“Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ~ Stephen Fry, from Moab Is My Washpot

John Piper Covehithe Church 1983 oil on canvas

“Covehithe Church” (1983, oil on canvas)
by John Piper

                   

“All morning I was at my notes, ferreting through my life records, wondering where to begin, how to make a start.” ~ Henry Miller, in a letter to Anaïs Nin

Monday, early afternoon. Partly cloudy, 80 degrees.

Well, I made it through another Father’s Day. The hardest part of this particular holiday is seeing all of the cards on display. I don’t know why, but that always gets me. I had made a few revisions to “My Father’s Hands,” so I decided to post it again.

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“A Ruined House, Hampton Gay, Oxfordshire” (1941, oil and Indian ink on canvas)
by John Piper

This year Corey wasn’t here as he’s in Ohio visiting his family for Father’s Day. It was a surprise for his dad, which is nice. Of course, his trip wasn’t without the usual hitches; this time, he missed his connecting flight in Atlanta and had to spend the night at the airport and pay $50 to change his ticket. It’s a good thing we hadn’t paid all of the bills yet so there was money on the card. He’s also getting to meet his newest nephew, Ian. I’m so jealous, as you know how I am about babies.

Speaking of which, I want/need to have Olivia over this week, but I’m not feeling up to doing this on my own, so I guess I’ll wait until the weekend when Corey is home.

“Tears were warm, and girls were beautiful, like dreams . . . I liked the deep, sad summer nights.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Dance Dance Dance

Life around the house has calmed a bit since Jake was taken back to the shelter. I made the mistake of going on the site to see if he’s featured, and it made me feel guilty all over again. He was such a wonderfully loving dog; I can only hope that someone full of love adopts him and gives him the home he deserves.

John Piper Seaford Head, 1933, mixed media

“Seaford Head” (1933, mixed media)
by John Piper

But I must admit that I’ve been able to focus better on training Bailey (yes, she officially has a name now!), and she’s catching on very quickly. Far fewer accidents and more going to the door when it’s time. The real plus is that she and Tillie seem to get along very well. They have play fights and tug-of-war, and it’s great to see Tillie back to her old self again, not hiding from Jake under the bed, only coming out when she absolutely had to. She’s asserted her place as queen of the household pack, and Bailey is learning the routine from her.

But I just keep picturing Jake sitting there in his cage at the shelter wondering what happened. Oh well . . . We did the right thing, so why does it feel so wrong? That’s usually how it is, though.

“The whisper of leaves, water running down gutters, green depths flecked with dahlias or zinnias; I deviate, glancing this way, or that way, I shall fall like snow and be wasted.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

I must sound like a fruit loop sometimes, the way I go on about dogs, but dogs have been a major part of my life since I was a child. I can’t imagine living without at least one in my life.

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“Welsh Landscape” (1950, oil on canvas)
by John Piper

In other news . . . I’ve actually been able to float in the pool a few times. It hasn’t been deadly hot and humid, and yesterday it was just the dogs and me and the sky. Very quiet.

I put Bailey in the pool, but she’s not quite pool-adept yet. Her big paws just pound the water. Tillie looks on with a bit of disdain; she hardly causes a ripple when she swims. Too funny.

I need to do some basics around here—laundry, paper work, some official replies—but I cannot for the life of me find even a spark of energy. Things haven’t gotten completely out of hand yet, but the mail is starting to make a small pile, and I have two baskets of clothes that I need to put away. The one good thing about Eamonn moving out is that the laundry has been cut in half. He routinely changes clothes at least twice a day.

Small favors.

“In my journal I write—I belong in this place of words. This is my home. This dark, bone black inner cave where I am making a world for myself.” ~ Bell Hooks, from Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood

Well, it’s the middle of the year, and I have yet to do anything about taking the GREs so that I can apply to GW’s doctoral program. This song and dance is not new for me. I have gone back and forth for so many years over whether I should pursue a doctorate. The truth is that having a PhD would probably do nothing for me professionally as there is a plethora of post-docs looking for work.

