Here’s hoping that everyone out there has a safe, happy, and healthy 2020. Best wishes from me to you.
“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations
Thursday, late afternoon, cloudy and humid, thunderstorms on the horizon, 85 degrees.
So . . . Thursday thoughts . . .
I’ve been pondering regret, all kinds of regret, and I decided that instead of just mulling over all of this in my head that I would try to get some of these thoughts down here. I have no idea as to just how successful I’ll be in doing this, as lately, each time I begin to type, all of the myriad of ideas racing through my head suddenly disappear, and I am left with nothing, no words, no well-constructed lines of thought and logic.
So perhaps rather than trying to write well-constructed sentences, I’ll just type the thoughts as they come, much like my dream post of a few days ago. So here goes, in no particular order or priority:
- I regret that I was not more patient with my mother, that I was not more forthcoming with her, but it always seemed so hard, seemed as if she just wouldn’t understand, and honestly, I don’t know if she would have wanted to hear what I had to say. My mother was not one for warm and fuzzy, not one for hugs, not one for saying “I love you,” and I never really found out why. I had my theories, but no real confirmation.
- I regret that I do not have regular contact with my dad’s last living sibling, my Uncle Ely in Florida. He’s old and sick, and I doubt that I’ll see him again while he still lives. It’s the last tie on that side.
- I regret not going back to the hospital in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning to be with my dad; instead, I fell asleep, and he died alone.
“The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet
- I really wish that we had painted this whole house before we moved in, but we had no electricity, and we were dealing with closing up things in Norfolk while simultaneously trying to set up things here. But I wonder if we’ll ever have this house straightened out.
- I wish that I had been more proactive in taking care of the house on Benjamin. I hated that house for several reasons, but still, it was my home, and my children were raised there.
- I really, really regret not applying to a low-residence MFA program when it would have made more sense. An MFA is considered a terminal degree, which means that having one allows you to apply to tenure track positions at colleges and universities. I’ve found one that I’d still love to attend, but that costs money. There is no money
- I regret that I was never better with finances. I’ve reached an age that I was totally unprepared for, and my financial situation is no better than it was 20 years ago. How does that happen?
“I had buried too much too deeply inside me. And here I am, instead of there.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Then there are these:
- I regret the break up of my first marriage, not because of the relationship, but because of what it did to my kids. I don’t know if Eamonn will ever forgive me for it, even though his father fell in love with another person less than two months after leaving.
- I really regret letting certain friendships fall by the wayside when spouse #1 and I split, especially my very long friendship with Pat and the one I had with Becky from the museum. They were two incredible women. For a weird reason, there was a rift between spouse #1 and I, and our relationship with our closest friends, Pat and Winn, a rift I’ll never fully understand, and now I’ll never be able to see or talk to Pat again; I did not even know that she had died until almost a year later.
- I regret feeling too tired to drive out to see Alan after work that afternoon. His sister said that he waited for me. He died soon after.
- I regret that I did not see Dallas one more time before he died. I don’t know that it would have been a good visit, but once someone dies, you always think of things that you wish you had said. It’s still weird for me, his death. There has been no service, no closure, just texts, messages, and rumors. I don’t know how to handle that.
“Droll thing life is—that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself—that comes too late—a crop of inextinguishable regrets.” ~ Joseph Conrad, from Heart of Darkness
- I wish that I was in touch with more of my mom’s family. That everything with her family in Great Bridge ended so abruptly still pains me deeply. That I don’t know the status of her sister in Winston Salem shames me.
- I am so embarrassed that I have not paid to have the dates put on my mom’s grave marker. It was something that I was going to get around to doing, but then never did. I just don’t understand how things like that happen, or rather, how I let things like that happen.
- Sometimes I still regret not moving to New York and actually trying to make it in the theater. I know that I probably don’t have the guts to do such a thing, yet I also know that I do. Does that make sense?
- I regret trying to teach Heart of Darkness to a bunch of freshmen at Tech.
“I am grateful for all those dark years, even though in retrospect they seem like a long, bitter prayer that was answered finally.” ~ Marilynne Robinson, from Gilead
And finally, a few more:
- I regret accruing student debt for Brett that still looms out there, haunting me and him. College should not break people financially.
- I regret everything bad that happened with Mari, still.
- I regret the how the last two years played out.
- I regret never having another child.
