“Winter Morning,” Igor Grabar* (1907, oil on canvas)
“There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon quoted in E. A. Poe’s “Ligeia”
Wednesday afternoon. Rainy and 64 degrees.
Yes. I know. It’s been a full week since my last post. I haven’t been completely idle, though. The house is decorated inside and out. My collection of santas are on the hearth, and the holly swags are hung. Most of the packages are wrapped. The Christmas cards have been addressed, just need to get stamps and pop them in the mail.
Unfortunately, it seems that I’m kind of limited to doing one thing a day, so sitting here and posting has had to take a back seat to holiday preparations, especially since wrapping presents just kills my back, so I’m only doing a little at a time. We’re doing Christmas day dinner here, but fortunately, everyone is making a major dish. We’re doing Filipino food instead of turkey or ham. We did the same thing last Christmas, and it was nice. So there will be pancit, rice, tuppa (marinated beef), stir fry green beans, lumpia, and perhaps a pork roast.
Most of the presents that I had to order online have been delivered, except for Corey’s big present, which is being ground shipped from California. I’m really hoping that it gets here in time. He has no idea that I’ve ordered this particular thing, so it will be a true surprise. It’s something that he’s wanted for a very long time but hasn’t mentioned in a while. I’m hoping that I ordered the right thing. Suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.
“. . . every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” ~ Basho
We got some interesting news this afternoon. The representative from the shipping line that hired Corey called to say that he won’t be on the ship that he was originally slated to crew. Instead, he’s going to be on a big tanker that runs between Russia and Germany. The runs last for 90 days.
Major pause here for deep breath.
It is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. I mean, he’s going to get the deep sea time that he wanted. He’s going to see some new countries. He’s going to be making good money. But . . .
Ninety days straight. We’ve never been apart that long in our entire time together. None of us.
I know that he’s happy at the thought of a new experience, but he is also very worried about the unknown. Going from a tug boat to a tanker is a major jump. He has no idea as to what he’ll be doing. Fortunately, he’s working a shift at the boatyard where the company’s other tanker (the one we thought he’d be on) is coming into port this weekend, so he hopes to speak to some of the crew members about the company, what they’re like to work for, etc.
I’m trying very hard to keep my freaking out to myself. I mean, this is a classic case of being careful of what you wish for . . . We’ve both bemoaned our fate for so long, complained about the lack of shipping when the recession hit, the dearth of jobs available, so now that this has landed in our laps, we need to look at it as the gift that fate has accorded us.
But still . . .
“Vague fatigued promise hangs
in the low darkened sky
when bunched scrawny starlings
rattle up from trees,
switchback and snag
like tossed rags dressing
the bare wintering branches,
black-on-black shining” ~ W. S. Di Piero, from “Chicago and December”
My dad was a deep-sea mariner, traveling all over the world, sailing in just about every ocean and in many seas. He routinely had hitches that lasted months at a time. During the Viet Nam war he was gone for nine months straight. He liked it. My mother liked it. They liked each other better from afar.
That always struck me as so bizarre. They had separate lives, separate friends. It wasn’t until he finally retired that they began to do things together, but it was always an uneasy peace, one that could blow at any second. And the blowouts were horrible, not physical, but loud and hateful. And even as an adult living my own life with my own family my mother still tried to draw me into the middle of the fray.
I’ll never forget the one time that my mother came to my house and announced that she was going to make my father leave. I told her that if she did that, then I would take him in. She was completely taken aback. I knew that she was yet again making an empty threat for effect, but if was the first time that I had ever called her on it.
In all, they were married something like 45 years. I don’t ever remember them being happy together.
“Surrounded by a deep and comfortable sea of blank space, she is right there—one end of a luminous brain-bridge—plain as day, front and center, hidden in full view.” ~ Stacey Schiff, from Vera: Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov
I’m still trying to absorb this piece of news, trying to be appropriately grateful and happy. Instead, I just feel an ache in the pit of my stomach, and that makes me angry at myself. What Corey and I have is strong enough to weather distance and time, of that I am certain. What I am less certain of is myself—my ability to not withdraw into myself.
