Inspiration: Fields and rivers; pigs and cows; object relations theory; Texas Hill Country; silence and solitude; Carl Jung; farming manuals; mystic traditions; conversations with my sister; dreams.
Writer’s block remedy: I remind myself that language isn’t my job. Writing a poem isn’t my job. My job is the human job of waiting and listening, and language is just what poets use—like wind chimes—to catch the sound of the larger, more essential thing. Wind chimes themselves are not the point. The point is the wind.”
~ Jenny George, from “Wilder Forms: Our Fourteenth Annual Look at Debut Poets” in the January/February issue of Poets & Writers Magazine (2019)
“More and more I have the sense of being present at a point of absence where crossing centuries may prove to be like crossing languages. Soundwaves. It’s the difference between one stillness and another stillness.” ~ Susan Howe, from “The Disappearance Approach”
Not really sure that I have a lot to say today. I sit and stare at the quotes I have gathered for today’s post, hoping that some word or phrase will inspire me, but nothing happens. It’s as if words themselves have decided to take a hiatus in my brain; they do not wish to appear in cogent ways for me.
I had another’s doctor’s appointment yesterday, for my annual female exam, and I actually managed to get there on time. I asked the doctor doing the exam if she could take a look at my hand, which I injured the other day while trying to shoot a gun. Her response was actually quite witty: “Well, that’s not your vagina, and I’m here to look at your vagina.”
The office that I was in is set up with residents and two attending physicians, so I suppose as this particular resident was on vagina duty, she couldn’t really help with the big oozing gash on my hand unless the attending physician agreed. Ultimately, though, she looked at it as did the attending. As I had suspected, I should have gotten stitches when it happened, but it was the day after Max’s death, and I was in no shape to go anywhere or talk to anyone, so I didn’t go. As a result, the gash, which is about an inch long, isn’t really healing well. Yesterday I couldn’t touch my little finger to my thumb because of the swelling.
I was prescribed some doxycycline, but as we are more than flat broke, I cannot pick it up. Yet another case of being too poor to be healthy.
“Alone with wind. I came here to tell you I have loved everything once.” ~ Gregory Sherl, from “How to Brave Night”
Anyway, today the wound looks better, or at least I’m telling myself that. It isn’t too uncomfortable to type, so at least there’s that.
Corey is working on a structure for the goats. Bobby looks like she’s going to give birth soon, and we are fairly certain that Ruby is pregnant as well. I really hope that she is so that we can have at least a piece of Max to hold onto.
The two female goats that we bought in Roanoke are quite a pair, mother and daughter. If they become separated by more than a few feet, the daughter, Bobby, begins to bray loudly. It’s sweet, but it also functions as an alarm. If I hear Bobby making noise, it usually means that Sylvia has come inside the kitchen door. I don’t know what it is about these goats that makes them think that they should live in the house, unless it’s that Roland is still inside with us; he is quite spoiled and has his own alarm system: if Corey leaves the room in which Roland happens to still be situated, Roland begins to bleat very loudly and then runs through the house looking for him. I’m not the only one who spoils animals . . .
The dogs have been quite good in the last few days, and I’m hoping that I’ve broken them of chasing the goats. We’re both keeping a keen eye on them while everyone is outside, and if I yell out the door at them, they all immediately stop what they’re doing. Nevertheless, we must be ever vigilant. I really cannot handle a repeat of what happened to Max, and neither can Corey.
“I find I get more and more disagreeably solitary; In fact I foresee the day when I shall have gone too far into myself that there will no longer be anything to be seen of me at all.” ~ Vita Sackville-West, from letter to Virginia Woolf
It’s supposed to rain here for the next four days, and I’m trying to talk Corey into doing some painting inside. It’s at times like these that I really wish that his brothers were closer so that they could help him with some of what needs to be done. The reality is that I could probably paint a bit, but it’s more than that: we need to move furniture and other stuff, lifting that I simply cannot do. I feel so useless.
Lately I’ve been experiencing spasms in my lower back once again. I told Corey that even if my back gets bad again that there’s no way that I will ever have another back operation, not unless it’s the kind that can be done with a small incision and no long hospital stay.
