There have been many messages expressing regret that there will be no more Astronomical Calendars after the one for 2016. These messages have been generous, and moving – one or two were angry! – and I’ve replied to them. Today came one from Michael Bristol. (I’m not sure where he lives.)
His regret takes the form of offering, as “a ‘filler’ for an imaginary Astronomical Calendar 2017,” a passage from The Tale of Genji. This Japanese classic, written by the Lady Murasaki about 1005 AD, is sometimes called the world’s first novel. Michael’s passage is from the first chapter, called Kiritsubo. “The Paulownia Pavilion.”
Myobu had no sooner arrived and gone in through the gate than desolation touched her. The mother had kept the place up, despite being a widow, and she had lived nicely enough out of fond concern for her only daughter, but alas, now that grief had laid her low, the weeds grew tall and looked cruelly blown about by the winds, until only moonlight slipped smoothly through their tangles.
Michael communicated with me twice before, about the cover picture story for Astronomical Calendar 2012 (which he was kind enough to call a “near perfect” piece of writing), and about my essay on Madagascar. Yet Michael’s own knowledge of these places is deeper than mine. Forty years ago, he went all the way up the Nile on river boats at least from Aswan via Khartoum to Juba in Sudan; and across by cement freighter from Kenya to Madagascar, where he befriended the owners of, and stayed at, a chocolate farm and a crocodile farm, and for three months walked the island “village by village”.