Fire mars sky

A city in Texas is grappling with being a city in Texas, and the questions are coming in existential batches:

Making sure ITC isn’t spewing toxic fumes doesn’t require fining it out of existence. It requires a serious commitment to safety and transparency, which are sorely lacking in this state. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has a history of lax monitoring and enforcement. And Texas has refused to require widespread public disclosure of chemical inventories and Risk Management Plans of facilities that would improve journalists’ ability to inform the public during a crisis. A reporter who wants to see a facility’s RMP has to make an appointment with federal marshals to view it.

Patrick Jankowski, senior economist with the Greater Houston Partnership, told business reporter Jordan Blum: “We need these facilities here because it’s how we get our products to market.

Of course. But what is a booming economy without quality of life? Without peace of mind? Parents sent their children back to Deer Park and La Porte ISD schools Tuesday, but they couldn’t have felt great confidence when school officials restricted outside activities. Houston ISD took the same precaution. Good to err on the side of safety, but no parent should have to fear that just walking to school might endanger their child’s health.

Nothing that calls for fatuous comment or commentary. It’s just a situation reduced to its plainly naked reality. Companies do what they want, the public has no say. Regulations are too onerous. We need these companies here for our products. And what’s up with the air?

The Heavens Are Strange

One of my open books right now is a biography of D.H. Lawrence by Anthony Burgess, a present from Mean Joe for which I am increasingly grateful. Right after he and Freida fled Germany to Italy, Lawrence had to get down to work and make some money. The travelogue, Twilight in Italy, is one of those; his publisher came up with the cheesy title. Freida had another name for it, but anyway, this is from Chaper 4, San Gaudenzio:

In the autumn the little rosy cyclamens blossom in the shade of this west side of the lake. They are very cold and fragrant, and their scent seems to belong to Greece, to the Bacchae. They are real flowers of the past. They seem to be blossoming in the landscape of Phaedra and Helen. They bend down, they brood like little chill fires. They are little living myths that I cannot understand.

After the cyclamens the Christmas roses are in bud. It is at this season that the cacchi are ripe on the trees in the garden, whole naked trees full of lustrous, orange-yellow, paradisal fruit, gleaming against the wintry blue sky. The monthly roses still blossom frail and pink, there are still crimson and yellow roses. But the vines are bare and the lemon-houses shut. And then, mid-winter, the lowest buds of the Christmas roses appear under the hedges and rocks and by the streams. They are very lovely, these first large, cold, pure buds, like violets, like magnolias, but cold, lit up with the light from the snow.

The days go by, through the brief silence of winter, when the sunshine is so still and pure, like iced wine, and the dead leaves gleam brown, and water sounds hoarse in the ravines. It is so still and transcendent, the cypress trees poise like flames of forgotten darkness, that should have been blown out at the end of the summer. For as we have candles to light the darkness of night, so the cypresses are candles to keep the darkness aflame in the full sunshine.

Meanwhile, the Christmas roses become many. They rise from their budded, intact humbleness near the ground, they rise up, they throw up their crystal, they become handsome, they are heaps of confident, mysterious whiteness in the shadow of a rocky stream. It is almost uncanny to see them. They are the flowers of darkness, white and wonderful beyond belief.

Then their radiance becomes soiled and brown, they thaw, break, and scatter and vanish away. Already the primroses are coming out, and the almond is in bud. The winter is passing away. On the mountains the fierce snow gleams apricot gold as evening approaches, golden, apricot, but so bright that it is almost frightening. What can be so fiercely gleaming when all is shadowy? It is something inhuman and unmitigated between heaven and earth.

The heavens are strange and proud all the winter, their progress goes on without reference to the dim earth. The dawns come white and translucent, the lake is a moonstone in the dark hills, then across the lake there stretches a vein of fire, then a whole, orange, flashing track over the whiteness. There is the exquisite silent passage of the day, and then at evening the afterglow, a huge incandescence of rose, hanging above and gleaming, as if it were the presence of a host of angels in rapture. It gleams like a rapturous chorus, then passes away, and the stars appear, large and flashing.

Meanwhile, the primroses are dawning on the ground, their light is growing stronger, spreading over the banks and under the bushes. Between the olive roots the violets are out, large, white, grave violets, and less serious blue ones. And looking down the bill, among the grey smoke of olive leaves, pink puffs of smoke are rising up. It is the almond and the apricot trees, it is the Spring.

A break from this miraculous heat, at least.

A Litany: Be Still

I’ve long been in a state of amazed, projected kinship with D.H. Lawrence. Like Miller, his towering accomplishments in fiction are re-enforced by a prodigious output of non-fiction. Some of this work is bizarrely on-point; if you’re in doubt, check out Apocalypse, which is a scathing critique of the book of Revelation.

