“It was a scene which seemed the heart of this land. The lowing sun and the one star waking, white wings on a black water, and the smell of rain, and the long lane fading where a voice comes in the falling night.” ~ Jamie O’Neill, from At Swim, Two Boys

The dark horse, Liscannor, Ireland J0sh FCC

The Dark Horse, Liscannor, Ireland by J0sh (FCC)

” . . . they would tell me nothing, except that they had been commanded to travel over Ireland continually, and upon foot and at night, that they might live close to the stones and the trees and at the hours when the immortals are awake.” ~ W.B. Yeats, from The Adoration of the Magi

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and humid, 81 degrees.

I just read the most remarkable essay in Parabola, “The Search for One Thing,” by Betsy Cornwell.

Please understand: This is more than one of my casual reblogs. Cornwell’s words hit so close to home, almost too close. Everything she says, I have felt. All of her words have been my words at one time or another, but not in such a beautiful, linear fashion. This essay explains Ireland for me—the green that I have long dreamed of—all of it, it’s all here.

Sea thrift and the sea by slkovjr fcc

Sea Thrift and the Sea by slkovjr (FCC)

The Aran Islands have been in my dreams since I first saw them in some forgotten movie eons ago. The cliffs, the green, the sheep, the sky—everything that I have ever wanted in one place.

I don’t have Cornwell’s past with her father, yet I can understand her need to break away, to search on her own. For so many years I wanted to break away, but the curse of the only child is that your life is never your own, at least not until your parents are gone, not unless you want to bear the label of being selfish, and it was a label I couldn’t bear.

I don’t think that anyone has ever completely understood my dream of Ireland. Corey tries; he knows that it’s someplace I have always wanted to go, but it’s more than just wanting to visit. I want to spend time there, days, weeks, months. I want to walk and bike and, well, mostly I want to think about my life.

It’s not escape I seek. It’s clarity. The kind of clarity I will never have here, not here in this house in this city in this state in this country. Don’t ask me why I know that to be true, but I do.

This is the biggest truth I know: I need to go to Ireland, and soon, otherwise, I fear it may be too late.


 

The Search for One Thing
by Betsy Cornwell

“Give it one week of hard frost,” my new husband says, “and all the green will be gone.” He has slowed the car to let two adolescent does cross the road, and we watch them vanish neatly into the ditch on the other side. In the 4:30 November gloom, the perfect white of their rumps is nearly all we can see.

Irish Cliffs minniemouseaunt FCC

Irish Cliffs by minniemouseaunt (FCC)

As they pass through the high brambles of the ditch, Richie admires their fleetness, their nimble feet. I say the deer must risk the danger of the road only because it’s winter and they are hungry, but he says they wouldn’t be wanting yet; that’s when he warns me about the week of frost, and the green.

But here, even in winter, Ireland is so green that to walk through the countryside is almost to think you are underwater. And here a ditch is not a hole, not an absence, but its opposite. An Irish ditch is a raised thicket, a dense living tangle of blackberry and ivy and gorse. Twining through the ditch are innumerable tiny tunnels—through them mice and spiders wind. No snakes here, of course—remember St. Patrick—but the tunnels mimic their absence, their silent, assured sinuousness.

When I first came to this country, I remember thinking that even if I jumped from one of its many cliffs I wouldn’t fall, but float, until the cool wet wind of this place carried me back, softly, onto the grass that is so green it is like water, like every kind of life pulled together into one.

I came here to renew—something, although I didn’t yet know what. And to escape, well, everything.

Two years ago, at the end of my MFA program, I was broken down and burned out, spent twigs for a spent fire. I did everything quickly, heart in my mouth, because I felt sure that if I took any extra time I would collapse into ash. I was teaching three times the prescribed student limit, tutoring, writing, finishing my thesis and my classes, and editing my first novel for next year’s publication—all jobs that filled me with whiplash joy and panic and soul-crushing insecurity. A person I loved had shown me such grinding ambivalence that I’d had to let him go, and I spent far too much time imagining our never-to-be future together. There was a cushion-laden corner of the floor in my cheap apartment that was alternately a nook for grading papers and a nest to curl up in and cry until I fell asleep. I ate whatever I thought would make me feel better, mostly
cheese and Vernor’s ginger ale. My heart was broken and my belly ached.

I had a particular dream that kept me working: I wanted to go to Ireland. I’d come in second for a Fulbright arts grant to write about selkies in Dublin, and the near miss had left me determined to get there on my own. But when the summer came and I looked at my finances, I realized that even with my book advance I would have to choose between Ireland and more earthly concerns like healthcare and rent.

That day, my father called and said he wanted to know my schedule for next year because he was taking the family to Africa. We would go on safari and sleep in tents together.

But I have spent much of my life figuring out how to avoid being in the same place as my father, especially at night. And for the first time, that day, I told him so. One advantage of being so very tired, on the threshold of adulthood, is that your childhood nightmares start getting tired too, and it is harder for them to frighten you.

“I can’t go,” I said in a voice that shook but was still my own voice, coming out of my own body. “I can’t sleep in the same room with you.”

Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry, Ireland by Jackie L Chan FCC

Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry, Ireland by Jackie L Chann (FCC)

The other end of the line was silent. After a few seconds he said, “All right. That doesn’t make me happy, but I understand.”

We hung up soon afterward, and one weight was strangely gone from the fears I carried.

