“Its our actions that define us. What we choose. What we resist. What we’re willing to die for.” ~ Karen Marie Moning

John Singer Sargent Home Fields c1885 oil on canvas
“Home Fields” (c1885, oil on canvas)
by John Singer Sargent

                   

Two for Tuesday (on a Wednesday): The Past is Always Present

Apologies for switching things around, but I had these for yesterday but wrote instead, and today I don’t have enough time to write as I’m in pre-holiday panic mode. Enjoy.

John Koch Across the Park 1954 oil on canvas
“Across the Park” (1954, oil on canvas)
by John Koch

Spring Evening on Blind Mountain

I won’t drink wine tonight
I want to hear what is going on
not in my own head
but all around me.
I sit for hours
outside our house on Blind Mountain.
Below this scrap of yard
across the ragged old pasture,
two horses move
pulling grass into their mouths, tearing up
wildflowers by the roots.
They graze shoulder to shoulder.
Every night they lean together in sleep.
Up here, there is no one
for me to fail.
You are gone.
Our children are sleeping.
I don’t even have to write this down.

~ Louise Erdrich

                   

Georgia O'Keeffe Winter Tree III 1953 oil on canvas
“Winter Tree III” (1953, oil on canvas)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

The Testing-Tree

1
On my way home from school
up tribal Providence Hill
past the Academy ballpark
where I could never hope to play
I scuffed in the drainage ditch
among the sodden seethe of leaves
hunting for perfect stones
rolled out of glacial time
into my pitcher’s hand;
then sprinted lickety-
split on my magic Keds
from a crouching start,
scarcely touching the ground
with my flying skin
as I poured it on
for the prize of the mastery
over that stretch of road,
with no one no where to deny
when I flung myself down
that on the given course
I was the world’s fastest human.

2
Around the bend
that tried to loop me home
dawdling came natural
across a nettled field
riddled with rabbit-life
where the bees sank sugar-wells
in the trunks of the maples
and a stringy old lilac
more than two stories tall
blazing with mildew
remembered a door in the
long teeth of the woods.
All of it happened slow:
brushing the stickseed off,
wading through jewelweed
strangled by angel’s hair,
spotting the print of the deer
and the red fox’s scats.
Once I owned the key
to an umbrageous trail
thickened with mosses
where flickering presences
gave me right of passage
as I followed in the steps
of straight-backed Massassoit
soundlessly heel-and-toe
practicing my Indian walk.

3
Past the abandoned quarry
where the pale sun bobbed
in the sump of the granite,
past copperhead ledge,
where the ferns gave foothold,
I walked, deliberate,
on to the clearing,
with the stones in my pocket
changing to oracles
and my coiled ear tuned
to the slightest leaf-stir.
I had kept my appointment.
There I stood in the shadow,
at fifty measured paces,
of the inexhaustible oak,
tyrant and target,
Jehovah of acorns,
watchtower of the thunders,
that locked King Philip’s War
in its annulated core
under the cut of my name.
Father wherever you are
I have only three throws
bless my good right arm.

In the haze of afternoon,
while the air flowed saffron,
I played my game for keeps—
for love, for poetry,
and for eternal life—
after the trials of summer.

4
In the recurring dream
my mother stands
in her bridal gown
under the burning lilac,
with Bernard Shaw and Bertie
Russell kissing her hands;
the house behind her is in ruins;
she is wearing an owl’s face
and makes barking noises.
Her minatory finger points.
I pass through the cardboard doorway
askew in the field
and peer down a well
where an albino walrus huffs.
He has the gentlest eyes.
If the dirt keeps sifting in,
staining the water yellow,
why should I be blamed?
Never try to explain.
That single Model A
sputtering up the grade
unfurled a highway behind
where the tanks maneuver,
revolving their turrets.
In a murderous time
the heart breaks and breaks
and lives by breaking.
It is necessary to go
through dark and deeper dark
and not to turn.
I am looking for the trail.
Where is my testing-tree?
Give me back my stones!

