“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” ~ Truman Capote

Trail of Blue Ice Portage Valley AK by JJ

Trail of Blue Ice (Portage Valley, AK) by Janson Jones

 

“Often when I write I am trying to make words do the work of line and color. I have the painter’s sensitivity to light. Much . . . of my writing is verbal painting.”
~ Elizabeth Bowen

Two of the worst words in the history of language: ignorance and indifference ~ L. Liwag

Few words tonight. Too many thoughts running through my head about the world in which we live. To much tumult to reconcile in a coherent post. Janson’s “Blue Ice” image is the perfect visual accompaniment to how I feel.

My overall mood can best be expressed by Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard singing “Now We are Free.” Many thanks to my compatriot Janson Jones for reminding me of their incredible music.

 

And to close the evening, here is “Host of Seraphim.” Let me warn you that this particular vid can be very depressing. I may try to tackle this topic tomorrow.

 

More later. Peace.

Grace in Small Things (continued)

Tillie Close Up Smaller

Princess Tillie Posing for a Picture

 

“As you wish . . .” ~ Westley from The Princess Bride 

“You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” ~ Miracle Max from The Princess Bride

Miracle Max and Valerie The Princess Bride
Miracle Max & Valeria in The Princess Bride

I haven’t done a Grace in Small Things post in quite a while, so I thought that I might do one tonight. I’m slightly regretting something that I said in my post about emotions: I said that I do not get elated easily. That part is true, but when I began to consider elation in my life, I realized that even though it is not an emotion that comes to me easily, I still find happiness in even the smallest of things—hence, the subject of tonight’s post.

After some pondering, I’ve decided to highlight the following five things that bring me joy:

Vizzini: Jump in after her! 
Inigo Montoya: I can’t swim 
Fezzik: I only dog paddle. 
Vizzini: AGGHH  ~ from The Princess Bride

Shakes Fast Asleep
Shakes Fast Asleep

Number 1:  My dogs’ personalities. Anyone who doesn’t believe that animals can have distinct personalities has never paid much attention to a dog. My Jack Russells have always been full of themselves, but ever since we adopted Tillie the Lab, I’ve noticed even more how much all three dogs differ. For example, Shakes, the mama’s boy, is easily lulled. He insinuates himself as close to my torso as he can get and then turns over on his back. This is a signal that the stomach rubbing should begin. I can put Shakes to sleep in under three minutes if I rub his tummy steadily. Once he falls asleep, his mouth gapes ever so slightly, showing his bottom teeth as he has a distinct underbite. Shakes would be a good candidate for dog braces if there were such a thing. Regardless, once Shakes has fallen asleep, I can stop rubbing his belly, but if he is disturbed, I have to begin the process again. If I do not, I get a head butt to my elbow, which is what happened this morning as I was drinking my first cup of coffee, which I always have while I am still in bed. Needless to say, the butt to my elbow caused coffee to spill on my nightshirt and on the sheets. I was not amused.

King Alfie
King Alfie Atop the Pillows

Alfie is much harder to read. He likes to sleep atop the pillows, more often than not, above Corey’s head. Alfie can be very, very sweet and loving, and then he can turn on a dime and begin to growl. He doesn’ t like to be dried when he comes in from the rain, so I have to coax him by speaking very quietly while simultaneously drying him very quickly. Another of Alfie’s quirks is that if given a treat such as a chewie, he will immediately try to bury it, even if he is in the house. We have found chewies between the couch cushions, under the piano pedals, even in a storage tub. If Alfie buries his treats outside, Shakes will watch him, and then at the first chance, he will unbury Alfie’s treat and claim it as his own.

Tillie is a prima donna. She is quite vocal about many things, and if she is not being paid the attention she feels she deserves, we’ll get a good telling off until someone, usually Corey, stops whatever he is doing and gives her a big hug. Tillie is also very jealous. If Corey comes into the room and begins a conversation with me, Tillie will interrupt. If we happen to be embracing one another, Tillie will bark. However, Tillie is not the least bit aggressive. She is all talk. Tillie also likes to make the bed. If the bed covers are flat, she will stand in the middle of the bed and rake the covers with her paws until they are in the desired shape, and then she will promptly flop down on them. This is why we have removed the hand-stitched quilt that my mother gave us and replaced it with a cheaper, machine-sewn quilt.

I know, we spoil our dogs as much as we do our children, but it’s hard not to as they have such human characteristics.

“I do not mean to pry, but you don’t by any chance happen to have six fingers on your right hand?” ~ Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride

Inigo Montoya The Princess Bride
Inigo Montoya in The Princess Bride

Number 2:  Nail polish. Granted, nail polish is not a terribly important thing in the grand scheme of things; however, I love all of the different shades of nail polish. Did you know that there are probably 50 different shades of red, if not more? Some of my favorite reds include Cherry Crush, Woman in Love, I Am Not a Waitress, To Eros is Human, and Bogata Blackberry. Aren’t those names wild?