A few days later he called again and offered to buy me a ticket to Ireland instead, since I wasn’t going to Africa. It felt like hush money—if I was brave enough to tell him I remembered, whom else might I tell? I said I would have to think about it. I felt sure I would say no, but that dream was a hard one for me to give up.

I went into town to have coffee with Trish, a woman twice my age who feels like someone I grew up with, a friend whom I often call my spiritual guide. The Catholic school we attended, with its Planned Parenthood protests, homophobia, and rape apologism, tempted me to throw up my hands at even a nebulous, agnostic God—but it was Trish’s faith that kept me searching for my own. She combines her devout and somewhat radical Catholicism with dashes of Buddhism and a sharp flair for the intersectionally feminist, and I’ve always loved her for it. I liked to say that she was “Tapped In To Something,” because it was the only way I could find of explaining her radiant wisdom and kindness, the light that shines through her. (When she’s not giving spiritual counsel to frightened young women, Trish is a professor of sociology and a brilliant poet.)

As soon as she sat down I started crying—big, gasping sobs from a shy woman who can rarely even manage to raise her voice in anger. I don’t know if I’d ever shown that much emotion in public before.

Trish stroked my arm. I wept into my giant bowl of latte.

When I quieted, she laughed and said “Honey, I wouldn’t go through my twenties again for anything.”

Galway by Shadowgate fcc

Galway by Shadowgate (FCC)

Suddenly, I felt much better. I wiped my eyes, and she asked me what was wrong.

Trish is third generation Irish-American; three of her grandparents were born on the island where I now live. And it was she, in the end, who brought me here. I told her what my father had offered, how it felt like a bargain I didn’t want to make, and that I never wanted to owe him anything ever again.

She looked at me steadily. “You never will,” she said. “He could give you money until the end of the world and you’d owe him nothing.” He’d taken more, she said, than he could ever give back; and though some well-trained part of me thought I was being a Bad Daughter, I admitted she was right.

“But . . .” said the Bad Daughter, on the verge of tears again. I found I couldn’t finish my sentence, and I took a deep, shaky breath. “God, I’m so tired. I’m sorry about this.” I waved at my eyes.

Trish shook her head. “Go to Ireland,” she said. “You’ll rest there, you’ll write your book. It’s where the world keeps its magic. And don’t go to Dublin. In fact . . .” She pulled out her tablet and did a quick image search. “You need to go here.”

Galway, Panoramic from Claddagh and River Corrib WC

Galway, Panoramic from Claddagh and River Corrib (Wikimedia Commons)

She showed me a Google page thick with pictures of green cliffs, dark waves, and small stone-bound fields. A girl’s feet dangled over the edge of one cliff, her legs mid-swing and
relaxed.

“The Aran Islands?” I laughed. “It’s mostly sweaters there, right?”

“The Aran Islands,” she said. “See? You’re happier already. Go there,” she thought for a moment, “for at least a month. It will heal your soul.”

My soul leapt out for healing, and I knew that I would go.

Three months later, I am sitting in the warmest corner of Tigh Joe Watty’s, one of only two pubs on the whole island. I am smiling, and every part of me feels light. Tall, redheaded Uinseon McCarron dances a beautiful Australian girl named Sjonelle across the dark wood floor, and the rest of us at the table watch and admire them, their easy grace and easier smiles. Dave, the handsome, acerbic owner of the hostel where we all work, comes back to the table with pints of cider. I haven’t written anything in weeks.

I did not understand, when I first came to Ireland, why I wasn’t writing. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t feel overworked, and suddenly I couldn’t work at all. I’d been manically, neurotically productive for years, trying to scratch my way into prep school, college, graduate school, New York agencies and publishing houses. And now here I was, not a student for the first time since I was three years old and my parents enrolled me in university preschool. I had my master’s, and my book wasn’t coming out for almost a year. I could support myself until then, meagerly, on my advance and hostel work-exchange.

Inishmann Teach Synge by Arcimboldo WC

Inishmann Teach Synge by Arcimboldo (Wikimedia Commons)

All my life I had wanted “to write full time,” but here I had all the time in the world, and I wasn’t writing at all. I would wake up early every morning determined to work, and I would hover over the Cinderella retelling on my computer, making small changes that meant nothing. I always ended those sessions at least a little disgusted with myself.

My afternoons, though, I set myself free, wandering through the cobblestoned Latin quarter of Galway City to the rushing gray mouth of the Corrib. I would walk the promenade from Galway to Salthill and back, looking out at the quiet bay, cold wind slipping over my face and silvering my hair and skin with salt, breathing air clean as miracles.

I’ve spent most of my life inside my head. In childhood my body was the site of fear and confusion at the hands of an adult protector; I became expert at curling up inside myself, where my senses would know and remember nothing. The desires and doubts of adolescence only made me retreat further. My body hardly ever did what I wanted it to; I have never even been good at sports.

As I grew older, this disconnect led me to think that my body had no needs of its own, and certainly not much value. It carried my mind and my heart around, and that was all. When I felt worn out at the end of school, I thought it was only my soul that hurt. I didn’t notice the knots in my back.

I struggled over my writing in Ireland, and as Trish had instructed me, I worked to heal my broken heart. It was my lungs and my legs, though, that first grew stronger, walking along the promenade, making beds and mopping floors at the hostel.

Galway gpoo FCC

Galway by gpoo (FCC)

Salt and clean air, and enough work to make you need them.

Healing was in my body, was stitching into my very cells, before I could even see it working, before I could see new words on the page. When I came here I thought I was failing, but something was already starting to grow.