Speaking of backs and mobility and such, I’ve been pondering yet again whether or not I should try to go back to work. I miss working, but more, I miss the income. However, if I did try to go back to work, my disability would cease, and then if something happened again, I would have to start the whole process once more, and it took so long with social security in the first place—two hearings, a stupid judge, two appeals, years of waiting. Honestly, I don’t know what to do.
I think of Eliot’s “Prufrock” poem: “Do I dare? Do I dare?” I really loved that poem so much, one of my all-time favorites.
“One can sometimes touch, in the distance between two people, a moment of another person’s endless dream.” ~ Yves Bonnefoy, from “Les Arbres” (The Trees), trans. John Naughton
And speaking of dogs and goats, Roland and Bailey continue their friendship. Roland has taken to butting Bailey’s head gently as she lays sleeping, and oddly enough, Bailey does nothing. She allows him to do whatever he wants to her, and I am quite amazed. He also licks her ears. I swear that this goat thinks that he’s a dog, and I’m uncertain as to how he’ll adjust to living outside once he’s weaned, which will be soon.
The other day Corey and I went over to Dallas’s house to look at the horses. Dallas says that he’s going to let me pick out some horses to have over here, but he’s still claiming that Napoleon cannot come yet. I want Napoleon and Petra to be returned, but I’m trying not to pin my hopes on anything that Dallas says as we all know that what he says should be taken with a very small grain of salt.
A while back (cannot remember if I mentioned this), one of Dallas’s RVs and part of his storage burned down. He claims that someone did it during the night, which is definitely possible as his feud with his nephew continues, but there is also the possibility that Dallas was so drunk that he started the first himself accidentally, or maybe even on purpose; however, he has no insurance, so I cannot think why he’d deliberately commit arson.
I hate that I even think these things of him.
While we were there, though, we picked a bunch of cherries from his cherry tree in the front yard. I’ve never seen such a big cherry tree. He says that he planted it when he first moved onto the property, which means that it is several decades old. I had no idea that fruit trees could survive for so long. The cherries are quite small, but tasty, and apparently, his dogs like to eat them, which is good as they all continue to look very malnourished.
“But even so, every now and then I would feel a violent stab of loneliness. The very water I drink, the very air I breathe, would feel like long, sharp needles. The pages of a book in my hands would take on the threatening metallic gleam of razor blades. I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o’clock in the morning.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
I suppose I did have a few things to say, surprisingly enough, although I’m not sure how much more I have in me.
Look. The dry spell continues. My ability to string together words creatively continues to elude me. The joy that I normally find in writing these posts simply isn’t there, and I cannot seem to find that wellspring that houses my spark or my muse or whatever it is that is missing.
I would dearly love to know how to overcome this block so that once again this blog provides me with a sense of accomplishment as opposed to feeling that it is a burden that I approach reluctantly each time I try to compose. This blog has served me well for many years. I began it as an experiment, and it morphed into a way of life for me. I have very fond memories of sitting at my desk on Benjamin and rapidly writing 1,000 words without a second’s hesitation. I want that again. I need that again. And I think that I deserve to have that again in my life again.
Am I kidding myself? I truly do not know.
More later, I hope. Peace.
Feeling nostalgic for the British countryside today.*
Music by Winona Oak, “Don’t Save Me”
You Ask Me to Talk About the Interior
it was all roadside flowers & grasses
growing over the cities
was made of wilderness & sky
with God washed out of it
was the foreign prayer-word
it was a list of missing persons
was the solid bronze charging
bull on the famous street
was like the Roman method for making bees
was its taken-down carcass
& its bed of apple branches & thyme
was a new anatomy, a beaten hide,
a skeleton sweetening to glowing fluids,
& the bee born out, & the grist of them born
glistening as coins
it was anthem
was the listening,
the way a searchlight listens over a lake
it was the prayer-word out of your mouth
your thousand-noun request
it goes up up to the florescent weather
was an ivory box,
was hurdle & burn, burning through
the infinite, your overbright comet
was made of stones, made of berries & box tops & eggshells
it was like the word having reached the ear
& the words pollinated the dark, there was darkness there,
like the after-hours inside a library
“Here I saw the truth of the horizon, the way of coming and going in this life. I never drifted up from my beginning: I rose as inexorably as heat.” ~ Denis Johnson, from “The Confession of St. Jim-Ralph”
Monday afternoon, partly cloudy and absolutely lovely, 76 degrees.