~ Stanley Kunitz

“Our memory fragments don’t have any coherence until they’re imagined in words. Time is a property of language, of syntax, and tense.” ~ Siri Hustvedt, from The Sorrows of an American

Maximilien Luce 1896 oil on canvas Moonlight on Charleroi Canal
“Moonlight on Charleroi Canal” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Maximilien Luce

                   

“I don’t know what map I misread,
its roads now slipped into dust,
what cul-de-sacs and one-way streets
could have brought me to this,
my life driven as if through fog into a river.” ~ Judy Jordan, from “Fragments in February”

Tuesday afternoon. Rainy and cool, 50 degrees.

I think that my body is trying mightily hard to succumb to my annual fall cold, but I really don’t have time for that. This time last year I had a houseful of company, and I was heading for yet another case of pneumonia, but this year I made sure that I got a pneumonia vaccine along with my flu shot, so maybe . . . fingers crossed.

So, we’re back from our epic New Orleans trip, and I don’t even know where to begin, so how about if I just ramble a bit and see where it takes us? You good with that?

Emil Nolde Half Moon over the Sea 1945
“Half Moon over the Sea” (1945)
by Emil Nolde

Great.

So we finally made it past the boundaries of Hampton Roads last Monday around 8:30 a.m. (or so) after getting turned around almost immediately, this after a planned departure time of 6 a.m. (yes, I know, although we did pull out of the driveway before 7). We both thought that we knew where we were going, but apparently, not so much. Picked up the rental the evening before, and even that turned out to be a mess: We were supposed to get an Altima, but the guy at the counter said that the Altima was in bad shape, so he talked Corey into a Mustang convertible.

Okay, so at one point in my life the idea of traveling in a Mustang convertible would have been awesome, but the very thought of traveling for 16 hours in such a low-slung car made me uncomfortable, so another trade, and for only $10 more a day . . . ended up with a Mazda CX5 (I believe), which was pretty comfortable and great on gas; however, the upgrade pretty much negated all of the bargain shopping I had done online, along with the discount that I had found on one site. Oh well . . .

“The silence of landscape conceals vast presence. Place is not simply location. A place is a profound individuality. Its surface texture of grass and stone is blessed by rain, wind, and light. With complete attention, landscape celebrates the liturgy of the seasons, giving itself unreservedly to the passion of the goddess. The shape of a landscape is an ancient and silent form of consciousness.” ~ John O’Donohue, from “The Celtic Underworld as Resonance”

The drive wasn’t too bad as far as road conditions and weather, nothing like the great blizzard we drove through a few years ago, and we arrived in New Orleans around midnight (I think, it was kind of a blur). The good news is that our hotel was right in the French Quarter (Place d’Armes, definitely worthy of repeat visits), and they had upgraded us to a suite at no extra charge. We had a lovely balcony, and the ambiance was so nice, very old New Orleans. Parking, however, cost us $30 a night, so we made mental notes to try to find street parking for the second night, which we were actually able to do. Woo Hoo.

Konstantin Korovin Moonlit Night period Winter 1913 oil on canvas
“Moonlit Night. Winter” (1913, oil on canvas)
by Konstantin Korovin

So we got up early on Tuesday after only about six hours sleep and headed out to the first company that Corey wanted to visit. The website had stated that applications would be taken at both locations, but the New Orleans office directed us to their other headquarters, which was in Galliano. Our game plan had been to go to the NOL office first and then to Cut Off and then to Covington. That plan was changed immediately and we had to regroup and head to Galliano. Unfortunately, the first company seemed completely disinterested in him, which was a set back as this was his first choice.

Fortunately the second company on our list was just down the road from Galliano. This company was very interested in Corey, but the downside was that they weren’t hiring until February. The good news is that they are building a bunch of new boats/ships and have plans to hire 300 people in early 2014, so it looks very promising; however, by the time Corey finished speaking with the recruiter it was 3 p.m., and there was no way that we’d make it to Covington in time to speak with anyone before COB.

