Musee Des Beaux Burglars


There’s a famed regional photographer in these parts named Jim Brandenburg; he gets a lot of cred for being the best nature and wildlife photographer around. Admittedly, if you have a taste for foxes emerging from cattails and bison sporting icicle beards, Brandenburg is your shuttershooter. His photos are crystalline and mystical and make me want to put on a parka and eat s’mores.

I posit, however, that Brandenburg has nothing on our resident Groom, who is taking a few more art classes this semester. I already knew he makes really cool pop-up cards and gets charmingly excited up about automata and can scratch out a mean sheep’s head on a board and has managed to sketch a self-portrait that didn’t make me nauseous, but the truth is, despite his versatility, Groom is not known for his photography. In fact, we’ve agreed that I have a more innate photographer’s bent than he. It’s well established that in the marriage, because he’s good at all else, I get to trump at a few nominal things: semi-colons, binge eating, and photography.

But then. Harummmmmph.

Then he goes and takes Digital Photography and knocks both me and Brandenburg right in the telephoto, where it hurts the most. Check out this picture The Groom With the Zoom snapped at the beach up the road:

Don’t you just hear Enya in your head when you look at it?

Don’t you kind of wish Enya would stop her breathy cooing for. just. one. minute. so. you. could. enjoy. the. photograph?

Don’t you look at this photo and find yourself believing in selkies and unicorns and fairies and the transgendered?

It’s so clear. It’s just so clear. As I sit here in the coffee shop, scratching my ankle, reading emails, I glance at my husband’s photo and appreciate–yes!–its clarity.

Interestingly, his photo reminds me of a poem I like (one of four, I tell you, one of four, the other three penned by Dr. Seuss), a poem written by W.H. Auden and inspired by a painting of Pieter Brueghel, whom Wikipedia, in its infinite academic-ness, describes as a “Netherlandish Renaissance painter.”

Here’s the painting:

Here’s the poem:

“Musee des Beaux Arts” W.H. Auden

About suffering they were never wrong,
The Old Masters; how well, they understood
Its human position; how it takes place
While someone else is eating or opening a window or just walking dully along;
How, when the aged are reverently, passionately waiting
For the miraculous birth, there always must be
Children who did not specially want it to happen, skating
On a pond at the edge of the wood:
They never forgot
That even the dreadful martyrdom must run its course
Anyhow in a corner, some untidy spot
Where the dogs go on with their doggy life and the torturer’s horse
Scratches its innocent behind on a tree.
In Breughel’s Icarus, for instance: how everything turns away
Quite leisurely from the disaster; the ploughman may
Have heard the splash, the forsaken cry,
But for him it was not an important failure; the sun shone
As it had to on the white legs disappearing into the green
Water; and the expensive delicate ship that must have seen
Something amazing, a boy falling out of the sky,
had somewhere to get to and sailed calmly on.

See that little crooked leg there in the sea? That’s the thing.

Aptly, the poem points out that there’s bad shizz everywhere, everyday, all around us, but because we’re too busy drinking coffee and scratching our ankles (and innocent, or not-so-innocent, behinds) and checking our email, we miss it. We have our heads turned firmly towards our own business and, thusly, trip blithely past drowning boys whose wax wings melted when they flew too close to the sun. I know I heard a faint splash just last week when I was pulling out of the drive-thru at the Dairy Queen, yet I only stopped licking my ice cream long enough to muse, “Mmm. Yes. A splash of chocolate on this cone next time would be just the ticket to Greater Jocelyn Happiness.” Who knew it was Icarus?

The lessons of Brueghel and Auden are sinking in, though. Already, I find myself setting down my latte, slowing my scratching, closing my email, and looking again at Groom’s photo, to see what I might have missed.

Inspired, I have written my own poem:







19 responses to “Musee Des Beaux Burglars”

  1. kimber the wolfgrrrl Avatar
    kimber the wolfgrrrl

    I suppose one must look up from their latte and recognize the horrors of the world, but if we were to always be on the lookout for the Hamburglar, wouldn’t we miss those delightful sights of beauty and joy, accompanied by Enya’s juojenum-quavering warbles? Balance. It’s all about balance. We will never catch a glimpse of the beautiful transgendered fey if we are too busy worrying about someone’s sweaty mitts snatching our Mickey D’s.

