“Let the light and the winds colour and cleanse my blood.” ~ Gabriela Mistral, from “Quietness”
Wednesday afternoon, overcast, 48 degrees.
Hello out there in the ether. Hope today finds you well. Yesterday I completely forgot that it was Tuesday, which meant that I had a Two for Tuesday post all ready to go. That’s how much my mind is in disarray: I have to look at my phone to see what day it is. Does anyone else have that problem?
I usually begin my day here with a little organizing, trying to figure out what I have to say, thinking about accompanying images and songs, and then I usually watch a few YouTube videos that I subscribe to—Tati (beauty guru), Alexandria (unboxings and try ons), and then maybe someone else. It’s a distraction, and when I’m finished, I feel as if I’ve cleaned my palette, and I’m ready to go with the words.
For a short minute I thought about starting a YouTube channel, but man, people on there are vicious in their commentaries. One wrong word, and your channel explodes. I just don’t have either the patience or the thick skin for that, so I won’t be putting myself out there for that anytime soon.
“I never get tired of watching this,
As the mists seem to move, then not move.
They don’t, of course, but merely disappear.
……………………………………………………….Perhaps that’s why I like it.” ~ Charles Wright, from Littlefoot: “25”
A few mornings ago (maybe even yesterday?), the fog rolled in very quickly and lay within the trees at the back of the house like one of those old cotton Christmas tree skirts everyone used to use once upon a time. It was so fast, and by the time I thought about taking some pictures, it was gone; hence the Flickr Creative Commons pix of fog. I thought I’d try to get a variety of locations.
Fog has always fascinated me, ever since I was a young child in England. I’m certain that I’ve written about this before, but I still have vivid memories of being caught out in the fog in London and not being able to see anything. It was a different kind of fog—very, very thick and impenetrable. I remember a man walking in front of the buses with a lantern on a ladder to guide the driver.
I have no idea if they still get fog like that. I mean it was a long time ago, and even if they do, I’m sure that no longer use lanterns on ladders. But the first time that mom and I were out in that, it was pretty scary. I, obviously, had never seen anything like it, but then to realize that my mother was as scared as I was—something like that can really unnerve a child.
We were still living in the old house outside of London at the time, the house with the haunted bedroom. Man, if only I could remember where that was. I have absolutely no idea, and I’ve never found anything of mom’s that had that address on it.
“I really love fog. It hides you from the world and the world from you. You feel that everything has changed, and nothing is what it seemed to be. No one can find or touch you anymore.” ~ Eugene O’Neill, from Long Day’s Journey Into Night
I’ve driven through some really terrible fog more than a few times, but it doesn’t bother me. I find fog oddly comforting and beautiful. Living near the Chesapeake Bay, we could get some thick fog rolling in across the bay; of course, I wasn’t on the water at the time. I would imagine that people who work on the water as Corey used to do not find fog at all comforting.
It’s just that in heavy fog, sound changes. It can become completely muffled, and then light seems to disappear. I’ve always imagined having a scene in a book in which someone who is lost in a thick fog comes face to face with the killer. Yes, my mind does go to places like that, frequently, actually. I’m always mulling over plots for mysteries. The problem is that the mulling never moves beyond that.
It makes me wonder if I’m just a dilettante: someone who likes to know a little bit about a lot of things without ever specializing in any of them, and perhaps in a way, I am. I’m a curmudgeonly dilettante who loves words. What to make of that? Hmm . . .
Things that make you go hmm…………
“The light is flat and hard and almost nonexistent,
The way our lives appear to us,
……………………………………………..then don’t, as our inlook shifts.” ~ Charles Wright, from Littlefoot: “25”
I suppose that’s enough about the fog, but it’s such a wonderful image, and metaphor, and memory, actually. It’s taken me several years since my mother’s death to begin to remember more. Our relationship was so fractured that I think I tried very hard not to think about her in the immediate months following her death. But now, with some distance, I can begin to sort through the memories better.
One of the sad things, though, is that I know without a doubt that my mom was happiest in England. It seems like everything after that was just a disappointment for her, her marriage, her location, her family, everything. And I only realized too late that it would have been such a simple thing for me to offer to go back to London with her for a visit, but I never did. It never even occurred to me to do that, and now I cannot.
