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Inscape, Implacable, and Ironing

August 10, 2007

Inscape is a marvelous word, uniting as it does Victorian poetry and late medieval neo-Platonism, two things I love.  Inscape is Gerard Manley Hopkins’ word for a unique quality of particularity which dwells in every created object.  Every thing–person, blade of grass, cupcake–has its own inscape, which expresses some element of the Transcendant which could not be expressed by any other thing.  Hopkins’ poetry attempts to recreate the inscape of particular places, moments, and experiences.  His extraordinary use of meter, language and imagery leads through particularity to the Universal and Transcendant.  Inscape is a free translation of a term from the work of Duns Scotus, haeccitas, which is often rendered “this-ness.”  Scotus, the subtle doctor, is not much admired these days, alas.  The Neo-Platonists generally are underappreciated, I think.  Maybe a  Ladder of Love remix would jump-start a new Academy?

Implacable.  I am, I freely own, pretty much implacable.  I can stay angry for decades, effortlessly.  I hold grudges.  I find it very hard to forgive.  And like Mr. Darcy, I’m not entirely without pride in this fault, shameful as that is.  Luckily for me, Joan is as open-hearted as Elizabeth Bennett, so the balance is maintained.

Ironing is one of my favorite ways to pass the time.  It’s so satisfying to reduce disorder to order, chaos to shapeliness, wrinkles to smoothness.  Ironing allows me to repeal the Second Law of Thermodynamics, however temporarily.  It smells good. 

In 1974, my mother filled seven trash bags with all the clothes in our house which required ironing, and gave them to Goodwill.  The iron went with them, and we wore only garments of the finest polyester.  Luckily, in 1974 that was pretty easy.  In the film When Night is Falling  there’s a great Cirque de Soleil-style act involving synchronized swinging of hot irons. 

Ironing the kids’ clothes, or doing a shirt for Joan, I feel certain that I’m grown up.  I used to have the same sensation when Little Sunshine and Tuxedo Boy were small enough to ride in the front seat of the grocery cart, and I would push them down the aisles, choosing cereal and salad, Q-Tips and sugar.  “Hey,” I would think.  “I’m a mom.  A mom grocery shopping.  What do you know about that?”

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