I had never seen the video clip above (from “The Newsroom”) until Sunday when I found it on Izak Mak’s I Want Ice Water, and boy did it do a number on me. This guy is saying all of the same things that Brett and I have been discussing on the way to school all summer: America is not the country it once was. As I told him, he is unfortunate enough to be witnessing the decline of a nation, and I was fortunate enough to come of age at a time when this country was riding high.

What happened to us? Way too much for me to go into in just one short post. But this I do know: We are our own enemy. We do not have the best interests of our citizenry at heart. We do not place value on education for all. We do not work towards a common good. Everyone is angry at everyone else. Everyone is to blame and no one is to blame. The system is broken, and still we hear the same things over and over and over.

When Barack Obama ran on a platform of change, I believed him. I believed the idealistic young Senator, and I think that he truly believed as well. Then he was elected. Then everything changed. That’s how our system works: wear everything down until nothing happens. Change? Screw that. Status quo all the way. Change means that we can’t have things the way we want them to be. Change means that we cannot continue to do what we’ve been doing all along. Change implies that something is wrong, and in our collective xenophobic minds, such an implication is an impossibility: America is never wrong.

Yes, I’m ranting. But dammit Jim, I’m doing the best I can . . . The engine is still going to blow.

Here’s some food for thought (also found on I Want Ice Water):

“Human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but . . . life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” ~ Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

“Mother Playing with Child” (ca 1897)
Mary Cassatt

                   

“Human lives are not pieces of string that can be separated out from a knot of others and laid out straight.  Families are webs.  Impossible to touch one part of it without setting the rest vibrating.  Impossible to understand one part without having a sense of the whole.”  ~ Diane Setterfield, from The Thirteenth Tale

Friday afternoon. High 90’s, heat index over 100.

Sitting here in the labor and delivery with Alexis, Mike, and Corey. My mother has wandered off to find some food. So far, we’re going on 25 hours. Lex and Mike got her around 2 yesterday afternoon, and Corey and I came around 4:30 after picking up Brett from campus.

I know that I predicted the 8th, but this is good too. Actually, for a while, she had her doctor, who was on call. Now, the next doctor is on call. So this is what’s going on so far: Her water broke around 10 yesterday morning, but she wasn’t sure if that was what was happening, so she called her friend Katie (who has two daughters), and Katie came over, confirmed the broken water, and helped to calm her enough to focus on getting ready for the hospital.

I told Lex that she had time to take a shower and pack her bag. The same thing happened when I was pregnant with her—my water broke at 11 at night, but I didn’t start having real contractions until 7 in the morning.

Anyway, she wasn’t really progressing, so the decision was made to give her pitocin early this morning to try to get things moving.

“It’s a secondhand world we’re born into. What is novel to us is only so because we’re newborn, and what we cannot see, that has come before—what our parents have seen and been and done—are the hand-me-downs we begin to wear as swaddling clothes, even as we ourselves are naked. The flaw runs through us, implicating us in its imperfection even as it separates us, delivers us onto opposite sides of a chasm. It is both terribly beautiful and terribly sad, but it is, finally, the fault in the universe that gives birth to us all.” ~ Katherine Min, from Secondhand World

I had planned to spend the night here so that I wouldn’t have to get up in the middle of the night and drive should the need arise, but I found out (after Corey had left for home) that only one person can spend the night in the room with the patient, and the waiting room chairs were impossible to get into any comfortable position.

I called Corey (my ever-patient, every-accommodating spouse), and asked him to come and get me around 1:30 a.m.. I didn’t realize how tired I was until I fell sound asleep in the car on the short ride home. Got home and crawled into bed without washing my face or anything. Got up at 6 a.m. and hit McD’s on the way back to the hospital.

When I walked into the room, I could tell that Alexis was definitely feeling worse, so I suggested that she ask for her epidural, but when the nurse asked her what her pain level was, Lex replied about a 3 or 4. I knew that she wasn’t sure how to gauge her pain level, so she looked at the smiley-face chart, and realized that she was at a level 6, at least.

Okee dokee. Time for that epidural.

“One great question underlies our experience, whether we think about it or not: what is the purpose of life? From the moment of birth every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering. Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affects this. From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment. Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness” ~ The Dalai Lama

I know that she was a bit apprehensive about someone sticking something in her spinal column (who wouldn’t be?), but the nurse anesthetist was really good, and the epidural was inserted without any problems.

She began to feel much better, and her contractions were coming about two minutes apart. Then they stopped the pitocin . . . not so good. Contractions decreased to a snail’s crawl, and progress halted.

On and off there were naps. Mike went home this morning, and Lex and I tried to nap, but my mother called and woke me up just as I was drifting off. So much for sleep for me.

