“you can return to the scenes of a love, of a crime, of happiness, and of a fatal decision; the places are what remain, are what you can possess, are what is immortal. They become the tangible landscape of memory, the places that made you, and in some way you too become them. They are what you can possess and in the end what possesses you.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, from A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Emil Nolde Two Red Fish

“Two Red Fish” (nd)
by Emil Nolde


Two for Tuesday: Fate

Tuesday, early evening. Sunny, 50’s.

I’ve managed to pick up several new followers in the past few weeks, which made me comment to Corey that perhaps I should just leave this site alone and let it gather followers on its own . . . Anyway, welcome to all of the new people. I’m so glad that you’ve decided to visit. I hope I can find interesting things to offer you.

Well, I actually slept last night, real sleep, for the first time in five nights. Between the akathisia, the restless legs, and the switch-up on my meds, I’ve been a wreck.

I actually had some energy, so of course, I buzzed through the house cleaning everything I could before exhaustion took over. I just hate it when I sit in the rocking chair and see a layer of dust. Anyway, cleaner house, but still so much more to do, but as usual, I did too much my first day out of bed, so we’ll see how well I’m moving tomorrow. Pain sucks, can I just say?

Hope your Tuesday is going well.

More later. Peace.

Music by Other Lives, “Dust Bowl III”

                   

Emil Nolde Naked Woman and Red Flowers aka Semi-Nude 1938-1945

“Naked Woman and Red Flowers (semi-nude)(1938-45)
by Emil Nolde

Each Sound

Beginnings are brutal, like this accident
of stars colliding, mute explosions
of colorful gases, the mist and dust
that would become our bodies
hurling through black holes, rising,
muck ridden, from pits of tar and clay.
Back then it was easy to have teeth,
claw our way into the trees–it was
accepted, the monkeys loved us, sat
on their red asses clapping and laughing.
We’ve forgotten the luxury of dumbness,
how once we crouched naked on an outcrop
of rock, the moon huge and untouched
above us, speechless. Now we talk
about everything, incessantly,
our moans and grunts turned on a spit
into warm vowels and elegant consonants.
We say plethora, demitasse, ozone and love.
We think we know what each sound means.
There are times when something so joyous
or so horrible happens our only response
is an intake of breath, and then
we’re back at the truth of it,
that ball of life expanding
and exploding on impact, our heads,
our chests, filled with that first
unspeakable light.

~ Dorianne Laux

                   

Emil Nolde Saint in the Desert 1911

“Saint in the Desert” (1911)
by Emil NOlde

 

Pandora

September.
Second-year medical student.
An early patient interview
at the Massachusetts General Hospital
Routine hernia repair planned, not done.
Abdomen opened and closed.
Filled with disease, cancer.

The patient is fifty-six,
a workingman, Irish
I sit with him, notice
the St. Christopher medal
around his neck.
Can’t hurt, can it? he laughs.
I have become his friend.

I bring him a coloring book picture
that shows this thing, this unfamiliar
organ that melted beneath our hands
at dissection:
Pancreas.

Leaving his room, crying,
avoiding classmates,
I take the back stairs.
I find myself locked,
coatless in the courtyard outside.

~ Kelley Jean White

“Get used to the bear behind you.” ~ Werner Herzog, from 24 pieces of life advice

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Giulia Leonardi 1910

“Portrait of Guilia Leonardi” (1910)
by Ferdinand Hodler*


“I fear I will be ripped open and found unsightly.” ~ Anne Sexton, from A Self Portrait In Letters

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and chilly, 51 degrees.

Well, long time, no write, hmm?

