“Bodies have their own light which they consume to live: they burn, they are not lit from outside.” ~ Egon Schiele

Fire in the Sky (NOAA Corps Collection)

                   

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.” ~ Vincent van Gogh

Sailboats at Sunset (Pixdaus)Sailboats at Sunset (Pixdaus)

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy, hot and very humid. 

The house is quiet. The dogs are all hiding in cool spots, so it’s just Brett and me. Corey had a medical transport today, which means a road trip to Dulles Airport and back, long day, but good hours for him.

Some welcome news for a change: After my, shall we say, less-than-friendly letter to the president of the Ford dealership, we have resolution at last. The dealer is going to honor the buy-back and try to recoup the money from Ford Motor Company, which will pull us out of the dispute. I mailed the letter on Monday and received a call from a vice president on Tuesday. We’re set to turn in the rental and pick up the check this coming Tuesday, so after seven months, resolution in two days.

Isn’t it amazing what carefully chosen words can do? My friend Mari once suggested that I go into business writing letters of complaint for people.

Another avenue unexplored . . .

No rental means we go back to one vehicle temporarily, but with the check from the dealer, we can finally get Corey’s truck fixed (transmission, transfer case, etc.). I know that he’ll be glad to have his truck working again; the only drawback is what it will cost to fill the truck with gas versus what we’ve been paying to fill these little economy-class cars from the rental company. Big difference there.

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” ~ Frederick Douglass

Sailboat at Sunset (Pixdaus)

Well, I had my lumbar puncture on Thursday, which brought on an instantaneous migraine and laid me low all day Friday and partially yesterday. Hence, no post. I did try to write last night, but my wrists and hands were still tingling. Don’t ask me why . . .

The procedure itself is uncomfortable, mostly because of the position in which I had to place my body. The only thing that I felt at the puncture site was some pressure. So glad that LPs have come a long way from the frightful spinal taps of the past. I cannot imagine having the puncture done without numbing medicine first. However, because the doctor had to go through scar tissue from my operation, it took a few tries before she was in, which produced a bonus sensation: a shooting pain from my back all the way down my right leg.

Nothing is ever easy or straightforward when it comes to my body and doctors.

It would be nice if she actually gets some kind of results from the tests, if only because it will help to explain some of the constant headaches. They are such a part of my life now that I only notice when I don’t have a headache.

“There is a place where time stands still . . . illuminated by only the most feeble red light, for light is diminished to almost nothing at the center of time, its vibrations slowed to echoes in vast canyons, its intensity reduced to the faint glow of fireflies.” ~ Alan Lightman

Sunset at Samurai Beach, NSW, Australia (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been thinking about people again, in the general sense. Remember I had mentioned people who are cheerful, who smile easily and how I am not one of those kinds of people? Well, what about those individuals in whom you can sense a burning, an internal fire?

These are the people who will not be bound by the shackles of an ordinary life. I’m not talking about the Donald Trumps of the world; those are the people who climb upon the backs of others to get what they want (no idea what made me think of Trump, who I truly despise). I’m talking about people like Beethoven, van Gogh, Emily Dickinson—the ones in whom the passion inside was so great that they just had to find a way to release it.

Beethoven composed, created great beauty that he could not hear. When his hearing began to fail, he did not stop composing; rather, he composed more fervently. The music that he heard inside was such a primal force that the composer put his ear to the floor to feel the vibrations. I don’t know that I believe that Beethoven was writing for the world. Instead, I think that he was writing to set himself free. Unless he made the notes real, they would haunt him.

Vincent van Gogh was mad and brilliant, and that combination brought forth yellow stars that are instantly recognizable throughout the world. The artist had so much to say, even if no one around him wanted to hear the words. Imagine what it must have felt like for van Gogh, alone with only his mind, never quite knowing what was real, and then transferring those emotions into vivid swirls in hues brilliant to behold. Imagine the force that drove van Gogh to paint himself over and over—his attempt to make himself real? Solid?

The reclusive Emily Dickinson alone, fragile, writing page after page of verse that the world would know nothing of until after her death. Dickinson dared to stray from the conventions of her time—no titles, extensive use of dashes, odd capitalization, short lines with internal rhyme— and wrote instead what her heart spoke to her. I wonder if she had any inkling of how much her writing would change the landscape of poetry.

“Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.” ~ Patti Smith

Caribbean Sunset by photon y (FCC)

I suppose what I am pondering is how each of these creative individuals possessed a spark that urged them onward, regardless of circumstances. Each burned within, consumed with passion and desire. Each garnered more attention after death than during life. Did each die thinking him or herself a failure?

How we judge ourselves is very telling indeed.

Burning desire. Creative passion. clichés? Perhaps, but that fire does exist, and it does not exist in everyone. This I know for certain. But is this internal fire a partner to madness, the madness that comes from wanting something so much that everything else is left by the wayside? What else but mad desire would have driven Michelangelo to lie on his back for four years to paint the Sistine Chapel?

