“Words carry oceans on their small backs.” ~ Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

Sunset on the New River by Jo Munday fcc
Sunset on the New River
by Jo Munday (FCC)


“What do you know about yourself? What are your stories? The ones you tell yourself, and the ones told by others . . . I suppose the truth is that we begin more than once; we begin many times. Over and over we start our own tales, compose our own stories, whether our lives are short or long. Until at last all our beginnings come down to just one end, and the tale of who we are is done.” ~ Cameron Dokey, from Before Midnight

Monday early evening. Partly cloudy, extremely humid and hot, 87 degrees.

Part of a comment in my spam folder: your broadcast offered shiny transparent idea. I like that: shiny, transparent idea. Probably the best compilation of words I’ve seen in days, and of course, not mine.

Stream, New River nukeit1 fcc
Stream Feeding the New River
by nukeit1 (FCC)

Spam comments are sometimes worth perusing, if only to find the nuggets above. I’m not making fun of the broken English comments. After all, if someone is speaking broken English, that means he or she speaks another language. How many of us English-speaking Americans can say the same?

Anyway, I don’t promise this will be a lucid post. I’m coming off my second night of insomnia. I have no idea as to what has caused this latest bout, but it’s a serious one. The dogs are snoring, Corey is snoring, I’m thinking about tile.

Let me explain: Corey has decided that we’re going ahead with the bathroom renovation in the next few days. I agree that it’s time. Unfortunately, as I’ve mentioned before, it has to be a total gut to see what water damage we have, which means tile, faucets, tub, sink/vanity, toilet, tile . . . The idea of doing this doesn’t scare me. What scares me is making sure we’ve budgeted for every possible scenario.

Too many numbers, measurements, and finishes are roiling about in my brain; hence, the inability to shut it off and go to sleep.

“The mind is constantly trying to figure out what page it’s on in the story of itself. Close the book. Burn the bookmark. End of story. Now the dancing begins.” ~ Ikko Narasaki

So at three in the morning I had a sudden realization that the tub we had agreed on wouldn’t work because it was a drop in without a skirt. Drop-in means we would have to build a supporting frame and create an attractive skirt. I kid you not, I got on the computer at 3 in the morning to research the difference between drop-in tubs and tubs that come with an apron or skirt.

Down by the New River by Jo Munday FCC
Down by the New River
by Jo Munday (FCC)

Then I realized that the original tile configuration I had come up with was going to be too expensive, so back to the pages and pages of tile choices. This is what happens when you have OCD—every detail becomes a challenge. If only I approached my writing with the same verve. No. I save that for tile.

In between the dashes to the computer, I would try to determine which medicine I could add to my nighttime meds that might induce sleep without putting me into a coma. Somewhere around 4:30 a.m. I drank a shot of Kahlua and cream. Whatever.

“Living with one’s passions amounts to living with one’s sufferings, which are the counterpoise, the corrective, the balance, and the price. When a man has learned—and not on paper—how to remain alone with his suffering, how to overcome his longing to flee, the illusion that others may share, then he has little left to learn.” ~ Albert Camus, from Notebooks, 1942-1951

Finally a made myself leave the computer, set a short playlist of soft music, and planted myself in bed. Perhaps sleep . . . no, not sleep as a particular song on playlist began to take my mind someplace I really didn’t want to go, back to my early 20’s, driving up a mountain road with friends in tow, going to New River. I think Dicky Betts was on the radio. I was never a Southern rock aficionado, but I had select favorites, especially the songs with girls’ names: “Amy,” “Melissa,” and “Allison.”

New River Gorge Bridge from Beneath by amanderson2 fcc
New River Gorge Bridge from Beneath
by amanderson2 (FCC)

The playlist I had selected was mostly bluegrass, and I remembered another time, with my ex, when we used to listen to a bluegrass program on the radio every Sunday night. The radio. A little clock radio with the added bonus of a cassette tape player. Big deal once upon a time.

Then it all came back, fast, an oncoming onslaught that I could not have predicted and that I could not temper with a different set of memories from a different point in time. I don’t speak highly of my ex, and there are reasons, but to deny that we had some magic once would just be unfair to both of us. Mostly the magic was in the early days when we were poor students surviving each month on less money than you can imagine.

Poverty makes you creative. You rely on friends, free things (like New River and the Cascades), and mix tapes as the soundtrack to your days. There were cookouts, big pots of stew, a bottle of wine that had to last two weeks.

“Something aches at the very core of me, something ancient and deep and stronger than words: the filament that joins each of us to the root of existence, that ancient thing unfurling and resisting and grappling, desperately for a foothold, a way to stay here, breathe, keep going.” ~ Lauren Oliver, Delirium

I have been poor a few different times in my life. It’s not a preferred state. And I know that it is easy to romanticize the past, to forget all of the horrible exchanges of bitter words and all of the resultant tears. Time allows those things to soften, and if you are really lucky, allows you to forget most of the bad. I’ve never been good at the forgetting thing.