In college, I studied literature and fairy tales. Some—”The Selkie Bride,” “Cinderella,” “Red Riding Hood,” “Tam Lin”—I’d read in different translations and retellings since I was a child. I have always loved, more than anything, stories. Stories helped me escape those parts of my childhood that I could talk about only years later. I told myself stories, too, even as I progressed into adulthood. I thought I knew what I wanted, whom I would love, how my life would lead. I was a good student, a follower of rules. Whenever I searched for something, I believed I knew what I would find, and when, and how.

I write fairy tales for a living now, and like many feminist writers I try to give my heroines the agency that they sometimes lack in older versions of the tales. The aims of women of my generation and the one before—and many, many brave and hard-fighting women before us—are all for choice and action. By action I mean achievement, agency, doing. I believe in these ideals; they keep the world moving forward, and help to give it some chance of (maybe, someday) being just.

But lately I have been thinking that these older princesses and witches and peasant girls have a kind of wisdom to offer us that has lately been lost: the wisdom of passivity, of stillness.

Those seemingly un-feminist stillnesses are nearly always there, in the most enduring of the old fairy stories. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood curled up in the wolf: what are they thinking, unthinking, as they lie there un-doing? Are they glad, un-chosen as it is, for the rest?

Whether they are or not, the stillness is part of the narrative, and therefore is itself part of the moving forward, the doing of the story. Even when they are still, their stories go on. And I have found, in the time that I have spent in this place, that stillness has a strength and power of its own. I believe now that I needed not to write for that time. There are many fields here that lie fallow.

Road through the Burren EoinGardiner FCC

Road through the Burren by EoinGardiner (FCC)

Soon after I met my husband on Inis Mor (the largest of the Aran Islands—oh, Trish, how right you were) he told me something that has twined itself through my heart ever since. In Irish, he said “faigheann iarraidh, iarraidh eile.” In English: the search for one thing leads to another.

I came to Ireland to write a book. I could not write, but if the soul is a place of quiet and stillness and peace inside oneself, I found mine, and the island and I healed it where it had been starved and broken. I met my partner, and I found my home. And nine months later, in the spring, living in East Galway with Richie, I began to write again.

“The mind is constantly trying to figure out what page it’s on in the story of itself.” ~ Ikko Narasaki

Egon Schiele Trees Mirrored in a Pond 1907

“Trees Mirrored in a Pond” (1907, oil on cardboard)
by Egon Schiele

                   

“You will either step forward into growth or back into safety.” ~ Abraham Maslow

Saturday afternoon. Sunny and too warm, 84 degrees.

So I just spent the better part of the morning getting this blog caught up. I know. I know. It’s been a week since my last post. Such a week.

Hermann Max Pechstein Autumn Sea 1933

“Autumn Sea” (1933, oil on canvas)
by Hermann Max Pechstein

First, let me start off by saying it’s too damned hot for October. We already owe Virginia Power our souls because of running the AC, so I’d really like a break from that whole routine. You know? But no. Hot and humid equal need for AC, otherwise, I sweat and get too hot, and my head begins to hurt more. Plus, my esse is already acclimated for fall.

Speaking of heads, the migraine still hasn’t left completely. My pain management doctor thinks it’s so bad because it’s time for Botox again. Who knows. All I know is that light hurts and the pain is constant, although with the levels abating.

Also speaking of heads, it should be illegal to go to a pain management center wearing a smelly perfume. I walked into the waiting room and was immediately assaulted by a powerful fragrance. I haven’t been laid low by a perfume so badly since Giorgio was popular. Before the doctor got to my room, I was hanging my head over the sink splashing cold water on my face, trying not to throw up. It’s been that kind of week.

“I might enjoy being an albatross, being able to glide for days and daydream for hundreds of miles along the thermals. And then being able to hang like an affliction round some people’s necks.” ~ Seamus Heaney, from the Art of Poetry No. 75

Two hours between the last sentence and this one. I have a feeling that this post may take me well into the night. I want to write, but concentrating is hard. I’m in the midst of another bout of insomnia—difference this time is that I can fall asleep but not stay asleep. Yesterday I was fully awake at 7 a.m., and by 7:30 I was organizing the hall closet. Insomnia + OCD makes for a very bad situation.

Boats at Night 1947 by Patrick Heron 1920-1999

“Boats at Night” (1947, oil on wood)
by Patrick Heron

Today I am trying to force myself to sit here and finish something, but I keep getting distracted. Our neighbor across the street who helps when Corey is away came over to help me figure out why my water pressure was down to nothing. Yesterday the city was out in the street between our two houses working on the pipes. His water is fine, but mine is down to a trickle. Of course, I cannot get the city back out here until Monday.

I heard them out there working, but was in the midst of a meltdown and didn’t bother to go outside and investigate, so by the time I really noticed that the water was almost non-existent, the crew had already left. Friday afternoon, after all.

So I was sure I would be able to get to sleep early last night because I haven’t pulled an 18-hour day in years, but no . . . it was not to be.

The trees you planted in childhood have grown
too heavy. You cannot bring them along.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from The Sonnets of Orpheus, trans. Anita Barrows and Joanna Marcy

Last night I had the strangest dream: I opened the door, and Corey was there. He had gotten home and surprised me. But it wasn’t Corey; I mean, it was, but physically, it was my Catholic boyfriend Johny. Corey/Johny had come home, but he had brought his entire platoon with him.

