“There is a sense in which we are all each other’s consequences.” ~ Wallace Stegner, from All the Little Live Things

Throwback Thursday: April 26, 2015 post
Web Droplets by Martyn Wright FCC
Web Droplets by Martyn Wright (FCC)

The other day I was looking for something on my site, and the following post showed up in my search results. When this happens, I usually read the words that I wrote in the past, and sometimes I am flabbergasted . . . I mean, who was this person who cobbled together these words in such a way, and why can I not do so now? It’s a double-edged sword: on the one side lies the positive sense of amazement, and on the other lies the overwhelming sense of disappointment. I want to be able to write like this once again, but since I cannot, I have decided to share the post itself with the understanding that while I may be feeling these emotions today, I am unable to describe them in any cogent way.

Hence, the rerun. Apologies for this.

 “Perhaps it’s true that things can change in a day. That a few dozen hours can affect the outcome of whole lifetimes. And that when they do, those few dozen hours, like the salvaged remains of a burned house—the charred clock, the singed photograph, the scorched furniture—must be resurrected from the ruins and examined. Preserved. Accounted for. Little events, ordinary things, smashed and reconstituted. Imbued with new meaning.” ~ Arundhati Roy, from The God of Small Things

Sunday early evening. Sunny and cooler, 57 degrees.

Drips by Ricardo Camacho FCC
Drips by Ricardo Camacho (FCC)

So much going through my brain, thoughts coming at me, bombarding my senses, leaving me feeling bruised and broken.

Last night as I lay in bed, sleep elusive once again, I began to wonder when it was, exactly, that I lost my strength, my fortitude, as it were. I used to consider myself such a strong person, a person able to weather storms, a person who could take the worst that life heaped on my plate and still, somehow, survive.

But now? Now I cannot find that strength. I search and search, and I only find weakness, and weakness is to be pitied, and pity? Pity is to be scorned. Who wants pity? At least if someone hates you, that hatred encapsulates a strong emotion. Pity bears nothing. It is hollow and useless.

“My mind is blank, as indifferent as the
noonday heat. But images of memories descend from afar and land in
the bowl of water, neutral memories, neither painful nor joyful, such as
a walk in a pine forest, or waiting for a bus in the rain, and I wash them
as intently as if I had a literary crystal vase in my hands.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from “A coloured cloud”

My heart feels old. My soul feels rent. My mind feels spent. And I have to wonder who decided that life should always be hard, that the good days should always have a shadow cast upon them. I have to wonder how other people survive in this world, this world so full of heartbreak and sorrow. How do the strong survive? How do the weak find the strength to try once again?

Rain on a Window Gabriele Diwald FCC
Rain on a Window by Gabrielle Diwald (FCC)

It’s all such a mystery to me. I can discern no patterns. Perhaps all of the patterns I once saw were only an illusion. It’s all too much like a fogged pane of glass, a window that steam has cloaked, and then that steam devolves into rivulets that run down the pane so quickly to nothing.

We sleep. We wake. We love, and we hate. We eat, and we cry, and we make love as if it were the last time. We lie and we steal, and we move against one another. We forge alliances and then just as easily break them. We speak decisively, and we wonder what we speak. We cling and we rend, and we scream until sound fails us. We fall and fall again. We turn and turn again.

“To be left with only the trace of a memory is to gaze at an armchair that’s still molded to the form of a love who has left never to return: it is to grieve, it is to weep.” ~ Orhan Pamuk, from The Black Book

At different points in my life, I have felt as if I knew exactly what fate had in store for me. So clear was the way ahead. So determined was the heart beating in my breast. And then at other times I have felt as if the roads that I took were actually part of one large labyrinth, seeming to move in one direction, when in actuality, every path reached a dead end.

Water Drops by Jo Naylor FCC
Water Drops by Jo Naylor (FCC)

The people around me search for answers and find none. The man on the corner, holding the tattered piece of cardboard declaring his humble wishes, talks to me of kittens. The woman moving so sure-footed down the hallway stops in her forward progress to ask if I need help. The son walks past me as if he does not see me until I call his name.

And you there, on the bed you have made, how does it feel? Was it everything you ever wanted? Or is it full of briars and thorns, hidden amidst the down?

“you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.” ~ Louise Glück, from “The Sensual World”

I speak in riddles because that it the only way I know through. Perhaps if I meander enough, I will once more find my way. Or perhaps if I meander too much, I will find myself completely lost.

