Needing an open window

joseph cornell toward the blue peninsula

At various times in the past I’ve written about my fascination with the work of Joseph Cornell and my experiences with his works. Last night I finished the big collection of his work, Joseph Cornell: Shadowplay…Eterniday, and as always came away both inspired and humbled by the work.

And saddened. William Gibson wrote in Count Zero that the Cornell-manque boxes encountered by the protagonist evoked “impossible distances, loss and yearning,” and Gibson wrote that he sensed autism behind Cornell’s obsessive junk-shop searchings.

I think the truth is closer than that. Cornell’s series of parrots caged in decaying European hotels rings sad when you know he spent his entire adult life in his house in Queens, taking care of his mother and brother. Imprisoned? By choice, if so. But still, looking at the empty bird cage and cut wire of Toward the Blue Peninsula, with its open window in the back of the box, one wishes that Cornell, too, had let himself fly the coop.

Seven hundred year old buns

How and where did hot cross buns come to symbolize Easter? And for whom? I know that, growing up, hot cross buns weren’t something we regularly had, but my mother in law makes them every year and they were an important part of Lisa’s traditions.

This site claims, variously, that they date back to pagan times or only 150 years or so. Neither claim cites supporting evidence. A Gannett news service article cites Sister Schubert’s cookbook Secret Bread Recipes in claiming a medieval origin for the buns (incidentally, “Sister” Schubert is not a nun). The Wikipedia agrees and points to another article which gives the most detailed origin for the buns, fixing a year (1361), a place (St. Albans), and a name (Father Thomas Rocliffe, also spelled Rockliffe) to the story—meaning that the origin is almost certainly fabricated. Other sources agree with the pagan origin claim; this one cites Charles Kightly’s The Customs and Ceremonies of Britain. Yet the earliest reference the OED finds for “cross-buns” is a 1733 mention in Poor Robin’s Almanac.

Oh well. At least they’re healthy.