Cecilia Beaux Half-Tide, Annisquam River 1905

“Half-Tide, Annisquam River” (1905, oil on canvas)
by Cecilia Beaux

There was a reception, and at the bar there were all of these orange alcoholic shots in test tubes stuck in crushed ice. Surreal image, but it matches the field of sliced carrots that appeared later in the dream (don’t ask).

Several of the women from the platoon were surprised that I was there as they were unaware that Corey was married. But after the platoon in its entirety departed, I found a stash of medicine that belonged to one of the women, and I was worried that she had left without her medicine. Then one of Corey’s friends from the unit offered to take the medicine to her, but I didn’t trust him to do it. Michelle Rodriguez (the actor) made an appearance in her usual role of tough female.

It was all just too, too, bizarre.

Your only problem, perhaps, is that you scream without letting yourself cry.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Elmer Nelson Bischoff Boats

“Boats” (1967, oil on canvas)
by Elmer Nelson Bischoff

I’m feeling very in-between: in-between times, in-between moods, in-between states of physical being. There is a restlessness about me that is permeating everything I touch. I begin to do something only to find myself absorbed in some minutiae in less than half an hour. This state is directly tied to my inability to read. I realized that two whole months have passed without my immersing myself in a single book. A very unusual state of affairs, to say the least.

It isn’t quite ennui, as I am too frenetic for that. I am reminded vividly of a time during my tenure at ODU (not as in academic tenure, oh no) when I had morning classes to teach, but I found myself at 3 a.m. sitting in the middle of the dining room floor sorting and categorizing coupons. It was a completely inane thing to be doing, yet I could not stop myself.

That is how I find myself now.

I saw my psychiatrist this past week, as well, and we talked about adding a mood stabilizer to my anti-depressant, but I really don’t want to do that. I take far too many medications now, and to add yet another one, to risk more side effects, just seems like a bad route. For now, she prescribed trazodone for me to take at night to help with the sleep. Of course, I have yet to go pick it up from the pharmacy . . .

“If we are to make reality endurable, we must all nourish a fantasy or two.” ~ Marcel Proust from In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower: In Search of Lost Time, Vol. 2

Have you noticed how I tend to include water imagery whenever I am feeling restless, leading me to post an image by Dali, one of the few of his that I actually like? A definite correlation, she said, apropos of nothing . . .

Salvador Dali Moonlight over the Bay at Cadaques c1920

“Moonlight over the Bay at Cadaques” (c1920)
by Salvador Dali

Since Corey left this time I have cleaned out and reorganized the front part of the garage in the area of the washer and dryer. I have done some more cleaning in the backyard. I have completely reorganized the hall closet, and I’m about to tackle my closet to do my seasonal switch in sweaters and shoes. I had to force myself not to start on the closet before I sat down to write.

It’s easier mentally to throw myself into a completely mindless project than it is to concentrate on placing one word after another. Speaking of which, I have been referred to a hand surgeon because my ability to use my left hand has diminished so much that writing with a pen is an exercise in pain if I hold the pen for more than a few minutes. Of course, as with most things, I have to go through a bunch of forms and releases before this new specialist will take me on. It almost makes me not want to bother.

Which, of course, leads to the whole health insurance thing. It’s open season for me; I contemplated for about 10 seconds adding Brett to my health insurance (as he still doesn’t have any; ask his father, beh) until I read the chart and saw that it would cost approximately $700 a month to add him. But no, this country does not need affordable health care. But that, my friends, is a topic for another time.

More later. Peace.

Music by Camera Obscura, “Your Picture”

                   

Photograph

I wish I was a photograph
tucked into the corners of your wallet
I wish I was a photograph
you carried like a future in your pocket
I wish I was that face you show to strangers
when they ask you where you come from
I wish I was that someone that you come from
every time you get there
and when you get there
I wish I was that someone who got phone calls
and postcards saying
wish you were here

I wish you were here
autumn is the hardest season
the leaves are all falling
and they’re falling like they’re falling in love with the ground
and the trees are naked and lonely
I keep trying to tell them
new leaves will come around in the spring
but you can’t tell trees those things
they’re like me they just stand there
and don’t listen

I wish you were here
I’ve been missing you like crazy
I’ve been hazy eyed
staring at the bottom of my glass again
thinking of that time when it was so full
it was like we were tapping the moon for moonshine
or sticking straws into the center of the sun
and sipping like icarus would forever kiss
the bullets from our guns

I never meant to fire you know
I know you never meant to fire lover
I know we never meant to hurt each other
now the sky clicks from black to blue
and dusk looks like a bruise
I’ve been wrapping one night stands
around my body like wedding bands
but none of them fit in the morning
they just slip off my fingers and slip out the door
and all that lingers is the scent of you
I once swore if I threw that scent into a wishing well
all the wishes in the world would come true
do you remember

do you remember the night I told you
I’ve never seen anything more perfect than
than snow falling in the glow of a street light
electricity bowing to nature
mind bowing to heartbeat
this is gonna hurt bowing to I love you
I still love you like moons love the planets they circle around
like children love recess bells
I still hear the sound of you
and think of playgrounds
where outcasts who stutter
beneath braces and bruises and acne
are finally learning that their rich handsome bullies
are never gonna grow up to be happy
I think of happy when I think of you

so wherever you are I hope you’re happy
I really do
I hope the stars are kissing your cheeks tonight
I hope you finally found a way to quit smoking
I hope your lungs are open and breathing your life
I hope there’s a kite in your hand
that’s flying all the way up to orion
and you still got a thousand yards of string to let out
I hope you’re smiling
like god is pulling at the corners of your mouth
cause I might be naked and lonely
shaking branches for bones
but I’m still time zones away
from who I was the day before we met
you were the first mile
where my heart broke a sweat
and I wish you were here
I wish you’d never left
but mostly I wish you well
I wish you my very very best

