Wordless Wednesdays: A Murmuration of Starlings

 

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Wordless Wednesdays: The Orion Nebula

Orion Nebula (M42/M43, NGC1976) from the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO/AURA/NSF)

Wordless Wednesday

 

“At last, she makes her choice. She turns around, drops her head, and walks toward a horizon she cannot see. After that, she does not look back anymore. She knows that if she does, she will weaken.” ~ Khaled Hosseini, from And the Mountains Echoed

Fog over the ridge, by C. Fickel

“You cannot fight against the truth
of what has happened.
You cannot expect metaphor
to comfort you ~ Nate Pritts, from “Decoherence”

Sunday afternoon with an amazing effulgent sun and unseasonably warm temperatures, 65 degrees.

I’m not entirely certain as to what I want to say today, but I know that the words are just below the surface. The fact is that I probably should go for a walk up to the ridge and beneath the trees, especially as the weather is beautiful even though the wind is wicked, and more than likely, I will interrupt this post to do just that, or perhaps not. I haven’t decided yet.

As far as the eye can see: a view from the right side of the ridge, by L. Liwag*

Last night was another rough one, sleep wouldn’t come even though I was so tired, and then I awakened several times during the night, only to spend about three hours trying to will myself back to sleep. If you’ve never suffered from insomnia, you cannot possibly understand, but if you, too, have been susceptible to these spells, you have my complete sympathy. Once morning comes, more often than not, you feel groggy and half formed, at best.

One of the main reasons that I’m having such a hard time sleeping is that I’m out of a lot of my regular medications. Since moving here, I’ve had a real beast of a time trying to find a pain management practice that will take me, and I have yet to find a practicing psychiatrist who is accepting new patients. It took three months just to find a primary care physician because no one wants to touch you if you have been in pain management because the assumption is that you are a drug addict. I’m not joking about this.

“Meanwhile, within the tiny moments of this hell
I was fighting a small fight of my own which was not leading
anywhere—but like a man with a bent spoon trying to dig through a
cement wall I knew that a small fight was better than quitting: it
kept
the heart alive.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “If you let them kill you, they will”

Apparently, this area is rife with people who are addicted to opiates and amphetamines, which means that those of us who just want meds in order to live a normal life are pretty much out of luck. Without my maintenance pain meds, I spend hours trying to calm my legs, as one offshoot of my chronic pain is RLS (restless leg syndrome), and like insomnia, it’s almost impossible to describe to someone who has never experienced it. Essentially, though, your legs tingle and ache, and you feel the need to keep moving them to try to find a comfortable position, something that doesn’t exist.

To Infinity and Beyond: Under such an effulgent sky, by L. Liwag

The medicine most prescribed for RLS, ropinirole, is one that I cannot take because it can cause tardive dyskinesia, which is involuntary body movements. Oh, the irony. Several years ago, I took relpax, and for a while, it was doing good things for me, that is until my doctor noticed that I was moving even while sitting, so she promptly pulled it from my regimen. Later, my pain doctor prescribed ropinirole for my RLS, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized the connection when I started making those weird movements without realizing it. So the medicine that is supposed to stop the discomfort of RLS movement can cause dyskinesia, or involuntary movement: it’s yet another instance of damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

Unfortunately, the RLS is the least of my medical issues. I’ve been without my maintenance meds for more than two months now, and the result is that I am back to having three or four migraines a week. It’s so disheartening because I had finally gotten my migraines under control after years of trying to find the med that would work best for me, and I tried a dozen or more, including Botox—no lie. So until I can find a neurologist or pain medicine doctor, I’m basically ingesting ibuprofen and supplements in an attempt to stem the tide. The success is limited, at best.

“Lonely for weeping, starved for a sound of mourning
I bowed my head, and heard the sea far off
Washing its hands” ~ James Wright, from “The Slackening of the Tide”

Anyway, enough of my medical trials and tribulations . . .

I was telling you how we actually came to be here, on this glorious piece of land with so very many possibilities, so let’s go back to 2017 again. As I had mentioned, 2017 was one helluva year for us, all of us, near and far. But in the midst of this, Corey took his mind off things by looking for land. We had decided that once we could get back to a somewhat stable place, that we were going to move.

From here to eternity: a view of our land from the left side of the ridge, by L. Liwag

I had wanted to leave Norfolk for years, but never felt that I could or should because of my mother; I’m an only child, you see, and while that may seem like a wonderful thing to be, it actually isn’t, especially if you have an elderly parent with medical issues of her own. I’m not complaining about it; god knows my mother took care of me through my asthma, migraines, and a host of other things. But once I had begun to recover from her death in 2014, we decided to look for the land that we had always talked about.

