“. . . there was a sharp distinction between what was remembered, what was told, and what was true.” ~ Kevin Powers, from The Yellow Birds

Robert Julian Onderdonk, “Bluebonnets in Texas” (1915, oil on canvas)

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss, from The Name of the Wind

Sunday afternoon, cloudy, cooler temperatures, 46 degrees.

It was cold yesterday, so cold that we actually had to turn on a few space heaters. In fact, the forecast actually called for snow flurries. All I can say is that the weather in this locale is well and truly whhackkk. Yes, that’s a word.

Frederic Matys Thursz, Untitled (Blue Field, 1961, oil and paper collaged on board)

Yep.

I’ve been on a “Game of Thrones” binge lately, watching all of the back seasons before this final season. I’ve done this before, but what I always find phenomenal about this show is how much you can miss on a first viewing, especially all of the foreshadowing. The writers are very, very good in maintaining continuity from season to season.

I came to the show after reading the first three books, so I was fully prepared to be disappointed because the move from novel to screen is haphazard at best. Stephen King is said to be disappointed with almost every screen adaptation of his work, and George R. R. Martin’s writing is particularly dense with characters, locations, languages, plots and subplots. However, the HBO series has become its own phenomenon: It’s one of those rare shows in which the casting and the execution have melded well, and in that sense, it reminds me of “The Sopranos” and “Orphan Black.”

And as most people know, the show ends with this season, but the novels continue . . . at least that’s what everyone thinks. Martin is a methodical writer, and readers are still impatiently awaiting the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter. No publication date has been set yet as Martin has admitted that the writing has been hard.

I can sympathize, George, and I only shoot for about 1200 words a day.

“you know how deceptive memory is and how coarse the real world.
Nostalgia amplifies things. The memory preserves tastes and smells and images that are of its own making, or that are not as they were in reality.” ~ Amjad Nasser, from Land of No Rain

I actually enjoyed doing Thursday’s update; it was a good writing exercise. I’m still floundering, though, attempting to find that rhythm that I’ve lost as it continues to elude me. It’s hard to explain this to people who do not like to write or for whom words are not foremost in their lives.

Paul Jenkins, “Phenomena Astral Blue (1968, oil on canvas)

That’s not a slur in any way, only an attempt to explain why my recent posts seem to be preponderantly superficial. I have so much roiling inside, so many things that I want to say, but when I start, the words sound hollow, so I stop and try to find other way to keep this blog going.

Consider: If you were an expert at landscaping, and you took your tools to a piece of land, fully prepared to create something beautiful, but once you arrived, you couldn’t remember the purpose of any tool. Or let’s say that you were a proficient bookkeeper, and you sat down with some raw data, and your computer, and you couldn’t remember how to reconcile a spreadsheet. Or what if you were a wonderful tailor, and you had a bolt of cloth and measurements, but you suddenly forgot how to pattern.

I deliberately didn’t choose painting or sculpting or composing music or any of the other traditional categories of art as anyone who dabbles in those or for whom those are a way of life already is all too familiar with the terrible periods of being unable to create. Rather, I am attempting to explain my problem to those of you for whom life is more structure and traditional, but I don’t know if my explanation only adds to the confusion.

“The years of searching in the dark for a truth that one feels but cannot express, the intense desire and the alternations of confidence and misgiving . . . are known only to him who has experienced them himself.” ~ Albert Einstein, from the Gibson Foundation Lecture, 1933

One of the reasons that I do not sleep well is that I have a very hard time turning off my brain. It’s not just mulling over the day or worrying about bills or money or the house or whatever. It’s also that I start to think about things that I want to say. More times than I can count I think that I should just get out of bed and sit down and write, but then I tell myself that if I did so, I would be useless the next day.

James McNeill Whistler, “Nocturne: Blue and Silver—Chelsea” (1871, oil on wood)

But would being useless the next day really matter in the grand scheme of things? I feel as if I’m doing myself a disservice by not writing when the so-called spirit moves me. Yet at the same time I feel guilty for wanting to eschew traditional sleep and approaches to time because there is so much of daily life with which to contend. Honestly, though, my days are still not productive in that all of my to-do list goes unattended, so the guilt and feelings of worthlessness are there no matter which path I choose.

