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Friday, April 10, 2020

Terrible Times

Given the new terribleness, the virus, and that we are all working and reading and writing, my equivalent of working, it seems to me all the more remarkable that any light breaks in. But the very moving signal given all over everywhere at, say, seven in the evening, when people open their windows and clap and sound any noisy utensil in honor of the medical professionals who work with the sick, endangering their own lives, seems incredible worth a lot. This collective sign means as much as anything, and I am writing this on the night of Good Friday, and saluting the Cathedral of St. John the Divine for opening its immense space as a hospital, should one be wanted. The Rt. Rev Clifton Daniel was for years in Wilmington, N.C., my home town, and so I feel connected in many ways to the Cathedral, especially since, like my sister Peg and my mother, I attended the National Cathedral School in Washington, when it was a boarding school, as it no longer is. We had many children of diplomats indeed, but many others from all over everywhere.

My roommate, Grace Long, was rather large, and I remember happily sitting on her lap, and feeling less lonely. She was from Lima, and subsequently, many many years later, when I was going to Macchu Picchu, as I had always longed to,  having seen a picture of the ruins in a book by Thomas McFarlane, who I think went then to Princeton to teach, and those ruins remained with me. When I finally went there, during my second (and now) marriage, I was totally overcome with a kind of nostalgia of some sort. My guide wanted me to trust him enough to cover my eyes and climb up until I was at the top and THEN look down.

Years from then, I wanted to do a book about translation, and found several translations of Pablo Neruda's Heights of Macchu Picchu, and it turns out that it is chanted on high at some celebration each year, if I. have the story right. If I don't, it little matters, for such stories don't have to be true to be right. and everything there felt right.  As does that evening salute to the bravery of the medical workers in this awful time. 

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