Friday, November 30, 2012

Rock-Garden Of Their Souls

  Francesca was one of those women towards whom Fate appears to have the best intentions and never to carry them into practice.  With the advantages put at her disposal she might have been expected to command a more than average share of feminine happiness.  So many of the things that make for fretfulness, disappointment and discouragement in a woman’s life were removed from her path that she might well have been considered the fortunate Miss Greech, or later, lucky Francesca Bassington.  And she was not of the perverse band of those who make a rock-garden of their souls by dragging into them all the stoney griefs and unclaimed troubles they can find lying around them.  Francesca loved the smooth ways and pleasant places of life; she liked not merely to look on the bright side of things but to live there and stay there.  And the fact that things had, at one time and another, gone badly with her and cheated her of some of her early illusions made her cling the closer to such good fortune as remained to her now that she seemed to have reached a calmer period of her life.  To undiscriminating friends she appeared in the guise of a rather selfish woman, but it was merely the selfishness of one who had seen the happy and unhappy sides of life and wished to enjoy to the utmost what was left to her of the former.  The vicissitudes of fortune had not soured her, but they had perhaps narrowed her in the sense of making her concentrate much of her sympathies on things that immediately pleased and amused her, or that recalled and perpetuated the pleasing and successful incidents of other days.  And it was her drawing-room in particular that enshrined the memorials or tokens of past and present happiness.

Paintings by F.C.B. Cadell (1883-1937). 

Top:  The Black Hat.  

Bottom:  Interior, The Opera Hat

Text:  Saki, The Unbearable Bassington, Ch. 1 (1912)


Thursday, November 29, 2012


   Including my deep and strong feelings for my wife, daughter, and the many animals with whom I’ve shared my life as family members, the most powerfully positive animating sensation I've had is the "peace which passeth understanding" blanketing a “covered” Quaker meeting.

   New York Yearly Meeting's "Faith & Practice" defines “Covered Meeting” as:

   “A meeting for worship or business in which the participants feel the power and inspiration of God so strongly that they are united in silence that is the reward of waiting on the Lord.” 

   The F & P description, although accurate, fails to convey the phenomenal intensity of a covered meeting.  I’ve experienced it only a couple of times and not for years.  I cannot recall the surrounding circumstances,  but they weren’t tied to any dramatic or landmark events.


   Recently I wanted to do some basic research into the subject of covered bridges.  I'm sure the more intelligent and engineering-minded would find it ur-obvious, but I was curious to learn why bridge-builders decided to cover some structures.  A decent short Wikipedia article with a collection of good photos relates that timber-truss bridges were covered with a roof and surrounded by siding to protect the bridges' wooden structural members from the ruinous effects of rain and sun, which would otherwise limit their lifespan to a maximum of 10 to 15  years.  Covered bridges, which are found all over the world (about 1,600 remain in existence today), last much longer.  America’s first covered bridge was built in Philadelphia (not far from where I sit right now) in the early 19th century.

   I love covered bridges and I wish I felt more covered at the moment.  As it is, I feel like a solo inhabitant in an endless plain of fortune with head visible too far above ground, clear sighting for snipers.


1. Holzbrücke, over the river Rhine from Bad Säckingen, Germany, to Stein, Switzerland, first built before 1272, destroyed and re-built many times.

2.  Pont de Rohan in Landerneau, France is one of 45 inhabited bridges in Europe.

3.  The Cogan House Covered Bridge is a Burr arch truss covered bridge over Larrys Creek in Cogan House Township, Lycoming CountyPennsylvania. It was built in 1877 and is 94 feet 2 inches (28.7 m) long. 

4.  A covered bridge in West Sumatra, Indonesia (1877-1879).

John Cale: The Endless Plain Of Fortune (Link)