Wednesday 14 October 2015

A Mustering of Storks

Stork (Polish: Bocian)
Today is Artistic Wednesday, and I am cudgeling my brain for something artistic to write about.

Since I came home from Poland, my thoughts have all been about the Synod and hoovering the flat. Hoover, hoover, hoover. Fortunately, the moths who munch seem to have one favourite snack, and it is the carpet directly under my office chair. Why they pick the place I am all morning is beyond me. They seem to leave our other rooms alone.

Downstairs is another story, alas, but I am not responsible for it. Thank heavens! I am not sure how many rooms there are downstairs--I have not even been in them all--but if it were my job to dust and hoover them I would not have time for anything else. In its hey-day, the Historical House must have had at least a dozen women dusting and carpet-sweeping away.

But I do not want to think about those horrible, bloodless little creatures--when I squish them, they feel like straw--but about storks, or rather, Malecki's "Gathering of Storks".

I wish there was a better photo online of this painting. It went straight to my heart when I saw it in Krakow's National Gallery this year because it reminded me of a Polish class reading about storks (bociani). The importance of storks in Poland was underscored at the bottom of my teacher's essay by a quote from the Polish poet Norwid:

Do kraju tego, gdzie winą jest dużą 
Popsować gniazdo na gruszy bocianie, 
Bo wszystkim służą… 
Tęskno mi, Panie…

Hmm, I think I posted on that before. When I get excited about, or interested in,something or someone I tend to get repetitive. Well, to recap, this verse means, "For that country, where it is a big sin/to destroy the nests in the pear trees of the storks/because they serve everyone/I long, o Lord."

As acknowledging the Christian faith in such polite Edinburgh circles as a university night school class as something culturally important is so rare, I almost burst into tears of joy reading this verse. Yes, I realize it is about a pre-Christian Polish superstition about storks, but the poet is obviously talking to the Lord God.  Among the Poles, Christianity and nationalism and family and food and art and everything has all been mixed up in such a way that I am sure it gave and continues to give the Frankfurt School (boo, hiss!) a serious case of indigestion.

I wonder if Norwid wrote that when he was in self-imposed exile in the United States. I am in self-imposed exile from Canada, but I very rarely miss it--although I miss my family and friends, of course. However, I live in the age of internet and cheap travel, so it is entirely possible to use the country you live in as nothing more than a bedroom if you choose to. (I don't, and as evidence I did not bother celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving on Monday. All that cooking and baking, for what?Forget it.)

When I feel longing for some Canadian landscape, it is usually for brunch at Kilgore's Bar Meets Grill. For that plate/of Eggs Benedict/with fried potatoes/and red caviar sprinkled over/served with a bottomless cup of coffee/I long, o Lord. That said, I am very pleased indeed that my brother and his family have moved to the countryside in Quebec, for it is terribly pretty. Perhaps my nephew and niece, surrounded by such a beautiful landscape, will feel for Estrie what Norwid felt for Poland. And maybe, just maybe, there are storks!

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