alskuefhaih
asoiefh

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Willow Ball!

-
-

As Winter gets ready to hook her come-hither finger around the neck of the sun, our inner rooms begin to come alive with the warm glow of lamps, candles, a fireplace or wood stove, and a samovar for tea. It can only mean that the holidays are coming, and to start the season off properly, the Lady of Willow Manor shall throw her annual ball where everyone is welcome, no one excluded. With our bloggy imaginations we can publish fantasies right here with our fingers, choosing our dream escort and rich attire to adorn our perfect bodies. We are able to dance like gods and goddesses all cyber-night long. Maybe every girl who dreams of her someday-wedding gown at age five is really just dreaming of a ball. Which of us dreamed of anything as elegant (and sizzingly fun!) as Willow's Ball? And guess what, it's on the night of the full moon. With or without a full moon, no matter how perfectly envisioned and planned, things can go wildly out of control; you would not believe the stories from years gone by! Half the fun is reading reports of goings-on in the comments at Willow's blog the night of the ball! (Last year's here.) The ball is tomorrow, there's still time to gather your accoutrements and wits. Your invitation is here; Tess will have a Mr. Linky up in the next 24 hours or so. I didn't think I was in the mood for a ball, and here I am going on and on!

Update: Willow has declared the ball open, there are already acres of cars parked and terabytes of blogs to visit. The festivities are here!




I chose the white lace dress with yellow trims by James Tissot, at top. The whole scene is evocative, and although the painting is titled The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth), some call it Remembrance of an Onboard Ball. A ball on a small ship? Wow. The dress looks good from this side, I think, the side you see on the dance floor.

As for who will go with me, I don't plan on taking a chaperone, as in Tissot's painting. Just a man.

I learned last year, with my fine escort Fitzwilliam Darcy, that a dreamily handsome and charming date is not necessarily the best choice. I barely got one dance with him. He was popular even with the men! Quite a change from the snob who turned his nose up at dancing in certain ballrooms. But he had lost his pride, and anyway he could see that at Willow's Ball, everyone is a fine dance partner.

Because Leo Tolstoy has been my close companion for over a year (I hold him affectionately in my hands: War and Peace), after fingering through potential escorts in my heart's little black book, I realized he would be the perfect partner for the ball. After he picks me up in his skiff and we bob up river to the Manor, he will settle in with a book in a nook. (I offered him my Kindle—not Nook—to re-read W and P, but he said he's more interested in Rilke's letters from Russia.)

Tolstoy is not one for balls, despite his noble upbringing. But his choice of an ascetic life, he assures me, will not cause him undue discomfort in the presence of so much frivolous ruffle and draped satin. He craves the music. He is well on in years, and tired, so he will sit and listen, or read, while I dance the night away with whomever I wish. When I am fagged from waltzes and fox trots and need a few moments' rest, he will be waiting in his radiant corner to captivate me in conversation. Don’t worry about him being bored and neglected. See how he holds the chair open next to him? You too can sit and carry on discourse with Monsieur Tolstoy when you need a rest. I will concede this so long as I can cut in. I doubt very much that the chair will be empty for long, as we will all need a rest now and then, and hushed dialog about many things. (I want to tell him, for instance, what came of his epistolary acquaintance with Mohandas Gandhi a few decades after they corresponded for a year about nonviolent resistance until the end of his life in 1910.) At Tess’s Willow Ball, all things are possible, because while Monsieur Tolstoy speaks Russian and French, and I don't, we will magically understand one another.



Notes about the paintings:

The Gallery of HMS Calcutta (Portsmouth), circa 1876, sometimes called Remembrance of an Onboard Ball, by James Tissot, Tate collection

"Tissot often painted a man with two women in order to explore the subtle nuances of flirtation and attraction through body language and facial expression. Here a chaperone separates the young naval officer from the object of his attentions, the woman hiding her enjoyment of his flirtation behind her fan. Tissot focuses here on the boundaries of Victorian propriety and social convention, and their transgression. The languid pose of the nearest woman, and Tissot’s frank concentration on her fashionable hour-glass figure, inevitably led to the picture being criticised when it was first exhibited. The author Henry James dismissed it as ‘hard, vulgar and banal’." (From the display caption August 2004)

Leo Tolstoy, by Leonid Pasternak

This painting of my companion was done by Leonid Pasternak, father of the poet and novelist Boris Pasternak, best known for his novel Doctor Zhivago. Pasternak was a friend of Tolstoy's and painted illustrations for Tolstoy's novels. More info about Pasternak in a short bit I wrote for the Rilke blog here.

