December 2017
Vol. VII, No. 301

December 2017

“Wind God and Thunder God,” by Tawaraya Sōtatsu (俵屋 宗達, c. 1570 – c. 1640).

“Wind God and Thunder God,” by Tawaraya Sōtatsu (俵屋 宗達, c. 1570 – c. 1640).

Elizabeth Boleman-Herring: Weekly Hubris began publishing in March of 2010: I had no idea back then that we would have such a long run. (This coming March will mark eight years.) This month, our offerings begin with an essay by Dr. Skip Eisiminger, who riffs off and away from the (indelible, for me, at least) image of the Michel Eyquem de Montaignes kidney-stone-afflicted goat. Theres a slight visual segue (whose common denominator is castles) on to pieces by me, and then Alexander Billinis. Helen Noakes follows, musing on the glut of unneeded stuff beneath North American Xmas trees. William A. Balk, Jr., our Gardener-in-Winter, pens an appreciation of Camellias. Claire Bateman introduces us to poet Charlotte Matthews. Dr. Guy McPherson has a lesson, not from scripture, for our communal stocking. There follows a revisitation of Athenian Xmases past, from Dr. Harilaos and Diana Farr Louis. Dr. William Ramp, in (re-)addressing an admonitory note from writer Katherine Mansfield, initiates a to-be-continued correspondence emanating from the House of Love . . . and we close with Jean Carroll Nolans poem, Caryatid,and her rumination on an attack of the heart.

Heidelberg Castle.

Heidelberg Castle.

Skip the B.S.

“Montaigne’s Goat: Certainty & Uncertainty,” By Skip Eisiminger

CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2017—I must have been seven or eight when Hannelore and I took the trolley to the Heidelberg Castle. Two sights from the visit have stuck with me for almost 70 years: a giant barrel in the cellar to store the castle wine, and a footprint in stone. Our family’s governess was a well-read young woman who by all rights should have been a student at the local university, but the recently concluded war in Europe prevented that. At any rate, I respected her knowledge of local history and thus believed her story of how that 60-thousand-gallon barrel was drained every Saturday night. (Read more . . .)

The author, on Hydra, 1961 (Photo: F. Jack Herring).

The author, on Hydra, 1961.

By Way of Being

“La Princesse Roumaine,By Elizabeth Boleman-Herring

LIMBEAU Florida(Weekly Hubris)—December 2017—I never did succeed in learning French. My mother, who had emerged, running and only half-fledged, from rural, Depression-era South Carolina into Pasadena’s high, mid-century, Bridge-playing, hat-and-gloves-wearing, and fund-raising society, had high aspirations for her only daughter: I would speak French from childhood, play piano and tennis, study ballet, sing in Presbyterian choirs, dive and swim (she had never let go her own, learned-early fear of the creek). I would also model, ride (Western), and attend private school. Et cetera. My poor, dear mother! What she did not count on was an intractable child who cleaved to English, and only English, like a limpet (after half a century in and out of Greece, my Greek is even abysmal), hated tennis, refused to go on the stage, and rose on toe precisely once. (Read more . . .)

Petrovaradin Fortress, seen from across the Danube at Novi Sad.

Petrovaradin Fortress, seen from across the Danube at Novi Sad.

Roaming East Roman

“The Keeper of the Peace of Karlowitz,” By Alexander Billinis

CLEMSON South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2017—Not many are familiar with the Treaty of Karlowitz, signed at the town of the same name in 1699. The Treaty ended—for a time—the series of wars between the Austrian-led Christian forces and the Ottoman Empire. After a second, failed attempt to conquer Vienna in 1683, the Turks’ wave of conquest receded southward and eastward, as the Austrians, Poles, Russians, and various German states pushed the Turk out of Central Europe and back into the Balkans. In 1699, the exhausted combatants sheathed their swords at a small village on the Danube, and ratified a huge transfer of territory out of Turkish hands. (Read more . . .)

Christmas overload.

Christmas overload.

Waking Point

“Gifts,” By Helen Noakes

SAN FRANCISCO California—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2017—In this season of gift-giving, I wonder at the frenzied shopping for things. Children of parents with any amount of affluence, or those willing to run up credit card debt, have come to expect piles of presents under the Christmas tree. While the gift of a toy or a book, or whatever the child deeply desires may be a delight for a parent to give, I can’t help but think that loading children with too many things leads to too many issues. A child begins to demand items which will entertain and appease for a moment, soon to be discarded for the next object of desire advertisers convince children they need. And there is always a danger that children will equate the acquisition of objects with happiness and love. (Read more . . .)

Camellia bowl in February.

Camellia bowl in February.

Epicurus’ Porch

“The Queen of the Garden,” By William A. Balk, Jr.