And so the memories of the two of us exploring every inch of London and the surrounding environs are more immediate, as it were.
It’s hard for me to think of my relationship with my mother as a whole. I’ll give you a classic example of how it was with us: My cousin once told me that my mother talked about me all of the time, and he could tell that she was proud of me. This caught me completely off guard. I never would have believed it if he hadn’t said it as I can remember exactly one time as a teenager or adult that my mother told me that she was proud of me.
Perhaps she said it as a matter of course when I was a child, because I was very much as Alexis was as a child: everything you could want in a daughter—smart, polite, attentive, hard-working, focused. Perhaps when I hit puberty, I became a foreigner to my mother, much as Alexis did to me when she entered high school.
Perhaps. Who knows? Certainly not I.
“Gloom is literally atmospheric, climate as much as impression . . . Gloom is more climatological than psychological, the stuff of dim, hazy, overcast skies, of ruins and overgrown tombs, of a misty, lethargic fog.” ~ Eugene Thacker, Cosmic Pessimism
As these things are want to do, I have said much more than I had planned to say. The genesis was the fog, and then the floodgates opened. And truthfully, I’m not in the best place emotionally or mentally for open floodgates. I’ve spent the last two days in my pajamas, and when I looked in the mirror last night, I had to admit to myself that I just plain looked rough.
It’s been a rough kind of week. Tink isn’t out of the woods yet, and it’s hard for either of us to concentrate on much else, but I decided today to make an effort, you know, bath, put on clean clothes, maybe some lipstick, try to write, do more than just stare blankly at the screen. And so this is that effort.
Anyway, because it’s on my mind as well, I am reminded of a line from Charles Wright’s Littlefoot: “I live here accompanied by clouds.” There are so many clouds here, and I don’t yet know if that’s a year-round thing, or just fall and winter. My father would have hated that part. I’m fairly certain that he had Seasonal Affected Disorder; as the months became colder and light began to fade, his depression would worsen.
I can relate. I know that my own temperament is greatly affected by the weather. Take today, for instance: no sunlight anywhere, nothing dappling on the leaves on the trees. Just grey clouds, and clouds aren’t the same as fog. Grey clouds—unlike fluffy white clouds shaped like animals—are just, well, there, making everything look cold and grey and yes, gloomy.
So enough of that.
More later. Peace.
Music by Paloma Faith (loving her these days), “Only Love Can Hurt Like This”
Missing the Dead
I miss the old scrawl on the viaduct,
the crazily dancing letters: BIRD LIVES.
It’s gone now, the wall as clean as forgetting.
I go home and put on a record:
Charlie Parker Live at the Blue Note.
Each time I play it, months or years apart,
the music emerges more luminous;
I never listened so well before.
I wish my parents had been musicians
and left me themselves transformed into sound,
or that I could believe in the stars
as the radiant bodies of the dead.
Then I could stand in the dark, pointing out
my mother and father to all
who did not know them, how they shimmer,
how they keep getting brighter
as we keep moving toward each other.
~ Lisel Mueller
“In a real sense it is certainly true that a pilot in our special aerial attack force is, as a friend of mine has said . . . nothing more than that part of the machine which holds the plane’s controls—endowed with no personal qualities, no emotions, certainly with no rationality—simply just an iron filament tucked inside a magnet itself designed to be sucked into an enemy air-craft carrier.” ~ Capt. Ryoji Uehara, from “My Thoughts”
Sunday afternoon. Rainy again, 37 degrees.
A new horse showed up in our yard last night, not another present from Dallas, but one from down the ridge. There’s a guy who owns several horses that are always out in the road foraging for food. They all look emaciated every time that I see them, and quite obviously, it bothers the crap out of me, so I have no problem with this errant horse hanging out with us for a few days until its owner comes looking for it. I mean, it’s not like we can put her in the back of the truck and take her home, now is it?
Anyway, two days until Christmas. No, I never put up the tree or decorated a darned thing. No, I haven’t wrapped anything. No, I haven’t addressed cards. I really don’t want to talk about it.
In that vein, I’ve done something different for today’s post. I’m sharing with you something I’ve been reading lately, besides the entire Harry Potter collection.