I wonder who has the job of naming colors . . . That’s something that I think I could do: create catchy names for red nail polish. How about Molten Lava? Or Chili Pepper Passion? Or maybe Devilicious? Scarlet Woman? Okay, so maybe I need to work on it.

“Death cannot stop true love. All it can do is delay it for a while.” ~ Westley from The Princess Bride

Westley and Buttercup TPB
Westley & Buttercup in The Princess Bride

Number 3: The poetry of Pablo Neruda. I have to admit that I discovered Neruda later in the game, but I am so glad that I found him. Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto was born in Chile in 1904 and had his first poem published when he was only 13. Neruda was a prolific writer, and almost all of his work is political in nature.  Neruda, an avowed communist, was almost denied the Nobel Prize because of his political beliefs. However, he also wrote some incredibly moving love poems, and it is those of which I am most fond. Regardless of his subject matter, Neruda’s poems are filled with strong images and fine craftsmanship.

From “Lost in the Forest”—

Lost in the forest, I broke off a dark twig
and lifted its whisper to my thirsty lips:
maybe it was the voice of the rain crying,
a cracked bell, or a torn heart.

“And wuv, tru wuv, will fowow you foweva  . . . ” ~ The Impressive Clergyman from The Princess Bride

Cicada
Cicada on Tree Branch

Number 4: Night Sounds. As I have mentioned, I have problems falling asleep and staying asleep, which means that I am awake at very odd hours. But one of the better things about my odd sleeping habits is that I am often awake to hear all of the sounds in the night. We live fairly close to a marsh, so the sounds of the various inhabitants of the marsh are easy to hear in the nighttime stillness. 

I enjoy hearing the tree frogs chirruping in the evening and early morning, and the toads with their lower pitched chirps are often interspersed, creating an harmonious din. The crickets’ songs are not annoying to me; instead, their sounds right outside my bedroom window are full of life. Occasionally, the sound of cicadas with their incremental buzzing and clicking resonates among the trees. And by 3 a.m., all of the birds begin to awaken: First, the mourning doves with their coos, and then the mocking birds with their various melodies, and sometimes there is even the knocking of a wood pecker, which echoes into the coming dawn.

“Are you kidding? Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles . . . ” ~ Grandpa from The Princess Bride 

Number 5: Fairy Tales and Fantasies. It probably comes as no surprise that I love fairy tales, especially since I frequently take my own flights of fancy. But it’s the uncommon fairy tales that enchant me. Disney’s tales of fair maidens being rescued by handsome princes always bothered me. It’s that whole helpless female thing, you know? It wasn’t until Beauty and the Beast that the people at Disney finally came up with a female who was determined and headstrong.

But for me, the best fairy tales are the ones that involve magic and battles and odd creatures, with a pinch of tongue in cheek humor. For example, my favorite fairy tale in movie form is The Princess Bride, hands down. The stable boy turned pirate, André the Giant as Fezzik, Inigo Montoya on his single-minded quest to avenge his father, and Miracle Max (Billy Crystal), whose inclusion among the characters makes a wonderful story into a truly memorable story. Yes, Buttercup needs rescuing, but her captors turned rescuers are anything but stock characters.

Robert DeNiro in Stardust
Robert DeNiro as Captain Shakespeare

And then recently, Corey and I watched Stardust, which I also found immensely enjoyable. Not as good as The Princess Bride, but a good fairy tale nonetheless. Robert DeNiro plays Captain Shakespeare, an in-the-closet pirate who dances the Cancan. Ricky Gervais is a trader in lightning and other dodgy goods; Michelle Pfeiffer plays an ugly old witch (if you can believe that), and Rupert Everett does a turn as one of the dead king’s sons, Secundus. The two lovers are played by Claire Danes and Charlie Cox. The story is based on a Neil Gaiman book (really must read this).

Among the movie’s enticements are magic, treachery, true love, two goats, a glass flower, and a fallen star. And this time, it’s the prince who doesn’t know that he’s a prince who is the clueless one. And bonus points for having Ian McKellan’s sonorous voice as the narrator:

“A philosopher once asked, ‘Are we human because we gaze at the stars, or do we gaze at them because we are human?’ Pointless, really… ‘Do the stars gaze back?’ Now that’s a question.”

And now, I will leave you with the most hilarious scene from Stardust: Captain Shakespeare as a whoopsie:

 

More later. Peace.

Quelle Surprise!

bugs bunny maroon

 

You must stick to your convictions, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.” ~ Denis Waitley 

“The worst mistake of first contact, made throughout history by individuals on both sides of every new encounter, has been the unfortunate habit of making assumptions.” ~ David Brin 

Imagine my surprise today when I checked my comments and found the following delightful missive from Alex:

Wow..you are a little moronic I must admit. Who on Earth would use someone as shallow and absurdly small-minded as Kim Kardashian, who is famous for doing not much of anything similar to Paris Hilton, as a role model? I certainly would not want my children looking up to someone like her. Since when is she the standard of real? She has had plastic surgery to obtain what many voluptuous women are blessed with (i.e butt, lips, breasts, even had a nose job!) She is NOT the standard of real, but I do respect her for not being rail thin. I would never look up to her for anything outside of what she is–an attention/media whore. That is what she lives for. Famous for being promiscuous and creating sex tapes “mysteriously” released on the internet. I’ll look up to someone who aspires to be something more than what she unfortunately is.