~ Andrea Gibson

“You want to cry aloud for your mistakes. But to tell the truth the world doesn’t need any more of that sound.” ~ Mary Oliver

Male Lesser_goldfinch WC matt knoth

Male Lesser Goldfinch
matt knoth (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

Mary Oliver references Rilke. Good stuff:

Invitation

Oh do you have time
to linger
for just a little while
out of your busy

and very important day
for the goldfinches
that have gathered
in a field of thistles

for a musical battle,
to see who can sing
the highest note,
or the lowest,

or the most expressive of mirth,
or the most tender?
Their strong, blunt beaks
drink the air

as they strive
melodiously
not for your sake
and not for mine

and not for the sake of winning
but for sheer delight and gratitude—
believe us, they say,
it is a serious thing

just to be alive
on this fresh morning
in the broken world.
I beg of you,

do not walk by
without pausing
to attend to this
rather ridiculous performance.

It could mean something.
It could mean everything.
It could be what Rilke meant, when he wrote:
You must change your life.

~ Mary Oliver

                    

Music by Birdy, “The A Team”

“I am half agony, half hope.” ~ Jane Austen, from Persuasion

Aurora over Grøtfjorden, Norway
by Tor Even Mathisen

                   

“But for pain words are lacking. There should be cries, cracks, fissures, whiteness passing over chintz covers, interference with the sense of time, of space; the sense also of extreme fixity in passing objects; and sounds very remote and then very close; flesh being gashed and blood spurting, a joint suddenly twisted—beneath all of which appears something very important, yet remote, to be just held in solitude.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

Tuesday, late afternoon. A bit warmer, low 50’s.

Northern Lights over Murphy Dome, Alaska, by Taro Nakai CC

Northern Lights over Murphy Dome, Alaska
by Taro Nakai (CC)

So the past two days have been spent in lots of cleaning. On Sunday, Corey helped me to take down Christmas, which included the tree, my Santa collection, my snowman collection, and various other decorations. Each time we thought we’d gotten everything, we found one more piece. Everything is finally packed and ready to go to storage. What I wouldn’t give for a large attic or basement.

After, the house was quite dusty, and glitter was in odd places, which meant furniture polishing, sweeping, and various other things. Corey still needs to vacuum the carpeted places, and I need to clean the fish bowls, but everything else is done. I even did my desk, sorted the junk mail, and cleaned out some files.

I got a label maker as one of my Christmas presents, which might sound odd, but I asked for it, and if you knew my penchant for office supplies, you wouldn’t find this weird at all. So last night I was still in full-blown OCD clean mode, so I used my label maker to create some new files and to condense others. Sweet. I now have a nice, small pile of things needing attention, and Corey, even thought he didn’t really want one, now has a to-do file and a list next to his laptop.

“Perhaps then, some day far in the future, you will gradually, without even noticing it, live your way into the answer.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

By the time I forced myself to stop, I hurt all over. I woke up with very sore legs in addition to the expected back aches and knots. But at least I feel a sense of accomplishment.

Northern Lights over Finland by timo_w2s CC

Northern Lights over Finland
by timo_w2s (CC)

Night before last Corey got very sick. He had told me that he felt like he had a rock in his stomach; then he threw up all over the kitchen floor. I didn’t know until after, which is silly. It’s not like I haven’t cleaned up other people’s puke a thousand other times. Anyway, afterwards, we decided to watch something calming, so I suggested Pride and Prejudice, with Kiera Knightly and Matthew Macfadyen. It’s such a good movie. If you like period dramas and haven’t seen this, you should watch it.

He was just fine by yesterday, and he made a delicious pot of homemade vegetable soup, which made everyone feel better.

The two of us have been trying to catch up on all of the shows I recorded for him while he was gone. Most recently we’ve been watching “Luther,” with Idris Elba, who I love. The show is on BBC America as part of their Dramaville series. It’s such a well-written and well-acted show. I have realized that I could pretty much live with just two television channels: BBC America and ID. Oh, wait. There’s PBS, of course. Kind of sad, really, to define my life through television channels, not that I actually do.

Once we finish “Luther,” the only thing left on the queue is “Copper,” another BBC America show.

“I bear the wounds of all the battles I avoided.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Olivia was officially six months old on the 6th. Wow. She has changed so much from the tiny little thing with dark hair when she was born. She truly is the happiest baby I’ve ever been around. None of my babies were like that. I’m really hoping that she stays that way—happy.  I am amazed by how easily she laughs and smiles with her whole face. Being around her really calms me.

Northern Lightsby Varjisakka (CC)

Northern Lights
by Varjisakka (CC)

Smiling has never come easily to me. Always so serious, even now. I wonder, is it genetics? Socialization? What defines a person’s disposition? Actually, I would imagine that people can be born happy and easy-going and then something happens to change them to make them morose and dispirited, but I wonder if the reverse is true, if an individual who is born very serious can have something happen that then changes the entire outlook on life, makes it easy to laugh and smile and remain upbeat? I just don’t see that happening.

I mean, I’m not serious all of the time, and I can laugh and smile and be happy, but I don’t see anything happening to make me be easy with life. Easy I guess is the best word. Easy as in comfortable, carefree, better able to let things roll and to roll with things.

