Sunday afternoon . . .

“Christmas is our time to be aware of what we lack, of who’s not home.” ~ John Irving, from A Prayer for Owen Meany

Sunday night. Less windy and colder, 47 degrees.

Okay, so it’s not exactly afternoon. I got distracted by the sound of my computer crashing over and over . . .

Anyway, I had set aside the following clips to share with you in my attempt to put myself squarely in a somewhat festive mood for the season. After all, I’m only going to be doing all of the lead up to Christmas mostly by myself as Corey won’t be getting home until Christmas eve. So I’ve told myself that I’m going to start this week, try to do a little each day, but the reality is with having Olivia, I never know how my days will turn out.

And truthfully, while I associate my father with Thanksgiving, I associate my mother with Christmas, and this is the first one without her, and I’m trying, really, really trying not to think too much.

So in the spirit of trying . . .

I will admit that I’m one of those people who cries at Christmas Commercials. My favorite was always the Miller “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” sleigh ride. I used to weep buckets. I’ve never been able to find a decent video of it, but I keep hoping. John Lewis (UK) commercials are always wonderful, and this year’s just slays me (it warrants repeating). And then there are the Coke commercials. Remember “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”?

The Stella Artois company did something truly amazing with their commercials this year. Here are two from their “Give Beautifully” series:

More later. Peace.

                   

An Old Man Performs Alchemy on His Doorstep at Christmastime

Cream of Tartar, commonly used to lift meringue and
angel food cake, is actually made from crystallized fine wine.

After they stopped singing for him,
the carolers became transparent in the dark,
and he stepped into their emptiness to say
he lost his wife last week, please
sing again. Their voices filled with gold.
Last week, his fedora nodded hello to me
on the sidewalk, and the fragile breath
of kindness that passed between us
made something sweet of a morning
that had frightened me for no earthly reason.
Surely, you know this by another name:
the mysteries we intake, exhale, could be
sitting on our shelves, left on the bus seat
beside us. Don’t wash your hands.
You fingered them at the supermarket,
gave them to the cashier; intoxicated tonight,
she’ll sing in the streets. Think of the old man.
Who knew he kept the secret of levitation,
transference, and lightness filling a winter night?
— an effortless, crystalline powder
That could almost seem transfigured from loss.

~ Anna George Meek

“Take full account of what excellencies you possess, and in gratitude remember how you would hanker after them, if you had them not.” ~ Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations

From our house to yours . . .


“The funny thing about Thanksgiving ,or any big meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it then go home and cook,chop,braise and blanch. Then it’s gone in 20 minutes and everybody lies around sort of in a sugar coma and then it takes 4 hours to clean it up.” ~ Ted Allen, from The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

How about a little Thanksgiving history, including some similar feasts around the world . . .

Did you know?

  • The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, one of the symbols of Thanksgiving, comes from ancient Greeks and Romans. The term (generally describing a horn-shaped basket filled with fruit, flowers and other goodies) comes from the Latin cornu copiae, literally “horn of plenty.” In Greek mythology, the cornucopia is an enchanted severed goat’s horn, created by Zeus to produce a never-ending supply of whatever the owner desires.
  • In England, the September 23 Harvest Festival goes back thousands of years, during which plaited corn dolls were hung in the rafters. The pagans believed that the Spirit of the Corn resided in the first cut sheaf of corn. During the Harvest Festival, children take fruits and vegetables to churches and schools for distribution to the elderly and the needy.
  • Thanksgiving is a part of U.S. military history, including days of Thanksgiving during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
  • In Germany, Erntedankfest is officially celebrated in October, but can be celebrated anytime during the fall. Following the Erntedankfest celebration, the unused food is distributed to the needy.
  • Pumpkin pie has been around for hundred of years, possibly dating back to the 1500s during which a dessert was made by stewing pumpkins and wrapping it in pastry. During the 17th century, recipes for pumpkin pie could be found in English cookbooks, but it wasn’t until about the 19th century that pumpkin pie similar to what we know today became a Thanksgiving staple. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem called the pumpkin in 1850: “What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?” Lydia Maria Child’s poem (later a song) “Over the River and Through the Woods” (1844), includes the following verses:
Over the river, and through the wood—
When Grandmother sees us come,
She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
bring a pie for everyone.”
Over the river, and through the wood—
now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
  • One of the biggest and most important holidays in Korea is Chuseok, a three-day harvest festival that is s celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. In the morning, foods prepared with the year’s fresh harvest are set out to give thanks to ancestors through Charye (ancestor memorial service). After Charye, families visit their ancestors’ graves and engage in Beolcho, a ritual of clearing the weeds that may have grown up over the burial mound.
  • The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1924 and has been held every year since, except for 1942-44 because of WWII. The first major balloon featured in the parade was Felix the Cat, in 1927. Floats were introduced in 1971. Each parade has ended with the appearance of Santa Claus.

