Ruby inside looking out after discovering how to get inside the house
Freddy posing: The only dog who will sit still long enough for a picture
Nuzzling Napoleon in the bright sunshine
Max grazing in the pasture
Ruby looking inside the front door
“there were times when I could believe we were the children of stars and our words were made of the same dust that flames in space, times when I could feel in the lightness of breath the weight of a whole day come to rest.” ~ Mark Strand, from “For Jessica, My Daughter”
Saturday afternoon, sunny and warm, 69 degrees.
Too nice to concentrate on my words today, so I’m offering some new pictures of the animals.
Everyone was outside in the bright sunshine as Corey did more work on the pasture fence. We’re trying to let Max and Ruby wander around like the dogs, and so far, they stay close; although, they are just as mischievous as the puppies: Ruby jumped inside Corey’s truck, but I couldn’t get a good picture of that particular moment; then both goats figured out how to get inside the front door because, yep, that’s what goats do.
Ruby made a beeline for the horses’ apple treats, which I had to snatch before she inhaled them. Max has a hard time with the treats because they are too big, and he has a jaw problem.
Man, how do I always end up with animals with too much personality, animals who don’t know they’re animals? I wouldn’t have it any other way.
More later. Peace.
Music by John Denver, “Today” (I cannot begin to tell you what this song means to me)
The red sun rises
and shines the same on all of us.
We play like children under the sun.
One day, our ashes will scatter— …………………………………….it doesn’t matter when.
Now the sun finds our innermost hearts, …………………………………….fills us with oblivion
intense as the forest, winter and sea.
Napoleon and Sassy at the front door begging for treats
A tired Tink at the end of the walk
In the woods north of the apple house
Three dogs and a cat: afternoon naps
Nature is over taking the apple house
Freddy waiting on the path for me
“I have started to dream profusely day and night. The blood is circulating again. I write in my head.” ~ Anaïs Nin, from Mirages: The Unexpurgated Diary; 1939-1947
Sunday afternoon, partly cloudy, 54 degrees.
Last night was a real bugger. The dogs wanted to go out frequently; it seems like it was every five minutes. Around 7 a.m., I took half a sleeping pill and tried to get a few hours. This afternoon, I’m zombie-fied.
Let me back up. Last night, Corey came home with a breeding pair of miniature Nubian goats. We’ve been talking about starting with the goat thing, and yesterday afternoon, he was really at loose ends, so I told him to go buy some goats. Problem solved.
When he got home, we had some pretty strange reactions from the various animals: Sassy the horse began snorting, tossing her head and generally acting unhappy. She’s never done that before; I wonder if she has some antipathy towards goats. All of the dogs wanted to see what was in the truck, and when they were put in the house, Maddy scratched at the door and whined like mad to get out. During the night, Bailey kept wanting to go outside, and when I opened the door, she would immediately turn left and head down the side yard. I didn’t follow her, but I assumed that she was going towards the chicken run, which is where Corey had put the goats last night so that they would be safe. Then Bailey would come back inside and whine at me.
Over and over and over. So annoying, and I was very not amused. And then I realized that I was mindlessly looking out the window and only to see the very dense dark that surrounds the property at night fade as dawn began to appear. (It is lovely, however, that from the side living room windows we can watch the sun set over the ridge, and from the side window of the spare bedroom we can see the sun rise.)
I was not greeting the dawn on purpose as anyone who knows me can attest that morning and I are not on the best of terms. I am even less amused today as my head feels like it’s in a vise, and my hands hurt like crazy (I’m currently out of my eggshell membrane).
“Even when I sleep I dream I can’t sleep and I’m standing there looking down at them, the night pouring from my hands.” ~ Emily Berry, from “Arlene and Esme”
Today Corey has the goats out in the yard, both of them on long leads so that they don’t bolt. The end of the yard before the dropoff was apparently a goat pasture as there is still a small goat shed down there. Unfortunately, that’s one part of the yard in which the fence hasn’t been repaired, so we cannot put them there as of yet, hence the leads. I am ambivalent about that far pasture, though. I mean, what about bears and coyotes?
I know. That whole worrying thing.
Apparently, the guy from whom Corey bought the goats kept them on long leads and moved them around his property each day. It’s not an ideal solution, but I suppose that it will work for us temporarily. However, the goats need to have room to move freely, preferably in areas that are overgrown.
As soon as I saw the pair last night I immediately named the female Daisy, but I haven’t figured out who the male is yet. Daisy is quite gentle with a very pretty face, which might be an odd thing to say about a goat. She is black with sable markings. The male is mostly white with black markings and a pair of beautiful horns.
The only thing about goats that I don’t like are their pupils: horizontal. Weird and kind of freaky. I probably feel that way because too many horror movies use goat imagery for demons, and that’s stuck in my head somehow. But Daisy is the farthest thing from demonic looking, and she is very sweet-natured. I still have to work on the male.
“It’s good to fall asleep here. I lie on my back and don’t know if I’m asleep or awake. Some books I’ve read pass by like old sailing ships on their way to the Bermuda triangle to vanish without trace . . .” ~ Tomas Tranströmer, from “How the Late Autumn Night Novel Begins”
Yesterday was Eamonn’s birthday. I sent him a text, which was much harder than it needed to be. The phone situation around here is no better, and frankly, I’m at my wit’s end over it. I need to call some doctors and pharmacies, and I simply cannot get a freaking signal that will last more than 15 seconds, which is why I didn’t even attempt to call Eamonn and chose to text instead.
