“Life might be brief and transient, scrawled in the sand. But death was written in a much harder alphabet.” ~ Stephen Booth, from Dancing with the Virgins


No matter how careful you are, there’s going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn’t experience it all. There’s that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should’ve been paying attention.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, from Invisible Monsters

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and 83 degrees, yes, 83 degrees . . . whatever . . .

It’s supposed to be “Two for Tuesday,” but I’m pushing Tuesday to Wednesday because I was up until almost 6 a.m., thinking about words, words that I wanted to say, but I kept myself away from the keyboard because I knew that once I began, it might be days before I stopped. Days, hours, it matters not.

Odilon Redon Closed Eyes 1890 oil on canvas

“Closed Eyes” (1890, oil on canvas)
by Odilon Redon

This is what kept me awake: My mother was the one who realized that something was wrong with Caitlin. Not me. She did. She took one look at her and said, “What’s wrong with her eyes?” She said they were bulging. I didn’t really see it, didn’t want to see it, shrugged it off as my mother being overprotective of her granddaughters in the same way that she was overprotective of me.

She was right.

That phone call I received at my very first faculty meeting? That one? It was because my mother had put Caitlin in the car and had taken her to the pediatrician’s office and made them look at her eyes. You see, after the ER doctor had said that she had a virus, I had taken Caitlin to the pediatrician and said that my mother thought her eyes looked funny. The one doctor, the one I never really liked, poo pooed the comment.

My mother was right. I was wrong. The ER resident was wrong. The pediatrician was wrong. It took my mother taking Caitlin to see the other pediatrician in the practice, the gentle one who listened to every word you said—it took that for someone to finally pay attention and send Caitlin to the Children’s Hospital, the hospital that found the brain tumor.

My mother was right.

How children think of death is how the shadows
gather between trees: a hiding place
for everything the grown-ups cannot name.
” ~ John Burnside, from “The Hunt in the Forest”

Odilon Redon Ophelia

“Ophelia V” (c1905)
by Odilon Redon

Look, you’re probably wondering why I’m going over this yet again, but all I can say in way of explanation is one word: fall. Autumn is my best and worst of times. I love every natural aspect of the  season, yet the way in which my emotional well-being goes into free fall more often than not leaves me tortured. Nietzsche said it best when he said that autumn was “more the season of the soul than the season of nature.”

Example: Yesterday, after getting my fasting labs done in the early morning, and then having my six-month checkup with my PCP, all I could think about were curly fries. Weird, I know. So I had to maneuver the hell that is a major thoroughfare that it still under construction to get to the nearest Arby’s. My timing was lousy as the nearby grade school was getting out at the same time. Parents in their cars lined both sides of the streets. No one would let me turn into the narrow street. The resultant snafu left me in tears.

Yes, tears, as in crying in the car, which, if you’ve ever been in the car with me, is completely uncharaceristic. Crying over curly fries, crying over curly fries that I couldn’t eat once I had ordered them. Then yesterday evening as I was trying to force myself to post something, I came across the story about a journalist who was beheaded by ISIS, and again, I cried.

Bed. Yes, bed would make it better. But bed, not so much. No sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about my mother and Caitlin’s eyes, which leads me to this moment.

“. . . how come sorrow is as heavy, lumpen and impenetrably black as an anvil?” ~ Agnès Desarthe, from Chez Moi

November will rear its ugly head in just a few days, and with it I have to confront once again the losses of my daughter, my father, my friend, and yes, even my dog. Isn’t it time to let go, past time, you ask?

Odilon Redon The Yellow Cape 1895 pastel on paper

“The Yellow Cape” (1895, pastel on paper)
by Odilon Redon

Beh. Of course it is. But that’s for normal people, people who do not obsess and obsess and obsess over perceived failings. Example: I did not clean the portal lines that had been inserted into Caitlin’s chest the day that I had taken her in for a follow-up MRI. Why do I remember this? Who knows, but I remember vividly doing a haphazard job of inserting the flushing material in the waiting room at CHKD before they took her into the MRI suite because I wanted to make sure that I had done this one thing for my daughter that I was tasked to do on a daily basis.

