May 17, 2014 by lucieromarin
Well, despite my clarion call to women to resist the temptation to fret about beauty, I found myself this morning experimenting with rosehip oil to see if it would make me immediately beautiful. It didn’t, but I will say in its defence that it never told me that it would. Alas, my impatience refuses to accept the non-existence of some instantly-transformative unguent, though reason tells me that if it did actually exist, the pharmaceutical giants would have got a hold of it by now.
If you do have an inner witch (or, if you prefer, an inner wise woman [or, if you prefer, an inner herbalist]) this kind of thing is fun. It’s nice to pound things with miniature pestles and rub drops of youth-restoring potions onto your skin. I think this is all fine, as long as you don’t actually invest in it emotionally or intellectually – as long as you don’t freak out when it doesn’t work because it was your last hope etc etc. If you just enjoy the potion-making, it’s probably better than spending hundreds of hours and dollars in day-spas and things.
I don’t often read full-length biographies of priest-saints – and still less Bishop-saints – because I figure I’m not going to learn that much from them, and I wonder, too, what I would empathise with as I read.
More. Fool. Me.
I’m reading ‘St John Neumann: the Helper of the Afflicted.’ The book has the most unprepossessing front cover in literary history, which seems in keeping with the annoyances and injustices that dogged this modern bishop-saint for most of his life. You know how it is that, while some sufferings strike you as possibly having a point (a break-up can teach you a lesson about something), others just seem pointless and stupid (the wind snatches away your bus ticket just as the bus arrives) and almost like the universe is just being plain mean? I’m only 80 pages into the bio so far, and the saint’s life seemed to be one pointless and exasperating malfunction after the other. As he made his poverty-stricken and desperate way from city to city, trying to make it to America, a bunch of pious layfolk, thrilled that their missionary hopes could at last be realised in this man, encumbered him with a case of literature to take to the New World – which case he had to drag behind him as he walked the entire journey, and pay transport costs for out of his own funds. Cleric after cleric gave him misinformation about funds and bishops, which meant he spent weeks on foot, making fruitless journeys. Ordained to the diaconate, the notice in the newspaper called him ‘Newman.’ Ordained to the priesthood, the newspaper called him ‘A new man…’ Knowing he had a giant parish, one parishioner gave him a horse, despite the fact that he didn’t know how to ride, and was too short to mount it, and the horse had animal psychology problems. On one occasion, it galloped off, while Father Neumann clung to it… facing the wrong way. He tried to make light conversation in recreation one day – telling the story of a dream in which he was made a bishop – only to have the Novice Master jump down his throat with accusations of vanity. (I wonder that novice master felt when Neumann actually did become bishop!) And so on.
I mean, since these irksome things happen to everyone, I suppose they must actually happen to all the saints; it’s just that we don’t usually hear about so much of it. I’m glad that, in this case, we did! St John Neumann should be the patron saint of anyone who relentlessly pursues a dream or a hope, with nothing and no one to support them, anyone whose hopes are crushed by disappointing realities, politicking, or physical illness, or anyone dogged by mishaps that just don’t seem to make any sense!
And it’s good to be reminded from time to time that bishops don’t just appear our of nowhere at the sedelia, flying into their seats on the wings of the patriarchy, out of the dust from which they were made for no reason other than to oppress you with their inexplicable decisions. I mean, there are plenty of inexplicable decisions and bad bishops around, but reading about this good one reminded me that it wouldn’t hurt if I occasionally remembered that people in the public eye existed before the day I started looking that them, and that they’re filled with private sufferings and horrible memories of their own.
As I have no furniture (at present, I have one chair, which moves with me from room to room) I’ve spent the morning scouring the vintage-wares shops of a neighbouring suburb, in search of ideas and/or actual furniture. Glimpsed from the bus on my way home at night, they’re like Aladdin’s caves, all mysterious and glittering promise. Seen by the clear light of a Saturday morning, they’re not quite so enchanted, but if you can brace yourself against the overwhelming sense of clutter and disorder and the stare of the weird-looking owner who stares sits dustily in a corner as though he grew there, or fixes you with a hopeful gaze as though if you don’t buy something all her children will starve, they’re fascinating. The only real problem is that they’re full of discarded religious artefacts, which I always wonder if I should save. But how many of these images can you have in one house, especially when they’re the sort you really dislike?
Oh, there was one other problem. Note to roadkill: if you are childless, and you find yourself in the happy position of having a flat to furnish, remember that you’re childless. If you don’t, you’ll end up like me; after a couple of hours of walking, measuring and jotting, realised that I’d noted the following:
– two ornate, white child-sized chairs, one with pink upholstery and one with blue-and-white striped upholstery;
– a miniature, vintage, wooden cabinet, perfect for activities involving treasure-hunting, tidying, and make-believe cookery;
– a vintage abacus, all polished brown wood, which would make an interesting decoration when not being manipulated by tiny fingers;
– a set of drawers cut in an ascending fashion, like a staircase, which a child could climb to reach the activity cunningly arranged at the top;
– a set of shelves with corresponding baskets for the linen-folding, water-pouring, bead-threading, and opening-and-closing activities without which no home is complete.
Thank goodness you can’t impulse-buy furniture, because I completely forgot about the table, chairs, and couch that I actually needed and mentally turned my home into the ultimate Edwardian-cum-Montessori environment for…????