It seems that Alex was taking umbrage at my post on beauty, “Beauty is not in the face . . .) (https://poietes.wordpress.com/2009/02/04/beauty-is-not-…-kahlil-gibran/) in which I discussed the issue of people being held up as role models for girls and women and how these supposed role models do not have attainable bodies without a personal trainer or air brushing. In this post I also discuss how most women have a warped sense of their body images because of what is thrown in our faces day after day. Personally,  I really liked the post, and I received good feedback from regular readers. I should also point out that the woman whose image I placed at the top of my post was Sophia Loren, an iconic beauty simply because she does not look like everyone else.

However, this is not the first time that someone has dropped in on my blog randomly and completely missed the point of a post. I just received an overly long treatise on politics in Iran in response to my recent post on the demonstrations. I do love to get comments, even completely irrelevant ones such as the one above. It let’s me know that people are reading, even if they are reading selectively.

This was my response to Alex:

I have never said that Kim Kardashian is a role model. I said that she could be a role model “as far as how she carries herself.” If you read more closely, what I was commenting on was the fact that she is attractive without being rail thin. Other than that, I know nothing about the woman.

If you were a regular reader of my blog, you would know that my heroes are more in the line of Socrates, Einstein, Virginia Woolf, and countless other philosophers and writers. I have never viewed celebrities or celeb-wanna bes as role models. Nor have I ever pointed my children in that direction.

As for your labeling of me as moronic, perhaps you should read more than one entry on a blog before casting aspersions.

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

I do find it fascinating, though, when people who are obviously not regular readers decide to be a wee bit caustic. Do I know Alex? I don’t believe so. Have I ever heard from her (assuming gender since the name Alex can be male or female) before? Not that I recall. Do we have an ongoing dialogue? No. So how is it then that Alex can call me a moron? This puzzles me.

Marvin the MartianLet me be clear here. I do banter back and forth with my friends. They have on occasion called me everything from a bitch to a dork to a dweeb, and perhaps a few other things in between. I have never taken offense because this type of name-calling is done in jest with no ill intent, and admittedly, I can be bitchy, and a dork, an a dweeb. Those individuals in my life who are close enough to me to say these things also love me unconditionally for who I am and would not hesitate to be there for me if I needed them. And as I have mentioned before, bantering is one of the things that I do best—the give and take, the witticisms, the seeming disagreements over small things—but always without malice.

I will freely admit that I like to quibble. Accepting everything at face value seems to be just a tad too compliant. Questioning and carping keep life interesting and have often led to long, intense conversations. I like intense. I appreciate a keen wit. I derive great pleasure out of the give and take of an easy banter. In fact, one of my daughter’s first polysyllabic words was sarcastic, as in “Mom, you’re being sarcastic again, aren’t you?”

But that’s not to say that my personality has not led some people to draw conclusions about me that were untrue. That’s probably because my temperament is an acquired taste, and very often, my tendency towards being a curmudgeon can be offputting, even though more often than not, my vaunting comes from insecurity.

“Regret is insight that comes a day too late.” ~ Author Unknown

I do remember one time in which I made a callous remark out of the hearing of someone to a friend of mine. I turned to my friend Amy and said, “God is she ugly.” Amy just looked at me in stunned silence, and then she said, very calmly, “Who are you to judge the way that someone looks?”

I will forever be grateful to Amy for saying this to me because she was absolutely correct. I had no right to judge this other person, who happened to be very sweet and kind. Amy’s comment to me made me feel like the shallow person that I was at that moment. But ever since that day a long time ago, I have watched what I say about people, especially people who I do not know.

Granted, in the heat of a political debate, I can be absolutely caustic, casting my own aspersions about Bill O’Reilly or Rush Limbaugh, and I do not apologize for that. Individuals such as these men go for the jugular of people with whom they disagree time and again, and I find it abhorrent. I do not claim to be an innocent who has never had a harsh word for anyone. I know that I can be vicious in an argument, but not without deep regret afterwards.

“It was not that she was out of temper, but that the world was not equal to the demands of her fine organism.” ~ George Eliot

Daffy DuckNow that I have some years on me, I have become much more even-tempered, if you can believe that. I try to choose my battles well, and I try not to go for the sweet spot just because I can. I am not always successful.

That being said, I can say with honesty that Alex’s comment did not provoke my ire, nor did it hurt my feelings. Rather, I was more intrigued by how someone who has never met me or conversed with me could make such a pronouncement on my character.