Consider: Parkinson’s law commonly states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. But Asimov’s corollary to Parkinson states that in ten hours a day you have time to fall twice as far behind your commitments as in five hours a day. A la Parkinson, I manage to fill my days with mostly nonproductive actions, and a la Asimov’s corollary, I fall twice as far behind.

“Everything about me is unfinished, insufficient.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to Lou Salomé written c. December 1905

In doing a big of reading about eponymous laws, I came across the intriguing idea of the centipede principle, which I chose deliberately because of my great fear of those multi-legged creatures; in essence, this principle addresses overthinking, as in if a person thinks too much about something that comes naturally, then that action can be impaired.

Martiros Sarian, “Blue Flowers” (1914, oil on canvas)

The centipede principle or effect supposedly is based on a short poem written in 1871 by the Katherine Craster (go here to see the original poem), in which the centipede is asked which leg moves first and then next when he walks, and then because he is asked, he cannot walk.

English psychologist George Humphrey propounded his eponymous law about hyper-reflection in 1923, referencing the centipede tale. I also came across another reference to this centipede effect in the work of Karl Popper, who states that “if we have learnt certain movements so that they have sunk below the level of conscious control, then if we try to follow them consciously we very often interfere with them so badly that we stop them.”

In other words, do I set myself up to be unable to write because I think too much about being unable to write? Am I unable to begin the projects that I have set for myself because I think too much about whether or not I can actually accomplish these projects? I was once told that I live my life as a self-fulfilling prophecy: my behavior directly causes my predicted outcome; i.e., I don’t send my work out for publication, so I am never published.

“People who are burdened by acute misgivings about their coping capabilities suffer much distress and expend much effort in defensive action . . . they cannot get themselves to do things they find subjectively threatening even though they are objectively safe. ” ~ Albert Bandura, from Social Foundations of Thought and Action
Thomas Downing, “Blue Space” (c1954, acrylic on cotton)

I realize that this post took a turn towards psychoanalysis, but what of it? Years of therapy have conditioned me to ponder such questions about the self. That, and I have a particular penchant for eponymous laws; I find them fascinating. (If you happen to be interested in such things, Wikipedia happens to have a good listing of them from A to Z here.)

Anyway, I think that most people could do with more introspection about their thoughts and actions. Too few people today actually give deep thought to things beyond the surface (how many likes did my picture get? was I reblogged? etc.). Yet I know that I am the opposite: I think too much. I consider too much. And in so doing, I paralyze myself. I wish that I could say that I am motivated by strength, but the truth is that I am motivated by fear. And truly, I hate that most about myself.

But unlike many who are motivated by fear, I do not cloak that fear with bombast or sanctimony, only to project that fear outward and punish those who seem weaker or more vulnerable. Instead, I project inward, causing harm mostly to my psyche. Regardless, someone is always damaged in the end.

More later. Peace.


Music by Sarah McLachlan, “Hold On”


A Secret Life

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don’t say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you’ve just made love
and feel you’d rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you’re brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that’s unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you’d most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it’s like a small fire
in a clearing, it’s what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It’s why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who’ll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

~ Stephen Dunn

 

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“The only lies for which we are truly punished are those we tell ourselves.” ~ V.S. Naipaul, from In a Free State

Clyfford Still, “1957-D No 1,” (1957, oil on canvas)

“I seriously consider the possibility of giving up . . . am I capable of what I dream? If I am not capable of it, what good is it to dream?” ~ Albert Camus, from Notebooks: 1951-1959

Monday (2/11) afternoon, overcast, warmer temperatures, 50 degrees.

I slept well last night; it was a nice change. I’ve been falling asleep before 11 and then waking initially between 7 and 8. I listen to the dogs play for a while as they try to make me get out of bed, and then I feed everyone. This morning, though, I actually fell back asleep while listening to a podcast.

