Irene, Goodnight . . .

NASA Satellite Image of Irene off Coast of Eastern Seaboard

“Goodnight, Irene, goodnight, Irene. I’ll see you in my dreams . . .” ~ American Folk Song (1932)

Sunday afternoon, post Irene. Sunny and hot.

We were very, very fortunate. Irene blew through here and left downed trees and power lines, crushed cars, upended swimming pools, downed fences and sheds, street flooding, and loss of power for over 800,000 homes.

Even though we live mere feet from an inlet, we did not have any flooding. We lost power for about six hours, with intermediate flickers for a minute or two. We have power, water, and minimal tree damage. Our biggest loss was a picnic table that my former father-in-law built for us in 1988. I count us very, very lucky. No one in the family suffered any major damage, and as far as I know, none of our family friends or acquaintances suffered losses.

Here are some images of the area and the devastation in the wake of the storm (pulled from the site) :


I believe this is off Granby Street, one of the local rivers.


Tree damage and street flooding were common in the area.


The Chesapeake Bay from Ocean View as Irene approached.


An example of car damage


Coastal flooding


Regular post later. Peace.

“Beauty is ever to the lonely mind a shadow fleeting; she is never plain. She is a visitor who leaves behind the gift of grief, the souvenir of pain.” ~ Christopher Morley

Entrance into Green by Wim Lassche (Pixdaus)

“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and mild, low 80’s.

People around here are still reeling from the 5.9 earthquake from earlier today. I, however, slept through it and am glad that I did. Last night, I took three Seroquel to ensure deep sleep. You see, my mother-in-law died yesterday afternoon.

We had visited on Sunday, and it was obvious then that she did not have very long. She was not conscious, but her breathing was labored. We talked, and I rubbed her arms with lotion and massaged her hands. I cleaned her teeth as I knew that she would hate to have dirty teeth. When I left, I told her that I loved her and said that I would see her later. I had every intention of going back yesterday or today.

Now, she’s gone.

Her body will be cremated, and there will be a memorial service at her church. It will have to be on a weekend so that Ann’s daughter can get back from Virginia Tech. Since next weekend is a holiday weekend, it will probably be the weekend after that. She had said that she would like for her ashes to be buried beneath a tree or spread in the Pacific Ocean.

I have volunteered to write the obituary, which is what I should be doing at this moment but cannot.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.” ~ Henri J. M. Nouwen

Ann called me yesterday afternoon. The rehab center had called her as she was on her way home from taking my niece to Blacksburg. I had Brett with me in the car as we were on our way to do school errands, and I called Alexis and Eamonn. I was also the first to reach Paul. In the midst of phoning everyone, my mother called, and I was crying. Her response was to tell me to stop crying.

I love my mother, but she refuses to acknowledge grief.

Actually, at this moment, my face and head hurt from the effort that I’m exuding not to give in to tears as I do not wish to be consumed at this moment. To be honest, I do not want to feel, do not want to acknowledge everything that is coursing through my heart, my head, my soul. It’s just too much at the moment.

Perhaps later, I will write about the woman that she was, the things she loved, the memories that I have. But not now.

Not now.

“Joy and sorrow in this world pass into each other, mingling their forms and their murmurs in the twilight of life as mysterious as an overshadowed ocean, while the dazzling brightness of supreme hopes lies far off, fascinating and still, on the distant edge of the horizon.” ~ Joseph Conrad

The sink is full of dirty dishes, the bed unmade. The laundry hamper is full. Frankly, I don’t care. I cannot make myself care.

I was supposed to see my pain doctor today, but I rescheduled. I don’t want to see anyone, don’t want anyone to ask me how I am, don’t want anyone to touch me.

If I had a shell, I would retreat inside and hide from the world for as long as it takes, but of course, I don’t have a shell. So I will just shut myself off for a while. Yesterday, I kept myself busy until the moment I got into bed, the logic being, of course, that if you are busy, then you cannot focus on other things; if you cannot focus on other things, you cannot think too much.

I always think too much.