The first piece of land that we looked at was absolutely gorgeous, but it came with a hefty price tag, one that we could not possibly afford. Then, during the summer of 2017, on a whim, Corey and I decided to look at another piece of land that he had found. It was about seven hours from Norfolk, but we ended up driving around for about nine hours because we got so lost. Once we finally found it, though, we both fell in love. It was over 100 acres, and there was a small house on the property that was built in the late 1800s. Fortunately, it had been updated over time. Even better, the price was amazingly affordable.

So began our saga of trying to leave Norfolk, and the house that I had lived in for a very long time. I simply cannot go into all of the details that made this transition so hard, but it will suffice to say that it took us almost a year from the time that we first saw it to the time at which we finally arrived. It was a very, very, long, hard year.

“It takes courage . . . to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives. ~ Marianne Williamson, from “A Return to Love”

Honestly, there were days in which I believed that the dream that we had so fervently sought would never happen. And during the wait, we suffered—emotionally, physically, spiritually. It seemed that the entire world was against us.

Three at the trough, by C. Fickel

You know, at times like that it’s hard not to wonder if some kind of karmic disharmony isn’t being visited upon you. You begin to think that you must have done something absolutely horrible at some point to be faced with the almost insurmountable. There was even a point during all of this that a piece of the ceiling in the Norfolk house suddenly crashed to the floor, and all that we could do was look at one another and shake our heads because it just felt like it was yet one more thing beyond our control. Mind you, a piece of your ceiling falling is a pretty major event, but we had been through so much that by the time it happened, it was just one more thing in a very long list of one more things. It’s weird to think of that event in that way now

But we clung to one other and to the possibility of actually realizing a dream that had seemed so out of reach for so long, and very long story abbreviated, now, here we are. And there is no other place in the world that I would rather be.

“In this life, this is how
one must wait, past despair,
the heart a fossil, the minutes molten, the feet turned to stone. ~ Li-Young Lee, from “Here I Am”

Well, that all came out much faster than I had thought. I suppose the words were much closer to the surface than I had thought. That’s good when that happens, although at times I feel that I’m just throwing words at the screen and hoping that something sticks and makes sense, kind of like spaghetti noodles that aren’t overcooked.

So much beauty everywhere I look, by L. Liwag

In returning to this forum, I realize that I’m more than likely opening some wounds that really haven’t healed, but this is how I heal best. Fingers on keys, letting them fly without restraint (my very dear friend Rebecca once likened my typing to machine gun fire). I realize that I’m fortunate to have this ability—to write, not to type rapidly—because I am well aware that many people out there who are wounded or trying to heal have nothing more than their own thoughts, and that can often feel all-consuming. But I have always written my way out, have done this since I was a child—truly. I wrote my first poem when I was six. I started my first journal when I was twelve. Words have always been the balm to my soul.

I hope that by rekindling my love affair with this blog, that perhaps my words might touch someone out there in the ether and let them see that they are not alone in feeling lost or depressed or overwhelmed. I do not proclaim to have answers for anyone, myself least of all, but sometimes just reading someone else’s words can be a salve, much like hearing the perfect song can help us heal. We take what we can get, right? We are all only human after all.

Just a note: Today’s poem is a direct result of watching “Little Drummer Girl” on AMC, which was incredible. I really love it when shows incorporate beautiful poetry into the story lines, and Darwish is one of my favorites. I’ve featured his works here before.

More later. Peace.

*By the way, I did pause in this post to go for a long walk up to the top of the ridge with the dogs, which is where I took some of the images in today’s post.

Music by Katelyn Tarver, “You Don’t Know”

 

Now, as you awaken

Now, as you awaken, remember the swan’s
last dance. Did you dance with young angels
while you were dreaming? Did the butterfly
light you up when it burned with the eternal
light of the rose? Did the phoenix appear clearly
before you and call you by your name?
Did you see the morning dawn from the fingers
of the one you love? Did you touch
the dream with your hand or did you
leave it to dream alone, aware suddenly
of your own absence? Dreamers don’t abandon
their dreams, they flare and continue
the life they have in the dream…tell me
how you lived your dream in a certain place
and I’ll tell you who you are. And now,
as you awaken, remember if you have wronged
your dream. And if you have, then remember
the last dance of the swan.

