The wind was blowing eastward in the field, and the sun was stopping in the sky amid the moving herd of clouds. The susurrus of the trees was softly caressing her ears harassed by the cacophony of reality in which she could not help but endure under the pretext of fulfilling her existential duties to earn her sustenance. A nature’s medicinal touch of her malady of heart seemed to work for the moment, and she felt cared and loved in the arms of Mother Nature whom she likened to Mother Mary. Judy was sitting like a resting Artemis, the goddess of hunting, with her loyal canine company Nena on the crest alongside San Marcello Path in the Santa Maria Mountains. Judy and Nena were different species united in the polyphony of nature’s orchestral music and the panoply of the scenes that nature’s cinema was presenting before their very big brown beautiful eyes that seemed to look into the depths of souls and to find wonders in them no matter how diminutive they might be. It’s the moment of retreat from the world that constantly threatened Judy’s faith in humanity against the strife of existential life. Every Sunday was the time to bathe herself in the Spring of Nature, and she loved every minute of it.
A noonday haze was springing over the hill with iridescent beams of sunshine, which were a feast to the eye. Nena was yawning as a gossamer of the eastward wind becoming a sweet breeze was pleasingly teasing a tip of its nose. Smiling at the playful scene, Judy was thinking about the legend of restless ghosts of nineteenth century outlaws still roaming in the deep region of the mountain, not knowing they were dead in search of a great escape from a forest maze to their El Dorado. Reader, you may think it’s only a fiction imbued with Hollywood-generated machismo of lawless gunslingers in the Wild West, but to Judy the legend became factoid that couldn’t be abruptly dismissed as a preposterous ballyhoo fit for a campfire story to scare kids and gullible puerile adults. Call it superstitious or benighted, but then do people not believe in the power of the greatest man above even though they have not seen him? The difference between religion and belief is a matter of hierarchy, a structural form of rite and indoctrination. Anything else is quintessentially same as we human beings are spiritual by nature. Thus, even the wickedest, the vilest, the cruelest convict has the tainted and perverted soul warped in a wrong modus vivendi that it chose by the will or by the play of Goddess Fortuna. In that regard, the souls of the escaped convicts, drifting gunslingers, highwaymen, or luckless lost travelers might still be roaming the paths of the mountain day and night, doing their penance on earth without awareness of it, till a sympathetic living soul hears their sorrows and angers to purge them out to escape to the beyond.
As Judy was wending her way to the mountain, the images of the wild west ghosts sprang in her vista as though to be screened in a phantasmagorical display of the swashbuckling bravado of their once proud prime days. What’s more, she wanted to validate her belief in life after death by witnessing the souls of the dead, which would quell her vexing doubts on the existence of God and ultimately, the meaning of life. Nena also seemed to give a nod to Judy’s determination to figure it all out by walking beside her into the mountain. The leaves of the trees were rustling in the wind, and the eagles were flying high above as if they were welcoming the curious duo. The rustling sound now became phantasmal susurrus of trees, reciting “Curiouser, curiouser!”
So there he was. You could always find him there at the same time, at the same place regardless of a change of four seasons, like it was his duty to do. Looking over the fence smartly seated on a rock on one balmy afternoon, Toto was calm and steady. His big brown eyes full of yearnings and visions glanced at the dancing leaves on the quince tree outside the fence where there were only a few fruits left because Grandma, being of generous and affable nature, had given the well ripe ones to the neighbors. However, such intermittently displayed quinces surrounded by the abundant leaves appealed to Toto’s inquisitive eyes: the way the leaves swayed to the tune of the breeze was a part of the nature’s orchestra that stimulated all of his senses, which ultimately led him to the outburst of his exhilaration in long howling like a wolf pup in the wild.
Toto was a Jindo mix, aged 9 weeks or so. Toto came to Joe’s home on a cold winter afternoon a year ago with Pa who brought him in his jacket. He was a white puppy looking healthy but a bit apprehensive about the new surrounding. But mind you that there was no sign of fear in his eyes but intelligence. Joe named him Toto after a legendary dog that returned to his owner, an old woman who had given the dog to her nephew in a city miles away from her home in Jindo. So he wanted to have a dog whose faithfulness and loyalty would be equivalent of those of the legendary namesake. Joe wanted to keep his new puppy till the end of the world because he had lost Lana, a Samoyed mix puppy of 9 weeks old, to distemper 2 years ago. This time, Joe thought, would be the last time to let such thing happen to him and the dog. It was his new bound duty, a duty that suddenly appeared sacred and fateful to his destiny. Boy as he was, Joe was resolute in his new pledge to the life and protection of Toto as his guardian. Looking at Toto who was napping beside him on the rock by the quince tree, Joe could hear the whisper of the breeze that blessed his guardianship and fellowship of the human and the canine. What a nice afternoon it was to both the boy and the dog.