Recently, I’ve come across several letters from Japanese Kamikaze pilots, letters written to parents, loved ones, on the eve of their suicide missions. The term Kamikaze means “divine wind,” and the pilots in their mostly one-way planes with a bomb on one side and a fuel tank on the other were supposed to be the divine wind that blew away Japan’s enemy from its shores, much like the typhoon that felled the Mongolian invaders in the 13th century, which is where the term originates.
Many of these pilots were very young men who had been conscripted into the military, especially after Japan did away with the exemption for men in college. History tells us that long before 9/11 and Al Qaeda, about 2,800 kamikaze pilots sank dozens of allied ships, damaged hundreds more and killed 4,900 American sailors between 1943-44. Contrary to popular belief, the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor were not officially Kamikaze pilots; however, some had vowed to crash rather than surrender or be captured. The use of the Kamikaze did not become the official strategy of the Japanese until 1943.
“When I am in a plane perhaps I am nothing more than just a piece of the machine, but as soon as I am on the ground again I find that I am a complete human being after all, complete with human emotions—and passions too.” ~ Capt. Ryoji Uehara, from “My Thoughts”
In 2015, the city of Minamikyushu, Japan sought for a second time to gain UNESCO World Heritage status like that for Anne Frank’s Diary for hundreds of these letters. According to Mayor Kampei Shimoide, the bid was not to “praise, glorify or justify the kamikaze mission,” but to “help to promote peace by highlighting the horror of war.” However, the bid has not been without its critics, especially China, who claim that the move would “beautify” Japan’s aggression.
My interest, however, has been in the letters and poems themselves, and the men who penned them. The Japanese have a centuries-old tradition called jisei, which is the creation of a death poem immediately before the moment of death; many of the Kamikaze pilots adopted this tradition before their flights.
Years ago I wrote a poem about bushido, which might seem weird for the daughter of a Filipino veteran who suffered at the hands of the Japanese. I’ve never quite understood my fascination with the Japanese other than the feeling that I might have been one in another life. Don’t laugh.
Anyway . . . One of the most famous of these attack pilot writers was Captain Ryoji Uehara, who wrote several letters, one of which was sent to his parents via military censors. This particular letter mentions his deceased brother, who was killed in the war, and attempts to express his acceptance of death:
At this point, therefore, I gladly give up my life for Japan’s liberty and independence.
While the rise and fall of one’s nation is indeed a matter of immense importance for any human being, the same shift dwindles to relative insignificance when and if that same human being places it within the context of the universe as a whole.
To read the complete letter to his parents, go here.
“. . . Tomorrow one believer in liberty and liberalism will leave this world behind. His withdrawing figure may have a lonely look about it, but I assure you that his heart is filled with contentment.” ~ Capt. Ryoji Uehara, from “My Thoughts”
Capt. Uehara also wrote a letter called “My Thoughts,” which is a beautiful reflection by a young man who is about to face death, and in it the more traditional Japanese outlook about serving the fatherland is replaced by an impassioned philosophical tone. Uehara passed this letter on to a public affairs officer who kept the letter secret until after the war. Many families who had received letters and cards from sons destroyed them because of a rumor that the US would punish anyone related to the attack forces. Fortunately, the Uehara letter survived:
I believe that the ultimate triumph of liberty is altogether obvious . . . I believe along with him [Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce] that this is a simple fact, a fact so certain that liberty must of necessity continue its underground life even when it appears, on the surface, to be suppressed—it will always win through in the end.
It is equally inevitable that an authoritarian and totalitarian nation, however much it may flourish temporarily, will eventually be defeated . . . we see that all the authoritarian nations are now falling down one by one, exactly like buildings with faulty foundations. All these developments only serve to reveal all over again the universality of the truth that history has so often proven in the past: men’s great love of liberty will live on into the future and into eternity itself.
Uehara was a student at Keio University, one of Japan’s most prestigious schools, in December 1943 when he was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army. He was killed during the Battle of Okinawa, May 11, 1945. He was only 22 years old. Among his personal effects was a book on philosophy by Croce, in the cover of which he had written:
Goodbye, my beloved Kyoko-chan. I loved you so much; but even then you were already engaged, so it was very painful for me. Thinking only of your happiness, I suppressed the urge to whisper into your ear. That I loved you. I love you still.