Apologies. It’s been a few days since I wrote anything here. I’ve been distracted, more than usual. I began listening to a podcast, “A New Winter.” I began listening last week, and then became so absorbed that I binged right through the weekend. Unlike the true crime genre to which I’m partial, it’s a creepy dramatization, and I was hooked, all the way through 62 episodes. Yep. Sixty-62.
I know. Too much, right?
Anyway, I had a Two for Tuesday planned, and then on Wednesday, I had another one of those doctor’s appointments that didn’t happen because my appointment had been changed somehow, or I changed it somehow, thinking that I was actually changing my neurologist’s appointment. I honestly don’t know, but I got ready, put on real clothes, arrived on time, only to be told that my appointment was on June 5. From that point on my week was wrecked.
So here I am, trying to start over, get back into the rhythm of writing, creating, putting something out there. Anything. We’ll just have to see how this goes. I do have new pictures of the farm and the animals, at least.
“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.” ~ Eckhart Tolle, from an interview with The Guardian (10 April 2009)
So I’m sitting outside at yet another makeshift work station, kind of hunched over, and my back is protesting mightily. But it doesn’t matter because the birds are serenading, and the sun is peeking through the clouds, and the air is clean, and there’s a light breeze making the Dogwood tree sway and the bamboo wind chimes clatter in a non-jarring way. The goats and the dogs are outside, as well, and Ruby, the female goat just came by to have her ears scratched; Max isn’t quite as loving, and his crooked jaw makes him look, well, a little goofy, but he’ll eventually come to have his ears scratched.
I was sitting here a little while ago just listening to music and the birds and absolutely nothing else—no car horns, no sirens, no airplanes, no leaf blowers—nothing. Sometimes I forget to notice this nothingness, forget to appreciate what it took to achieve it. The last few years have been so freaking tumultuous, and sometimes it seemed like there was no end in sight, but there was, for the most part, perhaps not the ending that we had envisioned, but an ending of sorts, and now I’m here, sitting on property that is mine, and my nearest neighbors are far away.
No judgmental next-door neighbors peering over the fence, no city ordinances, no community rules. Of course, we also don’t have curbside recycling or trash pickup, and that is a definite loss, but in the grand scheme of things, I suppose we are still firmly on the plus side of the columns.
“Lift up your dark heart and sing a song about how time drifts past you like the gentlest, almost imperceptible breeze.” ~ Jim Harrison from “Cold Poem”
Corey needs to call the gas company to let them know that part of the driveway washed away with the most recent rain; they’re responsible for the upkeep of the drive since they have wells along the way—it’s a weird setup. But first he’s gone to Coeburn and Norton to pick up an ink cartridge for the printer so that I can send yet more forms to the IRS, trying to get us a waiver for Corey not having health insurance because, well, money.
I mean, I’m completely for the Affordable Care Act, but I’ve never understood penalizing people for not having health insurance if they cannot afford to have health insurance, and the only way that those same people can get out of the penalty is if they ask for it and justify the lack. That doesn’t even make sense. I’m fairly certain that a majority of people would have health insurance if they could actually afford it. Not having it really, really sucks. There should have been a built-in opt-out function for those of us without the funds to afford the coverage instead of a built-in penalty that you can only get rid of once you’ve been granted a waiver.
Anyway, I need to print those and another form, and something else. Honestly, it’s been a few days since I first tried to print only to find out that we were out of ink, so now I’ve forgotten. I’ll have to go back and look at my notes. I make lots and lots of notes, and the fact that I still don’t have my desk set up means that my post-its are still in a box somewhere, as are my colored paper clips that I used to organize papers, and all of that other helpful stuff that I’ve come to depend on over the years. Truthfully, I’ve had a long-standing love-affair with office products; don’t ask me why. Alexis has the same penchant, as well as an unhealthy attachment to large, oversized bags and purses. I cannot imagine where she got any of that from.
I need my notes. I just can’t function without them. I know my mind too well. I have no problems with long-term memory, or memories of most important events, or things like song lyrics, but ask me what I had planned to do in a few hours, and, well . . . not so much . . .