Ultimately, I regret far too many things to list here, far too many thing to try to enumerate in any kind of cogent way. People I have wronged. Relationships better left unpursued. Arguments. Words spoken and unspoken. Decisions made and those put off and then forgotten. Stupid things like something I left undone at Dillard’s, or a night that would have been better never happening, the wrong outfit at a wedding . . .
Who can live with such things and not go crazy? Is it any wonder that I never feel adequate or whole? Any wonder that my entire sense of self is controlled by guilt? Such self-loathing. Such would-have, should-have recriminations. Such bullshit obsessing. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hate being like this.
Music by Angus Powell, “Monsters”
Wind in a Box
I want to always sleep beneath a bright red blanket
of leaves. I want to never wear a coat of ice.
I want to learn to walk without blinking.
I want to outlive the turtle and the turtle’s father,
the stone. I want a mouth full of permissions
and a pink glistening bud. If the wildflower and ant hill
can return after sleeping each season, I want to walk
out of this house wearing nothing but wind.
I want to greet you, I want to wait for the bus with you
weighing less than a chill. I want to fight off the bolts
of gray lighting the alcoves and winding paths
of your hair. I want to fight off the damp nudgings
of snow. I want to fight off the wind.
I want to be the wind and I want to fight off the wind
with its sagging banner of isolation, its swinging
screen doors, its gilded boxes, and neatly folded pamphlets
of noise. I want to fight off the dull straight lines
of two by fours and endings, your disapprovals,
your doubts and regulations, your carbon copies.
If the locust can abandon its suit,
I want a brand new name. I want the pepper’s fury
and the salt’s tenderness. I want the virtue
of the evening rain, but not its gossip.
I want the moon’s intuition, but not its questions.
I want the malice of nothing on earth. I want to enter
every room in a strange electrified city
and find you there. I want your lips around the bell of flesh
at the bottom of my ear. I want to be the mirror,
but not the nightstand. I do not want to be the light switch.
I do not want to be the yellow photograph
or book of poems. When I leave this body, Woman,
I want to be pure flame. I want to be your song.
~ Terrance Hayes (found on Poetry Foundation)
“I’m like that. Either I forget right away or I never forget.” ~ Samuel Beckett, from Waiting for Godot
Sunday afternoon, sunny and warmer, 64 degrees.
Another wretched night. I kept waking up and then being unable to get back to sleep. The time change always messes with me. I like getting that extra hour in the fall, but losing the hour in the spring throws me off balance, and trying to get the animals back on schedule is a pain. Benjamin Franklin originally came up with the concept of daylight savings time in a letter to Journal de Paris, on April 26, 1784 as a proposal to have more natural light in the home, but the idea wasn’t adopted in many countries until WWI and after as a way to conserve energy. But do we still need it? Is it really effective?
Who knows . . . certainly not I.
Yesterday evening, I was sitting here when I suddenly felt like someone was staring at me. I looked up, and Napoleon was at the door, just standing there, waiting for a treat. I love that horse. Unfortunately, because of all of the rain, his coat is developing bald spots. I have wished more than once that we lived in a community that still did barn raisings. Remember that beautiful scene in the movie Witness, with Harrison Ford, in which all of the Amish men raise a barn in one day? Yep. Like that.
We need a barn, a shelter for the horses, and then we’ll need a goat shed, or a combination building, and we need a shelter for the spring box that feeds water to the house. Each time that we have a deluge, the water becomes discolored because the box needs a major cleaning. The cover is a huge cement block that would take several people to put back in place; we don’t have several people, and as a result, the rain seeps into the box, and we have brackish water for a few days. We still aren’t drinking the water, but we are using it for showers and laundry, which means sometimes . . . ick.
“Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently
…………we have had our difficulties and there are many things
………………………………………..I want to ask you.
I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again,
……….years later, in the chlorinated pool.
…………………..I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have
……….these luxuries.” ~ Richard Silken, from “Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”
I’m listening to another old playlist today, songs I haven’t listened to for quite a while. Corey and I had a song from years ago, Fisher’s [correction: the title is “I Will Love You”] “You.” Neither the song nor the group were that well known, and I came upon it by accident (pre YouTube); it’s such an incredibly beautiful song, and it popped up a few minutes ago. I was immediately taken back to that Sunday afternoon so many years ago when we danced to our song in front of our families and friends. We didn’t spend a lot of money on our wedding as no one had a lot of money, but it was everything that we wanted. Truthfully, I don’t understand the whole idea of spending hundred of thousands of dollars, or even millions. Who is the pageantry for?