More later. Peace.
I do not have a last letter. I do not have a will.
I believe in the permanence of Shinshū.*
I will push forward as my duty.
I live for an eternal cause.
Blossoms on cherry tree
Left to wind
Not looking back
~ Flight Petty Officer Tsutomu Fujimura (Trans. Bill Gordon)
*Shinshū means divine land, or Japan itself
“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.
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 . . .
and walk towards meaning
and don’t arrive” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from “How far is far?”
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.
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.
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.
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
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
The ice-covered branches of the hemlocks sparkle
Bending low and tinkling in the sharp thin breeze,
And iridescent crystals fall and crackle on the snow-crust
With the winter sun drawing cold blue shadows from the trees. ~ Sara Teasdale, from “Places”
Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and still cold, 30 degrees.
We lost power yesterday until mid afternoon. Luckily, we have a couple of small generators; although, we didn’t really need then for more than coffee. It was cold enough that everything in the freezer and fridges was fine, and we had the wood stove for heat. So I read a book—The Good German, by Joseph Kanon—and Corey and the dogs napped. It was that kind of day. And then once again last night, I couldn’t sleep, wide awake at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., etc.
Today everything is still snow covered, but the temperatures are supposed to start climbing in the next few days, which means we’ll probably have a muddy mess. The last time that it rained a lot, my car got stuck in the mud when I tried to go up the driveway. Eventually, we’re going to have to invest in some kind of gravel or shale.
The first four of today’s images were taken by Corey on the first day that it snowed, and the last two are by me. I spent almost two hours trying to convert a short video that Corey shot into a format that WordPress would accept but to no avail. Sorry.
No stars tonight; the snowflakes came down out of the dark, rushing towards him, endless, uncountable. Silent, too, but not like the stars. Falling snow whispered secrets to itself. ~ Diana Gabaldon, from Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade
My other mother Yvonne gave me the book The Good German years ago, but for some reason, I never picked it up. I think that I thought that it was some kind of family saga, but it’s more of a mystery. She had told me that it was good; now, I wish that I had read it then so that we could have talked about it.
That’s what we used to do: swap books and then talk about them. We were the two big readers in the family. When she died, I was supposed to get all of her books, but that didn’t happen, for various reasons. But she had told me that no one else would want them and that she wanted me to have them.
The funny thing is that I had given her many of the books in her collection. We used to give one another books as presents for Christmas and birthdays. Now, I have no one to swap books with or to discuss them with over cups of coffee or tea. I miss her every single day.
“Since it has quietly began to snow,
new distances have awakened within me.” ~
Anyway, I’m waiting for the weather to get a bit more temperate before venturing out for a long walk with the dogs. I haven’t been out for one in days.
I had mentioned to Corey before we moved that I wanted a small ballet barre to exercise on inside the house, and then I forgot about it until the weather got cold quickly. I know how to do basic barre exercises, and I always enjoyed doing them, so today I mentioned it again. There’s really no need to purchase a kit; I mean, I’m not a dancer who needs a professional barre and full length mirrors; I always hated all of the mirrors at the gyms I frequented. Who wants to see themselves sweat and strain, besides body builders, that is . . . Anyway, it should be fairly simple and cheap to make one that’s about 48″ long using supplies from Home Depot.
A wooden rod, probably a closet rod, would come closest to the 1.5″ diameter of a barre, and then all that you need are some heavy-duty brackets, again, probably closet brackets and some bolts to anchor the bar on the brackets. A barre is great for stretching, which is what I’m mostly limited to, but you can do core exercises as well. So here’s hoping I can get that barre sometime in the next month or so.
The earth is covered with it, and it is falling still in silence so deep that you can hear its silence . . . It is snow that can awaken memories of things more wonderful than anything you ever knew or dreamed.” ~
I do have something on my mind that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit: For the first time in my entire life, I’m not looking forward to Christmas. In fact, the idea of decorating for Christmas does not appeal to me at all.
Dear reader, you’ve never seen my house at Christmas, but I decorate everything, every doorknob in the house, even the bathroom and kitchen. But this year? I just don’t think that I can do it, and there are several reasons. First, we still haven’t finished organizing the house, and every time that I think that I might have the energy, I just don’t, so there’s no place for a tree.