Yes, I have definitely mellowed as I have grown older. I am not nearly so quick to anger, and I actually do avoid some confrontations. I don’t dwell as much on the major slights that have happened along the way. All of this is good. But still, I am not easy-going, and I am not easy with life.

“I’ve cried, and you’d think I’d be better for it, but the sadness just sleeps, and it stays in my spine the rest of my life.” ~ Conor Oberst

I don’t often use song lyrics for my section header quotes, but this one? This one is spot on. Seriously.

Northern Lights, Tromso, Norway by GuideGunnar Arctic Norway FCC

Northern Lights, Tromso, Norway
by GuideGunnar Arctic Norway (FCC)

I know that I’ve mentioned more than once ancient theories about illness and medicine, the humours, etc., but if I were living hundred of years ago, well, for one thing, I’d probably be dead. But aside from that, my back pain? Does it not make sense that I carry around this constant back pain because I have sadness in my spine? Because I carry around all of the sadness of my life inside, and then outside, it manifests itself as actual pain?

Waxing a bit philosophic, I know, but when I came across this lyric from a Bright Eyes’ song, it really struck home. Perhaps I’m just rationalizing again, but I don’t think so. I know that I have an ancient sensibility in a lot of ways, that the ways in which I view various things doesn’t exactly scream contemporary. Yet, I am a walking contradiction. I live in the past and the present. I crave the past, some of the past, and yet other parts I would not reclaim for anything.

How do we end up here? I have no answers.

“…throw roses into the abyss.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

I also do not use a lot of quotes by Nietzsche because he was such a misogynist. However, if I were to apply that logic to all of the people I quote here, I would not be able to use most of them, because as is the case with just about anyone, everyone has his or her bad parts; it’s just that some bad parts are easier to overlook than others.

For example, Rilke was an unconscionable human being, an anti-Semite, a philanderer, and many other less-than-flattering things, but his poetry seems almost ethereal in its stark beauty. So do I shun quotes from Rilke’s works because I truly cannot abide the person he was? Obviously, I haven’t as my posts are peopled with Rilke’s words and worlds.

Kattovouma Northern Lights by apgroner FCC

Northern Lights, Kattovuoma, Sweden
by apgroner (FCC)

Other examples include Gandhi and Mother Theresa, both of whom could be particularly cruel. But their writings? Seemingly from saints.

This is the crux, essentially, in using other people’s words. What do we ignore, and what do we highlight? Personally, I choose to use the products of most of these people. Who am I to judge, yet judge, I do. Constantly. Scrupulously. Yet I pick and choose from this and that and place it here as some kind of totem for my words that follow.

Look. I only know this. If someone were ever to analyze my life (and I find the prospect highly unlikely), the person revealed would be a mixture of bad and good. No, no one could claim that I’m anti-Semitic, or racist, or sexist. But they could say that I have been cruel, that I have hurt people, that I have been judgmental, that I have curried favor, and on and on and on and on.

I don’t like the historical Nietzsche. I don’t like the histories of many, many people. But in most cases, I overlook that because their words, even though the speakers themselves were not always true to them, their words touch me, move me, rally me, comfort me, and so I pass them along to you, hoping that you might have the same reaction.

We are, all of us, fate’s fools, simply balancing on the edge as best we can.

More later. Peace.

(Images today of Northern Lights/Aurora Borealis  (another thing on my bucket list, can’t remember if I included), are all creative commons works.)

Music by Nina Simone, “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood”

                    

II, 11 (The Book of Hours)

No one lives his life.

Disguised since childhood,
haphazardly assembled
from voices and fears and little pleasures,
we come of age as masks.

Our true face never speaks.

Somewhere there must be storehouses
where all these lives are laid away
like suits of armor or old carriages
or clothes hanging limply on the walls.

Maybe all paths lead there,
to the repository of unlived things.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke

“My heart wants roots. My mind wants wings. I cannot bear their bickerings.” ~ E. Y. Harburg

Resting Polar Bear by Daniel J. Cox (Polar Bears International)*

Resting Polar Bear
by Daniel J. Cox (Polar Bears International)*

                   

“If a woman writes about herself, she’s a narcissist. If a man does the same, he’s describing the human condition” ~ Emily Gould

Friday, early evening. Partly cloudy and cold, 45 degrees.

I had big plans to take down the Christmas tree today, but now, not so much. I don’t take the tree down on New Year’s Day, partly out of a superstition that says that whatever you are doing on New Year’s Day is what you will spend most of your time doing in the coming year. I do not want to spend a year tackling a rather large sorting, cleaning and storing job. Also, I like to look at the tree for a while after New Year’s.

Maybe tomorrow.

Polar Bear and Cubs USFWS WC

Polar Bear and Cubs
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Wikimedia Commons)

I mean, if I were feeling productive, I could also tackle the large pile on the left side of my desk that has begun a landslide onto the floor, but it’s so much easier to push the pile back into a pile and pretend that it’s not there. However, I really need the black nail file that is usually in my pen cup, but seems to have disappeared beneath the mass of papers, so I may have to do something. I’m one of those people who has nail files and calendars in almost every room; Corey’s family has tissues in every room. Quirks.

I really need an assistant, or an intern, or an assistant intern. Like that’s ever going to happen. How does one persuade someone to be an intern to the job of life? If anyone has an answer for that, I would love to hear it. Anyway . . .