And then, how long do those expensive unions last? We were talking the other day about how not a single couple we knew when we got married was still together. How do some people endure while others move away without a seeming backward thought? I really don’t think that it has anything to do with morality or anything like that; more, that it goes back to the reasons you come together in the first place. There has to be something more to the spark than sex. But as I have already had one failed marriage, regardless of how long we were together, I suppose that I am not really the best person to ponder this.
I truly don’t know; and I think that the reasons that my parents stayed together, mostly finances and habit, belong to another generation. I don’t know what makes people come together, fall apart, never speak to one another again, or stay for the duration. I just don’t know.
“People always talk about how hard it can be to remember things – where they left their keys, or the name of an acquaintance – but no one ever talks about how much effort we put into forgetting. I am exhausted from the effort to forget… There are things that have to be forgotten if you want to go on living.” ~ Stephen Carpenter, from Killer
But getting back to music: If only I had realized weeks ago that listening to old songs would jump-start my writing . . .
The idiotic thing is that music has always been a source of inspiration for me, but I suppose as with most things in the past two or three years, I had forgotten that particular fact. I have this memory of watching some show on CMT many years ago in which it was the top 50 country love songs. Corey was at sea, when he was still on the tug boat, and I sat there and cried and cried, simply because the songs were so beautiful, but Corey wasn’t with me to hear them .
I never used to listen to country music, that is, not until I heard someone sing “Amazed” at the karaoke bar that I used to go to, once upon a time. I had never heard that song before, and as this was before you could find anything at the touch of a keystroke on the internet, I had to ask around to find the song again. It’s a song by Lonestar, but it’s in the perfect key for my voice, so I found the song and practiced and practiced until I felt that I could do it justice. I used to do that with songs, mostly so that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself at karaoke, which, I suppose, defeats the whole purpose of getting drunk and singing karaoke.
Anyway, after Corey and I got together, he introduced me to more country music, and eventually, the line between country and pop became so blurred that it really didn’t matter any more what category a song fell into; consider, Taylor Swift began as a country singer, and now look at her, not that I’m a big Swift fan, as I’m not. Just an example.
“I’m looking to cleanse regret. I want to give
you a balm for lesions, give you evening
primrose, milk thistle, turmeric, borage” ~ Lory Bedikian, from “Apology to the Body”
I say anyway, a lot, don’t I?
So the point was: music, any kind of music—it’s always been a big part of my life and a key to my creativity. Before country, it was soundtracks especially that got to me, the soundtrack from Legends of the Fall, the one from The Piano, but especially, the one from The English Patient. That music stirred something deep within me. And there is still one particular composition that always, always makes me misty-eyed: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” Mari introduced me to that one. If you don’t know it, I’ll include it below, but you’ve probably heard it at some point during a crucial death scene in a movie or show. I know that I’ve posted this one before, but once is never enough for this one
Another vivid memory: Driving through the cemetery in the afternoons after my morning classes at ODU, listening to David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream” over and over. The cemetery was my sanctuary after I lost Caitlin, especially that first November. It’s full of maple trees, and they formed an amazing golden and red canopy over the narrow lanes between plots. And at the very back of the cemetery, against the very edge, were several old, individual mausoleums. They were beautiful in their stark loneliness, and once I hit that part of the cemetery, I would turn the car stereo almost all of the way up, and then the weeping would overcome me, and I would have to pull over and wait.
“And so it was. So it was that one by one I picked them up, remembered them, kissed them good-bye, and tore them to pieces. Some were reluctant to be destroyed, calling in pitiful voices from the misty depths of those vast places where we loved in weird half-dreams, the echoes of their pleas lost in the shadowed darkness” ~ John Fante, from The Road to Los Angeles
When we first buried Caitlin at Forest Lawn, there were no trees in the infant plot, and it was so freaking barren that just looking at it broke my heart, so the next year, our family pooled money and bought four Yoshino cherries, and then the next year, we bought two more. The people in charge of the cemetery told me that our gesture actually created the memorial tree program, so at least there was that.
It occurs to me that the cherry trees everywhere are coming into bloom now. Corey planted a weeping cherry in the yard at Benjamin, but I think that the weather was just too hot for it to thrive.
