I am Tom Freeland, a lawyer in Oxford, Mississippi. The picture in the header is my law office. I'm on Twitter as NMissC

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Cold beer comes to Oxford: Julio Cortazar on lost gestures like spinning a beer in ice

The reactions to the coming of cold-beer-to-Oxford had lots folks describing how they’d learned to chill beers, spinning them in a sink or cooler filled with ice and salt.  These reactions had a certain nostalgia for a lost gesture (or the like), soon to be gone because we’d be able to buy cold beer instead of making our own, that immediately brought to my mind a passage from Julio Cortazar’s greatest novel:

I think about forgotten gestures, the multiple singles and words of grandparents, lost little by little, not inherited, fallen one after the other off the tree of time.  Tonight I found a candle on a table, and as a game I lit it and walked along the corridor with it.  The breeze stirred up by my motion was about to put it out, then I saw my right hand come up all by itself, cup itself, protect the flame with a living lampshade that kept the breeze away.  While the flame climbed up again alert, I thought that the gesture had belonged to all of us (I thought us and I thought well, or I felt well) for thousands of years, during the Age of Fire, until they changed it on us with electric lights.  I imagined other gestures, the one that women make when the life the hem of their skirts, the one that men make looking for the hilt of their swords  Like words lost in childhood, hear for the last by old people who are headed toward death.  In my home no one talks about the “camphor closet”: any more, no one talks about “the triv”– the tviet– any more.  Like the music of the moment, 1920 waltzes, polkas that warmed grandparents’ hearts.

I think about those objects, those boxes, those utensils that sometimes would turn up in storerooms, kitchens, or hidden spots, and whose use no one can explain any more.  The vanity of believing that we understand the works of time: it buries its dead and keeps the keys.  Only in dreams, in poetry, in play– lighting a candle, walking with it along the corridor– do we sometimes arrive at what we were before we were this thing that, who knows, we are.

-Julio Cortazar, Hopscotch, ch. 105 at page 459.

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