"I always feel good in museums. I like the high ceilings and the acoustics, the footsteps and voices, the silence over and under the footsteps and voices and the individual silences of each thing, all of them different, all of them holding a long departed Now."
On another paper, this:
"At the corner of Parsons Green Lane I nodded to the two telephone boxes that stood like a pair of lanterns and paused to acknowledge the trees which were still embracing the night. I admire those trees; fashions come and go but the trees still maintain their original identity, their unfashionable mystery. They hold last night's darkness like lovers reluctant to let go....Sometimes I am astonished that there should be buildings built and institutions maintained to string out the brevity of human life over successive generations; trees don't do that, they just hold on to the darkness and accept the light night after night and day after day without pretensions to permanence."
I added, as is my custom, to each of these a little addendum that went something like this:
"Russell Hoban, from The Bat Tattoo.
February 4th is Russell Hoban's birthday. This paper, and your finding it and reading it, are part of an annual worldwide celebration of the man and his work."
But this year I had to add, "He passed away in December."
I finished my coffee and headed across the street to the Art Institute of Chicago, a formidable stone building on Michigan Avenue, guarded by two bronze lions, full of high ceilings and footfalls and silences. I went to buy a ticket, but the young man behind the counter told me that if I waited 15 minutes, I could get in at a reduced rate, as it would be within an hour of close. That sounded reasonable, so I took myself back outside and headed to a little park one block south. There, carefully spaced in little plots hemmed in by wide gravel paths, were a few trees accepting what light they could in the shadow of Michigan Ave.'s curtain wall of tall buildings. It was a Russ sort of day: gray, breezy, with a hint of damp. I picked a tree at random, at a corner of two paths, and pinned the tree quote to it. It fluttered a little in the breeze, as though shaking itself out to settle into the work of being a quote pinned to a tree.
Still with time to kill before the hour of reduced admission, I wandered into the Art Institute's book store. Vermeer's pearly girl looked pleadingly out of the covers of two or three books. We regarded one another, acknowledging the lack of Russ in the world. And then I saw a big handsome volume of Edward Hopper paintings standing at attention on a shelf and I knew my work would be done here. I opened the book at random, as is my custom, and found there a picture of a woman in a slip, standing at a window, looking out into the morning light. I put the museum quote next to her and closed the book.
I took the train back home, without going into the museum.
Here's to Russ.
|Photo borrowed from this blog|
Diana Slickman founded the Slickman A4 Quotation Event (SA4QE) in 2002. More info