I realized later in the afternoon that yesterday was probably at the annual St. Patrick’s Day parade in Norfolk, something that Eamonn, Alexis, and their father have traditionally made a point to attend. I’ve never been to the parade, nor have I wanted to—too much noise and way too many drunk people on a Saturday morning.
I plan to write Eamonn later today to see how his birthday went and if he did anything besides the parade. It goes without saying (so I’ll say it) that I really miss seeing him, especially on his birthday, something I would have normally made him a special meal for, at the very least.
“I can still see the dark blur at the edges. I don’t sleep anymore, my head is full of this insomniac light.” ~ Emily Berry, from “Arlene and Esme”
At the moment, the house is quiet as most of the dogs are outside with Corey. Tink is the only one inside, and she’s deep into her afternoon nap. She has gotten too big to sleep in my lap while I type, but that didn’t stop her from trying to do so yesterday afternoon. Neither of us were comfortable, so I moved her to the couch, and she immediately fell back to sleep. She’s really grown so much since we first got her, and Freddy has really grown. We’re certain that he will end up being our largest dog, but he’s still a little scaredy-cat over pretty much everything, and he doesn’t realize that he isn’t small any more. At least he isn’t afraid of towels any more.
Anyway, I’m enjoying the quiet, but I’m chilly. We’re trying not to build any more fires, but the last few nights have been quite chilly. I always get cold when I’m not feeling great, and at the moment my legs, my fingers, and my nose are cold. The legs I can cover, but what do you do about a cold nose when you’re sitting in the house? And as for the fingers? I mean, I can’t really put on gloves and hope to type with any accuracy.
I have no plans to go for a walk today; I just don’t have the energy or the inclination. It’s already going on 3:30. It took a bit to find today’s poem and song, so I’m already behind before I even start. I don’t think that I’ve ever posted anything by this particular poet or performer before, so that’s new.
The only good news is that I think that I’ll be able to post the pictures that I took the other day. When I sat Corey down yesterday to help me with the problem I was having with importing, I showed him what I had been trying to do, and of course the first time that I tried, I was able to import a photo without any problems.
I really hate it when he gets that told-you-so, smug grin on his face . . .
“It was that sort of sleep in which you wake every hour and think to yourself that you have not been sleeping at all; you can remember dreams that are like reflections, daytime thinking slightly warped.” ~ Kim Stanley Robinson, from Icehenge
I realize that this post isn’t incredibly engaging or revelatory (you wouldn’t believe how many times I just misspelled that word, and for the life of me couldn’t figure out why: relevatory is not a word, dumbass). Blame the brain fog and the cold nose and fingers.
I was tempted to skip posting entirely, but if I did that, then there would be the recriminations and regrets and general bashing of my otherwise solid self-image, and we wouldn’t want that, huh?
So let’s see . . . goats, insomnia, spelling errors, cold body parts, dogs, kids . . . Anything else? The daffodils are blooming. Hooray. Exciting podcasts? More of “Case Files” (out of Australia) and “Root of Evil” (the Hodel/Black Dahlia legacy). YouTube videos? Not really. Skincare discoveries? No? Well, damn. Boring as usual.
More later. Peace.
Music by WILLN’T, “Four O’clock in the Morning”
How many winter mornings waking wrongly
at three or four
my mind the only luminosity
in the darkened house . . .
my wife richly breathes
her eyes turned deeply in
I am alert at once
and think of the cat
coasting on its muscles
from closet shelf to bureau
grave and all-seeing
caring not at all.
The face…..the faces
empty-handed and with tenderness
hoping the hourly day might melt and flow.
One could reach out,
there might be a daily salvation
Out the windows slowly
a dull light is covering the
world without end:
snow patches and mud ruts,
the neighbor warming up
The world refuses
or to be blessed.
“I’m like that. Either I forget right away or I never forget.” ~ Samuel Beckett, from Waiting for Godot
Sunday afternoon, sunny and warmer, 64 degrees.
Another wretched night. I kept waking up and then being unable to get back to sleep. The time change always messes with me. I like getting that extra hour in the fall, but losing the hour in the spring throws me off balance, and trying to get the animals back on schedule is a pain. Benjamin Franklin originally came up with the concept of daylight savings time in a letter toJournal de Paris, on April 26, 1784 as a proposal to have more natural light in the home, but the idea wasn’t adopted in many countries until WWI and after as a way to conserve energy. But do we still need it? Is it really effective?
Who knows . . . certainly not I.
Yesterday evening, I was sitting here when I suddenly felt like someone was staring at me. I looked up, and Napoleon was at the door, just standing there, waiting for a treat. I love that horse. Unfortunately, because of all of the rain, his coat is developing bald spots. I have wished more than once that we lived in a community that still did barn raisings. Remember that beautiful scene in the movie Witness, with Harrison Ford, in which all of the Amish men raise a barn in one day? Yep. Like that.