So for the purposes of this post, let us just assume that Alex possesses a deep loathing for Kim Kardashian. Or let us suppose that someone may have made fun of Alex in a bathing suit or some such thing. Or even, let us assume that Alex is a beautiful woman who is self-assured and impatient with supposed celebrity. Any of these could be true, or none of these could be true. I have no way of knowing because I do not know Alex. So it would be rather supercilious of me to assume anything about Alex.

And that, dear readers, is my point exactly.

More later on a more interesting subject. Peace.

The Road Less Taken

Point Woronzof Park along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail AK

 Point Woronzof Park Along The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

edward-hopper-rooms-by-the-sea-1950
"Rooms by the Sea," Edward Hopper (1950)

Today, my mind seems to be going in seventeen directions at once. I feel that I am being bombarded by thoughts and feelings too complex to unweave. Part of me is in Australia where a dear friend is going through some major life difficulties. To worsen things her daughter is also ill and experiencing ups and downs.

Another part of me is thinking about the wife of one of the writers whose site I visit. She, too, is ill and awaiting some kind of relief from her doctors.

Another blogger, one whose writing is just amazing, is anticipating the death of her beloved dog who has been with her for years.

A poet with whom I try to stay in contact has just lost her nephew. Her words are full of pain and sorrow, yet they are hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

Yet another compatriot is awaiting the birth of his daughter. The excitement that he is feeling is palpable, making me excited for him.

It’s so hard in some ways to be connected to so many people, to be intimately familiar with their lives and their loved ones. These connections bring me laughter, insight, opinions, joy, and sometimes, heartbreak.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 

It is the empathic side of me that feels too much, that perhaps delves too deeply into the pain and joy of others, leaving me bereft at times, and full of inner delight at other times. I have always been this way—too willing to take on the emotional burdens of others. I remember being a young girl and feeling such complete despair when one of my friend’s dogs was hit by a car, and then being filled with delight when a neighbor’s dog had puppies. Granted, these are probably normal childhood emotions, but it is hard to put into words the keenness I have always felt emotionally, the incisive way in which my emotions have held sway for as long as I can remember.

Henry County Indiana from When Worlds Collide
Henry County Indiana by Julayne from When Worlds Collide

I remember being devastated when someone I worked with at the newspaper died after a bout with cancer. And how absolutely crushed I was when I heard that John Lennon died.

My emotions have always guided me, which is why, I suppose, I have the incredible highs and merciless lows in my life. I’m not suggesting that this is the preferred way to live. On the contrary: There have been many times when I have wished that I could simply turn a switch, turn off everything that I was feeling. There have been moments in which I would have given anything not to be able to feel. To be numb, completely without thought, emotion, or concern.

No one has ever accused me of being a Stoic. For me, nature is not rational and perfect. I do not see everything from a fatalistic viewpoint. In Stoicism, whatever happens, happens, and nothing can change that which is determined, so there is no point in questioning or trying to alter things that are not within the individual’s power. I would never have been able to converse with Zeno, the father of stoicism and his philosophers of the porch. For each statement made, I would have asked why.

But why? Why does this happen? Why didn’t that happen? Why? Why? Why?

For me, every change is felt, not just within my psyche, but by my corporeal self as well. It’s as if my body is a barometer to my soul.

Admittedly, pure elation is an emotion that eludes me much of the time. That’s not to say that I have not been elated many times in my life. Of course I have: when I first held each of my children, on the day that I graduated with my B.A., when I finally completed work on my publishing degree, whenever I finish a piece of writing that I feel certain has come together well, each time that Corey returned home safely after being on the water, each accomplishment in my children’s lives, to name only a few.

As I have mentioned, the beauty that I find in the smallest things—flowers, birds, beautiful images, music, words—brings me a tremendous sense of inner peace and can affect my mood and sometimes reverse an impending low.

But spontaneous elation? I am mystified by people who are like that. You know the ones—they are genuinely happy most of the time. Very little seems to penetrate their cheery dispositions.

To be honest, I am uncomfortable being around people who are like that. Something in me tries to find the falseness behind the cheer. But sometimes, there is no falsehood. These people are happy, with every fiber of their being they are happy. I don’t understand that, nor do I particularly care for it, or perhaps the more accurate statement would be believe it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish unhappiness for these people, but to have that much happiness all of the time? How does one go about feeling the inevitable calamities in life if everything is always good? Positive? When faced with tragedy, to speak homilies such as “well, it was probably meant to be,” or “you’ll feel better soon” seems to ignore the pain. And if pain is ignored, if the individual does not allow herself to move through it, embrace it, and come out on the other side, how can any knowledge be gained?

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 

Bear Lake Trail Everglades Fl by JJ
Bear Lake Trail, Everglades, Florida by Janson Jones

Admittedly, I am a cynic. I question everything, take nothing at face value, and tend not to accept glib explanations. Am I proposing that that is the way to live life? No. Sometimes, I wish that I could just enfold myself in the easy answers, ignore the nagging doubt. Wouldn’t that be easier?

