Yesterday’s post took more out of me than I had anticipated, so today, I’m falling back on one of my favorite kinds of posts. I don’t have too many in my collection yet, obviously, but I like these. Enjoy.
I will never not love “The West Wing,” and CJ most of all:
“The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “Gerontion”
Thursday evening, cloudy and cold, 41 degrees, warming temperatures.
Well, where do I begin this post? So far, I’ve kept it light, telling you a bit about our move, the mountains, the animals, but I haven’t touched on how we ended up here, which is a long and convoluted story, one that cannot be shared in its entirety because other people deserve their privacy, even if I put everything about myself down here. So let me go back, back to 2017.
Last year began one of the absolute worst times of my life, I mean, ranking right up there with the loss of Caitlin, the loss of my father, the loss of my mother. Emotionally, we began 2017 on what can only be described as a roller coaster in hell, and it only got much worse. I don’t mean to be cryptic, but I’m not going into specifics; I just wanted to set the mood a bit.
Suffice it to say that by the middle of the year, I had, not by my choice, officially—emotionally and somewhat physically—lost any contact with either of my sons, and contact with my daughter was fraught at best. Perhaps I should backup even more. If I’m going to tell some of this, I need to go back more, back to that time in which, for various reasons, younger son chose not to have much to do with me, and older son followed suit, more by accident than deliberation, I think.
Eldest son has always been independent, and he has been closer to his dad than to me since about the age of 13 or 14. His dad exited our lives when the boys were only 7 and 6 respectively, but he did his visitation regularly, always paid his support, so I’m not slamming him here, just stating facts. Anyway, eldest son has much in common with his father, some good and some bad, as we all tend to be, so I was not entirely surprised that once eldest moved out for good, I didn’t see or hear from him regularly, not that it didn’t wound me or that I didn’t miss him tremendously, just saying it wasn’t a surprise.
But separation from youngest son? That wounded me to my very core, and it is still a very fresh wound. I really don’t know if it will ever get easier or better.
“Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom. How do they learn it? They fall, and falling they’re given wings.” ~ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī
Youngest son is also my youngest child, so he was the one who was with me alone after the other two moved out. We did pretty much everything together, watched movies, exchanged books, went to poetry readings and thrift stores, and I always loved how close we were, but life happens, everyone grows up, and nothing stays the same. If that were all that it were, I could accept it. But that’s not it. For various reasons unrelated to me, he began to withdraw, which is not to say that there aren’t reasons related to me because there are. The problem is that I don’t understand a lot of those reasons. I can, however, pare it down to one particular devastating accusation though: He told me that I was abusive, emotionally abusive.
Okay. Well, then . . .
No. Not okay then. Not okay at all. Yes, there are all kinds of ways to be abusive, and god knows that there is an entire generation approaching life through triggerwarnings and needing safespaces, and no, I don’t really understand that either, but whatever. Look, he’s had social anxiety issues for most of his life, and who am I to criticize, hermit and agoraphobic that I am. But I tried many times to help and to get him help, not wanting him to end up like me; nevertheless, he began to deal with other more serious things as he got older, but I always approached him honestly and with all of the understanding that I had, and I always told him that I would love him no matter what, and I have. But apparently, I must have loved him abusively . . . is that even a thing?
I know that helicopter parenting can create a slew of problems, but I never saw myself as a helicopter parent. I tried hard to help when asked, comfort when needed, and to butt out when it warranted. I never said anything to anyone about having the wrong friends or the wrong boyfriends or girlfriends or significant others. I didn’t snoop, even when I really, really wanted to. And I promised myself that I would never break a promise and that I would always try to be truthful. The brutal truth for parents is that ultimately they must step back and watch their sons and daughters make mistakes, watch them fall, and although it is a painful thing to do, it must be done, but that doing is never easy. So what is it that I did, exactly?
I believed to my soul that I owed my kids all of that—truth, love, understanding, and yes, protection. But I never thought that I coddled them. My kids didn’t have everything that they wanted or asked for; they didn’t wear designer clothes; we had some lean Christmases, and we even lived without cable for years (shudder). But they had a solid roof over their head albeit a smaller one with old furniture, and they never went to bed hungry. They weren’t deprived, but neither were they spoiled rotten.