Let’s see. Where were we? When last I posted, I was in the midst of a never ending migraine, one that wouldn’t abate with shots, meds, what have you. Finally, I went on an aggressive two-week regimen with upped doses of my pain meds, and it seemed to break, at least for a while. Good news on that front, yes, but don’t worry. Things continued to be interesting.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Berthe Jacques 1894 oil on canvas

“Portrait of Berthe Jacques” (1894, oil on canvas)

It seems I’ve developed akathisia from my seroquel, one of the meds I was on for sleep and anxiety. What is akathisia, you might ask? Well, it’s this wonderful condition in which you cannot stop your body from moving: tapping feet, rocking from side to side, and all kinds of variations. Mine appeared as an ability to keep my feet from moving while lying in bed at night, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I have no idea when it started, exactly, but it’s been going on for a while.

So at my last check-in with my prescribing psychiatrist, she noticed that I was fidgety. She asked me how long I had been that way. Who knows, I said. I’m quite anxious at the moment with everything that’s going on in my life. Could be that, I said. She gave me a look, suggested we switch up meds, try an extended release seroquel. Great.

Well that particular medicine landed me in bed, unable to wake up for more than a few hours. Not so good. I mentioned the fidgeting to my neurologist at that checkup. He gave me that look. Said, look I don’t want to worry you, but I want you to look up extra-pyramidal syndrome and akathisia.

So I did.

Crap.

“As for myself, I am splintered by great waves. I am coloured glass from a church window long since shattered. I find pieces of myself everywhere, and I cut myself handling them.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, from Lighthousekeeping

So ny prescribing psych and I agreed to stop the seroquel completely. Only problem is that at night, I cannot get comfortable. My feet won’t stop, and my legs feel terrible, and everything sucks. Yes, yes. RLS, or restless leg syndrome, which I supposedly do have, but which can be mistaken for akathisia, or vice versa. Add to that that our mattress is worn and it makes my back hurt, and on and on and on . . . ad infinitum. So it’s back to the doctor(s) to try to tweak the meds.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait study to Look into the Infinity 1916 oil on canvas

“Portrait study to ‘Look into the Infinity'” (1916, oil on canvas)

Look. Enough already. I am so fricking tired of not feeling good that I’m ready to bang my head against a wall, except for that whole headache thing. I need some energy. I need to feel like myself. And I especially need to be able to sit down at this computer and do stuff instead of looking at it across the bedroom as if it were some time bomb getting ready to go off.

I literally have not sat in this chair and plied these keys in weeks. I’ve even taken to glancing at my e-mail on my phone, of all things. Oh the joys of having a smart phone. I look up medical terms like akathisia. I look up the weather. I look up whatever, anything to avoid coming back here.

Don’t ask me why being here, on this computer, on this forum is paralyzing me, but it is. I suppose its my unspoken pact with myself that I will continue to keep this blog going, that I will make it a place in which people who love quotes and art and minutiae will enjoy visiting, and because I have not done that for months now, I feel like such a failure—once again

“It’s never the changes we want that change everything.” ~ Junot Diaz, from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Ferdinand Hodler Empfindung 1901 tempera on canvas

“Empfindung” (1901, tempera on canvas)

Things are precarious at the moment. One son is completely heartbroken over a relationship that he ended and has decided that former girlfriend is now the love of his life. Ah to be 23 . . . not. Another son has been off his meds and is trying to cope, but I don’t think it’s working. And my daughter? Geez, I can’t begin to figure out what is going on in her mind, what possesses her to continue to do the stupid things that she does. I just want to grab her and shake her and say, “What the hell are you doing with your life?”

Then the whole oil/shipping thing has us over a barrel (no pun intended). We never thought we’d be facing down a repeat of those black years of 2008-2010, but it appears we are. Is it horrible that I want gas prices to go back up? Ah yes, it’s wonderful to be able to fill the tank for under $40, but given a choice, I’d rather spend more at the tank and have jobs come back in the industry.

And out of respect for Corey’s wishes I haven’t written about the situation before, but his family knows now, and the kids know, so what does it matter that I’m throwing it all out there again?

