“Games give you a chance to excel, and if you’re playing in good company you don’t even mind if you lose because you had the enjoyment of the company during the course of the game.” ~ Gary Gygax

 

Finally, the true meaning of sportsmanship and fair play. If this doesn’t put a smile on your face, then you should go live in a box.

“I do believe in an everyday sort of magic—the inexplicable connectedness we sometimes experience with places, people, works of art and the like; the eerie appropriateness of moments of synchronicity; the whispered voice, the hidden presence, when we think we’re alone.” ~ Charles de Lint

Layers of the Mind by R. MeredithArt of Neuroscience Competition 2012
Layers of the Mind by R. Meredith
Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012

                   

“Sometimes it is the smallest thing that saves us: the weather growing cold, a child’s smile, and a cup of excellent coffee.” ~ Jonathan Carroll

Wednesday early evening. Sunny and mild, 59 degrees.

I must admit that I was shocked to receive the notice from the WordPress people that my blog is five years old. I really had no idea. That first year, my posting was erratic, with a total of  only 135 posts, with just two in that first February of 2008. By the end of the year I was posting almost regularly and beginning to hit my stride. In fact, I’m not even ashamed of most of that first year’s posts, which is saying something.

AON O Brock Rockefeller Christmas Tree
Rockefeller Christmas Tree by O. Brock
Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012

Blogging was a new beast for me, and I only got into it because of a professor who gave us the assignment to create a website of some sort for his class. It was a very open-ended assignment, and several people in the class opted for WordPress blogs. Not being familiar with WordPress, I went the difficult route of purchasing a domain name and paying for hosting. I remember those initial attempts at coding my own site not at all fondly. It was painful, and the end result was . . . pitiful.

After noticing the WordPress address in other people’s assignments, I finally got a clue and moved to a platform that did the coding for me, provided me with options for layouts and widgets and all of that good stuff, and I have had no desire to move since. It’s a good fit for me: ridiculously easy at the best price of all—free. I am forever thankful that there are people out there who like to code and even more, who like to share that coding with those of us who can’t.

“Make voyages. Attempt them. There’s nothing else.” ~ Tennessee Williams from Camino Real

So when I began this blog, what did I hope for, what did I expect? I don’t know. I remember being excited beyond belief the first time that someone actually commented on a post. This is wonderful, I thought. Someone out there found me and read me. How cool is that? And then when that stats counter went past 100 hits, I wanted to break out the champagne. One hundred hits! One hundred!

They like me. They really like me, a la Sally Field.

AON R Meredith Neurospectrum
Neurospectrum by R. Meredith
Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012

Okay, then I came back to earth when I realized that people were getting that many hits in one minute, when I saw that there were people with hits in the millions. Ooh, blog envy. It’s not a pretty thing, and that first year I was filled to the brim with envy. Why couldn’t I glam onto a phenomenon like Mudflats, or some such thing, and be propelled into the blog elite? I know, I know. Petty.

Really though, I guess what I wanted was to be able to say anything that I wanted, without fear of repercussion or ridicule, and I wanted people to read me, and okay, I wanted them to like me. It mattered, that whole liking thing. But then something quite unexpected happened: I began to enjoy myself. I found other people to read. I realized that I wasn’t such a strange bird, after all, and I began to care less about being liked and more about having something to say.

Year two (2009) saw me finding a groove, deciding on a format that incorporated quotes and images and trying to have an underlying theme with each post. And then when I began tumblr in June of 2010, I think everything kind of clicked: Here was the companion to my writing blog, a source for quotes and images to complement my words.

“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else.” ~ Nikos Kazantzakis, from Zorba the Greek

And, well, here I am five years later. And here are some of the things that I have learned along the way:

  • People can be very supportive, surprisingly so.
  • Politics is very polarizing, and even on a personal blog such as mine, haters can be relentless in trying to make you see how very wrong you are about X or Y.