Clyfford Still, “Jamais” (1944, oil on canvas))

I’m enjoying podcasts lately. I realize that I’m late to the game, as usual, but my initial interest was spurred by Rachel Maddow’s podcast on Spiro Agnew. I know a lot about Nixon, but knew virtually nothing about Agnew besides the fact that my 7th grade history teacher had a Spiro Agnew watch, a la Mickey Mouse. So I listened to all of the “Bag Man” podcast, and I was hooked. If you don’t know anything about Agnew, I recommend this particular podcast because even though it was decades ago, the circumstances are all too similar to the current state of the country.

So my latest podcast is “Serial,” which is about the case of Adnan Syed and Hae Min Lee. I saw a promo on HBO for a series about it that’s coming in March, so I wanted some background. It’s an intriguing case, with many people believing that Syed was unjustly convicted. I’m also interested because it has nothing to do with politics, which I am currently in overload on; it’s all just too ridiculous and does nothing for my blood pressure; so a break is definitely needed.

“I’ve been told quite
a lot of things. They hover — some more unbidden than
others — in that part of the mind where mistakes and torn
wishes echo as in a room that’s been newly cathedraled,
so that the echo surprises, though lately it’s less the echo
itself that can still most surprise me about memory —” ~ Carl Phillips, from “Wild is the Wind”

I’m trying to apply the approach that I used yesterday, which was to sit down and just start writing, before tumblr, before messing with my over 100 pre-prepared drafts, before anything. I’m hoping to find my groove again, as it were.

Clyfford Still, “PH-385 ( No 1),” (1949, oil on canvas)

So now it’s Thursday (2/14), and mostly overcast and colder, 39 degrees . . .

Admittedly, I left this post for almost three days ago. I got up to do a few things, and then never came back, and then I forgot where I was. I have such good intentions but such bad habits . . .

I won’t even begin to apologize because truthfully the person I really need to apologize to is myself; not writing here hurts only me. Not writing at all affects me: I feel such disappoint in myself for not keeping my promises to myself, and then all of those feelings about being inadequate come flooding back. It’s such a freaking vicious circle, one that I’ve been caught in since I was a child.

“I should do three things every day, but instead I sit, paralyzed in front of my computer, beating myself up for not doing three things every day like I promised myself I would. I’ve determined this is more time-consuming and stressful than actually doing the three goddamn things a day, and, therefore, I’m entitled to my fury.” ~ Jessica Knoll

The following Monday afternoon (2/18), blue skies for a change but cold, 39 degrees.

Yes, I know. It’s ridiculous that I’m only finishing this post one week later. I have no excuses or explanations; actually, I have a ton, but the only one that matters is that I find myself paralyzed. For weeks now, I sit down at this keyboard in my tiny little workspace in the corner of the living room, and I play Spider Solitaire. I tell myself that it’s a warmup, for my fingers, for my brain.

Clyfford Still, untitled (1945, oil on canvas)

Then, when that doesn’t work, I turn on a podcast (already finished “Serial” and moved on to more), usually about some unsolved crime or particularly weird murder. Again, it’s to get my juices flowing . . . Then about five hours later, I realize that I have not a) eaten b) bathed c) paid any attention to the horses d) gone for a walk (right, not in this cold and mud), and then finally e) written one frigging word.

So as a result, I continue to play Spider Solitaire and click on podcasts. Listen, it’s so bad that most nights lately, I don’t even watch Ari on The Beat (MSNBC), but I do try to fit in Rachel Maddow at 9, only because I’m probably eating a late dinner and getting ready to go to bed, at which time, I will continue to play Spider Solitaire and listen to another episode on my phone as Corey begins to snore softly.

I’m completely disgusted and disappointed in myself at this point. I had such big plans for returning to this blog with so many things to share. But then the self-doubt kicks in, and I think to myself that nothing I have to say could possible interest anyone, and who am I fooling anyway, and I still haven’t gotten my book published, pick one—the one with poems and photographs (which actually does exist in draft form), or the memoir about surviving grief (which exists only in my head), or the mystery (which exists only in snatches written down in various places that I can no longer find).