Anyway, the last few hours have crawled by. Lex’s friend Jennifer dropped in to say hello (she had been in the ER for some unexplained pain), and then my mother showed up. I had kept her at bay for as long as I could, but I knew that I wouldn’t be able to hold her off forever. Since everything has slowed down again, I’m trying to convince mom to go home and rest while Mike and Lex take naps. So far, it’s not working . . .

“There is divine beauty in learning . . . To learn means to accept the postulate that life did not begin at my birth.  Others have been here before me, and I walk in their footsteps.  The books I have read were composed by generations of fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, teachers and disciples.  I am the sum total of their experiences, their quests.  And so are you.” ~ Elie Wiesel

So here we all sit. I’m on Mike’s laptop. I just had a little cleaning spree in the room, getting everything into place, organizing the few things that I can organize.

Actually, after the 4th of July, I should have suspected that Alexis might go into labor. We both spent the day doing lots of things: laundry, making lists, working on the Rodeo (that would be Mike there), and other stuff. Lots of nesting going on.

I really felt bad because I had thought that I had everything all set for the work on the Rodeo. I had ordered all of the parts, had them in a box, and told Mike that he could do as little or as much as he wanted to do on the Rodeo. Turns out, I had bought rear shocks but not front shocks. I bought the wrong kind of brakes for the rear. And I ordered spark plug wires for a vehicle that does not use wires but uses some exorbitantly pricey tube thingies (the precise term escapes me at the moment as my mother is talking to me while eating Fritos as I try to type).

Anyway, Mike ended up working over eight hours on the Rodeo, with breaks in between while Corey switched the parts for the right parts, bought new brake cylinders to replace the ones that blew when Mike put on the new pads . . . of course, would expect nothing less.

“We gaze continually at the world and it grows dull in our perceptions. Yet seen from the another’s vantage point. As if new, it may still take our breath away. Come . . . dry your eyes. For you are life, rarer than a quark and unpredictable beyond the dreams of Heisenberg; the clay in which the forces that shape all things leave their fingerprints most clearly.” ~ Alan Moore, from Watchmen

So, here we are. Last check, Alexis is ready to go—doctor says she should be ready to push soon. So waiting, but productive waiting. I managed to get mom to go home for a couple of hours, and the atmosphere in the room calmed. It’s probably mostly me and how she sets me off without even trying.

Sorry. I try, really I do, but it just never works.

We’re as ready as we’re going to be, all of us. Corey and I took the cradle over yesterday and put it in the apartment. Mike has the car seat in Alexis’s car. I brought a cotton robe that Lex’s grandmother made for me when I was in the hospital with Brett. I thought that she might want to wear it post partum while she’s in the hospital (which will only be about 24 hours after delivery).

The puppy is having a sleep over at Aunt Ann’s with all of her dogs and cats and various other animals. Mike went out and bought a beautiful baby book today, and Alexis and I made some notes about the last 24 hours to add to the book later, better now while everything was still fresh in our minds.

Like I said, as ready as we’ll ever be.

I know that today’s quotes are quite long, but I thought that they were appropriate, and I liked them, and didn’t really want to shorten them.

I’ll report tomorrow on how this evening goes. Keep a good thought.

More later. Peace.

*Sorry. No poem today and only one image. We’re connected to the hospital Internet, and it doesn’t like visits to image sites, might be cruising for porn or something.

Music by Ben Harper, “Happily Ever After In Your Eyes,” the lullaby that he wrote especially for Heath Ledger’s daughter:

                   

Late addition:

Training

I’m thinking of living forever.
I think that way I might finally
get my gig straight and solve the crosswords.
I’m considering outlasting everyone
although I know I’d have a hard time
explaining not having read Ulysses
past the first chapter.
I don’t care if death smells like nutmeg.
I don’t buy the plotline on eternal rest.
By staying alive someday
I might manage to hail a taxi,
and fulfill my father’s wish
of reaching town without a red light.
I couldn’t expect to avoid anger or brooding
or to make the journey with my beasts appeased.
But I might walk vast expanses
of earth and always be beginning
and I love beginning
or could learn
to love it.

~ Sarah J. Sloat

linebreak

“She was the music heard faintly on the edge of sound.” ~ Raymond Chandler, The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction 1909-1959

"Pretty as a Peacock" by DanaKai Bradford (QBI Microscopy 2008 competition): This is an image of the brain. Amazing.*

                  

“We are living, but can’t feel the land where we stay.” ~ Osip Mandelstam

Friday, early evening. Cloudy and relatively mild, low 50’s.

