“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf.” ~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Gate to the Sea

                   

“Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~ Meg Chittenden

Monday evening. Much cooler but still humid.

Ocean Archway, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Kind of a slow, sad day. Not exactly sure why, but I think that it has something to do with the disturbing dreams that I had last night. In one, I saw my father standing on the shore and fishing; I saw him so closely that I could see the little moles on his face, and then he disappeared.

Later, in another dream or perhaps the same one, I was at a funeral home, but it was a very unusual funeral home: they specialized in creating replicas of the dearly departed, and these replicas did things like talk or blink or in one case, had eyes that glowed. I kept trying to get out, but each door that I went through took me into yet another room filled with the macabre.

And then I was with my cousins on the Filipino side, and the youngest had stolen Caitlin’s soul. I was frantic, trying to get her to give back my daughter’s soul so that she could be at peace, but my cousin was possessed, and everyone turned against me, locked me in a bathroom, and I couldn’t make anyone see how wrong everything was.

Needless to say, I awoke with a killer headache, and to top it off, achy legs.

I read somewhere that people tend to remember 95 percent of their dream upon waking, and then with each subsequent minute, the dream fades very quickly, so why do the images from last night still haunt me?

“One could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane.” ~ W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

Saintes Maries de la Mer, France, kaneda99 (FCC)

Last night we had our combined Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/Anniversary dinner out. Sushi. So good. Brett and his friend Em came with us even though they had already eaten. Brett cannot resist sushi.

Even though everything was tasty, it was probably the longest that we have ever had to wait for our meal. Only one sushi chef was on duty. Still, everything was tasty.

We came home, and I collapsed in bed. I took three Seroquel last night, which is the dose that my doctor recommended; I’ve only been taking two at bedtime because this is yet another medication that can cause weight gain, so I’ve been trying to be pretty conservative with it. But last night I found myself chewing on my fingers, something I haven’t been doing for a while now, so I realized that for one night at least I needed to take more.

I slept very soundly, and perhaps that is why my dreams were so vivid. Who knows . . . I slept through two telephone calls this morning. I heard the phone somewhere in the distance, but I could not bring myself to get up to find it. This is not a great habit, but hey, at least I slept.

Eamonn came over for a while yesterday for Dad’s day. He gets along so well with Corey; they have a very comfortable relationship. I’m still trying to talk him into moving back here, at least for fall semester because it’s so important that he does well this fall so that he can get into the radiation technology program that he wants. I don’t know if he will come back, but I find myself missing him terribly.

Alexis texted last night. Big surprise there. If she couldn’t make it over for Mum’s Day, I really didn’t expect to see her yesterday. Still, it stings.

Corey brought me a card that he has kept all of these years; it’s an old Father’s Day card from Alexis in which she thanks him for being so supportive and telling him how glad that he is a part of our family. He looked at it wistfully, and I could tell that even though he didn’t say so, he was hurt.

“’I do adore music,’ she said. ‘It just seems to say all the things one can’t say oneself.’ She gave a nervous little laugh and looked from one to another with great benignity, as though she would like to say something but could not find the words in which to express it.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

To the Ocean by Brenda-Starr (FCC)

Truthfully, I think that part of my melancholy stems from the loss of Clarence Clemons. I know that Corey got tired of me playing “Jungleland” yesterday, but that sax solo is so full of emotion that I cannot help but get caught up in it.

So today I’m back to country music, which is also not helping the mood, but I need soft and soothing today.

I think that if Corey and I still went to karaoke it would actually help. Singing is one way for me to release emotions. Sitting here, just me and the computer, singing my heart out seems kind of counterproductive. The dogs seem to like it, so there’s that.

Music, writing, book-making, collages—these are my artistic outlets. I haven’t made a book in ages, and I’ve been mulling over making one for Brett. Now that I have a better idea as to his literary likes and dislikes, I think that I could put together something creative.

It’s funny, you know, but I made my first book years ago, when I was working at the museum. I took a blank book and pasted in pictures, odd paper scraps, and quotes. I made one for Dr. K when she was expecting her first baby. She loved it and said that I really should think about trying to commercialize it. I told her that I didn’t really think that there was a market for such a thing. Less than a year later, the whole scrapbook thing exploded in the marketplace.

Once again, another train missed. I don’t mind, though. Scrapbooks strike me as cookie cutter a bit; I know that some people create really striking visual products, but there are templates and pre-printed sheets; whereas my books are wholly individual: no one else has these pictures or these papers. I’ve made books for Alexis and for Corey. It never seemed like the kind of thing that Eamonn would like, so I didn’t make him one when he graduated. I wonder if I’m underestimating him.