I mean, I have lived alone before, alone when I was in college, and alone with the kids after my ex left. And I know that being a single parent to young children is much different from being a single parent to grown children. All of my kids are fairly self-sufficient. Eamonn loves to cook, and Brett is learning how to make more things now that he is feeling more secure about his abilities. I mean Lex doesn’t live here, but Brett and Eamonn do, and there are no plans for that to change anytime soon.
I’m hoping that I will be able to use this time to get a little bit more back on my feet, get out of the house more often, loosen myself from my safety nets. As it is, I do not leave the house daily, and that is pretty much by choice. Corey does the grocery shopping and the errands, something that started when my back gave out, and it’s something that he continues to do because he likes to do it, and I do not.
But that will have to change. Change can be good. I just have to remind myself of that.
“I do not consider myself less ignorant than most people. I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me.” ~ Hermann Hesse, Demian, trans. Michael Roloff and Michael Lebeck
I just took a break to do the dishes and eat the most delicious scone that Emilie’s uncle dropped by the house. Most people who bake scones tend to make them on the dry side, but the ones that he gets from this particular bakery are incredibly tasty and moist. The one that I ate had bits of ginger in it. Ginger is one of those tastes that you either love or hate; I don’t believe that there is an in-between in that, but I happen to love ginger, especially crystallized ginger.
Anyway, as to what I was talking about—I am very much aware that I am a creature of habit, much more so now that I do not work full time. But I think that with my sons’ help I should be fine while Corey is gone. If I make myself get back into the habit of writing for a couple of hours each day, I think that that will help considerably in keeping my mind occupied.
Of course, I really have no idea how things will play out as I can only surmise. Perhaps I will surprise myself. Perhaps I’ll use the time to put down one of the many book plots that I have had running through my brain for years. Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.
I just know that I am truly thankful for this upcoming change in our circumstances. It has been a long time in coming. We have come far too close to losing everything, which makes all of us acutely aware of just how harsh reality can be. We have been close to the edge, but never over it, and we are all stronger for it and grateful for what we have.
Today is a good day: good news, good food, good music. Today I could not ask for more.
As I’ve said before, I know that compared to many, many others, we are lucky, and now, it seems, we have more luck on our side. So let me pause here to say thank you to all of you who have been so supportive, who have sent good wishes and prayers our way. It means more than I can ever say.
More later. Peace.
*All images by Igor Grabar, born in Hungary in 1871, studied and worked in Russia until his death in 1960. Many of his paintings (several of which are entitled “Frost”) are in the Tretyakov Gallery, the biggest collection of Russian art in the world, which Grabar headed from 1913 to 1935.
Music by Rascal Flatts, another version of “White Christmas”
The Letter Scale
One of the objects I’ve treasured most in my life
Is this letter scale which, long ago, you gave me.
I was an active correspondent at the time,
Even sending lots of letters overseas.
While still enjoying the pleasure of going to the post,
I now had another: assessing exactly, in advance,
At my counter, the cost of packets and envelopes,
To which, price list in hand, I stuck my stamps.
I use it less these days, this quite simple device
Graded with little marks up to a whole pound,
For my mailings rarely still exceed the price
Of an ordinary stamp. The tray of polished metal’s now
Covered with dust, without the slightest hint
That the red pointer marking the weight on the front
Has budged. But in the long run, one would, I think,
Discern a difference and see how much the months
Were worth in terms of dust, the seasons elapsed
Since the previous weighing. But having been seized,
Suddenly, just this morning, by a tremendous attack
(Annual) of cleaning, from which nothing is released,
I restored to the tray’s slightly concave stainless steel,
That ever so slightly distorted mirror, its polished shine.
It reflected all of the sky, through which clouds reeled,
And I could confirm that space does not weigh more than time.
~ Jacques Réda