Peony in Rain by James Mann FCC
Peony in Rain by James Mann (FCC)

The shore is not calm, and the moon is not high, and all of the stars in the universe are hidden from me because they contain truth. And this truth they have scattered here and there, placed a grain here in this broken shell, and another one there, in the knothole of that oak. I know this because I once found truth in the discarded hull of a walnut, and when I looked closely, I saw that its center was shaped like a heart. And I thought to myself, “At last. Here it is, at last.”

And I thought to place that small wooden heart safely under my pillow, where it would conjure restful nights of sleep and dreams, but when my fingers sought beneath my pillow, it was gone.

Truth is like that.

“There’s no understanding fate;” ~ Albert Camus, from “Caligula”

One day, I may actually find my place in this world, but more than likely, not. I have no more right to peace of mind than the woman in line behind me at the grocery store, even though she seems to have found her calm place through Dr. Pepper and potato chips.

Rainy Day by Keshav Mukund Kandhadai FCC
Rainy Day by Keshav Mukund Kandhadai (FCC)

Can it be bought, this peace of mind? Can I find it amid the words I finger on the screen, as if prying them loose would free them to become realities? Is it hidden in the pages of sonnets an old lover once gifted me, or is it there, among the cornflowers growing absently in the cracked pavement of the parking lot?

Milton lost paradise, and I have yet to find it, but I came close once, so very close . . . but too soon I found that it had only been my imagination, running rampant once again. And so I stand at the shore, tempering my pulse to beat with the outgoing tide—its fierce syncopation ultimately forcing air into my lungs, even as I try to cease the sweep of time’s second hand none too well, if not at all.

More later. Peace.


Music by Angus and Julia Stone, “Draw Your Swords”

 


It Rains

It rains
over the sand, over the roof
the theme
of the rain:
the long l s of rain fall slowly
over the pages
of my everlasting love,
this salt of every day:
rain, return to your old nest,
return with your needles to the past:
today I long for the whitest space,
winter’s whiteness for a branch
of green rosebush and golden roses:
something of infinite spring
that today was waiting, under a cloudless sky
and whiteness was waiting,
when the rain returned
to sadly drum
against the window,
then to dance with unmeasured fury
over my heart and over the roof,
reclaiming
its place,
asking me for a cup
to fill once more with needles,
with transparent time,
with tears.

~ Pablo Neruda

“We never know the quality of someone else’s life, though we seldom resist the temptation to assume and pass judgement.” ~ Tami Hoag, from Dark Horse

Henri Matisse, “Open Door, Brittany” (1896, oil on board)

“Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.” ~ Paulo Coelho, from The Alchemist

Saturday afternoon, partly cloudy, 45 degrees.

Corey has gotten a ride into Coeburn to pick up the second round of shots for the puppies. The rescue coordinator managed to get someone to donate the shots, not sure who, but it’s a definite boon. The pups are a bit overdue for this round. Here’s hoping that the woman who was on tap to foster them will be willing to take them soon once they’ve gone through this round of vaccinations.

Richard Diebenkorn, “Interior with Doorway” (1962, oil on canvas)

Lately, when I make it into the living room in the morning, I really want to turn around and go back to bed and hide beneath the covers. The living room can best be described as a disaster area. Let me back up: When we moved, we bought an oversized bean bag chair at Sam’s that could be opened into a full-sized mattress. We slept on this  during the moving process. Recently, we decided to let the dogs sleep on it temporarily, mostly for Tillie’s arthritis. Since the arrival of the pups and goats, the bean bag has been appropriated at various times and is in a state of complete breakdown. Someone or the other made a hole in the middle of the cover, and it has become a game to pull out the pieces of memory foam with which it has been stuffed.

The living room floor is covered in pieces of memory foam, and as soon as I sweep, more pieces appear. It’s our own version of a ball pit, albeit one composed of memory foam. Why do I let the puppies do this,  you may wonder. I’m swimming against a tide composed of 17 rapidly growing puppies and two goat kids. What would you do? How would you go about handling all of this . . . this . . . what this is?

I know. You wouldn’t be in this situation, would you? You would have had the females spayed last year. Or you wouldn’t have taken on more dogs when Dallas died. Or you would have taken the puppies to any available shelter and been done with it. Or you would have put all of the animals in the big barn that doesn’t exist. Or you would have gathered all of your family and friends and held a big ol’ barn raising. Or you never would have moved onto a farm without the proper equipment, or structures, or working capital. Or………….