I don’t want to think at all. I don’t want to feel anything, let alone sorrow, and certainly not grief. I’m not in denial. I know what has happened, or at least my brain knows. But I am in postponement. I actively choose to wait to feel. This membrane between normalcy—the moments in which everything is as we know and expect it to be—and loss—after everything has changed—is far too thin. I have chosen not to let the knowledge of her death reach my heart yet.

Not yet.

This is all for now. Let me close with these words:

“Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I’ve only found sorrow.”

~ Barbara Kingsolver, from The Poisonwood Bible

“In certain ways writing is a form of prayer.” ~ Denise Levertov

“The greater the sensibility and the more subtle the capacity to feel, the more absurdly one trembles and quivers at the small things.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet (trans. M. Jull Costa)

Saturday afternoon. Sunny, air quality weather advisory due to Dismal Swamp fires.

Major meltdown yesterday as I was finishing my post. Tears . . . stuffy nose . . . more tears . . . throwing up for good measure . . . tears . . . Lovely image, no?

I don’t understand it, really. How do people who are normal get along in life without medication? Two days without my Cymbalta, and I’m a basket case. Maybe I wouldn’t have been as much of a basket case if things weren’t so shitty. Who knows.

Dreamed that I was on a bus that was careening out of control. That needs no interpretation. But different people tried to drive the bus, and at one point the bus was leaping through the air across the water—a la Speed—and all of the passengers, including myself, were rocking forward to try to get the bus to land on the shore on the other side. It was sort of like Mario Kart but not a video.

The bus ran into a pancake house, and at one point, it ran over several cars. I remember that in between all of the action, I took rat poison and rubbed it on the cheek of a woman who had been my friend but who had betrayed me. She did not die, but her husband did. What?

I also dreamed that I was selling Avon at Dillard’s, and another female friend from long ago was helping me. I couldn’t remember how to work the register, and ultimately, I lost customers who got tired of waiting.

At some point I dreamed that I was teaching in the public school again, but I had amnesia. I showed up at the school, but couldn’t remember what subject I was teaching, could not remember my locker combination, could not remember where the faculty lounge was. My co-teacher was no help as she also had amnesia, so we both were relying on the third teacher in our group, who hated both of us and laughed at us in front of the students because we couldn’t remember anything.


Note: Was never able to finish this post, and this was before she died on Monday.

The Remains

I empty myself of the names of others.
I empty my pockets, I empty my shoes and leave them beside
the road. At night I turn back the clocks; I open the family
album and look at myself as a boy.

What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.

My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds. How can I sing?
Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

~ Mark Strand

“To be nobody but yourself in a world which is doing its best night and day to make you like everybody else means to fight the hardest battle any human being can fight and never stop fighting.” ~ e. e. cummings

Abandoned by dbgg1979 (FCC)


“I like too many things and get all confused and hung-up running from one falling star to another till i drop. This is the night, what it does to you. I had nothing to offer anybody except my own confusion.” ~ Jack Kerouac

Friday afternoon. Hazy and hot. Leftover haze from swamp fires.

Abandoned: Eglise St. George 3, by craigfinlay (FCC)

Yet another bad night. I could not fall asleep, and then I woke myself up coughing and had to use my inhaler again. The swamp fires are messing with my lungs. As a result, I woke up pricklier than a porcupine with a dull ache behind my eyes.

The night before last I dreamt that I was spending time with the Kardashians. Okay. Not a fan of any of them, so why I was in their house makes no sense, except that they were all acting completely predictable: self-absorbed and snooty. I was there as a stand-in for their reality show. They criticized my makeup, my clothes, and the fact that I was carrying a grocery bag for a purse.

Why waste brain cells dreaming such crap?

Corey had to be at work at 6:30 this morning, and won’t finish his shift until the ship leaves, which is supposed to be around 8 tonight. He lost his shift yesterday, so this will definitely help. I think that he ended up with only two shifts last week. Actually, I try not to think about such things as the results are never good.