    (Is it just me, or does the Hamburglar share a passing resemnlence with Opie Taylor?)

  2. kimber the wolfgrrrl Avatar
    kimber the wolfgrrrl

    (Cor blimey, look what his remarkable photo has inspired!)

  3. lime Avatar

    my dear jocelyn, how you manage to weave the silly with the sublime is certainly inspired by the muses….whether or not they have innocent behinds, i know not.

    you and groom are both brilliant.

  4. citizen of the world Avatar
    citizen of the world

    That really is a stunning photo. So amazing, in fact, that I nearly missed the Hamburgler. What a pity that would have been.

  5. Balou Avatar

    Poetry?! On O Mighty Crisis?! And an original poem at that? I’ll have to check and see if that snow outside is coming from the sky or if the deep fiery depths have not gone cold and frosted the ground above. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I should expect PBS to be calling The Groom quite soon with an offer to do a documentary on his amazing photographic skills. A beautiful shot.

  6. flutter Avatar

    Let me sail, let me sail, let the Orinoco flow.
    Let me reach, let me beach on the shores of Tripoli.
    Let me sail, let me sail, let me crash upon your shore.
    Let me reach, let me beach far beyond the Yellow Sea.
    De de de de de…
    Sail away,…

  7. Jazz Avatar

    Damn, it looks like you’re reduced to semi-colons and binge eating.

    Unless maybe the photo is just a fluke? You can always hope for that.

  8. chelle Avatar

    I am so NEVER letting my man take a photography class. I so need to be the better one at that ๐Ÿ˜›

    Gorgeous photo. I too get jiggey with Dr Seuss ๐Ÿ™‚

  9. choochoo Avatar

    your hubby does take a purdy picture.I just about switched to autopilot and damn near packed a backpack…

  10. Green Girl in Wisconsin Avatar
    Green Girl in Wisconsin

    You have skillz, madame. Truly.

  11. kmkat Avatar

    Gorgeous photo. Cold and shivery and crystalline and almost scary. Unlike Bruegel’s painting, which is warm and homey, butt scratching and all.

  12. Chantal Avatar

    That’s one stunning photo

  13. Logophile Avatar

    I love Auden, and that is a perfect example of why.
    I also worship Dr Theo, I’m with you there.

    Groom is a photographic GENIUS.
    BTW? How are the genuis’ tender bits?
    Better, I hope

  14. Kylie w Warszawie Avatar
    Kylie w Warszawie

    I always leave your posts for last when I’m flipping through my google reader – just because I so enjoy savoring your beautiful writing and subtle humor.

    It’s a good thing that I did that today though, because even though the humor is not lost on me… the time I spend reading blogs particularly on days when I’m “snowed in” (by choice, not by nature) is time I could spend with my boys. And I would have stopped reading the blogs. Which is what I’m doing right after I click “publish”.

  15. rak Avatar

    Now we know the hamburglar isn’t too busy scratchin’ and sippin’ to enjoy the remarkable beauty in this messy world ๐Ÿ™‚

  16. jess Avatar

    I love that poem And that painting. And now I have Groom’s photo to go along with them. Nice.

    (Oh and did not, BTW, but I still love you. Glad you like them ๐Ÿ™‚

  17. the cubicle's backporch Avatar
    the cubicle’s backporch

    Wow… that is a great photo.

    And suddenly now I crave McDonalds. Was there a subliminal message in there somewhere? ๐Ÿ˜‰

  18. Jill Avatar

    You always manage to crack me up, even when I’m not expecting it. I think your poem is divine.

  19. heartinsanfrancisco Avatar

    Great photo! I’m familiar with Jim Brandenburg’s work, and your husband ain’t no slouch neither.

    His painting with and without the Hamburglar reminds me of Goya’s Maja paintings in which she appears in the exact same pose both dressed and naked.

    And don’t knock binge eating. It’s a rough job but somebody’s got to do it.

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