“but we can’t know what suffering will cost us.
It could cost the very self that longed for it,
that winked at its specter, lurking,
blueing the sky. In the wake of its coming,
the small boat of our souls—” ~ Eliza Griswold, from “In Another Year of Fewer Disappointments”

Sunday afternoon, overcast, 49 degrees.

So just as I began to fall into the familiar rhythm of writing, the laptop decided to throw the old problems at me: repeated scripts and constant screen blackouts. It was all too much, and so I abandoned the post in the hopes that I would be able to finish today. It’s odd, really, how one day this laptop will work just fine, and then the next, nothing works, or works consistently. Today seems to be a better day; you could almost believe that this machine has moods.

Almost.

Marcus Stone, “Doorway” (nd, oil on canvas)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, your smooth judgment of our ragged current state of affairs. Granted, I’m assuming that you are judging, and maybe you aren’t, but if the tables were turned, I would probably judge. That’s the kind of person that I am, or rather, used to be. I’ve become much kinder in the ways in which I view people and their circumstances. I suppose that it’s one of the benefits of being on the far side of youth: experience has in fact taught me not to be so swift in my condemnation of others, has taught me the pitfalls of doing so, among many other life lessons that youth in general can never begin to understand.

The fact is that I probably judge myself much more harshly than anyone else ever could. My critical eye is most keen when turned inward. Funny, I just remembered something that my first serious boyfriend said to me, quite without malice—that I should be a critic when I grew up because I was always criticizing everyone and everything. I was maybe 15 at the time. I wonder how I had already become so damned cynical at such a young age, but truthfully, I don’t have to wonder much. My mother was one of the most judgmental people that I have ever encountered. Hands down.

My Aunt Betty, my mom’s best friend for years, once used the word deluge to describe a heavy rain that had been going on for days, and I remember my mom being so put out about the word, going on and on about how Betty used these strange words. But I also remember that at the time I thought that it was such a cool-sounding word, and I immediately looked it up in the dictionary (you know, those books we used pre-Google). So weird when those little blips of memory arrive unbidden.

But I digress . . .

“All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life —where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.” ~ Miranda July, from It Chooses You

Back to my assessment of my critical eye and my mother: She was always most critical of those closest to her—me, my dad, her family, her friends. I’m not sure if any of us ever measured up, so I’m not surprised that I too grew up to be hyper critical, but for the most part, I have reserved that criticism for those outside of my inner circle, so I was truly surprised when that boyfriend made that comment. I denied it and laughed it off, but alone with my thoughts, I mulled it over. Was I that critical? And for that matter, how does one go about being paid to criticize?

John Singer Sargent, “Venetian Doorway” (c1902, watercolor on paper)

So as regards the current situation in which we no find ourselves—anything that you could say or think, I have already said and thought. Like it or not, having three bitches become impregnated is irresponsible, regardless of the reasons that led to such a turn of events. Corey and I never quite seem to be able to make it to this side of being responsible adults, at least not when it comes to finances. Try as we might, we never seem to get it right, so we keep finding ourselves in these impossible situations.

How does that happen exactly? Seriously. How?

We genuinely try and try and try. We have no extravagances in our lives now, never go to bars or movies, never buy clothes, rarely buy books, never go out to eat. His biggest personal expense is cigarettes, and mine is makeup/skincare, but even those things have been pared back to the barest of bones. We do have internet, and we do have a television subscription service (a cable alternative), but being able to at least watch a few key shows is frankly one of the only things keeping me sane.

“Sometimes you imagine that everything could have been different for you, that if only you had gone right one day when you chose to go left, you would be living a life you could never have anticipated. But at other times you think there was no other way forward–that you were always bound to end up exactly where you have.” ~ Kevin Brockmeier, from The View from the Seventh Layer

I have no answers to any of this. Right now, my biggest concern is transferring these puppies to the rescue people and then doing a major deep clean of the house. Exciting, right?

And in the meantime, I keep questioning my life choices and wondering how and why it seems that an emotional bomb exploded and destroyed any normalcy I once had in my life. I continue to wonder how best to fix everything that is wrong while simultaneously wondering if any of this is in fact fixable. Look, I know that few people actually have lives that are as seamless as they might appear. Behind the safety of doors firmly fixing outside factors and circumstances externally, what happens inside, physically or mentally, can never truly be known by others.