But last night, or rather, early this morning, as I watched the room change from dark to light, as I listened to the birds, I remembered riding up a mountain in a really raggedy Toyota. I remember singing along to bluegrass and sipping cheap cold beer from a can.

Kaymoor Trail Stream, New River urbanwoodchuck fcc
Kaymoor Trail Stream, New River
by urbanwoodchuck (FCC)

I had everything in front of me, bad and good. The kids, the careers, the friends, and the lovers. Corey wasn’t anywhere near my orbit because he was too busy growing up in Ohio. All of the possibilities were still there. All of the dreams were still waiting to be dusted on the wind. All of the words had yet to leave my brain.

My writing back then was so maudlin, so juvenile . . . hearts, flowers, love. No depth. No strength. I hadn’t seen even half of what life would deal me; how could I possibly write about it?

“I need words that mean more than they mean, words not just with height and width, but depth and weight and, and other dimensions that I cannot even name.” ~ Lois McMaster Bujold

So while the world outside was moving minute by minute into the future, I was lost somewhere in the past, somewhere on a narrow mountain road, and life was like a juicy ripe peach, there for the taking. I’m fairly certain we were at the Narrows, New River.

Between the Rails jronaldlee FCC
Between the Rails
by jronaldlee (FCC)

The air was so clean that you could smell the green. The water that pooled around my bare feet was clear enough to see the pebbles on the bottom. Occasionally, the train passed by, a grey line among the green, a sound among the natural silence. Those were the days long before parasailers and kayakers and whitewater rafting groups. Fewer people, more nature. It was a good day. We stayed for hours until the sun began to set behind the mountain, and a chill crept into the air.

But this is why I was left so damned melancholy: I will never have those days again. I am closer to my last chapter than one written in my beginning. Yet I remember feeling everything so acutely, embracing life so completely, inhaling the very essence of the day.

Words are beginning to fail me now. I fear that I my writing is broaching on the clichéd. But for a few hours between dawn and daylight, I was there, and it was richer than anything I have glimpsed with my tired eyes in too long, and I fell asleep with a dull ache in my heart and a very tired soul.

More later. Peace.

All images are used under creative commons license.

Music by Mindy Smith and Matthew Perryman Jones, “Anymore of This”


The Heart Under Your Heart

New River Gorge Bridge at Fayette Station Gary Hartley
New River Gorge Bridge at Fayette Station
by Gary Hartley (creative commons)

Who gives his heart away too easily must have a heart
under his heart.
~ James Richardson

The heart under your heart
is not the one you share
so readily so full of pleasantry
& tenderness
it is a single blackberry
at the heart of a bramble
or else some larger fruit
heavy the size of a fist
it is full of things
you have never shared with me
broken engagements bruises
& baking dishes
the scars on top of scars
of sixteen thousand pinpricks
the melody you want so much to carry
& always fear black fear
or so I imagine you have never shown me
& how could I expect you to
I also have a heart beneath my heart
perhaps you have seen or guessed
it is a beach at night
where the waves lap & the wind hisses
over a bank of thin
translucent orange & yellow jingle shells
on the far side of the harbor
the lighthouse beacon
shivers across the black water
& someone stands there waiting

~ Craig Arnold


3 thoughts on ““Words carry oceans on their small backs.” ~ Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

  1. Bull shit on your writing being cliched. It’s not. That’s a wonderful story of your past. A story that brings up delicious visual images. I want more.

    What was that Sunday evening blue grass radio show called? Do you remember? I listened to that some. How I miss WHFS… Cerphe… I will carry that memory into the dark…

    Beyond caffeine, as in drinking it too late in the day, staying on the computer too late makes me have nights where I stay up half the night. Two things that help me are doing deep breathing – the in for 4, hold for 7, whoosh out for 8. I just do it 4 or 5 times. If that doesn’t work, then I do the tapping thing on the center bones of my face – between the eyebrow, on the nose, under the nose, on the chin – while telling myself that being anxious is okay, that it’s okay to be anxious, that I love and accept myself… Whatever. It seems to work.

