Chained up paddle boats for tourists and sounds of construction

Had sought, typing this into the search bar: walden old masters. (Search had returned– walden universiity masters program). Had erased that and typed in WLuden then shook head no and typed WH old masters without seeking the results for that one either then put WH Icarus in the entry field and finally found the poem. (Not Walden, or Ogden or Wadden, but Auden, W.H. Auden. W.H. Auden.)

I was still in my running shorts. I had already seen the Bruegel painting on which the poem is based, — the pale green of its water, as seen on the painting’s reproduction on the wikipedia page devoted to it, reminding me of something that occurred while I was still running perhaps an hour previously, before I had even reached the schoolyard that had made me think of Bruegel for the first time in a while (for the first time probably since the last time I had passed that schoolyard, which always makes me think of those Bruegel scenes of communities with everyone up to various activities, if Bruegel is the one I mean). (When I first wrote this, I was sure it was Bruegel, having just looked it up, and could even spell Bruegel with a sense of assuredness, but now while I’m editing months later, I am unsure.) (I should probably continue editing this, for clarity and such, but let me just give the order of operations here, the plot so to speak, to make it simpler. Maybe that will allow me to avoid any more editing. (i.) I went for a run and saw a strange green paleness in the river. (ii.) on the way home I passed a school yard which always reminds me of well-known paintings by Breughel. (iii.) Breughel reminds me Auden’s poem The Old Masters but I couldn’t think of Auden’s name all the way home, and that was the first thing I did when I got home, performed an internet search for the name of the author of that poem, still in my running shorts. (iv.) Actually, the first thing I looked up was not Auden but Bruegel, to make sure that was the painter I was thinking of. (v.) It took me a few attempts to type in something similar enough to W.H. Auden to have his name come up. That’s about all that’s recounted in this post.)

I had been running for exercise along the river, rested on a sunwarped picnic bench, and raised my sunglasses to see what that pale greenness in the water was: was it the sun or something submerged or something submerged that the strong sun had revealed? I continued on the path and further on found the discrepancy still more stark: there was the shadow of the bridge, then beyond it a patch of water rendered this extraordinary green by the sun. Pollution maybe. That was the very same hue of green the wikipedia page of the Brueghel painting later reminded me of — the color of the water toward which Icarus fell.

From there, I went over the fourteenth street bridge on foot for the first time ever that day, myself and my knee braces, to the Jefferson Memorial, which was then having some work done on it, which I’d read about in the Post — some sort of algae being removed from the exterior of its dome. I walked around the paths, noting their vulnerability to flooding. It occurred to me: fiction did at least have this one sure un-obscure point with the “real world” in common: that point in the life of a fiction writer when he has the idea for a fiction. This is “the hinge”! I cried out in my interior. “This is the answer I’ve sought!” (For one could deny that a fiction has any relation to the thing it portrays, I had thought, but one could not deny that in some point in history, a very real point, the idea of a fiction or a book took hold; and this, what inspires fiction, locks in place the fiction to the person, the fiction to the non-fiction, to the history.) (Not exactly sure what I meant by this now.)

Unimportant though it is, the idea for a fiction occurred, a believable future in which the potomac’s waters were level with the memorial’s base. Character in his knee braces, his sweaty shirt and ‘bra’, meanders to the other side of the Memorial and witnesses a spot he hasn’t been in many years, “not since he was a child” he probably thinks. He had been on one of those paddle boats once, he knows, and tries to recall the circumstances, though that was probably forty years ago. That character is sitting on the steps of the Memorial now, looking at the chained up paddle-boats, thinking things of this kind (those chained up paddle boats seeming a Memorial of their own, he’s probably thinking, a memorial to the forty years of ones life that had elapsed, those chained up paddle boats for tourists, in the river gently rocking) — sounds of construction erupting from the interior chamber of the memorial, “Nymphette”-looking Japanese tourists taking selfies in front of the water, Forty-something housewife with a limbaugh-listening husband taking pictures with her Ipad at a goose.

I had looked up Bruegel because I couldn’t remember the name of the painter whom I think of every time I pass that schoolhouse and its grounds, which I only pass these days when I’ve gone too far on my run (the Memorial being about seven miles away) and need a short cut back to my house, –schoolyard in which, during recess, in every part of the wide roughly parabolic zone, some extraordinary child-like activity is occurring, utterly oblivious to every other child-like activity occurring right beside it:

In the corner, a child is alone and kicks at the base of a tree repeatedly; in this area, children throw a ball through the gaps of a jungle gym; in this area, three girls are gathered, serious as adults, expressing judgments; afar, a baseball game occurs on one half of a baseball diamond and a football game on the other, each with no more than half the needed players; afar, tag and hide-and-seek; between the near-and-far, two girls who have a ball but are talking and not throwing it while standing at what seems an unreasonable distance apart… many such activities.

Exhausted and with joint pain, walking by this, and unable to think of the name Breughel, unable to think of the name Auden — in my thoughts calling him Walden.

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