So this brings me back to my original query: What would you do? What would anyone do? How do people with seemingly smooth-sailing lives handle it when it all goes to hell? Drugs? Alcohol? Emotional addictions? I’m not being facetious. Truly. When Corey makes my morning cup of coffee, I ask him to add opium. Am I joking? Yes. No. Probably.

Panaylotis Tetsis, “French Door” (1961)

Let me back up. I don’t have a drug problem. In fact, it would be damned hard for me to do so, first because of the money such a thing would take, and second, and more importantly, because I hate relinquishing control, to anyone or anything, which is why I’ve never even tried anything more than pot and speed (way back in the day). But it feels good to make such facetious comments because it lets me know that I haven’t completely lost myself, haven’t lost the sardonic side, haven’t lost the small ability to make feeble jokes in the face of mountains of ca ca.

And so I continue to slog through it as best I can, and while that may not seem the best way to handle things, especially to someone just looking in, it’s the only way I can, the only way I know how. And that means that at this precise moment, there is a passel of puppies sleeping in a scrum on the bean bag behind me. Small pieces of memory foam cover at least half the surface of the living room floor. Corey is in the kitchen with the two goats and the rest of the puppies trying to put together soup for our dinner, and my most recent to-do list was probably shredded by the goats when I wasn’t looking.

Ask me next week how things are, and I probably won’t be able to cite any major changes or improvements in our current circumstances. But at least we’ll be here, on the ridge, in the midst of over 100 acres of rambling land just ripe with possibilities. And perhaps that’s the most important word of all: possibilities.

There are still possibilities. And so I go on.

More later. Peace.


Music by Onuka, “Time”


Sometimes, When the Light

Sometimes, when the light strikes at odd angles
and pulls you back into childhood

and you are passing a crumbling mansion
completely hidden behind old willows

or an empty convent guarded by hemlocks
and giant firs standing hip to hip,

you know again that behind that wall,
under the uncut hair of the willows

something secret is going on,
so marvelous and dangerous

that if you crawled through and saw,
you would die, or be happy forever.

~ Lisel Mueller

 

“That’s how it is sometimes when we plunge into the depths of our lives. No one can accompany us, not even those who would give up their hearts for our happiness.” ~ Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, Sister of My Heart

Emil Nolde, “Das Gehoft Seebüll” (c1940, watercoloron Japan Paper)*

“That is how always, you lost:
never as one who possesses, but like someone dying
who bending into the moist breeze of an evening in March,
loses the springtime, alas, in the throats of the birds.
Far too much you belong to grief.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Original Version of the Tenth Elegy” (Trans. Stephen Mitchell)

Thursday afternoon, overcast with drizzle, 43 degrees.

Hello. Very long time no write. I’ve missed you. Last night, in the wee hours, I tried to remember the last time that I had actually written a real post, you know, one with quotes, music, images. I couldn’t recall, couldn’t even remember the month.

Emil Nolde, “Williows in the Snow” (1908, watercolor)

I suppose that it all began with the computer problems, which proved to be such an impediment to the flow of writing, and then the huge passel of puppies that entered our lives before Christmas, and then the goat births, one after another. The next thing that I knew, it was 2020, and I was completely lost beneath a veritable mountain of what can only be termed as ca ca, to be polite. I mean, I woke up on my birthday with Corey holding my favorite puppy and the news that we might be facing Parvo or some other devastating illness. Since that morning, we have been aggressively nursing and isolating first one and then another puppy.

We lost two, two of my favorites actually. It was devastating, but I did not allow myself to break down at the time because, frankly, we did not have time for grief. There was just too much to face. Thankfully, it’s been over a week since the last one showed any signs of illness, but we must continue to care for all of them for at least another week until any rescue group will even consider taking them, mostly because of the possibility of Parvo. I suppose that if I were in their shoes that I would be just as reticent.

In between, Corey’s truck died completely, the transmission, and my car isn’t operable because the tires are bad, and it isn’t legal (registration and inspection), and wouldn’t you know, that state cop that harasses Corey stopped and cited him a few weeks ago. We had put off taking care of my vehicle until this year, but now………it’s this year.