Seriously though,  I hope the day finds you warm (or cool, depending upon your hemisphere), safe, and with family or friends, that your table has enough to fill your hunger, your glass has enough to slate your thirst, and your body feels the comfort of close companionship. And tonight, when everyone has gone, and the table has been cleared, may you spare a thought for those out there who find clean water a luxury, warm food a bounty, and a safe pillow something found only in dreams.

I miss you, Dad.

More later. Peace.

Music by John Denver, “The Wings that Fly us Home.” (yes, it’s blatantly sentimental)

                   

Moment

Before the adults we call our children arrive with their children in tow
for Thanksgiving,

we take our morning walk down the lane of oaks and hemlocks, mist
a smell of rain by nightfall—underfoot,

the crunch of leathery leaves released by yesterday’s big wind.

You’re ahead of me, striding into the arch of oaks that opens onto the fields
and stone walls of the road—

as a V of geese honk a path overhead, and you stop—

in an instant, without thought, raising your arms toward sky, your hands
flapping from the wrists,

and I can read in the echo your body makes of these wild geese going
where they must,

such joy, such wordless unity and delight, you are once again the child
who knows by instinct, by birthright,

just to be is a blessing. In a fictional present, I write the moment down.
You embodied it.

~ Margaret Gibson

“The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mole, but true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives, the passion that she knows.” ~ Audrey Hepburn

kindness

“Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.” ~ Henry James

Saturday afternoon. Rainy and windy, 55 degrees.

Oh I feel terrible. I missed my mother-in-law’s birthday on Tuesday, and that is a true misgiving on my part because she is the kindest woman I have ever known. I’ve been saving the video below just for her, and then because of the craziness that is my life, I forgot.

Mea culpa.

Anyway, Happy Birthday Joyce! I hope you had a lovely one.


 

Starry Nights time-lapse video by Jan Hattenbach:

StarryNights is a collection of astronomical time-lapse videos recorded of the last three years.

                   

A November Sunrise

Wild geese are flocking and calling in pure golden air,
Glory like that which painters long ago
Spread as a background for some little hermit
Beside his cave, giving his cloak away,
Or for some martyr stretching out
On her expected rack.
A few black cedars grow nearby
And there’s a donkey grazing.

Small craftsmen, steeped in anonymity like bees,
Gilded their wooden panels, leaving fame to chance,
Like the maker of this wing-flooded golden sky,
Who forgives all our ignorance
Both of his nature and of his very name,
Freely accepting our one heedless glance.

~ Anne Porter

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .


 

This week’s headline:

Mid-term elections are important. Don’t blow them off. Go VOTE!


Happy Halloween!

How cool. I love discovering new things. I never knew that van Gogh did this piece:

Vincent van Gogh Head of a Skeleton 1886

“Head of a Skeleton” (1886, oil on canvas)
by Vincent van Gogh

Found this classic Mickey Mouse: The Skeleton Dance (1929)

Freaky!

Dumb animals, yep.

For more on Endal, click here.

Well that explains why Tidewater Drive has been a mess for almost a year . . .

Photo: It makes sense now.

No wonder I’ve never won anything more than fries . . .

Umm, okay . . .

Photo: Waatteerrrr STAHP

Okay, now go . . . no wait, stop, turn around, go . . . no, stop again . . .

And finally, would that we could all be happy with the perfect pebble . . .

                   

Music by Donovan, what else, “Season of the Witch”

“Doesn’t it make you shiver? | There’s a fearlessness I envy | In the simple soft wavering dark.” ~ Alicia Ostriker, from “Ohio Evening”

Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, Cincinnati by David Ohmer FCC

Johnny Appleseed Statue, Spring Grove Cemetery & Arboretum, Cincinnati by David Ohmer (FCC)


 

These things float around in my head
Like a boat that cuts its motor
In the middle of a lake,
Where under a full moon and no wind
The singing of the crickets far away
Goes up and up like a curtain of beads.” ~ Alicia Ostriker, from “Ohio Evening”

Monday afternoon. Cloudy and humid, 73 degrees.