“I would like. I would like anything at all, but fast. I would like to get out of here. I would like to be rid of all this. I would like to start all over again. I would like to leave all this. Not to leave through an exit. I would like a multiple leaving, a whole spread of them. An endless leaving, an ideal leaving so that once I’ve left I begin leaving again right away.” ~ Henri Michaux, from “With Mescaline,” trans. David Ball

So is it any wonder that I have retreated from everything?

I haven’t been on my tumblr in a month. My inbox is completely overflowing. Mail lies unopened on the table by the front door. Furniture goes unpolished. Dust has gathered in corners, forming tumbleweeds. And I walk through the house seeing, but unable to act.

Ferdinand Hodler The Truth 1903

“The Truth” (1903)

When Olivia is here, it is a brief respite, a welcome distraction, but it also exhausts me. I leave the house to go to doctors’ appointments and for little else. Corey and I pass one another silently. He keeps to the dining room, looking out the back door, and I stay in here, a self-imposed prisoner to my bed. We don’t seem to be able to help one another.

What kind of life is this?

The only good thing is that I have been devouring books, that is up until this past week, when I suddenly found it impossible to concentrate on the words before me. Before that, I went through almost a dozen books, but books can only sustain for so long before the brain begins to shut down. And beneath all of this runs the undercurrent of my mother.

“The present is already too much for me. I can’t cope with the future as well.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from Shalimar the Clown

You see, I still haven’t made it to the cemetery to put on the silk flowers I bought ages ago. I still haven’t paid to have the dates put on her gravestone, and now I don’t have the money to do so. And so I have failed her once again.

Ferdinand Hodler The Dream 1897 watercolor on cardboard

“The Dream” (1897, watercolor on cardboard)

Will I ever arrive at a day on which I do not think of my mother and close my eyes in shame and regret for all of the ways in which I failed to make a difference in her life? Do you know the number of times in my life that I can remember my mother telling me she was proud of me? One. The number of times in my life I can remember her telling me she loved me? A handful.

How could this woman who so many found helpful and friendly have had such a completely different demeanor when it came to her only daughter, her only child? I will never have the answer to that question. Not ever, and so I continue to be haunted in the backdrop of each day by what a complete and utter failure our relationship was, how we failed one another, how I never quite measured up.

And you know what? That really and truly sucks.

More later (I truly hope to keep this promise). Peace.

*All images are by Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1817), one of the leading symbolist painters of the late 19th century. I love his paintings of women.

Music by Beth Orton, “Mystery”

                    

The Sensual World

I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm
to caution you, to prepare you.

Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly,
subtly, not to say with connivance.

I was not prepared: I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen,
holding out my glass. Stewed plums, stewed apricots–

the juice poured off into the glass of ice.
And the water added, patiently, in small increments,

the various cousins discriminating, tasting
with each addition–

aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration:
the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,

more light passing through it.
Delight, then solace. My grandmother waiting,

to see if more was wanted. Solace, then deep immersion.
I loved nothing more: deep privacy of the sensual life,

the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it,
somehow suspended, floating, its needs

fully exposed, awakened, fully alive–
Deep immersion, and with it

mysterious safety. Far away, the fruit glowing it its glass bowls.
Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.

I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,

not a suspension: the senses wouldn’t protect me.
I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need.
You will want the earth, then more of the earth–

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,
it will not keep you alive.

~

Two for Tuesday: Personal Histories

Gertrude Hermes The Cuckoo 1958 woodblock and linocut

“The Cuckoo” (1958, woodblock and linocut)
by Gertrude Hermes


“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” ~ William Stafford, as found on Writer’s Almanac

Tuesday evening. Clear and cold, 24 degrees.

Yes, I’m still here. Let’s just call February a wash, shall we? It was a horrible month for so many reasons, and yet this surprises me not at all because my Februaries are almost always horrible; this one just happened to be a record for physical and mental pain. My rebound migraine finally seems to be breaking—after four weeks. It’s a good thing Corey and I didn’t try to fit in a trip to Ohio in the past few weeks, as I would have been miserable company.