Did that failure to use a one-inch square of alcohol on a gauze pad lead to infection? Who knows? Possibly? Probably? Probably not?

The point is that I REMEMBER. I cannot forget. Just as I cannot forget that I did not go back to the hospital that night before my father died even though I had promised his unconscious body that I would come back and spend the night at the hospital. Exhaustion and relief at being away from the white noise of the ICU gave me a false sense of relief, and so I went to bed, and he died in the middle of the night alone.

“How long it takes me to climb into grief!
Fifty years old, and still held in the dark,
in the unfinished, the hopeful, what longs for solution.” ~ Robert Bly, from “A Ramage for the Star Man, Mourning”

Enough, you say. Stop this madness, you say. No, not nearly . . .

When I left my mother’s room that Thursday afternoon, I secretly congratulated myself on making such a speedy getaway, leaving my mother to talk the ear off the social worker. I had work to do. I needed to get her house ready for her to come home. There was snow to be removed. And so I had a brief visit, long enough for her to bitch at me, and then I left, and then she died the next morning, sometime, they are guessing around 9, alone.

Odilon Redon Closed Eyes c1894 oil on canvas

“Closed Eyes” (c1894, oil on canvas)
by Odilon Redon

And did I mention that that best friend I lovingly wrote about years ago in my Vale et Memini series, the one who had a brain tumor and survived? Her? Did I mention that she died and I didn’t find out until a few years later, that I never even went to the funeral because I didn’t know that there was a funeral, and the other night it suddenly came to me that hell, I was her eldest daughter’s godmother, a sacred honor that I had completely washed from my memory.

And that other anamchara friend, the one who I always thought I’d be bonded to in perpetuity? I haven’t corresponded with her in years, other than an obligatory Christmas card. Yes, I am a careless friend, the kind of person who withdraws so completely that the only interactions I still have with friends occur in the midst of troubled sleep.

And then there is the nagging curse I imposed upon myself when Corey and I first got together: I had been so certain that he wouldn’t have to be burdened with me for years and years because I never wanted him to see me get old, and so I had this feeling, this sense, that I would die when I was 56. And you hear of people who have feelings that they will die young, in their teens, who do, and people who have a feeling that they will not live to be old, and they do not, and so what have I done to myself.

“Endlessness runs in you like leaves on the tree of night.” ~ Anne Carson, from “TV Men: The Sleeper”

Listen, if you recently subscribed to this blog because you found it amusing and slightly entertaining, or if you enjoyed the art or the poetry or the music, if that was your reason? Well I’m sorry. Because this post is really what this blog is about. This endless cacophony of doubt, and blame, and grief, and sorrow, and pain.

That other person, the one who offers up stuff from Takei’s tumblr or other such sites? She’s a phony. She is neither glib nor witty. She masks all of the pain behind little ditties about animals and absurd abuses of the English language because to do otherwise would be peering far too keenly in Nietzsche’s abyss, and we all know what happens when you do that.

Odilon Redon GIrl with Chrysanthemums c1905 pastel on paper

“Girl with Chrysanthemums” (c1905, pastel on paper)
by Odilon Redon

The only good thing about this post is that I did not get out of bed at 4 a.m. to begin it. Had I done so, I am completely certain that the maudlin factor would have been  even worse, if you can imagine that.

I always, always know when the words are going to come fast and furious, when there is no stemming of the onslaught. It has always been this way, since I was but a child, hiding in my room, trying not to let my mother see that yet another book had reduced me to tears and heartache because her solution, of course, was to think happy thoughts, and for a soul such as mine, one might as well say something along the line of “you could be happy if you just tried.”

Oh, but if you only knew the truth of my esse, my life force, that tortured, tormented, and torrid do not begin to encompass the four corners of my heart.

More later. Peace.

All images by French artist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). I am intrigued by how many of the subjects in his paintings have closed eyes or eyes narrowly opened, to which I can relate: going through life with eyes closed, surrounded by beauty . . .