We need a barn, a shelter for the horses, and then we’ll need a goat shed, or a combination building, and we need a shelter for the spring box that feeds water to the house. Each time that we have a deluge, the water becomes discolored because the box needs a major cleaning. The cover is a huge cement block that would take several people to put back in place; we don’t have several people, and as a result, the rain seeps into the box, and we have brackish water for a few days. We still aren’t drinking the water, but we are using it for showers and laundry, which means sometimes . . . ick.
“Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently …………we have had our difficulties and there are many things ………………………………………..I want to ask you. I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again, ……….years later, in the chlorinated pool. …………………..I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have ……….these luxuries.” ~ Richard Silken, from “Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”
I’m listening to another old playlist today, songs I haven’t listened to for quite a while. Corey and I had a song from years ago, Fisher’s [correction: the title is “I Will Love You”] “You.” Neither the song nor the group were that well known, and I came upon it by accident (pre YouTube); it’s such an incredibly beautiful song, and it popped up a few minutes ago. I was immediately taken back to that Sunday afternoon so many years ago when we danced to our song in front of our families and friends. We didn’t spend a lot of money on our wedding as no one had a lot of money, but it was everything that we wanted. Truthfully, I don’t understand the whole idea of spending hundred of thousands of dollars, or even millions. Who is the pageantry for?
And then, how long do those expensive unions last? We were talking the other day about how not a single couple we knew when we got married was still together. How do some people endure while others move away without a seeming backward thought? I really don’t think that it has anything to do with morality or anything like that; more, that it goes back to the reasons you come together in the first place. There has to be something more to the spark than sex. But as I have already had one failed marriage, regardless of how long we were together, I suppose that I am not really the best person to ponder this.
I truly don’t know; and I think that the reasons that my parents stayed together, mostly finances and habit, belong to another generation. I don’t know what makes people come together, fall apart, never speak to one another again, or stay for the duration. I just don’t know.
“People always talk about how hard it can be to remember things – where they left their keys, or the name of an acquaintance – but no one ever talks about how much effort we put into forgetting. I am exhausted from the effort to forget… There are things that have to be forgotten if you want to go on living.” ~ Stephen Carpenter, from Killer
But getting back to music: If only I had realized weeks ago that listening to old songs would jump-start my writing . . .
The idiotic thing is that music has always been a source of inspiration for me, but I suppose as with most things in the past two or three years, I had forgotten that particular fact. I have this memory of watching some show on CMT many years ago in which it was the top 50 country love songs. Corey was at sea, when he was still on the tug boat, and I sat there and cried and cried, simply because the songs were so beautiful, but Corey wasn’t with me to hear them .
I never used to listen to country music, that is, not until I heard someone sing “Amazed” at the karaoke bar that I used to go to, once upon a time. I had never heard that song before, and as this was before you could find anything at the touch of a keystroke on the internet, I had to ask around to find the song again. It’s a song by Lonestar, but it’s in the perfect key for my voice, so I found the song and practiced and practiced until I felt that I could do it justice. I used to do that with songs, mostly so that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself at karaoke, which, I suppose, defeats the whole purpose of getting drunk and singing karaoke.
Anyway, after Corey and I got together, he introduced me to more country music, and eventually, the line between country and pop became so blurred that it really didn’t matter any more what category a song fell into; consider, Taylor Swift began as a country singer, and now look at her, not that I’m a big Swift fan, as I’m not. Just an example.
“I’m looking to cleanse regret. I want to give you a balm for lesions, give you evening primrose, milk thistle, turmeric, borage” ~ Lory Bedikian, from “Apology to the Body”
I say anyway, a lot, don’t I?
So the point was: music, any kind of music—it’s always been a big part of my life and a key to my creativity. Before country, it was soundtracks especially that got to me, the soundtrack from Legends of the Fall, the one from The Piano, but especially, the one from The English Patient. That music stirred something deep within me. And there is still one particular composition that always, always makes me misty-eyed: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” Mari introduced me to that one. If you don’t know it, I’ll include it below, but you’ve probably heard it at some point during a crucial death scene in a movie or show. I know that I’ve posted this one before, but once is never enough for this one
Another vivid memory: Driving through the cemetery in the afternoons after my morning classes at ODU, listening to David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream” over and over. The cemetery was my sanctuary after I lost Caitlin, especially that first November. It’s full of maple trees, and they formed an amazing golden and red canopy over the narrow lanes between plots. And at the very back of the cemetery, against the very edge, were several old, individual mausoleums. They were beautiful in their stark loneliness, and once I hit that part of the cemetery, I would turn the car stereo almost all of the way up, and then the weeping would overcome me, and I would have to pull over and wait.
“And so it was. So it was that one by one I picked them up, remembered them, kissed them good-bye, and tore them to pieces. Some were reluctant to be destroyed, calling in pitiful voices from the misty depths of those vast places where we loved in weird half-dreams, the echoes of their pleas lost in the shadowed darkness” ~ John Fante, from The Road to Los Angeles
When we first buried Caitlin at Forest Lawn, there were no trees in the infant plot, and it was so freaking barren that just looking at it broke my heart, so the next year, our family pooled money and bought four Yoshino cherries, and then the next year, we bought two more. The people in charge of the cemetery told me that our gesture actually created the memorial tree program, so at least there was that.
It occurs to me that the cherry trees everywhere are coming into bloom now. Corey planted a weeping cherry in the yard at Benjamin, but I think that the weather was just too hot for it to thrive.