“Today, mid-February where the wind is full of snow
that will not fall, brown leaves
curled against the blanched grass,
I suspect there are no gardens in you
You suspect I am brimming with vast shadows,
the way the mud and sky are brimming with snow.” ~ Joanna Klink, from “The Wonder of Birds”

Truthfully, I have been doing one other thing to try to jump start my brain: I’ve been looking at things that writers have written about their writing process or writing in general. It helps, and it hurts. Helps because I can see plainly that everyone has periods in which the words simply will not come, but hurts because these people have such good ideas about how to conquer that wall, and I do not . . .

Clyfford Still, untitled (formerly self-portrait) (1945, oil on canvas)

Anyway, I wanted to share just a couple of quotes here: In an 2004 interview with Poets & Writers, poet Adam Zagajewski said the following about the relationship of beauty to being a writer:

I become deaf to beauty for a week or two or three. This coming and going of the inner life—because this is what it is—is a curse and a blessing. I don’t need to explain why it’s a curse. A blessing because it brings about a movement, an energy which, when it peaks, creates a poem. Or a moment of happiness.

And later in the interview, he says,

Remember that the act of writing is a tiny part of a bigger something . . .

They [autobiographical essays] tell you: Look how miserable I was and how well am I doing now. I’m not saying this. For me, not the healing is important, but memory and thinking. And poetry.

Poet and editor Dalton Day said in a 2014 interview with banangolit:

Write because you want to communicate with yourself. Write because you want to communicate with someone else. Write because life is weird and tragic and amazing. Write because talking is difficult. Write because it polishes the heart. Write because you can. Write because you can’t. Write because there is a blackbird outside of my window right now and oh my god isn’t that the best start to the day? Write because you’re trying to figure yourself out. Write because you might not ever figure yourself out. Write because there still aren’t enough love poems in the world.

“I snake toward myself only to discover I have disturbed no one’s nest but my own . . . Darling,  I work by the hourglass. I write songs so that someday you may sing.” ~ Hala Alyan, from “Upstate II”

One other thing that I’ve been doing in the midst of this great nothingness is looking at online literary journals to which I might/could submit my work. This is an exercise in which I participate at least once a year. Having said that, I should now clarify that I have only submitted my work a few times. That’s a few times in many years. In other words, an exercise in futility . . .

Clyfford Still, “PH-950” (1950, oil on canvas)

A poet who once taught in the same English department once told me that I need an assistant to send out my work. She was serious. She also received a grant from the NEA, so she could afford an assistant to send out her work. Those of us who are penniless cannot afford such luxuries, so we have to rely on our own steam, as it were.

I have no steam.

I am steamless.

I am without steam.

There is no steam anywhere in proximity to my brain.

No steam, vis-a-vis, productive time that does not exist in my life.

Yep. Meh.

More later. I hope. Peace.

All images are by first generation abstract expressionist Clyfford Still. I felt that this post deserved abstract images. To read more about him, go here.

Music by Dakota, “Bare Hands”

 


Poem for Nobody

an apprehension for reality, the death of the flower,
the collapse of hope, the crush of
wasted years, the nightmare faces,
the mad armies attacking for no reason at all
and/or
old shoes abandoned in old corners like half-forgotten
voices that once said love but did not mean
love.

see the face in the mirror? the mirror in the
wall? the wall in the house? the house in the
street?

now always the wrong voice on the telephone
and/or
the hungry mouse with beautiful eyes which now lives in
your brain.

the angry, the empty, the lonely, the
tricked.

we are all
museums of fear.

there are
as many killers as flies as
we dream of giant
sea turtles with strange words carved into
their hard backs
and no place for the knife to go in.

Cain was Able,
ask him.
give us this day our daily dread.

the only solace left to us is to hide
alone in the middle of night in some deserted
place.

with each morning less than zero,
humanity is a hammer to the brain,
our lives a bouquet of blood, you can watch
this fool still with his harmonica
playing elegiac tunes while
slouching toward Nirvana
without
expectation or
grace.

~ Charles Bukowski

“January dry, hard, glittering, cold, and the wicked beauty of the scraped blue skies” ~ Sylvia Plath, from The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath.

kees-scherer-winter-in-amsterdam-1950
Kees Scherer, “Winter in Amsterdam” (1950)

“Here I am with all my flaws
seeking form and shelter.” ~ Sally van Doren, from “The Kindness of Strangers”

Wednesday evening, cold, 15 degrees.

