Vitti also made me understand the beauty of seeing a film in
a foreign language (not dubbed). By the time my Rosemary saw all the Italian
series Montalbano we could both comprehend most of the Italian being spoken.
I do not believe that there are many actresses (I am
old-fashioned) that now are at the level of intensity that Monica Vitti had.
And in my 52 marriage to Rosemary we attended concerts, theatre, dance and shared many books with mutual pleasure. I would assert that she helped me reach my considerable (in my eyes) level of sophistication.