This meant a bit of a delay as we had planned to leave late morning Wednesday and possibly to stay somewhere on the route home. We had no idea how much of a delay it would turn out to be . . .

“On the door it says what to do to survive
But we were not born to survive
Only to live” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “The River of Bees”

Tuesday evening, back in New Orleans, we roamed around the French Quarter, spent some money, and had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant that wasn’t too pricey. Best crab cakes I’ve ever had—hands down. We had originally brought going out clothes with us, but neither of us had the energy to change, get gussied up, as it were. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter what you wear (we saw one guy in a Spiderman outfit, and another one in some kind of monster get-up with spikes—pictures to come).

Nicholas Roerich Spell period New Moon period 1938 tempera on canvas
“Spell. New Moon.” (1938, tempera on canvas)
by Nicholas Roerich

So we acted like tourists, drank libations as we meandered along the streets, bought souvenirs and a few Christmas presents, then headed back to our very comfortable room and slept the sleep of the very tired. On Wednesday morning we had breakfast at the famous outdoor Cafe du Monde (only two blocks from our hotel), home of the famous delectable beignets. I inhaled my portion and delighted in my very large cafe au lait. Then back to the hotel to check out and get back on the road to Covington and company number 3.

Now while Corey was doing all of these interviews, I was hanging out in the car, pirating wi fi and trying to do something to amuse myself, mostly tumblr and some lazy magazine browsing. Company number 3 turned out to be super interested in Corey and said they’d be in touch. We plotted our route home, found a nearby Sam’s Club, gassed up, and as we were pulling out of the parking lot, Corey got a call from #3 asking if he could come in and fill out paper work. Second big Woo Hoo.

Great news, but . . . he needed to do a drug test and physical, as well as an agility test, and none of that could be done until . . . wait for it . . . Thursday . . .

“Change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.” ~ John Steinbeck, from Sweet Thursday

So there really wasn’t a choice, was there? I called the rental company, added another day, and we regrouped, again. Fortunately #3 paid for our hotel and breakfast for Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Small woo hoo only because it was a regular hotel and not the très cool accommodations from which we had just decamped, but hey, free . . .

Eugene Fredrik Jansson Moonlight Night 1896 oil on canvas
“Moonlit Night” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Eugene Fredrik

Thursday morning on to clinic for physical. Three hours later (I really don’t know what they do that takes three hours, but Corey said it was a whole lot of waiting). Slight hiccup on his physical (nothing major), and then around the block to the physical agility place.

Finally at 3 p.m., we were done. Decided to go ahead and eat dinner then hit the road so that we could try to make up some time (hooray for 70 mph speed limits and radar dectectors). Found a little locals restaurant and finally had our genuine Po Boys, shrimp and oyster, respectively. Full stomachs, weary bodies and minds, we hit the road around 4:30.

Everything had happened so fast, and we had had so very little time between everything that I think we were both kind of shell-shocked by this point.

“I’m forging my note to the future, recording
all I know of this moment before
the moment completes itself” ~ Chris Forhan, from “The Taste of Wild Cherry”

Corey drove for a while. I took over in the middle of the night. We stopped in a rest stop somewhere and napped for an hour like about 20 other weary travelers and many, many truck drivers (did you know that Virginia doesn’t let you do this? Of course not.). Anyway, we pulled into our driveway a little after 10 a.m.

Milton Avery Harbor at Night 1932
“Harbor at Night” (1932, oil on canvas)
by Milton Avery

We’re both still processing everything. Corey has to go back in December for training, and we’re not sure how many weeks that will be, and there is a possibility that he’ll go straight from training onto a ship. So much to digest.

Brett and the dogs were very glad to have us home; the dogs had apparently pined away for us and had made Brett’s life miserable.  Corey immediately fell into bed, but I was too wired by then, so I unpacked and cleaned, hoping to exhaust myself, but that never really happened. The weekend was a total blur, and I feel that I am so far behind that I may never catch up.

