Friday, January 15, 2010


I sat down at lunchtime with a sandwich and glass of tea, randomly turning on an old movie I'd seen---Tea with Mussolini. A little boy is taken under the wings of five ladies living in Florence---one gaudy, flamboyant American, played by Cher, and four staid, polite Englishwomen of differing temperaments and tastes.

On her day to see him to school in the morning, Judi Dench's character, an artistic sort herself in floaty scarves and much dramatic posturing and emoting of poetry, pauses and takes him up to the doorway of a long museum-type room filled with white graceful shapes of statues and urns and columns, all wrought in shining stone. She puts an arm around the boy, and speaks to him in fervent words:

"See, Luca---Florence isn't just shiny cars and ice cream, as little boys think. It's the human form divine. the body beautiful. And you,---yes, you---could be part of that world. To make, to create, to live as those old artists did, Luca, is to share a part in the divine plan."

I hit "pause" to write those ringing words into my journal, as affected and dramatically uttered as they were. They brought a memory I hadn't thought of in some time---a lovely afternoon at our own magnificent museum, in company with some beautifully-wrought statuary and relics of an ancient time.

Christmas two years ago, after all the decorating and room-readying and cooking-ahead and freezer-stashing and the gift-wrapping, on the Sunday before Christmas, Chris asked, "What can we do today, just us, that's FUN?"

I mentioned the BIG Half-Price bookstore at the South end of town, my favorite of the three, but then I said, "Let's do something that we don't just shop for STUFF."

I mentioned that the Roman Art exhibit at the museum would close on Jan 6, and we'll be continually with company after Monday, so we would not get to see it. He responded as he always does, with delight in anything we can go off and see or participate in or enjoy together.

We've often struck out on little whims and found riches unknown---a museum exhibit, a gallery, a little shop of curios, a lovely free concert in the mall or a church or a school, a play with young people saying their lines with the aplomb of seasoned thespians, a fun festival or restaurant or house tour or just a drive to parts unseen, but worthwhile.

Getting tickets to something ahead of time and looking forward, that's one thing. But just happening upon something wonderful which brightens the day and shines a golden light upon the moments, that's a rare and lovely thing, and we try to seize the gift.

So, off we went, to spend the afternoon amongst Claudius and Claudia of the glorious hairdo, friezes and statues (one of Marcus Aurelius, forever commemorated in modern memory by "Simplify, simplify," courtesy of Hannibal Lecter) and golden necklaces and urns and glass vessels resting whole and unbroken, for ten times the age of our country.

It was marvelous---I wanted to touch that cool smooth marble cheek, and lie on my back and look up up at the height of that immense statue with the dozens of leather straps of a Roman skirt carved out of that block of stone. I knelt, instead, on that pale golden hardwood; you could see the STITCHING around the edges of those perfectly-cleft pteruges, with complete and precise perspective to all the others hanging in rows behind. Amazing.

And the folds of togas and robes and veils, the perfection of a graceful hand with smooth-polished skin, the knotted gleam of muscular calf and thigh---just beautiful. What serendipity!! It just came to me to mention that we might go, and there it was, a completely different, wonderful afternoon, handed to us round and complete, like an apple presented on a palm. Lovely.

Carpe diem (or museum).


Maggie Norman said...

Darcy loves to go to the art museum with me, but not many men care for that sort of thing. Jewels we have--me and you.

racheld said...

Sugar, we Purentee DO!

Kat said...

Beautifully written post. The movie sounds like a good one too.