Music by Will Hoge, “When I Get My Wings”

                    

Consider the Space Between Stars 

Consider the white space
between words on a page, not just
the margins around them.

Or the space between thoughts:
instants when the mind is inventing
exactly what it thinks

and the mouth waits
to be filled with language.
Consider the space

between lovers after a quarrel,
the white sheet a cold metaphor
between them.

Now picture the brief space
before death enters, hat in hand:
vanishing years, filled with light.

~ Linda Pastan

“Nothing looks more painfully calm than an autumn twilight. The sun rays pale in the quivering air, the old trees cast their leaves. The country, scorched by the ardent beams of summer, feels death coming with the first cold winds. And, in the sky, there are plaintive sighs of despair. Night falls from above, bringing winding sheets in its shade.” ~ Émile Zola, from Therese Raquin


 

Monday evening. Clear and temperate, 65 degrees.

I’ve been in a bit of a fog for several days now. Not really sure what’s going on. Just beginning to feel a bit better today. I had my six-month check-up with my PCP. Forgot to tell her how I’m craving sugar all of the time. I’ll have to try to remember to call tomorrow to say, “by the way, when she asked if anything was new, the answer was actually yes . . .”

Sorry I’ve been so lax lately. Thanks to the newest followers. Hoping to get back into some kind of groove this week. For now, have this little ditty:

Can you name the 50 different words in Dr. Seuss’ ‘Green Eggs and Ham’?

Well…can you?

                   

Late October

Midnight.  The cats under the open window,
their guttural, territorial yowls.

Crouched in the neighbor’s driveway with a broom,
I jab at them with the bristle end,

chasing their raised tails as they scramble
from bush to bush, intent on killing each other.

I shout and kick until they finally
give it up; one shimmies beneath the fence,

the other under a car.  I stand in my underwear
in the trembling quiet, remembering my dream.

Something had been stolen from me, valueless
and irreplaceable.  Grease and grass blades

were stuck to the bottoms of my feet.
I was shaking and sweating.  I had wanted

to kill them.  The moon was a white dinner plate
broken exactly in half.  I saw myself as I was:

forty-one years old, standing on a slab
of cold concrete, a broom handle slipping

from my hands, my breasts bare, my hair
on end, afraid of what I might do next.

~ Dorianne Laux

                   

Music by Trentemøller, “Deceive”

Dear Prudence: “Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate”

Wednesday night, late. Chilly, 57 degrees.

So Corey left yesterday afternoon, which meant that I did not sleep well last night, which was unfortunate as I had Olivia today. Lex is working part time at a local pizza parlor, so there was no way that I could call her and tell her that I just wasn’t up to watching the bébé. So I muddled through, took a nap when she took hers, until Lex got off work and picked her up.

This evening I watched a few shows in between dozing, so I knew that I would never be able to get to writing a real post . . . so here’s something you may find entertaining:

I used to read Dear Prudence all of the time, mostly because she’s my kind of advice columnist: snarky when appropriate. So when I saw the description of this one in my inbox, I just had to read the whole thing. So glad that I did.

By

Dear Prudence,
I live in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the country, but on one of the more “modest” streets—mostly doctors and lawyers and family business owners. (A few blocks away are billionaires, families with famous last names, media moguls, etc.) I have noticed that on Halloween, what seems like 75 percent of the trick-or-treaters are clearly not from this neighborhood. Kids arrive in overflowing cars from less fortunate areas. I feel this is inappropriate. Halloween isn’t a social service or a charity in which I have to buy candy for less fortunate children. Obviously this makes me feel like a terrible person, because what’s the big deal about making less fortunate kids happy on a holiday? But it just bugs me, because we already pay more than enough taxes toward actual social services. Should Halloween be a neighborhood activity, or is it legitimately a free-for-all in which people hunt down the best candy grounds for their kids?

