Monday, August 13, 2012

UVA - The West Lawn - The Rotunda

   I wrote this 20 years ago. It's from from Why I Love Brunettes, an unpublished novel that is the exact opposite of 50 Shades of Grey -- not only is it reasonably well-written, but also -- it makes repulsive behavior seem repulsive in a way that alters the behavior.  I hope you love this bit about The Lawn at the University of Virginia.
   And my fondest hope is that you get to visit The Lawn  as often as I have done. I saw Queen Elizabeth there from about 10 feet away.  I saw the Dalai Lama there3.  I once catered a party for Edgar Shannon and his wife Eleanor at Carr's Hill, long ago.  Please go to the Messiah Sing at Old Cabell Hall as often as you can -- this year it will be on Tuesday, December 8,.2012.  And afterwards, walk up The Lawn for me.  In 1988, we found a miniature model of the Rotunda modeled in packed snow, with fresh snow just drifting over it one year.  My friend Patrick Tompkins and two other graduate students witnessed this.  No one at the C&O believed our tale.  It was before cell phone cameras or I'd have a picture. 

   Read this now?

    But you and I, mon capitaine, wild tchopitoulas that we are, we're going to stand here just outside the door of Number 8, The West Lawn, watching how the clean white dome of old Tom Jefferson's Rotunda gleams above the shadows deepening like smoke across the green cove of The Lawn. We’ll see the dome of the Rotunda change as dusk begins to purple into evening; we’ll watch how the catalog of column styles and types of portico changes with the shadows as the east side of the dome reflects the clear blue skies above the Grounds, and we’ll see the dome reflecting, orange gold and purple, the 'candescent sun’s red ball of glory settling behind the Blue Ridge Mountains at the western edge of Albemarle.

      The shadows and the columns amplify the peaceful stillness of what you and I – remembering the English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge – might call:
“A holy and enchanted place.”
      Or else, remembering a few lines of the poet Baudelaire, we might conclude that:
La, il n'y a qu'ordre et beauté
Luxe, calme et volupté ....
      Because no one who wanders in that place can ever quite believe its timeless promise of unchanging grace and beauty can be false.

      On the steamy hot days Doc liked best, the timeless promise of the columns and the dome – a cool, serene lucidity connected to the world and yet apart from it – inspires a belief in what, for lack of any better term, we may as well call:
Man's immortal soul.

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