Well, I got to sleep at a relatively good time last night, for me that is—around 3:30 a.m. The night before, insomnia reared its ugly head again, and I watched 5 a.m. come and go. Went to make myself a cup of hot Ovaltine, only to find that there was none of the malted, only the chocolate malt, which just isn’t the same when you’re looking for a soothing cup of hot Ovaltine in the wee hours of the morning.

"Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder" by Nick Nacsa (volume rendering of bullwhip amacrine cell in chicken retina, QBI Microscopy 2008 competition): I would have called this Tree of Life

I ended up taking another Seroquel, which knocked me out finally, but made it well nigh impossible to wake up in the afternoon. I really hate that feeling, and even though I’m prescribed 75 mg of the Seroquel, I try to take only 50 mg as I feel better when I wake up with the lower dose.

Last night, though, for the first time in quite a while, back pain woke me, which is not good. I mean, the back pain is omnipresent, so for it to be bad enough to wake me from sleeping really disheartens me. And today the headache continues, just enough pain to be annoying and cause squinting, but not full-blown migraine pain, which is why I happened upon the images in today’s post. I do have lots of floating spots today, which is never a good sign. waits and see, I suppose.

Anyway, Corey is scheduled to leave on Monday some time; we’re just waiting for the finalized travel arrangements. I wonder if he knows that eastern Europe is under a major cold snap . . . haven’t had the heart to mention it yet.

“Time isn’t an orderly stream. Time isn’t a placid lake recording each of our ripples. Time is viscous. Time is a massive flow. It is a self-healing substance, which is to say, almost everything will be lost.” ~ Charles YuHow to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe 

So in the next three days, we have all of that last-minute planning to take care of, as in which bills get paid automatically, and which bills I need to handle, all of that stuff that I’ve been staying away from in recent years. We also plan to have a sit down with the sons to make it clear what is expected of them while Corey is gone. I find that it works better if the two of us speak to the two of them at the same time as it makes the gravity of the words sink in a bit better.

"Guideposts" by T Fotherbill (QBI Microscopy 2011 Competition)

I’m making it a point not to let my trepidation come to the surface as Corey does not need to be worrying about how well I’m handling things. He needs to be focused on what’s coming up, on how his days are going to change in a major way. At least he’ll have his laptop, and he’s been investigating the rates of international Internet access. He’ll be fine with his regular access once the ship gets to Cape Canaveral, but Lithuania is a different matter.

His other big problem is fitting everything into one suitcase. The company said that they’ll reimburse him if he has to take more than one suitcase, but it would just be easier if he only has one to check and one to carry on.

I don’t even want to think about all of the other little things that are looming out there as it will become all too apparent much too soon.

“We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.” ~ Walter Isaacson, from Steve Jobs

My new mother board (one word or two? differs depending upon site) arrived by Fed Ex yesterday morning. Exciting. Of course, I now have to wait to have it installed, but I’m creeping closer and closer to having my computer back in working order, which will make both Eamonn and me very happy—Eamonn because I will no longer be in his room at all hours trying to work, and I, of course, because I will again have my own writing spot, small though it may be. Regardless, it will be mind, and I will be most happy to have it back.

"Activity at the Midline" by Amberl Dawson (QBI Microscopy 2008 Competition): This one and the next remind me of Georgia O'Keeffe's "Red Canna"

I even did a bit of perusing about upcoming deadlines for literary contests. Perhaps if I get off my butt and begin to put some things together, I might be able to submit something this year. No promises, but a worthy goal, n’est ce-pas?

When I was cleaning out some of my office supply clutter and going through boxes of miscellaneous stuff, I came across a scrap of paper in which I had written the opening to a book—only about ten lines, but I was surprised—it was actually not bad. Once in a while I do surprise myself when I come across something that I’ve written that I’ve completely put out of my mind. Not often, but sometimes. It’s like finding treasure.

I used to keep a file of writing ideas, all scribbled on various scraps of paper. The file is still somewhere around here, I think. I doubt if I would find many of them inspiring, but the book intro was an interesting take.

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” ~ Carson McCullers

For some reason I have it in my mind that I need an IBM Selectric to actually (split infinitive, I know) begin work on my novel. Something about the rat-a-tat of the typewriter keys seems so much more substantial than the clacking of a keyboard. Yes, it’s much easier to type on a keyboard than a typewriter, but I hold a deep fondness for the Selectric.

"Meeting in the Middle" by Amberl Dawson (QBI Microscopy 2008 Competition)

When I began at the newspaper in the advertising typing pool, I worked on a Selectric. Those were the old days in which copy had to be coded as it was typed, and believe it or not, coding a retail ad, such as one for a grocery store, could take hours, but I became quite adept at it, and actually chose the longer ads to do as I found them more interesting than short ads.