—Halloween for the 99 Percent

Dear 99,
In the urban neighborhood where I used to live, families who were not from the immediate area would come in fairly large groups to trick-or-treat on our streets, which were safe, well-lit, and full of people overstocked with candy. It was delightful to see the little mermaids, spider-men, ghosts, and the occasional axe murderer excitedly run up and down our front steps, having the time of their lives. So we’d spend an extra $20 to make sure we had enough candy for kids who weren’t as fortunate as ours. There you are, 99, on the impoverished side of Greenwich or Beverly Hills, with the other struggling lawyers, doctors, and business owners. Your whine makes me kind of wish that people from the actual poor side of town come this year not with scary costumes but with real pitchforks. Stop being callous and miserly and go to Costco, you cheapskate, and get enough candy to fill the bags of the kids who come one day a year to marvel at how the 1 percent live.

—Prudie

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

Friday afternoon. Sunny and cool, 73 degrees.

Woke up in so much pain today, but not my head—my back. I’ve been pretty fortunate as far as my back is concerned, at least in the last few months. The pain has been manageable, that is until today. It’s probably the weather as I haven’t done anything strenuous, mostly because . . . well . . . I can’t.

Corey just covered my back in patches, and I plan to spend most of the day on the heating pad while immersed in another book. I mean, what choice do I have? Hope you enjoy this week’s collection. I had so much to choose from, which is always nice.

More later. Peace.


This week’s headline:

mississippi headline

If Disney princes were real . . .

And my first thought was to wonder if they were still edible . . .

Bob’s Burgers literary burgers:

i know why the cajun burger sings

I Know Why the Caged Bird Singsthe sound and the curry

The Sound and the Fury

Life hacks for your computer:

Had to post this one because it reminds me of something new that Bailey is doing: She sits her butt on the couch and plants her front paws on the back of the seat and looks out the window. I mean, she sits, like a person, not a dog. Weird . . .


Derpy, derp, derp . . .

Is it weird that I can’t wait to try this? Probably . . .

Tell us how you really feel, former bike owner:

Missing Bike

In a picture, there is truth:

Here’s a link for you:

Free books: 100 legal sites to download literature

Here’s another link for you:

                   

Music by Rocca DeLuca, “Everything Hurts”

“The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” ~ John Muir, from Letters

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Campfire on Benway Lake, Michigan by Deb Nystrom (FCC)


 

“It was autumn, and I was in my father’s
woods building a house out of branches
and the leaves that were falling like
thousands of letters from the sky.” ~ Joyce Sutphen, from “The Book of Hours”

Saturday evening. Cool, 60’s.

Did you know that the ceiling of New York’s Grand Central Terminal is painted with 2,500 stars: “an autumn-night constellation that was originally painted backward and never corrected”? I didn’t.

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Campfire by Rikerstribe (FCC)

When I pulled into the driveway this evening after doing some errands with Brett and Em, Brett opened his car door and immediately said, “It smells like autumn,” and indeed, it did. Brett and I share a deep love of the season, and we both await eagerly that first true scent on the air of damp leaves, woodsmoke, and loam—the unmistakable smell of autumn.

I could have sat outside for hours just to inhale, but alas, I was still hurting far too much as a result of massive trigger point injections on Friday. I suppose they’ve affected me so adversely because it has been too long since my last ones.

Oh well . . .

I’ll just imagine myself in the woods in front of a campfire.

Music by Woodkid, “I Love You” (quintet version)

                   

We Shall Be Released

Every afternoon that autumn
walking across campus
past the conservatory
I heard the soprano
practicing
her voice rising
making its way up the scale
straining to claim each note
weeks of work
of days
growing shorter
darker
storms slamming the campus
the semester staggering
to an end
everyone exhausted
drained
heading out and going home
the campus nearly deserted
but the soprano
still working the scales
when I passed under the trees
the liquidambars on fire
the clouds like great cities
sailing out to sea
and didn’t I ascend
with her
my own weariness
and sorrows
dropping away
didn’t we rise together
her voice straining
wavering
at the top of its range
almost reaching
almost claiming
that high
free-of-the-body
final note

~ Joseph Stroud

Sunday afternoon . . .

