~the green valleys of silliness~

March 23rd, 2008

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Easter water is thought to have healing properties–farmers once herded their cattle to brooks on Easter morning to protect them from illnesses. Another tradition calls for young women (ahem) to bathe in the early morning on Easter to secure everlasting youth and beauty. Who am I to doubt it?

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All bathed and youthful, we had a drive around the Ringstraße (which we had toured on foot, but a full perspective was grand) and a romantic drizzly brunch of omelets, salad, champagne, incredible grapefruit juice, tucked in a window booth at 1860’s Café Schwarzenberg.

Then we headed to what Ali promised would be the brightest gem in my crown of natural history collection experiences thus far, the Naturhistorisches Museum. (I think his actual words were you will fall in love with me all over again for taking you here!) Apparently, my (presumptuous) man knows me rather well.

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The flow of space, the ornate decoration, and the ancient exhibits of extinct animals make it a kind of museum of the history of science, taxidermy and the pursuit of knowledge, and a museum of the museum, as well as a place to learn about evolution and life force. Wonder-ful.

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They had a huge room of stereocard viewers, a velvet theater, and a platform where you could look under gorgeous brass microscopes at amoebas and fish scales and pin feathers.

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There was an incredible display of tiny glass domes inscribed with the Latin names of bird inner-ear bones, which were suspended by threads.

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There was a species of Lunar Moth I had never seen.

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There was a tree that was glass on one side, so you could see the honeycomb made by bees that flew via tube out to Vienna and back into the museum.

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I saw a kinoscope of a whale swimming and Venetian glass jellyfish chandeliers.

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They have another floor I did not even see, with fossils, the skeleton of Diplodocus (the longest terrestrial vertebrate that has ever lived), and the Venus of Willendorf (discovered at a paleolithic site near Willendorf, a village in Lower Austria ). Next time.

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They were having a book sale, and I found a few slim volumes of nature/science books for kids: one about insects, one about coral, one about Mars, and my favorite, on the theme Harmonie in der Natur. They are just gorgeous objects, published in the 1920s and with fantastic illustrations and endplates featuring shooting stars.

The museum opened in 1889 at the same time as the Kunsthistorisches (Art History) Museum, which has an identical exterior. They face each other across Maria-Theresien-Platz. In theKunsthistorisches Museum we saw the delightful and oogy paintings of Guiseppe Arcimboldo. I have long loved Water with its angst-ridden shark mouth and crabs and pearls. We found a winky postcard of this that turns to Fire when wiggled back and forth. Score!

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Independently (in a salon-style plethora of oil and canvas) we were both drawn to a lovely and mysterious Italian Renaissance portrait of an unknown man by Lorenzo Lotto called Man with a Golden Animal Paw. The imploring eyes! The tiny proffered paw! (I wish I could show you, but I can find the image nowhere…)

Our last dinner in Vienna had to be schnitzel, and so it was. and delish!

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this table later filled with eighteen French lesbians who so frustrated the waitress she exclaimed “you must know what you ordered!”, tossed her long blond ponytail, and stormed into the kitchen. I just liked the stare-off between Hitchcock and the bunny in the window…

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On Easter Monday (the peeps here get a lot of leverage from their holidays) we drove home, stopping in charming, baroque Salzburg–birthplace of Mozart and home to Maria Von Trapp and her family until they fled the Nazis. They did in fact film The Sound of Music on location here.

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I found this picture on the internet–it was too snowy for a view, but the snow made the ride home very beautiful…

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I am still getting the hang of 120 kph drive-by photography…

The ride from Switzerland to Austria took about ten hours both ways. Ali drove (a hero) and I finished two books of first-hand accounts of madness and mental hospitals, research for my book. Carnies, Kansas, Burma, anything is more fun than the insanity stuff. I end up delving into my own experiences of depression and mania and I really have to pace myself.

When I keep distance I can see with unending gratitude just how far from that experience I have come, by my own work and will (not to imply anything about anyone else’s struggles!), and the help of a therapist who helped me sort through my thoughts and feelings and come to my own sort of creed, which most simply could be stated:

1. Truth to Self above all–this includes not lying to lend comfort to others or yourself.
2. Commitment to Now–this precludes much fussing of what if and if only. Sometimes it is harder than it sounds!
3. Humor is always an option. (she said earnestly!)

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I leave you with a few ponder bon-bons compliments of (co-conspirator) Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. (2.)

When one is frightened of the truth then it is never the whole truth that one has an inkling of. (1.)

Never stay up on the barren heights of cleverness, but come down into the green valleys of silliness. (3.)

p/s and voila! silliness for you!
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