André Rieu is rehearsing Shostakovich's Russian Waltz for tomorrow night!


-
-

41 comments:

steven said...

ruth - what a rich and joyful story of your preparations!! i've got to get myself ready. as usual i've left almost everything to the last minute including sending a letter by tea packet to my date to see if she's available. hmmmm, i might have to hope she can attend next year's ball!!! see you there. (this year's i mean. i'll pop by leo's spot and offer him a few pointers on brevity and levity while i'm there!!!!!) steven

Ruth said...

Thanks, steven, . . . by tea packet?? I hope she's available, and most importantly, says "YES"!

Good luck with the pointers. ;)

hedgewitch said...

I'm not much for large social gatherings, but you do make this sound tantalizing Ruth. I know you and Leo will have a wonderful time--and what a perfect dress! I wonder if Poe is still available?

Ruth said...

Thanks, Hedge. The nice thing about a cyber-ball is that you can sit in the comfort of your pumpkin and never get out! I'd love to see you there with EAP, wearing something goth. :-)

Dutchbaby said...

Oh Ruth, that form-fitting gown shows your hour-glass figure to great advantage! Genius idea to add a cruise ship to the Willow Ball venue. Leo may be amused to learn that both my kids acted in an elementary school play called "Leo Told Stories". They dramatized many of Leo's short stories in a series of vignettes

I hope to pay you and Leo a visit soon. I didn't think I had time to go the ball, but maybe a fairy godmother will be able to conjure up an outfit in time.

Ruth said...

Dutchbaby, I'm pleased that you like my gown. I imagine floral designer you paid attention to the placement of the ribbons.

I am happy to tell Leo about your kids' school play. But I think he would be more tickled to hear it from you, please come! I recall you being so elegant last time.

Margaret said...

Fantastic video! I'm sure the dancing you featured will pale in comparison with what goes on on the floorboards at Willow Manor (Ha!) My girls are having fun helping me prepare for the ball... BUT who to bring... ? I'll see you there with your beautiful yellow ribboned behind. :)

Ruth said...

Margaret, isn't the music fun . . . could anything be more Russian? Yeah, those stars dancing don't have anything on us Willow-y dancers! I'm glad you like my backside. :-)

Close your eyes, who shall it be, who will get to accompany the lovely Margaret to the ball? The thing is, I don't think anyone could beat your husband on the dance floor. Why don't you take him so he can make me look good for one go 'round? You can still pick another escort (who could be chaperone for you and your husband :).

Oliag said...

You are ready ahead of time! A procrastinator like myself usually watches from the sidelines and will snatch a dance or a conversation whenever I get a chance....Have fun!

missing moments said...

Oh, what fun and such lively music!

Ruth said...

Oliag, this should tell you something about how I feel about event planning, at this level at least: I love it. :-) Maybe you and I can sit and chat between dances?

Ruth said...

Hi, Reena. Makes you wanna par-tay, no?

Linda said...

Sailing up Tess's beloved Scioto River is such a romantic journey to the ball! You look so radiant on that boat in your beautiful Parisian gown, Ruth!! I love the golden silk ribbons. And to party with Leo Tolstoy..... who would have imagined? Does he enjoy the troika or is he just partial to waltzes?

Ruth said...

Dear Linda! There are good reasons to take a non-partyer like Leo to the ball. I will ask about the troika, ask him what if he likes it, and what it is. :-)

I imagine we might just end up walking in the moonlight before too long. I hope I can squeeze into your corner and listen to John Cleese, Eric Idle and Kate Winslet entertain the troops, what brilliant escorts!

Jacqueline said...

