“Some nights stay up till dawn, as the moon sometimes does for the sun. Be a full bucket pulled up the dark way of a well, then lifted out into the light.” ~ Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

Irish Cob Horse (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“Time is constantly passing. If you really consider this fact, you will be simultaneously amazed and terrified . . . As soon as it arises, it is gone. You cannot find any duration. Arising and passing away are simultaneous. That is why there is no seeing nor hearing. That is why we are both sentient beings and insentient beings.” ~ Norman Fischer

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and low 50’s.

Four days since my last post, more if you count real posts with words. Have kind of hit a wall again when it comes to posting. Hoping that after the holidays I can get back into the swing. Who knows. Actually, I had really wanted to post yesterday, but the computer was non-cooperative. I had to shut down completely twice, and after all of that, I just thought, bugger it, and stopped trying.

Chilly Christmas on Colton Hills, Wolverhampton, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

The tree is up, as are the stockings, but the house is still half-way done. I need to clear off the dining room table and decorate in that room, and of course, everything needs a good dusting. The living room is still full of boxes from the tree decorations. I would put them back in the garage myself, but you know how that goes. Corey has been called into work last minute the past few days, so he hasn’t had much time around here. Of course, there are my two sons . . .

Hoping to finish shopping this weekend—stocking stuff, underwear, socks, the not-s0-glam presents. I still haven’t done my Christmas cards (we’ve only received two cards so far this year; how sad). I’m thinking that if I get the dining room done today, perhaps I can do the cards tonight, but the past few days have been limited to one project.

The nasty cough is mostly gone, but the wheezing remains, as does the lethargy. I’m just bloody thankful that I did not get the usual accompanying bad migraine from the cough, which always used to happen when I got my annual bronchitis bout. I am fast becoming a true believer in migraine botox. Of course I say that now, but I’ll have to pay out of pocket for the next dose as it will come in 2012 with new my new copayment. Oh well . . .

“You see, I want a lot.
Maybe I want it all:
the darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each ascent.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

When I selected these quotes, I think that I had something else in mind, but I can’t quite be certain. But I have found over the years that it’s hard to go astray with Rilke and Rumi, two of my favorites, obviously.

Attaka in Winter Pasture (Wikimedia Commons)

A blogger friend of mine mentioned a site to me (I Write Like) on which you can paste a sample of your writing, and a program will do a quick analysis and spit out the name of a famous writer whose style is similar to yours (or vice versa). I’ve put in several different samples, and this is what I’ve gotten: I write like E. L. Doctorow, Anne Rice (?), H. P. Lovecraft (haven’t read anything by), David Foster Wallace (well, that’s not bad, I suppose), and one other person that I can’t remember.

What does this tell me? Not a lot, other than I don’t write like Fitzgerald or Woolf, which would have been too much to ask for, I suppose.

It’s interesting though in that I’m certain the program looks at things like sentence length, word choices, phrasing, etc., and from the various results that I’ve gotten it tells me that I don’t write like the same person on any given day. What does that say about me? That’s I’m just as fragmented as I’ve always believed myself to be? That my style depends upon my mood? That I don’t have a style, per se?

Quite honestly, I think that what it says most of all is that—as I’ve long suspected—the interwebs have a brain and wicked sense of humor.

“Man is a microcosm, or a little world, because he is an extract from all the stars and planets of the whole firmament, from the earth and the elements; and so he is their quintessence.” ~ Paracelsus, Swiss Alchemist, Philosopher

Last night I dreamt of my uncle, the one who wasn’t really my uncle but was one of my dad’s lifelong best friends, so in the Filipino way, I called him uncle and have always thought of his family as relatives. He died two years after my father died. That I still dream of him says a lot about what a presence he was in my life. I dreamed that he was a jewelry maker and that he had designed these incredible necklaces with beautiful stones. I picked out one that had lovely aquamarine stones.

German Winter: Horses in Snow (Wikimedi Commons)

Then my dreams carried me back into the classroom, and I was teaching math (me? please) to grade school children during summer school. I was with some of the people I had taught with at the middle school, and they did not try to hide their displeasure at my appearance. No one was prepared with any kind of lesson plans, and I was serving the kids cake. Make of that what you will.

Why must I dream of people I would much rather never see again, let alone give a thought to? Why cannot my dreams be more populated with the faces of those I love and have loved? Why does my mind go to such strange places sometimes: math and cake? And why, oh why, whenever I dream about working in some way, do I always have this sudden realization that I cannot be working and that I will have to repay the government thousands of dollars?

