“I write only for my shadow which is cast on the wall in front of the light. I must introduce myself to it.” ~ Sadegh Hedayat, Boof-e Koor

Moonlight over Sandesfjorden by eivindtjohei (FCC)

Note: I could not get my computer to work yesterday evening, so this post is backdated. Sorry . . .

“I desire to press in my arms the loveliness which has not yet come into the world.” ~ James Joyce, The Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man

Thursday afternoon. Very humid, mid 80’s.

Moon on the Lake by villemk (FCC)

I showered today. To most of you, this might not seem like such a big deal, but since yesterday I never made it out of my pajamas, and spent almost the entire day in bed, it’s a big deal for me.

So much has gone on in recent days that I feel as if I’ve run a marathon in combat boots: my entire body aches and is rebelling at just the idea of sitting here.

We found out the total amount needed to bring our mortgage current plus the attorney’s fees, and it isn’t pretty. I had to tap a source that I really did not want to tap, a relative (indirectly). Not my mother as she does not have the funds, nor do I want to have to hear from her about what a failure I am again. Unfortunately, this source could very easily let slip to my mother what’s going on.

I know that I just have to suck it up and deal with whatever fall-out there is, but the thought of the what-ifs is significantly adding to my stress level. This whole mortgage fiasco is beyond anything we have faced in years. The idea that I could lose this house—as old and decrepit as it is—just breaks my heart. The idea that we could become displaced scares the crap out of me. So if I can secure the funds from someone who is willing to help, I cannot allow my pride to stand in the way.

“I count the clouds others count the seasons
Dreaming of archipelagos and the desert
I have lived through weeks of years.” ~ Susan Howe, from “Hinge Picture

Acitrezza Faraglioni Moon Rise, Sicilia, Italy by gnuckx (FCC)

Oddly enough, I began the week on a good note, but that was doomed to pass quickly.

I saw Dr. K. on Monday and talked out the whole issue of going back to work, the possible risks and possible benefits. I told her that I would be pursuing this particular position purely for the money, not because I’m interested in the job itself. She then put it to me in a way that I could really appreciate: If I went back to work for a job that I was not invested in emotionally, a job—just a job—then the chances of my health problems being exacerbated would be greater than if I went back to work for something that really meant a lot to me, like a university teaching position.

When she put it that way, it made complete sense to me. Sometimes it takes an objective third party to make you see what’s been in front of you the entire time, the reality of it all.

And for me, the reality is that if I could go back to teaching English for a college or university, I wouldn’t care about the salary because I would be doing something that I really love.

Anyway, that was Monday. It’s been downhill, full speed ever since.

“I am not good at noticing when I’m happy, except in retrospect. My gift, or fatal flaw, is for nostalgia. I have sometimes been accused of demanding perfection, of rejecting heart’s desires as soon as I get close enough . . . I know very well that perfection is made up of frayed, off-struck mundanities. I suppose you could say my real weakness is a kind of long-sightedness: usually it is only at a distance, and much too late, that I can see the pattern.” ~ Tana French, from In the Woods

Fratarski Otok Moonlight by cinemich (FCC)

I’ve been trying not to just sit around and eat chocolate, even though it seems like a pretty good idea to me. Those 90-calorie fiber brownies? Yep, those? They taste like powdered cardboard. They’ll do in a pinch just to get the flavor of chocolate near the taste buds, but as far as filling that need for chocolatey smoothness . . . nope, not even close.

Then there are the 100-calorie snack packages. Do you know how many chocolate chip cookie thingies they put in one package? Eight, and they are the size of a quarter. Yep, 100 calories of pure chocolate air.

What I want is a carton of some kind of Ben and Jerry’s, preferably with the highest fat content possible, and a big spoon, and no one around to see me indulge. That or a bag of Pepperidge Farms cookies. Those would be good too.

Instead, I’ll just sit here and type and hope the cravings go far, far away. Men simply do not understand the whole chocolate thing. It’s not just for PMS. It’s for stress. It’s for depression. It’s for happiness. It’s for celebration. It’s dopamine with calories. Given a choice between Godiva and heroin? Godiva, hands down. Adult acne be damned.

“A dreamer is one who can only find their way by moonlight, and their punishment is that they see the dawn before the rest of the world.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Lunar Reflections, Fort Fisher, NC by Donald Lee Pardue (FCC)

Well, that little interlude helped a bit, that is until I remembered that yet another Law & Order franchise has been ruined for me. “Law & Order UK” killed off the Matt Devlin character, played by Jamie Bamber (who was also Apollo in “Battlestar Gallactica”). I loved him. I was already pissed at the loss of Ben Daniels, whose Crown Prosecutor James Steel was as sharp as Linus Roache’s character of Michael Cutter.

Bamber’s departure comes as a result of his casting on “Precinct 17,” of which I know absolutely nothing.

And “Law & Order SVU” is also going down the tubes with the departure of Christopher Meloni and the addition of two new cast members. Okay, so this is not important in the grand scheme of things, but as I am a diehard fan of all things L&O (with the exception of LA, which I cannot bring myself to like), the loss of the original, the tossup of SVU, and the big changes to UK make me terribly unhappy, which, as you know, is so unusual for me.

“It’s like morphine, language is. A fearful habit to form: you become a bore to all who would otherwise cherish you. Of course, there is the chance that you may be hailed as a genius after you are dead long years, but what is that to you . . . Time? Time? Why worry about something that takes care of itself so well? You were born with the habit of consuming time. Be satisfied with that.” ~ William Faulkner, Mosquitoes

Moonlight at Redang Island, Malaysia by Christian Haugen (FCC)

So, here I sit. The house is quiet. Everyone is at school or at work. Everyone, that is, except for me and the dogs and the dust bunnies . . . I’m sitting here with the sun in my eyes, the afternoon sun that is streaming through Eamonn’s bedroom window. If I do that thing that kids do, you now, close my eyes almost all the way, then I can see light refracting off my eyelashes.

Remember when you first discovered how to do that? I don’t either.

For some reason, I cannot get my YouTube to work at the moment. I keep getting a 502 error, whatever that is, whenever I set a playlist to play. I tried signing back in, but nothing. So I don’t have a song for this post, which is okay, I suppose, as I don’t yet have a theme in mind for the images to go with the words. It’s that kind of post: disjointed, fragmented, bumpy.

I prefer for my posts to be like the kind of ride you get in an Infiniti, or something along those lines: smooth, comfortable, almost quiet. Instead, I have a 4×4 kind of post going on, and I keep hitting all of the potholes. My suspension is shot, and I’m badly in need of a tune-up.

Oh well, never going to own that muscle car that I always dreamed of having. You know, the one with the motor that growls low at stop lights, the one that slides in and out of cars. Nope. Not going to happen . . . ever. A muscle car needs to be low to the ground, something that my body just won’t do.  No black Ford Mustang with a sunroof and speakers that make my tummy vibrate.  Just please don’t put me in a white sedan. I think that would be the end of me.

What am I going on about? Who the hell knows.

More later. Peace.