As I come to the end of this post, I realize that there exists one particular song for each and every significant even in my life, far too many to list all of them now, but here are just a few that come immediately to mind:
Elton John’s “Your Song” (junior year), Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road (senior year), Janis Ian’s “Seventeen” (second year of college), Robbin Thompson’s “Sweet Virginia Breeze” (graduate school), “Mandolin Rain” (after Caitlin), “Unchained Melody” (Eamonn), Joan Osborne’s “St. Theresa” (Alexis), Bryan Adam’s “I Do it for You” (Brett), Tracy Chapman’s “Promise” (the Museum), Annie Lennox’s “Why?” (after Paul), Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” (surviving teaching 8th grade public school), Meredith Brook’s “Bitch” (karaoke), Melissa Etheridge’s “Sleep” (Dillard’s), Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply” (the first time I met Alana), Sugarland’s “Make Me Believe” (Corey, only one of many), and finally, because this list could go on interminably, Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You,” which is my anthem.
Enough for now. More later. Peace.
Music by Samuel Barber, “Adagio for Strings” (Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin)
Meridian, Last Night
Last night, I dreamt I went to Meridian again, and
in the dream, a slight dark girl darts from the side
of the house, arms waving, waving while a woman
inside resists the building’s collapse on its own
emptiness. The house is still standing and in ruin.
As it always was. As always.
Of these things on earth I know:
I cannot return. There is no time,
even now, that was golden above another.
Every epoch has its trials. We are human.
We are failing. We are always falling down.
The past was always more menace than I’d imagined;
the past is both retribution and reward
now that it has been endured.
And it is right that we stand in its ruin,
among all this longing and decay.
“I am tired like the ancients were tired.” ~ Natalie Lyalin, from “Your Brain is Yours”
Saturday afternoon, overcast and warmer, 57 degrees.
So last night was pure hell. Earlier in the evening, Corey spotted a dog that was not ours beneath the swing-set on the side of the house, and then we heard a bunch of howling. He went to investigate, and at the top of the driveway, and he saw several strange dogs roaming around, apparently chasing something.
Anyway, this went on for hours during the night, and each time that the pack would start barking and yelping, Maddy would sit up and begin to bark. It’s really hard to sleep through all that noise. We both had the hardest time getting back to sleep, and consequently, I ended up dreaming that I couldn’t sleep, which is incredibly tiring. I had very strange dreams involving my mother—who has been in my dreams repeatedly lately—a dessert, a gay couple, and Olivia’s toys.
You know the theory that your dreams are your brain’s method of sifting through the day’s detritus? Well apparently my brain was overflowing with many a non sequitur, that is if indeed my dreams are any kind of barometer of such things.
“Let me begin again as a speck of dust caught in the night winds sweeping out to sea. Let me begin this time knowing the world is salt water and dark clouds, the world is grinding and sighing all night, and dawn comes slowly, and changes nothing.” ~ Philip Levine, from “Let Me Begin Again”
Corey has taken all of the dogs for a long walk to the big pond, which leaves the house blissfully quiet, except for my music and the hum of the washing machine. Ever since the first time he took them there, they now head for it anytime he leaves the house; I think that they’re looking for him, but when they don’t find him, they come back. I shouldn’t worry, but I know that there are coyotes here, and the puppies are still puppies, after all.
I know. I know. I worry too much.
When we left the house on Benjamin, I really looked forward to having a house that wasn’t inherently dusty, which that one was; however, as I knew nothing about the soot that wood stoves produce, I was unprepared for the layers and layers of dust that inhabit this house. I suppose as with the mud, I just need to wait for warmer temperatures when the stove isn’t heating the house, and then I can sweep away the dust and cobwebs and start anew.
Of course, I say that now, but who knows how I’ll feel when it is actually spring, and as Corey reminded me this morning, spring is less than two weeks away. My inability to track time seems to be getting worse the older that I get. I’ve always seemed to skip over November and February, but this feels worse, somehow. Don’t ask me how as I truly don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I’m looking forward to warmer temperatures too much that I feel as if once again I’m setting myself up for failure; I mean, I have so many projects that I want to finish. Will I just retreat further inside and get nothing at all accomplished?
Who knows? Certainly not I.
“Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, spilling over its banks. All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That’s it. That’s my heart.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Kafka on the Shore
I wonder how other people do it—live their lives, I mean. I don’t remember a time in my life in which I was not living with my depression. It’s a way of life for me, so I truly wonder how people who do not suffer from this crippling disorder manage to make it through their days. I know that some have religion, and some have drugs, and some have money, but what about the rest of them? Are they floating through their lives as seemingly lost as I have always been?
I know that yesterday I mentioned those two incredibly talented people who I knew in high school, and how their lives turned out so differently than anyone ever thought they would or could. But I mean, come on. I know that there are people out there whose days are not filled with self-doubt. Are they sociopaths? Is that how they move through their days, blissfully unaware of pain and anguish? Or are they so completely satisfied with their lots in life that they just move forward and never look back?
How does it work? How does it work for people unlike me who feel everything too much, so much that eventually we become numb, closed off for protection or fear or both? I think again of concentration camp survivors, most of whom are now dead, but how did they get on with their lives after such unimaginable cruelty was visited upon them? How did they have enough strength and faith to raise families, have careers, kindle friendships? As opposed to their great suffering I feel like an ungrateful peon.