“I guess that’s what people don’t understand, can’t understand, about grief. You can’t assign it. It’s just assigned.” ~ Dalton Day, from “Beware of Falling Deer”

You see, we had really hoped that 2020 would be a better year in many ways, but especially as regards the animals. In 2019, we lost my horse Petra, who Dallas took back, ostensibly to nurse, but then we never saw her again, and when he died, Petra was nowhere to be found; Annie, the colt that Sassy gave birth to on our anniversary, died after only a few days. We also lost our first two goats, Max and Ruby (who I had named after two of Olivia’s favorite book and television characters), as well as the death of a days-old kid born in December. Corey had named him Gizmo, and he was so precious. This time when the kids were born, Corey was unwilling to name them for the first week, not wanting to invest even that small, personal touch before we could be somewhat certain of their survival.

Emil Nolde, “Wet Day” (1918, oil on canvas)

I don’t know why we seem to have female goats and horses who lack any kind of mothering sensibilities, but Gizmo’s mother had birthed him, cleaned him, and then left him in the field. We were uncertain as to exactly how old he was when Corey found him. We think the lack of colostrum from nursing in those first hours doomed him before he could become strong.

Then in quick succession in mid January, Bobby, Blue, and Penny all gave birth, and none of them seemed interested in caring for their kids beyond cleaning them immediately after birth, and one failed to do even that; unfortunately, one of the female babies didn’t make it, so we were left with five males and one male, but we were on high alert for their births, which made a difference in their survival. If you’ve never had to clean a newborn animal, then you can’t even imagine how stressful that can be, trying to be careful but thorough simultaneously. Anyway, that’s six goats that we had to bottle feed on top of three litters of puppies, all in our very small house.

The night that we lost the first puppy, Patches, I held him in my arms as he whimpered in pain and then finally took his last breath. The following night, Corey held Brinn as he died. Yes, they were puppies, dogs, not human, but sentient beings nonetheless, ones that breathed and felt and suffered. If you are not an animal lover in the same vein that we are, perhaps you might not understand the pain that we have felt these last days and weeks. Let me just tell you that if your soul is already one that is tender as regards the foibles and failures of the universe, then personal losses can seem breathtakingly overwhelming. And all of these have; add to that the guilt over the lack of vehicle or funds to seek veterinary care.

My penchant for swimming in a sea of guilt even in the best of times has been increased exponentially of late.

“We inhale the moon,
suck in the clouds, try to satiate the desert
of our bodies that are always fumbling
at loss. Like Brother stars are such distant
luminous spheres.” ~ Casandra López, from “Midnight Memorial”

Over the last few weeks I’ve spoken with three different rescue groups in an attempt to get the puppies placed. The first group was a big disappointment; ultimately, they wanted $500. One group was out of Pennsylvania and one out of West Virginia. The most promising one is the one out of West Virginia, but now we are on hold because of the possibility of Parvo. If you didn’t already know, Parvo isn’t the automatic death sentence for dogs that it used to be, but it is still quite serious; it’s also very easy to transmit. The rescue people want to be certain that if the puppies were indeed infected with Parvo, that there isn’t a possibility that they can infect any other dogs in their care.

It’s understandable, but disappointing nevertheless. When I spoke to the coordinator today, she asked for my thoughts. I was honest: I told her that we are pretty much desperate to place these puppies. The house smells worse than a kennel; I told Corey that if I came to the door of a house that looked like ours in its current state, I wouldn’t go inside. I was not exaggerating.

Emil Nolde, “Rain over a Marsh” (c1938, watercolor on rice paper)

Fortunately, four of the goat babies are gone. Corey set up a trade with a guy that he knows who also breeds goats. In exchange for the kids, we’ll get a grown Kiko Boer nanny goat who has already been bred. We just can’t pick her up until we have some kind of transportation. At least with four of the goats gone, it’s a bit quieter in the house. We’ve kept the one female and the one male who has completely different coloring from any of the ones we currently have.

This same guy put Corey in touch with someone he knows who is selling a truck. It sounds like a good deal, not bad shape, but we have to wait until tomorrow to see if it’s still available as the seller had promised some other guy that he had dibs. Nothing is ever frigging easy.

You know how some people seem to move through life charmed? Everything seems to go their way, and things fall easily into their laps. Hardships are infrequent and/or minor. That’s not us. I’m always reminded of that old “Hee Haw” song, “Gloom, Despair, and Agony on Me,” that has the applicable line—”If it weren’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all.”

Yep. Totally.