But secondly, and more importantly, I just don’t see the point, and that might sound harsh, but why, really? None of my kids will be here, and Olivia will not be here. It will just be Corey, me, and the animals. I know that Corey is thinking about going to Ohio for the holidays, and actually, that’s fine with me. I’ll stay here with the animals.
The idea of a beautiful Christmas with decorations and packages only makes me feel more acutely what isn’t here, and I really don’t want to feel that. To feel that would make me also feel ungrateful for what I do have. Being here on this piece of land is everything I ever wanted. Looking out my window and seeing snow and horses and trees? How can I not appreciate that?
That fact is that I do. I do truly appreciate that. It’s just that right now, what isn’t here is standing out more.
“Small, red, and upright he waited,
while the first snows of winter
floated down on his eyelashes and covered the branches around him and silenced
all trace of the world.” ~
I do so wish that there was a way that I could truly compartmentalize everything, but I’ve never been able to do that even though I’ve tried. And right now I’m just past trying to pretend that everything is okay.
I mean, every time I think about youngest son, I just want to cry. I really want to understand the state of my relationship with him, but I don’t. I want to call him, but I can’t. I cannot contact him until he is ready, and you cannot imagine the pain that causes me. And then eldest son has been removed for years, yet I crave to hear his voice, see his goofy smile, hear his stupid jokes.
I cannot even attempt to discuss the lack of Olivia for Christmas as it’s too acute, and I cannot imagine how Alexis is handling it this year, being so far away from her for the holidays, connected only by phone and texts. And of course, there is the lack of Alexis, the lack of a family Christmas dinner, all of the stress of preparation and the satisfaction of seeing everyone sitting around the table with their constant chatter. It just hurts too much.
And so I have absolutely not idea as to what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll cave right before Christmas and want to decorate, or maybe I’ll just spend the days reading books and trying not to think about the time of year. Am I ungrateful? No. Yes. I don’t know. Who knows? Certainly not I.
More later. Peace.
Music by Natalie Taylor, “Come to This”
Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not
the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not
the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the window.
Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.
Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it. Let’s stop here,
under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
~ Dorianne Laux
“Boughs of trees adorned with thick pillows,
so fluffy someone must have plumped them up;
the ground a series of humps and mounds,
beneath which slinking underbrush or outcrops of rock lay hidden;” ~ Thomas Mann, from The Magic Mountain
It began snowing during the night and continued into early afternoon. I estimate about five or six inches on the ground, and the weather is predicting more to come. I am mesmerized by how everything here looks. It is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.
In scouring the internet in search of appropriate quotes and a poem for today, I was dismayed to find only the most well known of quotes and poems, you know, Christine Rossetti’s “In the Deep Midwinter,” which I love, but I’ve used before, I’m certain. And I do try very hard not to repeat the poems or songs that I include; although, it’s a bit harder with quotes.
But I thought of Galway Kinnell, one of my favorite poets, and I reasoned that he had to have a poem that fit the mood of this post. I was not wrong, but the poem, which is about his wife, is a bit melancholy, I’ll admit, just so you know.
“Is it snowing where you are? All the world that I see from my tower is draped in white and the flakes are coming down as big as pop-corns. It’s late afternoon – the sun is just setting (a cold yellow colour) behind some colder violet hills, and I am up in my window seat using the last light to write to you.” ~
Corey has driven to Dallas’s house to pick up some hay for the horses; although they seem to be grazing just fine beneath the snow. Napoleon and Sassy continue to break out of the pasture, and have taken to coming onto the front porch to get my attention. While Corey wonders how we always manage to have animals with so much personality, I smile inwardly. It does not surprise me at all that the horses have already developed distinct personalities. It just take a little conversation, a little attention, a little love.
Animals are not dumb. People are.
I put the coats on the dogs before they ventured out again. Tillie loved hers, Bailey not so much. Though it looks as if I’m going to have to switch them—the coats, not the dogs. Originally I had bought a bigger coat for Tillie, but hers is too big, and Bailey’s is, well, a bit snug; she was not amused when I told her that she had gotten bigger.
