Boiled Eggs

A while back, the above meme was on Facebook. I feel that when any major holiday rolls around. Yesterday I boiled eggs. OK, only 2, and one went into a salad and the other is for the dogs, but I boiled eggs. I could color that remaining egg, but it’s pretty as it is. Out in the Big Empty the geese are beginning to sit on their nests. We deferred to a gander who was protecting his woman last time we were out there. He stood on the road and Bella, the dogs and I just waited until he either crossed or turned around before we went forward. It’s his world; not mine

Goethe’s Faust begins on Easter Saturday. Faust has forgotten it’s Easter, but is reminded by his pal, Wagner (no not that Wagner that guy appeared a couple generations later). Faust is old, disillusioned, has studied everything possible, and wonders “Is that all there is?” And, “How come I still don’t get it?”

As a character, I don’t “like” Faust much. I think he’s mostly a vehicle for Goethe to make his point and explore his ideas, but I have no way to know that for sure. Here’s Faust indulging his dismay at the reality that no matter what we do, we cannot ever really know what’s going on. Faust, however, is about to drag out a big, dusty, tome and begin practicing magic. But, just as it is with everything we humans do, nothing he does will work as he expected it would.


I HAVE, alas! Philosophy,
Medicine, Jurisprudence too,
And to my cost Theology,
With ardent labour, studied through.
And here I stand, with all my lore,
Poor fool, no wiser than before.
Magister, doctor styled, indeed,
Already these ten years I lead,
Up, down, across, and to and fro,
My pupils by the nose,—and learn,
That we in truth can nothing know!

Rio Grande and North Clear Creek Falls with HIGH Water

My friend and neighbor, Karen, and I took off today and headed north of Creede to see North Clear Creek Falls with high water. Karen had never been there and, according to old timers, the water hasn’t been this high in a lot of their lifetimes. I’ve been feeling (in the midst of puppy training) that I should GET OUT THERE but when you have to train a puppy, you have to train a puppy.

The drive up was amazing — the river has been flooding, mostly in flatter areas. We saw a place where it had apparently taken out a railroad track. Lots of fields were flooded and others were filled with wild iris. In the field near our hospital, where a large herd of bison live, we got to see bison in their winter coats standing and grazing in a meadow of blue and white flowers. We should have stopped to take pictures, but didn’t. We had a bit of a time crunch because Teddy was neutered today and I had to pick him up at 3. It’s a 78 mile drive to get up to the falls and we took off at 10.

All along the road — which winds along the Rio Grande — we were stunned by the high water. Karen, who could look out the window, noticed places where decks of summer homes were under water. Bridges — car and narrow gauge railroad — were VERY close to the water. Anyone attempting to raft would lose their noggin and the top of their raft.

The Rio Grande

We got to the top of the road which is just twenty some miles from the place where Alferd Packer ate his friends one desperate winter. This is what we saw.

We were hit by the spray, admired the rainbow, and I kept thinking of this poem from Goethe’s Faust Part II

“Let the sun stay in my back, unseen!
The waterfall I now behold with growing
Delight as it roars down to the ravine.
From fall to fall a thousand streams are flowing.
A thousand more are plunging, effervescent,
And high up in the air the spray is glowing.
Out of this thunder rises, iridescent,
Enduring through all change the motley bow,
Now painted clearly, now evanescent,
Spreading a fragrant, cooling spray below.
The rainbow mirrors human love and strive:
In many-hued reflection we have life.”

Goethe, Faust II, trans. Walter Kauffman

Life’s Labyrinthine Chaos Course — Revisiting School in Verona


“No one knows what’s going to happen when they make a choice. And Goldilocks? Look what happened to her? BEARS.”


“Exactly. Sure, we remember the oatmeal and beds, but it was really BEARS. Whether that bed fit or not, she had to run away. Choices are a lot like that. Looks good and a few winks in, BEARS. Goethe was right.”

“As far as you’re concerned, Goethe was ALWAYS right. It’s so boringly predictable.”

“I know, I know, a little hero worship there, but you know what? I wouldn’t ever have READ Goethe if I hadn’t made a BAD choice. I probably would never have gone to Europe — and certainly not Zürich — would never have seen the little church at Gfenn that changed my life and awakened me. Good choices, bad choices, no one knows. A comfy bed is as likely to lead to BEARS and, well, what I did, might lead to LIFE.”

“So what did Goethe say?”

“It was a theme with him, the labyrinth we live in. The first time I encountered it in his work, though, was in the prologue to Faust. He wrote ‘Des Lebens labyrinthisch irren Lauf‘.”

“And that means…?”

“Life is a labyrinth of error. Life’s labyrinthine course of error. Something like that. But a labyrinth is a labyrinth because one moment we’re making a choice — this way or that — and in the next we’re reaping the consequences of that choice. We might be lost, we might not be lost, we might be lost and not know it, we might be fine and fear we’re lost. Maybe we enter the labyrinth looking for our friend or lover who’s gone on ahead. Maybe it’s a game. Maybe we just want out. But at some point, we enter that labyrinth. Choice? Biological inevitability? I don’t know that. I could CHOOSE to believe one or the other, but…”

“The labyrinth.”

“At that point, our parents chose. There we are, entering the labyrinth.”

“What’s that picture up there?”

“It’s Giardino Giusti in Verona. I took that picture. Goethe wrote about it in Italian Journey and I made the choice to go to Verona to study Italian because of Goethe. I figure if you find a competent guide through the labyrinth, you should take advantage of it.”

“You were following a dead guy?”