“Joe, can you come here quickly?” It was Joe’s sister Judy. She was 16 years old, 2 years senior to him. Judy also loved Toto and dogs, although her favorite breeds were Labs, Border Collies, Shiba Inus, and Bichon Frises. She had been secretly entertained having a Bichon Frise until Pa brought Toto home. She had a soft spot for this particular breed since she had read about a homeless elderly man who sailed through the tribulations with his Bichon Frise dog named Willow; the image of the small, curly haired dog with large soulful eyes in the arms of the man still lingered in her mind. But it’s not that she did not their Toto. Toto was their another sibling, the youngest brother whom Ma had lost by miscarriage 6 years ago. Judy’s love of Toto was not to be confused with anthropomorphism because she loved Toto the way he was, the way Toto was the closest natural wonder. He was Judy and Joe’s guide to the natural world like Virgil to Dante in his journey to Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. Through Toto, Judy and Joe could see the wonder of Nature in which all creatures existed and made the human existence all the more conspicuous by appreciating the pristine beauty which were to be beheld in the eyes of the innocent.
A thing of beauty is a joy to them. Its loveliness increases. It never passes into nothingness. Oscar Wilde, who extolled physical beauty as a form of virtue manifested in a physical form, once flamboyantly remarked: “Crying is for plain women. Pretty women go shopping.” Although Seraphina Rabitte and Mathilda Beare demur at such uncharitable notion of meritocracy of women’s appearance, they love visiting beauty stores in a way that little children love going to candy stores (or toy stores to be more realistic these days). For the ladies like to keep themselves prim and proper in the belief that presentable appearance (not a physical symmetry per se) indicates how one takes cares of herself by realizing her creative, attitudinal and experiential values in everyday life.
The belief is grounded in Logotheraphy, one of the three Viennese School of Psychotherapy founded by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, a neurologist, thinker, psychiatrist, but above all, a remarkable human being who endured personal experiences of Promethean hardships and suffering in Nazi concentration camps and conquered them in triumph of will to meaning. Fashionable and knowledgeable Matilda and Seraphina are students of Logotheraphy, the theory that human nature is motivated by search for a life purpose that is unique to each individual. Unlike other schools of psychotherapy and many other subdivisions thereof, Logotheraphy encompasses a wide scope of the humanities and of course, neuroscience, making it a brilliant multidisciplinary school of thought. In fact, it is a paradigm of the consilience of the knowledge of the humanities and that of science. So, in the context of regarding Logotheraphy, the fashionable ladies’ attitudes toward appearance betokens their ways of preventing noogenic (existential) frustration by engaging themselves in activities to dispel a hint of depression or inertia from their minds, even if it means only going to shopping.
So, you see it isn’t a symptom of conspicuous consumption as a result of our hyper industrialized social environment that Matilda and Seraphina like pampering themselves with cosmetics. Besides, who can blame them for having none other than a woman’s reason? Didn’t Queen Elizabeth also proclaim herself to have a lion’s heart in a woman’s hide? Also, did the Queen not show fierce attention to fairness herself by putting the most fashionable make-up and dresses and hairstyles of her time? Well, these modern ladies are no less different them from their loyal member of sisterhood in the race of Humankind. In fact, Matilda and Seraphina have aristocratic bearings in appearance and manners due to their fine upbringing and sweetness of the mind by nature, so whenever they go, they give admirable impressions on people whom they encounter. They are the paragon of a virtuous woman as John Milton extolled in Paradise Lost: “Those graceful act, those thousand decencies that flow from all her actions and words.”
Author’s Note: Many thanks to the attendants at the Cosmetic Company Store in Camarillo Premium Outlets who kindly permitted me to take pictures in their store.
She is always waiting, and it seems like it is her forte. Like Clytie yearning for Apollo’s love, Iris pines for love as a sublimation of sensuality that is the union of Eros and Psyche. It is different from the religious sense of Agape love that is of spiritual element only. Iris knows it all, and she is a student of the Nietzschean school of thought believing love is the surrendering of herself to the other in consummation of desire so pristine and unadulterated of knowing and understanding of the flesh and the soul of her lover. But the tragedy is that she has read all about it, not experiencing it for real. She lives in the reality of her books and thoughts, and it is there she feels safe and comfy without a fear of rejection. So, her world of love dwells in her maiden meditation to fancy free, giving her imagination free rein to the extreme extent without the violent ends of such violent delights. In her mind’s garden, Iris lets her wild horse run her chariot without the goad because otherwise it would rebel against her order of severely restricted movements, which is unnatural to the beast, and drive her into a high cliff and then push her into fathomless Sea of Shadows.
She seems to speak an infinite deal of nothing, but the feeling of existential Cul-del-sac Iris is having weighs as heavy as the celestial heavens that titan Atlas was holding for eternity. People said, “Beauty is only a skin-deep,” but that’s just a lame, piteous excuse and empty consolation for being unattractive, unwanted, unloved. For that matter, at least Oscar Wilde was honest in saying that a woman’s beauty was a form of genius that needed no explanation because it’s like sunlight. Love looked not with the eyes, but with the mind, so said Shakespeare, but it does not seem so to her.
It is the attractiveness that makes people interested in the soul of the beheld. That’s why Iris wants to go to Aphrodite’s Beach somewhere in Cyprus, where it is believed that goddess of love Aphrodite used to bathe. For it’s said that a woman in want of fairness will be transformed into a beauty if she swims naked alone at the beach with no spectators around. Her fierce desire of fairness attests that all women should be told they are pretty and beautiful, even if they aren’t; they have no other reason than being women. Like a madwoman who has such a seething brain that sees beauty as a paradigm of goodness, Iris dwells on the beauty of life, watching the stars and seeing herself running with them in beauty.