    AON CPJ de Kock Neon River
    Neon River by C. P. J. de Kock
    Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012
  • You can either ignore or engage haters, but be prepared for backlash.
  • If you are going to write about your life for all to see, you have to be mindful of the privacy of the other people in your life.
  • Not everyone has signed on to make an appearance in your blog, so don’t be surprised if they get upset when they do.
  • Cyber-stalking can be very disconcerting, regardless of how lame it might seem.
  • The best way to get readers is to be a reader.
  • The Golden Rule applies in blogs: If you don’t want people to steal your content, make sure you are just as judicious in attributing other people’s words and images. When in doubt, don’t use it.
  • Cite formal sources, or at least provide links to them.
  • Spam. Get used to it.

“What the river was showing her now was that she could flow beyond the brokenness, redeem herself, and fuse once more.” ~ Ursula Hegi, from Stones from the River

Blogging has been a lifeline for me in so many ways, helping to keep me sane (somewhat), and grounding me, giving me that tether to the outside world, especially now that I am less in the world than I used to be. A few observations:

  • In such an unreal setting, I have made some very real connections, and I have met people through this blog with whom I would love to share a cup of coffee and some cake.
  • As the world has become more connected via cyberspace, we have become less connected physically, depending upon computers, tables, and phones to do what we used to do face-to-face.

    AON M Baratella Neuronal Universe
    Neuronal Universe by M. Baratella
    Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012
  • I recognize that this shift is actually good for some people, particularly those who stay close to home, for whatever reason.
  • There are people out there who I may never ever meet who actually care about my well-being.
  • Grief is a subject to which people can relate; this astounds me because the first time I thought about writing about my ongoing battle with grief, I really wondered if to do so was such a good idea.
  • Dogs always make for good copy.
  • There are still some subjects that I cannot quite bring myself to broach. You may find this surprising.
  • I will occasionally self-censor.

“May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.” ~ Edward Abbey

The other aspect that I want to address is that of the act of writing itself. I know that I go on and on about not finishing my novel, about not having an agent, about not being a real writer (whatever that is) . . . and all of this is yet another prime example of how I don’t believe in myself enough, how I am my own worst enemy. With that in mind, I thought I’d force myself to do a bit of analysis:

  • I spend at least two hours on each real post, i.e., not the Jon Stewart Videos or reposts from other people. Two hours.
  • My posts average 1500 words.
  • Inevitably, I learn something new with each post, whether it is discovering a new artist, or coming upon a new place, or even reading a new quote by someone I had not heard of before.

    AON S Hoyng Organised Chaos
    Organised Chaos by S. Hoyng
    Art of Neuroscience Competition 2012
  • For me, each post poses a tacit agreement with my audience: I will do my best to impart some kind of information, and with any luck, that information will touch you in some way, either making you laugh, or making you pause, or making you want to read more.
  • I take great care in ensuring that my writing is grammatically correct because these words reflect me. If I cannot be careful with language, then what is the point?
  • Even though it may seem like it sometimes, I don’t believe that there is any such thing as a throw-away post; even if I’m just posting an image, I try to make that image reflect my state of mind.
  • The blog is about choices, from the very small (what color to use for the headers) to the very big (what to use for my title), and in between, (does this image reflect what I’m thinking?)
  • Good, bad, or indifferent, I put myself out here, over and over again, and I don’t regret it a bit.

By the way, this is post 1200. Thanks for sticking with me through the years. Thank you for commenting, for sending me e-mails and cards, for enabling my chocolate addiction. Thank you for five years. I wonder if there will be five more.

More later. Peace.

(All images are from the 2012 Art of Neuroscience Competition, sponsored by the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience)

Music by Andrew Belle, “In My Veins”

                   

Sometimes, I Am Startled out of Myself,

like this morning, when the wild geese came squawking,
flapping their rusty hinges, and something about their trek
across the sky made me think about my life, the places
of brokenness, the places of sorrow, the places where grief
has strung me out to dry. And then the geese come calling,
the leader falling back when tired, another taking her place.
Hope is borne on wings. Look at the trees. They turn to gold
for a brief while, then lose it all each November.
Through the cold months, they stand, take the worst
weather has to offer. And still, they put out shy green leaves
come April, come May. The geese glide over the cornfields,
land on the pond with its sedges and reeds.
You do not have to be wise. Even a goose knows how to find
shelter, where the corn still lies in the stubble and dried stalks.
All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.
They stitch up the sky, and it is whole again.

