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”

“I began my life as I shall no doubt end it: amidst books.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from The Words: The Autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre

Reading Bingo Card

Reading Bingo Card
Challenge: Post your results in the comments section, if you like.

How Well Do You Know The Opening Lines Of Famous Books?

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and warmer, 50 degrees.

Yesterday for a while it felt like this migraine was finally going away completely . . . then I woke up this morning, and . . . you guessed it . . . headache BACK!

Another short one just to let you know that I’m still alive. I found this quiz on BuzzFeed, and I’m hoping the book lovers out there will enjoy it as much as I did. Try to ignore the misspelling of Anna Karenina and the fact that they have put the book titles in quotations instead of italics.

Here is a sample:

  • Emma, by Jane Austen
  • David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
  • Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Let me know how you did in the comments section.

                   

I am also including a bit from an essay by Dylan Thomas, called “Notes on the Art of Poetry.” Over the years, extracts from this essay have been melded into a poem of sorts, but I like it better in its original prose form (click here to read in its entirety). Thomas wrote the essay in 1951 in response to a query from a college student hoping to learn more about craft. Here is my selection:

. . . What I like to do is treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone or what-have-you, to hew, carve, mould, coil, polish and plane them into patterns, sequences, sculptures, fugues of sound expressing some lyrical impulse, some spiritual doubt or conviction, some dimly-realised truth I must try to reach and realise.) . . . I read indiscriminately, and with my eyes hanging out. I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books, such sand-storms and ice-blasts of words, such slashing of humbug, and humbug too, such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, such and so many blinding bright lights breaking across the just-awaking wits and splashing all over the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which was alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity of light.

. . . All that matters about poetry is the enjoyment of it, however tragic it may be. All that matters is the eternal movement behind it, the vast undercurrent of human grief, folly, pretension, exaltation, or ignorance, however unlofty the intention of the poem.

. . . You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in.

More later. Peace.

                    

Music by Tom Odell, “Long Way Down”

 

 

 

 

Friday leftovers . . . sort of . . .

“Books are solitudes in which we meet.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, from “Ice”

Friday evening. Cloudy and very cold, 27 degrees.

Hello. Long time no write.

Well, it has not been an auspicious first half of February. The never-ending migraine starts and stops and starts and stops, and sitting in front of this screen is well nigh impossible. It’s not that my post draft folder isn’t full to overflowing; unfortunately, it’s that I just can’t do this as much as I want to because of the whole eye pain issue.

Anyway, I don’t really have a leftovers post in the form in which I normally post one, but I do have this little tidbit for you quote collectors out there. I’m only including a few in this post. Click on the link to see all of them. I think it’s a great selection. Hope you enjoy.

More later (sooner, I hope). Peace.


The 40 Most Powerful Literary Quotes

An irresistible page-turner is a wonderful thing, but the very greatest novels pack sentences so prevailing that you stop reading, lower the book and simply live in the words for a moment. Here we pay tribute our 40 most powerful sentences in novels.

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

marshawn-lynch-nfl-super-bowl-xlix-seattle-seahawks-press-conference1-850x560

Marshawn Lynch at NFL Super Bowl Press Conference


Friday afternoon. Drizzle and cold, 47 degrees.

Corey arrived home safely yesterday. No word on when he will be called back. I never thought I would wish for oil prices to skyrocket . . .

Bad night last night—too wired to sleep, and the dogs were feeding off that anxiety by announcing a need to go out pretty much once an hour. In between, I was seized with a vicious migraine, and then the ensuing body-itching from the pain medication. Today I plan to do a whole lot of nothing after spending two days cleaning a house that wasn’t really dirty, which didn’t stop me from taking the bottom of the vacuum apart to pull strings from the roller (love that my Dyson doesn’t have any belts). That’s just how I get once I go into overdrive.

Ah, the sweet, sweet joys of my life . . .

More later. Peace.

This week’s headline:

“I’m just here so I won’t get fined.” ~ Marshawn Lynch’s Super Bowl Press Conference

As Jon Stewart pointed out, Lynch was threatened with a ridiculous $500k fine if he didn’t show and a possible other fine for wearing the wrong hat, yet the NFL does little to nothing when it comes to the serious infractions, you know, like domestic violence:

“How is it that this guy is facing international drug cartel penalty money, but the owners and commissioner of the league have no obligation to address stadium financing shenanigans or concussions or domestic violence policies?” ~ Jon Stewart, “The Daily Show” (29 January 2015)

Shakespeare’s tragedies by body count:

Diagramming my life:

Dr. James Barry was a woman:

James Miranda Stuart Barry was a military surgeon in the British Army. After graduation from the University of Edinburgh Medical School, Barry served in India and Cape Town, South Africa. By the end of his career, he had risen to the rank of Inspector General in charge of military hospitals. Although Barry lived his adult life as a man, he was born a female and was named Margaret Ann Bulkley. In his travels he not only improved conditions for wounded soldiers, but also the conditions of the native inhabitants. Among his accomplishments was the first caesarean section in Africa by a British surgeon in which both the mother and child survived the operation.