But then, I would not be true to myself if I did so. I question. I doubt. I wonder. But once I believe in something, I will argue vehemently in support of whatever it is that I believe.

For me, the path isn’t always clear. Where it is going is never defined, but I would never change that. The not knowing is what allows for exploration, what encourages the soul to seek out the truth, even though the truth is not always what we desire or what we are prepared to accept.

The truth is such a complex animal. It changes with the wind. It is ephemeral. And that is why the search for it is usually not well-trodden nor lit with beacons pointing in the right direction.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

andrew-wyeth-easterly detail
"Easterly" (detail), by Andrew Wyeth

My life has been one long search for beacons pointing the way, but just as sailors have been misdirected by false light, I too have been misdirected: by believing the words of the wrong person, by holding dear to someone who was not worthy of my heart, by listening to misleading echoes.

And then the path becomes unclear, no boundaries, no borders. And at these times, I have become lost. Yet I have always made my way back, whether it was a friend who guided me, or my love for someone or their love for me, or just being attuned to my esse—I have always managed to find my way home.

For me, the lie is the worst thing. It rips apart the existing reality. It causes shifts in time and space, and as a result, things must be moved around until a new pattern can be formed, and the result is a grey spot where the truth used to be.

But then the opposite holds true: each new friendship, each new person who enters my life in a meaningful way also causes a shift, but the resulting move to accept these new people into the fold increases the beauty of the tapestry, enriches the colors, emboldens the pattern.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 

Even though I may wish at times that I had it within me not to feel things so deeply, I know that that will never be. I have my peaks and my valleys, and the movement between the two is an amazing journey, regardless of the pull on my psyche or the taxing of my constitution. My emotions are my plinth: They bolster me and keep me buoyant. But more importantly, they allow me to open my heart to others, to sustain my empathy, to avow the truths of my soul.

Arctic Valley Chugach St Prk Anchorage by JJ
Arctic Valley, Chugach State Park, Anchorage by Janson Jones

Admittedly, the pinnacles of my highs and the chasms of my lows do not make me the easiest person with whom to live, or even, to love. But I hope that the ferocity of my loyalty and my unstinting willingness to follow those for whom I care into the breach help to compensate for my ever-shifting spirits.

And so it is my hope that all of those individuals who I mentioned in the beginning of this post know that even though many miles separate us, my heart and my thoughts encompass them as fully as if I were sitting across the table from them, sharing a cup of tea.

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference” ~ Robert Frost
 

edward-hopper-houses-of-squam-light detail
"Houses of Squam Light" (detail), by Edward Hopper

I do not know where my path will continue to lead. I only know that I am willing to follow it to its end. I hope that along the way I continue to meet new people, to enter new lives, to touch those who seek comfort, to share in the great moments of bliss, to ease the way for those who will allow it, and to love and be able to call myself beloved.

It is these stops, these waysides that make that path more enthralling and that make me want to continue on this journey. I do not know the full purpose of my quest; I only know that it began years ago and that I still have a long way to go, many more observations to make, and more words to write before I reach my inn.

I’ll leave you with this track from Die Romantik. Haunting song.

 

More later. Peace.

 

The Road Less Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

 

“Dreaming permits each and every one of us to be quietly and safely insane every night of the week.” ~ William Dement

 What Dreams May Come 1

Image from What Dreams May Come* (Robin Williams, 1998)

 

“I have spread my dreams under your feet;

Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams.” ~ William Butler Yeats, “He Wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” 

African LionI dreamt of a golden lion and a giant camel. The lion was not attacking the camel, but it was facing the camel. The lion’s fur was not tan; it was golden and shimmering in the light. The camel was twice the size of a normal camel, and I believe that it had one hump (dromedary camel). It was not carrying anything on its back, and it was dark brown, the color of weak coffee.

The lion and the camel were on the side of a four-lane highway in Virginia Beach. No one else seemed to notice them. I was in a car looking out when I saw them. The car slowed because it had reached a major intersection, so I had more than a second to take in this sight. In the dream, I wondered what the two were doing there, and I remember thinking that they could get hit by a car.

Later in the dream, I was still in the car, and I was telling Corey to veer right as the road forked. He almost missed the right side of the fork, and I was very upset with him for not listening to me. It was important that we take the right side of the fork, but I have no idea as to why.

“Sleep is when all the unsorted stuff comes flying out as from a dustbin upset in a high wind.” ~ William G. Golding

This is the third time that I have dreamt of this lion. Once, it jumped out of a wall of foliage and came at me. I cannot remember the details of the second time that the lion appeared, and now the lion and the camel.

camel-at-sunsetThe setting for the lion and the camel are completely incongruous: the side of a highway instead of a desert or a jungle. The pairing of these two animals seems just as incongruous. Not that a lion wouldn’t hunt a camel, but it’s doubtful that the two would be in the vicinity of each other.