I’m not claiming to be blameless. Of course I’ve done things. All parents do, even when they don’t really mean to. I’m certain if you asked any of my offspring if I ever screwed up, that they could come at you with a list, and each of those lists would probably not contain that same things. What? I’m only human, after all. But this, this accusation, this statement, whatever it is? I just don’t understand it, and I really, really really want to understand it because the gulf just keeps widening, and as it does, my heart just keeps breaking.
Years ago, when I used to talk about moving to the mountains, I told youngest that he could come and build his own place wherever we went, and when I would daydream about that move, he was always a part of it. But now? He’s hundred of miles away, and the chances that he will ever move here and build his own place are completely non existent.
“Don’t you get tired of wanting to live forever?
Don’t you get tired of saying Onward?” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Circe/Mud Poems”
I know that I began this post talking about 2017 and how we actually ended up here in the mountains on 100+ acres, trying to live the dream, but it looks like I’m going to have to come back to that later because this has morphed into a post about parents and children, and loss and heartache and . . . yep, all of that and so much more.
Suffice it to say that the entire family on all sides went through emotional hell, and there are some wounds that may never heal. Corey and I have only very recently begun to allow ourselves to attempt to move on and get along with our lives, but all of that crap about resolution? Resolution is a gift, and some receive it, and others do not, and a great deal depends upon the individual, so you can rightly assume that I do not feel that resolution has been bestowed upon me.
But as for youngest son, I no longer contact him, and that is as he wishes, not as I wish. Does that mean that I don’t want to every hour of every single fricking day? Need I bother to answer? But again, it’s that thing of trying to respect your child’s wishes because that child is no longer a child, is no longer the unexpected miracle of your life, no longer the boon companion of years previous.
“And if you are not a bird, then beware of coming to rest above an abyss.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from unpublished fragments dating to June-July 1883
Look, it’s November, for me the time of bad anniversaries, and the holidays are upon us, and as usual, it’s the beginning of my annual dive into the depths of my personal abyss, so here I am. And even as I type these word, I wonder to myself will I actually post this? Will I really put this out there? And the answer is . . . I have no idea.
I came back to this forum recently for several different reasons:
The political climate and the state of our democracy made me want to rant, really, really rant.
The new location seemed to afford me a new beginning, so I wanted to talk about that and all that it encompasses.
But mostly, I missed it. Admittedly, I missed the small group of regular who always had something to say to me. But more than that, I missed me. I missed the me that sat down and just let the words flow like water from an open faucet. I missed the me that not only felt things deeply but who also shared those feelings. And mostly, I suppose, I missed the me that took great care in creating this personal space that was mine alone, mine to do with whatever I deemed worthy or appropros, regardless of who I offended or who I enraged, regardless of who I might alienate.
Honestly, I don’t want to alienate or offend anyone, but I refuse to self censor. Ever. What I will do, from this point on, is be more respectful of other’s privacy. That I will do, but that is my only concession. What is the point of having a personal blog that isn’t personal? Everything else just seems like time wasting, like gathering wool, as it were.
And so in beginning again, in returning to this forum, I feel, no, I need to talk about my own truths. I need to work through what I can with my words. If that is callous or heartless, then I apologize for that, but I won’t change the words, any more than I could change my inner core of being. The truth is that most people who create are patently self-absorbed. I am no different. So to the question of whether I will post this . . .
Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .
More later. Peace.
Music by Ben Abraham, “This is On Me,” featuring Sara Bareilles
Not the attendance of stones,
nor the applauding wind,
shall let you know
you have arrived,
nor the sea that celebrates
nor the mountains,
nor the dying cities.
Nothing will tell you
where you are.
Each moment is a place
you’ve never been.
You can walk
believing you cast
a light around you.
But how will you know?
The present is always dark.
Its maps are black,
rising from nothing,
in their slow ascent
their own voyage,
the bleak temperate
necessity of its completion.
