“The Daily Show” Thursday night in which Jon Stewart reads a revised Seuss: Oh, The People Who Hate You:

 

“The lights dim and everyone moves in amber. They flicker like votives. That’s what we will all be one day, insects in sap, strange jewels.” ~ Vanessa Veselka, Zazen

"Winter" (1902, tempera on canvas)by Akseli Gallen-Kallela
“Winter” (1902, tempera on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

                   

“There’s a space at the bottom of an exhale, a little hitch between taking in and letting out that’s a perfect zero you can go into. There’s a rest point between the heart muscle’s close and open—an instant of keenest living when you’re momentarily dead.  You can rest there.” ~ Mary Karr, from Lit: A Memoir

Wednesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and unseasonably warm, 72 degrees.

Finally got all of my meds refilled, and with the beginning of the year deductible, it almost cost $200. Painful. Everything hasn’t kicked in yet, so I’m still feeling a bit out-of-sorts.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela Snow-Covered Cliffs at Kalela, 1901 tempera on canvas
“Snow-Covered Cliffs at Kalela” (1901, tempera on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

On Monday I allowed myself to get caught up in Dave Cullen’s book Columbine (my other birthday book), and I never wrote a real post; however, I’ve been saving the NASA Gangnam style video for one of those days, so it all worked out. Columbine is an incredible look at the events leading up to that fateful day, as well as events afterwards. So much of what I had come to believe was based on the myths perpetuated by the media: that the two shooters were outcasts (they weren’t), that the two belonged to some group called the Trench Coat Mafia (they didn’t), that they targeted jocks (they didn’t), that the two were goth kids (they weren’t).

I found the book fascinating in its straightforward presentation of facts based on countless interviews, journal entries, videos, police reports, etc.; I also appreciated the ways in which Cullen addressed the prevailing myths and then debunked them.

“Sometimes I dream a sentence and write it down. It’s usually nonsense, but sometimes it seems a key to another world.” ~ Anne Carson

Last night I dreamed that someone wanted to borrow my car to make a drug deal. I was uncomfortable with it but too afraid to say no. Then I was back in the small apartment that appears frequently in my dreams, and I was trying to figure out why one half of the kitchen was on one wall and the other half was across the apartment and why there were so many beds, five or six.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela Imatra in Winter 1893 oil on canvas
“Imatra in Winter” (1893, oil on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

A few nights ago I dreamed that my dad and my Aunt Remy had decided that Corey and I should move to South Carolina to run the fish business. I didn’t really want to go, especially because we would have to live in a trailer, but I didn’t want to disappoint my dad or my aunt. As an incentive, my aunt offered to pay for me to get my hair done. It was a very strange dream.

Then the night before I awoke Corey by saying out loud, “You act like you’re still single.” Apparently I had been having a dream in which the two of us were arguing about something, and I said that to him in the dream, only I actually said it out loud. He was very confused.

Still not as funny as the dream that Corey had last week in which he dreamed that his mother had starting calling him Hot Dog, and when he asked why she was calling him that, she told him it was because he was a little slow. Boy was he upset over that dream. I assured him that his mother would never call him Hot Dog and that no one thought for a second that he was slow.

“And that sound, that single sound,
When the mind remembers all,
And gently the light enters a sleeping soul,
A sound so thin it could not woo a bird” ~ Theodore Roethke, from section 3 of “The Rose”

Yesterday we were watching Olivia, who has recently begun to eat baby food, which is fun yet still a reminder of just how quickly time passes.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lake Keitele 1905 oil on canvas
“Lake Keitele” (1905, oil on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

I called my mother to let her know that Olivia was at our house, and of course she arrived when the baby was sleeping. I offered to awaken her, but thankfully my mother declined. Olivia’s naps are too short as far as I’m concerned, and if’s actually sleeping, then I want to leave her alone. Not sure what Alexis was planning to accomplish  (if anything) while we had Olivia, but I’m just glad to spend time with her.

I kind of wish that I had thought to tell Alexis to send the stroller as it was amazing outside, and I don’t think that Olivia gets outside very much. When the boys were small, I had a double stroller, and I would take them for walks all of the time, Eamonn sitting in the front, and Brett usually napping in the back. Ann and I would walk to Lex’s school to pick her up, babies in tow, Rebecca in Ann’s stroller, and first Eamonn and then both boys in mine. Those were good days.

