“We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except a memory of the smell of smoke, and a presumption that once our eyes watered.” ~ Tom Stoppard
I wish I were here instead of in the middle of a major bathroom renovation . . . Oh well . . .
This is an old pack horse Bridge across the River Tavy. Although only a minor road, Denham Bridge Lane is the main highway not far from Buckland Monachorum, a beautiful small village on Dartmoor in South Denham, England.
“the world’s so small, the sky’s so high we pray for rain it rains, we pray for sun it suns
we pray on our knees, we move our lips we pray in our minds, we clasp our hands
our hands look tied before us.” ~ Nick Flynn, from “Fire”
Tuesday afternoon. Hazy, hot and humid.
Well, I survived the weekend. Saturday was an endurance test, and when it was over, I fell into bed and slept hard. The many nights of interrupted sleep were gone. My body gave in to exhaustion at last.
The memorial service was very nice. Many people from her congregation shared stories about her, and the reception afterwards was very nice. Several congregation members (some of whom I remembered, and others that I didn’t) came up to me during the reception to say that they had enjoyed my reading. One woman said that it made her wonder what her children would say about her when she died, which made me wonder what people would have to say about me when I’m gone.
Then we (all of my kids, Corey, Ann, Mallory and I) went to her house and sat around for hours. We looked through her things and shared memories. We found a bunch of old photographs, her wedding album, her baby book. We drank wine and ate the leftover food from the reception. It was more than a bit surreal.
Of all my children, Alexis took it harder than anyone. She had a very special relationship with her grandmother, and she is feeling the loss acutely. She closed herself off from the rest of us, didn’t want to be hugged or comforted. We all grieve in our own way. After all of us left, Alexis stayed behind (later I learned for a long time). I think that she wanted the time alone to say goodbye.
The rituals we go through when we say goodbye to those who have died—so strange, yet so comforting. I know that they are for the living, not the dead, yet I’m not entirely certain that I would want people coming together to remember me. I suppose there is always the fear that no one would come and then if they did, they would not have good things to say . . .
I’m still having moments of unexpected tears, melancholy. That I seem to be getting a chest cold is not helping.
“The part of us that has to be burned away is something like the deadwood on the bush; it has to go, to be burned in the terrible fire of reality, until there is nothing left but . . . what we are meant to be.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle
Everyone seemed to like the collage, which is good. The hours that I spent making it really helped me. With each picture, I had a memory. Moving the images around to find the perfect place felt a bit like reliving each memory. I let the pictures speak to me, and when I was finished, they ended up where they were supposed to be. It’s really hard to explain.
I’m sending a CD with the separate images and the collage to Helma in Germany so that she can share it with everyone over there.
I was telling Corey that when you see pictures from the 50’s, everyone looks a bit like a movie star. I don’t know if it’s the black and white film, or the fact that everyone was always so well groomed—perfect hair and makeup. The pictures from her wedding were remarkable. All the men so sharp and handsome. The white gloves on the women. There is a picture of the then happy couple as they left the reception, and my m-in-law is wearing one of those fox furs, you know, the ones with the fox head and feet? So chic then.
Those always terrified me as a child, like someone had just coshed the animal over the head and then draped it around the woman’s shoulders.
The woman in the pictures had sleek hair, bright eyes, a tiny waist. She was young, happy, and filled with possibilities, her whole life before her. I know that she had a full life, that she saw many places, did many things, and I’m trying to hold onto that, not the last years when life was so unforgiving.
“And much of this I fancy you yourself have felt: much also remains for you to feel. There is an unknown land full of strange flowers and subtle perfumes, a land of which it is joy of all joys to dream, a land where all things are perfect and poisonous.” ~ Oscar Wilde
My mother came to the service. I looked at her and realized that she has shrunk so much, in that way that old people do. She told me the other day that she has gained weight deliberately so that she won’t have so many wrinkles on her face. My mother is 79 years old, yet I know that she does not see herself as being that old, any more than I feel as old as I am. She said at one point that she didn’t like being around all of “these old people.” She meant it.
During the reception I was watching her. She seemed so bewildered by it all. And I felt sorry for her because I knew exactly what she was thinking: Will there be people who miss me when I’m gone? Will there be people who say nice things about me?
What is a life? Is it the sum of all things done or is it a reflection of things never done? What defines a person, gives them worth? Religious people, of any kind, would say that a life is defined by the service to the maker, living a spiritual life.
I would have to admit that I have no answers to these questions, only more questions.