Anyway, while the dogs are enjoying the snow, and the horses seem a bit indifferent, the cats are having none of it. Ash took a quick peek out the front door and immediately turned around and plopped himself back down in front of the wood stove, as if to say, “You must be joking.” Cleo, the other cat, rarely stirs from sleeping 23 hours a day unless it’s to eat or to peer out the back door as if to reassure herself that she is no longer living outside.
Speaking of the wood stove, we really need to buy a bellows for it. It’s not that large, but it puts out a lot of heat once the fire gets going, that being the operational phrase—gets going, as in it takes a lot for that to happen. Corey ends up frustrated daily by the lack of cooperation that he gets from the stove/fire.
“All Heaven and Earth
Flowered white obliterate…
Snow…unceasing snow” ~
When I awoke very early this morning, the flakes that were falling were big drops of fluff, bigger than I’ve seen in quite a while. I had to stop myself from waking Corey so that he could see, as I didn’t think that he’d appreciate it.
Once we finally stirred ourselves hours later, it was still snowing. I noticed that it was almost impossible to make out the top of the ridge as everything was snow covered, and the sky was white, so it appeared as one long white gradient. Sometimes, it’s nice to see the world a little blurry as I do without my glasses and truthfully, sometimes with them; but I do enjoy seeing the lines blurred between nature’s boundaries, earth to sky.
Unfortunately, I know that I need to get my eyes checked again before ordering new glasses. The last time that I was at the eye doctor in Norfolk, she had said that my vision will continue to deteriorate because of the cataracts but that the cataracts weren’t yet bad enough to operate.
A classic catch-22. Aging is fun.
What will also be fun is trying to find an eye surgeon around here that I trust to do the work on both eyes, and with my ill luck in finding just a regular doctor, I’m seriously considering going back to Norfolk at the beginning of the year to get my eyes checked out and to make an appointment for the operation.
“The crisp path through the field in this December snow, in the deep dark, where we trod the buried grass like ghosts on dry toast.” ~
I’m torn between putting on layers of clothes and venturing outside for real, as in past the porches, or taking a nap, or taking a hot bath. For now, I’ll just sit here and write until something changes, I suppose.
Last night I had a very strange dream in which there was a lot of movement between two houses, people going back and forth. What is strange about this dream is that the night before, I dreamed that an old friend was supposed to come to dinner, but I had forgotten to tell him that I had moved, so he went to the old house and then had to drive to the new one. It doesn’t take a dream interpretation book to understand the underlying contexts; still, it’s a bit unnerving in that the people who populate these particular dreams are ones I have not seen in many years.
A few nights ago, when I could not sleep, I wrote a poem, something very unlike most of my other poems. It was a take from a news article that I wrote a lifetime ago about the nightlife in Norfolk. For that particular story, I girded myself with an assortment of my male friends, and for several nights ventured into various seedy after-hours establishments around the city, one of which was a strip bar outside Gate 1 of what used to be the Amphibious Base. I use the term strip loosely as Norfolk outlawed stripping years ago, so the women wore bathing suits and/or shorts.
Anyway, the poem that I wrote was about that bar. Again, something from years ago. I truly haven’t the faintest idea why that experience would pop into my head at 2 a.m. or why I would suddenly be possessed to write a poem about it, but it did, and I was.
Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .
“In your hands winter
is a book with cloud pages
that snow pearls of love.” ~
So I suppose the last thing on my mind is this preoccupation we now have with trigger warnings. I mean, I just watched the video for “Drunk Girl,” by Chris Janson, and there was actually a warning about the video’s contents. I just don’t understand.
Look, I absolutely do understand that people have terrible experiences that can come roaring back out of the past without any warning, triggered by an image or a song or whatever. I know that only too well as it happens to me. But country songs are all about love and hurt and heartbreak and the wrong man and the wrong woman and life and . . . And now we have to put warnings on videos that contain no nudity, no violence, nothing of the sort, only an implied abusive relationship?
I read a story in the news a few days ago about how today’s youth wants to be sheltered from so many things, and it isn’t good for them. Okay, so I just used the phrase “today’s youth,” which is really, really weird. Next, I’ll be yelling for people to get off my lawn. But I digress . . .
I suppose it’s a combination of helicopter parenting and that derogatory term of snowflakes to describe young people. But if a person is never exposed to anything that might, just might, maybe, possibly be a bit negative, then how on earth is that individual ever going to grow? Going to develop that invisible exoskeleton with which we armor ourselves in order to deal with life?
