HI THERE! I'M BRIANNE TURCZYNSKI, FREELANCE WRITER, HISTORICAL RESEARCHER, & PERPETUAL SEEKER OF THE HUMAN CONDITION. WELCOME TO MY SPACE WHERE I SHARE THE BOOKS I'M READING, MY SPIRITUAL FINDINGS, FLOWERS IN MY GARDEN, AND LOST STORIES. ALL ARE WELCOME HERE.
It was just a couple days before the Buffalo shooting I was debating to read Soul on Ice or the essays of Audre Lorde. I had both copies on my shelf and I went for this one. I would encourage everyone to read more work by black authors. This one in particular has been enlightening. The Buffalo shooting is terrible. If anyone of us is dying because of ignorance and hatred then we are all dying. Sometimes, when I’m faced with it, I’m overwhelmed by our broken world.
Eldridge Cleaver was one of the early leaders of the Black Panthers and was editor of their newsletter. He was convicted of several crimes which resulted in his imprisonment in Folsom Prison—same prison in which Johnny Cash cut a live album in 1968, two years after Cleaver would be released. It was in this year (1968) that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. Cleaver was a follower of Malcolm X and was devastated by his assassination in 1965. It could be argued that this event really influenced his activism going forward, his involvement with the Black Panther Party, and his running for president via the Peace and Freedom Party ticket.
“From my prison cell, I have watched America slowly coming awake. It is not fully awake yet, but there is soul in the air and everywhere I see beauty. I have watched the sit-ins, the freedom rides the Mississippi Blood Summers, demonstrations all over the country, the F.S.M. movement, the teach-ins, and the mounting protest over Lyndon Strangelove’s foreign policy —all of this, the thousands of little details, show me it is time to straighten up and fly right. That is why I decided to concentrate on my writings and efforts in this area. We are a very sick country —I, perhaps, am sicker than most. But I accept that. I told you in the beginning that I am extremist by nature —so it is only right that I should be extremely sick. I was very familiar with the Eldridge who came to prison, but that Eldridge no longer exists. And the one I am now is in some ways a stranger to me.”
I have begun to obsess over Polish Cinema. Why this obsession? I feel this intense yearning to watch every film by Andrzej Wajda. The way he portrays women is incredible. They are portrayed like Our Lady Mary– the Saviors and the symbols of truth, innocence and honesty and usually saving the butts of men, or at least trying. The men instead are stubborn and their allegiance to their country always seems to get the better of them. The women are the ones who enable life to continue even in the most wretched of circumstances. Wajda’s films are highly politicized and for good reason. Wadja began filming just five years after World War II, a time of intense turmoil in Poland especially. A country was tossed back and forth like a ragdoll between both Germany and what was then the Soviet Union. Before 1989 Wajda’s films had to be approved by the censorship authorities in Communist Poland. So despite his discontent with Socialism he had to mind himself so his films could be approved. And his films were important, not only did they expose the evils of socialism, but I’m sure they provided ammunition, albeit small, for events such as the Gdańsk shipyard strike. At least in films like Man of Marble–which was hugely successful in Poland with lines outside the cinemas–audiences related to the film because it highlighted the manipulation and the trickery of the Socialist Worker’s Party. Although the film was looked at as potentially harmful to the government, it wasn’t banned.
In Man of Marble, basically a film within a film, the character filmmaker, Agneiszka, an abrasive young student who smokes constantly while ordering around her male film crew. She is determined to finish her film, a documentary about a former Worker’s Party leader who rose to fame only with the assistance and manipulation of the government, unbeknownst to him. He was used like a puppet and they ruined his life; his life meant nothing to the success of the socialist leaders, which was the story of many in those days. Wadja displayed this to audiences to silently expose this truth. Poles knew about these injustices but weren’t allowed to talk about them. But here it was, the truth displayed for them on the big screen and their voices finally felt heard, which is why it was said that 1 in 3 people in Poland saw this film and celebrated it.
Dressed in blue and white, Agneiszka resembles the Blessed Mother. And the film she wishes to make will resurrect the corruption and manipulation by the government in Communist Poland and possibly remind people of the continuation of it. The man financing the film gets scared to release the film and takes away Agneiszka’s equipment and orders that production end. “Why are they scared?” Her father asks her after the film gets terminated, “because they think it is dangerous,” she says. Her father replies by saying, “It is honest.”