Anyway, when I moved into the newsroom, I used to take dictation over the phone from reporters calling in from the field, and I used, you guessed it, a Selectric. When I applied for my technical editing position with the government contractor, I had to take a typing test, and it was on a Selectric. At that time, on that machine, I typed 126 words a minute.

So you see, the Selectric is in my blood. I associate it with production, with quantifiable results. That must be why I so want to have one on which to pound out my manuscript. I’ve seen a couple on E-Bay, but I could hardly justify purchasing one when the back door is being held together with plywood and a prayer.

Some day . . .

“These are the moments which are not calculable, and cannot be assessed in words; they live on in the solution of memory, like wonderful creatures, unique of their own kind, dredged up from the floors of some unexplored ocean.” ~ Lawrence Durrell, Justine

With Corey’s new job we’ll have access to more funds, but it’s very important that we are careful and responsible. We still need to payback my family member for saving our butts last fall, not to mention repaying Corey’s family for helping out, and we want to try to repair our credit score, which was decimated in recent years, not just hurt, not just lowered, but totally and completely destroyed, like an atomic bomb went off on our records and took away everything that we had been building.

"Dangling Neurons" by D. Blackmore (QBI Microscopy 2010 Competition)

So while I may write about all of these things that I would like to have or see or do, I know that for now, it is much more important that we gain some financial ground. Then work on the dreams and desires, never forgotten, never abandoned, only postponed. Like Corey’s college career—I’m really hoping that in the time that he is home between hitches he’ll be able to get in a course or two. He’s waited so long that I don’t want him to just forget about it.

Corey just got his itinerary for Monday, so I suppose it’s all now official. It’s quite surreal to see the words “Scandinavian Airlines.” Under different circumstances, it might be exciting, but not so now. Norfolk to Dulles to Copenhagen . . .

It feels colder, but I think that that may just be my body reacting to emotions. The back is still quite achy even though I’ve taken my meds, and my head is getting tighter. The sky outside has become dark, and my eyes are actually full of spots, so I need to wrap up this post.

More later. Peace.

All images taken from the QBI Miscroscopy site, Queensland Brain Institute’s Advanced Microimaging and Analysis Facility

Music by Melody Gardot, blues, “Our Love is Easy”

Postcard

Lately, I am capable only of small things.

Is it enough
to feel the heart swimming?

Jim is fine. Our first
garden is thick with spinach
and white radish. Strangely,
it is summer

but also winter and fall.

In response to your asking:
I fill the hours
then lick them shut.

Today, not a single word,
but the birds quietly nodding
as if someone had suggested
moving on.

What is that perfect thing
some one who once believed in god said?

Please don’t misunderstand:
We still suffer, but we are happy.

~ Olena Kalytiak Davis, from And Her Soul Out of Nothing (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997)

                   

Georgia O’Keeffe image to which I was referring above:

"Red Canna," by Georgia O'Keeffe (1923)

“Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears.” ~ Albert Camus

Hadrian’s Wall (from northumbria-byways.com)

                   

“I have walked much to the sea, not knowing what I seek.” ~ Loren Eiseley, “The Inner Galaxy,” from The Unexpected Universe

Friday early evening. Partly cloudy and mild, low 60’s.

Hadrian's Wall, Northumbria, by Diego's sideburns (FCC)

Still not feeling great. I suppose that I’ll have to go back to the doctor next week. I keep putting it off in the hopes that this blasted cough will finally subside, but instead, it seems to be getting worse again. So tired of coughing and coughing.

It looks as if Corey is on track to leave sometime soon after the New Year. I have very mixed feelings about all of this, as I’ve said, but in the past few days, the reality has really begun to settle into the forefront of my consciousness, and I’m not liking the reality. There’s nothing to be done, of course. This is the way that it has to be, at least for the next three months.

He’s both excited and apprehensive—I’m not sure which feeling is dominant, probably a vacillation between the two.

His current boss gave him a stellar recommendation, saying that he was the hardest worker that he had and that he wished that he had a whole crew of Coreys. High praise indeed.

Anyway, he’s gotten out his big suitcase, and has begun the search for his flannel lined work pants and such. So there’s no more denying that it’s happening, no matter how much I try to move it to the background.

“You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Last night I had a very strange dream in which I was going to some kind of holiday party with my friend Jammi, who lives in Texas. I had this really beautiful outfit and access to antique jewelry and accessories, but the outfit was quite tiresome to put on as it had closures in odd places and a long scarf, and each time I went out of the room, Jammi would change into another dress. It was most strange. And then the person who was lending me the jewelry said, “Don’t forget the choice of weapons.” Someone opened a cabinet, and there were things like small daggers and such, and they gave me a ring that had an antidote in case someone drugged my drink.