“Misunderstanding is my cornerstone. It’s everyone’s, come to think of it. Illusions mistaken for truth are the pavement under our feet.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver, from The Poisonwood Bible

Olivia spent the day here yesterday as Lex had a doctor’s appointment and wanted to try to get some things taken care of, so we agreed to sit. One thing I have to say about this baby is that she doesn’t sleep for long stretches, which is odd for me as all of my babies loved to nap, Alexis the most, and we would often have to wake her from her afternoon nap. She says that even when she was in kindergarten, the teacher had to wake her from rest time. No wonder the teachers loved her (kidding).

(By the way, the poem choice arises from a new thing that Olivia is doing: Mike’s stepmother taught Olivia how to shake her head back and forth when someone says, “No, no, no, no, no.” And then she laughs . . .)

Polar Bear by Daniel J Cox Polar Bears International

Polar Bear
by Daniel J. Cox (Polar Bears International)

Olivia has had a bit of a cold, and the pediatrician told Lex to use nose drops (saline) and the sucking thing (aspirator?), which Olivia loves (not). My mom is also sick with what sounds like bronchitis or pneumonia, but try to get her to see a doctor? Not happening. I have wanted her to change her primary care doctor for years as I don’t feel that he really pays attention to everything that’s going on with her, but she loves him and won’t change.

My, I have a lot of parenthetical asides today. Sure sign that my mind is going too fast.

Anyway, I did want to know what you think of the new theme. I can’t afford to get one of those custom themes in which you can select all of the colors and all of that other coding, but WordPress does offer a fairly nice selection of free themes. Only problem was that when I changed themes, I lost my rotating globe and all of those stats. Many thanks to Izaak Mak at I Want Ice Water for providing me with the coding needed. So the globe is back. Funny the kinds of things you get attached to on a page.

“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” ~ Douglas Adams, from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

I got a little distracted looking up music from the television show “Fringe,” which I’ve started watching again. Somehow, I lost track of it, but it’s being rebroadcast on cable, so I’m watching again. I love the quirkiness of it, almost (not quite) like “X Files,” but a different kind of quirky. I also happen to love both John Noble and Joshua Jackson. Why mention this? Who knows . . . I also had to stop to find quotes for today’s post because I realized that all of the quote that I had previously selected bore absolutely no resemblance to today’s post, which, by the way, has no clear theme.

Polar Bear, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska WC

Polar Bear
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (Wikimedia Commons)

My back has been killing me for the past week. The new doctor gave me a referral for physical therapy, but I haven’t made the appointment yet,mostly because of funds. The post-Christmas dearth of money has hit, that and the fact that Corey is on job hiatus.  But I’m hoping that I’ll be able to start with the PT sometime this month. Honestly, I haven’t had that much success with PT, but I’m willing to give it a go one more time. Out of the five or so different people who have worked on my back, only one actually succeeded in lessening my pain.

Of course, I need to get back to some kind of physical activity, but the motivation has been seriously lacking in that department. I’d like to start walking with Tillie so that both of us get some exercise in this cold weather. Maybe next week.

“Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from A Wild Sheep Chase

I haven’t been doing well with giving up chocolate, what with the abundance of sweets throughout the house, but this one is a must-do, especially because of my blood sugar and my triglycerides. I have been easing off day by day, but the other morning I was shoving Reese’s miniatures in my mouth like they were a supply of oxygen. So glad no one else was up at the time. I mean, who eats peanut butter cups at 7 in the morning?

olar Bear paren sow paren, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska WC

Polar Bear (sow),
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (Wikimedia Commons)

I do.

Anyway, almost all of the holiday sweets are gone, and that makes me very happy in a weird sort of way. Although, I do still have a keen hankering for cookies, especially those Pepperidge Farm gingerbread men. Delish.

Okay. I’ll stop. I mean, you really didn’t come here to read about my strange cravings and my constant internal debate over whether or not to go over to the dark side where Russell Stover caramel bites and Danish butter cookies reside.

“There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.” ~ Tom Robbins, from Still Life with Woodpecker

So other than the above inanity, not much going on.

Polar Bear by Craig Taylor Polar Bears International

Polar Bear
by Craig Taylor (Polar Bears International)

I ordered everyone’s calendars after Christmas when the prices dropped by 50 percent. But here’s the thing that kills me: Amazon offers free shipping to Prime members and for orders over $25, which is great, but they sent two different boxes, each one containing only one (count it) one calendar and a sheet of pillow wrap. Both boxes arrived simultaneously, so just look at the waste:

  • Two cardboard boxes (recyclable)
  • Two sheets of pillow wrap (or whatever you call that packing stuff that isn’t bubble wrap but is filled with air) (not recyclable)
  • Two calendars (which will ultimately be recyclable)
  • and shipping for two boxes that had the exact same weight.

Am I the only one who doesn’t see the logic in that? Of course, this isn’t the first time Amazon has done something like this. I remember one time when I ordered Brett some special pens; Amazon shipped them in (I kid you not) a box that was roughly 24 x 6 x 6 inches for a box that measures about 7 x 4 x 3/4.

Whatever.

More later. Peace.

Music by My Morning Jacket, “Thank You Too”

(*Today’s images of polar bears—because I was thinking of Shakes who always reminded me of a miniature polar bear, especially in the way that he lay and tucked his tale under). Some images taken from Polar Bears International site.)

                  

Counting The Mad

This one was put in a jacket,
This one was sent home,
This one was given bread and meat
But would eat none,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one looked at the window
As though it were a wall,
This one saw things that were not there,
This one things that were,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one thought himself a bird,
This one a dog,
And this one thought himself a man,
An ordinary man,
And cried and cried No No No No
All day long.

