(Becoming) kindred spirits

Thomas Cole, Kaaterskill Falls, 1826 (Wadsworth Atheneum)

As a child I was shortsighted but could always shoot a sparrow on the wing. I could not see it but still I shot it dead. On the first occasion the Havre was becalmed we came upon a floating barrel, and this soon became a shooting target. Of course I won. And who would know me to be a citizen of Myopia whose lands are furred like watercolor washes, whose king is a smudgy as a dancing moth. I had followed the actress from les Lilas, but when she appeared about the Havre, why, I had never seen her in all my life.

But when she punched his chest and smacked his face I understood she must be my servant’s lover and therefore, by association, that creature with a glory of black hair, creamy white skin, that generous bosom I had admired so closely, so excessively, that I had followed the pair of them into the lanes.

Olivier, p 122

Again I sought refuge in his canvas — the blue-winged bird, the white-ringed eye, the beak the crunching locust. I felt bilious, and very very sad, to have arrived in this great new country with my heart and my pockets and my life so very empty.

“In any case,” I said, “we can discuss my work another time for it is late. Fate has given us the opportunity to spend many hours together. ”

And so, without even having the politeness to ask them how their unlikely marriage had come to pass, I bade them good night and slipped into bed beside Mathilde whose throaty contented murmur should have reminded me of all the sweet and sweaty comforts of our convivial conjugal life, but now, on my back, straight as a plank, staring into the inky ambiguous air above my head, I was cut and twisted by a considerable sadness in whose particular rubbed and layered charcoal I recognized the dye of jealousy. All around me in that cold and empty house art was being made such as had not been made before.

Parrot, p. 282

In the morning we went by coach to Kaaterskill Falls, a journey which gave Godefroy a new excuse to praise Thomas Cole, the same one who had bored me at the Godefroy table and whose Autumn on the Hudson contaminated the natural simplicity of the Godefroy home.

On the subject of the falls, I am told Mr. Cole has written volumes. I have only a steep climb, a scramble, the wild prospect of dense dark laurel pines slashed by brilliant birch and, through this screen, the stream — olive-green water, soft as velvet. There was a hawk or eagle circling at one stage. The sky was blue, the rising breeze crisp for the time of year. We crossed a small wooden bridge on which was nailed a rusty kind of money box in which Godefroy deposited some coins. In a moment I saw four wild streams descend from a glistening shelf. With what power and weight they leaped into the abyss. I heard Godefroy shout, saw his eyes wide with pleasure and astonishment.

Olivier, p. 353

Parrot and Olivier in America
, Peter Carey


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