“Do you ever feel words have gone dry and dull in your mind? Your mind like a sponge in the dust? You squeeze it and nothing comes?” ~Virginia Woolf, from a letter to Vita Sackville-West, The letters of Virginia Woolf, Vol. 3

Frank Dicksee, “The Funeral of a Viking” (1893)

“Those words had gone deep into her eyes, deep into her nerves, deep into her brain, far into the blackness of her brain behind that white face. They had made a gash back there, a match streak of memory, a flare she would carry to the grave, an impression.” ~ John Fante, from The Road to Los Angeles

Thursday afternoon. Overcast again and rainy, 46 degrees.

I haven’t been walking on the property in weeks. It’s a mosh pit out there in the driveway. And each day that I wake up and look out the window and see nothing but clouds, my heart becomes heavy. It does rain a lot here, definitely more than in Norfolk. But it’s the clouds. They just seem to cover the ridge and cloak all of the beauty.

Anne Burgess, “The Burning Galley” (Wikimedia Commons)

Between that and trying to house train the puppy—unsuccessfully at the moment, I might add—I’m feeling a bit lost in the fog. Yes, I finally took my puppy from Dallas because it was the only way that I could get her as he is so attached to his dogs, but he had promised me one, and I had taken a shine to the runt. Her name is Maddie, for Madeleine L’Engle, and she’s black with hound ears. She won’t be nearly as big as Tillie or Bailey, both of whom act as if she’s an alien, and the cats are definitely not taken with her.

Don’t ask me why a puppy now, other than it seemed like a good idea at the time, and she’s adorable. It doesn’t take any kind of Freudian to tell me that I substitute the animals for my kids, so whatever . . .

“We walk
and walk towards meaning
and don’t arrive” ~  Mahmoud Darwish, from “How far is far?”
Dave Brockie AKA Oderus Urungus gets a viking funeral from his GWAR bandmates, by D. Randall Blythe

So it’s December 20, five days until Christmas. Corey and I are having a very small Christmas this year, which is fine. It’s not about the presents for me, ever. It’s about the pageantry: the tree, the wrappings, the centerpieces, the dishes—just the way that I can make the house look. One year Corey’s mom finally got to see our house decorated, and she commented that everywhere she looked, she saw something. That’s what I strive for when I decorate—creating an experience.

So I’m going to suck it up today and put up the tree. I know that it will be a lot of work to make it look the way that I want it to look, and no, I can’t just put on a few ornaments, so there’s no point in suggesting that approach, but thank you anyway. I know that once it’s up, I’ll feel better. So maybe I won’t have the snowmen and the Santas, and all of the rest, but at least there will be a tree.

I need that, and the only way that  I’m going to get that is if I do it. So, ‘nuf said.

“That’s all we have, finally, the words, and they had better be the right ones, with the punctuation in the right places so that they can best say what they are meant to say.” ~ Raymond Carver, from Call If You Need Me: The Uncollected Fiction and Other Prose

The other major thing that I need to accomplish is to write some people and send cards. I still cannot find my Christmas card box with addresses and all of the rest, but I’m hoping that Corey can find it for me. If nothing else, I’ll just send the letters. It’s important, and I really want to communicate with my sister-in-law in Germany. She has gone out of her way to write to both of us, and as usual, I have been lax in replying, so that’s a must do, maybe later today or tomorrow.

Bálför Viking Funeral Card

It’s the words, you see. I just don’t have the words to say how life is, how we’re doing. I need to lie, to say that things are good, that I’m fine, that we’re both doing well. Making pleasant conversation used to not be so hard for me. I suppose I’m making too much out of it, that it will be fine once I start, which is how things usually are, or at least I hope so.

Being a self-imposed recluse can become problematic when moving beyond the safety of my environs enters into the equation. The irony, of course, is that writing this blog is taking me out of my safety zone, but now that I’m back into it, it seems to be working, at least most of the time. Granted, some days are harder than others, but my goal is to try to write at least a little each day, to get back into the practice of using words, so that I can try to get myself going and maybe, just maybe, begin to polish my manuscript.

Who knows? Certainly not I.