Hadrian's Wall by Stuandsam (FCC)

How very strange.

In the middle of all of this, my mother reminded me that I owed her $86 (where did this number come from?), and she wanted payment before I left the house. To pay her I gave her a necklace that still bore the original price tag ($80), and a pair of earrings. She seemed satisfied. The necklace was turquoise and very unattractive . . .

There was a lot more to the dream, but those are the weirdest parts. There was another dream that involved some of our German relatives, a glass of half-finished milk, and mixed nuts. Make of that what you will.

“God, give us a long winter
and quiet music, and patient mouths,
and a little pride—before
our age ends.
Give us astonishment
and a flame, high, bright.” ~ Adam Zagajewski, from “A Flame”

I have a feeling that I’ve used this particular Zagajewski quote before, but that’s okay. It’s beautiful enough to be worth repeating.

I’m not entirely certain what it is about winter that I love. I mean, perhaps it’s the idea of winter that appeals to me. I love snow, the emptiness of a snowy path that has yet to bear footprints, human or otherwise. I love the starkness of the trees. But since I have never lived in a really cold region, one that is frigid and icy and has unmelted snow for extended periods, I’m not certain that I would like it so much if it were my reality.

Hadrian's Wall (bbc.co.uk gallery)

Does that make sense?

I mean, I love azure seas, so clear that what lies beneath is visible. I love white sand. But I don’t think that I’d like to live in very hot weather all year long. The heat would probably be much better for my bone pain, but I really don’t like to be hot. I like heat if I’m in the water. Then I can bear it. But I can remember being in heat that was so unbearable that it was hard to breathe. Perhaps it’s a memory from when I was in the Philippines. I don’t know.

Corey has no desire to live in a very cold climate, and I understand that because he spent a big chunk of time on a Coast Guard ice breaker in the Great Lakes—definitely cold, but I think that I do want to live in such a climate, that I do harbor this desire, and I will probably not be able to rid myself of this longing until I have experienced it. Just as I say that I would love to live in Ireland, but people tell me that it’s rainy more often than not . . . again, I don’t know. I only know what my dreams and desires are made of, what seems to me to be the perfect environs.

I know that when I was in my 20’s, and a friend of mine moved across country to live in Washington state, I was appalled. I mean, who would leave living by the ocean to live in a place that is misty and rainy? But now? Now the idea of living in Oregon or Washington state does not seem in the least farfetched.

“I carry from my mother’s womb
A fanatic heart.” ~ William Butler Yeats, from “Remorse For Intemperate Speech

Last night/this morning around 4 a.m. I caught the end of Tom and Viv on one of the movie channels. It’s a movie about T. S. Eliot and his long-suffering wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot. The marriage was not a happy one, and for the last decade of her life, Viv was committed to Northumberland House mental hospital. The movie stars Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson, and I’ve wanted to see it forever, but never think about it, so of course, it’s not scheduled to repeat anytime soon.

Hadrian's Wall at Sycamore Gap (featured in 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) by stevemonty (FCC)

The problem with finding out too much about the personal lives of writers that I love is that it’s hard to think of them in the same way after learning too much. I mean, Eliot was really horrible to Viv, but I love Eliot’s poems, as witnessed by my frequent use of quotes from his work, and I believe that he’s probably one of the first true poetic influences on my writing style, or rather, poetic style. Eliot uses a lot of internal rhyme with his vowel sounds, and is partial to alliteration, as am I.

And then of course, there’s my love affair with Yeats. After seeing a picture of him years ago, it only cemented my love for his work.

Don’t call me shallow. I loved his words before his face. In fact, Yeats penned my all-time favorite lines from a poem (from “When You Are Old”):

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

When I first read those lines in college, I longed to find someone who would love the pilgrim soul in me and the sorrows of my changing face . . . Years later, I did.

“What is the water in a lake? A blank page. The ripples are its wrinkles. And every one is a wound.” ~ Edmond Jabès, The Book of Questions II, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

Anyway, not really sure what took me off on that poetic tangent, probably indicative of the way that my mind if flitting from subject to subject without  any long pauses for any one thing in particular to take hold.

Hadrian's Wall: Housestead Fort Looking East (smithsonian.com)

Today’s post features images of Hadrian’s Wall. As a passing fancy, I thought that I would see how many different perspectives I could find of this ancient edifice.

