“You will hear thunder and remember me, and think: she wanted storms.” ~ Anna Akhmatova

“The first revolution is when you change your mind about how you look at things and see that there might be another way to look at it that you have not been shown.” ~ Gil Scott-Heron

My Thursday gift to you . . .

“Ignorant free speech often works against the speaker. That is one of several reasons why it must be given rein instead of suppressed.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Oregon Coast 1 by russell.tomlin*

                   

“There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday night. Still hot and humid.

Oregon Coast: Huge Surf 11-6-09 by russell.tomlin

First let me say that I have no idea what is going on with my fonts. Everything on my WordPress is smaller. The fonts on my dashboard are smaller, and the internal header sizes that I’ve been using for months are now smaller than before. Please let me know if my pages look funny, or if the formatting seems off.

Now on to other things . . .

I need to preface what I am about to write with a short background story: When I was in charge of the computer labs while teaching in the English department at ODU, I had a run-in with a colleague who had been a bit shirty with the students who worked for me. I fired off a memo to this colleague, and did not listen to my own inner voice, which said, calm yourself first.

We had a tiff. We got over it, but I felt terrible. I learned a valuable lesson: retorts need time to bake properly and should always be allowed to simmer for a while. Or as the old Klingon proverb states: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

However, this is actually not about revenge; this is about justice.

“I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Sea Foam Explodes on the Oregon Coast by russell.tomlin

I recently learned that an acquaintance has been making disparaging remarks about me, using my blog as fodder in a smear campaign. Unfortunately, WordPress does not allow blocking of IP addresses, or I would have taken the simplest route. Having said that, I must admit to being a bit peeved that my own words, my precious, precious words were being taken out of context and undergoing armchair psychoanalysis.

Hmm . . . Things that make you go hmm . . .

When I decided to begin this blog, I knew that I was putting myself out there, so to speak, that I was inviting strangers in to take a peek at my life, that I was willingly subjecting myself to possible derision. For these reasons, I have held back (no, really, I have) on certain topics and certain events. Not everything should be open for perusal by anyone who happens to stop by. I have shared information about my family, its workings, its quirks, yet I have respected the privacy of each family member.

On a few occasions, I have written posts that I have deemed too personal, and I have made these posts private.

Occasionally, I have gotten a troll, and Akismet has protected me from a boatload of spam. But there is no protection from a virtual stalker—the individual who has no problem in appropriating sections of my life whole cloth, and then making of that cloth whatever he or she deems appropriate.

This simply will not do. Aside from the blatant bad manners of it all, what has happened borders on defamation. Trust me when I say that I hold my character quite dear, as should we all, and I will not tolerate an assassination of my character or that of any member of my family. Let’s just say cease and desist is now part of my researched vocabulary.

“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Big Surf Folds Over on the Oregon Coast 9-6-09 by russell.tomlin

But to be honest, what has me angrier than anything else is that I actually considered making my entire blog private for a bit, and I also considered the possibility of going on hiatus. I was going to allow myself to be cowed; I, who pride myself on my ability to reason intelligently, was going to allow this individual to affect my writing, nay to affect my life.

Nope. Sorry. I refuse to do so.

Nothing makes me angrier than when I get angry at myself, when I start to blame myself for things over which I have no control, and I certainly cannot, nor do I choose to control the actions of another person. Being the staunch believer in free will that I am, I must stand by my convictions, especially when I know that I have not acted inappropriately, that I have not broken any laws, that I have acted only in the best interests of those around me.

So, to be blunt, do with this what you will.

“Inflamed by greed, incensed by hate, confused by delusion, overcome by them, obsessed by mind, a man chooses for his own affliction, for others’ affliction, for the affliction of both and experiences pain and grief” ~ The Buddha

Five Layers of Movement by russell.tomlin

These things I will not do:

  • Stop writing out of fear of being misconstrued or in an attempt to calm waters that cannot be quelled.
  • Stand idly by whilst a human being—correction, any human being—is being cowed into submission.
  • Cease in speaking the truth, the truth as I see it, the truth as I know it.
  • Allow myself to write out of anger, nor will I censor myself so that I do not cause offense. Reading blogs is an entirely optional activity, that is the beauty of the Internet: the big X in the upper right hand corner that closes the page, thus ending the discourse.
  • Allow anyone to speak ill of my family under any circumstances.
  • Allow anyone to harm my family under any circumstances.
  • Tolerate personal, private information being disseminated in attempts to smear my good name.
  • Fall prey to the machinations of another individual.
  • Presume to know that which I cannot know; assume that everyone operates under the Golden Rule; resume my petty, vindictive streak which I have worked so hard to overcome.

“The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons: Greed, anger, and delusion.” ~ Bodhidharma

Yachats 10-9-09 by russell.tomlin

These things I vow to do:

  • Continue to be true to myself with no attempts to soft-sell myself or my beliefs.
  • Write and post my blogs as I feel the need.
  • Be a bit more mindful of the dangers that lurk in virtual reality.
  • Continue to work in my own way for truth, justice, and the common good.
  • Share information that I think my reading audience might find interesting, entertaining, or helpful.
  • Be true to my wit, my character, and my personae—both the real and the creative.
  • Remind myself not to allow negative external forces over which I have no control to affect me adversely.
  • Remember my Shakespeare: “That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain” (Hamlet I,v)
  • Kill them with kindness.

“Men best show their character in trifles, where they are not on their guard. It is in the simplest habits, that we often see the boundless egotism which pays no regard to the feelings of others and denies nothing to itself.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

No Fear by russell.tomlin

I have at my disposal two of the greatest weapons ever given to human kind: my mind and the truth. I have no need to lie or to stretch the truth to suit my needs. I have no desire to become embroiled in an imbroglio not of my making.

I may not have the desire, but that does not mean that I do not remain an estimable force. Having said that, at the end of the day, what I feel now more than any other emotion is pity.

As that old misogynist Nietzsche said, “one has clearly ceased to be an object of fear as soon as one is pitied.”

Music by Meredith Brooks . . . “Bitch”

                   

Hard Night

What words or harder gift
does the light require of me
carving from the dark
this difficult tree?

What place or farther peace
do I almost see
emerging from the night
and heart of me?

The sky whitens, goes on and on.
Fields wrinkle into rows
of cotton, go on and on.
Night like a fling of crows
disperses and is gone.

What song, what home,
what calm or one clarity
can I not quite come to,
never quite see:
this field, this sky, this tree.

~ Christian Wiman

*All images taken from Russell Tomlin’s photostream on Flickr. Many thanks.

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

Gate to the Sea

                   

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

Monday evening. Much cooler but still humid.

Ocean Archway, Amalfi Coast, Italy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To the Ocean by Brenda-Starr (FCC)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Walking to the Ocean by maureen_lederhos (FCC)

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

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

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

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

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

Walk to the Ocean

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And this saddens me more than I can say.

More later. Peace.

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

                   

I Have Been Living

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

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

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

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

~ Jane Mead