The headache is still here, just not nearly as acute as before. The snow is supposed to melt tomorrow as the temperatures are supposed to hit the 60s. Of course on Thursday, we’re supposed to have freezing rain again. I have left the house twice in the past two weeks, once for the doctor, and once to make a trip to campus with Brett.

Cabin fever anyone?

                   

“Pine Branch” (1951)
by Eyvind Earle

The Phone Call

She calls Chicago, but no one
is home. The operator asks
for another number but still
no one answers. Together
they try twenty-one numbers,
and at each no one is ever home.
“Can I call Baltimore?” she asks.
She can, but she knows no one
in Baltimore, no one in
St Louis, Boston, Washington.
She imagines herself standing
before the glass wall high
over Lake Shore Drive, the cars
below fanning into the city.
East she can see all the way
to Gary and the great gray clouds
of exhaustion rolling over
the lake where her vision ends.
This is where her brother lives.
At such height there’s nothing,
no birds, no growing, no noise.
She leans her sweating forehead
against the cold glass, shudders,
and puts down the receiver.

~ William Stafford

                   

Igor Grabar Winter Rooks Nest 1904

“Winter Rook’s Nest” (1904)
by Igor Grabar

Solstice

Remember how the city looked from the harbor
in early evening: its brutal gaze
averted, its poised and certain countenance
wavering with lights?

Remember how we sat in swaybacked chairs
and marvelled at the brush fires
of dusk clear in the distance, the flames
scrawled across the skyline

like a signature while currents shifted
inside us? Ecstasy of fire—
works rising in midsummer, of fulvous sails
flashing in the heat

And orange life buoys bobbing on the water;
ecstasy of flares and secrets
and two bodies held aloft by desire…
judge us as you will,

but remember that we, too, lived once
in the fullness of a moment
before the darkness took its turn with us
and the night clamped shut.

~ Edward Hirsch

                   

Music by Dustin Kensrue, “This Good Night Is Still Everywhere”

Two for Tuesday: Snow

Rudolf Koppitz In Weiner Wald 1910

“Im Wiernerwald” (c1910)
by Rudolf Koppitz

 


“For the listener, who listens in the snow,
And, nothing himself, beholds
Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is.” ~ Wallace Stevens, from “The Snow Man”

Tuesday afternoon. Clear and cold, 31 degrees.

We were hit with snow, sleet, and freezing rain yesterday and into the night, so of course the whole area is shut down. It’s quiet, though. Funny how you don’t notice the quiet until it’s there.

I always love waking up after snow because there is a blue light hovering outside the windows and a dampening of all of the grating sounds of cars and trucks and noise in general. But I was reminded of my father last night as Corey was complaining of being cold: My father, who hated winter, hated snow, hated the cold . . . my father who would rather stay on a ship thousands of miles away for months at a time rather than be in a city blanketed with winter.

                   

Valerius de Saedeleer, Sneeuwlandschap in Etikhove 1924

“Sneeuwlandschap in Etikhove” (1924)
by Valerius de Saedeleer

Too Much Snow

Unlike the Eskimos we only have one word for snow but we have a lot of modifiers for that word. There is too much snow, which, unlike rain, does not immediately run off. It falls and stays for months. Someone wished for this snow. Someone got a deal, five cents on the dollar, and spent the entire family fortune. It’s the simple solution, it covers everything. We are never satisfied with the arrangement of the snow so we spend hours moving the snow from one place to another. Too much snow. I box it up and send it to family and friends. I send a big box to my cousin in California. I send a small box to my mother. She writes “Don’t send so much. I’m all alone now. I’ll never be able to use so much.” To you I send a single snowflake, beautiful, complex and delicate; different from all the others.

~ Louis Jenkins

                   

Graham Noble Norwell Landscape oil on board

Winter Landscape (oil on board)
by Graham Noble Norwell

Smelling the Snow

I’ve heard it said
there are those on such
close terms with night
they can smell the very light.