~ Mahmoud Darwish

“Time has frozen. It sits on me, choking me.” ~ Mahmoud Darwish, from Memory for Forgetfulness

Balthus Window, Cour de Rohan 1951 oil on canvas
“Window, Cour de Rohan” (1951, oil on canvas)
by Balthus

“She was looking at the window. The words sounded as if they were floating like flowers on water out there, cut off from them all, as if no one had said them, but they had come into existence of themselves. She did not know what they meant, but, like music, the words seemed to be spoken by her own voice, outside herself, saying quite easily and naturally what had been in her mind while she said different things.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from To The Lighthouse

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and cold, 41 degrees.

Pablo Picasso View of Riera de Sant Joan from the Window 1900 oil on wood
“View of Riera de Sant Joan from the Window” (1900, oil on wood)
by Pablo Picasso

I have spent most of the day on the computer, dabbling, as it were, and in between, another poem, another few lines. I am more grateful for this wellspring than I let on, too afraid of the day on which no words come, too afraid that that day will be the beginning of many more days, the beginning of years before more poems come again, if they come at all.

So I pretend on here that it’s really no big deal that I am again writing poems, downplay their appearance as mere happenstance. But you, dear reader, see through it all. Don’t you?

All the Silences I’ve Been Inclined To

“Story inclines to moment.
Moment inclines to silence.” ~ Source unknown

Within the steady beat of the metronome
lies the fiction of appearances:
real time is never so evenly spaced.
It moves slowly, like a rush hour freeway,
or skips entire days in a leap,
leaving Tuesday afternoon
only to move headlong into Friday night

Four-four time is a falsehood,
a myth about common time
based on countable seconds,
but I have yet to come upon
a single late afternoon
without struggling for air
somewhere around 2 pm.

And though I might contemplate
the silences of the minutes
between midnight and dawn,
I don’t think I’ll ever really understand
how so much nothingness
can claim us abruptly
like New Year’s eve fireworks
ablaze too soon.

L. Liwag
November 15, 2014

                   

Music by Rosi Golan, “Everything is Brilliant”

In support of Banned Books Week (September 21-27, 2014)

 

Supposedly Thursday afternoon, somewhere on the Eastern Seaboard, a woman stares at her monitor with a furrowed brow caused by pain and confusion . . .

Reblogged from the Huffington Post:

Banned Books Week: How One Person With A Pen Taught Me All About Censorship

by Claire Fallon

When I was a college student, I majored in English literature, which meant that I got to read a lot of novels for class — and my course reading could be purchased for a song. Unlike my STEM classmates, most of my class syllabuses were filled with paperback novels and epic poems I could buy used for five bucks apiece at the campus bookstore.

When I bought a copy of The Virgin Suicides by Jeffrey Eugenides for a Contemporary Fiction class one semester, I applied my usual procedure: I grabbed a relatively clean-looking copy from the stack, flipped through the pages to check for excessive scribbling, and dropped it in my basket along with the 20-odd other books I was purchasing. A successful prelude to future learning, or so I thought.

When it came time to dig into the novel several weeks later, however, something went awry. As I read through the first few pages, my vision was suddenly assaulted by several dark, black scribbles covering lines of text. I was as viscerally shocked as if the book had, unaided, leapt out of my hands and whacked me over the head. I read on — and it happened again. More words covered by heavily, thoroughly crosshatched ballpoint pen. Having purchased many used student copies of novels before, no intrusive notes in the margin, underlining or aggressive highlighting would have been new to me — but this, this was new. I strained to see what words lay beneath the pen marks, but in vain; the scribbles were so firm and uniform that the pen had also imprinted bumpy, wide furrows into the page.

There was no getting around it: Someone, perhaps even one of my classmates at college, hadn’t wanted the future owners of this volume to read those few snippets of text.

virginsuicides

Unfortunately for that person, the year was not 1807 — it was 2009, and I had a way to find out those obliterated words right at my fingertips: Google. So it was only a few minutes before I found myself facing the revelation that the words my book’s defacer had objected to were: “‘Fuck the Holy Mother’ […] ‘Fuck God'” and “telling God to fuck Himself all over again.” I couldn’t resist a bit of a chuckle — though I understood not everyone was comfortable with such language, even coming from the mouth of a fictional character, this was apparently the only thing the amateur censor had objected to in a book about the sexual objectification and gruesome suicides of five young girls.