Music by Tom Waits, “The Part You Throw Away”

                   

“Since I last wrote summer has gone. It’s autumn. Now Jack brings home from his walks mushrooms and autumn crocuses. Little small girls knock at the door with pears to sell & blue black plums. The hives have been emptied; there’s new honey and the stars look almost frosty. Speaking of stars reminds me—we were sitting on the balcony last night. It was dark. These huge fir trees ‘take’ the darkness marvellously. We had just counted four stars & remarked a light, high up—what was it? on the mountains opposite, when suddenly from far away a little bell began ringing. Someone played a tune on it—something gay, merry, ancient, over and over. I suppose it was some priest or lay brother in a mountain village. But what we felt was—it’s good to think such things still happen to think some peasant goes off in the late evening & delights to play that carillon. I sometimes have a fear that simple hearted people are no more. I was ashamed of that fear last night. The little bell seemed to say, but joyfully: ‘Be not afraid. All is not lost.’” ~ Katherine Mansfield, from a letter to Richard Murray, September 5th, 1921

“We are little flames poorly sheltered by frail walls against the storm of dissolution and madness, in which we flicker and sometimes almost go out.” ~ Erich Maria Remarque, All Quiet on the Western Front

Morning in the Forest by Paulo FLOP (35photo.ru)

                   

“Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday evening. Gradually clearing, low 70’s.

Beginning by bachkatov (35photo.ru)

A slow day. I stayed up quite late and got up quite late, so I’m feeling more than a bit discombobulated, that, and the omnipresent headache that is thrumming in my temples.

I should mention off the bat that this post’s images all come from 35photo.ru, a site that I found through tumblr. I apologize if I have inadvertently infringed on someone’s copyright, but I looked carefully at the images that I downloaded and did not see a copyright, part of the problem of using a foreign site.

Last night (early this morning?) Corey and I had a heart-to-heart talk about what we are facing. He has very mixed feelings about the job with the sheriff’s office, which has caught him off-guard, and he is considering trying to pick up a hitch with the shipping company that approached him right after he had enrolled in school. If he does a few hitches with them next year, he can make as much money as he would make in a year with the other job, and he can still go to school.

I really don’t want him to have to postpone school for two years because he has already waited so long on this particular dream—a dream deferred, if you will—and, truth be told, I am not to keen on the idea of him having to work in the city jail, just too many possible bad scenarios there. But ultimately, I will leave it up to him.

The downside of going back to sea is that we have to come up with the money to renew his licenses, and he would probably not be able to go out until the beginning of 2012, so a few more months of this.

“You probably think I’m nuts saying the mountains
have no word for ocean, but if you live here
you begin to believe they know everything.
They maintain that huge silence we think of as divine,
a silence that grows in autumn when snow falls
slowly between the pines and the wind dies
to less than a whisper and you can barely catch
your breath because you’re thrilled and terrified.” ~ Philip Levine, “Our Valley”

Into the Mist by kicik (35photo.ru)

He also admitted that he does not think the idea of me giving up my disability coverage is the best idea. When he asked if I wanted to go back to work because of the money or because I wanted to go back to work, I immediately said that it was the money, and that’s the truth.

I have agreed to postpone submitting my application package a few days (as the deadline is not for another five days) until I can give the issue some more thought. Of course, having said that, I must admit that today I feel worse than I’ve felt in weeks, what with my back and my head, and I realize that the stress is probably a factor in that. So the question is, how would I do with the stress of a full-time job?

I have no idea.

Any type of job that I would take would be a high stress situation as that is the nature of marketing and publishing—constant deadlines and budgetary factors. Client whims and needs. All of that. I must approach this with my mind fully aware of all of the mitigating factors, not the least of which is the disputation of my graduate school loans. If I stay on disability, my loans are phased out. If I go back to work, they are reinstated, as they should be, but that’s a big chunk of change. Getting a graduate degree from a private university, even one for which you work, is not inexpensive.

More to consider.

“This body, which has become a sarcophagus with stone handles, lies perfectly motionless; the dreamer rises out of it, like a vapor, to circumnavigate the world . . . he tries on one body after another, but they are all misfits. Finally he is obliged to return to his own body, to reassume the leaden mold, to become a prisoner of the flesh, to carry on in torpor, pain and ennui.” ~ Henry Miller in Sexus

Untitled by Philip Peynerdjiev (35photo.ru)

I want to pause to acknowledge that some beautiful verse has been showing up on my tumblr dash lately. As I’ve mentioned before, I garner most of my quotes and poems from my tumblr, which I find to be an inspiring resource. I had never heard of Matthew Harvey or Lucian Blaga, both of which I have included in this post.

Corey had a chat with Eamonn today in which he reminded eldest son that missing classes is unacceptable as we footed the bill for his last ditch effort to do something with his college career. The proposition was that he would work his hardest and make A’s, B’s at the very least, so that he can bring up his GPA and possibly be accepted into the radiation technology program.

In the last week, Eamonn missed one session of each class, and he is carrying a low B in his biology class. He admitted to me that he did not study for his recent test.

Why doesn’t he get it? Why doesn’t he understand that we invested this money in him (money that we could ill afford) because we want him to succeed, because we want him to have a career and not to have to work in some low-paying job for the rest of his life?

Corey told him that he (Eamonn) is acting like this is still high school, which is exactly what the problem is. I could go on ad nauseum about how this isn’t how he was brought up, how my family has a strong work ethic and a deep belief in higher education, but the truth is that Eamonn is spoiled, and that fact lands squarely back in my lap.

It’s hard to be a single parent. The desire to give your children everything, to be everything, to make things seem as normal as possible—these things can cause a sense of unbelievable guilt, and Eamonn is good for piling on the guilt, telling me more than once that he blames me for the divorce. It’s an argument that I cannot win and have long since abandoned trying to gain any ground with, so admittedly, I spoiled my children as much as I could.

Still, this sense of entitlement makes me want to scream.

Same old song and dance, I suppose . . .

“If there is no fog on the day you come home I will build a bonfire
So the smoke will make the cedars look the way you like them” ~ Matthea Harvey, from “In Defense of Our Overgrown Garden

Foggy Night 3 by dimitri bogachuk (35photo.ru)

In other news . . . Brett is still sick today, so he’s been quiet and resting. Em went shopping with her aunt, which is always a good distraction for her. She has developed a nice relationship with both her aunt and uncle in the past few months, and I know that fact means a lot to her.

Alexis has spent the fast week or so in Maryland with Mike, who is due to finish his hitch there soon. He makes good money while he’s there, and I think that the time that she spends up there with him is good for their relationship. Plus it means that she’s not just staying in her apartment alone sleeping. I know that she’s been incredibly depressed since losing her grandmother.

Yesterday was Ann’s birthday. I called and texted but never got to speak to her, so I left a voice mail in which I sang “Happy Birthday Mr. President” á la Marilyn Monroe. I’m hoping that she wasn’t too depressed. The first holidays, birthdays, anniversaries after losing a parent are so hard. It still bothers me to be on the card aisle before Father’s Day. I’m not looking forward to Thanksgiving or Christmas without my m-in-law, which is probably why I dreamed that she was decorating for Christmas. It will be so strange for her not to be here.

I’ve been borrowing my m-in-law’s car to drive back and forth to ODU when Corey is working. We’re hoping that our neighbor who is supposed to be working on Corey’s truck will finish the job soon. He’s been paid in full, and we have the parts. We’re just waiting on the labor now. I still need to make arrangements to have my uncle’s Explorer shipped from Florida. And Brett still needs to get off his butt and take his DMV test to get his learner’s permit, which he has to keep for 30 days before getting his license now that he’s over 19.

