Beneath the Surface of Life

Posted on March 23, 2021


Here we are, completing the first full year of Covid. LBL won’t get into the epic fallout of this past year. She will simply take it down to a very personal, self-focused level: It’s becoming more and more difficult to write this blog when the following two things have occurred.

  1. Trump is (sort of) gone, except for the cadre of Little Trumpets who continue to bleat the wisdom of their maker at all of the most inopportune moments. Intellectually, LBL understands that the billions of varieties of life forms that exist today were, at the dawn of time, one life form. She is more able to understand that when she compares herself to a tree, rather than attempting to process that these beings belong in the same category of “human” that she does.

2. LBL’s ability to travel has been seriously curtailed, and with it, the never-ending supply of personal mishaps that she is so fond of writing about

For this reason, today’s post will be about the blogs/missives of two others who she adores, people who have a never-ending supply of material that is worthy of attention:

Heather Cox Richardson is an American historian and professor of history at Boston College. She writes a daily newsletter in which she highlights one current event per day, worthy of insight and analysis. She is an outstanding writer. Her special gift is that she is able to present the background and the import of each day’s event in a way that fully resonates. Letters From An American is her daily gift to readers.

Most intelligent people are capable to following the news and having opinions. Some of those opinions are actually enlightening. Richardson’s opinions draw not only from her keen intelligence and ability to communicate, but also from the deep historical perspective she brings to each event or topic that even the most ardent follower of the news would be incapable of. As soon as Richardson’s daily email pops up on LBL’s screen, LBL smiles. She knows she will be educated, enlightened, and inspired to know more.

Messy Nessy is a rare find. For LBL, it’s like a walk on the beach in which she stoops down to inspect something shiny that catches her eye. What she picks up might be a long-discarded token from the 1893 Chicago Worlds Fair or an art Deco hair comb that was lost in 1935. LBL then stands rooted to that spot, gazing out at the ocean, suddenly aware that countless other lives have stood at this exact same spot or that the ocean has brought their lives to the exact same spot in which LBL stands at that moment.

Nessy is Vanessa Grall, a youngish devotee of all things too obscure to be fodder for the popular media. Originally writing from Paris, Grall is now, Thanks to the NYT, a resident of New York. The newsletter, though, continues to be absolutely Euro-centric, specifically Parisian. Each newsletter is filled with fascinating topics that will completely mesmerize LBL for as long as she sits in front of her screen. Did you know that men used to wear corsets? That there have been many black princesses? That abandoned French chateaus have turned up major historical finds? That you can buy a mock village in France?

This is not the stuff of politics or of current events, although one can get an invaluable background to both from some of the articles. This is about getting under the veneer of life. We too often live in that veneer, mostly because it takes too much energy to stray beyond. We say things like “Oh, I just love (name any random country)!” By that, we mean the scenery, the food, the trinkets to buy. The veneer. We go home after visiting and in many ways, have no idea where we just were. Nessy introduces us to the unseen of each location, each topic. She writes about what history books don’t, what tourists never see, what is often too obscure for people to notice. There is a richness to this world and its history that often goes unseen. Messy is the archeologist of such richness.

That’s it for today. In the immortal words of Maui, “You’re welcome.”

Posted in: history, life, politics