Man of Marble (1976)
In Ashes and Diamonds, starring Zbigniew Cybulski (basically the Polish James Dean) the woman with whom the main character falls in love takes him for a moment to a hopeful land, where only love exists and beauty and poetry, “Life is so beautiful sometimes,” he says to her. He has taken her on a walk through heavy rain. They end up in an old crypt reading a poem by Cyprian Norwid…So often, are you as a blazing torch with flames of burning rags falling about you flaming you know not if the flames bring freedom or death. Consuming all that you must cherish if ashes only will be left and want Chaos and tempest or will the ashes hold the glory of a starlike diamond. The morning start of everlasting triumph.”
All this while he wrestles with the idea of killing a party leader and falling back (which is what he was scheduled to do later that night) into the violence of the times or walking away from all of that to be with this woman with whom he has fallen in love.
In Wajda’s film Kanal, he dipicts the Warsaw Uprising and the Home Army soldier’s escape through the sewers while the city of Warsaw is being destroyed by the German army. The soldiers leading the rebellion escape at night into the sewers. “Shouldn’t we be afraid the Germans will come down here?” One soldier asks, the woman replies, “No. The Germans would never come down here.” Insinuating the Germans thought they were too good for such a place, too clean, & too perfect.
Again Wajda highlights the courage of women. In this film, the woman knows the way through the sewers. She is leading all of the men and they are depending on her. She knows the way. But one by one the men get lost, not willing to stay behind her, because she is going slow, encumbered by her injured lover whom she is carrying. At the end of the film, the woman’s lover is dying and too weak to climb up the shaft that will save both of them. She decides to find a better route for them, but they come face to face with a opening with bars over it. She can see the other side of the river from the opening. Delirious from fever, her lover doesn’t see the closed opening but only light, so she tells them they are safe and they will sit by the light a moment to rest, but she knows he is dying. She gave him the last bit of hope he needed to make his transition to death in peace.
All of these films were more like autobiographical accounts to Wajda and to the actors themselves; all of them experienced the hardships of Socialism, especially in Wajda’s earlier films. In one of his most recent films, Katyn, which depicts of the Katyn Genocide of 1940, a massacre of 22,000 Polish officers at the beginning of WWII. The Soviets blamed it on the Germans and the Germans blamed it on the Soviets, and no one knew what really happened to the officers until after the war. Mothers desperately looked for their sons, wives looked for their husbands, but to no avail until the truth came out years later. Like most of Wajda’s films, Katyn depicted most of this event as seen and experienced through the women. In an interview he mentions that the women are the ones that keep history going, that keep records and letters and without them we would have no memory of our past. The film was something Wadja had always dreamed of producing and directing but couldn’t because of the censor. So when all that ended in 1989, he began to think more about directing Katyn. His own father was one of the Polish officers killed in the Katyn forest and the lead actress’s (Maja Ostaszewska) grandfather was also a victim. So the actors themselves were very close to the story, as with most of Wajda’s political films, which is why they are so powerful.
I don’t think I would be so obsessed with these films if the casting wasn’t so good. Days after watching his films the characters still sit with me and think about the small almost imperceptible moments and shots. Like the moment in Man of Marble when Agnieszka is interviewing the former wife of the main character for her documentary and the wife begins to cry in the interview, so Agnieszka closes the window so the interview can no longer be recorded. Here, although she has a tough outer shell, displays her humanity, mercy, and generosity toward this other woman, and it shows that much of the pain of that era was felt behind closed doors and lived on years later. In this scene, Agnieszka seeks the truth, but not at the expense of another’s pain. This is admirable and very subtly displayed in the film.
These are the small details I think about days later. And I think about the characters days afterward too. They stick with me and their stories leave me with a gut wrenching heartache when the film is through.
These are my own contemplative thoughts. You might disagree and that’s OK!