The camel is known for bearing burdens great distances. The fact that this camel was twice the size of a normal camel could indicate the weight of my burdens. But this camel was carrying nothing on its back. Interesting.

The lion, in dream mythology, is a noble beast, known for strength, the ability to conquer, and the ability to create fear. One dream interpretation says that lions represent inner rage and intimidating situations; while another says that to see a lion in a dream means that you have influence over others, and that you will overcome difficulties.

Am I angry, or am I influential? Am I an influential but angry person? Or perhaps, I am a strong person people fear, but I’m having difficulties? It’s all so confusing.

What is also odd to me is that in one situation I was afraid of the lion, but in the other situation, I was not at all afraid. In the first situation, the lion pounced but did not actually land on me; in the other situation, I saw the lion as being incredibly beautiful, which just goes to show how abstract dream interpretation really is.

This is the first time that I have dreamt of a camel, at least the first time in a number of years. The fact that the camel was so large could symbolize the overwhelming weight I feel because of my burdens.

However, one interpretation is that dreaming of a camel symbolizes an inability to express emotions and to hold onto them. A paradox for me. I have no problems in expressing my emotions. In fact, one person who knew me well said that I was a drama queen. However, I do hold onto things. I have a hard time forgetting a wrong that was done to me or anyone close to me. I take on the problems of those around me whether or not they have asked for my assistance.

Often, I feel that it is my job to protect my family, my children, and my friends. Wouldn’t that be the lion? At the same time, I assume their burdens, which makes me a camel, doesn’t it?

 “Dreams are illustrations . . . from the book your soul is writing about you.” ~ Marsha Norman

What Dreams May Come 3The thing that I find oddest is that on the night that I had this dream (two nights ago), I was not particularly upset about anything. Eldest son had not taxed my patience. I had nothing on my mind except for my headache. I was not angry. I was not upset. I felt no overwhelming need to be there for someone. In fact, everyone had been pretty considerate in light of my five-day migraine. Yet the lion and the camel appeared, out of context, so to speak.

I combed my thoughts to see if anything struck me as being somehow related: I have had the situation in Iran on my mind for a while. Corey smokes Camel cigarettes. I have been worried about making my health insurance payment, but that is nothing new. I have been anxious over Corey getting a job soon, but again, that is not a new problem. In other words, nothing new stands out starkly as something that would cause these two animals to appear by the side of the road.

So why a giant camel and a golden-haired lion? And why did I feel no fear?

“Sleep hath its own world, And a wide realm of wild reality, And dreams in their development have breath, And tears and tortures, and the touch of joy.” ~ Lord Byron 

What Dreams May Come6When I worked at the zoo for a short while, they were working on building Africa, a new extension to the zoo. I was very interested in the construction, and I found the habitat that they were creating for the lions to be beautiful. However, I should pause here and say that deep down in my heart, I don’t really like zoos. I admire the thought process behind them: to make animals available to the general population so as to increase knowledge and appreciation. But at the same time, I have a very hard time with the premise: putting these animals in habitats that simulate their natural habitats.

What’s wrong with the natural habitats? National Geographic does a wonderful job, both in its magazine and in its television shows of bringing animals into the living rooms of everyday people. So why move the animals in the first place? There used to be a show on television called Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. I used to love to watch reruns of that show on Saturday afternoon.

The host, Marlin Perkins, would wrestle with gators, hold large snakes, and various other stunts. I remember my high school biology teacher, Mr. Leigh, making fun of Perkins for pretending to wrestle gators, while wranglers were out of the camera shot. I loved Mr. Leigh. I also learned so much from him. Anyway, Wild Kingdom actually wasn’t my first introduction to exotic animals.

I had already seen camels up close in Morocco. And the rain forest that we visited had all kinds of flora and fauna—all without created habitats or cages. I suppose that’s why I have such a hard time seeing animals in zoos, even though the zoos of the 21st century are so far removed from the zoos that had all animals behind bars with cement floors.

Of course, I must point out the if not for zoos, some of the animals there would be dead. For example, several eagles that were injured by some barbarians were put in an eagle habitat so that they could continue their lives even though they could not fly.

Anheuser Busch does the same thing at Busch Gardens. The one in Williamsburg has a wonderful eagle habitat that is open with trees, logs, a stream. None of the eagles placed there can fly any longer, but they are with other eagles, and they have a habitat that roughly approximates their natural homes.

“Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.” ~ Walt Whitman 

What Dreams May Come 5Of course, the scientific part of my brain wonders about the logic behind keeping eagles that are injured. Nature will have its way, no matter how much humans intervene. Although people tend to misinterpret Darwin’s hypothesis about natural selection: It is not about the strongest surviving, but rather about those most able to adapt being ble to survive.

 However, in the case of eagles, the converse must be considered: humans are directly to blame for the depletion of the eagle population; not nature. DDT, a chemical no longer used, polluted ground water, streams and lakes, thereby causing many species to suffer, in particular, the eagle.