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and lovely, 70 degrees.

So I’m still in the midst of one of the most intense migraines of my life, which means that sitting in front of a computer screen is not in the cards, hence, the dearth of posts.

So anyway, here, have something interesting that I came across in my interwebs travels, a truly remarkable cultural study by journalist Esther Honig:

Before and After

In the U.S. Photoshop has become a symbol of our society’s unobtainable standards for beauty. My project, Before & After, examines how these standards vary across cultures on a global level.

Freelancing platforms, like Fiverr, have allowed me to contract nearly 40 individuals, from more than 25 countries such as Sri Lanka, Ukraine, The Philippines, and Kenya. Some are experts in their field, others are purely amateur.

With a cost ranging from five to thirty dollars, and the hope that each designer will pull from their personal and cultural constructs of beauty to enhance my unaltered image, all I request is that they ‘make me beautiful’.

Below is a selection from the resulting images thus far. They are intriguing and insightful in their own right; each one is a reflection of both the personal and cultural concepts of beauty that pertain to their creator.

Photoshop allows us to achieve our unobtainable standards of beauty, but when we compare those standards on a global scale, achieving the ideal remains all the more elusive.

Follow up: On June 24th, 2014 Before & After went viral. The original publication on Buzzfeed recieved more than 2.5 million views and it was reported on in more than 30 countiries around the world. Included in more than two dozen wellknown publications, Before & After was featured by TIMEThe Atlantic, Vice Magazine and The Chicago Tribune. Honig appeared on CNN Internatinoal, Al Jazerra, Good Morning America, The Today Show and CTV. 

Here is the before and the after picture from Argentina. Click here to see the rest of the after pictures and how they reflect the amazing ways in which countries interpret beauty:

<span style="font-size:medium;"><strong>Argentina (left), Original Photo (right)</strong></span><br>

I was amazed by what was changed, added, deleted, refined: eye color, makeup, skin lightening, clothes, backgrounds, eyelashes, even stray hairs. But the one that weirded me out the most was India in which Honig’s clavicles were erased. Bone structure? Really?

More later (with any luck). Peace.

“I’m so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.” ~ L.M. Montgomery, from Anne of Green Gables

Arthur Dove Sunrise, Northport Harbor 1924

“Sunrise, Northport Harbor” (1924)
by Arthur Dove


“The universe is under no obligation to make sense to you.” ~ Neil deGrasse Tyson

Saturday evening. Wonderfully cool, 50’s. At last.

Let’s try this again, shall we?

I’ve been down for the count for more days than I care to remember. My doctor’s appointment on Thursday left me with an egg-sized lump on my neck where my pain doctor (the one I’ve been waiting for to reemerge for 7 months) gave me an occipital block in an attempt to alleviate this never-ending migraine.

It didn’t work. And one of the new medicines that he prescribed for me (migrinal) costs over $1,000. Sooo……..

Anyway, I’m feeble. Last night (this morning?) I couldn’t sleep; the last time I looked at the clock it was 6:20. Truly, can anything else go wrong at this point?

Feeble is the only way to describe it, and I feel really bad that this has happened while Corey is home, but at the same time, I’m so glad that he’s home because just feeding myself is a chore. At least he can play with the dogs and feed them while I lie in my darkened bedroom attempting to read and staying away from anything light-reflective.

I haven’t checked my e-mail or looked at my tumblr, and as for this blog? Not so much. So I thought that instead of running on about pain and agony, I’d try to post my poem, the one from September 28 that didn’t appear on several of your sites (as you’ve let me know), try to post it as a JPEG instead of as a PDF. Here’s hoping it works this time . . .

By the way, I don’t know what possessed me, but I submitted it to some journal. Honestly cannot remember which one. I guess that’s my tactic for avoiding rejection—submit and immediately forget. I made a few changes to that one, but here’s the original version:

Break

                   

Music by Fort Atlantic, “No One Will Know”