~ Barbara Crooker

“It’s right to praise the random, | the tiny god of probability that brought us here” ~ Jacqueline Berger, from “Why I’m Here”

Equilibrio by Amjad Rasmi
Equilibrio by Amjad Rasmi

                   

Two for Tuesday: Jacqueline Berger

The Failure of Language

First day of class, I ask the students, by way
of introduction, what they believe:
Language is our best tool, or language fails
to express what we know and feel.
We go around the room.
Almost everyone sides with failure.
Is it because they’re young,
still find it hard to say what they mean?
Or are they romantics, holding music and art, the body,
anything wordless as the best way in?
I think about the poet helping his wife to die,
calling his heart helpless as crushed birds
and the soles of her feet the voices of children
calling in the lemon grove, because the tool
must sometimes be bent to work.

Sitting next to my friend in her hospital bed,
she tells me she’s not going to make it,
doesn’t think she wants to,
all year running from the deep she’s now drowning in.
I change the flowers in the vase,
rub cream into her hands and feet.
When I lean down to kiss her goodbye,
I whisper I love you, words that maybe
have lost their meaning, being asked to stand
for so many unspoken particulars.

The sky when I walk to the parking lot
this last weekend of summer
is an opal, the heat pinkening above the trees
which dusk turns the color of ash.

Everything we love fails, I didn’t tell my students,
if by fails we mean ends or changes,
if by love we mean what sustains us.
Language is what honors the vanishing.
Or is language what slows the leaving?
Or does it only deepen what we know of loss?

My students believe it’s important
to get the words right.
Once said, they can never be retrieved.
It takes years to learn to be awkward.
At their age, each word must be carefully chosen
to communicate the yes, but also leave room
for the not really, just kidding, a gateway car
with the engine running.

Inside us, constellations,
bit thread knotted into night’s black drape.
There are no right words,
if by right we mean perfect,
if by perfect we mean able to save us.

Four of us pack up our friend’s apartment.
Suddenly she can’t live unassisted.
I remember this glass, part of a set
I bought her years ago
when she became for a time a scotch drinker.
I bought it for its weight, something
solid to hold, and for the way an inch or two
of amber would look against its etched walls.
I wrap it in newspaper and add it to the box marked Kitchen.

It’s my friend herself who is fragile.
When I take her out to eat, each step is work.
The restaurant is loud and bright.
She wants to know if she looks normal.
I make my words soft. Fine,
which might be the most useless word in English,
everything is going to be fine.

                   

The Routine after Forty

Because my mother doesn’t ask questions,
not the way I would, grilling the oncologist
until she ripped a corner off the examining-table paper
and drew it out, I don’t really understand
what it means to have the markers for cancer.
But later in the week, the technician
giving me a mammogram is surprisingly clear
when I ask her, and reassuring. Everyone’s body
produces cancer cells all the time,
she tells me. She’s blond and ample,
looks like someone who could fix
a leaky sink, then make a pie
to take to a party. But we slough off
the irregular cells, catching early
whatever bad is pitched our way.
Listening to her, I love my body,
its diligence, the work I know nothing about.
Markers in the blood show the body no longer able
to do this. I’ve shed my paper jacket,
the one handed to me so I would feel less naked
as my breasts lay on the glass plate
like fish on ice. When the jacket slipped,
I let it fall, so now I’m standing here
topless with a little sticker like a pasty
on each nipple, a reference point for the radiologist.
The technician and I have passed the formality
of modesty. Bad things bombard us daily
but for years we are stronger than what will kill us.
You can get dressed now
she tells me, but what I want
is to put my head in her lap,
have her stroke my hair while I tell her
how much I will miss my mother
when she is gone.
The markers of grief,
because my body will accommodate
the vast loneliness of my life without my mother.
My head in the technician’s lap,
her fingers lacing my hair,
tell me again about how hard the body tries,
how most of the time it wins.