For those of you who may not know, Hadrian’s Wall was built between 122 and 128 AD and remains one of the finest example of ancient Roman architecture in Britain. Built of stone and sod by Roman troops under the orders of Emperor Hadrian, the wall was approximately 15-feet high and 8 to 10-feet wide, and it extends approximately 73 miles (80 Roman miles) across open country. Forts were built at seven-mile intervals, and milecastles, or guard posts, were built at one-mile intervals. Two turrets were placed between pair of milecastles. A ditch fronted the wall, and in the three locations in which the wall crossed rivers, bridges were built.

Hadrian’s Wall was built to help keep the Picts of the north (Scotland) out. It stretches from the North Sea to the Irish Sea (from the Tyne to the Solway). The wall remained the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire until the Romans abandoned Britain in the early 5th century (around 410 AD).

Hadrian's Wall from illuminatinghadrianswall.com

The Wall is now a World Heritage Site. You may have seen it featured in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (above), and a representation of the wall with garrisons in King Arthur, starring Clive Owen.

For your edification. As I said, I’m all over the place today.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sia, “I’m In Here”

                   

Fork with Two Tines Pushed Together

It’s fast and cool as running water, the way we forget

the names of friends with whom we talked and talked

the long drives up and down the coast.

I say I love and I love and I love. However, the window

will not close. However, the hawk searches

for its nest after a storm. However, the discarded

nail longs to hide its nakedness inside the tire.

Somewhere in Cleveland or Tempe, a pillow

still smells like M_____’s hair.

In a bus station, a child is staring

at L____’s rabbit tattoo. I’ve bartered everything

to keep from doing my soul’s paperwork.

Here is a partial list of artifacts:

mirror, belt, half-finished 1040 form (married, filing jointly), mateless walkie-talkie, two blonde eyelashes, set of acrylic paints with all the red and yellow used up, buck knife, dog collar, camping tent (sleeps two), slivers of cut-up credit cards, ashtray in the shape of a naked woman, pen with teeth marks, bottom half of two-piece bathing suit, pill bottles containing unfinished courses of antibiotics, bank statements with the account number blacked out, maps of London, maps of Dubuque, sweatshirts with the mascots of colleges I didn’t attend, flash cards for Spanish verbs (querer, perder, olvidar), Canadian pocket change, fork with two tines pushed together.

Forgetfulness means to be full

of forgetting, like a glass

overflowing with cool water, though I’d always

thought of it as the empty pocket

where the hand finds

nothing: no keys, no ticket, no change.

One night, riding the train home from the city,

will I see a familiar face across from me? How many times

will I ask Is it you? before I realize

it’s my own reflection in the window?

~ Nick Lantz

“Here’s a prayer for the wild at heart kept in cages.” ~ Tennessee Williams

Lone Gull at Sunset (via desktopnexus.com)*

                   

“They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” ~ Andy Warhol

Tuesday afternoon. Hot and hazy.

Tropical Sunset (via desktopnexus.com)

The house is mercifully silent. Everyone left for Busch Gardens this morning, and they are not expected back until this evening sometime.

I love having the kids home, but I also love my silence, love hearing nothing but my playlist in the background, the tick of the clock, and the occasional sound of puppy paws on hardwood floors. Silence is seriously underrated.

I have always been this contradictory: While I loved being around groups of people and talking for hours, I also valued the time I spent alone, reading or writing. Perhaps that’s why being an only child did not bother me except upon those rare occasions when I felt I needed an older sibling, never a younger one, and since older was impossible, I remained an only.

Of course, the big drawback to being an only child is that your parents focus entirely on you—good or bad, though to be quite honest, I was a very good child. We won’t discuss my teen years, in which I was a terror, as most teens are.

A friend of Alexis’s who is a few years older, has a daughter who is 12. That is so hard to imagine, mostly because she is a contemporary of my daughter, but also because I remember when Alexis was 12. She was still sweet and smart and had not yet decided that she wanted to be neither as that was just too predictable. My Uncle Nick used to comment all of the time how Alexis’s name was on the marquis of her middle school every other week. He would see it and call my mother as he was bursting with pride. She won science fairs, literary contests, you name it.

That all ended with high school . . . It’s as if their hormones build to explosive levels between 11 and 13, and then all hell breaks loose. Overnight you become stupid simply because you are the parent. Overnight they become omniscient, simply because they are teenagers. I do not envy teens and that raging imbroglio that is adolescence. It’s too bad that a TARDIS cannot truly move people from one time to the next, skipping all of the angst in between, but of course, if that were so, how would we ever learn?