As they rise into being
they are like breath.
And if they are studied at all
it is only to find,
too late, what you thought
were concerns of yours
do not exist.
Your house is not marked
on any of them,
nor are your friends,
waiting for you to appear,
nor are your enemies,
listing your faults.
Only you are there,
to what you will be,
and the black grass
is holding up the black stars.
“I know I have conquered nothing I have simply outgrown everything” ~ James Broughton, from “Aglow in Nowhere”
Wednesday afternoon. Party cloudy and cold with melting snow, 27 degrees.
So the house is quiet, just me, the dogs, and the (now) two cats. We acquired a new black girl cat with topaz eyes a few weeks ago. She took a few days to actually come to the door, another couple to come inside, and another few to let me touch her. Now, though, she has made herself quite at home, spending most afternoons curled up on an old flannel duvet cover in front of one of the heaters. Her name is Cleo because of the very exotic looking eyes.
Most certainly, she was someone’s pet as her coat is in good shape, but she was definitely too skinny when she arrived on our back porch, which probably means that she’s been missing for a bit. Around here, that doesn’t often mean much—no one has come looking for her that we know of; of course, they’d have to be very dedicated to make it up the mountain to look here.
We’ve seen so many seemingly stray animals since moving to the mountains—cats, dogs, horses, donkeys. I had read stories for years about how people just abandon animals on or near land in the country that looks occupied, thinking that surely the landowners will take in the stray, but that just doesn’t always happen.
This area is so different from the city. There are many people out of work, and there really isn’t work to be hand anywhere nearby, so families aren’t so eager to take on more responsibilities. That, and many of the animals that we’ve seen that do belong to someone just look underfed, not anything like our spoiled rotten crew with the shiny coats and rib cages hidden within well-fed bodies. I try not to judge, but it’s hard because I’m so damned judgmental. I want to take in all of the strays and feed them until they have bellies full, but I suppose baby steps for now.
My new motto.
“Eat, sleep, sleep, eat. Exist slowly, softly, like these trees, like a puddle of water, like the red bench in the streetcar.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from Nausea
So I said that I’d tell you more about the horses, and so I will, but it’s not a short tale. But first, an aside: I’m writing on my laptop, the one that Corey gave me several Christmases ago. It’s a lovely little thing, but I still miss my desktop with the wide screen and the very clicky keyboard. My fingernails keep catching on these close together keys. I know. I’m analog . . .
But I digress . . .
Horses. A few weeks after we finally moved here permanently after many fits and starts, Corey met a local guy, a neighbor a few miles down the road. His name is Dallas, and he’s a native, so native that he actually spent some of his youth in this house on this ridge. Fate is funny, huh?
Anyway, Dallas is as much of a character as you would imagine someone named Dallas would be, and the first time we met he offered me horses, puppies, and a stove. He’s one of those kinds of people: If he has something that you want or need, he’ll offer it to you. Well, so far, no puppy yet (promised), nor a stove as we didn’t really need one, but the four mares arrived a few days ago. It’s an arrangement that works for everyone: we have quite a bit of grazing pasture with nothing as yet to graze; his grazing land is getting sparse for the number of animals that he has. Apparently, I can expect to see at least two more, stallions this time, along with a selection of saddles.
I wouldn’t call Dallas a hoarder because he isn’t one, but he is a collector—not one saddle, but a dozen, not one dog, but 14. I think that’s what I like about him. I collect books, nail polish, and makeup; he collects pretty much everything else.
“The mountains have valleys and I have thoughts. They stretch out until fog and until no roads.” ~ Yehuda Amichai, from “Poems for a Woman”
The first time Dallas came to call, he arrived on a big John Deere tractor, which he then proceeded to use to clear a huge section of our land. Before this, Corey had been doing his best with a ride-on mower, which worked for some areas, but not the really overgrown ones. We had both been quite down about not purchasing our own tractor before we encountered the bounty of Dallas. When we left Norfolk, we had much less money in our account than we had hoped for, which meant that the purchases of a tractor, and a new washer and dryer were not going to materialize any time in the near (or possibly far) future.