“You must make decisions knowing those decisions make you.” ~ Rakishi, from “The son without his father”

Anyway, here is where we are: Corey has a job, but is still in denial, kind of that other shoe dropping thing, you know? He can’t help it as he’s been bitten in the butt more than once by supposed job offers. I keep telling him that this company is different—well established, big, good reputation, not like some of the companies he’s had to endure in the past. He won’t be on tugs, but off-shore supply vessels (OSV’s). He’s anxious at the idea of starting over, but the good news is that this recruiting guy really seemed to like him and was already mentioning Corey upgrading his qualifications.

Nicolas Tarkhoff Paris, Montparnasse at Night c1905
“Paris, Montparnasse at Night” (c1905, oil on canvas)
by Nicolas Tarkhoff

So it’s Thanksgiving week. My body aches all over, and I haven’t quite recovered from the five days of whirlwind activity. The house is trashed. I am totally unprepared for Thursday, and truthfully, it’s beginning to hit me that Corey may not be here for Christmas. So much is still up in the air, and the trip ended up costing us a small fortune, but it was so worth it. We had a really nice time together, got to experience another new place with each other, had some great food (as my stomach can attest), and it looks like we’re about to embark on a new path.

Hard not to be anxious, but trying to be calm. Anyway, that’s the quick and dirty version. Lots of little details in between that I may tackle later before they slip through the sieve that is my brain. Until then . . .

Peace.

Music by London Grammar, “Nightcall”

                   

No crying, calling out, complaining…

No crying, calling out, complaining,
This all will pass, like the green of gold,
Like the white smoke of apple blooms,
And I won’t be as young as I used to.

Already, your blood isn’t as quick as it was,
I tell my heart—and it’s getting colder.
White birch roots stitch the ruddy fields
And you’ve lost the urge to wander.

Lips and eyes, emotions:
Where are your fire and anger,
Where your floods?
All were fresh, now are errant, scattered.

My wants are sparer now, leaner,
Or maybe they were just a dream
—Like the moment morning flashes green—
And I charged past on my sorrel steed.

We’re all, all of us in this world soon to spoil.
Copper leaves are tumbling coyly from the maples . . .
World-weary drifter, be forever grateful
To have faded fast, in early petalfall.

~ Sergei Esenin, trans. James Stotts

“And a softness came from the starlight and filled me full to the bone.” ~ W. B. Yeats, from “The Wanderings of Oisin”

John Edward Bale, watercolor November-1874
“November” (1874, watercolor, found in an unpublished manuscript by Surgeon Major A. F. Elliot)
by John Edward Bale

                   

“…the desire for love, the one
that costs everything, that shocks you
when someone else casts a shadow on the map
of the earth for the first time larger than your own.” ~ Deborah Brown, from “Reprise

Got shots all over my head and back today. Feel like a very sore pin cushion. Sorry, no real words.

However, ran across some bits and bobs that struck me as particularly beautiful.

For example, this passage:

“I hear you putting on your night dress. But it doesn’t stop there by any means. Again there are a hundred little actions. I know you are hurrying; clearly it is all necessary. I understand: we watch the mute gestures of animals, amazed that they, who are supposed to have no soul, line up their actions from dawn to dusk. It is exactly the same. You have no awareness of the countless moves you make, above all those that seem necessary to you, and remain quite unimportant. But they loom widely into your life. I, as I wait, feel it by chance.Love is also apparent in feeling, marveling, enthusiastic, tender hearing and observing.” ~ Robert Musil, on his wife Minerva, as quoted in 1913 by Florian Illies.

and then this short poem:

For You

For you I undress down to the sheaths of my nerves.
I remove my jewelry and set it on the nightstand,
I unhook my ribs, spread my lungs flat on a chair.
I dissolve like a remedy in water, in wine.
I spill without staining, and leave without stirring the air.
I do it for love. For love, I disappear.

~ Kim Addonizio

More later. Peace.

Music by Scarlett O’Connor and Gunnar Scott, “Fade into You”