“All night love draws its heavy drape of scent against the sea and we wake with the allure of earth in our lungs, hungry for bread and oranges . . . We are sailors who wake when the moon intrudes the smoky tavern of dreams, wake to find a name on an arm or our bodies bruised by sun or the pressure of a hand, wake with the map of night on our skin, traced like moss-stained stone.” ~ Anne Michaels, The Passionate World

Chobe Pier at Sunset, Botswana, Africa (via desktopnexus.com)

Last night I had a very strange dream: I was walking down Hampton Boulevard with a backpack. I had left ODU and my office there without my car as I was quite upset. I was sharing an office with Mari and some other people from the old days, and Mari was acting horribly towards me. She walked away as I was speaking to her, and she said, “I have no desire to drink tea with her.”

So I began the long walk home (to my parents’ house), which is a walk that I take often in my dreams. It’s about seven miles or so, along busy streets, but for some reason, I walk this route often. In the dream, I arrive at the crossroads of Little Creek Road and Hampton, and I stop to repack my stuff. As I’ve walked, I’ve accumulated more stuff, and it has become quite heavy.

I’m in a flea market/antique store, and I spread all of my things across this mattress to try to decide what I should keep and what I should leave behind/donate. I decide to call my father to pick me up from my current location, and amidst my things, I find my old pink razor phone. I put off making the call until I’ve sorted through everything.

Then the surroundings morph into a more exclusive antique shop, and another woman from my past is there, and she is suggesting that we go ahead and take some of the antiques that belong to a female museum patron. I tell her that I don’t think that’s a good idea, but she starts taking things off the shelf. Meanwhile, my black lamb has gotten loose.

Fast forward a bit, and my museum director is there, and he wants to know if I’ve stolen any of the antiques. I tell him that the only thing that I took from the shelf was something that the woman had given me. I ask where my mother is, and he says that she’s being questioned. I walk down a hall and fling open a glass door to find my mother sitting at a boardroom table with about five other people, one of whom is the owner of the antiques. I declare that my mother will not be answering any more questions without an attorney.

Then the officials in the room bring in a container and begin removing antiques and placing them on the table. They ask me about each piece, and I tell them that I do not know how they got into the container, even though I know that the woman from my past took them. They accuse me of taking them, and I tell them that it wasn’t me.

I leave and push my now-packed suitcase before me down the road, crying that they hadn’t believed that I did not steal anything.

Weird, very weird.

“The lake is quiet, the trees surround me, asking and giving nothing.” ~ Margaret Atwood, “Surfacing”

Country Sunset (via desktopnexus.com)

After I finish this post, I’m going to float in the pool a bit with the puppies. Then I plan to work on the bedroom some more; we still need to switch the night stand and move the old trunk into the living room, and for that I will need Corey. Almost everything else in the shuffle has been done. Unfortunately, once again the dining room table has become a repository for those things left misplaced, so that means another few hours cleaning the table and sorting through old mail and various other things.

Oddly enough, Eamonn said that he wanted to cover the one wall that still shows writing on it. I think that he does not want his new girlfriend to visit and see all of the notes from other girls, i.e. “xxx luvs eamonn” (fill in a name, as there are several). Actually, I’m thinking of using a dark color on just this particular wall and then white on everything else. I’ll have to ponder that a bit more.

What is interesting is how both of my sons are now taking an interest in refurbishing the house, when just a few years ago they really didn’t care. Brett even made the offer to Corey a few nights ago to contribute some of his savings to help finish the renovations, but Corey told him that that money was his and that he should keep it in his savings for if and when he decides to move out. It was a very sweet offer, but not one that we would feel at all comfortable in accepting.

“Shall I say, I have gone at dusk through narrow streets
And watched the smoke that rises from the pipes
Of lonely men in shirt-sleeves, leaning out of windows?” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

Sunset on Field Flowers (via desktopnexus.com)

Let’s see . . . what else is on my plate at the moment? There is so much, yet so little. I have rebates that I need to send, a few official requests, other types of paperwork. It’s all so mundane. Given the choice between alphabetizing my CDs (yes, I still use CDs as I do not have nor do I want an mp3 player) and doing paperwork, it’s no contest—the CDs.

And, oh yes. I do alphabetize and categorize my music and my movies—drama/action, science fiction, history, comedy, documentary. Doesn’t everyone?

When my books weren’t all packed in boxes, they were also alphabetized and categorized: poetry, fiction, non-fiction, art, etc. I love organization in certain aspects of my life, and I abhor organization in others. Well, let me explain: It’s not that I abhor it, but performing the actions necessary to keep those aspects organized is so taxing and unsatisfying.

As I’m typing, Tillie is napping on Eamonn’s bed. It’s her new favorite spot. Just a bit ago, she was remonstrating me quietly, trying to get me interested in going outside. When I ignored her, she went to sleep. It’s funny how much like a toddler she is: all play all of the time . . . unless it’s time for a nap.