“The future was a dark corridor, and at the far end the door was bolted.” ~ Gustave Flaubert, from Madame Bovary
I’m curious, actually. Does anyone even read these quotes? Does anyone out there find them as fascinating as I do? I mean, I spend a lot of time looking for my quotes, and then I spend an inexorable amount of time planning posts thematically, taking into consideration the kinds of posts that I tend to write the most, or thinking about something that I think that I might want to tackle in the future.
I’m asking because my tumblr meanderings, when I do them, are mostly in search of quotes, new poems and poets, and images. I’m not much for the other kinds of posts, but I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should post the quotes there and leave them out of my posts.
The problem, for me, as I see it, is that I’ve been using this format since almost the beginning: five quotes, a header quote, six images, a poem, and a song. It’s worked, or at least, it works for me—most of the time. The quotes are my springboard, as it were, a way to tap into my muse and see what comes out.
Who knows, really? Certainly not I.
“It had occurred to me that all human beings are divided into those who wish to move forward and those who wish to go back.” ~ Louise Glück, from “Faithful and Virtuous Night”
A very pregnant Sassy (we think)
Gate? What gate?Ruby says hello through the front door.
Maddy after having a swim in the big pond
I’m thinking that the only thing that would make being outside today better would be if we had a hammock set up. I really miss my hammock. I’ve always had a hammock, ever since I was first married to my ex. When I was living with my parents. they had this hammock thing that fit on a metal frame, but it was canvas. I used to spend a lot of time on that in the backyard, reading in the sun. I had actually forgotten about that.
I actually have a brand new cheap hammock that came in one of my subscription boxes; I doubt that it’s terribly comfortable, but I wouldn’t know because there isn’t anywhere here to attach it. We have a lot of trees, but they are either too close together, like the apple trees, or too far apart. Ideally, I’d love to get on of those frames from Costco and the big, double rope hammock. Ah yes, that would be the ticket.
Sine I first began this post, the sun has become obscured by more clouds, and the wind has picked up. I think that I’ll stay out here for a little longer and then go inside and try to do a bit of cleaning. I still haven’t figured out where all of the dust comes from that settles in the house so quickly. We don’t have the furnace running, no ceiling fans on, so where does all of the dust come from? I’m reminded of the importance of dust in Philip Pullman’s series His Dark Materials, but unfortunately, my dust isn’t magical. It’s been years since I read that, and I still haven’t gotten a copy of La Belle Sauvage, the first book in the follow-up trilogy even though it was published in 2017. It on my to-read list, which probably has about 200 things on it.
So much to do, so much to do . . . Books to read, cabinets to sand and paint, rooms to paint and unpack . . . And then there’s my car, which needs work, a barn that needs to be built . . . Ugh, enough for now.
More later. Peace.
Music by The Civil Wars, “Dust to Dust” (acoustic)
I want to gather your darkness
in my hands, to cup it like water
I want this in the same way
as I want to touch your cheek—
it is the same—
the way a moth will come
to the bedroom window in late September,
beating and beating its wings against the cold glass,
the way a horse will lower
his long head to water, and drink,
and pause to lift his head and look,
and drink again,
taking everything in with the water,
Will Graham: I feel like I’ve dragged you into my world.
Hannibal Lecter: I got here on my own. But I appreciate the company. ~ “Hannibal” (“Fromage” episode, written by Jennifer Schuur and Bryan Fuller)
Tuesday afternoon, sunny and cold 28 degrees.
Yes, it’s a Two for Tuesday post, but for some reason, I woke up thinking about the television show “Hannibal,” which was so wonderfully written and acted. I really miss it, and not just because of Mads Mikkelsen, thus, the quotes from the show.
I not only woke up with Hannibal running through my mind, but this was accompanied by a massive migraine, which is only slightly receding at the moment. Waking up with a migraine is a horrible way to begin the day; it colors everything else I do for the duration.
The useless neurologist that I saw last week is supposed to be looking into getting me Aimovig, that new medication that’s supposed to help prevent migraines. If I can get that affordably, that time spent in her office won’t be entirely wasted. I’m still waiting to hear from her office, but as the phone is currently not working for some reason, I have no news yet.