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.” ~ Bertolt Brecht, “Motto,” from Poems: 1913-56, various translators

Walking to the Ocean by maureen_lederhos (FCC)

I have a confession: I have taken a strong dislike to e-mail. Don’t ask me why, but I find myself checking it only once a week, if that often. Perhaps it’s more of that hermit tendency in me, but e-mail, virtual mail isn’t real. I want paper. That and the fact that I get so many unwanted ad and pleas for money from someone I’ve never heard of. It’s virtual junk mail, and quite frankly, I  abhor it.

Corey is outside making home-made stakes for his sunflowers, which took a real beating in the last storm. He heard from his mom today that one of his aunts is willing to help us with airfare to Ohio for Chad’s wedding. That’s an unexpected but quite lovely gesture. Her entire family is like that—very thoughtful and giving.

Corey’s mom had offered to give me all of her sisters’ e-mail addresses for my Avon, but I just didn’t feel right about approaching them since I don’t see them often. I really don’t know if I will be continuing with the whole Avon venture as it seems to be a money pit as opposed to a money-maker. I’m certain that people who are very active and aggressive about it do very well. We all know that of the two, I am not very active. Hence, the standstill.

I hope everything works out that we can both go to Chad’s wedding as it will be nice to see everyone on such a happy occasion. I could do with a happy occasion or two.

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling. When the bright angel dominates, out comes a great work of art, a Michelangelo David or a Beethoven symphony.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Walk to the Ocean

You know, I probably should not write when I feel this way, when the melancholy threatens to overtake me at any minute, but this is precisely when I need to write, when the need is overpowering, the need to make real the words that are inside me.

One of the things that is making me ache is that the peripheral drama appears to be moving into high gear, and it’s hard to stand idly by, to bite my tongue, to remember that this is not my battle. My tendency to become embroiled in the battles of those I love and those for whom I feel a strong loyalty has taken me into the fray even when I pledged to stand apart.

I just find it hard to watch another person hurt, whatever the reason. I long to step in and say, “Here. Let me take that pain away.” But this is not possible. Witness my own daughter: no matter how much I long to make it so, I cannot help her to find her way, cannot help her to regain her footing in this vast world, a world that sometimes seems so completely unforgiving, so scornful of the weak, of the lost.

Too often, I lead with my heart instead of my head, and this is not always best, although sometimes it is the only way to go. Then, too, I find that I am still able to be surprised by the generosity of other people, people I have never met, people who have been out of my life for years who resurface and say, “Here. Let me help.”

“There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.” ~ Harold Pinter

Path to Nowhere, St. Agnes, Cornwall, by atoach (FCC)

In today’s virtual world, friendship has morphed into a page on the screen on which people list their current state of affairs, their immediate mindset, and missives that may have gone out to only a single friend in the past are now shot-gunned out to however many friends are listed on the side of the page. Close confidences are shared with everyone, almost as if the sharer longs for someone, anyone in the virtual sphere to respond and say, “I hear you.”

Like the paper letters I long for but will not receive, friendship seems to have changed its face with the continual evolution of the web. Who we are is not our icon, not our gravatar, if you will. Our online handle is a reflection of how we see ourselves but not necessarily who we are. With all of this, it is completely expected that we will get lost along the way, that we go through the wrong doors in our attempts to find the exit or the entrance.

And as a result, we have spawned a generation that will know little of the post office, of the possible beauty of a postage stamp. A generation that knows only fleetingly how to converse intimately. A generation that finds comfort in sharing everything, every scintilla of emotion, who knows nothing of self-censoring. We have a generation that is being raised knowing little of shared confidences because everything is shared.

You might find that an ironic statement coming from me, a self-proclaimed confessional writer, but trust me when I say that I know how to keep confidences. I have been told things that I have never revealed to another soul. I fear that this generation raised online will not understand the value of one-to-one sharing, the precious regard for heartfelt confession after a night of wine, and movies, and long conversation.

And this saddens me more than I can say.

More later. Peace.

Music by Kenny Chesney, “You Save Me.” For Corey.

                   

I Have Been Living

I have been living
closer to the ocean than I thought—
in a rocky cove thick with seaweed.

It pulls me down when I go wading.
Sometimes, to get back to land
takes everything that I have in me.

Sometimes, to get back to land
is the worst thing a person can do.
Meanwhile, we are dreaming:

The body is innocent.
She has never hurt me.
What we love flutters in us.

~ Jane Mead

“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” ~ Anne Sexton

  

   

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.”~ Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Barbara Kingsolver, author

 

Wow. Can I just tell you how good it felt to put up a  post yesterday? I know that I didn’t exactly reveal any great truths or ponder any of life’s deep mysteries; nevertheless, it felt good to write something. Since my computer died, I’ve been spending more time on tumblr, reblogging other people’s pictures and quotes, which is always nice as far as finding new things,  but just isn’t the same as moving some words around the page.  

So much has been happening on the political front, but I’m not in the mood to castigate Neanderthal thinking tonight. Instead, I thought that I might just write and see what comes to me—open the window, so to speak, to allow whatever thoughts are drifting by to coast inside and cogitate a bit.  

