Easter Morning redux

Some close analysis, and some reflections, on the Jacquie Lawson animated greeting card “Easter Morning”, that I posted about yesterday, in “Sheep grazing among the Paschal roses”. There I looked at purple hellebores (and some other other crucifixion-symbolic flowers) and at Bach’s aria “Sheep May Safely Graze” (a performance of which accompanies the animation).

Now about the details of the animation’s images (especially, but by no means only, the plants).

(#1) Lambs in the field, under Japanese cherry trees; tulips in the foreground, narcissus sprinkled about, a beehive

(#2) Purple hellebores (Paschal roses) being visited by a bee

(#3) A 4-petaled flower, teasel heads at the lower right

What lies ahead. The first thing is that the animation is a piece of pastoral art (for which the music fits beautifully). Set in nature, focused on the living things (various creatures, especially the sheep, but also a bird, a butterfly, and a bee, plus many many plants) — but not wild nature. Those aren’t wild sheep leaping nimbly on rocky slopes, but sweet domesticated lambs gamboling while grazing on the grass in a fenced-in field (overlooked by a huge country house). Hidden somewhere in the background there must be shepherds for those lambs (Latin pastor ‘shepherd’).

With some salient exceptions that serve the other major symbolic aim of the animation, the plants are domesticated garden plants, not trees of the woods, wildflowers, or weeds: in particular, cherry trees (sakura, created in Japan as objects of cultivated beauty), hybrid tulips and narcissus (also carefully created by husbandry from wild antecedents).

The second thing is that the animation is a piece of (Christian) religious art, densely suffused with the imagery of crucifixion; resurrection (in the rebirth of spring); and the granting of God’s grace through Jesus (Jesus as “the light of the world”, as the hymn has it). Beginning with the literally unearthly misty radiance that fills the visual space, pierced by bright rays of light from the face of God. No farm in this world looks like that.

Then a bonus on a subtheme from yesterday’s posting, on “bending horticulture towards Heaven” (in Rod Williams’s felicitous wording in a message to me about yesterday’s posting). Yesterday it was cruciform dogwood flowers; Rod picked up the theme with St. Patrick and the shamrock (Rod was born in Dublin, so he knows this stuff).

Pastoral art. From Wikipedia:

A pastoral [from Latin pastor ‘shepherd’] lifestyle is that of shepherds herding livestock around open areas of land according to seasons and the changing availability of water and pasture. It lends its name to a genre of literature, art, and music (pastorale) that depicts such life in an idealized manner, typically for urban audiences. A pastoral is a work of this genre, also known as bucolic, from the Greek βουκολικόν, from βουκόλος, meaning a cowherd. [sheep, cows, whatever, just so long as you can herd it]

The entry has sections on pastoral literature (including poetry, romances, and plays), music, and art. To which opera and film (like the Lawson studio’s animation) should be added.

(I hope to post soon about Handel’s pastoral oratorio / opera / whatever Acis and Galatea and the representation of the A&G story by the painter Poussin. Meanwhile, I note that the film Brokeback Mountain — about two young men hired as shepherds, while seeing themselves as cowboys, who become lovers — is not in fact a pastoral film, though it has some moments of stunning pastoral photography by Ang Lee).

The religious pastoral. From later in the Wikipedia entry:

Pastoral imagery and symbolism feature heavily in Christianity and the Bible. Jesus calls himself the “Good Shepherd” in John 10:11, contrasting his role as the Lamb of God.

So Jesus is both the shepherd and the sacrificial lamb — the latter role being the one relevant to Easter.

The cherry trees and the spring bulbs (#1) represent spring and rebirth, so also the resurrection.

The purple hellebore (#2) represents Christ’s suffering on the cross.

Then the beehive in the background of #1 and the bee in the hellebore of #2. From Nadia Julien’s The Mammoth Dictionary of Symbols: Understanding the Hidden Language of Symbols (Carol and Graf, 1996), p. 35:

In Christian tradition , [the bee] is the emblem of Christ, of his forgiveness (through analogy with the sweetness of [its] honey), with his justice (through its sting), and Christian virtues (because of the exemplary way worker bees behave towards their queen

The 4-petaled flower (#3) is an icon of the cross. I haven’t identified the specific plant, nor have I identified the species of bird and butterfly that appear in the animation — but knowing the practices of the Lawson studio, I’m sure they’re all identifiable (and were not just some artist’s invention of a plausible-looking 4-petaled flower, bird, and butterfly). But life is short, time presses on me, and I can’t do every fucking thing.

Also in #3, a teasel head represents Christ’s crown of thorns, teasels being quite painfully prickly (I speak from childhood experience). The teasel, however Christian its message, doesn’t belong in a pastoral scene; teasels are aggressively annoying weeds, not cultivated plants.

On teasels, from Wikipedia:

(#4) Dipsacus fullonum

Dipsacus is a genus of flowering plant in the family Caprifoliaceae [or honeysuckle family] . The members of this genus are known as teasel, teazel or teazle. The genus includes about 15 species of tall herbaceous biennial plants (rarely short-lived perennial plants) growing to 1–2.5 metres (3.3–8.2 ft) tall. Dipsacus species are native to Europe, Asia and northern Africa.

… The genus name (Dipsacus) is derived from the Greek word for thirst (dipsa) and refers to the cup-like formation made where sessile leaves merge at the stem.