“. . . but as you know any amount of time is an uncertain one.” ~ Dalton Day (source uncertain)
Corey is back from his walk, and he managed to tire all of the dogs thoroughly. Tink came in, jumped on the couch and was immediately asleep. I envy dogs and cats their abilities to fall asleep so quickly. I don’t think that animals ever have insomnia, or at least, they don’t toss and turn all night thinking about bills and utilities and missteps and failures. It seems their dreams are filled with running and chasing and playing, as anyone who has ever watched a dog run in its sleep can attest.
Actually, I envy anyone who sleeps easily. Corey is only troubled occasionally with insomnia. My first husband could fall asleep easily. I know that in my youth I could sleep anywhere at any time. On a school trip to New York, I fell asleep at a Knicks’ game, which still amazes me. I have fond memories of curling up on Yvonne’s wing back chair, much like a cat, and falling fast asleep.
When each of my children were babies, I used to lay on the big hammock in my in-laws’ backyard with them, and we would sleep companionably under the shade until someone would wake us. I was never so at peace as the moments I spent with my babes in my arms, asleep, inviolable. Life was so different then, seemingly, but probably not. Whenever we look back, our memories are colored by whatever we wish to wash them wish. I’m not so much a fool that I don’t know that to be true.
“Time is not a solid, like wood, but a fluid, like water or the wind. It doesn’t come neatly cut into even-sized length, into decades and centuries. Nevertheless, for our purposes we have to pretend it does. The end of any history is a lie in which we all agree to conspire.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Robber Bride
There are memories that I can snatch at will, and then there are memories that I can only find the edges of, as if I know that something is there, but I can never quite uncloak it completely in order to take it out and examine it. I am reminded of Oriental puzzle boxes, with all of the false drawers and interlocking pieces; once taken apart, they are so hard to piece together properly, that is, until you find the secret. I think that memories are like that—that there is a secret to the ones stored deeply, and only when you come upon the answer are you allowed to touch them again.
I once thought that I would never forget the way that Caitlin smelled or how soft the skin was on her chubby arms, but I was wrong. I can remember neither. I can only remember the memory of what that was like, but I cannot recall the exact smell or the incredible velvet of her skin. Yet there have been times over the years in which something from some unknown place has assailed my senses, and I am once again in that hospital room, holding her close and inhaling deeply the very essence of her in order to imprint it upon my very cells, the core of my being.
The recall of such memories is both a boon and a curse. I want them more than anything, but once they come upon me, the pain is so acute that I want nothing more than to feel nothing again. And the truly sad part—in my mind—is that I find myself doing that now with memories of each of my children, no longer just Caitlin: the early spring afternoon Alexis and I lay in the hammock in my back yard, and she fell asleep in my arms even though she was six; the time that Eamonn asked me so earnestly when he could tell Corey that he loved him; the many, many times that Brett and I lay in my big bed and watched movies together when no one else was home.
It’s all a deep soul pain t hat never abates, mingled with a spark of contentment that can never be replaced.
Pure love. Irreparable loss.
The heart would have it all again, regardless.
More later. Peace.
Music by Rosie Golan, “Been a Long Day”
End of Winter
Over the still world, a bird calls
waking solitary among black boughs.
You wanted to be born; I let you be born.
When has my grief ever gotten
in the way of your pleasure?
into the dark and light at the same time
eager for sensation
as though you were some new thing, wanting
to express yourselves
all brilliance, all vivacity
this would cost you anything,
never imagining the sound of my voice
as anything but part of you—
you won’t hear it in the other world,
not clearly again,
not in birdcall or human cry,
not the clear sound, only
in all sound that means good-bye, good-bye—
the one continuous line
that binds us to each other.
The two poems that I’ve chosen for today are both about communicating with fathers. The first, by W. S. Merwin, I used to teach in my literature classes. I always loved this poem because of its deliberate lack of punctuation, which leaves it open to be read in different ways. For example, if Merwin had punctuated the first few lines as follows—My friend says, “I was not a good son, you understand?” I say, “yes, I understand”—then it could be read that the friend is commenting on his own relationship with his father. However, if you read it with the word that omitted, as most people do in speech, then it would be as follows: My friend says [that] I was not a good son—an accusation against the speaker.
My students used to enjoy playing around with this particular poem; I always felt that it was a perfect example of how poetry can be open-ended, meaning dependent upon what we as individuals bring to the text. Either way, though, the poem is about regret.
The second selection is from a longer poem from I poet who I only found recently. The speaker in this one is female, but as soon as I read it, I was reminded of the Merwin poem, which I had to hunt for because I couldn’t remember the title. In this poem as well I sense a great deal of regret for things unspoken on both sides. This one really reminded me of my father, just as the Merwin one used to remind me of the relationship that I had with my father while he was still alive.
Regret can kill you.
More later. Peace.
Note: I didn’t realize until after posting that I had already used this Merwin poem in a previous post, but as I love it so much, I decided not to change it; I just hope that I didn’t make the same comments . . .