Always something.

“Such a deep silence surrounds me, that I think I hear
moonbeams striking on the windows.

In my chest,
a strange voice awakens
and a song plays inside me
a longing that is not mine.” ~ Lucian Blaga, from “Silence” (trans. by MariGoes)

Cape Fiolet by Dimitry Tokar (35photo.ru)

Yesterday, while I was on my way to ODU to pick up Brett and Em, I had the local classical station on, and some symphony was playing. Forgive me, but I did not get the name. It was not one with which I was already familiar. But I turned up the tinny car radio, and listened to the beautiful music, which ended perfectly just as I pulled up.

I remember when I was teaching at ODU, fall would always be the time that I would switch my car stereo to classical, and one day Mari walked in and said, “Geez, how many times are they going to play “The Emperor’s Concerto” (Beethoven’s fifth concerto)? I had to laugh because I had just been thinking the same thing as I walked into the office.

It’s funny how Mari and I were so synchronized in our likes and dislikes, how we changed with the seasons, how our moods were affected by the weather and by what we wore. I remember one day when we were out, and I made her go to what was then Hecht’s department store so that I could buy a blouse to change into because what I was wearing made me feel so ugly. She completely understood.

God I miss having that in a female friend. But mostly, I still miss Mari. When I was going through my files before updating my resume, I came across a resume that I had put together for Mari back in 2005 when she was trying to get a job down here. I hadn’t realized that it had been that long. We were both working so hard to get her down here, but it never happened. That’s over six years ago.

It seems like last year. Does time pass faster the older that you are? Or does it just seem to fly away on the wind when you are running so fast to catch up?

More later. Peace.

Music by Jeff Beal, “Waltz for Mary,” perfect day for some keyboard

                   

Fall

Fall, falling, fallen. That’s the way the season
Changes its tense in the long-haired maples
That dot the road; the veiny hand-shaped leaves
Redden on their branches (in a fiery competition
With the final remaining cardinals) and then
Begin to sidle and float through the air, at last
Settling into colorful layers carpeting the ground.
At twilight the light, too, is layered in the trees
In a season of odd, dusky congruences—a scarlet tanager
And the odor of burning leaves, a golden retriever
Loping down the center of a wide street and the sun
Setting behind smoke-filled trees in the distance,
A gap opening up in the treetops and a bruised cloud
Blamelessly filling the space with purples. Everything
Changes and moves in the split second between summer’s
Sprawling past and winter’s hard revision, one moment
Pulling out of the station according to schedule,
Another moment arriving on the next platform. It
Happens almost like clockwork: the leaves drift away
From their branches and gather slowly at our feet,
Sliding over our ankles, and the season begins moving
Around us even as its colorful weather moves us,
Even as it pulls us into its dusty, twilit pockets.
And every year there is a brief, startling moment
When we pause in the middle of a long walk home and
Suddenly feel something invisible and weightless
Touching our shoulders, sweeping down from the air:
It is the autumn wind pressing against our bodies;
It is the changing light of fall falling on us.

~ Edward Hirsch

“Fear of the step that leaves no trace. Fear of the forces of chance and nature that wipe away shallow prints. Fear of dining alone and unnoticed. Fear of going unrecognized. Fear of failure and making a spectacle of oneself. But above all, fear of being no good. Fear of forever dwelling in the hell of bad writers.” ~ Roberto Bolaño, 2666

Falling Rain by nyello8 (FCC)

                   

“Every man, when he gets quiet, when he becomes desperately honest with himself, is capable of uttering profound truths.” ~ Henry Miller

Thursday afternoon. Rainy, humid, and warm, high 70’s.

Rain by Debs (FCC)

If I put this into words, then it becomes real, which is why I have avoided writing for a few days. Everything is falling apart again. How did we get here? We try and try and never seem to make any forward progress.

Our mortgage is going into foreclosure. We are becoming the statistic that defines the middle class: living from paycheck to paycheck, owing more than we make, existing instead of living. And because of this, because my back is against the wall, because I cannot continue to allow Corey to bear the bulk of this burden, I must do as I must. I must apply for jobs, go back to work, my health be damned.

Perhaps if I can get a job, everything will right itself. Perhaps if I go back to work full time, the incessant stress from never having enough money will abate and some of the stress will go away. Perhaps if this happens, Corey will not have to feel as if he has failed us.

I cannot continue to weigh the pros and cons of giving up my disability coverage. While I mull over the what ifs, we are sinking, taking everything and everyone with us. I can only hope that if I do manage to get someone to hire me, that my health will improve as a result of the outside stimulus. I suppose the deciding factor was that when I was looking at openings online, I cam across a marketing position at ODU for which I am perfectly suited.

Perhaps it’s karma, fate, that I find this position at this time. Who knows? I only know that I am so tired of being buffeted along the wind like a fallen leaf, tossed here and there without any control, without any clear direction, left up to forces external.

“Would that I were a dry well, and the people tossed stones into me, for that would be easier than to be a spring of flowing water that the thirsty pass by, and from which they avoid drinking.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Rain by Marcus Hansson (FCC)

I drafted the following a couple of days ago after seeing a picture of graffiti that said, “Imagine Life without Liars.”

imagine life without liars
peace without pain
truth without terror

pretend we can converse in our sleep
wake in our dreams
return to the beginning

how can we find fault without favor
break the bone without blood
rend the silence without sound

make believe the moment is momentous
the dregs are delicious
the echo is eternal

let us have love without loss
less without want
want without guilt

expect it not to be so
suppose that it might be
possibly perhaps perchance

I’m troubled by the last three lines . . .

“Sometimes I’m terrified of my heart; of its constant hunger for whatever it is it wants. The way it stops and starts.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe

Umbrella, Leaves by mysza831 (FCC)

When I finish this, I need to update my resume, a depressing thought. Posit: Who will hire someone my age who has been out of work for almost three years, regardless of my qualifications and background?

I don’t know what I’m opening myself up for, what kind of reaction to expect other than what I’ve set myself up to believe. I know what I can do. I know what I hope I can do. I know what I wish. Are the three the same? Probably not, possibly not at all.

I like to think there are always possibilities . . .

Star Trek: Wrath of Khan—the best Trek movie ever. Ricardo Montalban with his mullet and bare chest.

Friday afternoon. Stormy.

Anyway, sorry about that little interlude. I actually left this post yesterday to go ahead and work on my resume and cover letter. The killer is that while I know that I could do the advertised job with no problem, how do I explain my three-year hiatus?

On a brighter note, Corey had the first part of his interview with the sheriff’s office this morning: the written test, which he did quite well on; however, he learned this morning when talking to the guy who conducted the test that the department works on a 12-hour day with a monthly rotation, which means all days for a month and then all nights for a month, which pretty much screws any hopes of going to school for him. And, it’s a two-year commitment, so his plans for college would be put on hold for that long.

He’s going ahead with the interview process, but we are both bothered by the commitment and what it means to postponing his dream of a college education yet again.

“The true life is not reducible to words spoken or written, not by anyone, ever. The true life takes place when we’re alone, thinking, feeling, lost in memory, dreamingly self-aware, the submicroscopic moments.” ~ Don DeLillo, from Point Omega

Fallen Leaves by crabchick (FCC)

So today Brett went to the student health center while he was on campus. They tested him for flu and told him that he just has a cold. I know that he must have felt terrible to have gone to see someone on his own; he said that he threw up while he was at school. Completely unlike him. Last night, Eamonn had a rash all over his arms and shoulders. He’s already had chicken pox, so I know that it wasn’t that.

We’re all literally falling apart here—people, dogs, computers, house . . .

The sky outside is white. White skies are very depressing and unforgiving. There is nothing beautiful about them.

Now, the sky has opened up, and it’s pouring. Kind of the perfect backdrop to this post. The temperature is dropping, and it’s raining. Welcome fall, which came in at 5:05 a.m. In spite of the sky, I wouldn’t have it any other way for the first day of fall.

I’ve already moved my sandals to the back of the closet and brought my boots forward. Now I just need to get my sweaters out of the trunk, and I’ll be all set.

Last night I had strange dreams. In one, I was sliding down these sand dunes, like surfing the dunes. People were scattered all over the dunes on towels and blankets, and I was sliding in between them. When I got to the bottom of one dune, I lost control and ran into a man’s Buddha alter. He had placed fresh orange slices in a bowl at the base of the Buddha. I apologized to him profusely and offered to make recompense, but he was quite sedate and kind, and told me not to worry about it.

I also dreamed about my m-in-law. It was my first full dream about her since she died. We were in her living room, and she looked quite normal. She had been moving the furniture around and was decorating for Christmas. I asked her to let us help her move the furniture. She was lucid and conversed normally, except for the comment about visiting Saturn from the roof of the building . . . I have no idea what that means.

I awoke from the dream with a fierce migraine.

“We must let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the one that is waiting for us.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Ripple Rain by tiffa 130 (FCC)

Isn’t it always the way that immediately after a doctor’s visit, something happens? I had my med check with my psychiatrist on Wednesday during which I told her that my medication was working well. Now I find myself depressed so completely that I feel covered by a shroud. I know that yesterday before he went to work Corey told me that I should just go to bed and rest and read. I must have looked like hell. I did not take his advice and stayed on this stupid computer for hours trying to make myself look marketable on paper.

It’s been over 24 hours since I first began this post, and I am no more certain of anything than when I began. Am I doing the right thing? Am I jeopardizing the little bit of guaranteed money that our family receives from my disability by attempting to go back to work in the hopes of making enough money to dig us out of this hole?

And just when I thought I had made peace with the idea that I would never be able to go back to work full time, I revisit the issue. A person could well and truly go crazy pondering these things.

I don’t know what to do. What do I do? What do I do? What do I do?

Sometimes I wish that I drank or perhaps did something to alter my reality . . . not really.

Sometimes I wish that I could be Eamonn: He has never understood this thing called disability. He has said numerous times, “Why don’t you just go back to work?” I truly think that he believes that I left work out of choice, that I just sit around on my ass all day doing nothing because I’m lazy. To him, it’s all so simple. You need money, so you go to work. And god help me, but I cannot help but hear his father’s voice when he talks like that.

But said like that, it is all so simple. Maybe it’s just me making it hard.

Enough. Since the computer keeps locking up on me today, I think I’ll call it a day.

More later. Peace.

Coda: The storm has passed, and the sky is the most beautiful pale crimson and orange . . .

Music by Melody Gardot, “The Rain” (what else?)

                   

Zacuanpapalotls

(in memory of José Antonio Burciaga, 1947-1996)                          

We are chameleons. We become chameleon.
—José Antonio Burciaga

We are space between—
the black-orange blur
of a million Monarchs
on their two-generation migration
south to fir-crowned Michoacán
where tree trunks will sprout feathers,
a forest of paper-thin wings.
Our Mexica cocooned
in the membranes de la Madre Tierra
say we are reborn zacuanpapalotls,
mariposas negras y anaranjadas
in whose sweep the dead whisper.
We are between—
the flicker of a chameleon’s tail
that turns his desert-blue backbone
to jade or pink sand,
the snake-skinned fraternal twins
of solstice and equinox.
The ashen dawn, silvering dusk,
la oración as it leaves the lips,
the tug from sleep,
the glide into dreams
that husk out mestizo memory.
We are—
one life passing through the prism
of all others, gathering color and song,
cempazuchil and drum
to leave a rhythm scattered on the wind,
dust tinting the tips of fingers
as we slip into our new light.

“We are increasingly fluent in images with no handhold, images freighted with all the orphanhood in the world, fragments, fragments.” ~ Bolaño

Orange by learydotmark (FCC)

“We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible.” ~ Ann Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Saturday, late afternoon. Rainy and cool, 61°F. Fall is impending.

Autumn Leaves, by muffett (FCC)

So here I am again. I thought that I might have something to say today, but I’m not certain that’s the case. The house is quiet, the kind of quiet that can only happen on a rainy Saturday in fall, when the mood is lazy and the energy is low.

Officially fall in one week, but there is no mistaking the scent in the air: fallen leaves and something else, unnameable.  If I were in the mountains, perhaps it would be the scent of apples, but around here, it’s more the whispers of summer grass changing into winter Fescue. Each day, more flocks of Canada Geese fly overhead, creating commas in the sky.

Last night I dreamt of swimming nude in cool water, first in a lake, and then in a pool. The water enveloped me, embraced me, and it felt like home. I walked up a hill, and I saw a rust-colored owl. In the background, someone said, “This is the seat of where America was founded.” Water. Owl. History. Non-linear, unconnected.

“Sometimes life just seems like chapters of goodbyes.” From a country song. Doesn’t it sound like a country song? It is. Rascal Flatts. I love them, but Corey doesn’t much care for them, not since he found out that the lead singer is a man who has a high voice. He swore that the lead singer was a woman. Nope.

Funny how preconceptions/misconceptions can sway our attitudes.

“Everyone must come out of his Exile in his own way.” ~ Martin Buber

Autumn in Kyoto, by Daily Picture (FCC)

Time for boots and sweaters. Time for yoga pants and socks. Fall is like coming home, and I don’t really know why that is except that it is and always has been. I have memories of walking the trail to the Humpback Rocks, the boys with us, Eamonn bitching the whole way. Earlier memories, climbing the trail as a young woman. Smelling the crisp mountain air, the loam, the soil. Stopping along the way to look at interesting rock formations, fungi.

We’re (Corey and I) going to try to make a trip to the mountains at the end of October. We haven’t bee in years, and I would really like to go. Of course, the trip depends on so many things, not the least of which is getting new brakes on the Rodeo. Money. Always a factor. Money controls everything. Hate that.

I think that both Corey and I are a bit depressed, and a key reason is money, or the lack of it. He’s still waiting to hear on two jobs for which he applied. He’s very qualified for either one, but that doesn’t mean anything. So are hundreds of other people, all of whom are competing against him.

I have this image of President Obama standing up there with his jobs bill, an orange-skinned Boehner sitting smugly behind him, a look on his face that says, “not in my lifetime.” Obama has regained some of the fire in his speeches, but it’s because he’s campaigning again. I don’t want to talk about it, don’t want to talk about politics in this country and just how far out of touch the entire system is. I can be depressed about other things.

“Things are as they are. Looking out into the universe at night, we make no comparisons between right and wrong stars, nor between well and badly arranged constellations.” ~ Alan Watts

Autumn Sunset, by Superior National Forest (FCC)

I just lost my train of thought. Big surprise there. I haven’t been focused since I began this post. It’s hard to concentrate in here because Eamonn came home and started bitching. What I wouldn’t give to have my computer working again so that I could have my workspace back to myself. Had to turn off my playlist so that he could listen to his Rolling Stones album. He’s decided that he wants a turntable so that he can listen to albums. He’s borrowing Alexis’s turntable for now, one that I got her for Christmas ages ago. It’s here at the house instead of with her for space reasons, because we have so much freaking extra space in this 1100 square foot house.

Right.

I’m going to have to stop writing for now as it’s impossible to think.

Sunday later afternoon. Cloudy, high 67°F.

Obviously, I was not able to get back to this post yesterday. Eamonn hass gone this evening to a Blink 182 concert, so I have the room to myself again. My Blues playlist is going in the background. Corey is going to do errands before he has to work third shift tonight, and Brett and Em are doing homework, which means the house is once again blessedly quiet.

I woke up today with a headache, mostly sinus, I think, not a migraine. I’ve put a call into the neurologist’s office to set up an appointment for Botox shots for my migraines now that my health insurance has been straightened out. I need to call tomorrow to see if they’ve gotten the pre-approval necessary. I don’t know what to expect with the Botox. A woman I used to work with at GW got Botox when it was still experimental; she had doctors in her family. It did wonders for her, so I’m hoping that it helps me. The injections go directly into my scalp . . .

“The more I see of the world, the more am I dissatisfied with it; and every day confirms my belief of the inconsistency of all human characters, and of the dependence that can be placed on the appearance of either merit or sense.” ~ Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Höstsonaten: Autumn Sonata, by guldfisken (FCC)

So where was I . . .

Money? Politics? Fall? Let’s move on to something else, shall we?

I gave passing thought to submitting an application to become a Notary Public, since members of this family are constantly needing to have things notarized. However, I cannot notarize anything that contains my name or anything for my spouse, so I’m not entirely certain that it would be worth it. It costs $45 to apply, $10 to be sworn in, and then the cost of the seal, which is unknown. We get things notarized at our credit union for no charge, so I would have to weigh the pros and cons. We’ll see, I suppose.

Corey is pondering the pros and cons of going back to sea. He would need to renew his licenses, get a physical and drug test, all of which is not inexpensive, but the reality is that he’s making so little money with his maritime security job. He’s already lost at least on shift this week. He’s not even making half of what I make on disability, and it’s really hurting us. In fact, we’re in trouble with our mortgage again, something we never thought would happen again.

It’s not because we’re being negligent; it’s because we simply don’t have enough money to make ends meet. We’re one of those families on the edge that the politicians are talking about, living paycheck to paycheck.

We don’t charge our sons rent, although I know that many people charge their kids rent after they turn 18. It’s just not done in Filipino households. My dad would be highly affronted at the thought of doing something like that to family, and I concur completely. Family is family, no matter what. The kids are in school, and that’s the most important thing.

Sure, we could use help with the bills, but I just can’t see imposing that kind of pressure on the boys. We didn’t do it with Alexis. I used to think about winning the lottery, having a windfall of cash. Now, I just hope that we can hold it together until 2012.

“You are no longer quite certain which side of the fence is the dream.” ~ Erin Morgenstern, from The Night Circus

Fall Foliage in Central Park, NYC, by Alaskan Dude (FCC)

I suppose that I feel acutely the need to be the kind of parent to my children that my parents were to me. My mom and dad paid for my college and my graduate school (for my first master’s degree). They didn’t have to do that, but they wanted to do that. I wasn’t saddled with student loans, and I did not have to pay to live with my parents. I did work full time from the time I was 17, but that was by my choice. I used my money to buy a car, to pay my car insurance, to buy my clothes and to pay for my expenses.

I did move out of the house for a year when I was a sophomore, but when I wanted to move back home, it was never an issue. I lived at home, and I helped out by cleaning the house and doing anything else that was asked of me, but my parents never asked me for money. Granted, my dad made a very good living as a merchant marine, plus he had his Navy retirement. But I was brought up in a household that instilled in me a deep respect of learning, that placed a value on a college education, probably because neither of my parents had one.

I want that for my kids. I want them to know that we support them unconditionally, that we want to help them to gain a foothold in society. We cannot bestow them with trust funds; we cannot buy them expensive cars or send them to Europe, but we can love them and support them. It’s what my dad would have wanted, so it’s what I want.

Maybe I’m naive, or maybe I am old fashioned when it comes to certain things. Who knows, but I want my children not to have to worry about their education. They are already being assaulted with so many of the other realities of growing up.

“You like it under the trees in autumn,
Because everything is half dead.
The wind moves like a cripple among the leaves
And repeats words without meaning.” ~ Wallace Stevens, from “The Motive for Metaphor”

Fall in Seneca Creek State Park, by Anosmia (FCC)

Anyway, my musings about fall . . .

I know that I have said this many times before, but autumn appeals to me in a way that I cannot quite define. I think that’s part of the reason why I think that I would love to live in Ireland. I know that it’s rainy there and that it doesn’t get hot in the way that it gets hot here. Something about cloudy days, drizzle, how comforting it is to be inside with a book or a movie.

Something about sitting down at this computer to write while the wind whistles through the increasingly bare limbs of the trees. Something about the lushness of the berries that abound. Something about the song birds that flit from bush to bush. Something about wrapping the body in comforting clothes, sipping tea, eating soups and stews.

Perhaps this longing for fall comes from another life, one in which I lived a harder life but more immediate life, faced the elements directly. Perhaps I’m just being whimsical. But is anything more beautiful than the pageant of leaves that are deep crimson, gold and orange, even brown? The way nature seems to collude to create beauty out of a season that harbors death—it appeals to me.

And if I am to be honest, autumn also brings to the forefront those I’ve lost, those in my past. They are very much with me, and even though there is sadness, there is also comfort. Memories of Alan, my father, my daughter, and now my mother-in-law. All gone, all tied to the fall. It is the juxtaposition of death and rebirth, the idea that without the death that autumn brings, we could not have the renewal of spring.

That we ourselves imbue this season with so much promise is a very contradiction, but an understandable one. In the fall, we begin to walk a bit more slowly, no longer needing to move through the heat of summer as quickly as possible. We pause more, see more. We inhale the smoke from wood fires that no longer burn. We cocoon ourselves in warm blankets and give ourselves over to Lethe, and in the forgetting, we remember.

As Fitzgerald said, “Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

Music by Rascal Flatts, “Here Comes Goodbye”

                   

The Farmer

Each day I go into the fields
to see what is growing
and what remains to be done.
It is always the same thing: nothing
is growing, everything needs to be done.
Plow, harrow, disc, water, pray
till my bones ache and hands rub
blood-raw with honest labor—
all that grows is the slow
intransigent intensity of need.
I have sown my seed on soil
guaranteed by poverty to fail.
But I don’t complain—except
to passersby who ask me why
I work such barren earth.
They would not understand me
if I stooped to lift a rock
and hold it like a child, or laughed,
or told them it is their poverty
I labor to relieve. For them,
I complain. A farmer of dreams
knows how to pretend. A farmer of dreams
knows what it means to be patient.
Each day I go into the fields.

“It is rescue work, this snatching of vanishing phases of turbulence, disguised in fair words, out of the native obscurity into a light where the struggling forms may be seen, seized upon, endowed with the only possible form of permanence in this world of relative values—the permanence of memory.” ~ Joseph Conrad, from “Henry James: An Appreciation” (1905)

Bedruthan Steps, Cornwall, UK

                   

“the world’s so small, the sky’s so high
we pray for rain it rains, we pray for sun it suns

we pray on our knees, we move our lips
we pray in our minds, we clasp our hands

our hands look tied before us.” ~ Nick Flynn, from “Fire”

Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, hot and humid.

The Green Bridge of Wales, Pembroke, South Wales, UK, by geographyalltheway.com (FCC)

Well, I survived the weekend. Saturday was an endurance test, and when it was over, I fell into bed and slept hard. The many nights of interrupted sleep were gone. My body gave in to exhaustion at last.

The memorial service was very nice. Many people from her congregation shared stories about her, and the reception afterwards was very nice. Several congregation members (some of whom I remembered, and others that I didn’t) came up to me during the reception to say that they had enjoyed my reading. One woman said that it made her wonder what her children would say about her when she died, which made me wonder what people would have to say about me when I’m gone.

Then we (all of my kids, Corey, Ann, Mallory and I) went to her house and sat around for hours. We looked through her things and shared memories. We found a bunch of old photographs, her wedding album, her baby book. We drank wine and ate the leftover food from the reception. It was more than a bit surreal.

Of all my children, Alexis took it harder than anyone. She had a very special relationship with her grandmother, and she is feeling the loss acutely. She closed herself off from the rest of us, didn’t want to be hugged or comforted. We all grieve in our own way. After all of us left, Alexis stayed behind (later I learned for a long time). I think that she wanted the time alone to say goodbye.

The rituals we go through when we say goodbye to those who have died—so strange, yet so comforting. I know that they are for the living, not the dead, yet I’m not entirely certain that I would want people coming together to remember me. I suppose there is always the fear that no one would come and then if they did, they would not have good things to say . . .

I’m still having moments of unexpected tears, melancholy. That I seem to be getting a chest cold is not helping.

“The part of us that has to be burned away is something
like the deadwood on the bush; it has to go,
to be burned in the terrible fire of reality, until there
is nothing left but . . . what we are meant to be.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Irish Coastline

Everyone seemed to like the collage, which is good. The hours that I spent making it really helped me. With each picture, I had a memory. Moving the images around to find the perfect place felt a bit like reliving each memory. I let the pictures speak to me, and when I was finished, they ended up where they were supposed to be. It’s really hard to explain.

I’m sending a CD with the separate images and the collage to Helma in Germany so that she can share it with everyone over there.

I was telling Corey that when you see pictures from the 50’s, everyone looks a bit like a movie star. I don’t know if it’s the black and white film, or the fact that everyone was always so well groomed—perfect hair and makeup. The pictures from her wedding were remarkable. All the men so sharp and handsome. The white gloves on the women. There is a picture of the then happy couple as they left the reception, and my m-in-law is wearing one of those fox furs, you know, the ones with the fox head and feet? So chic then.

Those always terrified me as a child, like someone had just coshed the animal over the head and then draped it around the woman’s shoulders.

The woman in the pictures had sleek hair, bright eyes, a tiny waist. She was young, happy, and filled with possibilities, her whole life before her. I know that she had a full life, that she saw many places, did many things, and I’m trying to hold onto that, not the last years when life was so unforgiving.

“And much of this I fancy you yourself have felt: much also remains for you to feel. There is an unknown land full of strange flowers and subtle perfumes, a land of which it is joy of all joys to dream, a land where all things are perfect and poisonous.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Sea Cave Pembroke, South Wales, UK, by geographyalltheway.com (FCC)

My mother came to the service. I looked at her and realized that she has shrunk so much, in that way that old people do. She told me the other day that she has gained weight deliberately so that she won’t have so many wrinkles on her face. My mother is 79 years old, yet I know that she does not see herself as being that old, any more than I feel as old as I am. She said at one point that she didn’t like being around all of “these old people.” She meant it.

During the reception I was watching her. She seemed so bewildered by it all. And I felt sorry for her because I knew exactly what she was thinking: Will there be people who miss me when I’m gone? Will there be people who say nice things about me?

What is a life? Is it the sum of all things done or is it a reflection of things never done? What defines a person, gives them worth? Religious people, of any kind, would say that a life is defined by the service to the maker, living a spiritual life.

I would have to admit that I have no answers to these questions, only more questions.

“I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know—unless it be to share our laughter. We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide.” ~ James Kavanaugh

Trebarwith Strand, Cornwall, England (Pixdaus)

When I found the above Kavanaugh quote, I thought about which part I could delete so that it wouldn’t be so long, but then I realized that I couldn’t delete any of it because the entire quote sums up so much of what I feel. I am a searcher, always have been. And I have never been content, not really. That is not to say that I have not had periods of great contentment, because, of course, I have. But if you read me regularly, then you know that I move through a veil of melancholy.

It is just who and what I am. I have those I love deeply, for whom I would do anything, anything at all. I have a man I love completely, who has brought me great joy and a sense of peace that eluded me for years. Yet I would be lying if I said that I was truly content.

But exactly what is it that I search for still? I don’t know. Not really. I can only say that I feel as if I have so much left undone in my life, that while I have done many things, seen many places, tasted many flavors—that while all of that is true, I have still not done all that I had hoped I would do in my life.

I suppose if I had to sum up my life at this point, I would say that I am a daughter who was always lonely for a sibling, a mother who has always longed for a lost daughter, a spouse who has always felt that I should be more. I am perpetually on hold, and that is because I have not moved forward. I live in the past, haunted by loss, and I long for a future somewhere else, somewhere verdant and lovely.

In spite of all my education, I long for more. I wish that I could sit in rooms and discuss Eliot and Woolf on cool fall afternoons as the sun shines through the windows. I long to explore those authors I have yet to read, to immerse myself in new stories, new words set in far-flung places filled with people who are living life, people who are feeling.

I have a hole in my heart that will never be filled because I will not allow it to be. I have lined the walls of that red chasm with my father, my daughter, my uncle, my friends; I have poured into that bottomless vessel all of the memories of old loves and long-ago days. And unlike most voids, this one sustains me. The negative space defines me.

I dream of thunderstorms and turbulent oceans. I smell the faint scent of lavender and honeysuckle. I taste the last dregs of cold cups of tea.

I am a searcher in a world that has little room left for those who wish to explore.

I am old, and I am young. I am everything, and I am nothing.

More later. Peace be unto you and yours.

Music by Kate Rusby, “Underneath the Stars”

                   

Song of Tea

The first cup moistens my lips and throat.
The second cup breaks my loneliness.
The third cup searches my barren entrail,
but to find therein some thousand volumes of odd ideographs.
The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration;
all the wrongs of life pass out through my pores.
At the fifth cup I am purified.
The sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals.
The seventh cup—ah, but I could take no more!
I only feel the breath of the cool wind that raises in my sleeves.
Where is Paradise? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.

~ Lu Tung

For my other mother . . .


                   

I must begin with a confession: I was terrified of my mother-in-law for about the first year that I knew her. And any of you who ever faced her wrath will understand completely what I mean. But the fear that I felt then as a young woman entering her family is not what is on my mind today.

For several weeks now, I have been thinking about a black dress, not just any black dress, but a black satin dress that my other mother made me for a formal occasion. You see, that’s what I called her: my other mother.

Years ago, when I worked for a government contractor in northern Virginia, the company had these huge, extravagant Christmas parties, affairs at which people such as the Beach Boys and Ray Charles performed. I wanted a special dress for the occasion, and I picked out a Vogue pattern of a tea-length strapless dress that was fitted like a corset on the top, and had a very full skirt on the bottom. It was quite gorgeous, and it never occurred to me that my other mother would not be able to sew this creation for me. She was that talented. The dress had stays and top stitching, and of course, I chose an unforgiving fabric without really thinking about how hard it would be to work with. The finished dress was magnificent. I felt like Audrey Hepburn when I wore it. Everyone I knew asked me where I had bought my dress. I only smiled and told them that someone special had made it for me.

Later, when I became pregnant for the first time and found that maternity clothes consisted of big bows and garish prints, my other mother made me a maternity wardrobe. Again, the compliments I received were endless, and again, I said that someone special had made them for me.

I’m not trying to define my other mother through her sewing abilities, although to be sure, they were phenomenal. Rather, the point is that she made these things for me out of love, because she knew how much I appreciated everything that she did for me. And I loved her for her many talents and how she shared those talents with her family and with her friends.

I would like to think that the two of us were more than just mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. We were friends, friends who shared a love of British mysteries and histories. Friends who watched Mystery on PBS and then talked about the shows afterwards. Friends who shared confidences as easily as we shared books. And then there were the times when she was my mother-in-law, the times when she did not hesitate to tell me what she thought I was doing wrong or how I was going about something in the wrong way. I would get so frustrated. I mean, she could be quite formidable when she wanted to be. But I was thankful when our relationship survived even when I was no longer officially her daughter-in-law. She never changed in how she treated me, and for that I was very grateful.

But she was a very generous friend—generous with her time and generous with her talents. She loved her family, especially her grandchildren, and she loved her church. Each year, while she was still able, she would help to sew the costumes for the Christmas pageant. Each year, she would help to decorate the church for advent. For many years, she lent her voice to the church choir, in which she sang alto, and she would say of her voice that it was strong, but that it was not a solo voice.

That’s how she was. Not boastful, and at times, too self-deprecating. I know that she regretted greatly not having a formal education, and sometimes she would make a snippy remark—because those of us who knew and loved her must admit that she could be snippy—a remark about how while she did not have a master’s degree . . . I can still hear it . . . but she was one of the most intelligent people I have ever met. Her wealth of knowledge included things like literature, plants, flowers, vegetables, furniture refinishing, home improvement, and cooking. Together we reupholstered a couch and loveseat, and she taught me how to refinish old furniture. I always envied her lush green flower beds, the great expanses of Black-eyed Susans and other perennials and her plentiful summer crop of home-grown vegetables.

But her apple pie . . . That was the absolute best. I loved her apple pie more than anything else that she ever made, more than her turkey, more than her pirate stew. For my birthday most years, she would make me an apple pie; it was something that I looked forward to every year. But the last one that she made me was several years ago, and she apologized when she gave it to me because she didn‘t feel that it was up to her standards. As her memory began to fade, she lost confidence in her ability to cook, and finally, she gave up cooking all together, just as she gave up sewing, and reading, and painting, and gardening.

My other mother was a strong, intelligent, woman who did not suffer fools gladly. But she was also extremely kind and generous. She faced more than her share of heartbreak in her life, but she carried on. In the last few years, we spoke about life and death quite openly. She told me more about her childhood, and she talked about some of her regrets. I know that she hated what the disease was doing to her, and I hated watching this once strong woman gradually fade.

Funnily enough, she never wanted me to know that she secretly believed that boys were smarter than girls. But in spite of this belief, she treated all of her grandchildren with great love and generosity. In fact, I only found out after she died that she had kept a secret for Brett all of these years: When Brett was in grade school and he got into trouble, she asked him if he had learned his lesson; he replied that he had, so she signed the parental notification and promised not to tell anyone, and she never did. That’s the woman I knew and loved.

I do not wish to remember her as she was the last time that I saw her, so small and fragile. Instead, I will remember her sitting at the end of the table at family dinners with her wine glass, how at Christmas we always had Christmas crackers, and everyone had to wear the paper hats and share the trinkets that spilled out after we pulled on the crackers. I will remember the look on her face as she held each of her grandchildren for the first time. I will remember her classic sense of style, her red boiled wool jacket. I will remember how she asked me one time if I liked her sweater and that I told her I thought it looked like a man’s cardigan; then years later, I complimented her on her sweater, and she said, “Well you told me once that it looked like a man’s cardigan,” and I said, well what do I know anyway? I will remember the way that she would curse under her breath as if whispering negated what she had said. I will remember the books we shared and the times she treated me to the symphony and the ballet. I will remember the fairy princess costume that she sewed Alexis when she was four that was later passed down to Rebecca, and the green Power Ranger costume that she made for Eamonn when he was in preschool; he told me that he had the best costume in the school, and he did. I will remember her love of public television and how she shared her Smithsonian catalogue with me.  I will remember rocking each of my children in her big rope hammock, and the family cookouts we had on the deck. I will remember spending time with her in the pool as the children grew from babies to school children and how she would make fun of me for not wanting to get wet in the water. I will remember the one curler that she would wear in the front of her hair when she was cleaning the house, and I will remember how she brought us pizza and made us eat after Caitlin died.

I will never be able to smell L’air duTemps without thinking of her. When I read a new book by Elizabeth George, I will think of her. When my peonies come into bloom, I will think of her. And one day, when I finally learn to make an apple pie, I will think of her and know that she would be proud.

                   

“What we do for ourselves dies with us. What we do for others and the world remains and is immortal.”  ~ Albert Pine

The faint echo of a forgotten grief

something I meant to say,
but never found the time.
Your hands were so small,
covered in old scars
(from years of pressing the earth
between your fingers),
and new ones from the onslaught of needles.

You would not have liked
the room in which you died:
dark and
pitiless in its sterility.
The place you spent your final days
smelled of age and waiting death,
while your home sat unused
and too quiet.

Lonesome without your presence
even your cat deserted you,
found a new home filled with possibilities.
You would not have liked that either.

What were you trying to say to me
when your hand grasped my wrist
with a strength I no longer knew you had—
when your eyes met mine
your brow arched as if to ask a question?

Yes, I remember the pills,
how easy it would have been
to melt them in warm water
then pour the elixir onto your tongue—
when it mattered the most
I failed you, did not have
the resolve you possessed.

Your Black-eyed Susans have withered
from inattention
and the rosemary has grown wild—
perhaps you would have liked that,
the asymmetry of things left to do as they will
when nature is left unfettered.

I walk through your rooms
hoping to catch the barest scent of your L’air du temps,
but nothing is left,
only my imagined sense
of your presence.

I had forgotten this part:
the acute loneliness,
the echoing silence,
the desire to eschew human touch,
the inexorable solitude,
the nature of grief.

“I think it’s just as likely that someone could say that this place, right here, is heaven, hell and earth all at the same time. And we still wouldn’t know what to do differently. Everyone just muddles through, trying not to make too many mistakes.” ~ David Wroblewski, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle

Lantern Festival by paul+photos=moody (FCC)

                   

“We are as forlorn as children lost in the woods. When you stand in front of me and look at me, what do you know of the griefs that are in me and what do I know of yours?” ~ Franz Kafka, letter to Oskar Pollak

Friday afternoon. Sunny, hot, and humid.

Thai Lantern Festival (Google Images)

It is beginning to hit me—the insidious thing called grief—waves of sorrow and sadness and regret and loss, pouring over me. I hear it in the strains of the music playing in the background. I see it in the brilliance of the late summer day. I feel it in the silence of the walls surrounding me.

I do not like this.

I wish that there were a lantern festival somewhere in the area. You know, the festivals to honor the dead in which participants float paper lanterns, sometimes with personal messages, sometimes not. I’ve always thought that these festivals are beautiful homages to the spirits.

Speaking of homages, yesterday, I spent hours and hours working on the family pictures for the college. Perfectionist that I am, I could not simply place the pictures onto an 11×14 rectangle. I had to despeckle, fix the contrast, touch up the color. I added a border around each picture, something that should have been quite simple but was not because I have forgotten how to place pictures into frames, and the copy of Photoshop that is on this particular computer is not my full version from Adobe, but rather a temporary version which Brett downloaded.

It’s better than nothing, but aggravating in its limits nonetheless.

I finished the collage around 10 last night. It’s a huge jpeg file. Corey is going to take the disk to have the enlargement and prints made for me because, of course, I could not upload the file onto the Costco site. I acquiesced rather than spend another hour trying to figure out why I could not upload. Then I went and threw up. In the past few days, I have been living on anti-nausea medication and muscle relaxers. Neither are working.

“A life is such a strange object, at one moment translucent, at another utterly opaque, an object I make with my own hands, an object imposed on me, an object for which the world provides the raw material and then steals it from me again, pulverized by events, scattered, broken, scored yet retaining its unity; how heavy it is and how inconsistent . . .” ~ Simone de Beauvoir

Forest Hills Lantern Festival, by liza31337 (FCC)

To say that I slept fitfully when I actually slept is, alas, understatement. I turned off the television around 2 a.m. The last time I allowed myself to look at the clock it was 4:30. The dogs sensed my restlessness and acted accordingly: they got up and down all night, and I got up and down with them, walking to the back door to let them out, only for them to sit down at the door and look at me expectantly. My patience was sorely tried.

I had to get up early to take Brett and Em to ODU, and I’m afraid I drove while unconscious, or at least it seemed that way. I only remember one part of the drive, the part at which I had to pass police and rescue cars surrounding a pedestrian who had been hit by a car. The universe is fucking with me.

I came home and rubbed Blue Emu into as much of my back and neck that I could reach, took muscle relaxers and ibuprofen, and went back to sleep for a couple of hours.

All of the knots that were released by the trigger shots on Tuesday are back, probably thanks to the floor cleaning and then sitting at the computer for half a day. I am my own worst enemy. I could go back to the pain doctor today and probably need another 18 trigger shots. My wrist is marginally okay, as long as I don’t turn it certain ways, the same with the neck—limited range of motion. I realized last night that I was walking through the house with my shoulders hunched.

Did I mention that I’m losing my voice as well? Perfect, absolutely perfect.

“After the bones—those flowers—this was found in the urn:
The lost river, ashes from the ghat, even the rain.” ~ Agha Shahid Ali, from “Even the Rain” in Call Me Ishmael Tonight: A Book of Ghazals

Honolulu Lantern Festival (2009)

Last night (this morning?) I had a Dillard’s dream, which is usually what I dream when I am intensely stressed. I had been accused of saying something that I hadn’t said, lots of drama. Blah, blah, blah.

In the midst of trying to steel myself to take another look at the eulogy that I wrote a few weeks ago, I’ve been going around with my health insurance people who told my neurologist that they couldn’t find me in the system to approve my Botox injections for migraines. However, when I called the health insurance people, they found me just fine. Forget the Botox and just give me a hammer.

I need to make changes to the eulogy, but since I’ve already had one meltdown this afternoon, I dread opening the file. But I’m out of time. Tomorrow is the service. I need to iron dress shirts and pants for Corey, Eamonn, and Brett. Eamonn cannot find his dress shoes, of course. What other crap can happen? Please, let it rain down on me now so that I can just get this over with, seriously.

Apparently, there is a dead sea turtle floating near where Corey is working today. I’m glad that he did not send me a picture of it as I happen to love sea turtles, think they are beautiful creatures. He called the local marine institute, and they are coming out to retrieve the body. Encounters with dead things. Perfect.

Do I believe in omens? You bet I do.

“Pale Death with impartial tread beats at the poor man’s cottage door and at the palaces of Kings.” ~ Horace

Toro Nagashi during Japanese Obon (Celebration of the Dead)

I think that I’m running out of steam. The other sections of this post wrote themselves. Then I got up to check the dryer, folded some clothes, came back, and now I find myself staring at the screen, which, without my glasses, looks like a mass of white with black blurry lines and a few blocks of color here and there.

I don’t wear my glasses when I write as I have no need to seen either the screen or the keyboard. I look when I’m inserting the images and deciding on a color for the headers. Other than that, I just let my fingers serve as a direct conduit to my brain, my thoughts. Looking just means that I focus, and when I focus, I lose the thread of what I was saying.

I have my blues playlist running in the background—Tom Waits, Melody Gardot, B. B. King. Anything else would grate on my nerves. The songs come in and out of my consciousness, sometimes hearing, sometimes not. But right now, Waits’s scratchy voice has entered into my consciousness, and I am close to tears again. That’s the kind of voice that he has, full of sadness and melancholy. Corey asks me why I do this, torture myself. He doesn’t understand that these sad, melancholy songs are sometimes the only thing that serve me well.

It’s hard to explain, but my playlists are the soundtrack for my life, sometimes full of catchy melodies, sometimes heavy with nostalgia, and sometimes, just pure gut-wrenching.

Today is a gut-wrenching kind of day. Having said that, I suppose I should just go ahead and open the wound a little more and take a look at my eulogy. If I put if off any longer, it’s going to be night, people will be in the house, I won’t be able to concentrate.

More later. Peace.

Music by Kate Rusby, “Who Will Sing Me Lullabies?”

                   

Try to Praise the Mutilated World

Remember June’s long days,
and wild strawberries, drops of wine, the dew.
The nettles that methodically overgrow
the abandoned homesteads of exiles.
You must praise the mutilated world.
You watched the stylish yachts and ships;
one of them had a long trip ahead of it,
while salty oblivion awaited others.
You’ve seen the refugees heading nowhere,
you’ve heard the executioners sing joyfully.
You should praise the mutilated world.
Remember the moments when we were together
in a white room and the curtain fluttered.
Return in thought to the concert where music flared.
You gathered acorns in the park in autumn
and leaves eddied over the earth’s scars.
Praise the mutilated world
and the gray feather a thrush lost,
and the gentle light that strays and vanishes
and returns.

~ Adam Zagajewski
(Translated, from the Polish, by Clare Cavanagh