We’ve gone from the horrors of forcing children to work 18 hours a day for mere pennies to shielding them from commercials that might have a scary message. I am completely befuddled, but then, that’s not exactly a new thing.
Okay. Time for a hot cup of tea and a bath. All of the images are mine.
More later. Peace.
Music by David Lanz, “Whiter Shade of Pale” (bet you thought it was going to be “Drunk Girl”). I cannot tell you how many times I listened to David Lanz’s CD Cristofori’s Dream while driving through the cemetery on cold winter days.
The stars were wild that summer evening
As on the low lake shore stood you and I
And every time I caught your flashing eye
Or heard your voice discourse on anything
It seemed a star went burning down the sky.
I looked into your heart that dying summer
And found your silent woman’s heart grown wild
Whereupon you turned to me and smiled
Saying you felt afraid but that you were
Weary of being mute and undefiled
I spoke to you that last winter morning
Watching the wind smoke snow across the ice
Told of how the beauty of your spirit, flesh,
And smile had made day break at night and spring
Burst beauty in the wasting winter’s place.
You did not answer when I spoke, but stood
As if that wistful part of you, your sorrow,
Were blown about in fitful winds below;
Your eyes replied your worn heart wished it could
Again be white and silent as the snow.
~ Galway Kinnell
“The wind of longing blows to your right, from the orange groves, and to your left, from the sea salt. A fog, approaching the chambers of your heart from the north, makes it difficult for memory to distinguish what is private from what is public ” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from In the Presence of Absence (Trans. by Sinan Antoon)
Saturday afternoon, cloudy and cold, 34 degrees, winter storm warning.
I spent the entire day yesterday alone, just the animals and me. It’s the first full day into evening that I’ve been entirely alone. I didn’t mind it. It made me think of how originally the plan was that Corey would go to sea for a few months, and I would be here alone with the animals. I was fully prepared to embrace that, although I’m not sure if Corey believed that.
Before moving here permanently, I wrestled with the idea of loneliness versus being alone, and truthfully being alone does not make me feel lonely. I know, though, that if I had been in a better place with both of my sons before I left, that it might be different, that the loneliness might be more present. I mean, the person I miss the most is Alexis. I miss seeing her and talking to her, however briefly our encounters might have been. I miss my sons constantly, but it’s not so immediate as the lack of my daughter, if that makes sense. The way in which I miss them is an internal ache that is always there, but I have become accustomed to it.
I never thought that I would be saying something like that.
But as far as being lonely? No, not so much. I miss fast access to any kind of food and easy access to my physicians. I miss the idea of living in Norfolk and being able to see my parents’ house anytime I needed to, or being able to ride over to where my other mother used to live just to see the house for a few minutes. I miss those ideas of things.
“Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “The Hollow Men”
I have always known that I don’t need a lot of people around me. My friends have been few but fast. And as an only child, you become comfortable with the idea of yourself. You have to. No matter how much I told my parents that I wanted siblings when I was a child, I always kind of knew that I’d never have any.
Being an only can be very lonely, but it can also make you able to withstand things that people with siblings might not be able to withstand alone—like death. I never had siblings to lean on during tough times. It was just me, the dogs, and to some extent, my parents. Whenever we lost a dog when I was a child, I grieved alone. I would go into myself and just deal. Maybe that’s part of the reason why I learned to build walls and had a harder time taking them down. Who knows . . .
Look. I know that for a lot of people siblings are a burden. Not everyone loves, let alone gets along with their siblings. Brothers and/or sisters can be an incredible pain, especially if there is a big age difference, and brothers/sisters who grew up very close can grow apart as years pass. That’s what I saw happen to my sons, who were the best of friends when they were young but who became one another’s nemeses as they got older. That bothered me, but you cannot control your children’s emotions. A hard reality.
Still, I always wanted a sister.
“You fear for the present stifled by the hegemony of the past and fear for the past from the absurdity of the present. You do not know where to stand at this crossroads.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from In the Presence of Absence (Trans. by Sinan Antoon)
Perhaps if I had a sister, this alone thing would be different. I’ll never know now. The person most like a sister to me for so many years is now in a different city, living a different life, and liking me not at all, for a variety of reasons, some of which I will never even know or understand.