My friend says I was not a good son
I say yes I understand
he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know
even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes
he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father
he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me
oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me
oh yes I say
but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
just because I’m here
I say nothing
he says my father
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you
I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do
~ W. S. Merwin
“father. you always call to say nothing in particular. you
ask what i’m doing or where i am and when the silence
stretches like a lifetime between us i scramble to find
questions to keep the conversation going. what i long to say most is.
i understand this world broke you. it has been so hard on your feet.
i don’t blame you for not knowing how to remain soft with me. sometimes i stay up thinking
of all the places you are hurting which you’ll never care to mention. i come from the same aching blood. from the same bone so desperate for attention i collapse in on myself. i am your daughter. i know the small talk is the only way you know how to tell me you love me. cause it is the only way i know how to tell you.”
~ Rupi Kaur, from “The Hurting,” in Milk and Honey
“I thought, possibly, that what I really needed was to go where nobody knew me and start over again, with none of my previous decisions, conversations, or expectations coming with me.” ~ Maggie Stiefvater, from Forever
Friday afternoon. Rainy again, 44 degrees.
It’s funny, but when I think about Norfolk, I still get a pang. I don’t miss the house, the nosy judgmental neighbors, or even the neighborhood. But I miss the things that happened there: the two Jack Russells who used to escape regularly, and the nice neighbors who would holler at us to let us know where they had gone; walking across the field in the afternoons to pick up the boys from the local elementary school; even mowing the yard on the lawn tractor that my dad bought me once upon a time. Those things are part of that life, that place.
My kids were raised in that small ranch house with one bathroom. Their friends all lived within a few miles. And now that house is gone. Who knows who will buy it and make all of the repairs that we never got around to making. It’s hard to take care of a house that you hate, which is how it came to be for us the last few years that we were still there. It was as if the house knew that there existed an antipathy and went out of its way to break down piece by piece.
We redid the bathroom a few years ago, from the studs up. We had plans to redo the kitchen and the hardwood floors, but that never happened, and in the end, we left it as a mess, things all over the backyard, a pool that had fish in it, a shed that had old tools in it, an attic that probably still had kids toys in it. It was like shedding a carapace and leaving it where it lay.
You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” ~ Azar Nafisi, from Reading Lolita in Tehran
It’s hard not to think of the things that neighbors must have thought about the way that we left things, but at the same time, there is no way that they could possibly understand the stress and pressure that we were under when we left. If they snooped, which I’m certain that some of them did, they would have seen the hole in the ceiling, the broken back door, the tools that lay in the yard, and their worst impressions would have been confirmed.
Listen, not all of our neighbors were assholes. The guy across the street helped Corey and me countless times, especially when Corey was at sea. He gave me a jump when my battery was dead, repaired things, helped when the yard was overgrown and my back wouldn’t let me mow. He was a great guy, and because he was always hurting for money, we always tried to pay him whenever he did anything. But he was a minority in that neighborhood. There used to be a really nice woman who lived on the other side across the street, but she died; her kids were always friendly, though. Still, I know that we didn’t make as much of an effort as we could have, but there was a history there that made it hard.
And the fact is that I really shouldn’t care any more about what any of them think or thought, but a part of me still does. I still feel as if that house is mine, even though it isn’t. I lived there for so long, and there are so many good memories from there, probably more good than bad. But there are painful memories from there, and it was definitely time to move away, and now here we are, living in a completely different kind of place, with a different pace of life, and different kinds of neighbors.
“I don’t know. You know the mind, how it comes on the scene again and makes tiny histories of things. And the imagination how it wants everything back one more time, how it detests all progress but its own . . . ” ~ Richard Hugo, from “Letter to Matthews from Barton Street Flats”
We had told ourselves that when we finally moved, that we were going to make a true effort to get to know our neighbors, and we have. Of course, it’s different here. Neighbors are curious as to who bought the ridge. They show up and ask questions, introduce themselves, offer to help. And of course, Dallas knows every last person, so there’s that as well.
When we were moving in, Corey was driving the box truck and I was driving the rental Ryder truck, which I was very proud of handling the entire seven-hour trip, but then I came down the driveway crooked and ended up driving the front part of the truck off the drive and getting it stuck. We were so worried about how much it would cost us to get someone to come out and unstick it. But instead, two of our neighbors spent hours helping Corey to get it free. I was simultaneously amazed and grateful. We didn’t even know these people, yet there they were, working their butts off for two people who they didn’t know from Adam’s off ox.
And since that day, Dallas has graded the driveway, made it straight and wider, so that coming down isn’t a problem. That’s what I mean about things being different here. No one asks you for anything, yet of course, there is the expectation that you will repay them in kind somehow when the need arises, and so we will. It was never like that in Norfolk. Perhaps the city was too big, the neighborhood too set in its ways. Who knows?
I seem to be asking that question quite a lot lately . . .
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” ~ Stephen Chobsky, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower
So the Chobsky quote above is probably the most fitting one that I could choose today. I am both happy and sad, but the difference is that I’m fairly certain as to why. I mean, aside from the fact that I’m still missing one of my antidepressants, and I still haven’t found a good neurologist, and I still don’t have a phone that works—other than those things . . .
But in honesty, those are relatively minor things—other than the pain, which, like it or not, I’m used to—what makes me sad is that in spite of the beauty and life that surrounds me, there is no water, and there are no children, grown or otherwise.The water? That’s just a part of me. I’m an Aquarius, and even though I’m not a strong swimmer, I have always loved water, in all forms. That, and I lived so very near the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean for most of my life that it’s odd not to smell the saltwater, or to see the violence of the waves during a storm.