“I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know—unless it be to share our laughter. We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide.” ~ James Kavanaugh
When I found the above Kavanaugh quote, I thought about which part I could delete so that it wouldn’t be so long, but then I realized that I couldn’t delete any of it because the entire quote sums up so much of what I feel. I am a searcher, always have been. And I have never been content, not really. That is not to say that I have not had periods of great contentment, because, of course, I have. But if you read me regularly, then you know that I move through a veil of melancholy.
It is just who and what I am. I have those I love deeply, for whom I would do anything, anything at all. I have a man I love completely, who has brought me great joy and a sense of peace that eluded me for years. Yet I would be lying if I said that I was truly content.
But exactly what is it that I search for still? I don’t know. Not really. I can only say that I feel as if I have so much left undone in my life, that while I have done many things, seen many places, tasted many flavors—that while all of that is true, I have still not done all that I had hoped I would do in my life.
I suppose if I had to sum up my life at this point, I would say that I am a daughter who was always lonely for a sibling, a mother who has always longed for a lost daughter, a spouse who has always felt that I should be more. I am perpetually on hold, and that is because I have not moved forward. I live in the past, haunted by loss, and I long for a future somewhere else, somewhere verdant and lovely.
In spite of all my education, I long for more. I wish that I could sit in rooms and discuss Eliot and Woolf on cool fall afternoons as the sun shines through the windows. I long to explore those authors I have yet to read, to immerse myself in new stories, new words set in far-flung places filled with people who are living life, people who are feeling.
I have a hole in my heart that will never be filled because I will not allow it to be. I have lined the walls of that red chasm with my father, my daughter, my uncle, my friends; I have poured into that bottomless vessel all of the memories of old loves and long-ago days. And unlike most voids, this one sustains me. The negative space defines me.
I dream of thunderstorms and turbulent oceans. I smell the faint scent of lavender and honeysuckle. I taste the last dregs of cold cups of tea.
I am a searcher in a world that has little room left for those who wish to explore.
I am old, and I am young. I am everything, and I am nothing.
More later. Peace be unto you and yours.
Music by Kate Rusby, “Underneath the Stars”
Song of Tea
The first cup moistens my lips and throat.
The second cup breaks my loneliness.
The third cup searches my barren entrail,
but to find therein some thousand volumes of odd ideographs.
The fourth cup raises a slight perspiration;
all the wrongs of life pass out through my pores.
At the fifth cup I am purified.
The sixth cup calls me to the realms of the immortals.
The seventh cup—ah, but I could take no more!
I only feel the breath of the cool wind that raises in my sleeves.
Where is Paradise? Let me ride on this sweet breeze and waft away thither.
“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth
Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and mild, low 80’s.
People around here are still reeling from the 5.9 earthquake from earlier today. I, however, slept through it and am glad that I did. Last night, I took three Seroquel to ensure deep sleep. You see, my mother-in-law died yesterday afternoon.
We had visited on Sunday, and it was obvious then that she did not have very long. She was not conscious, but her breathing was labored. We talked, and I rubbed her arms with lotion and massaged her hands. I cleaned her teeth as I knew that she would hate to have dirty teeth. When I left, I told her that I loved her and said that I would see her later. I had every intention of going back yesterday or today.
Now, she’s gone.
Her body will be cremated, and there will be a memorial service at her church. It will have to be on a weekend so that Ann’s daughter can get back from Virginia Tech. Since next weekend is a holiday weekend, it will probably be the weekend after that. She had said that she would like for her ashes to be buried beneath a tree or spread in the Pacific Ocean.
I have volunteered to write the obituary, which is what I should be doing at this moment but cannot.
“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.” ~ Henri J. M. Nouwen
Ann called me yesterday afternoon. The rehab center had called her as she was on her way home from taking my niece to Blacksburg. I had Brett with me in the car as we were on our way to do school errands, and I called Alexis and Eamonn. I was also the first to reach Paul. In the midst of phoning everyone, my mother called, and I was crying. Her response was to tell me to stop crying.
I love my mother, but she refuses to acknowledge grief.
Actually, at this moment, my face and head hurt from the effort that I’m exuding not to give in to tears as I do not wish to be consumed at this moment. To be honest, I do not want to feel, do not want to acknowledge everything that is coursing through my heart, my head, my soul. It’s just too much at the moment.
Perhaps later, I will write about the woman that she was, the things she loved, the memories that I have. But not now.