“Another secret of the universe: Sometimes pain was like a storm that came out of nowhere. The clearest summer could end in a downpour. Could end in lightning and thunder.” ~ Benjamin Alire Sáenz, from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

So is it any wonder that I have absented myself from here? I’m actually surprised that I’ve been able to string together this many words cogently. Each time in the last weeks that I’ve sat down to try to write something, I find myself instead listening to YouTube videos and playing Spider Solitaire because that requires nothing of my brain. Neither thing requires my engagement or my investment.

Emil Nolde, “Winter Landscape” (c1907, watercolor)

The impeachment and sham of a trial helped to keep me distracted for many weeks, and there was even a tiny kernel of hope that something, anything might happen to slow the ever-eroding state of our democracy. I will admit to being completely shocked that that small kernel came in the form of Mitt Romney, but it was far too little far too late, and so outside of this bubble in which I live, things continue to deteriorate, but I cannot even raise a modicum of my usual righteous indignation at that country’s state of affairs. I have to choose my battles at this point, and those battles are decidedly the ongoing ones on the personal home front.

I would be lying if I didn’t say that there are more days than not in which I truly wonder if we made the right decision in coming here with so little capital. But unless you are wealthy or lucky, when is it ever the right time to undertake a major life upheaval? We got all of this acreage for a song, but the available capital all went into the down payment. There was none leftover for repairs or renovations. And too, I miss Norfolk. I miss going to the movies. I miss going to our favorite sushi restaurant. I miss jumping in my car and going anywhere I wanted and knowing that I didn’t have to travel more than 15 or 20 minutes at the most to have access to . . . well, anything.

The city offers convenience. The country offers quiet. Does such a place exist in which both are relatively available? Who knows. Certainly not I.

“Time itself does not ‘console,’ as people say superficially; at best it assigns things to their proper place and creates an order.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to Countess Margot Sizzo-Noris-Crouy, January 6, 1923
Emil Nolde, “Inundation” (nd, watercolor on paper)

I do not kid myself that if I ever returned to Norfolk that my life would improve. My relationship with my children remains fractured, and I don’t know how or if I can ever fix that. I miss my granddaughter so much that it is an actual physical ache at times, but she is states away, living with her father and his family, and I don’t know if I’ll ever see her again, this after being a daily part of her life since birth. I don’t even know what books she is reading, which I realized when I tried to find some books to send her for Christmas. All I know is that she is healthy and doing very well in school.

That’s not enough. Just as it’s not enough that I know that Alexis is working and has a new person in her life. I know nothing about either of my sons’ lives, only what my daughter tells me. How does this happen? My eldest son texted me for my birthday, but again, I heard nothing from my youngest. I used to think that the worst thing about my birthday was when my mother forgot. I was so wrong.

I’ve been more wrong than right about so many things in the last few years; it’s hard to discern when the shift actually began. I liked the woman that I used to be: powerful, strong, confident, so certain of so many things. This half person is a stranger to me, a stranger that I would prefer not to know at all.

I apologize for the length, but apparently I had much to say. More later, with any luck. Peace.

*I’m bringing back one of my favorite artists, the German Expressionist Emil Nolde; In the past I have posted many of his seascapes, so today I thought I’d do a few landscapes instead. Until recently, I really was unaware of his Nazi past. If you are interested in learning more, ARTnews has a really good article here.

Music by Alison Luff, “She Used to be Mine” (Sara Bareilles cover)


Clown in the Moon

My tears are like the quiet drift
Of petals from some magic rose;
And all my grief flows from the rift
Of unremembered skies and snows.

I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.

~ Dylan Thomas

One of the worst days of the year . . .

Caitlin died 31 years ago on Monday, November 7 at 2:42 pm. I still remember the exact time. I still remember how sound suddenly came back and assaulted my senses after not being able to hear anything except for my heart and the beep of monitor to which she was still connected. I still remember walking to the car and running into two of her doctors in the hallway, Petra and Jaime.

Weird the details that your mind stores away, only to bring to the forefront without warning.


I heard this song in an episode of Bosch, which I’ve been binging. Bittersweet serendipity.

Music by Rosie Thomas, “Farewell”

“But our innocence goes awfully deep, and our discreditable secret is that we don’t know anything at all, and our horrid inner secret is that we don’t care that we don’t.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from a letter to his wife (November/December 1936)

Dylan Thomas in his favorite environment: a bar

My birthday began with the water-
…..Birds and the birds of the winged trees flying my name
……..Above the farms and the white horses
…………….And I rose
………….In rainy autumn
….And walked abroad in a shower of all my days.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from “Poem in October”

Sunday evening, cloudy, 66 degrees.