Cooler temperatures have me longing for fall—red and orange foliage, mountain trails, the smell of loam and cold spring water, crisp apples straight from the orchard, wildflower honey. Ah me. I don’t know if I’ll make it through a real post today, so I’ll just start musing and see where it takes me, okay?

So Corey heard from the landowner, and it doesn’t look promising. The owner wants to sell outright, no lease to buy, and that’s perfectly understandable; also,  the other family that is very interested in the property told him that they can have the financing by March of next year. So if we want this property, we need to sell one of these houses so that, we hope, we can secure a new mortgage for the property before March 2015.

Did you get all of that?

Tofukuji Temple, Japan by Ari Helminen FCC

Tofukuji Temple, Japan by Ari Helminen FCC
Even though this image has a copyright symbol on it, it was listed on the photographer’s site as being creative commons

In essence, unless we sell something, we’re not going to get my dream property. And the bummer is that we just cannot put our house on the market without doing some work on it. I refuse to take a loss on this house, which might seem stubborn, but it would seem too much like a failure.

Here’s what we need to do to put it on the market:

  • Rip up the old carpet and make the floors look presentable
  • Install a new back door
  • Replace all of the windows
  • Gut the kitchen and install new cabinetry and tile
  • Paint everything
  • Replace a couple of interior doors
  • Have central ac installed
  • Replace three ceiling fans and install new lighting in the kitchen
  • Finish the bathroom

“And you are left in the end with all that pain cannot take from you.” ~ Carole Maso, from Beauty is Convulsive: The Passion of Frida Kahlo

It actually isn’t a whole lot, and we can do everything except for the AC, and if we do the work, I think that we can get everything done for between 20 and 30K.

I mean, the boys and I can work on the painting while Corey is out. If we’re not staying here, then we don’t need to install the expensive door that I had picked out, and we can save on the kitchen cabinetry as well. Doing a kitchen is not nearly as hard as doing a bathroom; I know this because I’ve done the kitchen in this house before (my ex and I). Installing cabinetry takes a level and two people to handle the cabinets.

Oregan Trail in Autumn by Ian Sane FCC

Oregon Trail in Autumn by Ian Sane (FCC)

Corey has said that he never wants to take on another renovation project himself, having been almost defeated by the bathroom gut and reno; he says that he would rather hire someone to do it, but I think if it means the difference between getting and not getting this property while we wait for funds to do the work, he may see it my way. At least I’m hoping he will. This is one of those situations in which it would be nice if his brothers lived closer so that they could chip in a day or two of help, especially his brother Chad, who is incredibly handy and seems to just know how to do anything.

Anyway, if we start on this work next month, I honestly think that we could be finished by December, and then we could put the house on the market.

Am I not being realistic? Maybe. But this means too much to me to just sit back and accept that we cannot do it.

“A thousand dreams within me softly burn.
From time to time my heart is like some oak
whose blood runs golden where a branch is torn.” ~ Arthur Rimbaud, from “Evening Prayer,” trans. Wyatt Mason

As far as putting the house on the market, I have no idea what the market is like in this area at the moment. I haven’t been in touch with any of my realty contacts in years, so I don’t know if the market is a buyer’s or a seller’s or no one’s. I know that the market has rebounded since the crash of 2007, and I know that it isn’t inflated like it was in 2004-05. Other than that, I have no idea if we can even sell this stupid house.

GE Eastman House, NY by Lisa Cook fcc

GE Eastman House, NY by Lisa Cook (FCC)

I really don’t want to think about it any more at the moment. Let’s see, in other news . . .

I’ve been eating everything in sight for the past few days. No idea where that’s coming from unless it’s stress. It’s stress . . . it’s always stress . . . I throw up . . . it’s stress . . . I eat too much . . . it’s stress . . . I can’t sleep . . . it’s stress . . . I sleep too much . . . it’s stress.

Sheesh. Whatever.

Later this afternoon I’m picking up Olivia, and she’ll stay with me until tomorrow. At least I have that to look forward to. A few hours with le bébé, and almost always it puts me right as rain, even though it leaves me exhausted . . . it’s stress . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Luke Sital, “Nearly Morning”

                   

So Much of the World

So much of the world exists
without us

the mountain in its own steepness

the deer sliding
into the trees becoming
a darkness
in the woods’ darkness.

So much of an open field
lies somewhere between the grass
and the dragonfly’s drive and thrum

the seed and seedling,
the earth within.

But so much of it lies in someone
standing alone at the edge of a field
with a life apart

feeling for a moment
the plover’s cry
on the tongue

the curve and plumb
of the apple bough
in limb and bone.