As I come to the end of this post, I realize that there exists one particular song for each and every significant even in my life, far too many to list all of them now, but here are just a few that come immediately to mind:
Elton John’s “Your Song” (junior year), Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road (senior year), Janis Ian’s “Seventeen” (second year of college), Robbin Thompson’s “Sweet Virginia Breeze” (graduate school), “Mandolin Rain” (after Caitlin), “Unchained Melody” (Eamonn), Joan Osborne’s “St. Theresa” (Alexis), Bryan Adam’s “I Do it for You” (Brett), Tracy Chapman’s “Promise” (the Museum), Annie Lennox’s “Why?” (after Paul), Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” (surviving teaching 8th grade public school), Meredith Brook’s “Bitch” (karaoke), Melissa Etheridge’s “Sleep” (Dillard’s), Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply” (the first time I met Alana), Sugarland’s “Make Me Believe” (Corey, only one of many), and finally, because this list could go on interminably, Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You,” which is my anthem.
Enough for now. More later. Peace.
Music by Samuel Barber, “Adagio for Strings” (Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin)
Meridian, Last Night
Last night, I dreamt I went to Meridian again, and
in the dream, a slight dark girl darts from the side
of the house, arms waving, waving while a woman
inside resists the building’s collapse on its own
emptiness. The house is still standing and in ruin.
As it always was. As always.
Of these things on earth I know:
I cannot return. There is no time,
even now, that was golden above another.
Every epoch has its trials. We are human.
We are failing. We are always falling down.
The past was always more menace than I’d imagined;
the past is both retribution and reward
now that it has been endured.
And it is right that we stand in its ruin,
among all this longing and decay.
~ T. J. Jarrett
“I thought, possibly, that what I really needed was to go where nobody knew me and start over again, with none of my previous decisions, conversations, or expectations coming with me.” ~ Maggie Stiefvater, from Forever
Friday afternoon. Rainy again, 44 degrees.
It’s funny, but when I think about Norfolk, I still get a pang. I don’t miss the house, the nosy judgmental neighbors, or even the neighborhood. But I miss the things that happened there: the two Jack Russells who used to escape regularly, and the nice neighbors who would holler at us to let us know where they had gone; walking across the field in the afternoons to pick up the boys from the local elementary school; even mowing the yard on the lawn tractor that my dad bought me once upon a time. Those things are part of that life, that place.
My kids were raised in that small ranch house with one bathroom. Their friends all lived within a few miles. And now that house is gone. Who knows who will buy it and make all of the repairs that we never got around to making. It’s hard to take care of a house that you hate, which is how it came to be for us the last few years that we were still there. It was as if the house knew that there existed an antipathy and went out of its way to break down piece by piece.
We redid the bathroom a few years ago, from the studs up. We had plans to redo the kitchen and the hardwood floors, but that never happened, and in the end, we left it as a mess, things all over the backyard, a pool that had fish in it, a shed that had old tools in it, an attic that probably still had kids toys in it. It was like shedding a carapace and leaving it where it lay.
You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” ~ Azar Nafisi, from Reading Lolita in Tehran
It’s hard not to think of the things that neighbors must have thought about the way that we left things, but at the same time, there is no way that they could possibly understand the stress and pressure that we were under when we left. If they snooped, which I’m certain that some of them did, they would have seen the hole in the ceiling, the broken back door, the tools that lay in the yard, and their worst impressions would have been confirmed.
Listen, not all of our neighbors were assholes. The guy across the street helped Corey and me countless times, especially when Corey was at sea. He gave me a jump when my battery was dead, repaired things, helped when the yard was overgrown and my back wouldn’t let me mow. He was a great guy, and because he was always hurting for money, we always tried to pay him whenever he did anything. But he was a minority in that neighborhood. There used to be a really nice woman who lived on the other side across the street, but she died; her kids were always friendly, though. Still, I know that we didn’t make as much of an effort as we could have, but there was a history there that made it hard.
And the fact is that I really shouldn’t care any more about what any of them think or thought, but a part of me still does. I still feel as if that house is mine, even though it isn’t. I lived there for so long, and there are so many good memories from there, probably more good than bad. But there are painful memories from there, and it was definitely time to move away, and now here we are, living in a completely different kind of place, with a different pace of life, and different kinds of neighbors.