“Joy and sorrow in this world pass into each other, mingling their forms and their murmurs in the twilight of life as mysterious as an overshadowed ocean, while the dazzling brightness of supreme hopes lies far off, fascinating and still, on the distant edge of the horizon.” ~ Joseph Conrad
The sink is full of dirty dishes, the bed unmade. The laundry hamper is full. Frankly, I don’t care. I cannot make myself care.
I was supposed to see my pain doctor today, but I rescheduled. I don’t want to see anyone, don’t want anyone to ask me how I am, don’t want anyone to touch me.
If I had a shell, I would retreat inside and hide from the world for as long as it takes, but of course, I don’t have a shell. So I will just shut myself off for a while. Yesterday, I kept myself busy until the moment I got into bed, the logic being, of course, that if you are busy, then you cannot focus on other things; if you cannot focus on other things, you cannot think too much.
I always think too much.
I don’t want to think at all. I don’t want to feel anything, let alone sorrow, and certainly not grief. I’m not in denial. I know what has happened, or at least my brain knows. But I am in postponement. I actively choose to wait to feel. This membrane between normalcy—the moments in which everything is as we know and expect it to be—and loss—after everything has changed—is far too thin. I have chosen not to let the knowledge of her death reach my heart yet.
This is all for now. Let me close with these words:
“Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I’ve only found sorrow.”
“I am now writing to test my theory that there is consolation in expression.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Journal, 9 May 1926
Monday, early evening. Sunny and hot.
Not sleeping so well again, and not really sure why. I had been gradually trying to move my body clock back so that I was falling asleep earlier so that I could get up earlier, but since the road trip to Ohio, I haven’t been able to fall asleep before 2:30 in the morning.
Who knows the whys or hows of my body . . .
We had a very nice time Saturday night, even though no one was quite sure where we were supposed to be gathering, and when Ann and her family showed up at the beach house, and no one was there. We were pretty sure that we had said the beach house and not Ann’s deck, but we all sat around on the deck at the beach house and waited for the Germans to turn up somewhere . . .
Everything turned out nicely, though, and as a bonus, we did not have to contend with my ex as he didn’t show on Saturday. Just kind of a laid back Saturday night, lots of conversation. I got the bright idea that we should have a Trivial Pursuit contest this coming Saturday as we used to do that all of the time in the old days. Patrick is a killer on history and geography, but I kick his butt in literature and the arts, so it’s usually a raucous game.
Tomorrow is Busch Gardens day, and it’s a big group this year: Corey, Alexis, Phillip, Hannah, Lucas (Hannah’s boyfriend), Eamonn, Brett, and Em. I get to stay home and have the house to myself, so everyone is quite looking forward to Tuesday. I used to love to go to Busch Gardens, but as I can no longer ride the roller coasters (because of the back issues), I prefer not to go. So they can go and spend the day riding and eating and milling through crowds, and I can spend the day in quiet with the dogs. Works out well for everyone, except for possibly Corey, who has a car full of people this year.
“The last few days, what one notices more than anything is the blue. Blue sky, blue mountains—all is a heavenly blueness! And clouds of all kinds—wings, soft white clouds, almost hard little golden islands, great mock-mountains. The gold deepens on the slopes. In fact, in sober fact, it is perfection. But the late evening is the time of times. Then, with that unearthly beauty before one, it is not hard to realise how far one has to go. To write something that will be worthy of that rising moon, that pale light.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, Journal, 16 October 1921
The other day I was in the pool by myself, and it was one of those rare summer days in which it was not too hot; the sky was a clear blue, and only a few wispy cirrus clouds dotted the sky above me. I watched dragonflies dance around the drooping heads of the sunflowers, and a lone, vibrant Cardinal sat in the oak tree.
No one within earshot was running yard equipment, and there were no sounds echoing from the park. It was lovely. I floated around and just took in the simple beauty that surrounded me. Tillie and Shakes were resting on the ladder after playing ball, and I had left my phone inside.
I stayed out well past 5 p.m., and as the sun dipped, and the air became slightly cooler, I did some yoga stretches in the water. My face was turned to the sun, and my eyelids were closed. A slight breeze touched my cheeks. It’s the closest I’ve come to meditating in a very long time. It’s hard to describe accurately the sense of peace that can be achieved through such simplicity, but that is truly what I felt: at peace with myself and with the world.