So much of it between
one thing and another,

days of invitation,
then of release and return.

~ Gregory Djanikian

“It began as research. I wrote of silences, of nights, I scribbled the indescribable. I tied down the vertigo.” ~ Arthur Rimbaud, from “Alchemy of the Word”

Still Life under the Sea 1960 by Mary Kessell 1914-1977

“Still Life under the Sea” (1960, oil and pastel on canvas)
by Mary Kessell


“a taste which I have in my soul depresses me.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “Dream Horse” 

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and not too hot, 83 degrees.

I am in a very, very strange place today. Partially depressed, partially heartbroken, partially agitated. I simply cannot pinpoint it, and I hate it. It’s one of those episodes in which so many conflicting emotions are hitting my brain and my heart, leaving me drained and bereft.

Theodore Earl Butler The Epte, Giverny 1908 oil on canvas

“The Epte, Giverny” (1908, oil on canvas)
Theodore Earl Butler

My heart aches for Corey; just his nearness helps, even a bit. I’m sitting here, and I really need to go pick up my prescriptions (which might be part of the problem), but I truly don’t have enough energy to put on clothes and get in the car. Look, I don’t even have enough energy to change into a bathing suit and float in the pool, even though today would be the perfect day to do something like that. I just can’t.

Sitting at the party yesterday, surrounded by so many people, some of whom I know and others I should know and some I’ve never met before—it’s the kind of situation that always makes me anxious. I cannot help but feel that people are judging me. Don’t ask me why I feel this way, but I do. The truth of the matter is that everyone is so wrapped up in their own lives, their children, their next beer, whatever, that I know that I don’t even enter their peripheries, yet I allow myself to feel insecure.

“And isn’t it true, sorrow, I know you;
you are the longing for the good life,
the loneliness of the dark heart,
of the ship drifting beyond disaster or star.” ~ Antonio Machado, from “It is an ashen and musty evening”

What happens is this: I look around at all of the people who seem to be having so much fun, and I think to myself, “why can’t I be like that?” And then I think to myself, “who are you? You never used to be like this.”

Georgia O'Keeffe Blue, Black, and Grey 1960

“Blue, Black, and Grey” (1960, oil on canvas)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

I know. I just don’t get out enough, and that’s mostly by choice and partially because of physical conditions, and to some extent because, well, life.

Lately, because of circumstances, I feel my loneliness too keenly. Alone and lonely are two separate things—I know this. But the truth is that it has morphed into acute loneliness.

I have considered going to the karaoke bar that Corey and I used to frequent, just sit there and have my cup of tea and write in my journal like I used to. I was more comfortable in my skin then, I think. No, I know. But I also know that going someplace alone at night is simply not the safest thing for a female, regardless of age, to do anymore.

Last night I dreamed that Corey and I went there, and we knew no one. The entire staff had changed; all of the people we used to know by name were long gone, and the whole place felt foreign, uncomfortable. Then later in the same dream, I fell asleep on the front porch, but it was my mother’s front porch, and when I woke up, the bricks in the steps had started to come loose, like the mortar holding them together was dissolving, so that the very ground beneath me was dissolving, and I couldn’t explain to anyone why I had slept on the porch, and then when I went to make coffee for everyone, the carafe was dirty and stained, so I left the kitchen and walked towards my mother’s bedroom, and the door opened and one of Eamonn’s friends came out, and I didn’t know why he was there or why I was in my mother’s house in the first place.

I don’t need psychoanalysis to know that the ground is shifting beneath my feet, and I’m not where I need to be . . .

“I am working out the vocabulary of my silence.” ~ Muriel Rukeyser, from “The Speed Of Darkness”

For so long I told myself that once the kids were gone and I had all of this free time, I would use it to be productive. I would write and write and write, and yet, I write nothing at all.

My heart is so heavy with the burdens of motherhood, and they feel like burdens because I am so asea as to how to fix anything for anyone. I look at my daughter, and I know that she is not happy, that it’s all an act. I look at one of my sons and I know that he is lonely and searching for his place in this world, and I look at my other son and know that he is lost within himself and has no idea as to how to break through the waves.

Gustav Klimt Moonlight by the Mediterranean 1892

“Moonlight by the Mediterranean” (1892)
by Edvard Munch

How did I get to such a place, a place in which I find myself to be so wanting as a mother? How did they get to where they are? I talk to their friends and I hear the same stories, different versions. They all seem to be lost and wanting something they cannot find. I don’t remember being so lost in my 20’s. I didn’t have all of the answers, certainly, but I knew exactly what I wanted, or at least, I think that I did. I had goals, and I had dreams.

