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January 31, 2007


"....Mute and unaware they were French at all, the snowy cornfields rolled by..." How wonderful, Beth. Only you would make that connection. I wonder if landscape does have a kind of ethnicity? Certainly when you travel by train or bus or car from the UK to France, for instance, as soon as you cross the border you know you're in a different country, and not just because of man-made signs. Or is it just my imagination that the land itself speaks another language?

Oh, you see it immediately after crossing the border here, Natalie - but even though there is a geological and topographic difference in the land, it's not that that makes it "French" so much as what people have done to it: the lines of tall poplars; the French-style farmhouses of totally different architecture and materials from Vermont or New York; the way the houses are enclosed by tall clipepd hedges; the pollarded trees...that's something never seen in New England. The land is there like a blank canvas, and people give it an ethnicity, i suppose - but then that becomes part of a visual vocabulary that we associate with a particular country.

I envy you the daily, constant language challenge. I would enjoy that. I find it shocking that you would leave the house without long underwear. I live in it from late November to early May, though not this year. Get thyself to the department store and get warm!

I know! I've got two or three pairs and usually remember to put them on, but not that night. Yes, the language challenge is good. I find it forces you to constantly think in French or construct imaginary sentences in your head, before or after an encounter. J. is feeling good - he did his first complicated transaction all in French today. I know how he feels - each milestone like that is a triumph, not just of language learned but of fears overcome.

Oh! The house of torrefaction — what a wonderful phrase!

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.