Monday, September 5, 2011

A Tale of Two Irenes

So how did Irene-the-downgraded-hurricane measure up against her saintly namesake? While Tropical Storm Irene may have done significant damage up and down the coast, and flooded towns far away from the coast, and washed away wooden bridges, will she be remembered in 2000 years?

In the year 3372 (2011 + 1361, the number of years after the martyrdom of St Sebastian that George de la Tour painted his St Irene) will a tenebrist artist paint T.S. Irene by candlelight – as she surely was experienced by many – as Georges de la Tour painted Saint Irene tending the wounds of St Sebastian?
If you know of St Sebastian at all, you probably think of him as the naked young man with six-pack abs and a come-hither look, loosely tied to a tree and pierced with arrows. Sebastian had the misfortune to be Christian in the era of Diocletian, the 3rd century emperor who considered a day ill-spent if it did not include a nubile young Christian being eaten alive by wild beasts, or boiled in oil, or nailed upside down. If you know of St Sebastian at all, you probably assume he expired as a result of all those arrows piercing his handsome body.
But you would be wrong. Hearing of his torments, Irene, the widow of St Castulus (stretched on the rack, buried alive), went to bury Sebastian’s punctured body. But he was not dead. So she took him home with her, nursed him, tended his wounds with raw honey, and he recovered nicely. Still, Sebastian refused to stay out of trouble, and when he next saw Diocletian he repeated his creed. This time Diocletian ordered that poor Sebastian be cudgeled and then tossed into the sewer. He did not survive.

All the Irenic drama (yes, something of a paradox) chez Let it Bee Farm happened on the front end. We battened the hatches, the eternal hatches. We closed the Palladian windows that grace the hen house and fluffed up the nesting boxes. We encouraged (the late) Hamlette to stay inside her comfy quarters and not venture out to be bonked by a falling tree, and she complied. We picked all the sunflowers, anticipating that they would be flattened by the 80 mph winds. Now a fine layer of vivid yellow pollen coats every surface in the house; I’ve been wiping it up and eating it with my morning cereal and on my peanut butter sandwiches. We gathered bushels of tomatoes, and then we had to figure out what to do with that many tomatoes. (Guess.)
Then the winds fizzled out before they got here. The Saw Mill Parkway flooded, but the Saw Mill Parkway always floods– living proof of the merits of building a road alongside a river. We could have left the sunflowers standing.

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