When I was an undergraduate, I used to go sailing with a friend of mine who owned a catamaran. I would get on the trapeze and hang off the side of the boat as one of the hulls was in the air. I remember closing my eyes and just letting the wind and the sky envelope my face. That was my favorite part about sailing: coming as close as possible to hanging in the air. That’s the feeling that I recaptured the other day.
I used to think that I would like to go sky diving, to feel that freedom of falling through the air. I’ve never gotten over the yearning to do so, but I just don’t think that they let people with bad backs hurtle themselves out of planes, no matter how many release forms they sign.
“You still don’t understand? Throw the emptiness in your arms out into that space we breathe; maybe birds will feel the air thinning as they fly deeper into themselves.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, “The First Elegy” in Duino Elegies, trans. A. Poulin, Jr.
I must admit that I’m still feeling a bit melancholy, not sad necessarily. It’s just that tug, that feeling around the edges of my heart, as if there is a thought out there that I cannot quite grasp, that slips by me far too quickly to catch.
Does that make sense?
Do not ask me to define it as that would be impossible. It’s not the creepy sensation that one gets when staring in the mirror and then suddenly sees something out of the corner of the eye. On the contrary, it is a tender sensation, that I am being embraced by the earth itself, that I am communing with something ineffable yet exquisitely intense. It is the feeling that I am beginning to discern a larger pattern of which I am a minor part.
I know this sensation as well as I know myself. It makes an appearance without warning, and then it can progress either one of two ways: It can portend an oncoming storm in my soul, or it can evolve into a time of deeper introspection. I believe this time it will be the latter rather than the former as I am feeling calm rather than disquiet. Still, it’s a bit unsettling.
There is nothing for it but to wait to see how things play out.
“To write, now, only to make known that one day I ceased to exist; that everything around me turned blue, an immense space for the flight of an eagle whose powerful wings forever beat goodbye to the world.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from Le Livre de l’hospitalité, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop
Even as I sit here in my desk’s new location, the late afternoon sun is coming through the window and painting my lashes. If I lean back and close my eyes halfway, I can see those dandelion-like sparks that come from refraction and reflection. It’s how I’m typing at the moment, having no need to look at the keys (Thank you Ms. Magnuson for teaching me my way around a keyboard a million years ago).
In the background, Earlimart’s song “It’s Okay to Think About Ending” is playing with sound bytes from television’s “House” interspersed with the music. It’s a lovely song that is not about ending. Rather, it’s about choosing to stay in the moment, which is where I currently find myself—I’m enjoying the moment and have no desire to go forward or backward. Sometimes just being is enough.
Unfortunately, because life so often intrudes upon moments of such beauty, most of us do not recognize them for what they are, and they slip past us without ever materializing. We become so entrenched in all of the worries, all of the petty grievances, all of the setbacks and brick walls that we forget to look past, even for a moment. We lose so much as a result.
I include myself in this we as I know that I am just as guilty as anyone else. I think too much about the what ifs and the why nots, and I forget about that thing called possibilities. I do not seize, carpe, if you will. Yet in spite of how myopic I can become, something within me churns to the surface and causes me to pause, to stop and look around, to notice that the only sound is birdsong, that the only movement is gossamer dragonfly wings.
“If the soul and the ego were objects we could look at, the soul would be a translucent heart beating.” ~ George Condo
We grow older, and we forget things. We forget the wonder of discovering something for the first time as young children do. Put a three-year-old outside in the fresh grass, and she will stare at everything; she will touch everything; she will notice everything: the blades of grass, the petals on a flower, the butterflies, the wind in the leaves. Everything is new and wonderful and unsullied.
We grow older, and we do not notice the most obvious. We walk from our doors to our vehicles, and we do not see anything between the two. Does the Rose of Sharon have new blooms? Is that a new garden spider’s web between the sunflower stems? How long has it been there? The morning dew hangs on the finely wrought pattern and shimmers in the early light.
We grow older, and we become like the insects that become caught in the web: we do not struggle against our fate. We simply wait for fate to come to us. And it always does.
When do we cross that border between wonder and resignation? When do we reach the apex and begin the slide downward? When do we stop seeing?
When I was a young teen, I first read Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass. I will admit that it is the first book that I ever stole from a library. I had to have it, and of course, Amazon did not exist then, nor did large bookstores. But the point is this: I read “Song of the Open Road,” and today I still remember some of the lines that touched me so deeply the first time I saw them on the page:
I am larger, better than I thought,
I did not know I held so much goodness.
All seems beautiful to me,
and this (all of stanza 15, which, admittedly, I do not know by heart completely):
Allons! the road is before us!