Ruth,
Stig and I saw you on the dance floor...you are tireless. We both did sit at the feet of Tolstoy (chair was constantly occupied) and listen to him read for a while....a magical time.

Ruth said...

Hello, Jacqueline, and so glad. I imagine you understood his Russian perfectly, n'cest pas?

George said...

Rejected again, this time for old Tolstoy! What is a guy to do? All that I can do — and, presumably, Lorenzo as well — is to wait another year. Perhaps Leo will tell you how to "cut to the chase" in War and Peace.

Ruth said...

Wait, George, rejected? I waited and pined and watched through my window, but no message arrived from you! I guess I'd better stop being old fashioned and step up my game.

Alas, a whole 'nother year ...

It's not too late though, you can still come, and we'll abandon old Tolstoy in his corner with someone.

As for Lorenzo, he's in our time zone! Maybe he could make it to the Willow Manor too!

Brendan said...

Well, you came to the Ball richly appointed in culture's finest - a lavish, sweeping, swoony post. Just so long as the orchestra doesn't break out into "Who Let the Dogs Out?" at midnight, you 'n' Leo should do fine. (Your line, "We are able to dance like gods and goddesses all cyber-night long" is what prompted me to post my Masque). - Brendan

Grandmother said...

It's all ao very elegant. The dresses show of one's figure perfectly with just the right amount of tease. Tolstoy? Well, good conversation if not good dancing. For me, though, it would be about the dancing. Have a great time.

Catfish Tales said...

So lovely, and Boris, himself, is one of my favourite poets. I taught a year in Russia and, yet, to my regret, was unable to visit the Paternak estate. I would have loved that. Beautiful post here - so softly eloquent. Cheers

Ruth said...

Thanks, Brendan, I wouldn't put anything past anybody in this riot of a fête. I'm still reeling from your masque and can't get Mel Brooks movie scenes out of my head. Leo and I might need to get out for some fresh air and moonlight! Then back in for a line dance ...

Ruth said...

Thanks, Mary. My mother used to say that the right clothes are far more alluring in their mystery than nudity. I confess there isn't a lot left to the imagination in this form-fitting gown. But it is fetching. I imagine that you could dance all night, after marathons and mountain climbs. Me, I am huffing and puffing after one waltz!

Ruth said...

Shers, thanks for popping into our corner! I am learning to love Russia, much thanks to Rilke. I envy you your year there, but a shame about not finding the Pasternak place. I need to read some of the son's poetry, which I have not done.

When you break away from Bertie, maybe you can sit with Leo for a spell and fill him in on your year in his homeland.

Shari Sunday said...

Ruth, you outdid yourself! What a beautiful and inspiring post. I will see you at the ball, dancing the night away, though you may not see me.

Yoli said...

You were by far one of the most interesting ladies at the ball. It was a pleasure meeing you and chatting with Leo.

Linda said...

We have returned to enjoy a waltz or two... I love, love, love Pyotr Ilyich.... is that his "Serenade for Strings" I am hearing? It's off to the dance floor....

Isabel Doyle said...

Champagne cocktail?

Margaret said...

What a night, Ruth! I let John know of your desire to dance with him and he hopes to attend next year :) I have been quite busy dancing and having a few of Tess's "Last Word" cocktails at the bar with Clark. What a humorous man he is ... a bit ribald, his jokes, but when he raises his brow and winks, I just forgive him everything. The men seem to be having a wonderful time and Tolstoy's "empty" chair is anything but. I have tried to occupy it, but each time someone gets there before me.

I'm looking back and seeing that Clark is just as buys with the men as he is the women. I guess it's that sense of humor of his.... Oh, Anthony Hopkins just asked me to dance, so I'm off (he gave a cat whistle when he saw me enter the door... I didn't know English men did that! :)

Helen said...

Perfect choice, white lace with yellow trim. You looked quite lovely. I had an enlightening conversation with your Mr. Leo last evening.

Carolina Linthead said...

My lady, I could not help but notice the superb curvature of your, er, yellow trims. Would you accord me the honor of this dance?

Tess Kincaid said...

