“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” ~ Carson McCullers, from “Look Homeward, Americans”


“She was afraid of these things that made her suddenly wonder who she was, and what she was going to be in the world, and why she was standing at that minute, seeing a light, or listening, or staring up into the sky: alone.” ~ Carson McCullers, The Member of the Wedding

Sunday afternoon, cloudy, 49 degrees.

Wednesday was the birthday of American novelist, playwright, and poet Carson McCullers (February 19, 1917-September 29, 1967). Granted, I came to McCullers late in the game, not reading my first book by her until grad school—Reflections in a Golden Eye, written in 1941 (go here to download an e copy of the novel). However, once I had read that book, I was hooked, reading almost everything that she had written in quick succession. When I was still teaching, I always included something by McCullers on my literature syllabi, my favorite being her first novel, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter (1940).

Most often, McCullers is classified as a Southern Gothic writer, in the same vein as Truman Capote, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, and Tennessee Williams. Southern Gothic literature is so named because of its similarities to the Gothic genre, which arose in 18th century Britain. Key elements of Gothic literature include bleak, dark settings, and mysterious, sometimes supernatural plots filled with psychologically complex and damaged characters. Well-known examples of the genre include Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) and Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897).

Gothic literature continued to flourish in the 19th century, influencing the works of Edgar Allan Poe (“The Tell-Tale Heart,” 1843), Robert Louis Stevenson (The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, 1886), and Nathanial Hawthorne (The House of the Seven Gables, 1851), all of which incorporated the Gothic motifs of suspense and horror, as well as characters with traumatized psyches. Often central to the overarching atmosphere of these works was a large, foreboding house harboring a terrible secret (Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights); the term Gothic actually derives from the architectural classification of late Medieval structures such as cathedrals that featured stone and glass incorporated into the arches and buttresses.

Elements of the Gothic tradition in literature continue today—the entire oeuvre of Stephen King or Anne Rice, for example—with sensational plots and characters steeped in mystery and the supernatural, with thematic spillover into movies and television shows featuring zombies, vampires, and werewolves.

“His own life seemed so solitary, a fragile column supporting nothing amidst the wreckage of the years.” Carson McCullers, from “The Sojourner”

While the roots of Southern Gothic literature stem from the Gothic tradition, Southern Gothic tends to focus less on the primary setting of singular creepy mansions and instead uses the concept of the sprawling Southern plantation or the small Southern town as the atmospheric backdrop. Much of Southern Gothic literature centers on the differences inherent in the mid 20th century South and the characters who reside there. For example, in Reflections, McCullers incubates her characters within the stultifying isolation of a military base in which characters self-mutilate and ultimately commit murder.

Southern Gothic first emerged as a sub genre in the work of William Faulkner in the 1920s, but it reached its peak in the period between the 1940s to the 1960s through the work of well-known authors such as McCullers, O’Connor, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, and Harper Lee. I would be remiss if I did not mention the Southern Gothic masterpiece, A Streetcar Named Desire (1947), by  Tennessee Williams; in fact, it was Williams who convinced his friend McCullers to turn her 1946 novel Member of the Wedding into the 1950 play, which won the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for the best play of the season.

Interestingly, many well-known Gothic novels and stories have been translated to movies and plays, with some having multiple adaptations over the years: McCullers’ Heart novel was adapted to film in 1968 and starred Alan Arkin and a young Sondra Locke. Elizabeth Taylor and Marlon Brando starred in the 1967 film version of Reflections. Member was not only adapted into a play, but also into a film in both 1952 (garnering Julie Harris a best actress nomination) and 1997, as well as a TV adaptation in 1982.

“Maybe when people longed for a thing that bad the longing made them trust in anything that might give it to them.” ~ Carson McCullers, from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

One key motif of both Gothic and Southern Gothic literature is the incorporation of the grotesque, which is defined in the literary sense as the ludicrous or abnormal, in other words, whatever or whoever deviates from traditional societal norms, especially as relates to the body and the many ways in which it can be exaggerated or distorted, a la the Frankenstein monster. McCullers was particularly skilled in incorporating the overarching Gothic idea of the grotesque into her characterizations: witness John Singer, the deaf-mute protagonist of Heart, whose physical differences caused him such emotional pain and mental anguish. He moves through his life with an overarching sense of alienation that allows him no permanent place in this world, which in turn leads to his suicide.

