When I was reading German literature at university, I studied Heinrich von Kleist’s Das Erdbeben in Chile. The Earthquake in Chile. Although he lives in an age known as Romanticism, von Kleist the writer is preoccupied with repressive order and religious tyrannies, the uprisings in Haiti in 1803, the suffering of Catholic Latin America as an earthquake wreaks havoc in Chile, the unrealistic idealizing of powerless individuals, the failures of liberation impulses. Nothing suffices and his irony darkens, he finds the brutality of Enlightment society beyond hope. He is caught up in the significance of controlled and twitching marionette puppets, he reads Kant and despairs. In 1811, he gets to know Henriette Vogel, an actress dying of cancer who agrees to a suicide pact. They traveled together to an inn near Potsdam where Kleist shoots Vogel and then himself. Such a dark narrative! And yet I read Heinrich von Kleist as an antidote to glib and insufficient answers and promises.
Pisces flickering in watery glimpses all through February — and I have been ill in bed with bronchitis all week, listening to the body.
Now the pragmatism of the full moon in Virgo. The sun optimistic and ebullient in Jupiter. A harvest month here on the tip of Africa, bowls and baskets in my kitchen overflowing with peaches, nectarines, plums, apples, Hubbard squashes, plum tomatoes, brown onions. A time of abundance and awareness.
As it happens, I am stressed and a little off-balance. My housemate has a knee replacement operation coming up, her second. I am in limbo as regards my landlord’s plans for the property. Work is uncertain, unpromising. I’m not looking forward to the 2010 soccer World Cup extravaganza in South Africa because I think too much money has been spent on stadiums and governmental showpieces rather than on schools or hospitals or building a safer community. And that is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to living in the global nightmare that is Civilization (as viewed from the plague-stricken, neo-globalized, impoverished, drug-cartel-targeted, monocropped-out Third World) as it shudders into chaos. Not an easy time.
But autumn is slowly approaching, the pin oak is changing colour from green to hurdy-gurdy reds and coppers and burgundy, the heavy purple Turkish figs are splitting open with sweetness and crowding ants, my basil is racing into flower, there are ibises crying hoarsely from camphor trees. When I go out at night in that stark moonshine of Virgo’s revealing lamplight, I can stand on the springy spider-webbed grass and sink roots down into the warm earth, become an oyster woman in the moonlight, damp and luscious, the tides sucking at and ebbing through my body. Virgo’s moon penetrates, urges, lays it all out there to be seen by those who care to look. Gaze on life and death, and all that comes before and after.
There is purpose and there is purposelessness and who knows which may fit best? In the spring of 1799, the 21-year-old Heinrich von Kleist wrote a letter to his half-sister Ulrike in which he talks about how he found it “incomprehensible how a human being can live without a plan for his life“. But the plan was perhaps too limiting when it appeared.