My parents were in town for a bit this weekend, and thanks to them, I’m newly obsessed with a little something I like to call:
THE BERING STRAIT BRIDGE
Oh my HEAVENLY HOST: the sheer, unbridled gloriousness of the Bering Strait Bridge! The Bering Strait Bridge doesn’t currently exist, for the record, but wishers and dreamers the world over have devoted whole swaths of their brain stems to imagining how it could!
This is the Bering Strait, conveniently indicated by a humorous arrow:
Long story short: the Bridge would connect Cape Dezhnev in Russia [the farthest point east on the Asian continent] and Cape Prince of Wales in Alaska [the farthest point west on the North American continent]. [Alaska really got the short end of the name stick on this one, or “the fuzzy end of the lollipop”, as they say. Which do you think sounds cooler? Dezhnev, right? “Cape Prince of Wales”? Bor-ing!] Quoth my father, if this bridge existed, one could get in one’s car in Paris, and conceivably alight in South America. It would change the world. It would broaden the scope of human experience. Also, it would be totally awesome.
THE PROBLEMS WITH BUILDING THE BERING STRAIT BRIDGE
1. Ice ice ice ice ice ice ice
2. It’s immediately south of the Arctic Circle
3. Cape Dezhnev is in Siberia proper
4. And let’s just say that there’s a reason Stalin put the gulag in Siberia
5. It’s not because it was nice there
6. 100 billion+ dollars
7. Just your basic wild impracticality on every conceivable level
You’d also have to get to the Strait to begin with, which means the taking of trains and what-all through the nigh-impassable Canadian-Alaskan-Siberian wild.
My fancy is captured, is the thing. And once my fancy is captured…well, it’s all over but the shouting. Do not be surprised, when next you see me, if I speak to you immediately of the Bering Strait, and ask if you have any ideas about building it. Do not be surprised if I say: “Who cares if you have a degree in art history? Shoulders to the wheel!”
Last summer, I was introduced to the writer Annie Dillard via her lovely book “The Maytrees”. “More more more,” I said, after reading “The Maytrees”, but more Annie Dillard was not on the horizon for me until I read her beautiful book of essays, “Teaching A Stone to Talk”, some time thereafter. I’m currently reading “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek”, which garnered her the Pulitzer back in the 70s, and it’s k.i.l.l.i.n.g m.e. I’m trying to figure out how I was a whole person before I read Annie Dillard, who once wrote an essay about wanting to become a weasel because they “[live] as they are meant to, yielding at every moment to the perfect freedom of single necessity”. I dunno.
Anyways, Annie Dillard writes a-much of nature, and the meaning of life, and nature+the meaning of life. “Pilgrim at Tinker Creek” is essentially a paean to both of these things. I can’t describe how consumingly wonderful this book is. Over the weekend, I came to a stopping point in my reading as she was beginning to go into detail on the subject of praying mantises. Yesterday morning, waiting for the train, I re-opened the book, and began from there. Seriously, it’s fascinating, or she makes it so, and then I came to the following paragraph and laughed aloud, laughed and laughed and laughed until–I am quite certain–my fellow travelers thought that I must surely be a crazy girl, a girl they should take special care to avoid, when we all eventually boarded:
“The mating rituals of mantises are well known: a chemical produced in the head of the male insect says, in effect: “No, don’t go near her, you fool, she’ll eat you alive.” At the same time a chemical in his abdomen says: “Yes, by all means, now and forever yes.”
AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa aa
a a a a
It’s not all praying mantis inner monologues, however; oh no, oh no. Another of my favorite Dillard passages, from her essay “An Expedition to the Pole” [and in partial keeping with today’s sub-zero theme]:
“The Pole of Relative Inaccessibility is “that imaginary point on the Arctic Ocean farthest from land in any direction.” It is a navigator’s paper point contrived to console Arctic explorers who, after Peary and Henson reached the North Pole in 1909, had nowhere special to go. There is a Pole of Relative Inaccessibility on the Antarctic continent, also; it is that point of land farthest from salt water in any direction.
The Absolute is the Pole of Relative Inaccessibility located in metaphysics. After all, one of the few things we know about the Absolute is that it is relatively inaccessible. It is that point of spirit farthest from every accessible point of spirit in all directions. Like the others, it is a Pole of the Most Trouble. It is also–I take this as a given–the pole of great price.”
She makes me want to be good.
This morning I decided that I would emulate Annie Dillard, and Observe Nature. I noticed that the precious lilacs outside my building had, almost overnight, faded from their pale purple to an almost-white. I will find out why, and report back.
Their delicious scent could still level an ox at thirty paces, though.
Atlantis–A Lost Sonnet
How on earth did it happen, I used to wonder
that a whole city–arches, pillars, colonnades,
not to mention vehicles and animals–had all
one fine day gone under?
I mean, I said to myself, the world was small then.
Surely a great city must have been missed?
I miss our old city–
white pepper, white pudding, you and I meeting
under fanlights and low skies to go home in it. Maybe
what really happened is
this: the old fable-makers searched hard for a word
to convey that what is gone is gone forever and
never found it. And so, in the best traditions of
where we come from, they gave their sorrow a name
and drowned it.