McCullers creates within so many of her characters this sense of other as a deliberate mechanism for portraying the wretchedness of the human condition. Her  stories are populated by those set apart from the mainstream by race, sexuality, and deformity, and then she further isolates these characters through  complex themes such as bisexuality, impotency, bestiality, and murder. But perhaps the leitmotif that permeates her work more than any other is that of need: her characters’ need for love, for understanding, for companionship, for sex, for strength, for belonging. She creates these needs, but rarely offers the satisfaction of successfully achieving any of them.

I always thought that her characters in Heart are indeed both grotesque and sublime—creations that the reader can both love and fear because we fear what we do not know, whether it be a mute or an individual institutionalized for mental illness (Spiros). Singer was a masterpiece of contractions: He could not hear, but he loved music, or the idea of music. He could not speak but was named singer. Oddly, the person in the boarding house who is deemed the best listener is the deaf man. Overall, the book’s characters are all lone hunters, with each seemingly hunting something different yet at the same time, each hunting a way out of loneliness.

“What did he understand? Nothing. Where was he headed? Nowhere. What did he want? To know. What? A meaning. Why? A riddle.” ~ Carson McCullers, from The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter
Carson McCullers, Nyack, New York, 1947; photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

Anyway, not really sure how I ended up writing so much about Southern Gothic literature when I had originally just wanted to mention McCullers’ birthday;  I finally had to stop myself when I realized that I was going into a full-blown academic analysis of her, and the Gothic tradition, etc. . . . that, plus I began this post on Wednesday, so it was long overdue for completion. Truthfully, though, I miss writing research papers, which is why so many of my posts contain elements inherent to pedagogy.

Nevertheless, I never even touched on McCullers as a person, which is in large part why I have always been so fascinated with her, but that’s a whole other post’s worth of words, and then some. But truly, McCullers was brilliant, and like many brilliant people she was very troubled, so perhaps I’ll write about that and the bourbon some other time, but this is quite enough for today.

More later. Peace.


Music by The Dead South, “In Hell I’ll Be in Good Company”

“We are right at the start, do you see. As though before everything. With a thousand and one dreams behind us and no act.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Notes on the Melody of Things” (Section I)

I began this post Sunday afternoon, and then my computer decided to act up again. All of the script errors are back, and now whenever I do a search, half of the results page is blank. I’ve scanned for malware, and the scan says that everything is fine, but obviously, everything is not fine. I am so weary—these recurring computer issues always seem to rear their ugly head precisely at the moment in which I have decided to post, that exact moment in which I am finally ready to sit here and just let the words pour forth.

The fates conspire against me.


Sunday afternoon, partly cloudy, 43 degrees.

Rainer Maria Rilke wrote “Notes on the Melody of Things” in 1898, when he was only twenty-two years old, but the piece was not published in his lifetime. Many of the same ideas from “Notes” appeared in another essay, “The Value of theMonologue.” I have chosen to share just a few of my favorite passages, but you can find the full text here.

III. That occurs to me: when I observe: that we still always paint people against a gold background, like the Italian Primitives. People stand before something indefinite—sometimes gold, sometimes gray. Sometimes they stand in the light, and often with an unfathomable darkness behind them.

XVI. Whether it be the singing of a lamp or the voice of a storm, whether it be the breath of an evening or the groan of the ocean — whatever surrounds you, a broad melody always wakes behind you, woven out of a thousand voices, where there is room for your own solo only here and there. To know when you need to join in: that is the secret of your solitude: just as the art of true interactions with others is to let yourself fall away from high words into a single common melody.

XX. In other cases, when there is no difficult, heavy pain to make people equally silent, one of them hears more of the powerful melody of the background, the other hears less. Many no longer hear it at all. They are like trees that have forgotten their roots and now think that the rustling of their branches is their power and their life. Many people don’t have time to hear it. They are impatient with every hour enveloping them. These poor, homeless people have lost the meaning of existence. They strike the keyboard of their days and play the same, monotonous, lost note over and over again.