John Piper Park Place, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire 1941 oil on canvas on panel

“Park Place, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire” (1941, oil on canvas on panel)
by John Piper

Is it enough to go through all of this simply because I have always felt that I should do this? When I say always, I am not exaggerating—I have always, since I was an undergraduate, seen myself as holding a doctorate, teaching at some college somewhere.

I certainly don’t need the degree to pursue my writing. Lots and lots of successful writers out there who don’t hold degrees. For the writing I just need to write, and we all know that I haven’t done so well on pursuing that front either.

So what gives? Why oh why do I believe that I need this thing so much . . . I have no more answers than the last time I pondered this situation. Maybe I’ll just spend the rest of my years having this inner debate ad infinitum.

“An inheritance of wonder and nothing more.” ~ William Least Heat-Moon, from Blue Highways

I’ve spent the last few nights in my past again. Mari has made several dream appearances, as have the people I used to work with at Dillard’s. I have no idea if it means anything or not, but it leaves me feeling limp in the morning, as if I’ve traversed hundreds of miles in my sleep.

John Piper Seaton Delaval 1941 oil on canvas laid on wood

“Seaton Delaval” (1941, oil on canvas laid on wood)
by John Piper

Last night I dreamed that I had a phone altercation with a bill collector who was looking for Corey. That was very, very strange, but the strangest part is that I have a feeling it actually happened. I’ve been known to carry on entire conversations in my sleep. I can only hope that it was indeed a dream and not an actual occurrence.

I just remembered that part of my dream last night involved me floating about five feet off the ground on what can best be described as kind of a magic carpet, only it wasn’t a carpet, it was white and silky. I’ve had this dream many times before, and I’ve had the sensation of being able to float from place to place. These floating dreams are usually very enjoyable, for obvious reasons, but last night’s included a pit bull jumping up and grabbing me while I was floating. He was grey. No idea where that came from.

“Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims.” – H. G. Wells, from The War of the Worlds

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“Coventry Cathedral 15 November (1940, oil on plywood)
by John Piper

Corey will be home Wednesday evening. I couldn’t tell you why this particular trip hit hard, especially as it’s only for a few days. I guess it’s just an accumulation of things. I hope that I’m feeling better by then as I am so tired of feeling tired, so tired of feeling less than myself.

It’s hard to describe sometimes, this enervating lethargy. It’s not just feeling tired, but more of feeling like a rag that’s been wrung tightly and left to dry—shapeless, limp, used up. I’m not sure if I’m in the tail end of this particular depressive episode, if it is bodily aguish as a result, or if the body is causing the mind, or if it’s all unrelated.

When I finish this, I just may crawl back into bed. Even floating in the pool feels like too much work. I suppose the cobwebs will just have to wait another day.

More later. Peace.

All images by English artist John Piper (1903-1992)

Music by Gretchen Peters, “Five Minutes”

                   

Celestial Music

I have a friend who still believes in heaven.
Not a stupid person, yet with all she knows, she literally talks
to god,
she thinks someone listens in heaven.
On earth, she’s unusually competent.
Brave, too, able to face unpleasantness.

We found a caterpillar dying in the dirt, greedy ants crawling
over it.
I’m always moved by weakness, by disaster, always eager to
oppose vitality.
But timid, also, quick to shut my eyes.
Whereas my friend was able to watch, to let events play out
according to nature. For my sake, she intervened,
brushing a few ants off the torn thing, and set it down across
the road.