Here is a short chapter from Fantasia of the Unconscious, 1922, Litany of Exhortations.

I thought I’d better turn over a new leaf, and start a new chapter. The intention of the last chapter was to find a way out of the vicious circle. And it ended in poison-gas.

Yes, dear reader, so it did. But you’ve not silenced me yet, for all that.

We’re in a nasty mess. We’re in a vicious circle. And we’re making a careful study of poison-gases. The secret of Greek fire was lost long ago, when the world left off being wonderful and ideal. Now it is wonderful and ideal again, much wonderfuller and _much_ more ideal. So we ought to do something rare in the way of poison-gas. London a Pompeii in five minutes! How to outdo Vesuvius!–title of a new book by American authors.

There is only one single other thing to do. And it’s more difficult than poison-gas. It is to leave off loving. It is to leave off benevolenting and having a good will. It is to cease utterly. Just leave off. Oh, parents, see that your children get their dinners and clean sheets, but don’t love them. Don’t love them one single grain, and don’t let anybody else love them. Give them their dinners and leave them alone. You’ve already loved them to perdition. Now leave them alone, to find their own way out.

Wives, don’t love your husbands any more: even if they cry for it, the great babies! Sing: “I’ve had enough of that old sauce.” And leave off loving them or caring for them one single bit. Don’t even hate them or dislike them. Don’t have any stew with them at all. Just boil the eggs and fill the salt-cellars and be quite nice, and in your own soul, be alone and be still. Be alone, and be still, preserving all the human decencies, and abandoning the indecency of desires and benevolencies and devotions, those beastly poison-gas apples of the Sodom vine of the love-

Wives, don’t love your husbands nor your children nor anybody. Sit still, and say Hush! And while you shake the duster out of the drawing-room window, say to yourself–“In the sweetness of solitude.” And when your husband comes in and says he’s afraid he’s got a cold and is going to have double pneumonia, say quietly “surely not.” And if he wants the ammoniated quinine, give it him if he can’t get it for himself. But don’t let him drive you out of your solitude, your singleness within yourself. And if your little boy falls down the steps and makes his mouth bleed, nurse and comfort him, but say to yourself, even while you tremble with the shock: “Alone. Alone. Be alone, my soul.” And if the servant smashes three electric-light bulbs in three minutes, say to her: “How very inconsiderate and careless of you!” But say to yourself: “Don’t hear it, my soul. Don’t take fright at the pop of a light-bulb.”

Husbands, don’t love your wives any more. If they flirt with men younger or older than yourselves, let your blood not stir. If you can go away, go away. But if you must stay and see her, then say to her, “I would rather you didn’t flirt in my presence, Eleanora.” Then, when she goes red and loosens torrents of indignation, don’t answer any more. And when she floods into tears, say quietly in your own self, “My soul is my own”; and go away, be alone as much as possible. And when she works herself up, and says she must have love or she will die, then say: “Not my love, however.” And to all her threats, her tears, her entreaties, her reproaches, her cajolements, her winsomenesses, answer nothing, but say to yourself: “Shall I be implicated in this display of the love-will? Shall I be blasted by this false lightning?” And though you tremble in every fiber, and feel sick, vomit-sick with the scene, still contain yourself, and say, “My soul is my own. It shall not be violated.” And learn, learn, learn the one and only lesson worth learning at last. Learn to walk in the sweetness of the possession of your own soul. And whether your wife weeps as she takes off her amber beads at night, or whether your neighbor in the train sits in your coat bottoms, or whether your superior in the office makes supercilious remarks, or your inferior is familiar and impudent; or whether you read in the newspaper that Lloyd George is performing another iniquity, or the Germans plotting another plot, say to yourself: “My soul is my own. My soul is with myself, and beyond implication.” And wait, quietly, in possession of your own soul, till you meet another man who has made the choice, and kept it. Then you will know him by the look on his face: half a dangerous look, a look of Cain, and half a look of gathered beauty. Then you two will make the nucleus of a new society–Ooray! Bis! Bis!!

But if you should never meet such a man: and if your wife should torture you every day with her love-will: and even if she should force herself into a consumption, like Catherine Linton in “Wuthering Heights,” owing to her obstinate and determined love-will (which is quite another matter than love): and if you see the world inventing poison-gas and falling into its poisoned grave: never give in, but be alone, and utterly alone with your own soul, in the stillness and sweet possession of your own soul. And don’t even be angry. And _never_ be sad. Why should you? It’s not your affair.

But if your wife should accomplish for herself the sweetness of her own soul’s possession, then gently, delicately let the new mode assert itself, the new mode of relation between you, with something of spontaneous paradise in it, the apple of knowledge at last digested. But, my word, what belly-aches meanwhile. That apple is harder to digest than a lead gun-cartridge.