Thursday, November 10, 2016

Trifles, indeed

Waiter at U Gregorů 
I like to think this grainy photo is fittingly Sebaldesque 

The reason I named this blog Giovanna's Trifles was twofold. I like custard and cake, but I also really like the small things in life, such as morning small talk with the barista and coming across a still life of candy on someone's windowsill a week after Halloween.

Sometimes those small things are buried in bigger things. I was just in the Czech Republic with my husband and friends for a few weeks. There's so much to see and think about there, but one of the clearest image that stays with me is of a waiter in a small restaurant in the town of Nymburk. The restaurant was smoky, the duck breast was tender, and the waiter looked as if he'd been transported straight out of the Hapsburg Empire, circa 1895. It made me so happy to see him, and somehow made the world seem smaller, both in geography and time. It's a thought that brings me some comfort, when things are confusing.

I'm reading W.G. Sebald's The Rings of Saturn right now. It's a wonderful book, and I think became only more dreamlike because as I read the first half, I thought we were about to elect a president I was excited about. The second half I read in a bit of a haze, the haze that many of my closest friends and family have been occupying for a couple of days now.

Anyway, I came across a line, about Charlotte, a 15-year-old British woman in the end of the 18th century, listening to the Vicomte de Chateaubriand talk about his journeys in America. It helped that not only was she completely interested in learning all she could--she was also in love with him.

On hearing of a hermit's dog who led an Indian maiden, "in her heart already a Christian, safely through the dangerous wilderness" (it was the 18th century, remember), Charlotte was so overcome, she ran out into the garden. When asked what had moved her so, she answered that it was "the image of the dog carrying a lantern on a stick in his mouth, lighting the way through the night for the frightened Atala."

Chateaubriand went on to say "it was always such little details rather than the lofty ideas that went straight to her heart."

The little things can say so much. I can relate to Charlotte, I respond to detail often. And I'm left to consider the people who see things in big strokes, big ideas, and those who respond to detail. It all matters. How do we bring those people together?


Charles Shere said...

What a pleasure to see the Trifles return! To answer the question, we bring these people together — or make the attempt — by continuing to attend, reflect, and comment, publicly, as you do here. Thanks for returning. I know something about extended absences…

Gayle Ortiz said...

Thank you for this post. I'm glad to hear your voice again.

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