Well, how could I not include this?

See this? This is not how my dogs would help:

They would either sit on the extended part of the tape measure or take the whole thing and run away . . .

Too perfect . . .

And oh how I wish so many times that I would have been able to say and do something like this:

See—I freaking told you . . .

Things that can happen at Wal-Mart:

“You don’t think that’s a lot of red for a child’s bedroom? We don’t want it to look like the Amityville Horror kill room or anything.” ~ The Ugly Volvo

I have to share this post from The Ugly Volvo with you. I read Goodnight Moon to Olivia every time she spends the night here. And I also read this story to all of my children when they were small. But this is one of the funniest deconstructions of this story I have ever come across. It’s long, so I’m only including the first few, but trust me, you need to click here and read it in its entirety.


 

All of my Issues With the “Goodnight Moon” Bedroom

I’ve read Goodnight Moon almost every night for the past two years. It’s a wonderful book which my son enjoys. Here are some of my issues with the bedroom depicted in it.
aa goodnight moon 11. The Size of the Bedroom
Nice bedroom and/or place to possibly hold the 2024 Olympics

This bedroom is enormous. There is no one, I think, who has not noticed this. As someone who has lived in apartments only slightly larger than “a little toy house,” it’s mildly vexing that this bedroom is the size of a banquet hall in Downton Abbey.

This little toy house would rent out for $2500 a month in Manhattan (not including utilities)

2. The Little Toy house.
This little toy house would rent out for $2500 a month in Manhattan (not including utilities)This little toy house would rent out for $2500 a month in Manhattan (not including utilities)

This is not that little of a toy house. Not only could the rabbit easily fit inside the “little toy house,” the little toy house also has working electricity. Why are these rabbits so civilized? Is this some f**ked up Watership Down sequel???

The color scheme we're going for is "exploded paint factory."

3. This Just-Discovered Transcript of a Conversation Had by the Interior Decorators
The color scheme we’re going for is “exploded paint factory.”The color scheme we’re going for is “exploded paint factory.”

“So what color have we decided on for the upstairs child’s bedroom?”

“Which child’s bedroom?”

“The enormous one. The one with the expansive tomato-colored floor.”

“I was thinking for that room maybe a dark green?”

“Really? Dark green? You don’t think maybe dark green walls with a tomato-colored floor is a bit much?”

“No, it’ll look amazing. We can break up the monotony of the color with some dark green and yellow striped curtains.”

“That’s an amazing idea. On non-matching red and yellow spearhead curtain rods? Do you think a tiger skin rug would be overkill?”

“For a young child’s room? No. Not at all. ”

 

“For we live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are songlike in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue. We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from Divisadero


“We all have an old knot in the heart we wish to loosen and untie.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The Cat’s Table

Saturday afternoon. Rainy and cold, 41 degrees.

Female diseases and piles

Cure those female weaknesses

Well, I survived my birthday. Brett and Em and I went thrifting, and we found some great buys. Our favorite thrift store is Good Mojo’s; their prices are really great, and they have happy hours. I can always find something good in their book section, and I actually found a few volumes of poetry. The best part is that you can buy a bag of books for five bucks—as many as you can fit in the bag. So in addition to the poetry, I got some plant books for Brett, a pictorial book on New Zealand, a book for Olivia, and some others. Talk about cheap thrills.

Anyway, it was enough to keep my mind off the fact that it was my birthday, and I was alone, and all of that.

I did have a nice surprise on my birthday, though. Leah in NC sent me a care package with some delicious chocolate and a book I’ve had on my to read list, so that was just lovely. I immediately tore into one of the chocolate bars. Delish.

“Some events take a lifetime to reveal their damage and influence.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The Cat’s Table

Corey will be home a week early, which is nice but not good. His company is continuing furloughs, and we aren’t really sure if this early week means he won’t be going back in three weeks. First they took him off his regular boat, and then they put him on another boat, and then they said he would be on this new boat until the 4th or the 11th, and then they sent everyone on this new boat home, supposedly to reboot their cycle from 28/14 to 21/21.

Female Pills

Never suffer from the painful diseases of advanced life . . .

It’s all very disconcerting, and neither of us can handle even the idea that he might be out of work again. It’s just too much to fathom. I mean, he had just over a year with this new job, good company, good salary and benefits, and then all of a sudden, everything changes. It’s not just his company; the number three company in the industry may be selling.