                   

Music by Gravenhurst, “The Diver”

Happy Anniversary to Me . . .

Today is my fifth anniversary with WordPress, which I never would have known had they not sent me a notification with a spiffy little logo:

So good on me!

 

“All we do is pass through here, the best way we can.” ~ Barbara Crooker, from “Sometimes, I Am Startled Out of Myself”

Edvard Munch Winter, Kragero 1912 oil on canvas
“Winter, Kragero” (1912, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

                   

“I have a deeply hidden and inarticulate desire for something beyond the daily life.” ~ Virgina Woolf

Saturday evening. Drizzle and cold, 45 degrees.

Not feeling that much better, but feel the need to write. I’ve turned down the brightness on my monitor to 50 percent, and at first I thought that might be bad for my eyes, but then I realized what a ridiculous concern that was as my eyes are terrible anyway, and at least the glare from the screen wasn’t so painful.

Ivan Shishkin City Roofs in Winter nd
“City Roofs in Winter” (nd, medium unknown)
by Ivan Shishkin

Today I awoke with a headache again, but very, very dizzy as well. Yesterday I had Corey give me one of those wonderful new self-injections of Sumavel (sumatriptan). Let me pause here: that wonderful air forced delivery method? Jay-zus it hurts, much, much worse than a needle. Give me a needle any day. The first time we did my thigh. Yesterday we used my belly for the injection site, which didn’t hurt quite as much, probably because there is more fat on my belly than on my thigh. Anyway, the headache went away, but the nausea and dizziness . . . egads.

I don’t know if I can do this new regimen, but I’m willing to give everything a bit longer for my personal test period. I have an appointment in about a month for Botox injections for my migraines. I guess I’ll know by then if this new combination of meds is or isn’t working.

“I didn’t know what to do, there was a feeling of time running out and a loss of momentum, of opportunities wasted.” ~ Jon McGregor, from If Nobody Speaks of Remarkable Things

Last night I had very strange dreams. In one of them, I was at a department store buying Christmas presents. First I was in the music section, and I was looking for classical cds, only there were still albums on the shelf, you know, vinyl, and I was very confused. Then I wanted to go to the shoe department, but I ended up in the jewelry, and I found all of these great buys on watches. I was picking out watches with different face shapes and different colored bands, but when the associate wrung up my purchase, it came to over $6,000, and I knew that I didn’t have that much in the bank. So I asked what had cost so much, and she said that she charged me $34.95 for each watch, but I told her they were only $9.95 and $13.95, and there was no way I had bought enough to hit six thousand.

Gustave Caillebotte View of Roofs paren snow effect paren or Roofs under Snow 1878 oil on canvas
“View of Roofs (Snow Effect) or Roofs under Snow” (1878, oil on canvas)
by Gustave Caillebotte

Very strange. And then it turned into a Walking Dead dream, and there was a cave, and some kind of sea creature like the Creature from the Black Lagoon and two turtles, and a character from the Harry Potter stories.

Is it any wonder that I awaken with headaches each morning? My brain does not rest during sleep; rather, it appears to go into some kind of overdrive, warp speed of thoughts and ideas, if you will. So greeting the day with pain seems to be the price I pay for a very active, but strange, dream state, and even though I would rather not wake up with pain, I also know that I really don’t want to have boring dreams.

“Y. That perfect letter. The wishbone, fork in the road, empty wineglass. The question we ask over and over.” ~ Marjorie Celona, from “Y”

So thanks for hanging in during this latest bout of maladies. I’m still trying to keep the content lively and relevant. You would be amazed what pops up when you enter such a generic search term as headaches in Google images.

Arkhip Kuindzhi, Roofs Winter 1876
“Roofs. Winter” (1876, medium unknown)
by Arkhip Kuindzhi

I heard from Titirangi Storyteller that she cannot watch the Hulu videos that I post, which are usually my selections from “The Daily Show.” Does anyone know if Hulu has country restrictions? It never occurred to me that the ability to stream a video might be geographically limited, which just reflects my ignorance about these things. In my mind, everything, I mean absolutely everything is connected and interconnected now so that we can all call up the same information, have the same access to things, can link and unlink to our hearts’ collective desires, but I guess not so much.

