Tuesday, May 24, 2016

[written 5-10-16]

After Susan died (July 4th 2015) I was urged to wait at least a year before making any significant decisions, such as moving.  The year isn't quite up but I've decided to move to Sandpoint Idaho in order (among other motives) to be near two of my daughters, and two of my grandchildren.   While I've made the decision, I'm not going to have the help for the move for several months yet, possibly not until the Spring of 2017, but I have been looking at houses on Sandpoint's Century 21's web site and the properties that have the most appeal have 5 to 10 acres and are near forested areas where I can take the dogs hiking off leash – heading out for a hike without having to drive anywhere.  I initially quailed at the idea of managing the weeds on ten acres but was informed that owners of such properties have either goats or llamas (or both) for that purpose.  The only downside is that one must provide them with hay during the three months when it is too cold for weeds to grow.

Moving wasn't my first "significant" decision.  The first was to buy an Irish Terrier.  Susan would tell me I could buy whatever I liked but she always said that the Rhodesian Ridgeback was the only breed she could become attached to and I was way too indulgent to actually get an Irish Terrier until a month ago when I put my name on a list for a female which will be delivered to me in the last week of this month. I made that decision before deciding to move to Sandpoint; so I could forfeit my deposit and back out, but I have always wanted an Irish Terrier so I am going to get her.

My two daughters who live in Sandpoint and my son who lived there in the past warn of wild animals coming onto one's property.  The sort of property I'm attracted to is more likely to be visited by bear, moose, mountain lions, bob cats, coyotes, and even wolves than the closer-to-town areas they have lived in.  I am proficient with rifles and handguns so I am not worried about protecting our little pack on a hike – as long as I have enough warning which the dogs will provide.   Since Ben will be not quite six and my Irish Terrier (whom I plan to name Jessica after the Marvel super hero Jessica Jones who is small but tough) around one year old, I'm thinking that Jessica may be my first line of defense.  I'll also have Susan's six year old lap dog (23 ½ pound Duffy) who will bark a lot; so I'll have plenty of warning, but as far as a dog that will stop or confront a wild animal, I'll at least initially expect more from Jessica than Ben.  Ben is way too laid back and sociable, it seems to me, to seriously confront something like a bear.  I may be wrong and maybe Ben's size and Jessica's darting about will be enough to deter wild intruders (and maybe the wild animals will smell the dogs and stay away).  I checked the presence of wolves in Northern Idaho and it is against the law to shoot them unless they are going after farm or domestic animals. But will I be willing to rush out into the snow at night each time Duffy barks?  I may initially, but I'll hope they'll get the hang of things up there and only call me out for very good reasons (no harm in hoping even if my hope is unreasonable).

People in the Sandpoint region who have flocks of animals will get something like a Kangal to be with the sheep and protect them from such intruders, but I wouldn't want to take that step unless absolutely necessary.

Ben and Duffy have been hiking with me off leash a huge number of times.  They are used to coyotes.  Perhaps I'll have time to get Jessica used to them before we move to Sandpoint, and while there is a wolf presence there it has only been hikers thus far who have seen them.  Hunters complain about the depletion of deer and elk herds, but I didn't see any reference to wolves taking domestic animals quite yet.

A sick soul and Jessica

 [written 3-23-16]

I had the thought long ago that I might get a pup after losing Susan.  I didn't think about it seriously, but it was still there; so when I began checking to see what was out there -- not thinking I was especially serious, I found a breeder in Missouri who was selling Irish Terriers as pets.  She seemed to fit my interests exactly.  She doesn't seem associated with the AKC; which I had come to mistrust.  She is a bit like an Airedale breeder Larry Jr has been interested in.  These breeders get a lot of criticism from AKC purists, but they aren't tempted to breed for contest winning -- maybe their lines will be a bit healthier.  I can only hope.  They can't be any worse than what I got recently from the Ginger and Sage AKC breeder in Arizona.  The New York AKC breeder of Ben predicts Ben will be healthy and live a long time, but he has been wearing out on recent hikes -- worrying me a little.  He stops in the shade with his tongue hanging and then comes running, huffing and puffing, to catch up.  Meanwhile Duffy, who came from a breeder similar to the Irish Terrier breeder, runs up and back, up and back with inexhaustible energy.  Duffy will be six in May.  He's six months older than Ben.