He had his first real class yesterday—biology—and then we did the usual search for the best prices on textbooks. A new copy of the textbook from the bookstore lists at $160. We found an international edition for about half of that. International editions have different covers and different ISBNs but the same content within. The drawback to buying an international edition is that the quality of the paper used for printing can sometimes be poor, something I learned in my publishing classes, but for a 50 percent savings at this time, we’ll chance it.

“Perhaps everything exists only because something else does. Nothing just is, everything coexists; perhaps that’s right . . . Nothing, nothing, just part of the night and silence and whatever emptiness, negativity and inconsistency I shared with them, the space that exists between me and me, a thing mislaid by some god.” ~Fernando Pessoa

Abandoned: Plant in Belgium

Every once in a while, I become concerned with my stats. I couldn’t explain it to you if you asked me. I mean, I claim to be writing this blog for myself, so I really shouldn’t care how many hits I get. Right?

Most of the time, that’s a true statement, but every six months or so I look at the numbers and think to myself that I must be doing something wrong. I know that my blog entries are longer than what most people are willing to read, but I’m not going to change that for anyone. If I were writing a professional blog, of course my entries would be much more succinct and focused, but this is not a professional blog; this is my forum, for venting, opining, mulling . . . whatever.

I have considered going back to Alpha Inventions to see if I can get my stats up, but I just don’t know if it’s worth it. I had such a negative experience with the moderator the last time, and besides, I know that those stats are very inflated. I think that what’s bothering me is that I haven’t hit one million yet.

Some people start blogs and hit a million in just a few months. And not all of those people are writing professional blogs.

I just don’t know. Does it really matter? Why do I care so much? To be honest, I think that I’m missing some of my regular readers, people who have moved on for various reasons, or who may still be reading but are no longer commenting. It’s strange, the connections that you can make with people you will probably never lay eyes on.

“A writer writes not because he is educated but because he is driven by the need to communicate. Behind the need to communicate is the need to share. Behind the need to share is the need to be understood. The writer wants to be understood much more than he wants to be respected or praised or even loved. And that perhaps, is what makes him different from others.” ~ Leo Rosten

Abandoned: Orphanage, by boklm (FCC)

As I sit here, the dishes are in the sink waiting for me. I could probably do some laundry, but I’m just not feeling it, any of it.

Yesterday I spent some time in the pool with the dogs and Em and Brett. It was late in the afternoon, and the sky was calm and beautiful. I was doing a bit of cloud watching. And then I came inside to write, but found that I had nothing to say. I played Spider Solitaire instead.

How pathetic.

I mean, my access to this computer is limited to the times during which Eamonn is not firmly ensconced in his bedroom, so I really need to take advantage of those times, but I just couldn’t do it, which brings me to the other thing that I’ve been pondering: What am I doing here?

I began this whole endeavor for a few specific reasons:

  • I wanted to get back into the habit of writing regularly.
  • I wanted to see if anyone out there in the ether would be interested in what I have to say.
  • I wanted to lay the foundation for a book.

So how have I done? When I first began, that first year, I wrote almost every day for at least two hours a day. Now I might put up 15 posts a month, so production has been cut in half instead of increasing.

In that first year, I had about five people who commented regularly on my posts. Now I’m down to one or two, and that’s not regular either. So that’s been cut by over 50 percent.

Since beginning, I have written probably 20 or so posts that I would consider putting into book form. That’s 20 out of 695 posts, 691 of which are for public consumption. Statistically, that’s not even 3 percent.


“Writers, especially poets, are particularly prone to madness. There exists a striking association between creativity and manic depression . . . Why are more creative people prone to madness? They have more than average amounts of energies and abilities to see things in a fresh and original way—then because they also have depression, I think they’re more in touch with human suffering.” ~ Nick Flynn from Another Bullshit Night in Suck City

Confession: I just left this page to play a game of Spider Solitaire.

Interpretation: I cannot stand to put my thoughts to page, let alone read them.

Result: More beh.