XXI. If, then, we want to be initiates of life, we must keep two things in mind:

First, the great melody, in which things and scents, feelings and pasts, twilights and desires, all play their parts; —

and second: the individual voices which augment and complete this full chorus.

Today is the birthday of novelist and playwright Frances Hodgson Burnett (November 24, 1849 – October 29, 1924), author of one of the first books that I chose to read as a child, The Secret Garden (1911). I still have a very clear memory of the local library’s children’s section, the exact location of the stacks I used to spend countless hours perusing in search of books to read.

I also read her other well-known book The Little Princess (1905), which was turned into a movie with child actor Shirley Temple, but I much preferred a lesser known book The Lost Prince (1915). Even as a child, I had a propensity for finding an author and dedicating myself to reading as much of that author’s oeuvre as I could get my hands on. When you are an only child, books can be a reliable bulwark against loneliness, as they were for me.

More later. Peace.


Music by Ben Cocks, “So Cold”

“Books are the plane, the train, and the road. They are the destination and the journey. They are home.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Image result for The magicians trilogy


“. . . I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them—with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself.” ~ Eudora Welty, from “One Writer’s Beginnings”

Monday afternoon, sunny and mild, 82 degrees.

I thought that today I’d complete a survey that I found. I enjoy doing these once in a while. This one is perfect for me as it’s about books and reading. By the way, if you don’t know it, you can find great copies of hardback books from all genres at Ollie’s. I know, a surprise right? Usually the books are $3.99 or less. Whenever we go there, I look for copies of books that I lost with the storage unit.

Another great place to find books is in thrift stores. There were two in Norfolk that I loved to peruse; one of them used to have a bag of books option: as many books as you could fit in a bag for $5. They were very generous in not limiting bag sizes. I really miss that place.

That all for now. More later. Peace.


“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
  1. What are you currently reading? I’m rereading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
  2. How many books have you read this year? I’m behind in my goals, having only read 12.
  3. How have your reading tastes changed from when you were a child? I wouldn’t say they’ve changed as much as they’ve broadened. As a child, I loved pretty much anything I could find in the young section of the library. Now, I still love books from all categories—science fiction/fantasy, mysteries, in particular British mysteries, poetry, action/adventure, sweeping historical fiction, biographies, actual histories, and memoirs. I also like that category known as Young Adult, although I’m not sure why it’s called that.
  4. Physical book or e-book? Only paper for me. I love the way that books smell and feel. You cannot get that from an e-reader.
  5. Where do you love to read? I love to read outside; if I had a hammock again, that would be my preferred place. I did see one of those hanging egg chairs at Sam’s Club that I would give anything to have as that would be ideal.
  6. What is your ideal reading atmosphere? background noise or silent? alone or with others? I don’t want anything going on in the background if I’m reading, and I prefer to be alone. When I was a teen, I would watch TV with my boyfriend while reading. Don’t really know how I did that.
  7. Are you a writer? I like to think so.
  8. What was your very first baby book? The first book that I remember having was A Child’s Garden of Verses.
  9. What was the first book you read on your own? I’m fairly certain that the first things that I read on my own were Superman comics, but the first book was probably The House at Pooh Corner.
  10. How many books have you read in total? A conservative estimate would be about 2,000 books.
  11. What has been the longest gap between books? I went through a really bad depression in which I couldn’t concentrate enough to read. It was almost a year without books.
  12. What are your favorite genres? See number 3. My very favorite would probably be British mysteries. I’ve been reading those kinds of books the longest.
  13. What books make you happy? This is a weird question. Reading in general makes me happy. Books that make me smile tend to be things like comic compilations such as Calvin & Hobbes or The Far Side.
  14. What books have made you uncomfortable? Why? I don’t really like romances, mostly because they are so antithetical to real life, and the writing style tends to be formulaic.
  15. Can you read anywhere? Moving vehicle? Roller coaster? I used to be able to read anywhere, but I can no longer read in a moving vehicle without getting carsick.
  16. How do you bookmark books? I have a collection of bookmarks, but I rarely remember to use them. Usually I just use whatever piece of paper is closest to me.
  17. Policy on book-lending? I only lend books to close friends or family. My other mother and I used to exchange books all of the time.
  18. Do people know you’re a bookworm? If they know me, they do.
  19. How well do you take care of your books? I cherish my books, and I prefer to purchase hardbacks. I hate it if they become damaged.
  20. Can you read in other languages? I can read a bit in French.
  21. What is a total book turn-off for you? I hate books that contain errors in grammar and syntax, and I get really upset if a book has a bad ending.
  22. What is an essential element of a good book? For me, it needs to have good plot and character development, and it needs to be written well.
  23. Genres you rarely read? I don’t read self-help books. They get on my nerves.
  24. Do you read non-fiction? Yes, I like to read biographies, especially those of writers. I also like memoirs and collections of essays.
  25. Do you read reviews on a book before you read it? Not usually, but if I do read a review and it seems intriguing, I will probably order the book.
  26. Do you judge a book by the cover? I try not to. I learned when pursuing my publishing degree that the cover design is not always as closely married to the text as it should be.
  27. Do you read cover to cover or sometimes skim parts? I read cover to cover, and I often reread books I love, in particular series such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, both of which I have read multiple times.
  28. Do you always finish a book, even if it is dull? It’s hard for me to leave a book unfinished, and I can count on my hands the number of books that I’ve actually put down without finishing.
  29. How do you organize your books? I organize by last name within genres.
  30. Favorite book this year? This would have to be The Magicians trilogy. I really, really liked those books, and I wish that there were more in the series.

