Scribbles, &c.

Sarah, Conrad, and St. Catherine of Siena

It’s been awhile since I posted any sort of update, so here we are. After finishing Cardinal Sarah’s Silence, I started The Day is Now Far Spent. I got about 100 pages in and stopped. It’s not really my bag, and I’m not sure how much shelf-life it will have, as it seems (so far) very much a response to a particular time and place. I can take a few guesses as to who the intended audience of this book is, and I’m pretty sure it’s not me.

By way of a break from spiritual reading, I found myself re-reading Nostromo by Joseph Conrad and obsessing, in a minor way, about its imaginary setting. What would modern Sulaco be like? A second- or third-tier cruise ship destination? Super exclusive, with a few casinos and high-end clubs? I dreamed up vintage Pan Am posters advertising Clipper service to Costaguana and tried to find maps of the country to see if they squared with my mental reckoning of the place. Spoiler: I couldn’t find any, and it is believed that Conrad didn’t have one either, owing to certain inconsistencies in his descriptions of place and distance. This seems to be born out by some articles I found on JSTOR. Colombia seems to be the likeliest inspiration.

I don’t know why the invented country has grabbed me like it has. Maybe it’s almost real in a way that, say, Middle Earth isn’t. The verisimilitude is dinged a little bit for me with some of Conrad’s Spanish, which feels clumsy and inauthentic, like someone who’s writing about a place he’s only read about. But those Pan Am posters…I would 100% buy one if I could find it. I can see them in my head so clearly that maybe I’ll find a way to create them myself.

Then April ended, and with it we celebrated the Feast of Saint Catherine of Siena, mystic, Dominican tertiary, and Doctor of the Church. She holds a special place for us; my wife was received (and I was re-received) at a parish named for her (before winding up at a church named for yet another a Dominican tertiary). Even so, I hadn’t read any of her work and all the quotes showing up on Catholic twitter inspired me to pick up The Dialogue, which I’m working through very slowly. So far, so good.

In other news: the formation program for the diaconate is on pause for a year because of the pandemic. Public Mass may be starting up again soon, which is wonderful. The weather has gone all haywire. After one late frost which killed my vegetable seedlings and pummeled my fig, we’re due for another one tonight, which means I’ll be out covering everything up (again) and hoping for the best. This would be the latest freeze ever recorded here, breaking a 90-year old record.