“We walked on the river bank in a cold wind, under a grey sky. Both agreed that life seen without illusion is a ghastly affair.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Diary Entry, 10 November 1917

I read the most depressing news story today: A teenager who performed in the inaugural festivities just a few weeks ago was killed in a gang-related shooting. Fifteen-year-old Hadiya Pendleton and one other boy were shot near King College Prep on the South side of Chicago.  According to the Chicago Tribune:

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Frosty Birch Trees, 1894, oil on canvas
“Frosty Birch Trees” (1894, oil on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Friends of the slain girl said King was dismissed early today because of exams, and students went to the park on Oakenwald—something they don’t usually do.

Friends said the girl was a majorette and a volleyball player, a friendly and sweet presence at King, one of the top 10 CPS selective enrollment schools. Pendleton performed with other King College students at President Barack Obama’s inaugural events.

Neighbors said students from King do hang out at Harsh Park, 4458-70 S. Oakenwald Ave., and that students were there this afternoon before the shooting took place. A group of 10 to 12 teens at the park had taken shelter under a canopy there during a rainstorm when a boy or man jumped a fence in the park, ran toward the group and opened fire, police said in a statement this evening.

Gun violence is nothing new in Chicago, but poignancy of this story brings it home: She was just celebrating in the nation’s capital, participating in something incredible, especially for someone so young, and then in just a blink, she is gone.

The U.S. averages 87 gun deaths a day, according to most sources. It just befuddles me how we as a nation are so inured to gun violence.

“I wanted silence. My daydreams were full of places I longed to be, shelters and solitudes. I wanted a room apart from others, a hidden cabin to rest in. I wanted to be in a redwood forest with trees so tall the owls called out in the daytime.” ~ Linda Hogan from “Dwellings”

I think that I’ll probably spend the rest of the afternoon absorbed in another book. I still feel a real lack of energy, and my concentration is not strong, so it would not be a good day to tackle the taxes, too likely to make stupid mistakes.

I do wish that Eamonn would complete his paperwork for his merchant mariner’s documents, but I’m not going to nag. This has to be his decision, and he has to be the one to do the work for it. It’s hard, though.; it would be so easy for me to sit down and complete the paperwork for him, but then what would I be teaching him? That if he procrastinates long enough, Mom will do it for him?

Akseli Gallen-Kallela The Lair of the Lynx 1909
“The Lair of the Lynx” (1909, oil on canvas)
Akseli Gallen-Kallela

Not good. Not acceptable.

Still, my need to take care of things for my children threatens to come to the forefront all of the time, but if I am to be honest, that need is selfish as it allows me to rescue them, and perhaps they don’t need rescuing, at least not in the way that they did years ago. Perhaps if left to their own devices they will do just fine. It’s such a weird balancing act, this whole parenting thing, how to know when to and when not to, how to decide when help is more hindrance and when help is truly helpful.

I know that I was fortunate in that my parents helped me tremendously when I was my kids’ ages, but at the same time, I had a very, very strong streak of independence, and I never would have dreamed of asking my mother to fill out paper work of any kind for me. I must remember, must remind myself that they are not me. And how wonderful that they are not.

More later. Peace.

Music by Morcheeba, “Crimson”

                   

This Hour and What Is Dead

Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
through bare rooms over my head,
opening and closing doors.
What could he be looking for in an empty house?
What could he possibly need there in heaven?
Does he remember his earth, his birthplace set to torches?
His love for me feels like spilled water
running back to its vessel.

At this hour, what is dead is restless
and what is living is burning.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

My father keeps a light on by our bed
and readies for our journey.
He mends ten holes in the knees
of five pairs of boy’s pants.
His love for me is like his sewing:
various colors and too much thread,
the stitching uneven, But the needle pierces
clean through with each stroke of his hand.

And this hour, what is dead is worried
and what is living is fugitive.

Someone tell him he should sleep now.

God, that old furnace, keeps talking
with his mouth of teeth,
a beard stained at feasts, and his breath
of gasoline, airplane, human ash.
His love for me feels like fire,
feels like doves, feels like river-water.

At this hour, what is dead is helpless, kind
and helpless. While the Lord lives.

Someone tell the Lord to leave me alone.
I’ve had enough of his love
that feels like burning and flight and running away.

~ Li-Young Lee

“Why does the field begin to ripple | before the wind arrives in whispers, | as if there were a communication, | as if the landscape were poorly dubbed, | and we weren’t expected to notice?” ~ J. Allyn Rosser, from “As If”

Percheron Draft Horse Grazingby The Gut (FCC)
Percheron Draft Horse Grazing
by The Gut (FCC)

                   

Two for Tuesday: Pastorals

At Night

it is best
to focus your eyes
a little off to one side;
it is better to know things
drained of their color, to fathom
the black horses cropping
at winter grass,
their white jaws that move
in steady rotation, a sweet sound.

And when they file off to shelter
under the trees
you will find the dark circles of snow
pushed aside, earth opening
its single, steadfast gaze:
towards stars ticking by, one by one, overhead,
the given world flaming precisely out of its frame.