Anyway, that’s how the day is going, so not a whole lot of anything else. Today’s post features two section from a much longer poem by Margaret Atwood, “Five Poems for Grandmothers.” The complete poem can be found in Atwood’s 1978 book, Two Headed Poems, or in her Selected Poems II: Poems Selected and New 1976-1986.
I hope you like this as much as I do.
More later. Peace.
Five Poems for Grandmothers
In the house on the cliff
by the ocean, there is still a shell
bigger and lighter than your head, though now
you can hardly lift it.
It was once filled with whispers;
it was once a horn
you could blow like a shaman
conjuring the year,
and your children would come running.
You’ve forgotten you did that,
you’ve forgotten the names of the children
who in any case no longer run,
and the ocean has retreated,
leaving a difficult beach of gray stones
you are afraid to walk on.
The shell is now a cave
which opens for you alone.
It is filled with whispers
which escape into the room,
even though you turn it mouth down.
This is your house, this is the picture
of your misty husband, these are your children, webbed
and doubled. This is the shell,
which is hard, which is still there,
solid under the hand, which mourns, which offers
itself, a narrow journey
along its hallways of cold pearl
down the cliff into the sea.
It is not the things themselves
that are lost, but their use and handling.
The ladder first, the beach;
the storm windows, the carpets;
The dishes, washed daily
for so many years the pattern
has faded; the floor, the stairs, your own
arms and feet whose work
you thought defined you;
The hairbrush, the oil stove
with its many failures,
the apple tree and the barrels
in the cellar for the apples,
the flesh of apples; the judging
of the flesh, the recipes
in tiny brownish writing
with the names of those who passed them
from hand to hand: Gladys,
Lorna, Winnie, Jean.
If you could only have them back
or remember who they were.
“This past week has been parceled up, or broken down, into so many unrelated parts that I feel like Humpty Dumpty. Suddenly it’s Friday, and I sit here baffled, sulky and wanting a refund, a re-run, a recount.” ~ Robert Phelps in a letter to James Salter (February 20, 1969-70)
Saturday afternoon, cloudy, 43 degrees.
I slept very poorly last night; I finally gave in and took a half of a sleeping pill sometime around 2 a.m. Of course, the fact of my lack of sleep didn’t stop the puppies from waking me at 7 a.m. I’m thinking of trading all of them in for a gerbil; gerbils don’t make noise, right?
So this past week I had an appointment with a neurologist. I had such high hopes that I had finally found a new doctor to take care of my myriad of pain issues . . . alas, not so much.
This was the neurologist that I had originally been scheduled to see in June, but Monday afternoon, I decided to call to see if there had been any cancellations, and voila! Cancellation for Tuesday morning at 10. This particular doctor is located in Abingdon, so that meant leaving the house by 8:30. Those of you who know me know that 8:30 in the morning is not my favorite time of the morning.
Anyway, we left on time, and I had my paperwork all completed, and I was greatly anticipating a good situation. I should have known better; this particular neurologist scoffed at the regimen that my former neurologist had me on, a regimen that took much, much trial and error and time to arrive at. She told me that she would never prescribe my particular medication for migraines. I explained, once again, that my regimen was to address not only migraines, but also chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and restless leg syndrome, to which she replied that she was only going to treat my migraines.
I left there less than happy, to say the least and with little intention of keeping the followup appointment in two months.
“Beyond myself somewhere I wait for my arrival.” ~ Octavio Paz, from “The Balcony (El balcon)”
Then on Wednesday morning, Corey and I got ready again, this time to go to Bristol, an Tennessee/Virginia, a mere hour and a half away, so that I could get an echocardiogram and an ultrasound (for a supposed heart murmur and to check my thyroid). We got there, and Corey dropped me off to go do errands. I tried to check in, only to be told that my appointments were for the next day.
Seriously? I mean . . . seriously?
I imagine that screeching aloud not as a result of physical pain is probably frowned upon in hospitals, so I bit my tongue and asked if there were any way that I could have the tests done then, and . . . of course not. So I asked to used the phone so that I could try to get Corey to return (the whole cell phone situation is still not remedied). Anyway, I cancelled both appointments, and I’ll reschedule after I see the new PCP, which I think I’m doing sometime at the end of March. Granted, the whole heart murmur thing is a concern, but never in having hundreds (thousands?) of people listen to my chest has anyone ever mentioned anything about a murmur.
