14 Weeks With Dante: Reflections on Reading The Divine Comedy

Last December, I was interested to read an article about the posthumous publication of a new translation of Dante’s Paradise by Scottish author Alisdair Gray. This took me down a browsing wormhole which led to Nick Senger’s blog and his post about a chapter a day readalong in 2021, the first of which would be The Divine Comedy. It’s a sign, I thought!

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Life Lessons from Dante and Pink Ice Cream Vans

It’s a funny old life. Who would have imagined a connection between one of history’s most iconic and enduring works of literature and a modern novel about travelling the world in a converted bright pink ice cream van. And yet here we are.

On 1 January, I decided to join a ‘Divine Comedy Read-Along’. Hosted by Nick Senger, this is the first part of his 2021 chapter-a-day project. This was a rather random, impulse decision on my part. I had not previously been harbouring any particular desires to read Dante in 2021. However, as 2020 drew to a close, I was looking for ways to kickstart my reading mojo that had sadly deserted me for most of last year. Committing to reading something small each day, in the form of a single Canto, seemed like a positive contribution in the right direction. And so, why not make a daily date with Dante?

I sat down this morning to write this post about how I have found this project so far. Of course, there was the inevitable noodling about on the internet first (I’ll just check in on Facebook, then see what is happening on Twitter, and THEN I’ll start…..). For once, this proved to be justifiable time-wasting because it led me down a rabbit hole of the most wonderful kind. I stumbled on Cat Walker’s YouTube video, Lockdown Life Lessons, in which she briefly shares with us and her recently deceased father some thoughts from her novel The Scoop. Making the most of a chair placed by a kind soul at the end of a pier, she sits by a gently lapping sea and reads a short extract to us and her Dad. It is utterly beautiful in every way.

And what has this got to do with Dante? Cat’s life lessons happen to encapsulate perfectly my thoughts so far on reading The Divine Comedy:

  • life doesn’t always turn out the way you expect it or necessarily want it to;
  • you cannot know all the answers and the more answers you find, the more questions you’ll want to ask;
  • learning is a goal in itself, a reward in itself and a profound frustration;
  • and all of this is normal.

For now, I am just about keeping up with the ‘story’ of The Divine Comedy, with the help of endnotes, internet cribs and my fellow read-alongers (thanks guys!). This is clearly a work to which one could devote a life time of study. But in this moment I am enjoying being in the daily presence of greatness, immersed in writing that seems as relevant now as it did in the fourteenth century, even if it means enduring a constant reminder of how much I do not know. It’s good for the soul (I’m sure Dante would approve!), as is Cat’s writing too. I have downloaded a copy of The Scoop and look forward to reading it – another helpful step in the mojo-recovery direction.

Meanwhile, perhaps the best overall lesson for today is the importance of noticing, so that we may gather to ourselves all those tiny moments of joy and serendipity which bring such unexpected wonder. 🙂

Life goes headlong… Now pause, now possession is required, and the power to swell the moment from the resources of our own heart until it supersedes sun & moon & solar system in its expanding immensity.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Fare Well and Happy New Year

In these most difficult of times, let us look to the silver linings behind the clouds. The community spirit, the care, the love, the creativity, the will to do things differently and better.

Here’s a beautiful and moving example: a new poem written by Scots Makar Jackie Kay, showcased through twinkling drones dancing over Edinburgh skies. Jackie writes about the way that the air carries airs, music, the virus, chants and hymns.  Despite the trauma of the months gone by, we can and must still hope. Hope for the future, hope for a new year and hope for each other. You can watch parts one, two and three on YouTube, or via the EdinburghsHogmanay.com website.

Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year, and much peace, health and love in 2021. 💙

A Crafty Update

This morning, I felt the itch to get back to this blog after a few largely fallow months. Perhaps it was the joy of seeing some snow…..

Perhaps it is the growing sense of renewal that accompanies this time of year. But the reason doesn’t matter. It’s good to be typing this post, like reconnecting with an old friend*.

As the year draws to a close, I thought it would be nice to summarise where I am with my knitting and crochet activity. My last post on this subject celebrated the completion of my Fruit Garden blanket, and what a lovely project that was.

Since then, I have participated in and even completed another crochet-along (CAL) project, the Scheepjes CAL 2020 d’Histoire Naturelle, designed by the brilliant Christina (A Spoonful of Yarn). I plumped for the #Conchology colour-way using Scheepjes Stone Washed and River Washed yarn. These were new-to-me yarns, and not my usual type of colours. So it was a real adventure of the best kind. The design was inspired by elements of Anthony Doerr’s incredible novel All The Light We Cannot See, which is partly based in the National Natural History Museum of Paris, hence all the botanical, mineral and animal motifs.

It is remarkable how easy it is to make a very large project in a relatively short space of time (about 12 weeks) when one is following along with a pattern release timetable. I really enjoyed this CAL and was delighted with the result. It has gone to a good home at my sister’s house. I am pleased to report that she loves it!

 

I now have four main projects on the go. First, a brioche scarf which showcases some gorgeous yarn from RipplesCrafts. The pattern is Nancy Marchant’s Willow. I wasn’t sure about it at first because the ‘bulges’ seemed a bit concerning. But I am now pretty sure they will block flat, or at least will not be so pronounced and will give added interest to the finished item.

 

The second project is Stephen West’s Winter Lights Shawl published this week as part of his #Hiberknitalong2020. I am already loving how this is working up. The yarn is Scheepjes Our Tribe which is beautifully soft. I have included photos of both sides for Kelly and others who are interested in these things.

 

Thirdly, I am making a crochet cushion cover for my lovely Mum using a Scheepjes Whirl and the centre of the Sophie’s Universe pattern. This is side one and you can see that side two will start with that gorgeous orange in the centre, morphing to the charcoal grey. Yum!

 

 Finally, another blanket for my sister – this time it is the Marguerite pattern using Stylecraft Special DK yarn and a colour palette to match Rachel’s living room. I think this is going to be a corker!

So plenty to keep me out of mischief haha! Knitting and crochet continue to be the two activities that I cannot do without. I am grateful to have these absorbing and stimulating hobbies in my life. 😀

*good to be back posting, yes, but I have been reminded that the new WP editor is a nightmare. Encouraging words from fellow bloggers on this point would be welcome! X