“I don’t know. You know the mind, how it comes on the scene again
and makes tiny histories of things. And the imagination
how it wants everything back one more time, how it detests
all progress but its own . . . ” ~ Richard Hugo, from “Letter to Matthews from Barton Street Flats”
We had told ourselves that when we finally moved, that we were going to make a true effort to get to know our neighbors, and we have. Of course, it’s different here. Neighbors are curious as to who bought the ridge. They show up and ask questions, introduce themselves, offer to help. And of course, Dallas knows every last person, so there’s that as well.
When we were moving in, Corey was driving the box truck and I was driving the rental Ryder truck, which I was very proud of handling the entire seven-hour trip, but then I came down the driveway crooked and ended up driving the front part of the truck off the drive and getting it stuck. We were so worried about how much it would cost us to get someone to come out and unstick it. But instead, two of our neighbors spent hours helping Corey to get it free. I was simultaneously amazed and grateful. We didn’t even know these people, yet there they were, working their butts off for two people who they didn’t know from Adam’s off ox.
And since that day, Dallas has graded the driveway, made it straight and wider, so that coming down isn’t a problem. That’s what I mean about things being different here. No one asks you for anything, yet of course, there is the expectation that you will repay them in kind somehow when the need arises, and so we will. It was never like that in Norfolk. Perhaps the city was too big, the neighborhood too set in its ways. Who knows?
I seem to be asking that question quite a lot lately . . .
“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” ~ Stephen Chobsky, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower
So the Chobsky quote above is probably the most fitting one that I could choose today. I am both happy and sad, but the difference is that I’m fairly certain as to why. I mean, aside from the fact that I’m still missing one of my antidepressants, and I still haven’t found a good neurologist, and I still don’t have a phone that works—other than those things . . .
But in honesty, those are relatively minor things—other than the pain, which, like it or not, I’m used to—what makes me sad is that in spite of the beauty and life that surrounds me, there is no water, and there are no children, grown or otherwise.The water? That’s just a part of me. I’m an Aquarius, and even though I’m not a strong swimmer, I have always loved water, in all forms. That, and I lived so very near the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean for most of my life that it’s odd not to smell the saltwater, or to see the violence of the waves during a storm.
And yet, to put that down here makes me feel so very ungrateful. I used to say that my ideal place to live would be on a mountaintop overlooking the ocean; the reality is that such a place would cost a fortune. But here, I have the mountaintop, the horses, the deer, the dogs. And god how I love it all. I truly do. I cannot imagine going back to where we were. So why can I not be satisfied?
“I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.” ~ Daniel Keyes, from Flowers for Algernon
Will I ever be satisfied? I really don’t know. I do know that I can be happy—happy for me. It may sound as if I’m trying to convince myself, but that’s really not the case. I have a lot to be happy about, a lot to be grateful for in this new life. The caveat, for me, is not said lightly. It’s too complicated, and yet maddeningly simple: I am just too aware of my chemical makeup the way that my brain and heart work. I can be absolutely ecstatic about how my life is going, and yet there will always be this still small voice within that doubts, doubts my worthiness to be happy.
How to explain to someone who has never met this voice? I don’t know if that is even possible. However, that state of being satisfied is not tied to my ability to be happy. Satisfaction, for me, is something entirely different, dependent upon reconciliation with my sons—in other words, I don’t believe that I can ever be completely satisfied until I am able to know that they are an active part of my life again, and since I don’t have any way of making that happen at this point, I just have to live with things as they are for now.
Look, that’s life. You know it, dear reader, and so do I. The basket will never be completely full of unbroken eggs. The day will never be without a cloud somewhere on the horizon. Yet there is always a horn-a-plenty if we but recognize it. What I’m trying to say is that life is complicated. I’m complicated. Every human is a mixture of good and bad, happy and sad; I’m no different, but I am trying very hard to be this person here, the one who is present in her life as it is. I may not be entirely succeeding, but at least I am aware, and for me, that is more than you can ever know.
More later. Peace.
Music by Adele, “Hello”
She Loved Mozart
There’s a sadness to it, of course, my becoming more
and more isolated from the world. I remember, years ago,
when I was living at the motel, there was this woman who
used to come and go, sometimes staying for months at a time.
Every so often I’d go over to her room, sit around, and talk with her.
The room would smell from clove cigarettes and dirty wash.