To be clear, I know the difference between mad desire and psychotic desire: The first gives the world Michelangelo’s frescoes; the second gives the world Hitler’s death camps. Creative madness eats at the soul of the individual who harbors it; it does not harbor a desire to destroy those who look on. That is not to say that the person who gives rise to such passion does not take prisoners along the way. Just consider the siblings and spouses left behind to pick up the pieces. Ted Hughes was still trying to come to terms with Sylvia Plath in his last published work, in spite of his own poetic genius.

Perhaps what I am really contemplating is whether or not that spark still resides somewhere in my soul. Do I still possess the same passion for words that I once felt, or worse, did I never really feel it? No, I should not dissemble: I have felt it all my life—the it that separates those of us who are different, not of the mainstream. And I know the price that we pay, know how many will subsume the desire in order to fit in, to be like everyone else.

It’s like walking a tightrope backwards: a constant balancing act without any clear idea of where it’s all going. It’s as if we are constantly moving into the sunset, blinded by the fire in the sky, but unwilling to give up the quest beyond the horizon because to attain it, the elusive it, would mean peace at last, at least, that’s what we convince ourselves. As Henry James once said, “We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

Music by Right the Stars, “You Know the Way to Go”

                   

Flame

the breath               the trees               the bridge
the road                  the rain                the sheen
the breath              the line                  the skin
the vineyard          the fences             the leg
the water               the breath             the shift
the hair                  the wheels            the shoulder
the breath              the lane                the streak
the lining               the hour                the reasons
the name                the distance          the breath
the scent                the dogs                the blear
the lungs                the breath             the glove
the signal               the turn                  the need
the steps                the lights               the door
the mouth             the tongue             the eyes
the burn                the burned            the burning

~ C. D. Wright

“People melt, break beneath the fire of an intolerable pain in which they, at the same time, are also regenerated.” ~ Albert Camus, Notebooks: 1951-1959

Tree Tunnel, Aberglasney, Wales by Kev Bailey

                   

“Overhead the geese are a line,
a moving scar. Wavering
like a strand of pollen on the surface of a pond.
Like them, we carry each year in our bodies.
Our blood is time.” ~ Anne Michaels, from “Miner’s Pond”

Wednesday evening. Hazy, hot, and humid.

Llanrwst Bridge, Conwy River, Wales

More bad news. How much bad news can any individual withstand before beginning to shut down? Wondering about that.

The contract that Corey’s employer was so certain was going to come through, the one that would have put him in a supervisory position, the one that would have guaranteed him at least 40 to 48 hours a week, that contract? Not happening. So far this week, Corey has worked 12 hours. Obviously, we cannot survive on so few hours, especially with no promise of more to come.

And Transatlantic, that shipping company to which Corey applied months ago and then forgot about because he hadn’t heard from them, that one? They called today to offer him an AB position on the boat beginning in June. Sounds great, right? Wrong. Corey had to let his MMD and his AB certification expire in April because the renewal cost more than we had, and we had planned to use some of the tax return money to pay for that. No papers, no job.

Things just keep getting better and better.

Did I mention that I have a Sisyphus watch? The second-hand is a stick figure of Sisyphus pushing the boulder around the face of the watch. When I bought it for $5 last year, I felt that it sort of represented my life—a constant uphill battle to gain ground. It was a bit humorous at the time. Now, not so much. I wonder if they make a Prometheus watch, you know, the Titan who was chained to a rock in the Caucasus mountains only to have his liver pecked out by a great eagle each day and then have his liver grow back each night.

Obviously my Edith Hamilton Mythology was well read . . .

“This is how my sorrow became visible:
its dust,
piling up for years in my heart,
 finally reached my eyes . . .” ~ Faiz Ahmed Faiz, from “Bangladesh II”

Coastline, Wales

There are other factors at work, here, of course, and I cannot talk about them. And the not talking about it is causing me great internal strife. I can only say that the anger that I did not feel initially has finally risen to the surface, and it is roiling, like a great sea. I have no desire to feel this way. I do not want to own this anger. I want to pretend that it does not exist, be a bigger person. I want to subsume these feelings, to repress them until they disappear, and I wonder if that is possible with a disposition such as mine.

I want . . . such a loaded phrase, one that I use frequently without any real meaning behind it, as in “I want that desk,” or “I want to go on a cruise,” things that I want in passing but know will not happen. But what do I really want? I want not to feel this way. I want not to feel as if I am forever climbing a mountain only to slide back down to the base without ever making any meaningful forward motion.