“…Go and count the Israelites from Beersheba to Dan. Then report back to me so I may know how many there are.” —1 Chronicles 21:2
Most of the first part of Chronicles is a genealogical list, which I skipped in my reading. But then the book goes on to speak of David’s
rule as king. As king, David did the best he could, but like all humans he was not perfect. He’s written some of the most beautiful psalms (poems & songs) deticated to God,
because he truly felt he and God were in it together, he truly felt God’s presence in his life and it overwhelmed and inspired him. So the fact that he asks for his troops to be counted so he can measure his army’s strength is very unlike him. In this action he separates himself from God and is relying only on numbers, & on his own strength and pride. The simple definition of ‘sin’ is an act which separates us from God. So David was wrong to count the strength of his men, when he knew (and it had been proven to him many times) that God had his back, that God was with him. By this he pushed God away, thus separating himself from God, thus committing a ‘sin’. But don’t worry, our ‘sins’ are not counted by God. I think this shows that fact. That neither we should count against God, nor should we think God is counting against us. We simply try to keep our faith, and pray God will help us keep our faith in Him. We must hold fast to the sleeve of God’s robe or to God’s hand like a child who does not want to be lost in a world crowded with trivialities. In David’s case he said he was sorry to God and went on his merry way, hand in hand with Him (or if you like, Her) after this, and left with us his beautiful and inspiring dedications to his One & Only True Love.
A Man Without a Country by Edward Everett Hale is a story about a man accused of treason as accomplice to Aaron Burr. In the courtroom he announces that he wishes to never hear of the United States again. The judge grants him his wish, and he is sentenced to spend the rest of his life at sea. He creates for himself a cozy little room where he paints (I think) and reads, but no one is to mention any news from the United States. On his death bed he asks a young man to recount for him events in U. S. from 1807 on. This character enchanted me and stayed with me for years so that I based the protagonist from my most recent novella on him. I would encourage you to read it. It would only take a day or so. It is available online through free google books.
This story first appeared in an 1863 issue of The Atlantic and was later printed in books. This copy is from 1920. I was drawn to its beautiful patriotic design. It’s considered a children’s military book but I remember liking it very much. .
“The more one gardens, the more one learns; and the more one learns, the more one realizes how little one knows. I suppose the whole of life is like that: the endless complications, the endless difficulties, the endless fight against one thing or another, whether it be green-fly on the roses or the complexity of human relationships.”
A Joy of Gardening; 1958
Back in 2017 for about a year I wrote a garden blog based on the garden writings of Vita Sackville-West. She owned Sissinghurst Castle and was a lover and friend of Virginia Woolf. I loved writing and photographing my garden, and it got me through some tough times. Something about the garden is very healing. This particular post of mine, however, was entitled “What Books Can Do”, which talks of my journey to the Chattanooga Battlefield. I thought it might interest some of you. Link:http://vintagehousebooks.com/2017/03/24/what-books-can-do/ At least you can browse through some of the photographs if you’re bored. I apologize if you encounter any of those nasty advertisements. 🤗
*I have no authority to teach you lessons from the Bible, I only hope you will find something useful. You might disagree with my interpretation and that’s OK!
“When you cross the Jordan in to Canaan, drive out all the inhabitants of the land before you. Destroy all their carved images and their cast idols, and demolish all their high places.” –Numbers 33:51
OK verses such as the above are what gives God a bad rap. It sounds violent and scary and seems to advertise war. But I will tell you that you must not look at the surface for the meaning in scripture, people that do often miss the truth and can interpret wrongly. Go deeper and this verse takes on a different shape entirely: Before your spirit can settle in peace with God and with yourself, drive out all things that are holding you back from a true and pure existence—all that you consider an ‘idol’ should be destroyed. For me, for a long time, my ‘idol’ getting traditionally published. I prayed and prayed for this to happen. But it wasn’t until I read this verse and saw my own folly in holding that goal on a pedestal of importance over many other things, and asking myself exactly WHY I wanted my books out there (was it for selfish reasons, or was my goal to help people?), that I was able to give up the idea and decide instead to be happy no matter what happened to all my books, poems, essays and dedicate my writing to the purpose of GOOD. Once I did this I found a publisher. Call that whatever you like, but I know where this gift came from. Have faith and hope that God will show you the way, but we must be patient and trust Him with all our hearts. That’s what I think anyway.
⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ Samuel Pepys was a scoundrel! The way he went about seducing every woman he saw makes me think he had some sort of undiagnosed sex addiction. One woman had to threaten to poke him with her pin in church if he touched her again! 😆 .
But it is a very good thing we have this diary, because this man, as arrogant as he was, had the mind to record ten years of really important British history. It is a wonderful little window into the English Restoration period by a middle to upper class parliament member. He records detailed accounts of the Black Plague, the London Fire, the trials of Oliver Cromwell, as well as the Dutch War. He describes heads on spikes and mundane things like his diet, the weather, the untidiness of his house, mites in his wigs, etc. Truly we are lucky to have such an honest account of a real life never to be lived again. .