So one good thing did come from the painful visit to the unhelpful neurologist: I got a referral to a pain management place, one that I’m 100 percent certain that I had already called and tried to get into. Anyway, I have an appointment to see them at the end of May, so if I can just keep trying vitamins and supplements and ibuprofen for the pain, maybe I can hold out until May 30.
“I’m fighting myself. I know I am. One minute I want to remember. The next minute I want to live in the land of forgetting. One minute I want to feel. The next minute I never want to feel ever again.” ~ Benjamin Alire Sáenz, from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
So that’s the story of my week, one truly disappointing appointment, two non-existent appointments, two future appointments. By Friday, I was freaking emotionally and physically exhausted (bear in mind, I left the house for two full days, an anathema for me). No wonder I couldn’t sleep last night.
Listen, I know that my expectations are really high when it comes to physicians, but I’m one of those people who has absolutely no tolerance for people being condescending to me, so when I find a doctor who will speak to me one-on-one, without the whole I’m the doctor and I know best vibe, I really connect. Usually, I do better with female physicians, the big exception being my former pain management doctor.
I really looked forward to those appointments, not only because of the pain-relieving trigger point injections, but also because that doctor and I had really great political discussions. That’s a rarity: a doctor who sees you as an intelligent human being worthy of having a conversation with.
This new neurologist? Absolutely not. She did everything but pat me on the head. Or at least that’s how it felt.
Whatever. I just cannot even.
I know. I know: lower my expectations.
“—How will I begin When shall I open my mouth and let half the world fall in.” ~ Patrick Rosal, from “Meditations on the Eve of My Niece’s Birth”
Except, I will not lower my expectations. I’m tired of lowering my expectations. I’m tired of rampant stupidity. I’m tired of attitude problems from physicians and insurance companies and pharmacies. I’m tired of people on tumblr not even knowing the difference between simply homonyms, or even knowing what a homonym is. And I won’t even get into politics.
Enough on the physician rant, the societal rant, the spelling rant (okay, maybe not the spelling rant, not ever).
Petra (one of the horses) is much better. I did some research on the condition that Dallas identified as being what was wrong with her, and he was incorrect, sort of. It is a grass sickness, but it isn’t tetany, as that’s mostly a cattle sickness. For horses, it’s called equine grass sickness.
In the meantime, Napoleon and Sassy are enjoying being the only horses in the pasture. Corey picked up some apple treats for horses, and I doled out a few this morning. Major hit.
“The verb kalchainein, ‘to search for the purplefish, came to signify profound and troubled emotion: to grow dark with disquiet, to seethe with worries, to search in the deep of one’s mind, to harbor dark thoughts, to brood darkly.” ~ Anne Carson, from “Variations on the Right to Remain Silent”
That’s about all for now, I suppose. The current obsession with podcasts continues. Currently, I’m listening to “Crime Junkie,” as I like the chemistry between the two hosts, that, and the fact that there is not inane banter. I may revisit Night Vale at some point, except that it reminds me of Brett, and that’s still way too painful.
Corey and I both seem to be on the mend as far as the upper respiratory gunk we’ve been dealing with. Even the missing fingertip seems to be on the mend. It is still quite painful whenever I bang it into something, which I do with great frequency as it’s one of my longest fingers, or rather, it used to be . . . Typing is still tender, so there’s that as well.
On a totally different tangent, I’m wondering if anyone out there in the ether has any subjects in particular that they would like to see me tackle. Think of it as a writing prompt for me. Nothing political, as that would only result in thousands of words embodying scathing commentary on my part. I have thought about updating one of those personal surveys, as the last one was several years ago, but I’m not sure. Too juvenile? Random?
Thoughts? Comments? Snoozes?
As always, more later. Peace.
All of today’s images, which are examples of abstract photography, which I love and wish that I could do, were found on Wikimedia Commons.