Music by Keane, “Somewhere Only We Know”


Burning of the Books

Typewriters wait at desks,
stories loiter outside hotels.
Far from the boiling pulp of Thunder Bay
starved spruces in wordless bogs
wait to be books.
You who leave the bookstore
will know how the snow waits
for the white fox to venture out
when hunger is spelled in his gut,
how his tracks end in a tuft of fur
and the asterisk of blood
which is the only color on this page;
the unwritten preface to your book.
It will speak to you in your study
like the claviforms on cavern walls
that have kept felling bison
for forty thousand years.

As you open the cover
an axe will strike in the north woods
and teams of draft horses will haul
great logs across the ice.
And if you read well when you read fire
the censor’s match will fail,
the heart of a pinecone will shine.
Incendiary slogans that sleep in libraries
will inspire arsons in the night.
Fireballs will crown the forests,
and in your book-walled room
the sweet smoke of a word’s entrails
will rise from ashes of the page.

~ George H Gurley Jr.

“To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose” ~ Walt Whitman, from Leaves of Grass: XLV

Bee Hives in a Field of Canola, Oregon, US by Ian Sane (FCC)

“Understand me. I’m not like an ordinary world. I have my madness, I live in another dimension and I do not have time for things that have no soul. ~ Charles Bukowski

Thursday afternoon, rainy and cooler, 74 degrees.

Bad day. I’m mulling over a decision that has to be made, and I just cannot see a solution in which anyone can be happy with the outcome, least of all me. To distract myself, I thought I’d just do kind of a random post . . .

Thursday thoughts:

