Thursday, March 20, 2008

Knocked flat.

Some goddamn virus has been kicking my ass for a couple of days now. Two nights ago I didn't sleep hardly at all for shivering -- I just could not get warm, highly unusual for me. I was shaking, teeth chattering, the whole 9. Next day I felt like I'd been hit by a truck. I hung out on the couch groaning and the girls had a "movie day" (Monsters, Inc. We dig it. I do an excellent Roz when I'm feeling myself: "Your stunned silence is very reassuring.")

Last night I was warm enough, but the all-over aching makes it really hard to stay lying down, so again, little sleep. Today: worst. sinus. headache. ever. More hanging out on the couch groaning, hoping my head doesn't explode in front of the children. And now, I'll try to sleep again. I hope I've turned the corner on this thing; I don't want to stay on the couch groaning for another day.


In between groaning and holding my head, I watched Blood Diamond this afternoon. It's a 2006 movie about a Sierra Leone fisherman named Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) whose village is stormed by rebels with machine guns mounted on pickup trucks who shoot and/or mutilate as many people as possible, for no obvious reason except that it's what they do. His wife and girls barely escape. The rebels take Solomon's son for their child army, and they take Solomon to work in diamond mines.

He finds a diamond -- a big one -- and manages to hide it before government forces take over the mine and throw him in jail, where Danny Archer, a diamond smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio) happens to have landed in the cell across the hall, and gets wind of it from one of the rebels who suspected Solomon was hiding something. Danny's connections spring them both, and they form an uneasy alliance to get the diamond and Solomon's family back. Danny cares only about the diamond. Solomon cares only about his family.

American journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelley) cares about bringing the story of conflict diamonds to the world. In exchange for solid information from Danny, she helps them get where they need to go.

Along the way, an awful lot of people are shot and maimed. We see what's happening to Solomon's boy as he's brought into the rebel army, and it's just horrifying. This is not an easy movie. I think it was a good movie (allowing for some typical Hollywood oversimplification -- the "issue-tainment" factor), but I hated the things I saw. Just so violent, and with the news out of that part of the world not so far off from the fiction -- well. Upsetting.

How's this for complete contrast: I also finally finished Henry Beston's The Outermost House, which he wrote about a year (1926) spent living alone in a cottage on the dunes on the outer beach of Cape Cod. It's the opposite of upsetting.

You can't whip through this book; it takes its time. Beston is a self-described "writer-naturalist." He details the sights, sounds, and smells of his time on Eastham Beach (now called Coast Guard Beach), and his observations of all manner of life there. I have to admit, the bits about birds I sometimes found slow going. But then I'd find myself in a calm and happy place, after a paragraph such as this:
One March evening, just as sundown was fading into night, the whole sky chanced to be overspread with cloud, all save a golden channel in the west between the cloud floor and the earth. It was very still, very peaceful on my solitary dune. The whole earth was dark, dark as a shallow cup lifted to a solemnity of silence and cloud. I heard a familiar sound. Turning toward the marsh, I saw a flock of geese flying over the meadows along the rift of dying, golden light, their great wings beating with a slow and solemn beauty, their musical, bell-like cry filling the lonely levels and the dark. Is there a nobler wild clamour in all the world? I listened to the sound till it died away and the birds had disappeared into darkness, and then heard a quiet sea chiding a little at the turn of tide. Presently, I began to feel a little cold, and returned to the Fo'castle, and threw some fresh wood on the fire.

Lovely. There are lots of passages like that, that just capture a moment so beautifully. In another of my favorites, Beston describes seeing the lights of the nightly Coast Guard beach patrol:
Every night in the year, when darkness has fallen on the Cape and the sombre thunder of ocean is heard in the pitch pines and the moors, lights are to be seen moving along these fifty miles of sand, some going north, some south, twinkles and points of light solitary and mysterious. These lights gleam from the lanterns and electric torches of the coast guardsmen of the Cape walking the night patrols. When the nights are full of wind and rain, loneliness and the thunder of the sea, these lights along the surf have a quality of romance and beauty that is Elizabethan, that is beyond all stain of present time.
So, Cape Cod fans and/or naturalists, give Henry Beston's year in the dunes some of your own time. Well worth it.

Does that idea, of spending a year living by yourself in a tiny cottage in the dunes, appeal to you? I think I could do it, but it would make me a little [more] weird. I like some solitary time, some silence. But a whole year. Hm.



  1. We're on a Monsters, Inc. kick here too. My son goes through obsessive phases and right now Monsters, Inc. is the obsession. I LOVE Roz! I enjoy all the "extras" with the movie too.

  2. I'm watching you, Wazowski. Always watching.