Bits, snappy and not-so-snappy

I stood out on my kitchen balcony before 8 a.m. this morning, listening to swallows, which I could see circling above, and traffic, which I couldn’t see circling my block outside the courtyard. I had gone to hang out a towel and been charmed into staying. The sky was utterly clear, and the temperature was cold for late May (48/10 degrees).  I was (and am) wearing a pink wool sweater set as an homage to the two seasons between which the city is choosing.

Then I went inside and made a second caffè macchiato.  The sun is now slanting golden on my fake birch cabinets from IKEA. It looks warm despite the fakery.

I wonder, when I go outside our courtyard and cross Matteotti, will I have a clear view of the mountains?

I’m alone. I am frequently alone now, and I’m coming to terms with it. Last night I sat down and taught myself the first of the Goldberg Variations, which I have loved for years. It’s not performable yet, but I practiced with interest for two hours. I also drew a quick sketch Virgin statuette from the Cloisters--twice, because the first time I botched the structure. The one below has problems as well (as pretty much any 15 minute sketch will), but I’m putting it in as an incentive to make myself practice.

Virgin. Sandstone, polychromy and gilding, France 1247-52, from the cathedral of Strasbourg (47.101.11) Metropolitan Museum, Cloisters.


Yesterday in Italian class I learned the congiuntivo imperfetto and the congiuntivo trapassato.  So now, if I could only remember how to conjugate even the most basic verbs in the present tense on the fly, I would be able to say the most complicated things in Italian–statements of possibility and emotion that occurred and continued in the past. I think you can make poetry with those!

On Tuesday I made a chicken broth (with the feet, of course) and yesterday I made a potato leek soup for Sarie and Alberto with some of it. We talked about film ideas and told viola jokes in two languages. Bob is in Vienna.

I’m continuing to read Psalms every morning, and often I sing traditional hymns. Sometimes I literally sing them in the closet.

I’m reading The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien again.  Of course I read them for the insight into how he wrote The Lord of the Rings, but what I really like about them is the inclusion of bits of side trivia, such as the following from a letter to his son Christopher:

“When fermentation was first managed, the beer was only in birch tubs and it foamed all over the place, and of course the heroes cam and lapped it up, and got mightily drunk.  Drunk was Ahti, drunk was Kauko, drunken was the ruddy rascal, with the ale of Osmo’s daughter-Kirby’s translation is funnier than the original.  It was the bullfinch who then suggested to Osmo’s daughter the notion of putting the stuff in oak casks with hoops of copper and storing it in a cellar.  Thus was ale at first created…best of rinks for prudent people; Women soon it brings to laughter, Men it warms into good humour, and but brings the fools to raving.  Sound sentiments. Poor old Finns, and their queer language, they look like being scuppered.*”

Italians traditionally don’t drink to drunkenness.  They consider that something that American tourists do, especially college students.  (In case you were wondering what their stereotypes of us were.)  But in this generation, things seem to be changing.  Sarie had to enter some data from an anonymous survey on various consumption habits for a school project.  Only two students whose data she entered had not gotten drunk. Some were as young as 14. My Italian teacher thinks this is an attitude imported from northern Europe. Of course it has been a problem in the US at least since I was a teen.

Some of the lines from Tolkien’s letters, such as the following, stand quite nicely by themselves:

It is a curse having the epic temperament in an overcrowded age devoted to snappy bits!”

Which begs the question: Is this a snappy bit?

*The last line is in reference to the Finns’ tendency to be dominated by other countries.


2 thoughts on “Bits, snappy and not-so-snappy

  1. I’ll start from the top.

    I loved the description of your morning with the crisp air, “hanging out” your laundry and being “charmed” by the outdoor ambience, warm sunlight in the kitchen, and making coffee twice (as well as everything else)! I drink smaller cups of coffee all the time (soon I will need only a demitasse cup!), but I still love the morning ritual of making coffee–grinding beans, pouring water over the grounds and the resulting bloom and aroma, pouring hot coffee into just the right mug, the warmth of the mug on my hands, and sipping while I read my Bible. And some days, I like to make a second cup, too–not for caffeine but for the making and smelling and having a few sips while I get to work on something (usually reading or writing).

    I wore a pink sweater yesterday, too, if almost-fuschia counts as pink. I say it counts.

    Did you see the mountains when you left your courtyard? I hope so.

    I love to know about your studies (a nice change from my own)–the music, the art, learning Italian. I love your sketch! Not being an artist, sketches are super-interesting to me because I can see more how an artist works or thinks (I think, anyway!).

    Potato leek soup with homemade broth sounds delicious. Nothing beats homemade broth! I’ve never found a chicken with feet–does it make much of a difference? People say yes, but I wouldn’t know.

    Cooking is just as much fun for me now as it’s always been. I took five cookbooks to bed with me last night along with the Dhammapada (for class reading), and the Dhammapada was ignored (not that I don’t like reading it).

    I read Psalms daily, too (I’m like Dorothy Day–every day must include Psalms and coffee), but I haven’t entered my closet–either to pray or sing–because I can’t fit in there with my suitcase, vacuum cleaner, cot, backpacks, hiking poles, Christmas decorations, and other odds and ends (my closets are my only storage spaces). I don’ t know that it would have occurred to me anyway. 🙂

    I love the same bits of Tolkien’s Letters as you. (A mi tambien! . . .haha. . .)

    So, how do you like blog comments that are longer than your posts?! I enjoyed everything you said and felt like chatting about it! 🙂


    1. I love your long comment! In fact, I’ll reply likewise:

      Well, in fact, I DO use a demitasse cup.

      And yes, the mountains were incredibly clear and took up half the sky! (Or so it seemed.)

      And the chicken feet release a lot of gelatin into the broth, so it does make a difference. Wiggly broth. Yum! I think it’s supposed to be good for you, too. And apparently Italians don’t have the same squeamishness about the feet that many Americans do, so I like that. My butcher always asks whether I want him to give the chicken a manicure, chops off the claws, and then asks me if I want a manicure, too. 😉

      I was thinking that perhaps I’d included an awfully weird part of Tolkien’s letters. But part of the appeal was that he was talking along about mundane things and then suddenly started quoting the Kalevala. And that there were birds involved in this reference, too.

      a mi también = anche a me, or anch’io, depending on the grammatical construct. But I think you were trying to say they please you, which is the construct for liking something in Italian, and probably in Spanish too. Le stesse briciole delle lettere di Tolkien che ti piacciono anche mi piacciono. Now I’m in deep water, because I just wrote a whole sentence in Italian and there’s no one around to correct it for me!

      Thanks for stopping by to chat!

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