virginsuicides2

In fact, only a few paragraphs before the first pen marks, Eugenides gently tweaks such unthinking primness, characterized in the staidly faithful Mr. Buell, who blames a girl’s suicide attempt on the lack of a picture of Jesus in her home: “Otherwise he persevered, and always gently corrected us when we took the Lord’s name in vain.” Mr. Buell’s faith, Eugenides reveals, hasn’t cured his shoulder injury, and his fixation on faith leads to unthinking cruelty in the form of blaming a family for their suffering. His focus on the town boys not taking the Lord’s name in vain seems to be a superficial effort toward their betterment at best. But only a page later, a reader had mimicked his blanket silencing of curse words, as if the complexities of Eugenides’s narrative hadn’t registered at all. The threads of religious propriety and faith continue to weave through the text, making those words part of a greater tapestry that the previous reader had chosen to partly obscure.

Thanks to the efforts of organizations like the American Library Association, I’d grown up with fairly free access to reading materials — including, yes, sometimes books that were somewhat too old for me or that weren’t worth reading (which, fortunately, never caused any damage, lasting or otherwise). This incident, as minor and absurd as it was, reminded me of how fortunate I had been to learn in such a free environment, but also that censorship, even for a rule-following, straight-laced type like myself, only stokes the desire to read the controversial material.

The ballpoint expurgation of my Virgin Suicides served less to shield me from its obscenities than to highlight them, perversely. I may have skipped lightly over those words had they not been scribbled out, barely noticing them; instead, I dedicated 10 minutes just to finding and reading them, as well as thinking about what could have compelled someone to blot them out, and as a result I can remember them easily years later. The scribbler took those despised words and made them the most visible elements of the book by deeming them unfit to be read.

Though I don’t believe those words should have been the most memorable in such a searing, stunningly crafted novel, which contained so much meant to provoke thought, I do think it’s right that we pay closer attention to those words and ideas people try to hide from view. Though some words may seem dangerous and worthy of hiding, confronting them is the only way of effectively combating them. As Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” Sometimes, the light merely shows us that our fear was always misplaced.

This Banned Books Week, here at HuffPost Books, we’re grateful for all the books that have startled us, unnerved us, and even angered us — and we’re glad that the ALA and others are working to ensure that readers in America will continue to be able to engage with groundbreaking, if sometimes upsetting and even offensive, texts that will keep people engaged with the difficult work of learning and growing.

                   

Music by Paolo Nutini, “Don’t Let Me Down” (Beatles’ Cover)


Related articles:

“Imagine a world in which your choices about where and how to work were not determined in the context of white-hot rage or crippling fear over the inability to simply feed yourself.” ~ Kristin Dombek, from The Help Desk (July 29, 2014)

Kurt Schwitters EN MORN, 1947
“En Morn” (1947, collage)
by Kurt Schwitters

I wonder sometimes who we have lost to employment in the finance industry—how many great, world-changing climatologists and astrophysicists and doctors and molecular biologists and teachers and composers and househusbands and architects and urban planners. We’ll never know . . . ” ~ Kristin Dombek

When I read the following, I could not help but think of my son Brett, and all of the things he has said so similar to what Dombek is saying. It’s probably one of the best essays on life that I have read in a very long time, so much so that I really really really wish that I had written it, but I didn’t. The words are cutting and blistering, and infused with equal parts truth and grace, and every point Dombek makes is completely, unmistakably valid.

Kurt Schwitters 1942-43 Difficult
“Difficult” (1942-43, collage)
by Kurt Schwitters

It is a rare thing to come upon someone who writes in this way, someone who loves words and appreciates all that they can do to illuminate the mind, and how they can fill up all of the holes in the soul, an individual for whom writing is akin to aspirating and expirating—effortless and filled with precision and thought and care. I think that I’m going to have to make her column mandatory reading for myself.

Do yourself a favor, read the whole thing. It’s too long to repost completely, but I’ve provided a link. Enjoy . . .

Reposted from nplusonemag.com

The Help Desk is a monthly advice column from Kristin Dombek. Advice-seekers may submit questions to askkristin@nplusonemag.com.

Hi Miss Dombek,

I have a question that pretty much sums up the core theme of my adult life. In my youth, as I began to take jobs and find my way, my confusion at the meaninglessness of most employment took the form of amusement; dull, exploitative labor was an odd feature of American life I noticed and playfully railed against, almost imitating the kind of things you’d hear real, working adults say. Now, as I approach my forties, this confusion has become a white-hot festering rage that runs at all times in the background of my day to day.