We are just below the huge polar vortex that is causing record-breaking cold temperatures across the north. It’s expected to drop to 9 degrees tonight; we’re lucky, though, because the weather service is predicting double-digit negative wind chills in several states, but thankfully, not here.

kees scherer boten-in-de-sneeuw-amsterdam-1952.
Kees Scherer, “Boten in de sneeuw, Amsterdam” (1952)

Okay . . . so I’ve covered the weather . . . now what?

I do apologize if you’ve only recently begun to follow me; it’s not always like this. There has been a dearth of posts of late, and I honestly don’t have much of an explanation other than this brick wall that is placed firmly somewhere firmly within that part of the brain responsible for generating creative thought. (Scientists are still a bit vague and unable to agree on exactly which part that is, exactly).

Anyway, I always have such big plans for writing, usually early in the morning when I’m letting the dogs out for the second or third time of the night, but then I wake up completely, roll through my tumblr as I drink my coffee, become distracted by the dirt and detritus that is ever-present on my floor lately, and then any creative impulses that I may have harbored earlier, dissipate. I told Corey today that if I don’t stop gathering quotes and images for drafts, I’ll soon have 200 rough drafts and no real posts.

I blame tumblr. I mean, I have to blame someone or something, so why not mud and tumblr?

“The amount of quiet I need does not exist in the world, from which it follows that no one ought to need so much quiet.” ~ Franz Kafka, from Letters to Ottla and the Family

I have found several new poets in the past few weeks, as well as a new Flickr creative commons site and a few new artists to explore. These things are all good, and generally do a lot to stimulate my muse, just not so much in recent weeks.

The truly miserable aspect is that February is almost upon us (I have no idea as to how that happened), and it’s always a wreck of a month for me, not quite a November of a wreck, but a wreck, nevertheless. It was always a bad month for my Dad, too. If he wasn’t at sea during the winter months, he would always begin to get really stir crazy in February, as if he needed to rush it away to move head long into spring.

I miss my dad, and my mom, and my other mother . . . I miss my kids . . . I even miss Norfolk . . . kind of . . . maybe just the fast food convenience and access to doctors. Whatever. Ignore me.

I think that I’m done for today. Let me leave you with two quotes, this first about writing:

We write what we know and what we do not know. But what do we write it on? On any available surface: on a computer screen, on legal pads, on the walls of prisons, on our lovers’ skin, on our own DNA. The available surface accommodates us, and our context; it becomes us, and our context .

The available surface is our instrument, and also our soul.

~  T. R. Hummer, from Available Surfaces: Essays on Poesis (from “Introduction and Apologia”)

I write on everything, post-it notes, envelopes, calendars, my phone, my laptop, even my hand, so I really appreciate Hummer’s passage.

And then this quote from Sherod Santos on art:

“Symbol, metaphor, allegory: to bring together and disclose. In the material world, we have things which appear to us, but we also have another kind of thing, a thing-in-itself, a thing which doesn’t appear to us but is, all the same, not nothing: air, death, God, love, as in ‘I gave you my love, and you took it.’ Those things we perceive only when they’re unconcealed by something else: when the air is unconcealed by the rustle of leaves, death by the corpse in the casket, God in religious fervor, love in human longing and attachment. And all those realities may be unconcealed by a work of art.
~ from “Seven Seconds in the Life of the Honeyed Muse or, What is Art?”

More later. Peace.


Music by Haevn, “Fortitude”

 


Mi Musa Triste (My Sad Muse)

Murmuring preludes. On this resplendent night
Her pearled voice quiets a fountain.
The breezes hang their celestial fifes
In the foliage. The gray heads
Of the owls keep watch.
Flowers open themselves, as if surprised.
Ivory swans extend their necks
In the pallid lakes.
Selene watches from the blue. Fronds
Tremble…and everything! Even the silence, quiets.

She wanders with her sad mouth
And the grand mystery of amber eyes,
Across the night, toward forgetfulness
Like a star, fugitive and white.
Like a dethroned exotic queen
With comely gestures and rare utterings.

Her undereyes are violated horizons
And her irises–two stars of amber–
Open wet and weary and sad
Like ulcers of light that weep.

