The War Cemetery and the City Park – “Saturated Landscapes” in Fanny Howe’s The Lives of A Spirit
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Site assistance. United States English English. In the end I depend on the relationship with another person who is wise and kind to come to an understanding of the emptiness in which we live. What is created in relationship with another person finally is a third presence. In Catholicism that would be the Holy Spirit rather than, you know, the father and the son. It can of course be hellish too.
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It lay with its ankles crossed and its arms spread wide, like one who lives by her feelings. The application of her small fist to her lips made her, in all cases, the object of maternal desire. LoS, No one could doubt that this was a model something. Every part of her seemed extra, more than intention could handle, and raised the question: Is the body made to fit the needs of the soul, or vice-versa? Since her heart was a seething fountain of blood, people longed to lean their ears to her chest to hear those sinews at work. Her damp skin, soft as a rose petal, was sweet to the cheek.
And when she smiled, the world was all confection and air. LoS , The baby seems the perfect embodiment of the Thomist model: a spirit indivisible from the flesh. Her ages will henceforth continue to vary from one paragraph to the next.
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Point of view constantly oscillates between the first and third person, bringing about syntactic and temporal confusion, as in this passage from section Once, close on the earth, she lay down, making wings with her arms moving up and down. And why am I where I am today? Confusing it was—the way the world ran back from every step I took. There were sled tracks, next to the orderly print of birdclaws, dog-paws and garbage lids.
She moves between indoor spaces be they a boarding-school, a prison, a workplace or a home and the outdoors, a vague urban space with streets and seldom-mentioned buildings.
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Her constant impulse, at all stages in her life, is to get out and run the streets to eventually reach a park—not any specific park, but a generic one, complete with lawns, trees, paths and benches. She is seldom at rest, yet neither is she driven by any purpose nor aiming at any specific resting spot. It has been so from the beginning—of her life and of the text. The second section introduces the motif of the park while echoing that of the war cemetery, linking the two to the figure of the father:.
Papa wanted you always to be in training for that longest of sleeps. For him that training was the purpose of this life. The grave markers of other fathers, by the way, tipped and grayed like a mouthful of rotten teeth. But gale winds, blown down from the Arctic Circle, moved the stuff around, so it shifted its skirts around like that many loaves of flour […]. Mine is in November, late afternoon, and the elms are like stones. A very great effort has gone into making the area pacific. A mist like incense dreams the hillocks, hummocks, topes, and holes.
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Especially at daybreak, but also late at night, when you come to make out on the heaving grave beds. It creates the non-topos where the effective operations of a society attain a formalization. God is inert. Why bother with it then.
She roams in a non-space—the space of her visions she turns into language in this rambling account 8. The presence-absence of the dead in a non-space opens up an initial gap that attracts the spirit in all her subsequent explorations. Like the narrator in Indivisible , she has witnessed much:.
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I have seen terrible things that a living and powerful God, who was like a parent, would simply not allow to happen. I hate it when they give God attributes. God is not love or memory. In The Lives of A Spirit , the memories of traumatic experiences, including those of the war, are blown more or less violently across the disjointed pavement of the narrative its disconnected paragraphs , colliding or merging with the sweeter memories of carefree youth or friendly encounters.
Ironically, these escapes are also returns to an ever-present past; as she contemplates the park she loves to take refuge in, she muses:. One night near the apartment a shot split the air and signals boomed from north to south.