Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Other Side

December 7
In Australia, December has a different identity from ours. Its soft c is not an icy c. It's hard to imagine, but it's probably a nice, cerulean c, for summer skies. December down under corresponds to our June. I can almost see it. Almost. But November as the name for our May? No can do. Much too dark a word. It's like picturing Eeyore in a sunsuit.

Anyway, back to Australia. My wife, Carol, told me a story today that has to be the advent find for 12/7. Carol teaches digital imagery at a suburban high school and often has a student teacher through the BU Art Education dept. On occasion, a professor pops in to see how the student teacher is doing. The current prof is smart, capable, but unprepossessing: would not suggest a life of adventure. Short, plump, hair in a bun, she calls to (the unwary) mind an armchair traveler or a dilettante. And you know where this is headed.

Chatting with the prof the other day, Carol learns that she is, in fact, Indiana Jones. She has about eight degrees, a specialty in art history, and a deep focus on the art of Oceania. In fact, for most summers over the past thirty years she's been going to Australia to study Aboriginal art firsthand. This brings her to telling about last summer's expedition. Very likely last December. Her plane lands at some remote airport, perhaps Alice Springs, followed by a twelve hour drive in a Range Rover into the Outback with her Aborigine guides. The final leg is a two-hour trek on foot, which normally means barefoot, but the art prof exacts a concession and is allowed to go shod. They reach a rocky outcropping, if not Ayer's Cliff then one very like it, sacred and accessible only to a lucky few. The prof ascends. She reaches a place where she may go, but not her male guides. Meaning it is a women's site, and only women may enter. So she squeezes inside, into a recess that opens into a grotto. And when her eyes adjust to the light she beholds an Aboriginal petroglyph, twenty-five feet high. And more than that I cannot say, except that it is in the animal world. I'm not trying to be coy here. When the prof tried to take a photograph of it, a camera in perfect working order, it would not take the picture. When she tried again with a back-up camera, same thing. (Both worked perfectly well later, outside.) So you may do a little art research and supply the image yourself. And what you imagine will be today's advent revelation. From the other side of December.

December 8
The following day, we were walking home from voting for our Massachusetts senator-to-be, around 4:30. To the right, to the west, the cooling sunset. But we were in the domain of that gray-blue light when the day and night are in equal suspension. Call it the daily equinox. I've come to refer to that color as "housepainter's blue." I forget why. I have no proof, but I confidently asserted to Carol that this brief equivalency of day and night is what is really meant by "evening." So I choose that for today's advent: the other side of the sunset, facing east. A swatch of housepainter's blue.

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