And yet, to put that down here makes me feel so very ungrateful. I used to say that my ideal place to live would be on a mountaintop overlooking the ocean; the reality is that such a place would cost a fortune. But here, I have the mountaintop, the horses, the deer, the dogs. And god how I love it all. I truly do. I cannot imagine going back to where we were. So why can I not be satisfied?
“I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.” ~ Daniel Keyes, from Flowers for Algernon
Will I ever be satisfied? I really don’t know. I do know that I can be happy—happy for me. It may sound as if I’m trying to convince myself, but that’s really not the case. I have a lot to be happy about, a lot to be grateful for in this new life. The caveat, for me, is not said lightly. It’s too complicated, and yet maddeningly simple: I am just too aware of my chemical makeup the way that my brain and heart work. I can be absolutely ecstatic about how my life is going, and yet there will always be this still small voice within that doubts, doubts my worthiness to be happy.
How to explain to someone who has never met this voice? I don’t know if that is even possible. However, that state of being satisfied is not tied to my ability to be happy. Satisfaction, for me, is something entirely different, dependent upon reconciliation with my sons—in other words, I don’t believe that I can ever be completely satisfied until I am able to know that they are an active part of my life again, and since I don’t have any way of making that happen at this point, I just have to live with things as they are for now.
Look, that’s life. You know it, dear reader, and so do I. The basket will never be completely full of unbroken eggs. The day will never be without a cloud somewhere on the horizon. Yet there is always a horn-a-plenty if we but recognize it. What I’m trying to say is that life is complicated. I’m complicated. Every human is a mixture of good and bad, happy and sad; I’m no different, but I am trying very hard to be this person here, the one who is present in her life as it is. I may not be entirely succeeding, but at least I am aware, and for me, that is more than you can ever know.
More later. Peace.
Music by Adele, “Hello”
She Loved Mozart
There’s a sadness to it, of course, my becoming more
and more isolated from the world. I remember, years ago,
when I was living at the motel, there was this woman who
used to come and go, sometimes staying for months at a time.
Every so often I’d go over to her room, sit around, and talk with her.
The room would smell from clove cigarettes and dirty wash.
Over the lampshades pieces of clothing were draped, to bring
the light down to the most remarkable dimness. This light
never failed to charm and attract me, as a moth would be
attracted to a bright light (although, I suppose moths are
drawn to dim light also). Anyway, I find myself steadily
becoming increasingly like this woman, and it’s not always
the most comfortable realization. Although, I cannot say
that I am living with dirty wash. No, this I cannot admit to.
If anything, I’m fanatical about washing clothes. My
clothing has worn thin, not from my wearing it but from
the continuous washings. But, my god, like this woman
I’m letting the house go dark. She died at the motel, from cancer.
Some nights I’d see her crossing the parking lot, meager flesh
on her bones, and she’d knock on my door and she’d ask me
to play Mozart on my stereo set. She loved Mozart.
In her youth she had been a very promising violist, but
injury and shock from a fire had made her a ghost
of her old talent, her old self. I used to feed her also,
the miniscule amount she was capable of eating.
She loved sharing a thin sandwich as much as
she loved Mozart. I told her it takes
a lot of solitude to write a poem.
She told me it takes a lot of solitude
“You could rattle the stars . . . You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.” ~ Sarah J. Maas, from Throne of Glass
Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and 44 degrees.
Another cloudy day on the ridge. This morning, both Sassy and Napoleon were outside the pasture and the top of the driveway. I wonder where they thought they were going . . .
I’ve been doing some clean up on my blog, looking at drafts that I’ve put together with quotes and poems, and I noticed in my stats that I’ve published 1,859 posts. That’s a lot, isn’t it? Yes, some of those are just Friday leftovers and such, but for the most part, it’s all my writing crammed in between quotes and images, with the average word count being around 1800 words. If you deduct about 150 for the quotes and about 250 for the average length of poems, that still means that I’ve rambled on for about 1400 words.
I hadn’t realized that I was so verbose; actually, that’s just not true. I know that I’m verbose. All. The. Time. I remember when I had been into this blog for about half a year that I posted an explanation that my posts are actually blongs, or long blogs. It appears that not much has changed on that front—I’d be surprised if it had.
“Alive, it all returns to the mind, Unattainable now time has passed; Like a sharp sure dagger Its memory pierces my breast.” ~ Luis Cernuda, from “Native Land”
I’m trying to post every day, but obviously I’m not quite there yet. Part of me feels guilty sitting here for hours at this keyboard while there is still so much to do. I suppose that I’m resigned that there will be no Christmas decorations this year. It doesn’t happen if I don’t do it, and I truly don’t think that I can, at least not this year. I’ve never not had at least a tree. I remember one time in England that my mom put up one of those small silver trees on a table; they probably don’t make those any more. I still have wonderful memories of Christmas in London: Everything in the city was decorated and lit.
When I was a teenager, I kind of assumed the responsibility for buying a tree and decorating it, back when we still used live trees, until we found out that the tree was directly affecting my mom’s lungs, my lungs, and Brett’s lungs. Of all of us, Brett had the worst asthma; he would get so sick. It was artificial trees after that. But I’ve always tried to have a real wreath on the door so that there would at least be the smell of Christmas when you came to the door. This year, no wreath either. Le sigh.
