Saturday, February 9, 2019

Three Beautiful Things 02/08/19: Frigid, Cravings and Chicken Soup, Kurt Wallander and King Lear

1. It looks like we are going to be locked into a frigid, sometimes snowy, certainly gray weather pattern this month. Today, as the snow piled up slowly and the wind whipped the flag in front of the church across the street, I faced the elements long enough to join my friends for breakfast at Sam's and, later in the morning, shopped at Yoke's.

2. This cold I contracted on Monday didn't get worse, but it persisted, and I fed it, temporarily setting aside my renal friendly diet. I craved potatoes and I craved chicken soup. I didn't buy any potatoes, but, for the first time in many weeks, I ordered hash browns at Sam's. I bought a package of chicken thighs and legs at Yoke's and made chicken soup, using turkey stock I had made back at Thanksgiving time. I had made some of this stock especially peppery. I got it in my head years ago that increased pepper and pepper sauce helps me fight colds, so my soup is a little more peppery than usual and I put plenty of Tabasco sauce on my hash browns. I boiled some rotini and added it to the soup. I craved pasta, too.

3.  As I grow older, I realize how tempting it is to be like Shakespeare's King Lear. Speaking of himself in the royal or plural third person, among the first things he says upon appearing in Act I is that he wants to "shake all cares and business from our age" and "Unburden'd crawl toward death". King Lear will soon experience the opposite of this. At the age of 80, he will soon experience not an unburdened crawl toward death, but profound suffering brought on by the betrayal of two of his daughters, his misplaced rage toward the daughter who can be trusted, and the slow and steady loss of the remnants of the royal privileges he sought to hang on to.

King Lear's plight came to mind tonight as I watched the final episode of the British detective series, Wallander. It's not that Kurt Wallander ever expressed a desire to "unburdened crawl toward death", but when he learns that, like his father, he his suffering from the onset of Alzheimer's disease, he realizes, in effect, that he's been condemned to a burdened, a difficult, a disoriented, and a ravishing crawl toward death.

While I found the case Kurt Wallander worked on in this episode intriguing, the scene that will live with me for a long time occurred in an open field behind Wallander's residence. Unlike King Lear in the play's heath scene, Kurt Wallander was not being pelted by a merciless rain storm. Otherwise, it was Wallander's very own heath scene. It opens with a view of Kurt Wallander from a long distance away. His human figure is tiny. The space around him is expansive, as if he were, in the grand scheme of things, a speck, a barely noticeable being engulfed by the uncaring spaciousness of an empty life surrounding him.

This scene unfolds through Wallander's daughter Linda's eyes. She has come out into the field to check on her father's welfare. Wallander is confronting the injustice of his existence, tearing at his clothes, stripping himself, in much the same way King Lear begins to disrobe, telling himself "To expose thyself to feel what wretches feel". Wallander's peeling off his own clothes is not in order to connect with the neglected, but is more of figuratively exposing himself to the random cruelty that life, via Alzheimer's disease, has imposed on him and his father.

Wallander looks at Linda. He's dislocated, disoriented, mad with frustration and cries, heartbreakingly, "Are you my daughter?"

It's a question lifted from King Lear.

I've been watching Kenneth Branagh's work for thirty years, starting with his movie version of Henry V. This was as arresting and moving and painful of a scene as I've ever seen him perform. I wondered if it might be a foretaste of him playing the role of King Lear some time in the next ten years as he crawls burdened into his late fifties and on into his sixties.

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