That being said, I still don’t understand why, with the being that is the world wide web, some parts work everywhere and still others only work somewhere. Obviously, I do not have a technical mind and cannot begin to understand concepts such as coding, applications, and such, and why, when I give it any thought at all, I am so impressed by those individuals for whom such oblique ideas in my way of thinking are as easy as the two column in the times table in their way of thinking.

And perhaps the previous paragraph would best be left alone to suffer its convolution quietly.

“I have days of illuminations and fevers. I have days when the music in my head stops. Then I mend socks, prune trees, can fruits, polish furniture. But while I am doing this I feel I am not living.” ~ Anaïs Nin, from The Diary of Anaïs Nin, Vol. 1: 1931-1934

I had so many ideas on what I should write about today, but none of them are here at the moment. Could be they are repressed behind my squinty eyes, my half-hearted attempts to block out the whiteness of the page on which I am composing. I will not use the word creating as I don’t believe that I am being very creative here at the moment, merely composing, moving from one word to the next in an attempt to get to the full stop.

Mstislav Dobuzhinsky Kaunas Houses at Daukanto Street 1931
“Kaunas Houses at Kaukanto Street” (1931, medium unknown)
by Mstislav Dobuzhinsky

All of which is to say that I fear that I do not have much to say, or perhaps I have something to say but do not currently have the wherewithal with which to say it, and all of this reminds me of this terrible phase I went through in the 8th grade in which I composed these tortured missives that began with the following: “If today were tomorrow yesterday, then tomorrow today will be yesterday, and . . .” and I would follow it with any manner of nonsense and then, very pleased with myself, I would force Bobby (one of my male friends) to read these bizarre creations, and because he was nice and he tolerated me, he would read them or at least pretend to read them, perhaps raise his eyebrows, and only occasionally tell me how weird I was.

And I suppose what I’m getting at here is saying thank you for not mentioning very often how very weird I can be.

“Her mind was like a wound exposed to dry in the air.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Voyage Out

And the sad thing is, really, that I would just like to sit in bed and eat some Ben and Jerry’s as my eyes aren’t working well enough to start a new book, and I’m craving chocolate, specifically in ice cream form, preferably something with caramel, chocolate, pecans, and maybe peanut butter, but I’m not going to give in to that craving, and before you think I’m being admirable, I will admit that I am not going to give in to that craving only because last night I gave in to my chocolate craving and ate a big box of Raisinets that Corey had put in my Christmas stocking and which I had hid for just such an eventuality. I ate the entire box, and I didn’t give in to my desire to turn over the box and look at the calorie content because that might have prevented me from eating the entire box, and I had already decided that an entire box was called for, especially in light of the week that I have had, and by god I was going to eat it all.

Francis Picabia Roofs of Paris oil on canvas 1900
“Roofs of Paris” (1900, oil on canvas)
by Francis Picabia

And why, oh why, does my list of suggested related posts contain three about being pregnant and having headaches? Un-pregnant women have cravings, too, you know.

Perhaps I should go back to posting videos and reposts from tumblr, eh?

(Don’t know why, but all images are of rooftops in winter.)

More later. Peace.

Music by Muse, “Madness”

                   

More and More

More and more frequently the edges
of me dissolve and I become
a wish to assimilate the world, including
you, if possible through the skin
like a cool plant’s tricks with oxygen
and live by a harmless green burning.

I would not consume
you or ever
finish, you would still be there
surrounding me, complete
as the air.

Unfortunately I don’t have leaves.
Instead I have eyes
and teeth and other non-green
things which rule out osmosis.
So be careful, I mean it,
I give you fair warning:

This kind of hunger draws
everything into its own
space; nor can we
talk it all over, have a calm
rational discussion.

There is no reason for this, only
a starved dog’s logic about bones.

~ Margaret Atwood

I have no idea as to the origin of this character or picture. I was looking on the interwebs for some kind of image that would tell the story of this week-old migraine. She looks appropriately gnarly . . .

headache