Not only does the moon,
they say, give off a scent
nothing like the sun’s,
but old moon smells

sweeter than slivered new.
Monks of old claimed sin
took the breath away, while
God was wild onion, lilac, pine.

I know a carpenter who
boasts he can sniff out a maple
in a woodlot of ash and oak.
A stalking cat knows

the unsinging sparrow
from the finch. This day
as it returns to Ohio, like
some feathery creature

seeking the very moon and tree
where it was born,
I can smell the snow,
which seems to me,

against the dark trees
moving in slow procession,
a few birds stark and silent,
an essence close to love.

But any old fool can smell love.

~ David Citino

                     

Music by Joan as Police Woman, “To Survive”

Sunday afternoon . . .

 

“But, of course, mermaids were always terrifying. With the exception of the Little Mermaid of the Hans Christian Andersen tradition, they would take your soul. And fairies were never things that people embraced — they were unknowable, dangerous, capricious. They could cause real trouble for you.” ~ Neil Gaiman, on the Royal Mail Mythical Creatures stamps

Sunday late afternoon. Partly cloudy and mild, 55 degrees.

Today sharing Neil Gaiman‘s write-ups for the Royal Mail’s Mythical Creatures stamps, with artwork by Dave McKean. The stamps came out a few years ago, but I thought it was a nice bit of fairy tale magic for the afternoon:

Giants

If it were not for the giants, Britain would look very different. In the dawn days they feefifofummed across the land, picking up rocks and throwing them at other giants in friendly rivalry, or alone they would break mountains, crush rocks into causeways, leave henges and stone seats to mark their passing.

The giants were big, but not bright. They were outsmarted by clever boys named Jack and fell from beanstalks or were tricked to death. They died, but not all of them are dead.

The remaining giants sleep, lost in deep slow dreams, covered in earth and trees and wild grass. Some have clouds on their shoulders or long men carved on their sides. We see them from the windows of cars and tell each other that from some angles they look almost like people.

Even giants can only sleep for so long. Do not make too much noise the next time you walk in the hills.

Unicorns

Nobody remembers who sent the first King of Scotland a unicorn. They are long-lived creatures, after all. The Kings of Scotland were proud of owning a unicorn, and left it to run, tangle-maned and alone, across the stark highlands, an ivory flash against the heather.

And then James VI got the news from the south and he sent a maiden into the hills. She sat and waited until it came and placed its head in her lap, then she bridled it with a silver bridle and walked it, skittish and straining, to the King.

The royal procession was made all the more exciting by the presence of the fabulous beast at the head. And then they were in London, and the Tower rose before them.

The unicorn was led into its stall. It scented the animal, caged across the way, and heard it roar before it saw the golden mane, the tawny eyes. The only lion in England was caged in the Tower, beside the only unicorn. The artists placed them on each side of the crown.

Two hundred years later, the unicorn’s horn in the Tower was valued at 20,000 guineas; but now even that is lost to us.

Mermaids

She keeps the souls of the drowned in lobster pots that she finds on the seabed. They sing, the captive souls, and they light her way home beneath the grey Atlantic.

She had sisters once, but long ago they shed their tails and scales and stepped gingerly ashore to live with fishermen in their dry-land cottages. Now she’s lonely, and not even the souls of the dead are company.

Walk the sea’s edge in winter and you may see her, too far away, waving to you. Wave back and she will take you down to her world, deep below the waves, and show you cold wonders, and teach you the songs of the merfolk, and the lonely ways beneath the sea.

Two for Tuesday: The Things that Haunt Us

Pyotr Konchalovsky Blue House in Winter

“Blue House in Winter” (1938)
by Pyotr Konchalovsky


“Strange—things neglected begin to appeal
to a part inside us. It is called the soul.
These times, it lives on less and less.” ~ William Stafford, from “Noticing”

Tuesday night, late. Clear and not as cold, 50 degrees.