Music by X Ambassadors, “Unsteady”
“Again, my mind vibrates uncomfortably as it always does. Actually, I am overwhelmed with things I ought to have written about and never found the proper words. I do not let myself think. This is a fact. I cannot face much of the meaning. Shut my mind to anything but work and bowls. And I wonder as I let the month run through my fingers: Can I get out of it? Out of it all? Truth is, I feel all shadows of the universe multiplied deep inside my skin. (Isn’t it all dust and ashes?) I am impressed by the transitoriness of human life to such an extent that I am often saying a farewell…and my heart currently resembles the ashes of my cigarettes; In fact, I’m in the mood to dissolve in the sky.”
~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 1 July 1918
I slept well last night; it was a nice change. I’ve been falling asleep before 11 and then waking initially between 7 and 8. I listen to the dogs play for a while as they try to make me get out of bed, and then I feed everyone. This morning, though, I actually fell back asleep while listening to a podcast.
I’m enjoying podcasts lately. I realize that I’m late to the game, as usual, but my initial interest was spurred by Rachel Maddow’s podcast on Spiro Agnew. I know a lot about Nixon, but knew virtually nothing about Agnew besides the fact that my 7th grade history teacher had a Spiro Agnew watch, a la Mickey Mouse. So I listened to all of the “Bag Man” podcast, and I was hooked. If you don’t know anything about Agnew, I recommend this particular podcast because even though it was decades ago, the circumstances are all too similar to the current state of the country.
So my latest podcast is “Serial,” which is about the case of Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee. I saw a promo on HBO for a series about it that’s coming in March, so I wanted some background. It’s an intriguing case, with many people believing that Syed was unjustly convicted. I’m also interested because it has nothing to do with politics, which I am currently in overload on; it’s all just too ridiculous and does nothing for my blood pressure; so a break is definitely needed.
“I’ve been told quite a lot of things. They hover — some more unbidden than others — in that part of the mind where mistakes and torn wishes echo as in a room that’s been newly cathedraled, so that the echo surprises, though lately it’s less the echo itself that can still most surprise me about memory —” ~ Carl Phillips, from “Wild is the Wind”
I’m trying to apply the approach that I used yesterday, which was to sit down and just start writing, before tumblr, before messing with my over 100 pre-prepared drafts, before anything. I’m hoping to find my groove again, as it were.
So now it’s Thursday (2/14), and mostly overcast and colder, 39 degrees . . .
Admittedly, I left this post for almost three days ago. I got up to do a few things, and then never came back, and then I forgot where I was. I have such good intentions but such bad habits . . .
I won’t even begin to apologize because truthfully the person I really need to apologize to is myself; not writing here hurts only me. Not writing at all affects me: I feel such disappoint in myself for not keeping my promises to myself, and then all of those feelings about being inadequate come flooding back. It’s such a freaking vicious circle, one that I’ve been caught in since I was a child.
“I should do three things every day, but instead I sit, paralyzed in front of my computer, beating myself up for not doing three things every day like I promised myself I would. I’ve determined this is more time-consuming and stressful than actually doing the three goddamn things a day, and, therefore, I’m entitled to my fury.” ~ Jessica Knoll
The following Monday afternoon (2/18), blue skies for a change but cold, 39 degrees.
Yes, I know. It’s ridiculous that I’m only finishing this post one week later. I have no excuses or explanations; actually, I have a ton, but the only one that matters is that I find myself paralyzed. For weeks now, I sit down at this keyboard in my tiny little workspace in the corner of the living room, and I play Spider Solitaire. I tell myself that it’s a warmup, for my fingers, for my brain.
Then, when that doesn’t work, I turn on a podcast (already finished “Serial” and moved on to more), usually about some unsolved crime or particularly weird murder. Again, it’s to get my juices flowing . . . Then about five hours later, I realize that I have not a) eaten b) bathed c) paid any attention to the horses d) gone for a walk (right, not in this cold and mud), and then finally e) written one frigging word.
So as a result, I continue to play Spider Solitaire and click on podcasts. Listen, it’s so bad that most nights lately, I don’t even watch Ari on The Beat (MSNBC), but I do try to fit in Rachel Maddow at 9, only because I’m probably eating a late dinner and getting ready to go to bed, at which time, I will continue to play Spider Solitaire and listen to another episode on my phone as Corey begins to snore softly.