I know. There are no answers for such futile questions.

“Sit and be still
until in the time
of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind’s
commotion in the trees
the sound of flowing
water among the rocks,
a stream unheard before,
and you are where
breathing is prayer.” ~ Wendell Berry, Stanza VI, “Sabbaths 2001″

A woman with whom I worked once asked me why I used the word dreamt instead of dreamed. I think that it’s probably just an offshoot of my literary training. Shakespeare. You know. But dreamt just comes naturally to me, and seems a bit more poetic somehow.

Non sequitur. Or maybe not.

Horse at Moulzie, Upper Glen Cova, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

I mean, I have been thinking about why I use the words that I use. I have been very, very fortunate throughout my life to have worked with and encountered people with a real command of the English language, not just in college and graduate school, but at the newspaper and even at the government contracting firm for whom I worked years ago. There I worked with two men who were both very erudite and articulate. Then there was the museum director for whom I worked.

Dipping my toes into so many different pools has shaped me in so many ways, has afforded me continuous growth. I miss that as I do not believe that we should never stop growing. I miss the garrulous banter of the newsroom that nurtured me when I was an undergraduate. I miss the deep, rich voice of the man who walked into my office, hand outstretched, and said, “I’m from corporate. I’m here to help,” with just the faintest trace of irony beneath his words.

Sitting here, I do not have the same opportunities to hear the rich pageantry that is still churning somewhere out there without me. I mean, I know that in general, our society is in a period of decline culturally and socially, but I know that there are still people out there who love the word, love the sound of words, love the essence of words, and I’m not speaking of politicians, who use and abuse words.

They exist still, perhaps not those same individuals, but those individuals who just by their very essence enrich those around them with their everyday verse, the verse of Walt Whitman’s common man.

“The time has come to turn your heart into a temple of fire. Your essence is gold hidden in dust. To reveal its splendor, you need to burn in the fire of Love.” ~ Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

I supposed the point at which I have arrived is the “foul rag and bone shop of the heart” of which W. B. Yeats spoke in “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”—searching for a theme in vain, “What can I enumerate but old themes?”

Winter in Westphalia, Germany (Wikimedia Commons)

You know the rag and bone man. He lives still today, with his shopping cart with the wobbly wheel, his trash bags filled with aluminum cans and other things that the world has deemed as refuse. He (and she) walks along, collects, and most of us have no concept of what might be of value to him.

The traditional rag and bone man, who amassed household refuse and resold it to make a living, the rags and bones of life, what we castoff in search of . . . something. I think that as writers we are all rag and bone men at some point: gathering, sifting, getting rid of what we can, keeping some, always looking for more. And more often than not, we are looking for a theme, a theme that eludes us.

Whether that’s words, or even the perfect turn of the phrase, we wander, perhaps not down streets and alleyways with our rag bags or our carts, but we wander, and we pick up, and sometimes out of what we collect, we are able to make something worth more than the parts alone.

But only sometimes.

More later. Peace.

Music by Diana Krall, “White Christmas’

                   

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

“The good writing of any age has always been the product of someone’s neurosis, and we’d have a mighty dull literature if all the writers that came along were a bunch of happy chuckleheads.” ~ William Styron

Old Underwood Typewriter

  

“For if he like a madman lived; At least he like a wise one died.” ~ Cervantes

Old Royal Typewriter

I’ve been thinking about William Styron, can’t say exactly why. Styron is best known for writing The Confessions of Nat Turner, Lie Down in Darkness, and Sophie’s Choice, but he also wrote a beautiful memoir called Darkness Visible, which is probably my favorite work by Styron.

Darkness Visible (published first in Vanity Fair in 1989) relates the author’s battle with depression and his eventual recovery. The title is taken from John Milton’s description of hell in Paradise Lost:

No light; but rather darkness visible
Served only to discover sights of woe,
Regions of sorrow, doleful shades, where peace
And rest can never dwell, hope never comes
That comes to all, but torture without end
Still urges, and a fiery deluge, fed
With ever-burning sulphur unconsumed.

I remember picking up Styron’s memoir in Barnes & Noble one Saturday afternoon, and sitting in the cafe and reading the entire thing while drinking a latte. It was one of those winter afternoons spent doing what I love to do most: combing the shelves of a bookstore and finding a treasure. I finished reading it, bought it, brought it home, and read it again.