Time muddles the memories, changes their hues, makes us remember people and situations in ways that may have never existed. Within the chambers of our memory palaces, we pluck days, weeks, in which we remember perfect skies, glorious sunsets, true loves, long embraces, but did any of it really happen?

After having a long talk with one of my son’s friends in which he bemoaned his ability to find the right person to be with, I felt bad that I had no true words of wisdom for him, that he would only learn by doing and by losing and by trying again and again. I wouldn’t want my 20s again for anything, yet so much of what I did to become the person I am now happened then. How do I reconcile that?

“And how do I know what you are to me?
Our theories are untested. You must not laugh.
We thought there were other ways.
Probably there are, but they are hidden
and we shall never find them.” ~ Paul Bowles, from “Next to Nothing”

As I sit here and parse the words and syllables, try to reconcile the immense feelings of loss, I realize that I know next to nothing, truly. I offer these young people advice, but what do I know, really . . . nothing, nothing at all. I am living a life filled with holes, and I know that so much of that comes from not working at all after working my entire life, working at some job or another since I was 14. I hate these circumstances. I peruse the ads on LinkedIn, read the qualifications they are seeking, say to myself, “Oh, I could definitely do that,” and then I close the window because I know that applying is futile. How could I possibly work for anyone when some days I cannot even summon the energy to walk to the kitchen, when some days I must stop and rest after folding laundry.

Emil Nolde Starry Sky 1938-45

“Starry Sky” (1938-45, watercolor)
by Emil Nolde

I hate this more than anyone could possibly know, and I know that I sound like a broken record, but sometimes it just has to come out: all  of the frustrations, all of the losses, all of the days wasted, and I have no one to blame but myself. And I know that I’m in a particularly sensitive spot right now because of things that are going on beyond my control, and perhaps that is what bothers me the most: the lack of control, mostly because I feel that I should be able to control these things, or at least be able to fix them. If not me, then who?

And I walk through the house and notice the mess on the dining room table, notice the cushions on the couch askew, notice the tumbleweeds of Tillie’s hair in the corners of the rooms, I must face that today I can do absolutely nothing about it. I just don’t have the energy. Look, I seriously contemplated skipping the family party yesterday, but I didn’t have enough energy to come up with a convincing excuse, so instead I arrived late, but it took every ounce of wherewithal to put on clothes and leave the house.

“I wrote down silences, nights, I noted the inexpressible. I fixed vertigos.” ~ Arthur Rimbaud cited in Delmore Schwartz’s Rimbaud in Our Time

Listen, I know that I have a good life; I have a spouse who truly loves me, a comfortable but slightly rundown house in a relatively nice neighborhood, two dogs, thousands of books, three children. I know that I have absolutely no right to complain about my life. I know all of these things.

Yet I also know that I ache, a deep abiding ache. I ache for someone to come to my door and say I will be your friend. I will visit you and I will understand your quirks and I will not make you feel less for having them. And I know that I have friends out there who feel this way. I would only have to write or to call. I do know this. But knowledge sometimes is not nearly enough to overcome great sadness. If it were, then I would have no problems at all.

Edvard Munch Starry Night 1893 oil on canvas

“Starry Night” (1893, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

To be able to retreat inside my mind is something I have always been able to do. But sometimes, once inside, all that I truly want is a long, hard hug, a soft whisper in my ear, a gentle touch of my hair. I’m not talking about passion; I’m talking about compassion.

Most of the time I try not to write about these things, mostly so that Corey does not read them and worry about me. I want him to be able to focus on his job when he is away, so I try not to say anything, but sometimes my voice betrays me, and I feel absolutely wretched that he can tell. He reads me so well.

But today, it is all too much, and I am too tired and too lonely, and my heart feels akin to breaking, and not even the soft warmth of my dogs’ bodies lying next to me is enough to calm the pounding in my heart.

I wish for better days. I wish that I knew how to make those better days. I wish I wish I wish I wish I wish…………………………………………

Enough. More later. Peace.

I cannot get this song out of my head today: “My Salvation,” by Gabrielle Aplin

                     

Es Verdad (It’s True)

Ai, what work it costs me,
wanting you like I want you!

All on account of your love
the air
hurts me —
my heart,
even my hat.

Who will buy it for me,
this hatband I’m holding,
and this sorrow of linen,
white to make handkerchiefs?

Ai! what work it costs me,
wanting you like I want you.

~ Federico García Lorca