I’m completely disgusted and disappointed in myself at this point. I had such big plans for returning to this blog with so many things to share. But then the self-doubt kicks in, and I think to myself that nothing I have to say could possible interest anyone, and who am I fooling anyway, and I still haven’t gotten my book published, pick one—the one with poems and photographs (which actually does exist in draft form), or the memoir about surviving grief (which exists only in my head), or the mystery (which exists only in snatches written down in various places that I can no longer find).
“Today, mid-February where the wind is full of snow that will not fall, brown leaves curled against the blanched grass, I suspect there are no gardens in you You suspect I am brimming with vast shadows, the way the mud and sky are brimming with snow.” ~ Joanna Klink, from “The Wonder of Birds”
Truthfully, I have been doing one other thing to try to jump start my brain: I’ve been looking at things that writers have written about their writing process or writing in general. It helps, and it hurts. Helps because I can see plainly that everyone has periods in which the words simply will not come, but hurts because these people have such good ideas about how to conquer that wall, and I do not . . .
Anyway, I wanted to share just a couple of quotes here: In an 2004 interview with Poets & Writers, poet Adam Zagajewski said the following about the relationship of beauty to being a writer:
I become deaf to beauty for a week or two or three. This coming and going of the inner life—because this is what it is—is a curse and a blessing. I don’t need to explain why it’s a curse. A blessing because it brings about a movement, an energy which, when it peaks, creates a poem. Or a moment of happiness.
And later in the interview, he says,
Remember that the act of writing is a tiny part of a bigger something . . .
They [autobiographical essays] tell you: Look how miserable I was and how well am I doing now. I’m not saying this. For me, not the healing is important, but memory and thinking. And poetry.
Poet and editor Dalton Day said in a 2014 interview with banangolit:
Write because you want to communicate with yourself. Write because you want to communicate with someone else. Write because life is weird and tragic and amazing. Write because talking is difficult. Write because it polishes the heart. Write because you can. Write because you can’t. Write because there is a blackbird outside of my window right now and oh my god isn’t that the best start to the day? Write because you’re trying to figure yourself out. Write because you might not ever figure yourself out. Write because there still aren’t enough love poems in the world.
“I snake toward myself only to discover I have disturbed no one’s nest but my own . . . Darling, I work by the hourglass. I write songs so that someday you may sing.” ~ Hala Alyan, from “Upstate II”
One other thing that I’ve been doing in the midst of this great nothingness is looking at online literary journals to which I might/could submit my work. This is an exercise in which I participate at least once a year. Having said that, I should now clarify that I have only submitted my work a few times. That’s a few times in many years. In other words, an exercise in futility . . .
A poet who once taught in the same English department once told me that I need an assistant to send out my work. She was serious. She also received a grant from the NEA, so she could afford an assistant to send out her work. Those of us who are penniless cannot afford such luxuries, so we have to rely on our own steam, as it were.
I have no steam.
I am steamless.
I am without steam.
There is no steam anywhere in proximity to my brain.
No steam, vis-a-vis, productive time that does not exist in my life.
More later. I hope. Peace.
All images are by first generation abstract expressionist Clyfford Still. I felt that this post deserved abstract images. To read more about him, go here.
Music by Dakota, “Bare Hands”
Poem for Nobody
an apprehension for reality, the death of the flower,
the collapse of hope, the crush of
wasted years, the nightmare faces,
the mad armies attacking for no reason at all
old shoes abandoned in old corners like half-forgotten
voices that once said love but did not mean
see the face in the mirror? the mirror in the
wall? the wall in the house? the house in the
now always the wrong voice on the telephone
the hungry mouse with beautiful eyes which now lives in
the angry, the empty, the lonely, the
we are all
museums of fear.
as many killers as flies as
we dream of giant
sea turtles with strange words carved into
their hard backs
and no place for the knife to go in.
Cain was Able,
give us this day our daily dread.
the only solace left to us is to hide
alone in the middle of night in some deserted
with each morning less than zero,
humanity is a hammer to the brain,
our lives a bouquet of blood, you can watch
this fool still with his harmonica
playing elegiac tunes while
slouching toward Nirvana