Today is the birthday of Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (October 27, 1914-November 9, 1953). The Poetry Foundation has a good biography and selection of his poems, or you can visit the official website, Discover Dylan Thomas, here.

I still remember the circumstances in which I read my first Thomas poem: I was an undergraduate, working in the newsroom, and one of the editors brought me a handwritten copy of his most famous poem (below) and asked me to type it as she wanted to give it to her father. I realize now what I was unable to fathom at that time, that her father must have been ill.

I remember being moved by the words as I typed them, so moved that in the ignorance of my youth I decided to write my own version. I know, right? Ah, the unfounded arrogance that only the young possess.

I showed that version to one of my writing professors, and she very kindly pointed out that perhaps there were some poems that should not be rewritten, or updated, or mangled by an overwrought young writer (she didn’t say the last part).

Yeh. It was that bad, but I digress . . .

Anyway, listening to Thomas’s deep, melodious voice read his own work enhances the impact of the words and phrasing of his poems. The wonder is that Thomas was able to retain his mellifluous speaking voice in spite of how much he drank and smoked, as opposed to, say, Charles Bukowski. whose voice was scratchy from booze and cigarettes.

More later. Peace.

Today is also the birthday of poet and writer Sylvia Plath (October 27, 1932February 11, 1963), who I have featured here several times before.

Dylan Thomas reading his poem “Do Not Go Gentle Into that Good Night”


Do not go gentle into that good night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wordless Wednesdays . . .

Wednesday afternoon, cloudy and cooler, 79 degrees.

Sometimes, word are simply not enough.


Music by 2Cellos, “Now We Are Free”

62, 22, 9, 4, 32

 

“He described feeling an aversion to other people. Not a murderous rage, but a cold, dismissive hate. He hated others, he explained, the way some people hate broccoli.” ~ a reference to Aurora, Colorado gunman james holmes in a Washington Post ARTICLE (March 15, 2018)

Tuesday afternoon, cloudy, 79 degrees

Today’s Two for Tuesday does not feature poetry. Unfortunately, it features two mass shootings in two days: El Paso, Texas (22 dead, 26 injured) and Dayton, Ohio (9 dead, 27 injured in 32 seconds). Less than a week ago, 4 people were killed and 12 injured in Gilroy, California. Nowhere else in the world do events such as these happen with this frequency.  Yes, there are other mass shootings in other countries, but nothing like what happens here in the USA.

Tampa Bay Times front page

Yesterday, the Dumpster Fire in Chief actually used a medium besides Twitter to address the nation in a stilted speech in which he condemned the very racism and white nationalism that he continually stokes, in which he got the massacre locales wrong (Toledo for Dayton, and Houston for El Paso), and in which he tried to pin the blame on video games and mental illness. Consider, video games flourish all over the world. People suffer from mental health issues all over the world. But these things do not happen with this frequency anywhere except here.

Researchers do suggest that certain factors can be predictors as to whether or not someone can become a mass shooter: “a strong sense of resentment, desire for infamy, copycat study of other shooters, past domestic violence, narcissism and access to firearms.” However, according to criminologist Adam Lankford, a country’s rate of gun ownership is a far better predictor of public mass shootings than indicators of mental illness; Lankford, a University of Alabama associate professor, published a 2016 analysis of data from 171 countries in the journal Violence and Victims.

Additionally, the attempt to link violent video games to mass shooters only perpetuates a falsehood. Jonathan Metzl, director of the Center for Medicine, Health and Society at Vanderbilt University, states that there is no statistical link between playing violent video games and shooting people. A 2004 report by the Secret Service and the Education Department determined that only 12 percent of perpetrators in more than three dozen school shootings showed an interest in violent video games.

Time magazine created a chart showing the number of mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982; below is the section for 2019 alone (totals do not include the shooters), indicating that 62 people have been killed by mass shooting so far this year. We still have four months left in 2019, people. The statistics are grim:

Mass Shootings in 2019 (Time Magazine)
“We should soundly reject language coming out of the mouths of any of our leaders that feeds a climate of fear and hatred or normalizes racist sentiments; leaders who demonize those who don’t look like us, or suggest that other people, including immigrants, threaten our way of life, or refer to other people as sub-human, or imply that America belongs to just one certain type of people.” ~ President Barack Obama (August 5, 2019)

In 2007, after the shootings at Virginia Tech, I thought that there might actually be some leveling of the gun laws in this country. Then, in 2012, I believed that surely after the Newtown shooting of school children that we would come together as a nation and actually do something. Then in 2017, when one man killed 59 people and injured 527 in Las Vegas, I thought to myself, “surely now something will happen.”