My friend says I shut my eyes to god, that nothing else
explains
my aversion to reality. She says I’m like the child who buries
her head in the pillow
so as not to see, the child who tells herself
that light causes sadness—
My friend is like the mother. Patient, urging me
to wake up an adult like herself, a courageous person—

In my dreams, my friend reproaches me. We’re walking
on the same road, except it’s winter now;
she’s telling me that when you love the world you hear celestial
music:
look up, she says. When I look up, nothing.
Only clouds, snow, a white business in the trees
like brides leaping to a great height—
Then I’m afraid for her; I see her
caught in a net deliberately cast over the earth—

In reality, we sit by the side of the road, watching the sun set;
from time to time, the silence pierced by a birdcall.
It’s this moment we’re both trying to explain, the fact
that we’re at ease with death, with solitude.
My friend draws a circle in the dirt; inside, the caterpillar
doesn’t move.
She’s always trying to make something whole, something
beautiful, an image
capable of life apart from her.
We’re very quiet. It’s peaceful sitting here, not speaking, the
composition
fixed, the road turning suddenly dark, the air
going cool, here and there the rocks shining and glittering—
it’s this stillness that we both love.
The love of form is a love of endings.

~ Louise Gluck

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2 thoughts on ““Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ~ Stephen Fry, from Moab Is My Washpot

  1. I dreamt of being at a sort of tribunal at the library over my handling of a mother abusing her child in the bathroom. Four policemen were on the panel and they agreed with my handling, but the library had some kind of thing about the rights of the patron. I wasn’t going to be fired, or charged, or suffer any kind of ill beyond the ire of the director, who thought I should have known how she would have handled it – by osmosis, I guess. There were no formal rules on how to handle it, no training. I was asked about my degree program and whether anything in it covered how to handle such cases, and I said, no, that there was only a general mention of balancing patient rights with library policy, and lamented that one minus of online-teaching was how ineffective it could be in cases where you need to learn delicate interplay using voice, gesture, etc. The director was very adamant that I had handled it all wrong.

    The father had the child with him, a young girl. They did not sit in the tribunal, but they were there for my support. Because – to that father – I was a hero.

    Being shamed in a dream is not new to me, but feeling that at least a few people were on my side and supportive is unusual.

    I’m not a big facebook person, but I have a handful of friends in this area who post lost dog pictures and I feel like we all share them with all the local folks so that maybe someone will spot one of these pups and help it go home. I suppose that could be used to find dogs homes, too. Could you post a picture of Jake on facebook? I see folks on Pinterest who post photos of cats… usually never anywhere near where I am (probably a good thing).

    When I returned my last library book and searched for three books I wanted to read – popular novels – and the library didn’t have any of them, I checked out a book on chia seeds. Aztec runners would carry a vial of them, add them to water during their long runs and it gave them lots of energy. I mix them with cereal for breakfast (not for energy). Maybe I ought to try taking some just before I go out for my walk in the evening. I’ve been feeling a lot less energetic during my walks, but it might have something to do with the humidity and heat?

    The pool sounds good. You should do it more.

    You are not a fruit loop.

    Bill collectors aren’t supposed to call at night. If it was real, he probably realized that the conversation was surreal…

    I only cussed a few times at my Word documents uploaded into the SNAP program (where it grades them). I got the grade up to 100 in a few tries. I think the key is that you have to highlight things by clicking on them instead of using the mouse like I usually do…

    I like the Louise Gluck poem…

    Have a very good evening… and day… and week…

    • Wow, that’s an intense dream, but I think the most important part is the father. We’ve been talking about fathers, and you had mentioned that your relationship with your dad wasn’t the best. In your dream, the father is giving you the support you deserve. I think that’s significant.

      You are spot on about the lapses in online degree programs. Some things just can’t be conveyed on a computer screen.

      Brett checked the site last night, and Jake’s picture is gone, which means that he’s been adopted; at least, that’s what I’m assuming it means. Perhaps I can start to forgive myself for this one thing.

      I have no idea if the conversation took place, but if it did, the person on the other end got nothing.

      I like the Gluck poem, too. Found it on tumblr, I believe. I’m finding several good sites for poems, apart from poets.org and the poetry foundation.

      Too cloudy for pool. Doctor’s appt today. Take care.

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