“Yes and no. I mean some 200 years have passed since then and I’m not Goethe, but I needed to choose a destination (turn a corner in the labyrinth) so I decided to go where he had gone. There are beautiful, old cypress trees in this garden (you can see one on the far right facing in the photo) and Goethe cut some of the branches to carry back to his apartment. He didn’t know that cypress branches were a symbol of mourning and was surprised that the people he met on his way expressed condolences. Lots of confusion in the labyrinth, that’s for sure. You just have to be fearless and humble at all times. Actually, something happened to me there that proved that.”


“My schoolmates didn’t like me much. My Italian sounded good but wasn’t. It’s badly mixed with Spanish which I’ve spoken poorly most of my life. One of the schoolmates — an Austrian woman — actually began ‘shunning’ me because, I guess, she thought my Italian was contagious. It was OK with me. I had other things to do besides hang out with a random bunch of non-Italian speaking Europeans and Japanese. I did make a friend; a woman from Manchester with whom I really enjoyed hanging out, but generally, I was ostracized. Partly, too, I think because of the US invasion of Iraq for which I was personally responsible. Ha ha.”

“And then?”

“So the Austrian girl/woman knew I loved Goethe but she didn’t believe I had read Goethe. She — as do many Europeans — believed Americans are endemically fake. So we were on a school field-trip at the Giardino Giusti and walking through this labyrinth which was more difficult than it looked. I said, ‘Des Lebens labyrinthisch irren Lauf.’ She said, ‘What’s that?’ I said, ‘It’s a line from the prologue to Faust.’ ‘Well it’s wrong,’ she said. ‘I don’t think so,’ I said. ‘I think I’d know,’ she replied.”

“What happened then?”

“A couple days later she found me and apologized. We got to be friends after that. A characteristic of the labyrinth is that you don’t know what you’re looking at until you LOOK at it.”

“Like Goldilocks?”

“Maybe. I was always on the bears’ side in that story. After all, Goldilocks was trespassing.”


Here’s a photo I wanted to share with yesterday’s prompt, but I couldn’t find it. It deals with surrealism. It’s me in Zürich in 2005 standing beside the Cafe Voltaire — the birthplace of DADA (father of surrealism). I’m pointing here at the Navel of the World.

Me pointing at the navel of the world

Birthplace of Dada, Cafe Voltaire, Zürich

Good or Evil? Des Lebens labyrinthisch irren Lauf

“I am part of that power which eternally wills evil and eternally works good.”

—Mephistopheles (In Faust I by Joann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Anyone who’s read my blog for any length of time knows I love Goethe. What I love about Goethe is not so much the great masterpieces (Faust for one) but the way he seems to have thought about things.

All his life he was fascinated by the Faust story, the scientist who sold his soul to Satan so he could have powers and experiences beyond those his life had given him. Faust (in my imagination) is the driest of icky dry academics and, in my imagination, at a certain point in his life, he realizes he’s missed out. All his studies of magic, philosophy, alchemy have not brought him knowledge. He realizes he doesn’t know anything and he’s missed the life of experience. He wants another chance, but within 20 years of his 4 score and 10, no longer young, he doesn’t know how he can do this.

Enter Mephistopheles, blackness, emptiness, the spirit of negation — in more simple and conventional language (for the time), Evil. In the traditional Faust legend, Faust dies at the end tormented by devils. Marlowe’s Faust asks for God’s forgiveness. Goethe’s Faust discovers the truth of life (the universe and everything?) and dies in God’s embrace. God (Goethe’s God) knows it is Faust’s nature to pursue the path he has pursued; he could have done nothing else. Gretchen, the woman whose life Faust ruined in Faust Part 1 waits at Heaven’s gate to console and teach him in Faust Part 2

While Goethe didn’t deviate completely from the legend, he added two important elements: humor and ambiguity. Mephistopheles enters Goethe’s Faust as a black poodle…

For Goethe, Mephistopheles doesn’t represent evil so much as that which has yet to be seen, the mysterious realm from which that which is known emerges (and is judged). The unseen and the seen realms exist side-by-side, and the unseen realm is unseen mostly because we do not look in that direction. Why? Social convention? Religion? Fear? All those things. Goethe’s Faust does look and the inevitable result is that Faust acts, and in his actions, a world is set in motion with all its consequences, tragedy, regrets — and its beauty.

Faust’s pact with Mephistopheles is not the first pact made in Goethe’s Faust. God makes a bargain with Mephistopheles first; a bet. He bets that the Mephistopheles will not succeed in drawing a good man into evil. For Mephistopheles, temptation is a cat and mouse game, and God gives him permission to play this game with Faust:

“…I grant that you may try to clasp him,
Withdraw this spirit from his primal source,
And lead him down, if you can grasp him,
Upon your own abysmal course–
And stand abashed when you have to attest:
A good man in his darkling aspiration
Remembers the right road throughout his quest.” (Faust Part 1, Trans. Walter Kaufman)

God knows that Faust is searching for something and that, in the end, Mephistopheles will be only a tool in Faust’s journey.

So, can bad lead to good? For Goethe there is no “bad,” and all things which exist come from the place where nothing exists. The lost and empty person Faust knows himself to be at the beginning of the story is, at the end, a wise and transcendent being.

“What occurred is dead and ended
Pain and joy have passed away;
You are healed–oh, apprehend it,
Trust the newborn light of day!” (Faust Part 2, Trans. Walter Kaufman)

Sorry I could not find a video with English subtitles, but I think the sense of Mephistopheles and Faust comes through anyway. It’s a masterpiece of a film, Karl Maria Brandauer in Mephisto. The film is based on Mephisto: Novel of a Career by Klaus Mann, Thomas Mann’s son. A play-within-a-play, the story is set in Nazi Germany. Brandauer plays an actor whose great role is Mephistopheles in Goethe’s Faust.

This is my response to Bumblpepuppies prompt on Blacklight Candelabra

And, Faust definitely studied abroad, so: