“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

 

“I felt a melting in me.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Sorting through pictures and trying to put together collage for memorial service . . . obviously, quite unable to string together thoughts. So this only today:

Recovery

And when at last grief has dried you out, nearly
weightless, like a little bone, one day,
no reason in particular, the world decides to tug:
twinge under the breastbone, the sudden thought
you might stand up, walk to the door and
keep on going . . . And in the seconds following,
like the silence following the boom under the river ice, it all
seems possible, the egg-smooth clarity of the new-awakened,
rising, to stand, and walk . . . But already
at the edges of the crack, sorrow
starts to ooze, the brown stain spreading
and you think: there is no end to it.

But in the breaking, something else is given—not
that glittering jumble, shrieking and churning in the blind
centre of the afternoon,
but something else—a scent,
like a door flung open, a sudden downpour
through which you can still see the sun, derelict
in the neighbour’s field, the wren’s bright eye in the thicket.
As though on that day in August, or even July,
when you were first thinking of autumn, you remembered also
the last day of spring, which had passed
without your noticing. Something that easy, let go
without a thought, untroubled by oblivion,
a bird, a smile.

~ Jan Zwicky

By the way, this is my 700th published post . . . Yippee . . .

More later. Peace.

“I find pieces of myself everywhere, and I cut myself handling them.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, Lighthousekeeping

Lightning Strikes the Eiffel Tower (thesun.co.uk)

                    

“I would up heart, were it not like lead. But my whole clock’s run down; my heart the all-controlling weight, I have no key to lift again.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Lightning, Placitas, NM, by snowpeak (FCC)

Friday early evening. Sunny, not too hot, humid.

I have not yet adjusted my sleeping patterns to coincide with Brett and Em’s morning classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which means that I take them to school and then come home and go back to sleep. Ideally, I would be falling asleep earlier than 3 a.m. so that waking at 9 wouldn’t be a problem.

Ideally.

We all know how ideally works for me—it doesn’t. Hence, the interrupted sleep patterns and headaches upon waking. Sometimes I wonder how I ever arose at 5 a.m. and did a full workout before going to work. Talk about ambitious. My workout today consisted of cleaning the bathroom and doing a bit of laundry. Whee, feel the burn.

Speaking of which, the wrist is still aching, but my mom is better today. She called her doctor’s office to tell them what’s going on, and they can’t see her until September 6; they told her to go to the ER if the stumbling happens again, which is what I had said to her. She does sound better today, and she ate something healthy, so there’s that.

Last night I had strange dreams about talking penguins and a pike fish that was trying to bite off my arm. The oldest penguin’s name was Bart. Very strange but interesting at the same time. The penguins were quite delightful; the pike was not. It had long needle-like teeth like Prisoner Zero on Doctor Who. I don’t even try to interpret such dreams any more as what could they possibly mean . . .

“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen

Wednesday evening. Hot, humid, and pending storms.

Lightning Strike, by No One Famous Studios (FCC)

Well, you might say that I took a few days off since writing the last section. Understatement . . .

The wrist was way painful; my mom was way needy, and access to the computer was way limited. Okay. So I just wasn’t up to writing. Whatever.

Yesterday I had two much-postponed doctor’s appointments with the pain management doctor and my therapist: eighteen trigger shots later, from my ears to my butt, and one cortisone shot in the wrist. In between appointments, I worked on the also postponed paper work, then, on to Dr. K. to discuss my life for 45 minutes.

Unlike what I expected, I was very restrained. I think that I’m still in postponement mode. In fact, I know that I am. When I told Dr. K. that I was holding off on my grieving, she looked me dead in the eye and said that if anyone could do that, I could. I spent several hours today cleaning floors throughout the house, something that my back and my wrist are thanking me for at this moment. Actually, I’m supposed to be looking through the family photos for pictures of Grandma with the kids.

Why don’t I just rip my heart out now and throw it on the floor and stomp on it because that’s how it’s going to feel once I get in the midst of going through old photographs.

“September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret.” ~ Alexander Theroux

Lightning Strike, by wdallasm (FCC)

I told Dr. K that I don’t have any regrets with my m-in-law. Of course, that’s not true. I live filled to the brim with regrets, every moment of every day. I am a walking regret. Je regrette should be tattooed across my body somewhere. Jean Valjean (Les Miserables) has nothing on me when it comes to guilt and regret.

I wish that I had gone to the hospital while she was still conscious so that she could hear me say I love you one more time instead of my whispered words when she was slipping away. Of course, I wish that I had said I love you one more time to my father.

I wish that I had visited more in the past two years when she was still somewhat with us mentally, that I had sat down and had coffee, that I had asked her for recipes.

I wish that I had taken her to the symphony in the same way that she used to take me whenever there was a performance that she knew that I would appreciate. I saw Itzhak Perlman because of her. I saw one of Nureyev’s last performances because of her. What did I do for her?

How do we measure how much we have contributed to another person’s life? How do we know if we have done enough? How do we live with ourselves when we know that we have not done enough?

How do we know if we have really touched another person, that we have made an impact on them? Is it selfish to wish that you’ve made an impact?

So many questions and no real answers. It’s the Gordian knot all over again—it doesn’t matter from which direction you approach the problem, it’s seemingly unsolvable.

“… and between us every elegy, all the fallen
language that couldn’t hold its own
and wouldn’t give it back, had no flesh
except how long dust keeps our alphabets.” ~ Brian Teare, from “Eden Tiresias”

Lightning, by Leszek.Lescynski (FCC)

When I look in the mirror, I want to like the person that I see staring back at me. I have never been able to do that. I couldn’t really tell you why. Or actually, I probably have a thousand reasons why, but none seem to make sense to anyone but me.

At the end of my days, I don’t want to have lived like Bartleby the Scrivener, the man who preferred not to, so he never did. Literary criticism has all sorts of reasons as to why Bartleby did not, the most common being that it was his way of being a conscientious objector, his protest against the life that was being imposed upon him.

That’s not even close to what I’m talking about in this case. More precisely, I want to have participated, to have savored, to have tasted, to have dabbled, to have shared, to have given, to have touched, to have been touched, to have explored, to have dared, to have ventured, to have tried. Dammit, I want to have at least have tried.

Losing someone you love always leads to self-reflection, and that’s probably the only good part of losing someone you love. But as I sit here and  bang on these keys, so many thoughts are churning through my brain, so many what-ifs, so many why-nots.

At the end of her days, my mother-in-law was not the person she had been. But the person she had been was strong and intelligent and generous with her time and talents. And to be perfectly honest, she would have hated the navel-gazing that I am currently embroiled in performing. She was not one to harbor deep regrets, at least, I don’t think that she was, but what in the hell do I even know about anything.

However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” ~ Stanley Kubrick

Lightning over Aquitaine, France

So, here is where I am at the moment: absolutely nowhere. My head is spinning; my back is aching, and my heart is breaking. I must tell you that this is not a good combination. I could chalk all of this up to not sleeping, but I know, and so do you too, probably, that it’s so much more.

If you are able to derive any sort of linear thought from this post, congratulations. That’s more than I could, and I apologize for that. Perhaps I should have chosen the path of restraint and not have written at all, but I feel as if I am on the brink of something, but I am not quite sure as to what that might be.

Perhaps it’s a poem. Perhaps, it’s just an idea for a post. I can only tell you that I sense something right beneath the surface of my consciousness, so close that I can almost glean a glimpse, but then it slips away. Is it the Silence (Dr. Who reference), lurking there in the corner of the mirror, just out of sight but close enough to control my actions?

Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps I just have a build up of words that have had no outlet for days, and they are reaching critical mass. Perhaps it’s indigestion, but that would require eating an actual meal; wouldn’t it?

I have eaten, but I only taste dust, to be truthful. Perhaps tomorrow I shall dare to eat a peach and wear my trousers rolled, and then, and only then, I will be able to tap into whatever this is.

Until then, silence, and not the Dr. Who kind.

More later. Peace.

“I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables (original cast soundtrack)

                   

The Three Oddest Words

When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to
the past.
When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.
When I
pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no nonbeing can hold.

~ Wisława Szymborska