Abandoned: Side Entrance to Mansion, Beirut, by craigfinlay (FCC)

Perhaps this is not the best day to analyze what I’m doing here. I’m out of my meds, and until Corey gets home, I will not have them. You might think that one day would not make that much of a difference, but when I say that I’m out of my meds, I mean almost all of them.

That’s a pharmaceutical shock to the system. Poor planning on my part. Just making the telephone call to the pharmacy to enter all of the prescription numbers at the prompt stymied me. I put it off for two days.

Yes, yes. I know what all of this means. Just as I know what my avoidance of the hospital visit to see my m-in-law means: I’m definitely on a down slide. There. I said it.

I have named you, and therefore you are, just as the ancients believed that if they gave a name to their adversaries, they became real.

I name you chasm. I name you abyss. I name you night without stars. I name you dreamless sleep. I name you empty hunger. I name you, and in the naming, I face you.

“How strange talking is—what mists rise and fall—how one loses the other & then thinks to have found the other—then down comes another soft final curtain.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, letter to Ottoline Morrell (24 July 1921)

Abandoned: Villa Viron, Belgium

I try so hard to deny the reality, and sometimes, in the denying, I can change things, but not so this time. Too much is hitting me from too many sides, and I cannot separate the grain from the chaff.

My mother-in-law is being moved to the new rehab center, and in effect, she is going there to die. She has stopped eating. Her Parkinson’s has advanced so much in just a few weeks because of her infections that to restore her to where she was even a month ago would mean painful therapy. Her care is now termed “comfort care.” What a blasphemous phrase. Comfort care?

Excuse me. It’s not a blasphemous phrase, but it is a blasphemous situation: how we treat the elderly in our society. This is one area in which I closely relate to my Asian forebears, for in such societies, families are still blended, and the elderly are revered. In our society, they are disposable, just like the homeless and the poor.

I have put off making this visit too long, but I did not want to stand before this woman and weep bitter tears for what is, what cannot be changed, what we cannot control, we who love her.

When my father’s condition had worsened so as to make the prognosis too obvious, the doctor in the ICU asked if we wanted him on maintenance morphine. I said yes. He asked me if I wanted him to have enough. I said yes. We both knew what he was asking and what I was saying, and if anyone ever confronts me, I will deny it with my last breath.

My friend Mari’s mother, who was dying of ovarian cancer, was not given this option, and her suffering was unendurable for her family. After hearing the story year ago, I decided then that I would have a living will, and that I would control my final days, not some faceless bureaucracy. I remembered her mother’s suffering when my dad was in the ICU, and the memory of that suffering came to mind today.

I don’t think that I can continue with this today. I just don’t think it’s wise, nor is it helping.

More later. Peace.

Music by Ruthie Foster, “Tears of Pain”


So the Hall Door Shuts Again and All Noise Is Gone

In the effort to find one’s way among the contents of memory
(Aristotle emphasizes)
a principal of association is helpful—
“passing rapidly from one step to the next.
For instance from milk to white,
from white to air,
from air to damp,
after which one recollectes autumn supposing one is trying to
recollect that season.”
Or supposing,
fair reader,
you are trying to recollect not autumn but freedom,
a principal of freedom
the existed between two people, small and savage
as principals go—but what are the rules for this?
As he says,
folly may come into fashion.
Pass then rapidly
from one step to the next,
for instance from nipple to hard,
from hard to hotel room,
from hotel room

to a phrase found in a letter he wrote in a taxi one day he passed
his wife
on the other side of the street and she did not see him, she was—
so ingenious are the arrangements of the state of flux we call
our moral history are they not almost as neat as mathematical
propositions except written on water—
on her way to the courthouse
to file papers for divorce, a phrase like
how you tasted between your legs.
After which by means of this wholly divine faculty, the “memory
of words and things,”
one recollects
Is it I? cries the soul rushing up.
Little soul, poor vague animal:
beware this invention “always useful for learning and life”
as Aristotle say, Aristotle who
had no husband,
rarely mentions beauty
and was likely to pass rapidly from wrist to slave when trying to
recollect wife.

