Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A BIT OF EARTH: Stone

On a brilliant October afternoon, we boarded a boat for a cruising view of the Chateau de Chillon. The serene waters of Lake Geneva sparkled around us and we chattered with anticipation in the sun. We were about to enter the mysterious castle, the medieval muse of Romantic painters and poets.

Framed by the Swiss Alps and set securely on a rock foundation at the edge of Lake Geneva, Chateau de Chillon's hand-carved stones and dark history now live in the light.

Chillon occupied a controlling position along ancient trade routes during the Middle Ages, working as a tollhouse, warehouse, fortress, prison, and arsenal--depending on who owned, remodeled or operated it. For a virtual history and tour of the castle, click HERE and choose the parts you'd like to see or read about.

I don't remember much about the upper rooms of the fortress but am haunted by the stone staircase descent into the depths of the underground rooms where prisoners, chained to its rough-hewn walls, languished in the stone-cold spaces for decades.

During the Romantic Movement, Lord Byron found the medieval dungeon aesthetics (note the alluring juxtaposition of rough prison walls and the Gothic cathedral roof overhead in the castle tour link, above) fascinating enough for a romantic verse-tale...here's a quick excerpt:

Chillon! The prison is a holy place,
And thy sad floor an altar - for 'twas trod,
Until his very steps have left a trace
Worn as if thy cold pavement were a sod,
By Bonnivard! - May none these marks efface!
For they appeal from tyranny to God.
from The Prisoner of Chillon/a fable

Reverie
At the castle exit, I am thrilled to return to the sun and the al fresco picnic waiting at the edge of the lake. I am glad to walk free of the wailing, sobbing prison walls, grateful for the gift of the experience, and happy to walk in light of the past.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

AWAKENING


I wonder what visions fill Landon's infant head while he sleeps, what imaginings cause him to stir and make these soft, murmuring sounds. Swaddled securely in his flannel blanket, he seems to dream--as if he sees things that move him to action.

But how is this possible? Newborns' film-covered eyes see almost nothing and he's barely opened them in his first few days. Perhaps he doesn't see as we do when we dream, but merely feels. The memory of the struggle from womb to world may be what moves him. I prefer to think that he dreams of a faraway home made of stardust where he lived in happy oblivion as he makes the transition from there to here.

As in William Wordsworth's mystic words...

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Ode. Intimations of Immortality (1807) st. 5

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

ABBEYSTYLE HOME: White Sheets


Only sleep on white sheets--
anything else would change your personality.

+Katherine Hepburn

Common threads hang 'round the world...saw this in Placencia, Belize.