“It’s a losing battle:
my words have no chance against time.
Sometimes,
unable to catch up with imagination,
I leave the battle,
candle in hand,
in complete darkness.” ~ Jalal Barzanji, from “Trying Again to Stop Time”

I had a very disturbing dream last night, featuring someone from my past, a gay man with whom I used to be very close. I had met him at the museum, and we developed a very fast friendship, for lack of a better word. We used to do all kinds of things together. I know that he filled the gap that I had in my first marriage as far as doing things with my spouse.

Viking Funeral, Created by yoguy108

By the time this person came on the scene, my spouse and I had developed a separate set of friends and weren’t doing much of anything together. I don’t blame him. That’s just what happens when neither of you work on your marriage. Of course, there were many other factors at play that I just would rather not go into. It’s still a tender wound all of these years later, although, not quite as tender.

Anyway, in this dream, this person had photographs of me at a lake that I just couldn’t remember visiting. I was very bothered that he had proof that I’d been somewhere that I could not recall. It was disconcerting. The dream happened at my parent’s house, and in the end, both of my parents made an appearance; overall, one of those dreams that leaves you gasping when you awaken because they are so disturbing. Well, at least, that’s how I awaken from them.

“I go to meet my words and feel I bring them back to the surface, unaware that I lead them to their death.
But this is an illusion.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from The Book of Questions Vol. 1 (Trans. Rosmarie Waldrop)

So, I have plans for today, and perhaps putting them out there isn’t the best thing, especially if I have to come back tomorrow and say, “never mind.” But it’s raining, and I’m really trying to accomplish a goal that I’ve set for myself. It might seem silly, that my goal is to put up a tree and to write letters. Maybe normal people can do all of that in the span of a few hours in the morning with their first cup of coffee. And once, I would have done all of that and more by December 5.

My friend Kathleen used to give me a hard time for being so type A over Christmas. I used to vow to have my shopping done and my cards in the mail by the beginning of December. My tree was up and the house decorated by December 15 at the latest. That was another time. Another life. One in which I had boundless energy and a very different outlook on life. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t miss that version of me. Well, at least the more positive aspects of that person. Some aspects I’d just as soon convey to the ash heap of time

Viking Boat Funeral, via the Good Funeral Guide

That ash heap is very, very tall, and I am reminded of it whenever that stupid commercial comes on that shows a woman climbing a mountain of cigarettes. I understand the symbology, but it’s disgusting, nevertheless (this, of course, from someone who used to smoke occasionally). My ash heap is composed of old letters, bad poems, broken hearts, scents I can no longer recall, and many, many, many regrets.

In some ways, it reminds me of the funeral pyres in India, except that once the body burns, onlookers are left with a sense of freedom and peace that the departed has gone on to a new life. My ash heap has a slow burn, and absolutely nothing is resolved, so maybe not so much like the cleansing cremation fires of the Hindus. Maybe more like the supposed Viking funerals that happen in movies: a slow-moving vessel floating out to sea, the flaming arrows shot and hitting home, and no one really knows if the person makes it to Valhalla or just disappears into the flowing waters.

Sorry. Morbid? Then you’ll love the Lorca poem below . . .

More later. Peace. 


Music by Fever Ray, “If I Had a Heart” (still miss Ragnar)


Gacela of Dark Death

I want to sleep the sleep of apples,
far from the tumult of cemeteries.
I want to sleep the sleep of that child
who longed to cut out his heart at sea.

I don’t wish to hear that the dead lose no blood;
that the shattered mouth still begs for water.
don’t wish to know of torments granted by grass,
nor of the moon with the serpent’s mouth
that goes to work before dawn.

I want to sleep for a while,
a while, a minute, a century;
as long as all know I am not dead;
that in my lips is a golden manger;
that I’m the slight friend of the West Wind;
that I’m the immense shadow of tears.

Cover me, at dawn, with a veil
since she’ll hurl at me fistfuls of ants;
and wet my shoes with harsh water,
so her scorpion’s sting will slide by.

For I want to sleep the sleep of apples
learn a lament that will cleanse me of earth;
for I want to live with that hidden child
who longed to cut out his heart at sea.

~ Federico García Lorca

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Sunday afternoon . . .