  • Why on earth would Corey’s recipe for beef and noodles also include mashed potatoes? Not enough calories in the noodles?
  • When will Roland realize that Bailey is a dog and that he cannot have sex with her?
  • I wish that Dallas could have a life-altering epiphany, but I just don’t see that happening. He’ll never change, and he’ll probably live to be 110.
  • Can we ever take the time to paint this stupid house? I hate living like this.
  • Why did Danny Burke leave Most Amazing Top 10? I know that this is probably only something that I wonder, well, me and the other 5 million subscribers.
  • Why on earth would anyone trust a Facebook cyber bank? Talk about taking unnecessary chances . . .
  • Can we just get an even 30 Democratic candidates for president? I mean, 24 isn’t nearly enough. Is it?
  • Will I ever be old enough not to have breakouts? Once upon a time, I assumed that such things ended once you left your teens. Ha.
  • I miss my books.
  • I dreamed last night that I pushed on my stomach and a ball the size of a handball popped out. I pressed on my belly again, and another one popped out, and then a third. But no holes, just stretched skin. Weird, huh?
  • What is the goats’ obsession with my Bentwood rocker? I’ve had this thing longer than my kids, and I really would prefer that it not be destroyed by goat hooves.
  • Did you know that a kid swallowed a live fish, and then the fish ended up living in his lung? Also weird.
  • There are no movie theaters within a half an hour of here.
  • There is nothing within half an hour of here.
  • My daughter wonders if I’m going crazy from the isolation yet.
  • Hmm . . .
  • I have so many insect bites on my limbs that it actually looks like I have small hives.
  • Obviously, I’m competing with the bug zapper for number of captures.
  • One of the goat girls has figured out how to make knocking sounds on the front door. I kid you not.
  • Dogs like to eat goat poop. Yep. Just as disgusting as you might imagine.
  • I really want to have bee hives. We have plenty of room for them. Yet another thing to go on the list.
  • Did you know that bees are so essential to our lives that they even affect the production of coffee? Like coffee? Save the bees.
  • Should I try to go back to work full time? The question that continues to plague me.
  • The White House sent out an official letter in which the word occurring was misspelled. Not surprised.
  • I really, really want to try a pint of Magnum sea salt caramel ice cream with a chocolate shell. Every time I see the commercial, I begin to salivate.
  • I’m still having the script problem, particularly on WordPress and YouTube. Anyone else using Firefox experiencing the same issues? It’s making me kind of crazy. More than usual. Meh.

Well, I think that’s about all. Concentrating on thoughts is just too hard, and that’s just sad. Chocolate would definitely make me feel better.

More later. Peace.


Music by Ray LaMontagne, “Such a Simple Thing”

 

“How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.” ~ Khaled Hosseini, from A Thousand Splendid Suns

A view towards the far end of the pond

“Here I saw the truth of the horizon,
the way of coming and going in this life.
I never drifted up from my beginning:
I rose as inexorably as heat.” ~ Denis Johnson, from “The Confession of St. Jim-Ralph”

Monday afternoon, partly cloudy and absolutely lovely, 76 degrees.

Apologies. It’s been a few days since I wrote anything here. I’ve been distracted, more than usual. I began listening to a podcast, “A New Winter.” I began listening last week, and then became so absorbed that I binged right through the weekend. Unlike the true crime genre to which I’m partial, it’s a creepy dramatization, and I was hooked, all the way through 62 episodes. Yep. Sixty-62.

Red Bud in bloom

I know. Too much, right?

Anyway, I had a Two for Tuesday planned, and then on Wednesday, I had another one of those doctor’s appointments that didn’t happen because my appointment had been changed somehow, or I changed it somehow, thinking that I was actually changing my neurologist’s appointment. I honestly don’t know, but I got ready, put on real clothes, arrived on time, only to be told that my appointment was on June 5. From that point on my week was wrecked.

So here I am, trying to start over, get back into the rhythm of writing, creating, putting something out there. Anything. We’ll just have to see how this goes. I do have new pictures of the farm and the animals, at least.

“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.” ~ Eckhart Tolle, from an interview with The Guardian (10 April 2009)

So I’m sitting outside at yet another makeshift work station, kind of hunched over, and my back is protesting mightily. But it doesn’t matter because the birds are serenading, and the sun is peeking through the clouds, and the air is clean, and there’s a light breeze making the Dogwood tree sway and the bamboo wind chimes clatter in a non-jarring way. The goats and the dogs are outside, as well, and Ruby, the female goat just came by to have her ears scratched; Max isn’t quite as loving, and his crooked jaw makes him look, well, a little goofy, but he’ll eventually come to have his ears scratched.

Not sure what this is, but it looks cool

I was sitting here a little while ago just listening to music and the birds and absolutely nothing else—no car horns, no sirens, no airplanes, no leaf blowers—nothing. Sometimes I forget to notice this nothingness, forget to appreciate what it took to achieve it. The last few years have been so freaking tumultuous, and sometimes it seemed like there was no end in sight, but there was, for the most part, perhaps not the ending that we had envisioned, but an ending of sorts, and now I’m here, sitting on property that is mine, and my nearest neighbors are far away.

