Yesterday's reading was sparsely attended. I think there were more poets than audience, but actually that was nice too . . . it was good to spend time with people I hadn't seen for more than a year. And it was a beautiful day to walk through the park, watch families tumble out of cars on their way to the baseball game, skirt the farmers' market vendors as they packed their trucks and wiped their brows.
Before and after the reading I did home stuff: harvested thyme for drying, spread organic fertilizer around the blueberry bushes, picked tomatoes and peppers, made red sauce for the freezer and duck stock for soup. Occasionally I stopped to read a few more pages of Thackeray's Vanity Fair, which I picked off the shelf the other day after reading a recent New Yorker article about the colonial legacies of Britain's massive country houses. Suddenly I had a memory of the way in which Vanity Fair, which opens just before the Napoleonic wars, excoriates/accepts without comment so many of the issues of British occupation and greed, both in India and the Caribbean. I was right, and I'm glad to be rereading it now. Of course it's not the only novel that traffics in the plunder of British colonialism, not by a long shot. Most (maybe all) Victorian and Edwardian novels do . . . the child transplanted from India in A Secret Garden; Sir Thomas's absence in the West Indies in Mansfield Park; tea and cashmere shawls in Cranford; the crazy, possibly mixed-race, rich Jamaican wife in Jane Eyre. One of the aspects I most love about novels is the way the "little things"--clothes, food, children, offstage disappearances--serve as the iceberg tips of a cultural behemoth. (Ooh, mixed metaphor!) The cozy tea parties of elderly spinsters are portals into the looting of India's wealth. The literary obsession with fair complexions and smooth hair is linked to the growing number of wealthy, mixed-race heirs of West Indian sugar fortunes, a class of young people who were both pariahs and marriage fodder. Not that the era's novelists were ever able to fully parse this out for themselves.
This morning I'll do a few more home things--probably freeze parsley, maybe peppers too--and then this afternoon I'm teaching my first Frost Place Studio Session class. New subject matter, new zoom setup, new students: Wish me luck, as I'm a little bit nervous.