I wonder what the black lamb in my dream meant?

“There is immeasurably more left inside than what comes out in words.” ~ Fyodor Dostoevsky

Sunset Through the Gate (via dexktopnexus.com)

I’ve been contemplating what I wrote yesterday. It’s still with me. I’m not certain that I did a good job of explaining myself.

Yesterday I found myself self-censoring again. And that really bothers me. I do not say all of the words that have built up inside me as I worry how these words will be taken out of context and used against me. I had thought that I had moved beyond that, but as yesterday witnesses, I have not, but I know that I must move past this, move beyond this feeling that someone out there is watching my every move, just waiting for me to stumble, even though that is the reality.

I grow weary of this non verbal tug-of-war. I tire of the incessant vexing nature of it.

When I was in high school, I took my first psychology course. Of course at that time, Freud still held a great deal of sway in the field, and I learned all about the id, ego, and superego, about the theory of the Oedipal and Electra complexes, and while all of this information was vastly interesting, the key thing that I took away from that course was this: there was an actual name for people who vacillated wildly between low and high mood swings: manic depression (or as we know it today: bipolar mood disorder).

I cannot tell you how much better it made me feel to know that other people jumped between highs and lows, that it wasn’t just me.

You see, at that time I had never seen a therapist, had not been put on any kind of medication. And as a result, I used to find myself suddenly in tears, or just as suddenly, filled with this unabating energy. My close friends called me moody, which I suppose was apropos. My parents called me sensitive. When in fact I was suffering from a true disorder, one that had been studied, one that had been named.

When I say that I wouldn’t want to be a teenager again for anything, this is one of the reasons why: To be filled with raging hormones, and to be prey to mood swings over which I had no control, and to be told that it was “growing pains”—can you even begin to imagine my frustration? Of course, were it a few hundred years ago, I would have been thought to be possessed by demons and tried for witchcraft.

Small favors, I say.

Anyway, I was going to mention this tidbit yesterday, but I didn’t. I hit the backspace key and erased the words, made it appear as if they had never existed. But they did exist, and to delete them simply because I do not want to supply more fodder to my stalker is cowardice, at least, that’s how I view it. And one thing that I am not is a coward.

I face what comes my way unflinchingly. Does this mean that I do not feel fear? Of course not. But as Shakespeare put it in Henry V, “back into the fray”:

Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead.
In peace there’s nothing so becomes a man
As modest stillness and humility:
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favour’d rage;
Then lend the eye a terrible aspect; (III,i)

More later. Peace.

Music by Amos Lee, “Colors”

*All images can be downloaded as wallpapers.

                   

Things I Didn’t Know I Loved: After Nazim Hikmet

I always knew I loved the sky,
the way it seems solid and insubstantial at the same time;
the way it disappears above us
even as we pursue it in a climbing plane,
like wishes or answers to certain questions—always out of reach;
the way it embodies blue,
even when it is gray.

But I didn’t know I loved the clouds,
those shaggy eyebrows glowering
over the face of the sun.
Perhaps I only love the strange shapes clouds can take,
as if they are sketches by an artist
who keeps changing her mind.
Perhaps I love their deceptive softness,
like a bosom I’d like to rest my head against
but never can.

And I know I love the grass, even as I am cutting it as short
as the hair on my grandson’s newly barbered head.
I love the way the smell of grass can fill my nostrils
with intimations of youth and lust;
the way it stains my handkerchief with meanings
that never wash out.

Sometimes I love the rain, staccato on the roof,
and always the snow when I am inside looking out
at the blurring around the edges of parked cars
and trees. And I love trees,
in winter when their austere shapes
are like the cutout silhouettes artists sell at fairs
and in May when their branches
are fuzzy with growth, the leaves poking out
like new green horns on a young deer.

But how about the sound of trains,
those drawn-out whistles of longing in the night,
like coyotes made of steam and steel, no color at all,
reminding me of prisoners on chain gangs I’ve only seen
in movies, defeated men hammering spikes into rails,
the burly guards watching over them?

Those whistles give loneliness and departure a voice.
It is the kind of loneliness I can take in my arms, tasting
of tears that comfort even as they burn, dampening the pillows
and all the feathers of all the geese who were plucked to fill
them.

Perhaps I embrace the music of departure—song without lyrics,
so I can learn to love it, though I don’t love it now.
For at the end of the story, when sky and clouds and grass,
and even you my love of so many years,
have almost disappeared,
it will be all there is left to love.

~ Linda Pastan, from Queen of a Rainy Country