I must have a dance with your dashing Mr. Darcy...preferably outside...alone...in the light of the full harvest moon...

Shaista said...

I only just arrived... ack! Wardrobe crisis!
I am such a girl.
Ooh, can't wait to line up for that empty chair..
My grandfather met Gandhiji... they were both part of the Freedom Movement for India...
D'you think Tolstoy might be impressed? :)

Kristen Haskell said...

Eugene and I will be dancing the Russian Waltz. He's the one in the red tails and I have the peacock gown on. Do look for us.

C.M. Jackson said...

ruht-first, you are a vision and second, I so look forward to the novel you write one day--weaving history,art,music and place into an amazing story...enjoy the night and a toast to you! c

Ruth said...

I am exhausted, Everyone. I danced one waltz with William Powell, and then he tucked me in with Leo where I spent most of the night (except for a few outings to the moonlight). I was not in as good a shape as I thought: even cyber-dancing is too much for me!

Shari, was that you above me in the tree when I was gazing at the moon? I thought you were a cat.

Thanks, Yoli, you and Anthony were tres elegante ...

Linda, it was a Russian delight!

Thanks, Isabel, how about water? I'm dying of thirst and I have to stay awake . . .


Margaret, you were the belle of the ball, and even Leo waxed wistfully about wanting to dance with you . . .

Thank you, Helen, I'm glad you found Leo's glowing corner enchanting . . .

Thanks, Mr. Linthead, that was my only dance, I swooned and sunk into my chair . . .

Tess, marvelous party! Darcy? Did you see Darcy? I didn't think he was coming this year, after every Sue, Jill and Harry danced with him last year . . .

Dear Shaista, never too late! And Cinderella makes a better entrance that way anyhow. Leo went on and on about you and your grandpapa after you left us. He said, ohh, she writes too? She will go far . . .

Kristen, you took my breath away!

C.M., how kind of you, and I did get lots of good tips from Leo last night and stashed them in my little bag.

Catfish Tales said...

Dear Ruthie,

It appears that you and I have a few of the same loves in common. I did get to visit one of the many Tolstoy homes during my stay in Russia, this particular one his Moscow home, which is the one he stayed at and actually carried pails of water from the Moscow river, believing it a good practice in austere living. Dmitri Shostakovich is also a favourite of mine and I went to the conservatory on many a cold day to hear the Russian state orchestra play his stirring music. I also, btw, live in Andre Rieu territory - not in Maastricht - where he comes from but in the Netherlands itself. He puts on a wonderful show - very entertaining.
I'm glad to have met you here. Cheers

erin said...

hard, vulgar and banal oh! what henry james might think of a music video today! or a walk down any street.

is it not honest to look, to really look at one another?

your ball sounds wonderfully fun.

xo
erin

amy@ Souldipper said...

What fun! I caught a glimpse of you...the lace suited your regal presence on the dance floor. Did you see that I invited Will Rogers? I've been feeling a bit like a cowgirl with all the prep work for winter. I wanted to be comfortable in "quality casj". Will was delighted and said he would match my ensemble. We came in soft, faux suedes. The folds of my skirt fell with grace of silk. The over blouse guided the eye to the movement of the skirt. My hand made, Italian leather shoes put a tarty spring in my step that caused Will to break into psalm with a naughty grin.

We arrived, perched ourselves, reveled in the music and watched the proceedings until we saw the perfect time to entice Tolstoy to join us for a Schottische. We carried him over hops while he protested over age and infirmities. He ended up laughing like a young boy as the piece ended.

Lara's Theme was played so well that Will Rogers actually stopped being a cowboy and turned me into a princess on the dance floor.

Lesley Anne said...

lovely lovely lovely! i'm so happy i was able to peak into the window and witness a moment or two of the gorgeous ball. it was such a sight to behold! your dress, the picture of loveliness.

Ginnie said...

If I didn't know better, Ruth, I would think YOU had been the Hart sister who had moved to the Netherlands. :) André Rieu, indeed. I can just see you at the Ball...and intermittently conversing with Tolstoy. I love the idea of this ball....enough to maybe accept the invitation one year. You'll be the first to know. :)