The name teasel derives from words such as Old English tǣsl, tǣsel; relating to the verb “to tease” – the dried heads of the plant were once used in the textile industry to raise the nap on woolen cloth.

Prickly prickly prickly.

Rod Williams bonuses. RW to me on Facebook yesterday:

With all that talk about cruciform dogwoods, and determinedly bending horticulture towards Heaven, I couldn’t help thinking about St. Patrick’s grasping the humble shamrock, back in the day on Erin’s shores, to explain the Holy Trinity to the godless Irish. ☘️

Although I’ve mentioned shamrocks many times on this blog and illustrated them several times (mostly on pieces of clothing or on male bodies), I apparently have never posted about them. So, from Wikipedia:

(#5) Irish clover, or shamrock

A shamrock is a young sprig, used as a symbol of Ireland. Saint Patrick, Ireland’s patron saint, is said to have used it as a metaphor for the Christian Holy Trinity. The name shamrock comes from Irish seamróg, which is the diminutive of the Irish word seamair and simply means “young clover” [note: no sham, no rock].

At most times, shamrock refers to either the species Trifolium dubium (lesser clover, Irish: seamair bhuí) or Trifolium repens(white clover, Irish: seamair bhán). However, other three-leaved plants — such as Medicago lupulina, Trifolium pratense, and Oxalis acetosella — are sometimes called shamrocks.

… Traditionally, the shamrock is said to have been used by Saint Patrick to illustrate the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity when Christianising Ireland in the 5th century. The first evidence of a link between St Patrick and the shamrock appears in 1675 on the St Patrick’s [coins]. These appear to show a figure of St Patrick preaching to a crowd while holding a shamrock, presumably to explain the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. … The shamrock, whatever its history as a folk symbol, today has its meaning in a Christian context. Pictures of Saint Patrick depict him driving the snakes out of Ireland with a cross in one hand and a sprig of shamrocks in the other.

That was RW bonus 1. Now RW bonus 2, which is more personal and then turns into a posting mostly about me.

Rod is an old friend — a charming, funny, immensely knowledgable, and generous friend who deserves celebration (as I veer towards death, I’m trying to thank people who have enriched my life; there are far too many, but I do what I can). In this case, a natural occasion for celebration presents itself: the 43rd anniversary of Rod Williams and Ted Bush, back on 4/6.

(#6) California Guys (Ted at left, Rod at right). Rod on Facebook: What did we wish for to celebrate our 43rd anniversary? A relaxing stay in Mendocino, at Heritage House. Having a fine time enjoying the Northern California coast.

Ted and Rod are in fact legally married, but that was a relatively recent event; 43 years ago there were no same-sex marriages. But in LG-Land, we have our own ceremonies and our own ways of dating our coupleships, and Ted and Rod have theirs fixed at 4/6/79.

[AZ digression. Amazingly, Jacques and I would have bettered that by a few years, but he withered away and died two decades ago.

I must say that I envy Ted and Rod their legal status. I’ve been stuck referring to J as my man Jacques and my husband-equivalent, because it turns out that a huge number of people, especially straight people, really really care about that legal status.

A pair of appalling anecdotes from 2003. Really the same tale. Straight woman offers me sympathy on J’s death: “I’m so sorry to hear about your friend. [I murmur something. There is an uncomfortable pause. She goes on:] But it’s not like you were married.”

I commit no violence. I don’t even flinch; when I heard “your friend” I suspected what was to come. I hold my tongue; I do not say “You contemptuous insulting bitch” or anything like that. Just turn my back on her and walk away.

In fact, I’m such a decent guy that I quickly forgot who it was who’d said these awful things, so I’m not holding a grudge against them. (I’m not generally that nice a guy; go over my line and I will probably strike you entirely out of my life, forever. The Wrath of Zot is not pretty.)]

Now RW bonus 3, which is even more about me, but is funnier than that last bit.

Ted and Rod came to me through networks of LGBT + F (family & friends) people, in their case through the Usenet newsgroup soc.motss. My life has been enriched immeasurably by these loose communities — forms of extended family — composed of electronic friends, former boyfriends, former tricks, bar friends, whatever, plus their loose communities and, often, their actual families. Some of these people are true intimates, a great many are very loosely connected, and then there’s a middle group I’d describe as close acquaintances (Ted and Rod, for example).

You know a pretty fair amount about their lives, and they know a pretty fair amount of yours, and that’s important to both of you. You keep in touch with them on an at least occasional basis. Great stuff.

I now live in two such loose communities: linguists (a community I entered in the early 1960s) and LGBT + F people (a community I entered in the early 1970s and really rocked into when I found soc.motss in the mid-1980s).

My slogan for my pleasure in the latter community is now the giggly Chico Escuela-ism:

Homo has been berry berry good to me

For an explanation: from my 9/1/12 posting “For the Ben & Jerry’s pun staff”:

[on the punning Ben & Jerry’s name] Berry Berry Extraordinary sorbet — rhyming, plus allusion to “Beisbol/Baseball has been berry berry good to me” (famously said by fictitious sports reporter Chico Escuela, played by Garrett Morris, on Saturday Night Live; the statement in real life has been attributed to Sammy Sosa, Minnie Minoso, and Roberto Clemente)

I enjoy playing with the idea of using the M[ass] noun Homo as an easy two-syllable reference to the world of LGBT + F people and their concerns. Baseball, Linguistics, Homo.

Oh yes: whatever else is in there, there’s always a linguistic point too.

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