“You see, I am a poet, and not quite right in the head, darling. It’s only that.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay, poet

 

I found out yesterday that Brett hasn’t been taking his medication, not for about five days. I am of mixed feelings about this. I mean, he seems to be doing okay, and perhaps without the steady stream of stress from school he really is feeling balanced at the moment. However, he starts college in less than a month and a half, and if that’s isn’t a stress inducer, I don’t know what is.  

I do understand his desire to be off medication, to be normal, as it were. I often think of being without medication (not pain medication, but the other kind). I know that as far as writing, creating, it is easier without medication than with. I know from  times past that the highs and lows, the keen sense of soaring when things are good, and the abysmal sense of falling when they are not—these undulating moods can be like a drug to the one who is being tossed about on the waves.  

Pain can be addictive. Pain can make the sufferer feel more alive. Pain separates the anguished from the even; the heady ride into the unknowing can be positively euphoric when compared to notions of normalcy. The years that I spent without medication, immersed in my grief and pain were some of my most prolific as far as churning out pages and pages of angst. But really, how much of it was good, was readable? How much of it would I put out there for public consumption? I do not think that I can answer that honestly, and certainly not without bias.  

“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes. ~ André Gide, Journals, 1894

Andre Gidé, author (LIFE 1947)

 

Those of you who have never ridden these waves probably find me incomprehensible. How could anyone possibly enjoy suffering? Well, enjoy is not the best word. I don’t think that anyone enjoys suffering (well, almost anyone). It’s more that the suffering becomes so entwined in the very fiber of being that to be without it feel as if a hollow has replaced the niches in which the pain and suffering resided.  

Consider Emily Dickinson. Hers was a life of complex solitude that led to pages and pages of contemplation about life, death, grief, spirituality, hope, and pain. Dickinson’s poems often expound on the idea of what life must be like for other people—their dreams, sorrows, etc.:  

I measure every grief I meet
   With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
   Or has an easier size.  

I wonder if they bore it long,
   Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
   It feels so old a pain.  

I wonder if it hurts to live,
   And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
   They would not rather die.  

That no one found the poet’s written pages until after her death reflects her intense need for privacy. Perhaps Dickinson believed that no one else would be able to comprehend that of which she spoke, that no one else would care to share her intimate thoughts. Of course, many years later Dickinson has become a mainstay in the American literature canon.  

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Anne Sexton, Poet

 

Does the individual need to be mad to be an artist? Of course not. Is there a tinge of madness in many artistic souls? Probably.  

I think that it, this kinship with madness, comes from feeling too much, that there must be something in the artistic temperament that makes bearing witness to life and death, love and hate, elation and despair—that makes the knowing too hard to be left untold. Hence, reams and reams of poetry and prose, canvases awash with emotion, photographs that capture that absolute essence of a moment in time, songs that run so deep that listeners weep upon the hearing; sculptures, carvings, tapestries, mosaics, and architecture that reflect a connection with beauty, a knowledge of pain, a reflection of loss.  

It’s all here. It always has been, ever since the first person took a finger, dipped it in blood or berry juice, and began to draw on a cave wall, ever since someone else took a rock with a sharp edge and hewed into a larger stone. The need to translate what is felt into something tangible is as ancient as time.  

“The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person.” ~ Frank Barron

Pablo Neruda, poet

 

So, the question perhaps is whether or not to medicate the artistic mind. To what end? To allow that person to become more normal? To bring that person some sense of peace? Who decides just what is acceptable, what is normal? Can peace of mind be induced chemically?  

Or is the call for medication more for those around the artist so that the surrounding family, friends, whatever, can live life with fewer disruptions caused by the shifting moods of the odd one? You know, the one who doesn’t really fit in, who has never really fit in—the outsider.  

But consider this: Often when not medicated, the artistic individual will turn to other sources for calming or for stimulation. Alcohol? Heroin? All of it? How many creative geniuses has society lost to the vices employed as balms to the tortured soul?  

  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning (opium)
  • Ernest Hemingway (alcohol)
  • Beethoven (alcohol)
  • William S. Burroughs (heroin)
  • Kurt Cobain (heroin)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay (alcohol)
  • Tennessee Williams (alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates)
  • Charlie Parker (heroin)
  • Jack Kerouac (alcohol)
  • Hunter S. Thompson (anything and everything)

And then, of course, are the artists who were depressed, suicidal, and/or addicted: Anne Sexton, Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, James Wright, and many, many others. Would Van Gogh have painted “Starry Night” if he were on lithium? Could he have even envisioned those passionate swirls with all of their intense aching if were pumped full of prozac?  

Just wondering. More later. Peace.  

                                                                                                               

VII  

 

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”  

~ Pablo Neruda from Still Another Day  

                                                                                                              

Music by  Neko Case, “Furnace Room Lullabye”