And then there are the people with guns who think that an eagle would make a good trophy. These people have no soul. How could they? How could they shoot down one of the most majestic birds on the face of the earth for what they call sport? Don’t even try to make the argument that the eagle population needed to be reined in. That has never been the case.

But of course, that was the argument used with the American Buffalo: They were too plenty. So logically, humans shot them almost to extinction.

So yes, zoos are good for maintaining populations of animals that are dwindling, sort of. Although, some of the statistics that I read state that zoos only account for about 2 percent of successful conservation of species. Of course, animals that are bred for zoos no nothing of living in the wild as they have never had that experience. Another paradox.

“The dream is the small hidden door in the deepest and most intimate sanctum of the soul . . .” ~ Carl Jung 

What Dreams May Come 2So what to make of my recurring lion and the very large camel? Is my inner lion trying to tell me that I need to fight harder for something? Someone? Is the camel present to make me take a slow and steady path? Yet another paradox.

Fight but be steady? Fear but sure-footed? Shimmering gold set against muddy brown?

If I were a Freudian, the lion would probably mean that I am seeking out my inner male or some form of my father . . . but I am not a Freudian. I don’t need my inner male to make me strong, even though it was a male lion. One site that I happened upon by accident claimed that the Templars had a mythology in which each individual was born like a camel, with a load upon its back, but once the individual had passed many travails, he became a lion. I was unable to find anything to back up this particular story, but if it were true, wouldn’t that be interesting?

I only know that the burdens that I am bearing are weighty, but not enough to put me down. I have my weaknesses, but have never thought of myself as weak. I am protective of my pride, so to speak, and take on their burdens as my own, but I am not smelly, nor do I spit.

“Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in daytime language.” ~ Gail Godwin

What Dreams May Come 4Am I making too much of the recurring lion and now its companion, the very large camel? Perhaps. But it made for an interesting contrast, and quite a departure in the substance of in my dreams.

And after all, how many people do you know who can open a conversation with the following statement: I dreamt of a golden lion and a camel?

By the way, did I mention that they’ve found a new kind of giant elephant shrew, one that is related to a group of animals that lived in Africa more than a100 million years ago. I’ll let you know if I dream of shrews. No jokes about shrews, please.

More later. Peace.

*All pictures except lion and camel are taken from the motion picture What Dreams May Come (1988), directed by Vincent Ward and starring Robin Williams.

Not tonight. I have a headache.

False Light Image of Dust Disk Around Star HD141569

False Light Image of Dust Disk around Star 141569

Great Balls of Fire 

I still contend that images taken from NASA telescopes like the Hubble closely resemble brain scans. Or at the very least, these incredible images reflect the ways in which I visualize my migraines. That black spot right in the middle is how restricted my vision feels. And the surrounding magma represents the pain. The blue corona depicts the throbbing sound waves in my ears. And that big flash in the top left corner: That’s my light sensitivity come to life.

Or maybe it’s all just space dust.

Let me leave you with Alexi Murdoch’s “Orange Sky.”

 

 

 

More later when pain dissipates. Peace.

Happy Father’s Day, Wherever You Are

Eamonn

Eamonn Kendall Liwag Sutcliffe on his Graduation Day 2009

 

“It is not flesh and blood but the heart which makes us fathers and sons.” ~ Johann Schiller

Oma and Eamonn
Eamonn and his Oma (my mother)

I thought about what I would say in this post. Would I dedicate it to my father, Exequiel Liwag, a man I loved greatly and lost too soon? Perhaps not. I decided that I just didn’t have it in me to talk about my dad today, probably because I think that both Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are holidays that are for the most part perpetuated by the retailers of the world:  Make a holiday, and they will come. Impose guilt through flashy ads, and they will buy.

My father’s love for me and mine for him was something that surpasses a card-giving holiday. Even though he has been dead for eight years, I still talk to him when I am most troubled. I still look to him for guidance. So I did not want this post to be about everything that I did and didn’t have with my father.

Rather, I thought that I would use this post to do two things: Celebrate the man who is a father to my children 365 days a year, and celebrate the graduation of eldest son this past week, hence all of the photos with the handsome, smiling lad in blue. 

“The most important thing a father can do for his children is to love their mother.” ~ Author Unknown

I know that I talk about Corey all of the time in my posts, but I wanted to take a moment to point out a few things about the man that I love.

Brett Eamonnn and Alexis
Brett, Eamonn, and Alexis

I believe that children learn as much from watching their parents as they do from listening to them. That is why a child will be aware that he or she lives in a house full of discontent, even though the adults may never speak of it. What Corey brought to this family is an ability to love wholeheartedly and openly.

All of my children know how much Corey and I love each other and how much we love each of them. We are a family that says “I love you” to one another, regardless of who is nearby. One of the first things that Eamonn wanted affirmation of after Corey became a regular part of our lives was if it would be all right to tell Corey that he loved him. I told Eamonn that it is always okay to tell a person that you love them, that love is nothing to be ashamed of, ever.

