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It was that summer, too, that I began the cutting, and was almost as devoted to it as my newfound loveliness. I adored tending to myself, wiping a shallow red pool of my blood away with a damp washcloth to magically reveal, just above my naval: queasy. Applying alcohol with dabs of a cottonball, wispy shreds sticking to the bloody lines of: perky. I had a dirty streak my senior year, which I later rectified.
However constant the visitations of sickness and bereavement, the fall of the year is most thickly strewn with the fall of human life. Everywhere the spirit of some sad power seems to direct the time; it hides from us the blue heavens, it makes the green wave turbid; it walks through the fields, and lays the damp ungathered harvest low; it cries out in the night wind and the shrill hail; it steals the summer bloom from the infant cheek; it makes old age shiver to the heart; it goes to the churchyard, and chooses many a grave.
Beautiful and minimalist, the traditional Japanese art of ikebana – arranging bouquets of cut flowers and leaves using very few elements – ideally corresponded to a form of expression I could transpose in a perfume. The smell of a rose early in the morning, damp, sprinkled with dew, delicate and light.
If any man has drunk a little too deeply from the cup of physical pleasure; if he has spent too much time at his desk that should have been spent asleep; if his fine spirits have become temporarily dulled; if he finds the air too damp, the minutes too slow, and the atmosphere too heavy to withstand; if he is obsessed by a fixed idea which bars him from any freedom of thought: if he is any of these poor creatures, we say, let him be given a good pint of amber-flavored chocolate… and marvels will be performed.
My new city [Seattle] and its hinterland felt deceptively homely. Their similar latitude gave them the angular light and lingering evenings I was used to. Their damp marine weather, blowing in from the southwest, came in the right direction. When the mountains are hidden under a low sky, one might almost imagine oneself to be in Britain.
Tyranny brings ignorance and brutality with it. It degrades men from their just rank into the class of brutes; it damps their spirits; it suppresses art; it extinguishes every spark of noble ardor and generosity in the breasts of those who are enslaved by it; it makes naturally strong and great minds feeble and little, and triumphs over the ruins of virtue and humanity.
The warriors that fought for their country, and bled, Have sunk to their rest; the damp earth is their bed; No stone tells the place where their ashes repose, Nor points out the spot from the graves of their foes. They died in their glory, surrounded by fame, And Victory’s loud trump their death did proclaim; They are dead; but they live in each Patriot’s breast, And their names are engraven on honor’s bright crest.
On that night I was left with only the truth that nothing of our personality survives after death, that in the end all that was Misha Vainberg would evaporate along with the styles and delusions of his epoch, leaving behind not one flutter of his sad heavy brilliance, not one damp spot around which his successors could congregate to appreciate his life and times.
Perspective, as its inventor remarked, is a beautiful thing. What horrors of damp huts, where human beings languish, may not become picturesque through aerial distance! What hymning of cancerous vices may we not languish over as sublimest art in the safe remoteness of a strange language and artificial phrase! Yet we keep a repugnance to rheumatism and other painful effects when presented in our personal experience.
Genius! thou gift of Heav’n! thou Light divine!Amid what dangers art thou doom’d to shine!Oft will the body’s weakness check thy force,Oft damp thy Vigour, and impede thy course;And trembling nerves compel thee to restrainThy noble efforts, to contend with pain;Or Want (sad guest!) will in thy presence come,And breathe around her melancholy gloom:To Life’s low cares will thy proud thought confine,And make her sufferings, her impatience, thine.
I say, I don’t think the human frame is very thoughtfully constructed for this sleuthhound business. If one could go on all fours, or had eyes in ones knees, it would be a lot more practical’… ‘What luck! Here’s a deep, damp ditch on the other side, which I shall now proceed to fall into.’ A slithering crash proclaimed that he had carried out his intention.