Ben is probably okay.  He runs about the study from time to time -- runs down stairs and out into the back yard where he fence-fights with the backyard neighbor's dogs for a few seconds, his booming basso-profundo contrasting to the little yips of the min-pins, and then dashes back upstairs expecting a treat.  That sounds healthy enough but he ought to be able to hike further than I can.

I haven't felt much like writing poetry the last couple of months.  Maybe that is too strongly associated with Susan at present.  I resolved to concentrate on poetry and I will most likely go back to it, but I have an idea for another novel and I am not functioning under anyone's rules or expectations at the present time.  I had resolved to work on novels after I retired.  It was something I was looking forward to, but after about seven of them I burned out.  Larry Jr is collecting them and believes he will do something with them one day.  He was hoping I'd write another (I guess that is an expectation but not an unpleasant one).  And then there is a novel I was half-way through before I decided to give up and do other things -- none of that taking time away from worrying about and taking care of Susan, but I discover that in thinking about and working on the novel -- as well as thinking about the arrival of a pup in a few months I am cheering up.

The American philosopher William James in his Varieties of Religious Experience classified people as "sick souls" and "healthy souls."  I read this book years ago and think the data he had was mostly about Catholics, nuns, monks, priests -- religious people notable enough to be written about, and I might not be remembering correctly.  But if I am, the "sick soul" is one who can't let go of his sin.  He dwells upon it and continues to ask for forgiveness but he doesn't seem to really expect it.  I have read the biographies of Calvinists who were in this category as well.  The "healthy soul" on the other hand accepts God's grace, accepts that God has truly cast his sin as far as the east is from the west, and since it is gone, has a cheerful outlook and functions well in the world.  Susan and I for most of our marriage seemed to be in the "healthy soul" category, and even when she was getting sicker her attitude was very good.  I think though that I may have slipped into the "sick soul" category -- not about sin; just my attitude.

A bad attitude is sinful but I wasn't thinking in those terms.  I was unhappy with the way life had turned out, as though with the end of Susan I was at loose ends as well.  Of course I had responsibilities.  I needed to look out for Larry Jr.  He needed and still needs a lot of financial care.  Then, of course, there are the dogs, Ben and Duffy, but they are approaching the ages at which I lost Sage (age 7).  Did I really want to wait until I lost Ben or Duffy before getting another dog?  Also, maybe I'd feel too sad at the loss to think clearly about it.  Would I really want a sad dog from the pound?  There are (sick souls?) who urge people to get pound dogs and the dog won't necessarily be a sick soul itself, but sometimes it will.   I found two Airedales at the local pound at different times and bought both of them for Larry Jr.  The first, Winston, had a very good attitude, but there was something physically wrong with him and after a few years he died suddenly.  The other Airedale, Samson, was a sick soul sort.  He had been abused by his previous owner and it took Larry Jr a very long time to win him over.  Then after a relatively brief time of their being happy with each other Samson died.

Of all the breeds I've studied, at least the ones I thought I might under some circumstances be happy with, the Irish Terrier was far and away the healthiest (according to the statistics I had at hand).  it was the smallest breed that would still (in my opinion) be a first class hiking dog able to deal with any sort of wild animal, especially coyotes.  I first read about Irish Terriers when I was researching the Rhodesian Ridgeback.  The Irish Terrier is one of the breeds believed to be part of the foundation stock of the Rhodesian Ridgeback.  It was a popular hunting breed in South Africa.  Hunters would use it to go after lions, but like the Airedale the Irish Terrier would eventually get pissed at the Lion and take it on.  This resulted in a rapid turnover of Irish Terriers and Airedales, but it is a good indication of the Irish Terrier character, and from what I understand not as much has been done to alter the character of the Irish Terrier.

Larry Jr knew of an Irish Terrier that lived near him in Apple Valley who was attacked by a pack of coyotes in his yard and killed two of them before the rest ran bleeding off.  He wasn't impressed with it however.  I asked if the Irish Terrier looked beat up, and he said he didn't.  He just lay in his yard looking surly.  I expect though that my little female Irish Terrier will be much more cheerful.  We do cheerful things.  I don't leave our dogs out in the yard to fend for themselves.  At least I am expecting Jessica to be cheerful.