I had Olivia yesterday and today, and so tonight I am exhausted. I also had to make a trip to campus to pick up Em because Brett got a ticket for having an expired inspection sticker, which threw him into a tailspin. We are trying to figure out how to get rid of his broken-down Honda and make enough money so that Vik can finish the work on the Rodeo, the work he began this time last year.

I’m not even going to get into that. Anyway, lots going on, but too much to ponder at the moment.

More later. Peace.

                   

(c) BRIDGEMAN; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation

“Winter Evening” (oil on board)
by Ruskin Spear

What’s in My Journal

Odd things, like a button drawer. Mean
Things, fishhooks, barbs in your hand.
But marbles too. A genius for being agreeable.
Junkyard crucifixes, voluptuous
discards. Space for knickknacks, and for
Alaska. Evidence to hang me, or to beatify.
Clues that lead nowhere, that never connected
anyway. Deliberate obfuscation, the kind
that takes genius. Chasms in character.
Loud omissions. Mornings that yawn above
a new grave. Pages you know exist
but you can’t find them. Someone’s terribly
inevitable life story, maybe mine.

~ William Stafford

                    

5.1.2

“Up the Hudson” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Frank C. Kirk

Things

There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
there are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.

~ Fleur Adcock

                   

Music by 30 Second to Mars, “Alibi”

“Some things | you know all your life. They are so simple and true | they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme, | they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker, | the glass of water” ~ Philip Levine, from “The Simple Truth”

Edvard Munch Winter Landscape from Kragerø 1910 oil on canvas

“Winter Landscape from Kragerø” (1910, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch  


Two for Tuesday: Philip Levine

Tuesday night, late. Some remaining drizzle and cold, 33 degrees.

Ah yes. The schedule and publish function of this blog. So seemingly easy, and yet . . .

You cannot possibly be surprised that I did not manage to post this on Tuesday, Tuesday for which it was compiled, Tuesday, the day after Monday and before Wednesday, Tuesday, the day for which songs have been written, Tuesday . . .

Yet here it was, in my list of drafts . . .

Ah, me.

                   

Edvard Munch Winter Forest 1900-01 oil on cardboard

“Winter Forest” (1900-01, oil on cardboard)
by Edvard Munch

 

After Dinner

She’s eaten dinner talking
back to the television, she’s
had coffee and brandy, done
the dishes and drifted into
and out of sleep over a book
she found beside the couch. It’s
time for bed, but she goes
instead to the front door, unlocks
it, and steps onto the porch.
Behind her she can hear only
the silence of the house. The lights
throw her shadow down the stairs
and onto the lawn, and she walks
carefully to meet it. Now she’s
standing in the huge, whispering
arena of night, hearing her
own breath tearing out of her
like the cries of an animal.
She could keep going into
whatever the darkness brings,
she could find a presence there
her shaking hands could hold
instead of each other.

                   

Edvard Munch Winter Night 1923 oil on canvas

“Winter Night” (1923, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

 

Everything

Lately the wind burns
the last leaves and evening
comes too late to be
of use, lately I learned
that the year has turned
its face to winter
and nothing I say or do
can change anything.
So I sleep late and waken
long after the sun has risen
in an empty house and walk
the dusty halls or sit
and listen to the wind
creak in the eaves and struts
of this old house. I say
tomorrow will be different
but I know it won’t.
I know the days are shortening
and when the sun pools
at my feet I can reach
into that magic circle
and not be burned. So
I take the few things
that matter, my book,
my glasses, my father’s ring,
my brush, and put them aside
in a brown sack and wait —
someone is coming for me.
A voice I’ve never heard
will speak my name
or a face press to the window
as mine once pressed
when the world held me out.
I had to see what it was
it loved so much. Nothing
had time to show me
how a leaf spun itself
from water or water cried
itself to sleep for
every human thirst. Now
I must wait and be still
and say nothing I don’t know,
nothing I haven’t lived
over and over,
and that’s everything.

                    

Music by The Moody Blues, “Nights in White Satin” (bet you thought it’d be “Tuesday Afternoon”)