She is a grief which thrives and does not hope,
She is a gray aurora rising
From the shadowy bed of night,
Exhausted, without splendor, without anxiousness.
And her songs are like dolorous fairies
Jeweled in teardrops…

The strings of lyres
Are the souls’ fibers.–

The blood of bitter vineyards, noble vineyards,
In goblets of regal beauty, rises
To her marble hands, to lips carved
Like the blazon of a great lineage.

Strange Princes of Fantasy! They
Have seen her languid head, once erect,
And heard her laugh, for her eyes
Tremble with the flower of aristocracies!

And her soul clean as fire, like a star,
Burns in those pupils of amber.
But with a mere glance, scarcely an intimacy,
Perhaps the echo of a profane voice,
This white and pristine soul shrinks
Like a luminous flower, folding herself up!

~ Delmira Agustini

 

“Watching the sunlight on distant smoke today–how far away and remote it seemed” ~ Charles Burchfield, Journal entry January 2, 1931

Low Lying Fog in California, by Ken Xu, FCC

“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?

Trees in the Mist, Hayle England, UK (FCC)

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.

Trees in the Mist, Austria (FCC)

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.

Misty World, Vallée du Grésivaudan, French Alps (FCC)

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.

Mountains in mist and fog, Indonesia (FCC)

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.

One. Time.

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.

Der Nebel, Gilbert-Noël Sfeir Mont-Liban (FCC)

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

 

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

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

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

Thursday afternoon. Overcast again and rainy, 46 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bálför Viking Funeral Card

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

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

Who knows? Certainly not I.

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

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

Viking Funeral, Created by yoguy108

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

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

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

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

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

Viking Boat Funeral, via the Good Funeral Guide

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

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

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

More later. Peace. 


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


Gacela of Dark Death

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

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

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

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

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

~ Federico García Lorca

“ . . . She had wild eyes, slightly insane. She also carried an overload of compassion that was real enough and which obviously cost her something.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from Women

Leon Spilliaert, “Tree Trunks” (1929 watercolor and gouache on prepared board)

“As if keening on your knees
were somehow obscene
As if there were a control
so marvelous
you could teach it
to eat pain.” ~ Maggie Nelson, from Jane: A Murder

Wednesday, late afternoon. Cloudy and 52 degrees.

I’ve been sitting at this keyboard for hours, trying to figure out what to say, or if I had anything to say because I feel guilty that I haven’t posted in a few days. There’s that operational word: guilt. But the truth is that I don’t think that I really have anything to say. I answered a long email from my daughter this morning, and then I put together a small package of things for her so that Corey could take it to the post office for me; in that, I also included a handwritten note.

I seem to have run out of words.

Only this: two days ago, I was on a cleaning binge, and I thought to myself, I can put up a tree. I can do this. That was two days ago. I realize now that I was only deluding myself. Unless Corey helps me to decorate it, and he really doesn’t get much out of decorating the tree, then I cannot do it. Look. I’m forcing myself to wash my face and get dressed. I just don’t think there’s enough energy for more than that. Just as there just isn’t enough energy for here. Maybe tomorrow.

Peace.


Music by The Dixie Chicks (I always think of this song when I think of my daughter)

 


Postscript: I will share a poem from a poet who I haven’t posted in too long: Lisel Mueller. I cannot believe that I haven’t posted one of her poems for over five years. For a good description of her background and thoughts, go here.

Why We Tell Stories
……….For Linda Foster

I
Because we used to have leaves
and on damp days
our muscles feel a tug,
painful now, from when roots
pulled us into the ground

and because our children believe
they can fly, an instinct retained
from when the bones in our arms
were shaped like zithers and broke
neatly under their feathers

and because before we had lungs
we knew how far it was to the bottom
as we floated open-eyed
like painted scarves through the scenery
of dreams, and because we awakened

and learned to speak

2
We sat by the fire in our caves,
and because we were poor, we made up a tale
about a treasure mountain
that would open only for us

and because we were always defeated,
we invented impossible riddles
only we could solve,
monsters only we could kill,
women who could love no one else
and because we had survived
sisters and brothers, daughters and sons,
we discovered bones that rose
from the dark earth and sang
as white birds in the trees

