Our Lady of the Crossroads

This week’s Roadside Mary can be found at the crossroads before the bridge that enters El Studiante.

Roadside Mary

Roadside Mary

Crossroad shrines are prevalent throughout western cultures. I became aware of their significance while reading Caesar by Collen McCullough.  Ceasar was said to have been raised in an insular that housed the Lars of his district. There were many Lares in the pagan culture of ancient Rome but those in the crossroads, or Compitales shrines were there to bless and protect the inhabitants within their neighborhoods, and serve as a religious and social hub.

El Studiantes’ Mary appeals to me because she is fastidiously well kept, she rarely has dead flowers in her vases, and her wonderfully garish paint is frequently touched up, though I have never seen anyone near her.

But my favorite part of this shrine is the wood shard cross tied up in the direction of the roadway that passes beside her, indicating protection for both roadways that intersect at her abode. The wood and wire cross is an afterthought, a wish for a little extra blessing, made of scraps. I imagine the person who cares for the shrine lives in the direction of the formal cross.

Sometimes I would like to ask who tends the shrine, but this falls into the realm of obtrusive in my mind and would destroy the mystery. I am not  completely comfortable with representation. I have difficulty taking photos of my life for this blog, and imposing myself on people’s realties by asking to photograph them, or to tell me about their lives for my own purposes, of writing or art.

It is a dichotomy in my work. I question the value of the abstract representation of object/or idea by image and words. I straddle these two worlds:  the language of symbols and immersion in the physical present.

The Mary’s, with their jubilant embrace of the scared through images are a comfort to me, knowing I have company in my idol worship when it is not possible to keep myself planted in the now.

 

May all our roads, material and metaphoric, lead to the divine.

The First Man in Rome

The  Masters of Rome series by Colleen McCullough is my ultimate summer read. It is over 6000 pages of living breathing historical fiction, chockfull of sex, drugs and, no, not rock and roll,– battle! The books entertainingly provide illuminating insights into the origins of western government and the perpetual war concept, and you learn about ancient Rome without having to read Polybius, definitely a bonus in my book.

The First Man in RomeThe series chronicles the seven consulships of Gaius Marius, a groundbreaking upstart from the boonies. It includes captivating characterizations of Marius, Lucius Cornelius Sulla, and Julius Caesar. There are also complex portraits of several of the women involved in the events. Though it is generally lauded, the series has been criticized for idealizing dictators. There is truth to the claim, but in my opinion, to sustain interest in reading such tomes it is more engaging to focus on the strengths of the characters. McCullough has added a seventh book since I read them, Anthony and Cleopatra, which I look forward to reading.

I have read this epic series twice, they’re that fantastic. I hope you enjoy them under a big brimmed hat with a frosty beverage. What could be more vsvevg than that?

Let me know what you think of them.