Over the lampshades pieces of clothing were draped, to bring
the light down to the most remarkable dimness. This light
never failed to charm and attract me, as a moth would be
attracted to a bright light (although, I suppose moths are
drawn to dim light also). Anyway, I find myself steadily
becoming increasingly like this woman, and it’s not always
the most comfortable realization. Although, I cannot say
that I am living with dirty wash. No, this I cannot admit to.
If anything, I’m fanatical about washing clothes. My
clothing has worn thin, not from my wearing it but from
the continuous washings. But, my god, like this woman
I’m letting the house go dark. She died at the motel, from cancer.
Some nights I’d see her crossing the parking lot, meager flesh
on her bones, and she’d knock on my door and she’d ask me
to play Mozart on my stereo set. She loved Mozart.
In her youth she had been a very promising violist, but
injury and shock from a fire had made her a ghost
of her old talent, her old self. I used to feed her also,
the miniscule amount she was capable of eating.
She loved sharing a thin sandwich as much as
she loved Mozart. I told her it takes
a lot of solitude to write a poem.
She told me it takes a lot of solitude
~ Marge Piercy
My dreams have been filled with people and stories of late. Last night I had one of the best: I was in England, and I was at Stamford Court, where I lived as a child, and my mother was there, in the porter’s cupboard, talking, and I was roaming around, trying to figure out what had changed and what was the same, and I ran into a man who worked there and realized that he was the adult version of my best friend’s brother—from a Filipino family who also lived in the Court on the fourth floor. Brett was with me, and I was showing him things, and I turned to this guy, cannot remember name now, and said, we used to play there, pretending to be on Gilligan’s Island, and he said, “Yes we did, and I always wondered why my sister put up with you because you were so bossy.” And I replied, “I wasn’t bossy. I knew what I wanted,” and he smiled at that. As we were walking back towards the main entrance, two other men came up in monks’ cloaks, and he said that they were his partners in a drag show, and I found that delightful, and I said to Brett that we had to come back to England for a long weekend so that I could show Corey where I had lived and all of the places that I had gone as a child, and my mother wasn’t there any more, and neither was the porter, and there was a large swimming pool in the middle of where the parking lot had been, and I told someone that that was where my father had parked his white convertible when we lived there. It was a good dream, filled with happy memories, and I realize that I really should have gone back to England with my mother for a visit. It would have made her so happy, but at the same time, I know that so much has changed there that she may have hated it. Who knows.
Music by Armon Jay, “Edge of the Dark”
“Christmas is our time to be aware of what we lack, of who’s not home.” ~ John Irving, from A Prayer for Owen Meany
Sunday night. Less windy and colder, 47 degrees.
Okay, so it’s not exactly afternoon. I got distracted by the sound of my computer crashing over and over . . .
Anyway, I had set aside the following clips to share with you in my attempt to put myself squarely in a somewhat festive mood for the season. After all, I’m only going to be doing all of the lead up to Christmas mostly by myself as Corey won’t be getting home until Christmas eve. So I’ve told myself that I’m going to start this week, try to do a little each day, but the reality is with having Olivia, I never know how my days will turn out.
And truthfully, while I associate my father with Thanksgiving, I associate my mother with Christmas, and this is the first one without her, and I’m trying, really, really trying not to think too much.
So in the spirit of trying . . .
I will admit that I’m one of those people who cries at Christmas Commercials. My favorite was always the Miller “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” sleigh ride. I used to weep buckets. I’ve never been able to find a decent video of it, but I keep hoping. John Lewis (UK) commercials are always wonderful, and this year’s just slays me (it warrants repeating). And then there are the Coke commercials. Remember “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing”?
The Stella Artois company did something truly amazing with their commercials this year. Here are two from their “Give Beautifully” series:
More later. Peace.
An Old Man Performs Alchemy on His Doorstep at Christmastime
Cream of Tartar, commonly used to lift meringue and
angel food cake, is actually made from crystallized fine wine.
After they stopped singing for him,
the carolers became transparent in the dark,
and he stepped into their emptiness to say
he lost his wife last week, please
sing again. Their voices filled with gold.
Last week, his fedora nodded hello to me
on the sidewalk, and the fragile breath
of kindness that passed between us
made something sweet of a morning
that had frightened me for no earthly reason.
Surely, you know this by another name:
the mysteries we intake, exhale, could be
sitting on our shelves, left on the bus seat
beside us. Don’t wash your hands.