It’s the suddenness of everything. We had plans, big plans for this year, and now? Who the hell knows. Even the trip to Ohio is up in the air. I’m trying to keep my worrying to myself for the time being. Corey is so very, very stressed that I can’t see adding to that in any way. I guess it’s a matter of waiting and hoping.

“I’ve met many who remain haunted by the persistent ghost of an earlier place.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The Cat’s Table

Good tidings?

Good tidings?

So I’ve been spending a lot of time recently getting the house back in order. We finally have what was the junk room cleaned out. Before he left Corey set up the single bed for Olivia, and I had ordered one of those safety rails. I remember the one that my mother had for Alexis—it was so flimsy in comparison to the newer ones, which go under the mattress the full width of the box spring. There is no way that Olivia can fall out. So far she seems to be liking her transition from the portable crib to the bed, and she’s very happy to have a room that is her own.

Now I need to get the room that was Brett’s cleaned out and set up as a guest room. I have requested that the kids come over and go through the stuff that they’ve left here. Who knows when or if that will happen, but if not, I’ll start cleaning things out myself, and woe to anyone who complains.

I have drawers and shelves full of stuff that is theirs, and they have plenty of storage in my mom’s house, so I plan to do a serious decluttering, which will make Corey very happy.

“Yet where had it come from? And was it a pleasure or a sadness, this life inside me? It was as if with its existence I was lacking something essential, like water.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The Cat’s Table

Yesterday I bought some silk tulips for my parents’ graves. I remembered that when my Dad was doing his European run, he brought home a bunch of tulip bulbs from Holland. Both of my parents loved tulips. The plan is for me to make two arrangements before next Saturday, which is the one-year anniversary of my mother’s death.

body brace

Darn that female weakness

Don’t think that I’m not aware that this looming anniversary is also wreaking havoc on my state of mind. Couple that with my birthday, and it’s no wonder that I am feeling very, very unsettled. And too, I am going on day three of this particular migraine.

The irony is that just a few days ago I was actually thinking to myself that it was so nice how my migraines weren’t quite as intense as they used to be. I told myself that my new drug regimen must be having some kind of effect as the migraines weren’t as painful and weren’t lasting as long . . . well, this one put the lie to that theory. A couple of days ago I started to feel tight, and then yesterday early I awoke with a really bad one. I took some medicine and woke up a few hours later with just as much pain.

Today, the pain is radiating down my nose—not the inside of my nose, not my sinuses, but a line straight down my nose. Very, very strange.

“Writing this, I do not want it to end until I can understand it better, in a way that would calm me even now, all these years later.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from The Cat’s Table

Anyway, I’m trying to stay busy, trying not to think too much—that whole concept of busy work. It reminds me of the whole Victorian attitude towards women being idle, how they were supposed to spend hours on their needlework, a truly feminine pastime. Women who concentrated on plying their needles would not spend time foolishly gallivanting (my mother’s word) about:

Female Weakness chicago_tribute_-_7_dec_1902

“It’s your kidneys!”

Sewing was, in many ways, the ultimate sign of femininity. It was sedentary and passive, and it was traditionally done by women only for the care and maintenance of the family and home. In the literature of the period the needle itself often stood for women’s “natural” place in the home, and carried powerful associations of domestic bliss and maternal devotion. ~ Beth Harris, from “Slaves of the Needle”

Can you imagine spending hour after hour on needlepoint? Not denigrating needlepoint, just denigrating it as one of the only acceptable pastimes for a woman. I mean, consider the whole idea of hysteria (look up the etymology of the word—only a female can truly be hysterical) and how women who thought too much could harm themselves, even move their internal organs out of whack. French physician Pierre Briquet claimed that a quarter of all women suffered from hysteria.

Really? One quarter? I won’t even get into that era’s treatment of female conditions as that is a topic worthy of its own post (hint: The Victorians loved their vibrators, but hated sex. Click here for an article on the history).

Rambling . . . Where was I? Oh yes, busy work . . . But I digress . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by One Two, “Bitter and Sick”

                   

Dream Song 14

Life, friends, is boring. We must not say so.
After all, the sky flashes, the great sea yearns,
we ourselves flash and yearn,
and moreover my mother told me as a boy
(repeatingly) ‘Ever to confess you’re bored
means you have no
Inner Resources.’ I conclude now I have no
inner resources, because I am heavy bored.
Peoples bore me,
literature bores me, especially great literature,
Henry bores me, with his plights & gripes
as bad as achilles,
who loves people and valiant art, which bores me.
And the tranquil hills, & gin, look like a drag
and somehow a dog
has taken itself & its tail considerably away
into mountains or sea or sky, leaving
behind: me, wag.
~  John Berryman