Then in rode Dallas. And that first day he bushwhacked and mowed and whatever else you do on a tractor, and then he made Corey get on the tractor and spent the next few hours complaining that Corey wasn’t going fast enough, so Dallas kicked Corey off. Since that first day, the tractor and Dallas and Corey have been constant companions. Because of his eyes, Dallas isn’t supposed to be driving (operative phrase being supposed to), so Corey drives Dallas around and then gets introduced to all kinds of people, and in turn, Dallas comes over and clears the land, which had become horribly overgrown and impassable in places. There’s a lot of land, in case I hadn’t mentioned.
As for me? I sit around and watch and offer running commentary. Bailey still barks at Dallas like he’s a stranger, but Tillie loves him, so much so that she knocked him into the small pond while he was fishing. He thought that was hilarious, which immediately endeared him to me. Oh yeah, two ponds, one small and one much bigger, too.
“As life runs on, the road grows strange with faces new—and near the end, the milestones into headstones change, ‘neath every one a friend.” ~ James Russell Lowell
So that’s the story of the horses and Dallas. As for the puppies, he has a litter of five girls and one boy, of dubious heritage, but they definitely have some retriever in them, so I want one. The plan was always for me to get at least two more dogs once we got here. Initially, that was so that I wouldn’t be lonely when Corey went to sea, but it looks like
Corey may have become a permanent landlubber in favor of farming. I’m not really sure how I feel about that. It’s not that I want him to be gone; more, it’s that I’m afraid that he’ll regret not going some day.
I mean, he’s been over more than half the world and seen so many things, and I know that he really loved doing that. I also know that he was very proud of his accomplishments as a merchant marine, which he had every right to be. Being permanently landlocked, not seeing the ocean, any ocean or any sea again? I would miss that it if were me—in fact I do miss living near the Chesapeake bay and the Atlantic Ocean, but it’s not me. Only time will tell on that front, and there is much here to keep him occupied.
“Always, always you recede through the evenings toward the twilight erasing statues.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “Clenched Soul,” trans. W. S. Merwin
That’s a brief synopsis of the past few months here. Lots more details, but enough for now. I am making an efforts to go walking on the property as much as possible. The recent cold has put a temporary halt to that. And you’ll be happy to hear (or not so much, who knows?) that I no longer spend most days in my bedroom. It’s a smaller house, but I manage to frequent all of the rooms! Gasp! Yep, I know, small things . . .
Anyway, I’m not doing so much as far as getting out and about, but that’s actually not just my choice. The first time we left the house, we met Bailey on the driveway on the way home; the driveway is almost two miles long. She had pushed out the screen of the open bedroom window and apparently went searching for us. The second time we left the house we closed all of the windows. When we got inside, we saw that she had pulled off the molding on the bottom of the bedroom window and had somehow begun to dig through the masonry. She is a dog with serious abandonment issues.
I haven’t left the house without her since then, but it doesn’t make too much difference at the moment because she’s fine in the car, and I don’t go that many places anyway. Still kind of a hermit. I suppose we all have things to work on here, huh?
So that’s all for now. Even though I started this post in the afternoon, it’s now almost 6 p.m., time to feed the dogs and perhaps bathe the blogger. The evening skies have cleared, but the temps have dropped to 25 degrees. Time to publish my first real post with quotes, images, music, and a poem in what? Years? Well . . . it’s about time, no?
More later. Peace.
Music by Lorde, “Writer in the Dark” (so phenomenal to be so young)
I wept in a stable.
I found money in the dirt.
I reenacted a car accident in the tack room.
I asked a horse van driver to let me off where the bridle path stopped.
I looked at the jockey for what he was dreaming.
I told him he was wrong about making things happen.
He couldn’t make things happen.
I couldn’t make things happen anymore.
There is exactly not enough money in the world.
Magical thinking got me where I am today.
Animals are warriors of time.
I stopped keeping things hidden.
That wasn’t a horse we saw in the winner’s circle.
I can’t stop horses as much as you can’t stop horses.