ELKO South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2017—The first of the cold snaps have come and gone and come again. They seem a little later than usual this year, finally bringing some of the rain we’ve been waiting for. The grey days and welcome downpours, though, yield to the now slanting rays of the autumn sun. Some days, the sky is filled with billows of white cloud, as if the ripening cotton fields have found a celestial mirror. As the sun’s path drops lower in the sky, the intensity of the light diminishes, the shorter days signal to plants that it’s time to store up reserves of food and energy. Sugars and carbohydrates in deciduous plants are transported from the canopy of leaves to stems, roots, bulbs, rhizomeswherever that plant has managed to build storage organs. Deciduous trees and shrubs will lose their leaves once these carbs are drained away; at the base of each leaf, stronger cells repel a layer of weaker cells, creating an “abscission zone,” almost pushing the leaf away when it is ready.  (Read more . . .)

Charlotte Matthews. (Photo: Dan Addison.)

Charlotte Matthews.

Speculative Friction

“Why Humpty Dumpty Fell,” By Charlotte Matthews

GREENVILLE South Carolina—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2017—Charlotte Matthews’ most recent book Whistle What Can’t Be Said (2016) chronicles part of her experience with Stage III breast cancer. In addition, she is author of Still Enough to Be Dreaming (2007) and Green Stars (2005). Her honors include fellowships from The Chatauqua Institute and The Virginia Center for Creative Arts. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College’s Program for Writers and a BA from the University of Virginia. She teaches in The Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies Program at The University of Virginia. She lives in Crozet with her husband, her two children, a Black Lab, and a very quiet fish.  (Read more . . .)

In time of drought, a housing development near Palm Springs (Photo: Damon Winter). 

In time of drought, a housing development near Palm Springs.

Going Dark

“And Then What?” By Dr. Guy McPherson

SAN ANTONIO Belize(Weekly Hubris)—December 2017—You are going to die. So is everyone else. Both will occur sooner than expected.Surely, this isn’t a surprise. Surely, you didn’t believe our species could foul its own nest for  thousands of years without adverse consequences. Or perhaps you bought into the infinite-growth paradigm. Bummer for you. Bummer for us. Remain calm. Nothing is under control. Not by you. Not by me. I’ve tried shouting from the rooftops. I’ve described the horrors of abrupt climate change since my earliest essays on the topic more than a decade ago. Shouting didn’t work for me; I doubt it’ll work for you. (Read more . . .)

The iconic Greek family at their dinner table.

Eating Well Is The Best Revenge

“An Ancient Greek Remembers: Christmas in Athens,” By Diana Farr Louis

ATHENS Greece—(Weekly Hubris)—December  2017—Crises bring up memories of other crises, and this country has had more than its share in the past hundred years: world wars, Balkan wars, a civil war, dictatorships, and financial upheavals. But there have also been times of relative calm and prosperity, so let’s look back to the kinder, gentler Athens of the 1930s for a dose of Christmas cheer. These are the reminiscences of my husband Harilaos, known to some of you as “Joy of the People,” a rough translation of his name. As a very youthful octogenarian, he does not live in the past, but I compel him to tell his stories over and over. So, in his own words . . .  (Read more . . .)

Paolo Veronese, “Allegory of Love I: Unfaithfulness.”

Paolo Veronese, “Allegory of Love I: Unfaithfulness.”

Small Things Recollected

“Love Notes I: A Rebuke,” By William Ramp

LETHBRIDGE, ALBERTA Canada—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2017—This month, I turn a small, ephemeral item into a key opening a vast and knotted topic. The larger topic is love. The item is a brief note by the writer Katherine Mansfield, addressed to a “Princess Bibesco,” then involved in an affair with Mansfield’s husband, the author, editor and critic John Middleton Murry. Mansfield and Murry had a legendarily-complicated relationship, with infidelities on both sides. But what exasperated Mansfield in this instance was Bibesco’s sending a stream of love letters to Murry, some of which she must have intercepted.  (Read more . . .)

Caryatid, The Erechtheion, Athens, Greece.

Caryatid, The Erechtheion, Athens, Greece.

More Light

“Walkabout,” By Jean Carroll Nolan

SEASIDE California—(Weekly Hubris)—December 2017—I baked ten fruitcakes today.  I know.  You all just threw up your hands in horror but, honestly, they are good. I dispense with the citron, which I find bitter and flavor-challenged, and with the nuclear fruit, cherries of red and green hues having nothing to do with nature. I use craisins, currants, chopped dates, dried apricots, dried pineapple, and dried cherries, soaked for a week or so in brandy, and then combined with nuts and a dark brown, clove- and cinnamon-rich batter. (Read more . . .)

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