But getting back to the idea of loneliness—I do not claim to be immune from the emotion. There have been times when I have been so lonely that I just wanted to find a dark closet and hide. I remember being very lonely in my first marriage. In fact, I remember one day standing at the bedroom window and watching my then spouse drive away, going to work, and just holding my hand to the windowpane and weeping. I don’t remember the why, only the what. It’s not a good memory.
And when our marriage fell apart, I would spend many weekends alone while the kids visited with their father, and the house seemed too big to hold me. In fact, I went to my boss at the time and told him to schedule me for every Saturday because I didn’t have a life. The arrangement worked well for both of us. If I was working, I didn’t have to think about the state of my life, so I worked a lot.
“Rising from the past, my shadow
Is running in silence to meet me.” ~ Anna Akhmatova, from “The souls of those I love are on high stars” (trans. A. S. Kline)
My job, my career was always important to me, always an extension of my self, but never my total identity once my children were born. But before that, I relished the self-importance of my career, the power, the seeming limitless ways in which I could grow and prosper. The thing is that it was only years later that I realized that while I considered myself a groundbreaking female in a mostly man’s world, my ability to grow and prosper was always hampered by the positions I held simply because I was a woman. Funny, that.
I once had to make the case for being paid more than certain males because I had more education and experience, and they were just out of college. That shouldn’t have happened, but it did. I did win that argument, by the way, but that’s the kind of thing I faced regularly. I know that things have gotten better for women in the workplace, but that’s not to say that sexism does not still exist. We all know that it does . . .
Ah, but that was then, as they say.
Now? Now, I have no job, no career, no profession, unless I own up to the fact that writing is a profession, well, maybe for other people. It’s just that I’ve never made money with my writing, never even tried, even though I’ve had probably hundreds of ideas for books. So I refrain from calling myself a writer because it’s not like I’ve ever done anything with it.
Are you what you were, or what you are now? You fear you will forget tomorrow while mired in the question: In which time do I live?” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from In the Presence of Absence (Trans. by Sinan Antoon)
Which brings me to the Darwish quotes, which are from one longer passage that I broke up for the purposes of this post. It’s this last part really: “Are you what you were, or what you are now?”
That’s the real question, isn’t it? Who am I? Who do I want to be? Is that the same person I wanted to be before or different? In which time do I live?
I live in all of them, really. My past is so intricately woven into my present that it’s impossible to separate them. But my present self is so very different from my past self that sometimes I have a hard time reconciling the two. I care little for money, or fame, or things, or what anyone else has. In fact, more and more, I am genuinely put off by the excesses of life today.
Will I always want to buy and to own books? Of course. But do I need a big house with a separate library just for my books? No. Maybe my answer would be different if I still owned the hundreds and hundreds of books that I once had, but I lost those when we lost the storage unit, so there’s that. Losing a collection like that, over 1,000 books, changes you, definitely.
But possessions? Thousand dollar purses or shoes? What good would they do me? My house is old. My furniture is old. My clothes, for the most part, are old. And you know what? I like old things. It’s another thing that my mother never understood, my love for things with history. If you showed me a brand new chair that was the perfect color of red, and placed an old Queen Anne covered in faded red brocade beside it, there’s no questions to which I would be drawn. History over new. Worn over pristine.
So ultimately, standing at the crossroads between past and present, more than likely I just wouldn’t move, I think, which is why I find myself always wondering in which time I really live.
More later. Peace.
*All images are taken from the former apartment of Mrs. DeFlorian, a Parisian woman who fled before the German occupation of WWII. The apartment was found to be exactly as she left it when it was opened in 2010. For an article on this beautiful artifact, go here.
Music by Julia Brennan, “Inner Demons”
A Person Protests to Fate
A person protests to fate:
“The things you have caused
me most to want
are those that furthest elude me.”
Fate is sympathetic.
To tie the shoes, button a shirt,
for only the very young,
the very old.
During the long middle:
conjugating a rivet
training the cat to stay off the table
preserving a single moment longer than this one
continuing to wake whatever has happened the day before
and the penmanships love practices inside the body.
~ Jane Hirshfield, as found on poets.org