~ Anne Carson from The Beauty of the Husband

“We never live; we are always in the expectation of living.” ~ Voltaire

Close-Up of Orca (from


“Each time dawn appears, the mystery is there in its entirety.” ~ René Daumal

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and warm, mid 80’s.

Humpback Whale Fluke by mikebaird (FCC)

Last night was probably one of the worst nights that I’ve had in a very long time. I got a headache early in the evening that later blossomed into a migraine. Then, I could not fall asleep. I remember turning over and looking at the clock (always a bad thing): 5:35 a.m.

When I did manage to fall asleep, the dogs were unbearably annoying waking me, taking up too much room, scratching. I think that I finally fell asleep soundly around 8:30 and then awoke at 10. Then I spent a few more hours drifting off and waking up. The night is a blur of ice packs, 7 Up (to counteract the nausea), walking back and forth to the kitchen, and medication. Finally, I got out of bed around 12:30 and made coffee. There really was no point to extending the endurance test that I had given myself, and I’m hoping that by not sleeping this afternoon I might be able to sleep tonight.

We shall see.

It is absolutely beautiful outside, but I cannot endure the bright sunshine long enough to float in the pool. I went outside and threw the tennis balls for the dogs a few times and then retreated inside.

Who knows how long this post will actually be.

“Long years must pass before the truths we have made for ourselves become our very flesh.” ~ Paul Valéry

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and low 80’s.

Dolphin Surfs the Wake of a Research Boat on the Banana River (NASA; Wikimedia Commons)

Obviously, the post did not go very far yesterday. I sat here for a bit and realized that I was zoning, completely unfocused, so I saved and left, hoping to be in a better frame today.

I still had trouble falling asleep last night even though I was dead on my feet. I watched a couple of movies in the hopes that one of them would bore me, but no joy. Finally, around 3 a.m. I took another Seroquel to help sleep come. My prescription says 2 or 3 at bedtime, but I try to keep it at 2 pills as I find that 3 pills makes me feel kind of dopey upon waking the next day. Luckily, I finally fell asleep and slept pretty soundly, which my body really needed.

Corey begins classes tomorrow. I know that he’s really excited because he’s taking biology and English, both subjects in which he is interested. Apparently, I screwed something up with his school loan money, so there is a hiccup in the funds. He received just enough in Pell Grant money to cover the cost of tuition, but not the cost of books, so we really need the loan money to cover that. I’m not really sure if I screwed up the paperwork, but it seems that something has gone wrong somewhere because when Corey went to campus yesterday to inquire, they still did not have anything from whatever site processes the student loans.

There is so much paper work involved in student aid, and I do it for Corey, Eamonn and Brett, so it is entirely possible that I missed a page, which makes me feel terrible.

I don’t remember if I mentioned it before, but Eamonn lost his aid for this semester because of his grades. Quite a blow. One of the only good things about being poorer than we used to be is that we qualify for grants. Brett seems to be on track to have everything covered for this year, so at least one out of three is taken care of.

Em’s aunt and uncle are taking care of her paper work with ODU, and everything there seems to be on track, so now it’s a matter of hunting for the best prices on books for everyone. Saving a few dollars here and there, or getting free shipping is a big deal when considering the prices of college text books, which on average is over $100 for something basic.

“There is nothing more galling to angry people than the coolness of those on whom they wish to vent their spleen.” ~ Alexandre Dumas Père

Pilot Whales by

Speaking of Em, things seem to be better regarding APS. She met once again with the case worker from that office, and from what I understand, the meeting went well. I’m trying to remove myself from the process as much as possible for obvious reasons, but the reality is that no matter what the outcome, the pest will not be dissuaded.

Quite frankly, I just don’t care. I don’t care about the baseless accusations. I don’t care about the rambling telephone calls and e-mails. I don’t care about the delusional disparaging remarks. I just don’t care.

Maybe tomorrow I’ll care, but today, I’m too tired to give a damn. I have enough going on without focusing on the negative vibes of an individual who just cannot seem to get a firm grasp on reality. As I said before: Get a grip. Get a job. Get a life.