No judgmental next-door neighbors peering over the fence, no city ordinances, no community rules. Of course, we also don’t have curbside recycling or trash pickup, and that is a definite loss, but in the grand scheme of things, I suppose we are still firmly on the plus side of the columns.

“Lift up your dark heart and sing a song about
how time drifts past you like the gentlest, almost
imperceptible breeze.” ~ Jim Harrison from “Cold Poem”

Corey needs to call the gas company to let them know that part of the driveway washed away with the most recent rain; they’re responsible for the upkeep of the drive since they have wells along the way—it’s a weird setup. But first he’s gone to Coeburn and Norton to pick up an ink cartridge for the printer so that I can send yet more forms to the IRS, trying to get us a waiver for Corey not having health insurance because, well, money.

Wildflowers growing all over the ridge

I mean, I’m completely for the Affordable Care Act, but I’ve never understood penalizing people for not having health insurance if they cannot afford to have health insurance, and the only way that those same people can get out of the penalty is if they ask for it and justify the lack. That doesn’t even make sense. I’m fairly certain that a majority of people would have health insurance if they could actually afford it. Not having it really, really sucks. There should have been a built-in opt-out function for those of us without the funds to afford the coverage instead of a built-in penalty that you can only get rid of once you’ve been granted a waiver.

Anyway, I need to print those and another form, and something else. Honestly, it’s been a few days since I first tried to print only to find out that we were out of ink, so now I’ve forgotten. I’ll have to go back and look at my notes. I make lots and lots of notes, and the fact that I still don’t have my desk set up means that my post-its are still in a box somewhere, as are my colored paper clips that I used to organize papers, and all of that other helpful stuff that I’ve come to depend on over the years. Truthfully, I’ve had a long-standing love-affair with office products; don’t ask me why. Alexis has the same penchant, as well as an unhealthy attachment to large, oversized bags and purses. I cannot imagine where she got any of that from.

I need my notes. I just can’t function without them. I know my mind too well. I have no problems with long-term memory, or memories of most important events, or things like song lyrics, but ask me what I had planned to do in a few hours, and, well . . . not so much . . .

“The future was a dark corridor, and at the far end the door was bolted.” ~ Gustave Flaubert, from Madame Bovary

I’m curious, actually. Does anyone even read these quotes? Does anyone out there find them as fascinating as I do? I mean, I spend a lot of time looking for my quotes, and then I spend an inexorable amount of time planning posts thematically, taking into consideration the kinds of posts that I tend to write the most, or thinking about something that I think that I might want to tackle in the future.

Tink and Ash snuggling

I’m asking because my tumblr meanderings, when I do them, are mostly in search of quotes, new poems and poets, and images. I’m not much for the other kinds of posts, but I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should post the quotes there and leave them out of my posts.

The problem, for me, as I see it, is that I’ve been using this format since almost the beginning: five quotes, a header quote, six images, a poem, and a song. It’s worked, or at least, it works for me—most of the time. The quotes are my springboard, as it were, a way to tap into my muse and see what comes out.

Who knows, really? Certainly not I.

“It had occurred to me that all human beings are divided
into those who wish to move forward
and those who wish to go back.” ~ Louise Glück, from “Faithful and Virtuous Night”

I’m thinking that the only thing that would make being outside today better would be if we had a hammock set up. I really miss my hammock. I’ve always had a hammock, ever since I was first married to my ex. When I was living with my parents. they had this hammock thing that fit on a metal frame, but it was canvas. I used to spend a lot of time on that in the backyard, reading in the sun. I had actually forgotten about that.

I actually have a brand new cheap hammock that came in one of my subscription boxes; I doubt that it’s terribly comfortable, but I wouldn’t know because there isn’t anywhere here to attach it. We have a lot of trees, but they are either too close together, like the apple trees, or too far apart. Ideally, I’d love to get on of those frames from Costco and the big, double rope hammock. Ah yes, that would be the ticket.