Miss Dombek, is there something wrong with me that I find regular employment to be the most soul-oppressing thing I can imagine? How can someone undergo the spectrum of emotion and concentration necessary to create something beautiful—a real and full life, even—while holding down work enough to survive? Aren’t we really all being exploited to one extent or another, with largely menial, unimportant posts (except for maybe those on the tippy-top), just to keep this whole thing going? How can I choose not to be a part of this construct and still eat?

Sincerely yours,

Bank-robbin’ in Brooklyn


 

Bank-robbin’ in Brooklyn:

First of all, Marx didn’t call it alienated labor for nothing, dear. It’s not called “nose to the grindstone” because it feels good. It’s not called “keep your head down” because it’s wise to look around. You have been trained from childhood to think that labor, in and of itself, is both a right and one of the most important goals of your life; you have been told that your “career” is the same thing as “who you are in the world.” Yet like most employed people in the United States, you work jobs that you consider to be banal, brutal, or both.1 For this labor you are supposed to be grateful, since work is increasingly hard to get: if you lose your shitty job, you’ve got only a one-in-five chance of finding a new one, and if you’ve been unemployed for six months or longer your chances are one in ten.2 While you look, there is hardly a safety net; Boehner’s shredded it. Follow the logic of this drive to profit on the back of shitty labor (the difficult labor that is either necessary or not, but purchased by employers for less than the value it creates) and bullshit labor (often in industries invented to distract, placate, and endlessly “connect” us and imprison us in debt while we work shitty or bullshit jobs) and you will find the same drive to create wealth for those on the “tippy-top” that has us hell bent on fracking until California burns and New Orleans and New York and Miami drown. This is no longer some unimaginable possible future, it is happening now: the West Antarctic ice sheet has begun to split apart.

Kurt Schwitters Hitler Gang 1944
“Hitler Gang” (1944, collage)
by Kurt Schwitters

Is there something wrong with you? If you are unusual, it is because you are refusing to keep your head down. Why do you keep looking around? There’s so much to distract and comfort you, if you could just keep your head down, that is, in your computer. Keep your head down; Solange Knowles has kicked Jay Z in an elevator. Keep your head down; James Franco has 2 million followers and he has taken off his shirt and seems to be pulling down his underwear. Keep your head down; Ryan Gosling is still wearing his T-shirt but it has a picture of Macaulay Culkin on it wearing a T-shirt with a picture of Ryan Gosling on it, a three-ton great white shark has been eaten either by an even bigger great white shark or possibly by the Leviathan, and Bill Murray has crashed another wedding. Are you not entertained?

Should you learn to do a better job hiding your soul from the oligarchs and make what is beautiful on nights and weekends, if you can get them, when you are not too tired, and have not drunk yourself into numb oblivion? Or should you sacrifice years of your life to educate yourself, incur massive debt,7 and “put in your time” to qualify for a job that might feel more like “creating something beautiful,” only to risk turning that very beauty into “the most soul-oppressing thing [you] can imagine,” too?

You don’t seem to be entertained, Bank-robbin’; your white-hot rage festers. It probably doesn’t help that you live in Brooklyn—this place where in the last ten years rent has spiked 77 percent while real median income has dropped,3 where the rich (the top 10 percent of earners who, as is well known, control 80 percent of the wealth) and their children live right on top of some of the worst poverty known to this country, while 20 percent of Brooklynites survive somehow below the poverty level,4 such that the widening income and wealth gap5 becomes achingly visible here. I could advise you to leave Brooklyn. But I don’t want you to leave Brooklyn.

Everything is upside down. Your life is sold to serve an economy that does not serve your life. So should you turn to crime, if you haven’t already? Do whatever it takes to avoid participating in this “construct,” risking hunger, imprisonment, or dependence on people with real jobs, who’ve learned to keep their heads down?6 Should you learn to do a better job hiding your soul from the oligarchs and make what is beautiful on nights and weekends, if you can get them, when you are not too tired, and have not drunk yourself into numb oblivion? Or should you sacrifice years of your life to educate yourself, incur massive debt,7 and “put in your time” to qualify for a job that might feel more like “creating something beautiful,” only to risk turning that very beauty into “the most soul-oppressing thing [you] can imagine,” too? Should you try to work harder, save more, get your hands on some capital, even though the game seems impossibly rigged, so that if you do work out how to make a profit, it will be incredibly difficult to do so without replicating the system of exploitation that enrages you?

article continued at link . . .

                   

Music by Staind, “Outside”