~ Jane Hirshfield

                   
Lamb, Ickworth Park, UK by Karen Roe FCC
Lamb in Ickworth Park, UK
by Karen Roe (FCC)

Sheep in Fog

The hills step off into whiteness.
People or stars
Regard me sadly, I disappoint them.

The train leaves a line of breath.
O slow
Horse the colour of rust,

Hooves, dolorous bells—
All morning the
Morning has been blackening,

A flower left out.
My bones hold a stillness, the far
Fields melt my heart.

They threaten
To let me through to a heaven
Starless and fatherless, a dark water.

~ Sylvia Plath

Welcome to NASA’s Johnson Space Center . . . Science Everywhere

Just had to do this. It’s epic, by far the best parody of Gangnam Style . . .

“He loved the craggy ruins bound together by ivy, those dark halls, and any appearance of death and destruction. Having fallen so far from so high a position, he loved anything that had also fallen from a great height.” ~ Gustave Flaubert

Eilean Donan Castle at Sunsetby Paul Stevenson (FCC)
Eilean Donan Castle at Sunset
by Paul Stevenson (FCC)

“From the grey sky that lowered over the city outside a few isolated snowflakes were floating down, and disappeared into the dark chasms of the yards behind the buildings. I thought of the onset of winter in the mountains, the complete absence of sound, and my childhood wish for everything to be snowed over, the whole village and the valley all the way to the mountain peaks, and how I used to imagine what it would be like when we thawed out again and emerged from the ice in spring.” ~ W.G. Sebald,  from Austerlitz

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and not as cold, 48 degrees.

Yesnaby Castle, Orkney Islands, Scotland by Paul Stephenson FCC
Yesnaby Castle (rock stack), Orkney Islands, Scotland
by Paul Stephenson (FCC)

So the snow is melting quickly now. Not nearly enough accumulation to play in the snow with Tillie the Lab. She did some plowing in the backyard with Corey.

I just wanted to pause here to say thank you to all of my new followers and also thanks for the recent e-mails. It is always nice to hear from new people, to get feedback on what I’m doing here. Completely understandable if you would rather not comment on the post and prefer e-mail. I’ll take it however I can get it.

Apparently I missed National Reading Day, which was on the 23rd of this month, my birthday. I don’t think it gets as much press as Banned Books Week, but NRD is a good idea aimed at encouraging younger children to read, specifically Pre-K through third grade. It always makes me a bit sad to realize that most young children do not have books in their homes, that they don’t have ready access to stories. As an only child, I taught myself to read while I was quite young, and reading became one of my favorite ways to pass time. Alexis learned how to fill out a blank check while she was in middle school because I would send her to the reading fair with a blank check and a budget. Math and reading together.

“This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Shapechangers in Winter”

Yesterday I read one of the books that ordered for my birthday: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. First let me say that this whole classification of Young Adult novels stymies me. What exactly is a young adult novel? I mean, when I was a young adult I was reading Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, Tolkien and Whitman. My children were reading the Harry Potter series in grade school. I find the classification a bit insulting, as if young adults are only concerned with relationships and feelings, and only young adults are concerned with relationships and feelings.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland by Isaxen FCC
Dunnattor Castle, Scotland
by Isaxen (FCC)

That aside, I loved the book. I finished it in just a few hours (is that what makes it young adult?), and when I was done, the only word that came to mind was luminous. I immediately thought of passing it along to my sons, both of whom would be able to appreciate it, perhaps in different ways.

If you haven’t read it—and I think that I’m probably in a minority here in discovering Green this late—it’s a story about kids with cancer. Sounds horrible, right? Wrong. While there are sad moments, the narration and dialogue are anything but depressing. I think the main reason that I found the book so engaging is the overall tone, which is this side of sarcastic and a little pretentious without being precious. I understood these characters, what made them tick, and I even appreciated the lesser characters.

I fear I may be describing all of this none too well. Anyway, loved it and am thinking about getting Green’s Looking for Alaska when the next opportunity arises.

“I’ll walk forever with stories inside me that the people I love the most can never hear.” ~ Michelle Hodkin

Speaking of books, Corey and I recently made a trip to our favorite Barnes and Noble, and boy was it disappointing. I had deliberately not ventured into a book store for a while as I was afraid of what I might find. My fears were realized: More electronics and games than books.

So sad really.

Duntulm Castle overlooking the Minch, Scotland by Brian Zinnel CC
Duntulm Castle overlooking the Minch, Scotland
by Brian Zinnel

I perused the poetry section, which was a mere five shelves. No poetry by anyone other than the expected: T. S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, and other mainstream names. Then I went to the true crime section, which used to be one of my favorite sections—for obvious reasons—and was again disappointed. No new titles, only paperbacks of the same authors. Even the bargain books section was sorely lacking.