I suppose Styron’s account of his own illness touched a place in me that was easily relatable. It was only a few years after Caitlin’s death, and I still wore my depression like a raw wound. The book is packed up in one of the storage bins—of course—or I would reread it this afternoon.

“When something can be read without effort, great effort has gone into its writing.” ~ Enrique Jardiel Poncela

I finished two more books last week, but I haven’t felt like writing the reviews yet. I really liked one of them, and I was enjoying the second one until it began to seem that the author had two separate storylines that didn’t quite converge. It felt forced. I don’t like that.

Still blastedly hot here. Our air conditioners are going full tilt, which is making the electric meter turn and turn, just adding up all of those megawatts, or whatever it is they use to measure usage. As is the way with most things in this house, the air conditioner that works the best, that cranks out the coldest air consistently, is the one in Eamonn’s bedroom. The one in our bedroom is limping on its last leg, and having to run it continuously is taxing the poor beast.

Late in the day yesterday, Corey and I got in the pool to try to cool ourselves; the pool water was as warm as bath water, not the cool, refreshing respite that my body expected. The dogs didn’t mind, though.  Tillie and Shakes will play pool ball in any kind of weather. If only people could find joy in the simplest things in the same way that dogs are able to appreciate the most that which is the smallest.

“Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean.  Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes.” ~ Theodore Dreiser, 1900

Old Typewriter for Sale in Thrift Store

I had wanted to get a post written today as I’m not at all certain how much longer we will have Internet service. We are also likely to be losing phone service soon. Such is life.

Perhaps you wonder how or why I can put all of the minutiae in these posts for anyone to see, how I can share what might be considered embarrassing without any concern. I have thought about this very thing myself: Do I do myself a disservice by holding nothing back in this forum? I don’t think so. I mean, if I cannot be completely honest here, in this self-made outlet for myself, then where on earth can I be honest?

Yes, the fact that we are still juggling bills, losing services, living on the edge, so to speak, is nothing of which to be proud. But for us, it is a fact of life, or rather, the fact of our lives in this moment. Years from now when I think back on this time, these unending days of wanting a sense of normalcy, these trying times that task our patience and ask so much of us—later, when I come back to these entries and read about the circumstances of our life, I will be able to remember things as they were and not idealize them or romanticize them into being something they weren’t.

Part of my reason for wanting accurate accounts is that I realize that my memory is faulty, as it is for most humans. How many of us remember exactly how bad or good something was without adding or detracting from the truth? I’m not saying that I want to relive these days, but rather that I want to be able to remember the things I fretted about, the things that worried me, the ways in which we sought distraction from reality.

“Writers are not just people who sit down and write.  They hazard themselves.  Every time you compose a book your composition of yourself is at stake.” ~ E.L. Doctorow

Pittsfield Historical Society: Old Typewriter on Display

Maybe I’m kidding myself. It certainly would not be the first time that I have deluded myself into believing something that was not exactly true. I mean, I fancy myself a writer when that may not be the case. Will I let that stop me from doing this? Doubtful.

All I know is that putting these words on these pages is the best way I know of keeping my sanity. For many years, I kept things inside until they exploded. That’s no way to live. It’s bad for the soul, and it’s hell on a relationship. Sitting here in my corner, pausing before the keys, allows me to sift and assimilate, pronounce and validate. Perhaps five years from now I’ll read this entry and think to myself, “what a load of crap.” But at least I tried.

The three of us, Corey, Brett, and I move through these days in the ways that best suit us as individuals. Admittedly, many people probably see the loss of the Internet as not a big deal, and when it comes down to a choice between groceries and Internet service, well, food wins. But the Internet is not a luxury for any of us. Each of us uses this connection to the outside world in our own way: I read—news about the oil spill, what’s going on in politics, other blogs, stories about current events, whatever—and then I write. Brett communicates with his friend in Greece, and he comments on forums that he finds interesting. Corey is always looking for something new to learn, whether it’s a particular movement in history, or the healing properties of a plant, or a recipe for homemade mayonnaise.

Regardless, we are, in a very real sense, a family that is dependent upon today’s technology as a form of sustenance. I do not see this as a bad thing. Rather, I see this as survival.

More later whenever. Peace.

Music by Sugarland, “Just Might Make Me Believe.” One of the songs of my life.