Pencil, watercolor, pastel, and oil pencil


I spent a good (if sort of obsessed) two hours last night…..going through old papers and letters to find this passage by Alice Thomas Ellis (who died, Im sorry to say, in 2005).  I remembered most of it, but not the necessary parts…..which Alice wrote with her customary mixture of directness, immediacy, and, at the same time, a certain obliqueness.  She was, all done and said (and in addition to being a markedly conservative Anglo-Catholic), a very-very funny woman.  I probably should also mention that she was Welsh. Her second oldest son died at age 16 in an accident; she wrote the most beautiful epitaph I’ve ever read. This was written after her son’s death.

“But enough of all this talk of death.  We all have to do time, and it is both unwise and ungrateful to yearn only for eternity.  The deryn y meriw hammers at all our windows, where we hear him or not, and what ever we make of his importunity.  The old man who laid our fences had a heart attack, and when he recovered he said “Melys y bywyd”, which means life is sweet.  I didn’t understand him at the time, and I still don’t…..

…I still cannot accept the moment for what it is.  I know it will pass. Self-consciousness is the price we pay for the hope of immortality, and it is a high price…..

,,,It is perhaps easier to be sedated, to be bored, for at each moment of joyful consciousness comes the knowledge that it will pass; and as time passes, you realize it will never come again.  It is more than that.  It is an awareness that some of this world is so beautiful that it cannot be described; and greedy and grasping as we are, we want not only to enjoy it, but to tell it—–so that it listens, and in listening becomes fixed—how unknowingly lovely it is.  We look for a response from that which is unresponsive—for it takes no account of us,  No wonder we dream of death, of a true consumption where longing ceases and the earth itself embraces us until we cannot be told apart, cannot be discerned, and have no more responsibility.  This, perhaps, is why we dream of Heaven; this, perhaps, is what is meant by hiraeth: a lifelong yearning for what is gone out of reach”

—Alice Thomas Ellis.  1990