It was always my responsibility, or rather, I always took on the responsibility for decorating the tree, the house, everything. In my old house, once upon a time I used to also do the outside lights, climbing the branches and wrapping the lights around each one, that is until the trees became too tall. I have always loved climbing trees, that is, until I couldn’t. Once Brett was older, he actually helped with the outside lights. I wonder if he misses that as much as I do.
“Listen: you are not yourself, you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who never lived, as strangers you never met. Rebecca Solnit, from The Faraway Nearby
Corey’s brother is supposed to be here tomorrow evening to go to an auction for some property near here. There’s a house (bigger than this one), garage and some outbuildings on the block; it all used to belong to Dallas’s sister. There’s also a stream that runs next to the property. Steve has been here a few times, and out of all of Corey’s family, he’s the one that seems to like it here the most. I was the one who had actually suggested to Corey that he tell Steve about the property. Ironically, it’s situated on the other side of the ridge from here, but that’s not how you get there unless you’re hiking.
I imagine that his brother is looking at it for an investment for now, but it would be nice if his family had access to it for visits. It’s less remote than here, so his father would feel more comfortable, I think. When we were first talking about buying this, we thought about maybe getting a trailer for visitors since there are only two bedrooms and one bath in this house; it’s perfect for the two of us, but a bit small for more than a few visitors.
I have no idea if Steve will actually bid on the property, but he’s coming to take a look at it and then plans to leave the next day. I’m trying not to stress over his visit, but that’s impossible for me. I always feel such a weight whenever anyone, I mean anyone visits. Even for a few hours. I suppose it comes from years and years of keeping an immaculate house, first at my mom’s and then later in my first house. And now that I don’t clean like that any more because of my back, I always feel as if I don’t want anyone to see my house.
Yes, I know. It’s weird.
“We re-enact the rituals, and our faces, like smoky icons in a certain light, seem to learn nothing but understand all.” ~ Tim Dlugos, from “Pretty Convincing”
Last night I had one of those dreams that stick with you: First, Corey and I were at Nags Head with the dogs, and I walked to the water’s edge to sea how cold it was. The dogs were standing in the surf, and Corey was a few feet out getting ready to throw the ball for Tillie. Then suddenly I was in the backyard of my mother’s house. There was a split tree running the entire length of the back fence, and there was a huge pile of sticks that I thought would have been good for kindling. I told myself to remember to tell Corey.
Then I was inside in my mother’s bedroom with Corey, and I knew that my mom was dead. We were still going through stuff in her closets. Then I heard my father coming down the hall with three of the Yorkies we had when I was younger. He was getting ready to go to his apartment and couldn’t take the dogs with him. (My dad never had an apartment.) But I saw him so clearly and talked to him, heard his voice, and part of me knew that he couldn’t be there if my mother wasn’t also there.
Then there was one more part in which I was in a candy store in Nags Head, and I was looking for a Chik-o-Stik, something I haven’t eaten since I was a kid. There was a man there who was slightly mentally challenged, and he was helping me to find the candy. But he was also upset with me because I had sold my mother’s house and now he had nowhere to live, and I was so upset that I wanted to cry. But I really wonder how that candy stick made its way into my consciousness . . .
I woke up wanting to write. That’s been happening with more frequency.
“Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the present by; the art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, from A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Now that I’m back here and back on tumblr, I’m finding all kinds of new poems that I haven’t read, and it’s stirring something in me. I read one yesterday that actually took my breath away because it was so freaking beautiful, and I thought to myself that it was something that I wished I had written.
I have to admit that I haven’t had that particular feeling in several years. I haven’t felt inspired, and I haven’t felt that I could actually create—sit down and write a real poem. I just don’t know how to describe this particular feeling well enough to relate it to you, dear reader.
It’s like for years there has been this dam in my brain, a thick wall keeping the words from forming and exiting. But not just the words—the actual feeling in my soul that there were particular words within me that I needed to put down on the page, that I needed to place and rearrange and take out and insert until there was something there that meant something, at least to me.
So now, maybe, perhaps, the dam is breaking? I really hope so because I have missed that ritual of creation, creating something beyond here but a companion to here, if that makes any sense. I have missed words, the magic of them, running them through my brain, rolling them on my tongue to see how they sound together. And when it works, it’s like music in my brain and in my soul.
Enough for now. More later. Peace.
Music by Lady Gaga, “Joanne” (forgive me if this is a repeat, but I really love this song)
He lets me listen, when he moves me,
Words are not like other words
He takes me, from under my arms
He plants me, in a distant cloud
And the black rain in my eyes
Falls in torrents, torrents
He carries me with him, he carries me
To an evening of perfumed balconies
And I am like a child in his hands
Like a feather carried by the wind
He carries for me seven moons in his hands
and a bundle of songs
He gives me sun, he gives me summer
and flocks of swallows
He tells me that I am his treasure
And that I am equal to thousands of stars
And that I am treasure, and that I am
more beautiful than he has seen of paintings
He tells me things that make me dizzy
that make me forget the dance and the steps
Words…which overturn my history
which make me a woman…in seconds
He builds castles of fantasies
which I live in…for seconds…
And I return…I return to my table
Nothing with me…
Nothing with me…except words