I want to be happy, I mean really and truly happy, which is quite a statement for me as I know that I do not have a happy soul. I have a deep soul, a thoughtful soul, a searching soul, but a happy, content soul? Can I truly say that I have ever possessed that at any time in my life? No, not if I am to be completely truthful. I mean, I have been happy, and I have felt true happiness at various moments in my life, but I am not that person who walks around with a smile on my face, not the person who walks into a room and makes it brighter just by being there.

I have known people like that. I have envied people like that, but I don’t know that I have ever wanted to be that person. Truth be told—and apparently it is a time for brutal honesty—people who are perpetually cheerful get on my nerves. It’s as if they just put on that freaking happy face and put away any bad thoughts. Bad thoughts, don’t think those, according to the philosophy of my mom. In her words, I dwell too much. Really? Had no idea.

I need . . . almost as loaded as I want. If you were to ask me what I need at this precise moment in my life, I don’t know that I would have an answer for you. So much is unsettled, and so much seems to be out of my control. How does need even fit into that equation?

“Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Four Quartets”

Green Bridge, Pembrokeshire Coast, Wales

Christopher McCandless fancied himself a modern-day Thoreau. He renamed himself Alexander Supertramp and went into the wilds of Alaska, only to die of starvation in an abandoned school bus that he had called home. But in those months in which he was in the wild, how alive did he feel? How much of himself did he truly explore? What did he experience during his period of forced solitude, in his determined journey away from society.

I do not desire to go into the wilds of Alaska, but I have always thought that at some point in later life, I would live alone. Don’t ask me why I have harbored this belief as I could not possibly answer you. In my mind’s eye, I live in a small cottage by the sea, close enough to smell the salt air. I have my dogs and my books and my cups of tea. And little else.

But in the here and now, I do not have the cottage or the sea. I only have this deep abiding feeling that there has to be more to life than this. That the dreams that I have night after night about my unsuccessful forays back into the workforce are not just some type of Promethean mind-game, my mind’s way of torturing myself, only to awake to the same thing. My liver has regrown, but I know that the great eagle is coming to attack me again.

We have been on hold for nearly three and a half years. That we have survived is, I realize, something that I should acknowledge as something of a feat in and of itself. But surviving is not living. Surviving is existing.

“We may enjoy our room in the tower, with the painted walls and the commodious bookcases, but down in the garden there is a man digging who buried his father this morning, and it is he and his like who live the real life and speak the real language.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Common Reader

Welsh Coastline by SusanAstray (FCC)

Yes, yes. I remind myself that so many more have it so much worse. I try to maintain perspective, but honestly, perspective is not what I want right now. It is hard to wallow with perspective. It is hard to let the heart hurt with perspective. Perspective would tell me to be thankful for what I have because it all could be taken away so easily, in the blink of an eye. Perspective reminds me of the tumultuous weather patterns of the past year and the devastation left in the wake of storms.

But at this moment, right now, perspective is akin to saying that life is a bowl of cherries. In other words, not.

Am I stronger for having endured the last three and a half years? Probably, but I already had to undergo the trials to find my stockpile of inner strength. I did not think that I would have to keep being tested. Is it karma? Joss? Fate? All the same thing, really.

If it’s karma, then what in the hell am I paying for? I am not perfect, never claimed to be, but then too, I am not evil. I do not take pleasure in the harming of others, nor do I take pleasure in the bad fortune of others. So what am I paying for? I am reminded of that movie with Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, Se7en, in which the killer is making people atone for their sins, going through the seven deadly sins one by one and meting out appropriate punishment (appropriate in his mind). What is my deadly sin? If anything pride, hubris. The killer in the movie attacked a supermodel for her vanity/pride, and if I recall correctly, he made her decide between death and disfigurement.

Anyone who reads me regularly knows that my pride is not vanity, but rather pride over my brain. Is working your whole life to develop your intellect a deadly sin? Who the hell knows. I just know that I would have rather been reborn as a cockroach than to have to atone for something I cannot identify.

Yes, regrets (as the song says), I’ve had a few, maybe more than a few, but not for most of the big things. So what is it, the great big elephant-in-the-room it that I cannot identify? The it in my life that I have done to cause fate to rain down on me with a vengeful wrath? I have no answers. None.

Enough already. The migraine has arrived and some nerve somewhere in my body is pinched causing my right hand to pulsate.

More later. Peace.

                   

Music by Miranda Lee Richards, “Life Boat”

                   

The Archaeology of Childhood 1: House

If the house in a dream
Is how I imagine myself:
room after room
of furniture no one could use;
stairs leading upwards
to nothing; an empty hall
filling with snow
where a door has been left ajar;
then whatever I make
of the one  room high in the roof
where something alive and frantic
is hopelessly  trapped,
whatever I make
of the sweetness it leaves behind
on waking, what I know
and cannot tell
is awkward and dark in my hands
while I stop to remember
the snare of a heart;
the approximate weight of possession.

~ John Burnside