3
Because the story of our life
becomes our life

Because each of us tells
the same story
but tells it differently

and none of us tells it
the same way twice

Because grandmothers looking like spiders
want to enchant the children
and grandfathers need to convince us
what happened happened because of them

and though we listen only
haphazardly, with one ear,
we will begin our story
with the word and

~ Lisel Mueller

 

“Like the canyon, I am shaped by what I miss.” ~ Joanna Hoffman, from “Grand Canyon”

Wiesbaden Twinkling Star Christmas Market, Germany (FCC)

“You could rattle the stars . . . You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.” ~ Sarah J. Maas, from Throne of Glass

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and 44 degrees.

Another cloudy day on the ridge. This morning, both Sassy and Napoleon were outside the pasture and the top of the driveway. I wonder where they thought they were going . . .

Toronto Christmas Market (FCC)

I’ve been doing some clean up on my blog, looking at drafts that I’ve put together with quotes and poems, and I noticed in my stats that I’ve published 1,859 posts. That’s a lot, isn’t it? Yes, some of those are just Friday leftovers and such, but for the most part, it’s all my writing crammed in between quotes and images, with the average word count being around 1800 words. If you deduct about 150 for the quotes and about 250 for the average length of poems, that still means that I’ve rambled on for about 1400 words.

I hadn’t realized that I was so verbose; actually, that’s just not true. I know that I’m verbose. All. The. Time. I remember when I had been into this blog for about half a year that I posted an explanation that my posts are actually blongs, or long blogs. It appears that not much has changed on that front—I’d be surprised if it had.

“Alive, it all returns to the mind,
Unattainable now time has passed;
Like a sharp sure dagger
Its memory pierces my breast.” ~ Luis Cernuda, from “Native Land”

I’m trying to post every day, but obviously I’m not quite there yet. Part of me feels guilty sitting here for hours at this keyboard while there is still so much to do. I suppose that I’m resigned that there will be no Christmas decorations this year. It doesn’t happen if I don’t do it, and I truly don’t think that I can, at least not this year. I’ve never not had at least a tree. I remember one time in England that my mom put up one of those small silver trees on a table; they probably don’t make those any more.  I still have wonderful memories of Christmas in London: Everything in the city was decorated and lit.

Christmas Lights Oxford Street, London (FCC)

When I was a teenager, I kind of assumed the responsibility for buying a tree and decorating it, back when we still used live trees, until we found out that the tree was directly affecting my mom’s lungs, my lungs, and Brett’s lungs. Of all of us, Brett had the worst asthma; he would get so sick. It was artificial trees after that. But I’ve always tried to have a real wreath on the door so that there would at least be the smell of Christmas when you came to the door. This year, no wreath either. Le sigh.

It was always my responsibility, or rather, I always took on the responsibility for decorating the tree, the house, everything. In my old house, once upon a time I used to also do the outside lights, climbing the branches and wrapping the lights around each one, that is until the trees became too tall. I have always loved climbing trees, that is, until I couldn’t. Once Brett was older, he actually helped with the outside lights. I wonder if he misses that as much as I do.

Probably not.

“Listen: you are not yourself, you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who never lived, as strangers you never met. Rebecca Solnit, from The Faraway Nearby 

Corey’s brother is supposed to be here tomorrow evening to go to an auction for some property near here. There’s a house (bigger than this one), garage and some outbuildings on the block; it all used to belong to Dallas’s sister. There’s also a stream that runs next to the property. Steve has been here a few times, and out of all of Corey’s family, he’s the one that seems to like it here the most. I was the one who had actually suggested to Corey that he tell Steve about the property. Ironically, it’s situated on the other side of the ridge from here, but that’s not how you get there unless you’re hiking.

Chester Shooting Star, UK (FCC)

I imagine that his brother is looking at it for an investment for now, but it would be nice if his family had access to it for visits. It’s less remote than here, so his father would feel more comfortable, I think. When we were first talking about buying this, we thought about maybe getting a trailer for visitors since there are only two bedrooms and one bath in this house; it’s perfect for the two of us, but a bit small for more than a few visitors.

