Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Ring, November 1

Vollendet das ewige Werk.

Now that we are building our own little Valhalla out in Texas, I have a moment of kinship with Wotan as he intones these words tonight. I hear his sentence mundane and literal for the first time, the stress and strain and hope and ambition involved in creating a castle. Of course, the giants are the ones doing the labor, and there arises the complicated question of ownership. What did you do, and what do you believe you have earned? Wotan and the giants each demand, offer, and accept unreasonable reward, reward that is not theirs to give or receive - a beautiful goddess, youth, and the gold they've heard about from the Rhein. So the story begins in theft and deception, every god for himself.  Wotan wants power, Fricka wants Wotan, and they imagine that Valhalla will bind these things to them, or the gold will, or surely something will - but their doubt runs through the whole piece. Give it up, they say to each other, the gold or the girl, but that is the hardest thing to do.

Herrliche Wohnung, wonniger Hausrat, sollten dich binden zu säumender Rast.

Outside the theater, it is All Saints', and people are buying flowers and taking the trams to the cemeteries. There are the former citizens of Wien, Vienna, Vinobodna, in houses no more permanent than any built on earth or in the clouds. It's different in death, though, when the hands have opened and have had to let go. No one fights over the house. Flowers are brought, and poems, and balloons, and toys, and they say, this space belongs to us still.

Was mächtig der Furcht mein Mut mir erfand.

This morning, over coffee, I did some more work on my family tree, pages of my dead. I love the narrative of my immigrant ancestors. Piecing together the patchy stories left to us, I can build a sense of what these people gave to me - of course, that's not what they imagined they were doing. They did unreasonable things, crazy things, in the service of acquiring something bigger, grander, different. The terrible crossing, the backbreaking labor, the foreign language, the scarcity: when plenty began to arrive, it felt earned, deserved. Then the questions. What have you done, what do you imagine you have earned? Often they fought and broke off relations forever, over gold, over the goddess. 

Denn was nur lebt, will lieben.

My own dead are near me today. Grandma Alice, you've been gone almost a year. You helped me build my house. Little Halen, you gave us so much in such a brief time, you floored me with the devastating generosity you brought out in your family. I know where you are, under the tree in Northfield, next to Ralph at Ft. Snelling, in the beautiful Valhallas of my beloveds' hearts and minds. 

Alles, was ist, endet. 

Inside the theater, a beautiful woman rises out of the earth, her daughters call from the depths of the Rhein. Give us back what is ours. 

The treasure does not belong to you.

Open your eyes. Both of them.


1 comment:

HeldenMommy said...

Spectacular writing.. Moving and so appropriate today... Thank you..