Sine I first began this post, the sun has become obscured by more clouds, and the wind has picked up. I think that I’ll stay out here for a little longer and then go inside and try to do a bit of cleaning. I still haven’t figured out where all of the dust comes from that settles in the house so quickly. We don’t have the furnace running, no ceiling fans on, so where does all of the dust come from? I’m reminded of the importance of dust in Philip Pullman’s series His Dark Materials, but unfortunately, my dust isn’t magical. It’s been years since I read that, and I still haven’t gotten a copy of La Belle Sauvage, the first book in the follow-up trilogy even though it was published in 2017. It on my to-read list, which probably has about 200 things on it.

So much to do, so much to do . . . Books to read, cabinets to sand and paint, rooms to paint and unpack . . . And then there’s my car, which needs work, a barn that needs to be built . . . Ugh, enough for now.

More later. Peace.


Music by The Civil Wars, “Dust to Dust” (acoustic)


To Drink

I want to gather your darkness
in my hands, to cup it like water
and drink.
I want this in the same way
as I want to touch your cheek—
it is the same—
the way a moth will come
to the bedroom window in late September,
beating and beating its wings against the cold glass,
the way a horse will lower
his long head to water, and drink,
and pause to lift his head and look,
and drink again,
taking everything in with the water,
everything.

~ Jane Hirshfield

“For to stay is to be nowhere at all.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from Duino Elegies: The First Elegy

Rainer Maria Rilke (Wikimedia Commons)

Two for Tuesday: Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926)

Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy, 48 degrees.

Not two poems today, but prose by the prolific German-language poets. Rilke was born in Prague in what was at that time called the Austro-Hungarian empire. His earlier work  evokes a sense of romanticism, but after two life-changing trips to Russia, Rilke’s work evolved into what would become his predominant approach to writing: [these trips provided hims with] “poetic material and inspiration essential to his developing philosophy of existential materialism and art as religion” (Poetry Foundation).

Throughout his life, Rilke interacted with key artists of the period, including Tolstoy, Pasternak, and Rodin, for whom Rilke worked as secretary (1905-06).  Although best known for his German language work, Rilke’s ouevre included 400 poems written in  French. Additionally, he was a prodigious letter writer, especially to the significant women in his life, and many of his letters reflect the poet’s continual search for meaning through art and his desire to determine poet’s overarching role in society.

In 1912, Rilke began writing Duino Elegies, so called because Rilke began the collection while visiting Duino Castle on the Italian Adriatic coast. The collection, considered to be his magnum opus, took him ten years to write. Rilke, who suffered from health problems his entire life, including stifling depression, died of leukemia in 1926.

Go here or here for more information on the poet and his work. The selections below are from Rilke’s only novel, which was considered to be semi-autobiographical, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge (1910).


From “Fears”

All the lost fears are here again.

The fear that a small woolen thread sticking out of the hem of my blanket may be hard, hard and sharp as a steel needle; the fear that this little button on my night-shirt may be bigger than my head, bigger and heavier; the fear that the breadcrumpbwhich just dropped off my bed may turn into glass, and shatter when it hits the floor, and the sickening worry that when it does, everything will be broken, for ever; the fear that the ragged edge of a letter which was torn open may be something forbidden, which no one out to see, something indescribably precious, for which no place in the room is safe enough; the fear that if I fell asleep I might swallow the piece of coal lying in front of the stove; the fear that some number may begin to grow in my brain until there is no more room for it inside me; the fear that I may be lying on granite, on gray granite; the fear that I may start screaming, and people will come running to y door ad finally force it open, the fear that I might betray myself and tell everything I drea, and the fear that I might not be able to say anything because everything is unsayable,—and the other fears . . . the fears.

From “For the Sake of a Single Poem”

