Friday, June 14, 2013
Morning Thanks--Piazza to the north
Herman Melville's short story "The Piazza" is all about some dreamer who builds a piazza, a porch, on the north side of his house, when everyone but the dog thinks him perfectly nuts for doing it--this is long before Pella Windows. If you put a deck on to the north, you're constantly fighting cold winds, they say, and, they're right.
But the narrator is adamant because the view to the north features a wonderful mountain that enchants for a bunch of reasons, one of which is what looks to be a darling little mountaintop cabin that, from his porch, looks to be a touch of heaven.
Anyway, this dreamy narrator embarks on a day-long pilgrimage and goes mountain climbing. Melville, who some call America's first truly "modern" writer, plays a rather unforgiving game in the story, because when the man with the northern piazza arrives at the cabin, what he discovers is nothing heavenly. It's rundown, uncared for, and the home of an angry old woman trapped in her loneliness.
The whole story is a dirty little trick. What the dreamer discovers is that the dreary mountain cabin's sole resident finds her hope and faith buoyed by a cabin way down in the valley, a place with a piazza to the north. When times get really, really bad, she casts her gaze down there on all that glorious beauty. The whole thing sounds like a take on the old saw about greener grass across the fence.
But there's more, see. The dreamer doesn't tell the angry old woman the truth. He just lets her dream.
And there's more. Once he's back on his porch, he decides it's in his own best interest to keep dreaming himself, which is something that now, having been there, he'll never be able to do.
Herman Melville, some say, was America's first truly modern writer because he'd simply lost faith, even though he wanted it madly--think Moby Dick.
That's my wife and I in the picture, having coffee last night on the new deck, of our unfinished house. It faces north. Anyway, last night, we couldn't resist. We took over a couple of chairs and a couple of cups of coffee.
There's no mountain, no mountain cabin, nothing out there at all, really. But as someone--I've forgotten who--once said about the plains, "where there's nothing, it's really something."
I think we'll be okay here in the new place.
This morning's thanks is for a brand new piazza to the north--and a worldview.