I can be incredibly naive at times.

But something feels different this time. At least, I like to hope/think so. Consider—news organizations and pundits are actually calling these heinous events what they are: DOMESTIC TERRORISM. So many of us like to sit on our sofas within the safety of our homes and decry the terrorism that may be visited upon us by Al Qaida or some other group of Muslims or Mexicans or whoever we happen to most fear and loathe in our ignorance. But we need not look to the other to find the real threat, the true enemy. We need not worry about those who worship differently, or those whose skin isn’t Caucasian, or those whose accents aren’t ‘merican.

The enemy is within. It is us. The enemy frequents 4Chan or 8Chan or whatever other forum happens to be exploding with venom shared by the disaffected or outlying or just plain evil individuals who post their screeds in the ether. And as one commentator pointed out, these are not manifestos; labeling them as such gives these rants too much credit.

These terrorists are incubated and bred right here at home. They haven’t invaded, to use the dumpster’s term for anyone who has immigrated or who seeks sanctuary. The killers come from a few states over, or a nearby city or town, or even next door. The people responsible for slaughtering scores of Americans in recent years are more often than not white males who feel that the world just isn’t fair, who may or may not have been bullied, who contend that a brown man or black woman has stolen the job meant for them, who believe the Kool-Ade that this administration spews from the sacred pulpit of Twitter or proclaims vociferously at red-hatted events. And some simply want to be famous, or infamous, as the case may be.

“America’s is not a uniquely cruel culture, but it is a culture awash in guns. While bullies exist everywhere, the United States has one of the highest gun-ownership rates in the world. That’s what makes social rejection in this country so uniquely deadly.” ~ from “Why Many Mass Shooters Are ‘Loners’” (The Atlantic, August 5, 2019)

To label these hate-filled people as being crazy or mentally ill does a great disservice to those who actually suffer from mental illness and do not go on killing rampages. I would also contend that blaming mental illness alone for their actions gives them yet another excuse that they don’t deserve. True, some may have suffered from untreated conditions such as depression or schizophrenia, but the Dumpster’s “focus on ‘mentally ill monsters’ oversimplifies the role of mental illness in public mass shootings and downplays the ease with which Americans can get firearms” (ABC News).

No one forced any of these individuals to acquire a gun or several guns; no one filled their arms with multiple rounds of ammunition. That being said, they were not created in vacuums. They were indoctrinated into a world of hate via online chats and inculcated via televised screeds, and for some, their mental illness may have led them to be more easily swayed. Some, but not all. We must not downplay the role of hatred in all of this.

The enemy is us, and we are him. This enemy wants us to be afraid of the other. I would prefer to be angry, not at the other, but at the system that nurtures the environment responsible for gestating such people. I would contend that righteous indignation is the best response to such ignorance. I would aver that abiding intolerance should be directed at those elected to represent and protect us, the ones who refuse to do what is needed and right, the ones who so fear a gun lobby that they remain silent, offering only the standard thoughts and prayers, as if those thoughts and prayers could actually shield us.

I’m tired of hoping that things will change. I’m past the point of being shocked at the numbers. The numbers don’t lie; they leave the lies to the selectively impotent politicians, the ones who decry loudly that the concept of healthcare for all will destroy our national way of life, but remain mute in the face of the actual death knell to a free society: unabated killing after killing after killing.

We should all be mortified that our school children are now routinely taught what to do in the case of an active shooter. We should be weary that yet another candlelight vigil for families and survivors brings no actionable change. We should be embarrassed that the rest of the world views us as little more than savage heathens who strap on our guns before going to church or out to dinner and who love our guns more than we love our citizenry. How much longer must we be strong and resilient in the aftermath of gun violence? When will we finally get off our knees and do something more concrete after offering feeble thoughts and prayers that do nothing to assuage the violence. We should do all of this and more, but I fear that we will not, at least not in my lifetime, and I fear that we shall all continue to slow dance in this quicksand.