Pictured is the modern library edition from 1961? Among an old account book from 1880’s, a vintage print of a man seducing two women, and a cat’s skull my kids dug up in our backyard. .
⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️A story about a communist prisoner in a Nazi concentration camp in the days leading up to World War II. Mostly it contains the protagonist’s rambling thoughts and efforts to not to go mad. Though I read it a couple years ago I remember enjoying it.
Pictured is the 1936 edition. The inscription indicates a brother giving this as a gift to his brother, or perhaps he’s a theologian, who seems to be going on a long journey. “Come back sober,” he writes.
Yes, I think we should all come back sober, like we did that day. We came back sober to our homes, to our radios, and television sets, but today as we do so, we come back with gratitude. .
Honour the gardener! that patient man
Who from his schooldays follows up his calling,
Starting so modestly, a little boy
Red-nosed, red-fingered, doing what he’s told,
Not knowing what he does or why he does it,
Having no concept of the larger plan.
But gradually, (if the love be there,
Irrational as any passion, strong,)
Enlarging vision slowly turns the key
And swings the door wide open on the long
Vistas of true significance.
-Vita Sackville-West The Garden; 1946
I love Vita’s poetry. It took me awhile to like poetry and even still sometimes it’s hard for me to understand. I think in order to love poetry one must know the author and the times in which they wrote. Vita loved her garden. Her compilation of poems The Garden cover all four seasons. However, there is one recurring theme which trickles in every now and then. It is that of the second World War. I’m sure she had written these poems in the last year of the war at least. When the poems were published in 1946 there was still a residue of it in England at this time. If one reads carefully it is there, quiet but ever-present…
“Yet shall the garden with the state of war
Aptly contrast, a miniature endeavour
To hold the graces and the courtesies
Against a horrid wilderness. The civil
Ever opposed the rude, as centuries
Slow progress labored forward, then the check,
Then the slow uphill climb out of the pit,
Advance, relapse, advance, relapse, advance,
Regular as the measure of a dance;
So does the gardener in little way
Maintain the bastion of his opposition
And by symbol keep civility;
So does the brave man strive
To keep enjoyment in his breast alive
When all is dark and even in the heart
Of beauty feeds the pallid worm of death.”
Did you hear it? The themes of war?
She speaks of it often in her writings. She describes gardens abandoned or neglected in the years of war. She talks about rose bushes, relinquished for that time being, growing wild because they had not been pruned and were more beautiful than ever before.
But for the purpose of this post I’ll speak of a different type of war. Sometimes I feel like preparing for winter is akin to preparing for war. Protect those you love as the blistering winds are upon us. In other words, it is time to shut one’s garden down. The frost will come soon. So save those that may still bloom behind the comfort of glass on your windowsill, and clip those you can dry. A reminder of the summer sun will remain in the dehydrated petals for you to gaze upon all winter long.
I have clipped my sweet woodruff to dry for Christmas sachets. It hangs for now in my kitchen as you can see below. In my post Short and Sweet Woodruff I explained that if you clip sweet woodruff in autumn and dry it, it will make lovely sachets that smell like freshly cut grass all winter. Vita mentioned keeping one under her pillow to capture the scent while she slept.
Similarly, I dried the lavender and my astilbe spikes. I talked about astilbe in my post Astilbe & The Romanovs. I’ll use the astilbe in vases around my house to add interest to a space. The lavender however will be crushed with the sweet woodruff and stuffed in the Christmas sachets. I love homemade Christmas gifts.
The one cut flower that will dry amazingly is the zinnia. Since we’re getting very close to a heavy frost I will cut them all. It pains me to do so since some have yet to bloom. But the bud stage actually produces a very interesting dried specimen. Also hydrangea are very interesting too.
So go out and save a bit of your garden before it’s too late. You’ll applaud your own resourcefulness. When times get a little too dreary this winter always think about next year’s garden, entertain yourself with fantasies and possibilities. Think of the most outrageous thing you can do and make it happen!
“…But gradually, (if the love be there,
Irrational as any passion, strong,)
Enlarging vision slowly turns the key
And swings the door wide open on the long
Vistas of true significance.”
A good gardener is not afraid to experiment.
Above: My Experiment: Morning Glory in a vase. Do you think these buds will open?
Inspire us, in what ways have you experimented lately?