. . . Ah poems amount to so little when you write then too early in your life. You ought to wait and gather sense and sweetness for a whole lifetime, and a long one if possible, and then, at the very end, you might perhaps be able to write ten good lines For poems are not, as people think, simply emotions (one has emotions early enough)—they are experiences. For the sake of a single poem, you must see many cities, many people and Things, you must understand animals, must feel how birds fly, and know the gesture which small flowers make when they open in the morning. You must be able to think back to streets in unknown neighborhoods, to unexpected encounters, and to partings you had long seen coming; to days of childhood whose mystery is still unexplained, to parents whom you had to hurt when they brought in a joy and you didn’t pick it up (it was a joy meant for somebody else—); to childhood illnesses that began so strangely with so many profound and difficult transformations, to days in quiet, restrained rooms and to mornings by the sea, to the sea itself, to seas to nights of travel that rushed along high overhead and went flying with all the stars,—and it is still not enough to be able to think of all that. You must have memories of many nights of love, each one different from all the others, memories of women screaming in labor, and of light, pale, sleeping girls who have just given birth and are closing again. But you must also have been beside the dying, must have sat beside the dead in the room with the open window and the scattered noises. And it is not yet enough to have memories. You must be able to forget them when they are many, and you must have the immense patience to wait until they return. For the memories themselves are not important. Only when they have changed into our very blood, into glance and gesture, and are nameless, no  longer to be distinguished from ourselves—only then can it happen that in some very rare hour the first word of a poem arises in their midst and goes forth from them.


Music by The National, “Heavenfaced”

“It feels like I’m talking to his shadow suspended on dust.” ~ Will Graham, from “Hannnibal” (“Potage” episode, written by David Fury, Chris Brancato and Bryan Fuller)

Portrait of Margaret Atwood shot at the Time Inc. Photo Studios in New York, March 18 2017.
Ruven Afanador for TIME

Will Graham: I feel like I’ve dragged you into my world.
Hannibal Lecter: I got here on my own. But I appreciate the company. ~ “Hannibal” (“Fromage” episode, written by Jennifer Schuur and Bryan Fuller)

Tuesday afternoon, sunny and cold 28 degrees.

Yes, it’s a Two for Tuesday post, but for some reason, I woke up thinking about the television  show “Hannibal,” which was so wonderfully written and acted. I really miss it, and not just because of Mads Mikkelsen, thus, the quotes from the show.

I not only woke up with Hannibal running through my mind, but this was accompanied by a massive migraine, which is only slightly receding at the moment. Waking up with a migraine is a horrible way to begin the day; it colors everything else I do for the duration.

The useless neurologist that I saw last week is supposed to be looking into getting me Aimovig, that new medication that’s supposed to help prevent migraines. If I can get that affordably, that time spent in her office won’t be entirely wasted. I’m still waiting to hear from her office, but as the phone is currently not working for some reason, I have no news yet.

Anyway, that’s how the day is going, so not a whole lot of anything else. Today’s post features two section from a much longer poem by Margaret Atwood, “Five Poems for Grandmothers.” The complete poem can be found in Atwood’s 1978 book, Two Headed Poems, or in her Selected Poems II: Poems Selected and New 1976-1986.

I hope you like this as much as I do.

More later. Peace.


Five Poems for Grandmothers

i

In the house on the cliff
by the ocean, there is still a shell
bigger and lighter than your head, though now
you can hardly lift it.

It was once filled with whispers;
it was once a horn
you could blow like a shaman
conjuring the year,
and your children would come running.

You’ve forgotten you did that,
you’ve forgotten the names of the children
who in any case no longer run,
and the ocean has retreated,
leaving a difficult beach of gray stones
you are afraid to walk on.

The shell is now a cave
which opens for you alone.
It is filled with whispers
which escape into the room,
even though you turn it mouth down.

This is your house, this is the picture
of your misty husband, these are your children, webbed
and doubled. This is the shell,
which is hard, which is still there,
solid under the hand, which mourns, which offers
itself, a narrow journey
along its hallways of cold pearl
down the cliff into the sea.

ii

It is not the things themselves
that are lost, but their use and handling.

The ladder first, the beach;
the storm windows, the carpets;

The dishes, washed daily
for so many years the pattern
has faded; the floor, the stairs, your own
arms and feet whose work
you thought defined you;

The hairbrush, the oil stove
with its many failures,
the apple tree and the barrels
in the cellar for the apples,
the flesh of apples; the judging
of the flesh, the recipes
in tiny brownish writing
with the names of those who passed them
from hand to hand: Gladys,
Lorna, Winnie, Jean.

If you could only have them back
or remember who they were.

~ Margaret Atwood


Music by Down Like Silver, “Wolves”