*Here’s a fascinating post about a new set of doors being made for the Library of Congress. The design is based upon the original doors, designed by artist Lee Lawrie. Just to tweek those who love to insist that “America is a Christian nation,” it’s fun to note the list of deities who adorn the original doors:
Hermes, the messenger of the gods
Odin, the Viking-Germanic creator of the runic alphabet
Ogma, the Irish god who invented the Gaelic alphabet
Itzamna, the Mayan god
Quetzalcoatl, the Aztec god
Sequoyah, a Native American
Thoth, an Egyptian god
Ts’ang Chieh, the Chinese patron of writing
Nabu, an Akkadian god
Brahma, an Indian god
Cadmus, the Greek sower of dragon’s teeth
Tahmurath, a Persian hero
Pagan art is all over D.C.’s most important civic buildings, not the least of which is The Apotheosis of Washington, which shows our first president becoming a God:
flanked by the goddess Victoria (draped in green, using a horn) to his left and the goddess Liberty to his right. Liberty wears a red Phrygian cap, symbolizing emancipation, from a Roman tradition where sons leaving the home and/or slaves being emancipated would be given a red cap. She holds a fasces in her right hand and an open book in the other.
A veritable pantheon of Goddess and Gods surround Washington: Columbia, Minerva, Neptue, Mercury, Vulcan, Flora, Venus, and Ceres (sitting on a McCormick reaper).
The Library of Congress isn’t the Library at Alexandria, but it’s still a pretty good idea.
*Peonies are in bloom all over my neighborhood. When a friend posted a picture of an absolutely gorgeous peony the other day, I was reminded of this wonderful poem by Mary Oliver:
This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready
to break my heart
as the sun rises,
as the sun strokes them with his old, buttery fingers
and they open–
pools of lace,
white and pink–
and all day the black ants climb over them,
boring their deep and mysterious holes
into the curls,
craving the sweet sap,
taking it away
to their dark, underground cities–
and all day
under the shifty wind,
as in a dance to the great wedding,
the flowers bend their bright bodies,
and tip their fragrance to the air,
their red stems holding
all that dampness and recklessness
gladly and lightly,
and there it is again–
beauty the brave, the exemplary,
Do you love this world?
Do you cherish your humble and silky life?
Do you adore the green grass, with its terror beneath?
Do you also hurry, half-dressed and barefoot, into the garden,
and exclaiming of their dearness,
fill your arms with the white and pink flowers,
with their honeyed heaviness, their lush trembling,
to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are
Oliver does a lot of things well, but, IMHO, she’s the master of hitting you in the gut with her final few lines. She’s setting you up for it the whole time, although you never (this is her genius) see it coming until it gets you and then, of course, it’s as obvious as the nose on your face. “Eagerness to be wild and perfect for a moment, before they are nothing, forever” is pure genius and, if you just took off the word “forever” it wouldn’t be nearly, nearly as good.
*And, just because I spent most of the day in a meeting that involved a whole lot of testosterone (and not in a nice way):
Arms and the girl I sing – O rare
arms that are braceleted and white and bare
arms that were lovely Helen’s, in whose name
Greek slaughtered Trojan. Helen was to blame.
Scape-nanny call her; wars for turf
and profit don’t sound glamorous enough.
Mythologize your women! None escape.
Europe was named from an act of bestial rape:
Eponymous girl on bull-back, he intent
on scattering sperm across a continent.
Old Zeus refused to take the rap.
It’s not his name in big print on the map.
But let’s go back to the beginning
when sinners didn’t know that they were sinning.
He, one rib short: she lived to rue it
when Adam said to God, “She made me do it.”
Eve learned that learning was a dangerous thing
for her: no end of trouble would it bring.
An educated woman is a danger.
Lock up your mate! Keep a submissive stranger
like Darby’s Joan, content with church and Kinder,
not like that sainted Joan, burnt to a cinder.
Whether we wield a scepter or a mop
It’s clear you fear that we may get on top.
And if we do -I say it without animus-
It’s not from you we learned to be magnaminous.
by Carolyn Kizer
*Here is a recipe for the best dish I’ve had in ages. It’s Cherry Tomato Soup, but there’s a surprise.
Cold cherry and tomato soup
1⁄2 lbs. plum tomatoes (about 6 tomatoes)
1 small green bell pepper 2 cups cherry purée 1 garlic clove
6 tablespoons sherry vinegar 3 cups extra virgin olive oil 2 tablespoons salt Fresh cherries, pitted and halved
Cut out and discard the core at the top of the tomatoes. Chop tomatoes roughly into quarters. Cut bell pepper in half, removing core and seeds, and chop into large pieces. Put the tomatoes and peppers into a blender.
Add the cherry purée, garlic, and sherry vinegar to the vegetables and blend the mixture into a thick liquid. The mixture will turn a wonderful pink color. Taste for acidity. This will vary according to the sweetness of the tomatoes and cherries. If the flavor is not balanced enough, add a little more vinegar. Add the olive oil and salt to taste. Re-blend, then pour the gazpacho through a strainer into a pitcher. Place in the refrigerator to cool for at least 30 minutes. Serve chilled, garnished with fresh cherry halves.
Recipe by Chef José Andrés