    N. is leaving tomorrow (with her mother) for Son #2’s basic training graduation. Too expensive for me and I’m not a good traveler anymore. They are going to drive straight. I can’t do that. Some of N’s anxiety rubs off on me, so I’m looking forward to her sailing off on the adventure and leaving me to quiet and calm. Part of me feels disappointment. But, on the other hand, she’s the one who matters most to him, she’s who he wants to hold in his arms…

    Working along in my online class, I’m seeing due dates for Chapter 5 and the Unit 1 Tests due June 26th… although the list she gave us says Chapter 5, Unit 1 Test, and Chapter 6 were all due June 23rd. I finished Chapter 5 last Tuesday, and did the Unit 1 Test & Assessments yesterday, but sat down to start Chapter 6 and realized it was due yesterday, too. But, since she has a later due date on Chapter 5 & the Unit 1 stuff online, maybe I can finish it still and not have it be a zero. I got half of it done. There are 3 parts, there are 8 tutorials in a software program and I did those. There are 4 documents that you alter and upload through “Moodle” software to the teacher, and then there are 3 documents you alter and submit through the other software and it grades you right away. Only – they will be down all night for maintenance. I managed to do the 8 assessments and one document before it threw me off… The one document, though, I’ve submitted 5 times and this one heading is wrong. It gives an explanation of errors, but this one doesn’t make sense. Tomorrow I will just download the damn thing again and do it completely over and try that. Frustrating…

    So, although we had 4 weeks with only one chapter due per week, we are now jumping ahead and will have 2 – 4 chapters due per week. What fun!

    If the new health insurance stuff makes things MORE complicated than now, I’m really not looking forward to that. I’ve been trying to locate the cheapest way to get a MMR vaccine and the Hep. B shots I need for my program in the fall. Ha. I can call the insurance company and ask questions and they tell me all kinds of stuff – like I could go to Walgreen’s and get the Hep. B vaccine and if they file it under medical immunizations it will be covered 100%. Only, when calling Walgreen’s, they can’t give Hep. B vaccines. Shouldn’t my insurance company know that?

    My doctor’s office said to go get just the rubella portion of the MMR at the Health Dept. and that it would be free. But, the health dept. doesn’t have just the rubella portion, they have the whole MMR. And, it’s $57. They’ll gladly submit it to my insurance company (but said company says the deductible will apply because it’s out of network). They suggested calling all the in network doctor’s offices until I found one that had the Hep. B vaccine. I didn’t ask about the MMR shot because I figured I’d call my primary care doc back and see if they’d give me the whole MMR shot. But, they only have the pediatric type, which they could give me, but it won’t be covered by insurance and will cost $97. + $25. copay.

    Does this sound familiar?

    Immediate Care has the Hep. B vaccine, and waves the rest of the cost of the vaccine after you pay the $50. copay for each of the 3 visits. They are listed as being in-network for my policy… So, it looks like it is going to cost me $207. for the MMR + Hep. B vaccines.

    LOVE all the photos in your post. Also love your comment about approaching your writing with verve – but, no, you save that for tile. Such is life, the upside down clockwork of our crazy, jumbled lives…

    I hope you are asleep by now and will have a much better night tonight. I’m signing off (at midnight) to go, maybe finish, The Great Santini.

    1. That is so weird about the vaccines. Couldn’t you ask your pcp to order them to give you? Then they should be mostly covered.

      Ah yes, the joys of online assignment submission. I used to hate it when I was doing the publishing program and everyone wanted the assignments submitted through blackboard, but blackboard was finicky and would kick me out and do other weird things.

      It’s so hard to face that day when you realize that you are not the one person your child wants in his or her life the most. No one ever tells you just how much heartbreak is involved in parenting.

      I’ve never heard of the tapping your face thing. I got this immediate picture in my mind of doing that, and it made me laugh.I’d probably tap myself into a headache.

      Last night was a bit better, but the puppy’s internal alarm clock is killing me. I wanted a puppy . . . I wanted a puppy . . . I wanted a puppy.

      1. Blackboard, having been replaced by Moodle, both are a piece of cake compared to the SNAP program. The teacher has to grade anything she receives by Moodle, but some software program grades these SNAP submissions. If you don’t select a title by the preferred method (only figuring out what the preferred method is by trial and error) it counts it wrong. Ho hum. Plus, it was down all night and part of today. But, I’m caught up. Now 2 chapters by Sunday.

        My pcp is not the most organized or efficient office. I’m not sure what I would do to get them to do my bidding. The last time I was there they argued for 20 minutes (between themselves) over which symbol was greater than and which was lesser than.

        The tapping feels good to me. I don’t do it hard, or for more than a few minutes – maybe 5 at the most? You can do your collarbone, too. In the dark no one can see you do it!

        N. is in Alabama already, so about halfway. The thing is that she will be so tired that she might sleep through the graduation! Well, at least she is young. But, my first husband & I drove straight through to NC from SATX once – and pretty much slept through the reunion we came to attend. The pictures attest to it!

        The puppy will eventually adjust to your timing. All these cats have…

        Is it going to rain all week? We should have tried to grow mushrooms this year!

        Have a sleepful night!

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