Further on Curtius

As to Curtius "getting his ideas," from someone, he might object to that construction.  On page 7 he is writing of Troeltsch and Toynbee with approval:  "The convergence of our knowledge of nature and our knowledge of history into a new, 'open' picture of the universe is the scientific aspect of our time.  At the close of his Historismus Troeltsch outlines the task of a concentration, simplification, and deepening of the intellectual and cultural content which the history of the West has given us and which must emerge from the crucible of historism in a new completeness and coherence: 'Most effectual would be a great artistic symbol, such as the Divina Comedia once was, and later Faust. . . .'  It is remarkable that in Toynbee too -- even though in an entirely different sense -- poetic form appears as the extreme concept of historism.  His train of thought is as follows: The present state of our knowledge, which takes in barely six millenniums of historical development, is adequately served by a comparative method of investigation which attains to the establishment of laws by the road of induction.  But if one imagines the stretch of history too be ten times or a hundred times, the employment of a scientific technique becomes impossible.  It must yield to a poetic form of presentation: 'It will eventually become patently impossible to employ any technique except that of 'fiction.'"

Curtius dismisses Spengler, disbelieving his "laws."  He hasn't mentioned Marx and won't if his index is to be believed, but I'm sure he would dismiss Marx's "laws" as well.  Toynbee claimed no laws, using only induction on the 21 Societies he examined and these are the ones Curtius is primarily referring to in the above.  If differences multiply as time goes on, relationships viewed inductively must become more and more tenuous and vague (assuming laws of history do not exist).

As to resorting to poems to sum up societal epochs, one perhaps has no difficulty in accepting in a certain sense Homer as representing early Greek society, Dante the 14th century in Italy, Cervantes and Shakespeare 16th and 17th century Spain and England, and Goethe 18th century Germany, but in thinking about them I don't believe they can be said to "sum up" their various societies.  On the other hand, if we add significantly to them (all the other "poetry" being written), perhaps that might work.

Earlier Curtius praises Toynbee by describing some of his ideas and then writes, "These selected and isolated details cannot give even a remote idea of the richness and illuminating power of Toynbee's work -- still less of the intellectual strictness of its structure and of the precise controls to which the material presented is subjected.  I feel this objection.  I can only offer in reply that it is better to give even an inadequate indication of the greatest intellectual accomplishment in the field of history in our day than to pass it over in silence."   I took this to mean that Curtius would not be relying upon Toynbee to any great extent in what follows.  In his index Curtius has only one line of references for Troeltsch, two lines for Toynbee as opposed to 5 for Spenser, 10 for Shakespeare and 28 for Publius Papinius Statius.

Curtius and poetry

I mentioned that I intended to read critics and biographers to keep me focused on poetry.  Unfortunately the more I learned about the various poets, the less I liked them (or their poetry).    So I just recently began seeking focus in literary history.  I decided to start with Curtius' European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages.  I barely got into the Introduction to the 2013 edition by Colin Burrow, when I encountered something I resisted:  Burrow wrote of Curtius, "His principal thesis is that the classical tradition spread and sustained itself through the study of rhetoric, and that the chief way in which that continuity was manifested was through the recurrence of 'topoi,' or rhetorical commonplaces.  These included notions that could be digested into a single phrase, such as the puer senex . . . "

Earlier Burrow quotes Curtius as believing that "A community of great authors throughout the centuries must be maintained if a kingdom of mind is to exist at all."   Will Curtius argue that writers ought to stick to the traditional topoi?  Would Harold Bloom agree that all of the writers in The Western Canon stuck to traditional topoi? 

Burrow writes toward the end of his introduction, "The Middle Ages described here are not at all dark.  they are effectively a long series of renaissances and enlightenments that run on until the eighteenth century, after which the real dark ages begin."  

I wonder what Curtius has in mind.  Have the topoi been expanded into poetic themes, literary genres?  And what does he mean when he writes (assuming Burrow is accurate) that our civilization entered the "real dark ages" after the eighteenth century?  Mathew Arnold's Philistines, Spengler's Decline of the West, Arnold Toynbee's Civilizational suicide?  All this is very provocative and I may be straying further from poetry than I intend, but . . .