I have no idea if Steve will actually bid on the property, but he’s coming to take a look at it and then plans to leave the next day. I’m trying not to stress over his visit, but that’s impossible for me. I always feel such a weight whenever anyone, I mean anyone visits. Even for a few hours. I suppose it comes from years and years of keeping an immaculate house, first at my mom’s and then later in my first house. And now that I don’t clean like that any more because of my back, I always feel as if I don’t want anyone to see my house.

Yes, I know. It’s weird.

“We re-enact
the rituals, and our faces, like smoky icons
in a certain light, seem to learn nothing
but understand all.” ~ Tim Dlugos, from “Pretty Convincing”

Last night I had one of those dreams that stick with you: First, Corey and I were at Nags Head with the dogs, and I walked to the water’s edge to sea how cold it was. The dogs were standing in the surf, and Corey was a few feet out getting ready to throw the ball for Tillie. Then suddenly I was in the backyard of my mother’s house. There was a split tree running the entire length of the back fence, and there was a huge pile of sticks that I thought would have been good for kindling. I told myself to remember to tell Corey.

Christmas in Kansas City (FCC)

Then I was inside in my mother’s bedroom with Corey, and I knew that my mom was dead. We were still going through stuff in her closets. Then I heard my father coming down the hall with three of the Yorkies we had when I was younger. He was getting ready to go to his apartment and couldn’t take the dogs with him. (My dad never had an apartment.) But I saw him so clearly and talked to him, heard his voice, and part of me knew that he couldn’t be there if my mother wasn’t also there.

Then there was one more part in which I was in a candy store in Nags Head, and I was looking for a Chik-o-Stik, something I haven’t eaten since I was a kid. There was a man there who was slightly mentally challenged, and he was helping me to find the candy. But he was also upset with me because I had sold my mother’s house and now he had nowhere to live, and I was so upset that I wanted to cry. But I really wonder how that candy stick made its way into my consciousness . . .

I woke up wanting to write. That’s been happening with more frequency.

“Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the present by; the art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, from A Field Guide to Getting Lost

Now that I’m back here and back on tumblr, I’m finding all kinds of new poems that I haven’t read, and it’s stirring something in me. I read one yesterday that actually took my breath away because it was so freaking beautiful, and I thought to myself that it was something that I wished I had written.

The main entrance for Copenhagen’s Tivoli (FCC)

I have to admit that I haven’t had that particular feeling in several years. I haven’t felt inspired, and I haven’t felt that I could actually create—sit down and write a real poem. I just don’t know how to describe this particular feeling well enough to relate it to you, dear reader.

It’s like for years there has been this dam in my brain, a thick wall keeping the words from forming and exiting. But not just the words—the actual feeling in my soul that there were particular words within me that I needed to put down on the page, that I needed to place and rearrange and take out and insert until there was something there that meant something, at least to me.

So now, maybe, perhaps, the dam is breaking? I really hope so because I have missed that ritual of creation, creating something beyond here but a companion to here, if that makes any sense. I have missed words, the magic of them, running them through my brain, rolling them on my tongue to see how they sound together. And when it works, it’s like music in my brain and in my soul.

Enough for now. More later. Peace.


Music by Lady Gaga, “Joanne” (forgive me if this is a repeat, but I really love this song)

 

 


Words

He lets me listen, when he moves me,
Words are not like other words
He takes me, from under my arms
He plants me, in a distant cloud
And the black rain in my eyes
Falls in torrents, torrents
He carries me with him, he carries me
To an evening of perfumed balconies

And I am like a child in his hands
Like a feather carried by the wind
He carries for me seven moons in his hands
and a bundle of songs
He gives me sun, he gives me summer
and flocks of swallows
He tells me that I am his treasure
And that I am equal to thousands of stars
And that I am treasure, and that I am
more beautiful than he has seen of paintings
He tells me things that make me dizzy
that make me forget the dance and the steps

Words…which overturn my history
which make me a woman…in seconds
He builds castles of fantasies
which I live in…for seconds…
And I return…I return to my table
Nothing with me…
Nothing with me…except words

~ Nizar Qabbani, found on Poem Hunter