So rather than spending the last nine years of their lives living in an atmosphere of tension and misunderstanding, my children have grown up in a home that is filled with a very gratifying sense of closeness, and I truly believe that they are better for it.

“We also honor those surrogate fathers who raise, mentor, or care for someone else’s child. Thousands of young children benefit from the influence of great men, and we salute their willingness to give and continue giving.” ~ From President Barack Obama’s 2009  Father’s Day Proclamation

I know that several people were wary of what kind of stepfather Corey would be, mostly because of his age and inexperience. As I have mentioned before, Corey is younger than I, and there is a significant age difference between us.

But I knew Corey; I knew how much love he had in his heart and how much he was willing to give, so I never had any doubts that he would make a good stepfather to my children, and I was right.

Eamonn and Corey
Eamonn and Corey

Of all of my children, Eamonn is the one who is still closest to his father. But oddly enough, of all of my children, Eamonn seems to be the one who is closest to Corey. I admire this in Eamonn: his ability to have such love for two completely different men, and to respect each of them for who they are, never blurring the lines between them.

I know that each of my children has a unique relationship with Corey. Alexis will turn to Corey when she has a problem or needs help. She will call Corey first when Mike is out of town if she needs someone’s help. That is why when Alexis withdrew earlier in the year, it was so hard on Corey. He is used to speaking with Alexis every day, even for just a few minutes.

She is older than my sons by a big gap because of Caitlin, so  it was never really realistic for Corey to view Alexis as his stepdaughter. But he has always been there for her, supported her, and loved her.

As to Brett, whose emotions are much harder to read, I know from Brett telling me many times that he is very happy that Corey is part of our family. Brett knows how many sacrifices Corey has made for all of us, and of the three, Brett is probably the one who asks the least of Corey but understands him the best.

“He didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.” ~ Clarence Buddington Kelland

Corey took on an incredible responsibility when he married me. I didn’t have baggage. I had steamer trunks. But Corey never doubted us and never doubted that we could make it work.

Mom and Eamonn
Eamonn and Me

When things are grimmest, as they have been this past 18 months, Corey is the one who always finds a way. He is my bulwark against the storms, and no one has ever loved or understood me in the way that Corey does.

To say that I admire and respect him is an understatement. He may have fewer years than I, but his wisdom is ageless, his sagacity keen. I value his opinion on any subject, and he respects my opinions and never belittles me for anything I say or do.

We have a comfortable relationship, born out of friendship. We banter with each other constantly, which some people have misunderstood as arguments, but we rarely argue, and when we do, you can bet that it’s over something significant, not over whose turn it is to clean the kitchen or anything else completely inane. I credit part of that to our ages: I have gotten old enough to realize that small things really don’t matter in this grand pageant of life, and Corey is still young enough to be patient over small things. We fit together well.

And our relationship gives me hope that my sons will learn by watching, and will treat their own partners with as much love and respect as Corey shows me. Since I’ve been ill and less able to do things around the house, Corey has taken the burden from me and taken it upon himself. He cooks and does laundry. I go behind him and wipe down and help to fold and put away the clothes.

And if I am having a bad day or two, Corey handles everything—pickups at school, groceries, dinner, my medication, and keeping me comfortable. I’ve known firsthand of some men who simply cannot handle illness in any form; for them, illness is equated to weakness, and weakness is frowned upon. I have known many marriages to end when one spouse loses a job, or becomes ill, or if there are problems with a child.

Corey and I have weathered all of this and more, and I am comfortable in saying that we stand stronger today than we did when we took our vows eight years ago. If I were to use one word to describe our relationship, it would symbiotic.

So this post is for Corey, in honor of Father’s Day, because he is nothing if not a wonderful father, mentor, teacher, and friend.

And for my own father, I will close with this quote by former New York governor Mario Cuomo:

“I watched a small man with thick calluses on both hands work fifteen and sixteen hours a day. I saw him once literally bleed from the bottoms of his feet, a man who came here uneducated, alone, unable to speak the language, who taught me all I needed to know about faith and hard work by the simple eloquence of his example.”  

With much love to the man who is my partner in life, the young men and the young woman who are my greatest joy in life, and the man who guided my life and unstintingly gave of himself to others.

 

Le Jour De Père Huereux. Feliz Día De Los Padre. Happy Father’s Day to all of the men out there who are fathers, step-fathers, big brothers who act as fathers, grandfathers who are fathers once more, and to all of the women who are surrogate fathers as well as mothers.

We never could have become what we are now if not for everything that you showed us before. More later. Peace.

Eamonn and Josh
Eamonn and Josh (our might-as-well-be-adopted son)
This is what we've worked for
This is what we've worked so hard for!
Rebecca and Eamonn
Eamonn and his cousin Rebecca, also a graduate