28 October

Before The Storm: Willa Cather And Queen Victoria (C)

by Jon Katz
Victoria And Abdul

My town is abuzz with news of a big and windy and rainy storm charging up the East Coast Sunday, much talk of flood warnings, high winds, power outrages.

Today was windy and gorgeous and when we learned of the storm, we scrambled to dig up our Rose of Sharon bush and a hydrangea bush and move it to the site of the Dahlia garden, which will be moved elsewhere in the Spring.

Both bushes were deeply rooted and took an awful lot of patience and hard digging.

We both put our heads and feet down and dug and dug. I gave out first.

Maria is a dervish when she takes on a task, she is inexhaustible and determined.

Once again Maria reminds of a Willa Cather character in her novels about the hard lives of women on the prairie. She reminds me of the Cather character named Antonia, who arrives on the Nebraska prairie one night and grows up with  Jim, they were neighbors

Antonia has suffered much in her life, and endured many hardships, but she works ferociously hard, remains vitally alive, never loses her love of nature or her hope for the future. She never loses her great  capacity for love and nature.

I joke all the time that Maria is skinny and short, but she is very strong, one of those wiry muscular people so precious on a farm.

I dug for as long as I could, but my back began to protest.

We both dug for hours, Maria doing most of the digging work, and I worked to loosen the deep roots, trim the trees water and fill in the new holes and the old ones. It was more than enough for me, I’m exhausted and my back is unhappy. The bushes have been moved, and we are ready for the 3 to 5 inches of rain and high winds everyone is talking about.

(Maria, inspired by the colors of New Mexico, has decided to paint the kitchen some new colors, and we went to the hardware store to look at colors. I think this painting will begin soon.)

We heard of the storm at the Post Office, there is no better news service or weather forecasting system than country people at the Post Office.

This afternoon, we finished moving the bushes,  cleaned ourselves off and went to see the new movie Victoria and Abdul, which stars Judi Dench and Ali Fazal. We were both pretty worn out, Maria was talking in tongues.

It is always great to see Judi Dench in anything, but the movie didn’t really work for me.

It seemed formulaic and somewhat constipated, much like Queen Victoria herself. It felt strained, almost from the beginning.

The film is (mostly) based on a true story involving the deep and controversial 14-year  friendship between Victoria, who was nearing the end of her long reign,  and a young clerk from India named Abdul, who became her closest and most trusted friend, and who was hated and resented by almost everyone at the palace..

Dench plays this role – the grumpy and haughty old queen –  in her sleep by now, and the Abdul character was so stereotypically sweet and fawning an Indian as to be on the edge of offensive. You never knew what he was really thinking or feeling, he was utterly one-dimensional, and I kept wondering what it was about the Imperious Impress Of India that would spark so much total devotion in a young Indian man.

He was one dimensionally sweet and pure, even as the entire Buckingham Palace bureaucracy was convinced he was smarmy and opportunistic.

This was a movie so predictable you know the ending about three minutes into the movie.

The film is gorgeous, as most movies about British royalty are, but it seemed one part Brit Porn (my name for these royalty films), one part nostalgia, and one part inertia. It is very pleasing to the eye, and Dench has some wonderful costumes to vamp around in.  I had the strangest sense that she was phoning it in.

The Queen Victoria in the movie is sad, lonely and sleepwalking through her life.

She misses her late husband King Albert and hates her cloistered life of ritual and ceremony. She is greatly irked by just about everything.

Abdul appears out of nowhere and  breaks through all that foggery and brings her almost instant joy,  meaning, and the ability to write in the Hindu language. I won’t give away the ending, but even the people who haven’t seen the movie must know it can’t really be happy.

There just isn’t that much else there, unless you can’t get enough of Balmoral and Buckingham Palace. It’s not an awful movie – nothing with Judi Dench could be – but my feeling about it was that there’s just not much there.

I was disappointed.

I am, however, unbowed,  counting the days to another movie about a famous English person, “Darkest Hour” starring Gary Oldman as Winston Churchill. I’ve read every book and seen every movie about Winston Churchill, yet I never tire of the story of the man who saved Western Civilization. He reminds us what a true leader can be like, he or she can help us to rise about ourselves. 

Out next month.

28 October

Forest On Fire. For Sale

by Jon Katz
Forest On Fire

Walking in the deep woods, in awe of the glorious last stand of the leaves, I took this photo with my Petzval 58 art lens, Russian glass. I was at the top of a long path into the woods. It seemed as if the forest was on fire.

The photo is for sale and is in the photo-for-sale- gallery.

The print size is 8 12 x 13 1/2, the image will be signed but unframed and cost $130. The contact is Maria – maria@fullmoonfiberart. Thanks for the many good comments about it.

28 October

Maria At The Taco Stand: Home Page Photo

by Jon Katz
Maria At The Taco Stand

We drove thousands of miles in New Mexico and had some wonderful meals, but as it turns out, our favorite place was the tiny outdoor Taco stand tucked into one end of a parking lot in Espanola, the nearest town to our inn.

The stand was very small, you order through a tiny window and have to bend down to be heard.

There were three picnic tables outside, and when or number was called, we took the food to one of the tables to eat.

The food was just perfect, we loved the chicken tacos.. The mean cost about $9. We often ended up having lunch there on our way from various treks beyond our town, even on chilly days.

This scraggly, skinny and worn out couple kept finding us there. I could smell the alcohol on his breath from a mile away. He said he needed $5 for a burrito for him and his girl friend, I have little doubt they were users, drugs and alcohol, waiting for some tourists with a fancy camera to come by.

I could also tell they were very hungry, the eyes don’t lie about that. I didn’t want to sit and eat there while they were so hungry – she was sweet and genuine, but desperate. I have them $ 5 a burrito, and I watched them order it and eat. They were definitely hungry.

They were at the taco stand every time we were there, and each time, I gave them money for a burrito. The last time, I slipped her $20 while he was ordering his food. I suspected she would never see the money – it would go straight to alcohol – unless I gave it to her, and this was confirmed by the secretive way she hid it from him, slipping  it into her pocket.

We both loved the stand, we felt at home there. I got to like this couple, we talked about the weather and food and life back in upstate New York, where they had never been.

Maria just loved the food and we liked the feel of the place.

I took this photo of her with my I phone and loved it so much I made it the Home Page photo.Sometimes you get a photo that just captures the spirit of someone you love, and this was it.

We miss New Mexico, it got into our heads and souls.

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