~ Donald Justice

“More and more I found myself at a loss for words and didn’t want to hear other people talking either. Their conversations seemed false and empty. I preferred to look at the sea, which said nothing and never made you feel alone.” ~ Paula McLain, The Paris Wife

The Needles, Cannon Beach, Oregon
by Steven Pavlov (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“I am obsessed at nights with the idea of my own worthlessness, and if it were only to turn a light on to save my life I think I would not do it. These are the last footprints of a headache I suppose. Do you ever feel that? — like an old weed in a stream. What do you feel, lying in bed? I daresay you are visited by sublime thoughts. Dearest, do write to me; for I long for your words. Do tell me you wish to see me.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a letter to Vita Sackville-West dated 18 August 1929

Friday afternoon. Cloudy, drizzle, low 70’s.

Seaside Beach Oregon Sunset
by The Knowles Gallery (FCC)

It’s been a hellacious few days. My dog Shakes is not doing well. That I am alone in this, or rather, without Corey, is exacerbating the pain. I spent last night intermittently listening to him wheeze, a strange reassurance that he was still breathing. Sleep, when it came, was uneven and troubled.

We humans are a funny lot, what with our emotions, our needs, our desires. But I do not believe that we are the only sentient beings in existence. Each day, science reveals yet another way in which members of non-human species possess the ability to reason, the ability to care, the ability to protect. Sentience, though, is truly a double-edged sword: it makes us aware, even when remaining ignorant would be so much easier, even when an ability to emote sometimes results in feelings akin to being slammed against a cement wall, the wind knocked from our lungs.

Sentience is the price we pay for free will, I suppose, and sometimes, it is an exorbitant price.

I think that I finally understand that line from Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”—”I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” After all, if that were my only lot in life, I would not care about everything happening around me, would not be aware that the world is so much more—bad and good.

What you can’t get over,

You must get past. Through a haze of smoke and rum,
What’s left of me squints at the odds and ends.” ~ Elton Glaser, from “Downloading the Meltdown”

Of course, because I’m already vulnerable, I came across a Springsteen song that I had completely forgotten about—”If I Should Fall Behind.” Man, what a song. And because I have a very morose personality, such songs pierce my heart quite acutely, make me think about what ifs, whens. hows.

Sunset at Haystack Rock
by Wes Rogers (FCC)

The other day I was trying to tell Brett about the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, what a force he was, how he played the saxophone  like he had a direct pipeline to the gods. How Springsteen and Clemons were an incomparable duo. Man, I miss Clemons.

Music has always been one of my primary ways of reflecting my mood, but of course, this is a trait many humans share. Music has been a part of life far longer than most people realize. In 1995, a Slovenian archaeologist discovered a bone carving with evenly spaced holes. This carving, believed to be about 43,000 years old, was named the Divje Babe flute. Other flutes made of bird bone and mammoth ivory have been carbon-dated as being approximately the same age.

I find it fascinating that early humans integrated musical sounds into their societies for whatever reasons. It is entirely possible that we have sought sounds to soothe for millennia. And we are not alone. Consider whale songs—those intricate, long underwater melodies.

“What uniform can I wear to hide my heavy heart?
It is too heavy. It will always show.” ~ Jean Cocteau, from The Holy Terrors

Don’t really know how I got off on that particular tangent. My mind is not exactly cohesive of late. More often than not, I realize that I am sitting in front of this computer screen, and nothing is happening—no music, no words, just my wallpaper and icons.

An example of the state of my mind? Yesterday I went to pick up prescriptions. I got home with only one, even though I had paid for four, and didn’t realize it until hours later. I haven’t been back to get the others as that would take so much effort. Just writing about it makes me tired all over.

Haystack Rock Sunset, Oregon
by Gary Halvorson (Wikimedia Commons)

Actually, this post is making me tired all over. I don’t know that I’m getting anywhere, that I’m saying anything. If feels more like an exercise in futility. I’ll leave you with a few things that I’m pondering:

  • When will I be able to read again? I hate it when this happens, when I cannot still my mind enough to become absorbed in someone else’s words.
  • Which plot idea will I actually begin to work on when I start this project?
  • How long before I give up this project, convince myself yet again that I have nothing to say?
  • How will I ever make it through the upcoming holidays? The thought of getting the house ready, preparing the meals—it all makes me so very, very tired.
  • How can October be two-thirds over?
  • How will I ever find the energy to  make Brett’s costume for him?
  • How much of my life has been spent in dwelling on the imponderables?

“I would like a simple life
yet all night I am laying
poems away in a long box.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “The Ambition Bird

Just a few more . . .

  • I have no idea as to what kind of images I can pair with these words. Nothing fits.

    Oregon Coastal Sunset
    by Malcolm Carlaw (FCC)

  • My words feel hollow. I wonder if they read that way . . .
  • I’m already regretting signing up for NaNoWriMo.
  • At this very second, I have a spot almost in the middle of my scalp that feels like someone is picking at it with a sharp object.
  • I did not realize until now that I am squinting.
  • The last two items mean that a headache is coming.
  • Can I please just hide in my bedroom until the year is over?

(Decided that sunset on the Oregon coast seemed to fit somehow.)

Music from the Boss, “If I Should Fall Behind” (couldn’t pick my favorite version, so I posted both)

                   

The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.

~ Jack Gilbert