The $1 Glass from Brimfield – Andersonville, Chicago – C.S. Lewis and the Longing for Joy

In his autobiography, Surprised by Joy, C.S. Lewis describes his first encounters with beauty and a desire for Joy, which he says can never fully be realized in this world, in this way:

The first is itself the memory of memory. As I stood beside a flowering currant bush on a summer day there suddenly arose in me without warning, as if from a depth not of years but of centuries, the memory of that earlier morning at the Old House when my brother had brought his toy garden into the nursery. It is difficult to find words strong enough for the sensation which came over me; Milton’s ‘enormous bliss’ of Eden…comes somewhere near it. It was a sensation, of course, of desire; but of desire for what? Not, certainly, for a biscuit tin filled with moss, nor even…for my own past—and before I knew what I desired, the desire itself was gone, the whole glimpse withdrawn, the world turned commonplace again, or only stirred by a longing for the longing which had just ceased. It had taken only a moment of time; and in a certain sense everything else that had ever happened to me was insignificant in comparison.

The pang of Joy when I first saw this glass was a little like this. Looking at the bare trees on one side with the trees on the far side appearing blurry in the background gives me delight. Or perhaps, since this is an autumnal scene, it is more like Lewis’ second experience of the intense longing for Joy.

The second glimpse came through Squirrel Nutkin; through it only, though I loved all the Beatrix Potter books. But the rest of them were merely entertaining; it administered the shock, it was a trouble. It troubled me with what I can only describe as the idea of Autumn. It sounds fantastic to say that one can be enamoured of a season, but that is something like what happened; and, as before, the experience was one of intense desire. And one went back to the book, not to gratify the desire (that was impossible—how can one posses Autumn?) but to reawake it. And in this experience also there was the same surprise and the same sense of incalculable importance. It was something quite different from ordinary life and even from ordinary pleasure; something, as they would say now, ‘in another dimension.’

Though it might be Lewis’ third glimpse of Joy with which I resonate with the most, even though I was born in the hot latitudes of the Punjab (albeit to a Teutonic mother). My brother and I are very fond of quoting to one another, in faux English accents, on a winter’s day with a dramatic grey sky, “pure Northerness engulfed me.”

The third glimpse came through poetry. I had become fond of Longfellow’s Saga of King Olaf: fond of it in a casual shallow way for its story and its vigorous rhythms. But then, and quite different from such pleasures, and like a voice from far more different regions, there came a moment when I idly turned the pages of the book and found the unrhymed translation of Tegnner’s Drapa and read:

I heard a voice that cried
Balder the beautiful
Is dead, is dead—

I knew nothing about Balder; but instantly I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky, I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious,severe, pale, and remote) and then, as in the other examples, found myself at the very same moment already falling out of that desire and wishing I were back in it.”

Andersonville, Chicago – White Attic – Brimfield- Brownstone Antiques – Ann Sather – Icosium Kafe

There is no doubt I like beautiful things. I also like to be thrifty and buy things used and inexpensively, if at all possible. Occasionally, however, I come across beautiful things that are crafted so well that purchasing them seems like a logical and good thing to do, no matter the price. A large percentage of the items in White Attic fall into this category. Moreover, they also sell beautifully refurbished vintage furniture, which meets my “used” criteria, but by no means my “inexpensive” one.

To have some fun, check out White Attic’s online lamp bar where you can construct some beautiful virtual lamps. Also, they carry Voluspa Candles, which, if I had a significant other, I think I might have been rather tempted to plunk down the $20-30 per candle, or whatever it was they were asking. They had one which smelled exactly like flowering jasmine or “Raat-ki-rani” (Queen of the Night), as we called it in Pakistan.

Finally, they also feautured huge prints by Chicago artist Ben Holiday, several of which were really stunning, and it was lucky that we were traveling in a car and not a van!

This image of lamps was taken from outside, and, so, I was also able to catch the reflection of the street lamp.

Oh, and if you are in Andersonville, make sure to check out the even cooler Brimfield next door, which specializes in items from estate sales (like the dad in While You Were Sleeping did), and where I actually bought something! Catty-corner from these stores is Brownstone Antiques, which is a bit of crowded jumble but great fun to browse through. And if you are really, really hungry be sure to catch a huge Swedish breakfast (with monster cinnamon rolls) at Ann Sather. Then walk around a bit and come back for Algerian crepes at Icosium Kafe ( Yup, that is what my friends and I do when in Chicago: eat and walk and shop! Sleep. Repeat.

Cobu from New York – At the Festival of Nations – Tower Grove Park, St. Louis

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Having missed their main show yesterday, I am rather remiss that I did not go today either and catch what I am sure would have been a lively show from Cobu from New York at the Festival of Nations. Their enthusiasm in even the little side-show in which they were teaching drumming on Saturday was infectious and enjoyable to watch (though, it should be noted, that it did not hurt that the drummers were rather stunning). Here is Youtube video of them in action earlier this year in New Jersey.