I used to find such great enjoyment in spending $25 and leaving with five or six books, all titles that I had been wanting to read. Not any more. I know that the store’s inventory is a reflection of both the death of book publishing and the move towards e-readers, but it was jolting nonetheless. At least I can still find the titles in which I’m interested online, but it’s not the same.

“There is a life which
if I could have it
I would have chosen for myself from the beginning” ~ Franz Wright, from “The Poem”

At least while we were there I was able to pick up my Valentine’s Day cards for everyone. Oh, and speaking of cards, I got a birthday card from Corey’s parents, which was lovely, especially since my own mother has once again forgotten my birthday. She remembers about every birthday in four. I have come not to expect her to remember.

Saltcoats Castle, Lothian, Scotland by DecoByDesign FCC
Saltcoats Castle, Lothian, Scotland
by DecoByDesign (FCC)

Tonight for my belated birthday celebration we are taking the sons with us to see The Hobbit. Brett has already seen it but wants to see it again. Eamonn has yet to see it. We thought it would be nice for the four of us to go to a movie together, something we haven’t done in years, mostly because Eamonn always goes to movies with his girlfriends, but he is sans girlfriend at the moment.

There’s a local theater chain called Cinema Cafe, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s table seating, and you can order food. We used to take the whole family when everyone was younger because the tickets are cheaper, and it makes for a nice night out with everyone. Corey and I went there several months ago to see Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus, both of which were quite enjoyable.

“You can learn a lot about people from the stories they tell, but you can also know them from the way they sing along, whether they like the windows up or down, if they live by the map or by the world, if they feel the pull of the ocean.” ~ David Levithan, from Every Day

So let’s see . . . what else?

Seem to be getting congested again, no idea as to why, though. The leftover pneumonia cough, which hadn’t completely disappeared, is also deepening. All of this is happening because I’m still having problems with my health insurance. Over the phone when I check things with the automated system the computer voice confirms that my account is up to date; however, when I go online, it still says that my coverage ended in October. The main problem is that because of this ongoing snafu, I cannot get my medication refills. The medication has nothing to do with my congestion except that I know that not being on all my meds weakens my system overall.

Waterfall at Kilt Rock, Scotland CC
Waterfall at Kilt Rock, Scotland
(photographer unknown; cc)

Hate this.

Other than that, temperatures by mid-week are supposed to be in the 60’s, because they were just in the 20’s, and these temperature shifts wreak havoc on my sinuses. I think that I could do winter fairly well if it were more consistent, not this abrupt cold/warm/freezing/snow/warm/rain that is inherent in this area.

Anyway, I’m hoping to give the dogs baths on the warmer days and maybe—dare I say—go for a walk?

More later. Peace.

(All images of Scotland are licensed under creative commons. Felt like a highland/old ruins kind of day.)

Music by A Boy and His Kite, “Cover Your Tracks”

                   

Late Echo

Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.

Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.

~ John Ashbery

“What better occupation, really, than to spend the evening at the fireside with a book, with the wind beating on the windows and the lamp burning bright. Haven’t you ever happened to come across in a book some vague notion that you’ve had, some obscure idea that returns from afar and that seems to express completely your most subtle feelings?” ~ Gustave Flaubert

Not feeling great. Cold and lazy and completely uninspired. I should probably be in bed reading a book.

Instead of a post, I’m offering up NASA images that appeared on my tumblr dash today:

NASA on Tumblr, http://n-a-s-a.tumblr.com/

“Yesterday I had conviction; it has gone today.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from diary entry dated 2 November 1929


                   

Friday Leftovers . . .

I made a major mistake today: I took Brett and Em to Jerry’s for school art supplies this afternoon and failed to pay attention to the clock. Stupid, stupid, me. Rush hour on a Friday with snow makes for a perilous combination in my part of the world. We just spent almost and hour and 45 minutes trying to get home from Providence Road, something that normally takes 20 minutes or so. This area is insane when it snows. At least Tillie and I might get some good snow time in tomorrow.

1013131000.jpg
Hampton Roads Gridlock
Photo via pilotonline.com

I need a hot toddy.

P. S. Happy Birthday, Virginia Woolf.

Music by Lotte Kestner, “Falling Snow”

                   

Driving to Town Late to Mail a Letter

It is a cold and snowy night. The main street is deserted.
The only things moving are swirls of snow.
As I lift the mailbox door, I feel its cold iron.
There is a privacy I love in this snowy night.
Driving around, I will waste more time.

~ Robert Bly