 

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

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

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

Giants

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

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

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

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

Unicorns

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

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

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

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

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

Mermaids

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

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

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

“Is all that we see or seem | But a dream within a dream?” ~ Edgar Allan Poe, from “A Dream within a Dream”

 

Edmund Dulac The Haunted Palace from The Bells and Other Poems 1912
Edmund Dulac’s “The Haunted Palace” (1912, pencil and watercolor) from The Bells and Other Poems, by E. A. Poe


“They wave:— from out their fragrant tops
Eternal dews come down in drops.
They weep:— from off their delicate stems
Perennial tears descend in gems.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe, from “The Valley of Unrest”

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 40 degrees.

Edmund Dulac-alone-from-the-bells-and-other-poems-by-edgar-allan-poe-1912-wikipaintings1
Edmund Dulac’s “Alone” (1912, pencil and watercolor) from The Bells and Other Poems, by E. A. Poe

We have Olivia today, but she has a cold. You can really tell when she isn’t feeling well. It shows on her whole body.

Anyway, this post contains some works by French artist Edmund Dulac (1882-1953), who created a series of illustrations as a companion to Poe’s The Bells and Other Poems (1912). Click here to see the rest.

I came across the Kin Fables video below, created by Seb and Ben McKinnon, and it reminded me of both Poe and Dulac, so I have paired the video with a few Dulac illustrations, a few selections from Poe,  and the Margaret Atwood poem, “Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing.” By the way, Atwood turned 75 yesterday.

It’s a veritable cornucopia of things.

More later. Peace.

                   

Edmund Dulac The Valley of Unrest from The bells
Edmund Dulac’s “The Valley of Unrest” (1912, pencil and watercolor)from The Bells and Other Poems, by E. A. Poe

 

Kin Fables:

                   

Edmund Dulac TO --- --- MRS. MARIE LOUISE SHEW from the bells pencil and watercolor
Edmund Dulac’s “To — — (Mrs. Marie Louise Shew” (1912, pencil and watercolor) from The Bells and Other Poems, by E. A. Poe

Helen of Troy Does Countertop Dancing

The world is full of women
who’d tell me I should be ashamed of myself
if they had the chance. Quit dancing.
Get some self-respect
and a day job.
Right. And minimum wage,
and varicose veins, just standing
in one place for eight hours
behind a glass counter
bundled up to the neck, instead of
naked as a meat sandwich.
Selling gloves, or something.
Instead of what I do sell.
You have to have talent
to peddle a thing so nebulous
and without material form.
Exploited, they’d say. Yes, any way
you cut it, but I’ve a choice
of how, and I’ll take the money.

I do give value.
Like preachers, I sell vision,
like perfume ads, desire
or its facsimile. Like jokes
or war, it’s all in the timing.
I sell men back their worse suspicions:
that everything’s for sale,
and piecemeal. They gaze at me and see
a chain-saw murder just before it happens,
when thigh, ass, inkblot, crevice, tit, and nipple
are still connected.
Such hatred leaps in them,
my beery worshippers! That, or a bleary
hopeless love. Seeing the rows of heads
and upturned eyes, imploring
but ready to snap at my ankles,
I understand floods and earthquakes, and the urge
to step on ants. I keep the beat,
and dance for them because
they can’t. The music smells like foxes,
crisp as heated metal
searing the nostrils
or humid as August, hazy and languorous
as a looted city the day after,
when all the rape’s been done
already, and the killing,
and the survivors wander around
looking for garbage
to eat, and there’s only a bleak exhaustion.
Speaking of which, it’s the smiling
tires me out the most.
This, and the pretence
that I can’t hear them.
And I can’t, because I’m after all
a foreigner to them.
The speech here is all warty gutturals,
obvious as a slab of ham,
but I come from the province of the gods
where meanings are lilting and oblique.
I don’t let on to everyone,
but lean close, and I’ll whisper:
My mother was raped by a holy swan.
You believe that? You can take me out to dinner.
That’s what we tell all the husbands.
There sure are a lot of dangerous birds around.

Not that anyone here
but you would understand.
The rest of them would like to watch me
and feel nothing. Reduce me to components
as in a clock factory or abattoir.
Crush out the mystery.
Wall me up alive
in my own body.
They’d like to see through me,
but nothing is more opaque
than absolute transparency.
Look–my feet don’t hit the marble!
Like breath or a balloon, I’m rising,
I hover six inches in the air
in my blazing swan-egg of light.
You think I’m not a goddess?
Try me.
This is a torch song.
Touch me and you’ll burn.

~ Margaret Atwood