My life is taken.

“I turned silences and nights into words. What was unutterable, I wrote down. I made the whirling world stand still.” ~ Arthur Rimbaud, from “Alchemy of the World” (Season in Hell)

Dolphin from

Okay. I have a thing for French writers today. Probably because the long Rimbaud quote in the Pollock movie brought to mind Rimbaud, Valéry, and the others.

Rimbaud was one tortured soul, writing most of his poetry in less than five years during his late teens, and ultimately giving up his creative writing by the age of 21. His torrid relationship with Verlaine scandalized France, but ultimately, Rimbaud’s relationship with Verlaine led to the latter’s publication of the volatile poet’s complete works in 1895. Notably, A Season in Hell (Une Saison en Enfer) is considered one of the first works written in free verse, which has led to Rimbaud being called the founder of French symbolism.

Rimbaud wrote A Season in Hell in 1873 after his relationship with Verlaine had soured. It is considered groundbreaking symbolist writing and is the only thing that Rimbaud self-published. The poem is divided into nine parts of varying lengths. Many people have translated Season in Hell, including Henry Miller, but what I find more interesting is that Zelda Fitzgerald (wife of F. Scott) translated the piece during one of her many hospitalizations.

I must admit that I knew virtually nothing about Rimbaud until I saw the 1995 movie Total Eclipse, which featured Leonardo DiCaprio as Rimbaud and David Thewlis as Verlaine. It was a small movie featuring a young DiCaprio before his Titanic box office blockbuster. But according to most sources, the movie is an historically accurate depiction of the young poet and his relationship with the older Verlaine.

It’s a movie that I would like to see again now that I know more about the two writers. Maybe one day on Net Flix.

“Children and lunatics cut the Gordian knot which the poet spends his life patiently trying to untie.” ~ Jean Cocteau

Two Orcas off Eastern Aleutian Islands, Alaska (NOAA; Wikimedia Commons)

Anyway, last night I dreamt that I was petting a whale, an Orca specifically.  I was sliding my hand over the animal’s head, and then when it opened its mouth, I ran my hand across its tongue. The Orca nodded its head appreciatively. It was a very pleasurable experience, very peaceful. The only disconnect was that in my dream, as I was communing with the whale, I thought of that stupid movie Free Willy.

I will never understand how the mind stores megabytes of completely useless information, only to resurrect it in dreams. Things that the conscious mind has long forgotten, has not given a second of thought to in years, and then BAM! It’s there, in a dream, intruding upon an otherwise lovely scene.

Dreams are so complex yet revealing. I remember that Corey told me one time that he tried to control his dreams. Brett told me the same thing once.  I don’t know, but I really don’t want to control my dreams, at least, not now. At one time, I would tell myself before going to sleep, “Tonight, I am going to dream of Caitlin.” And usually, I did not. No control.

Now, I just let my dreams come to as they will, and I try to remember the moments that have made the biggest impression on me. What does this have to do with the Gordian knot, the problem that cannot be solved by normal means? Not exactly certain other than I spend my life in perpetual pursuit of the solution to the knot: How do I untie that for which no clear end is visible? How do I solve the problem that is my life without having any clear solution?

Perhaps the solution is that I cannot, and instead of choosing the easiest way of cutting through, I keep trying to untie.

More later. Peace.

Music by Eddie Vedder, “Light Today”


Childhood: IV

I am the saint at prayer on the terrace like the peaceful beasts that graze down to the sea of Palestine.

I am the scholar of the dark armchair. Branches and rain hurl themselves at the windows of my library.

I am the pedestrian of the highroad by way of the dwarf woods; the roar of the sluices drowns my steps. I can see for a long time the melancholy wash of the setting sun.

I might well be the child abandoned on the jetty on its way to the high seas, the little farm boy following the lane, its forehead touching the sky.

The paths are rough. The hillocks are covered with broom. The air is motionless. How far away are the birds and the springs! It can only be the end of the world ahead.

~ Arthur Rimbaud, from Illuminations