You fingered them at the supermarket,
gave them to the cashier; intoxicated tonight,
she’ll sing in the streets. Think of the old man.
Who knew he kept the secret of levitation,
transference, and lightness filling a winter night?
— an effortless, crystalline powder
That could almost seem transfigured from loss.
~ Anna George Meek
From our house to yours . . .
“The funny thing about Thanksgiving ,or any big meal, is that you spend 12 hours shopping for it then go home and cook,chop,braise and blanch. Then it’s gone in 20 minutes and everybody lies around sort of in a sugar coma and then it takes 4 hours to clean it up.” ~ Ted Allen, from The Food You Want to Eat: 100 Smart, Simple Recipes
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
How about a little Thanksgiving history, including some similar feasts around the world . . .
Did you know?
- The cornucopia, or horn of plenty, one of the symbols of Thanksgiving, comes from ancient Greeks and Romans. The term (generally describing a horn-shaped basket filled with fruit, flowers and other goodies) comes from the Latin cornu copiae, literally “horn of plenty.” In Greek mythology, the cornucopia is an enchanted severed goat’s horn, created by Zeus to produce a never-ending supply of whatever the owner desires.
- In England, the September 23 Harvest Festival goes back thousands of years, during which plaited corn dolls were hung in the rafters. The pagans believed that the Spirit of the Corn resided in the first cut sheaf of corn. During the Harvest Festival, children take fruits and vegetables to churches and schools for distribution to the elderly and the needy.
- Thanksgiving is a part of U.S. military history, including days of Thanksgiving during both the Revolutionary and Civil Wars.
- In Germany, Erntedankfest is officially celebrated in October, but can be celebrated anytime during the fall. Following the Erntedankfest celebration, the unused food is distributed to the needy.
- Pumpkin pie has been around for hundred of years, possibly dating back to the 1500s during which a dessert was made by stewing pumpkins and wrapping it in pastry. During the 17th century, recipes for pumpkin pie could be found in English cookbooks, but it wasn’t until about the 19th century that pumpkin pie similar to what we know today became a Thanksgiving staple. John Greenleaf Whittier wrote a poem called the pumpkin in 1850: “What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?” Lydia Maria Child’s poem (later a song) “Over the River and Through the Woods” (1844), includes the following verses:
- Over the river, and through the wood—
- When Grandmother sees us come,
- She will say, “O, dear, the children are here,
- bring a pie for everyone.”
- Over the river, and through the wood—
- now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
- Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
- Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!
- One of the biggest and most important holidays in Korea is Chuseok, a three-day harvest festival that is s celebrated on the 15th day of the 8th month of the lunar calendar. In the morning, foods prepared with the year’s fresh harvest are set out to give thanks to ancestors through Charye (ancestor memorial service). After Charye, families visit their ancestors’ graves and engage in Beolcho, a ritual of clearing the weeds that may have grown up over the burial mound.
- The Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade began in 1924 and has been held every year since, except for 1942-44 because of WWII. The first major balloon featured in the parade was Felix the Cat, in 1927. Floats were introduced in 1971. Each parade has ended with the appearance of Santa Claus.
Seriously though, I hope the day finds you warm (or cool, depending upon your hemisphere), safe, and with family or friends, that your table has enough to fill your hunger, your glass has enough to slate your thirst, and your body feels the comfort of close companionship. And tonight, when everyone has gone, and the table has been cleared, may you spare a thought for those out there who find clean water a luxury, warm food a bounty, and a safe pillow something found only in dreams.
I miss you, Dad.
More later. Peace.
Music by John Denver, “The Wings that Fly us Home.” (yes, it’s blatantly sentimental)
Before the adults we call our children arrive with their children in tow
we take our morning walk down the lane of oaks and hemlocks, mist
a smell of rain by nightfall—underfoot,
the crunch of leathery leaves released by yesterday’s big wind.
You’re ahead of me, striding into the arch of oaks that opens onto the fields
and stone walls of the road—
as a V of geese honk a path overhead, and you stop—
in an instant, without thought, raising your arms toward sky, your hands
flapping from the wrists,
and I can read in the echo your body makes of these wild geese going
where they must,
such joy, such wordless unity and delight, you are once again the child
who knows by instinct, by birthright,
just to be is a blessing. In a fictional present, I write the moment down.
You embodied it.
~ Margaret Gibson