It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!
Let the paper remain on the desk unwritten, and the book on the shelf unopen’d!
Let the tools remain in the workshop! let the money remain unearn’d!
Let the school stand! mind not the cry of the teacher!
Let the preacher preach in his pulpit! let the lawyer plead in the court, and the judge expound the law.
My friend, I give you my hand!
I give you my love more precious than money,
I give you myself before preaching or law;
Will you give me yourself? will you come travel with me?
Shall we stick by each other as long as we live?
Just remember: It is possible for all to still seem beautiful to us.
More later. Peace.
Music by Earlimart, “It’s Okay to Think About Ending” (and yes, this is a repeat, but it seemed apropos)
“There is no blue without yellow and without orange.” ~ Vincent van Gogh
Close-up Detail of van Gogh’s “Starry Night”
“Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don’t even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child—our own two eyes. All is a miracle.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Wednesday early evening. Sunny, high 80’s.
Absolutely beautiful today. Not too hot. The perfect day to float around the pool for a few hours. Yesterday I gave Alfie and Shakes baths while we were outside, and today I did Tillie. After my relaxing time in the pool, I came into the house and did a bit of cleaning, the floors, the bathroom, some glass. I was a sweaty, smelly mess when I finished. Time to bathe myself.
Last night Corey had his last session of his introductory class. He’s so glad that it’s over. Frankly, I feel that the class is a complete waste of time for people who have been out of high school for a while. It’s the kind of class that would actually be good as a seminar for graduating seniors who are college bound to help them determine what fields they might want to pursue in college. Other than that, I think that it’s just plain silly.
My mom dropped by with some fresh cherries this afternoon. I adore fresh cherries. I can eat an entire bag by myself. I have determined that I must have fresh fruit in my diet, and if not that, then at least yogurt. It’s that sense of something fresh to clean the palette. So far my attempts to eat healthier are working: I’m drinking a lot more water and a lot less Pepsi. I’m trying to stay away from bread and chips. Just cannot give up the gummi bears, but I limit my daily consumption.
Frankly, in the summer I could live on fresh vegetables from the garden and Edy’s fruit bars. Our eggplant and bell pepper plants have died, victims of the extreme heat. Corey has a huge crop of sunflowers, but they are all droopy, not standing straight like last year’s crop. This year he planted seeds from last year’s crop, so the stems weren’t as thick. Perhaps next year they will be stronger and more upright.
“Blue as the evening sky, blue as cranesbill flowers, blue as the lips of drowned men and the heart of a blaze burning with too hot a flame.” ~ Cornelia Funke
I’m so glad the last heat wave finally broke. My head feels a bit better, and obviously (as witnessed by the cleaning), I have more energy.
WordPress has launched several new themes, and I was actually considering changing my theme, but none of the new ones quite felt right. So I settled for changing my header picture to something more in keeping with summer. I rather like the image that I found. Let me know if you notice and what you think about my selection.
I had very strange dreams last night. One was a bit on the sci-fi side as it involved being able to breathe and live beneath the water. Kind of cool, actually. I probably had that particular dream because Corey and I watched “Torchwood” before going to sleep last night. “Torchwood,” which is an offshoot of “Dr. Who,” was a series on BBC. Then I heard that they were going to do a new version. Well, Russell Davies (from “Dr. Who”) is involved in the reboot, but it’s on Starz and only has two of the original cast.
I’m not entirely certain that I like the new version. The old show was very much in the same vein as “Dr. Who,” with aliens, and strange occurrences. The cast had chemistry, and there were references to the doctor. The new show deals with one main event, and I keep thinking in the back of my mind that the doctor should be involved in this threat to earth.
I suppose as with most things, in this, too, I’m a purist. I’ll keep watching, mostly because I love John Barrowman as Capt. Jack Harkness, and I’m also quite fond of Eve Myles as Gwen Cooper. But I miss Owen and Ianto. Oh well . . . can’t have everything.
“In his blue gardens men and girls came and went like moths among the whisperings and the champagne and the stars.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
The Fitzgerald quote above is one of my all-time favorites. Just beautiful writing. Truly incomparable.
So speaking of my mom, I’ve planted the idea in Eamonn’s head that he might want to consider moving in with his Oma. Of all the grandkids, Eamonn would probably get along with her the best, and I know that I would certainly feel better if someone were living there full time. There’s plenty of room, and Eamonn is only home at night. I think that it could work.
We’ll see what happens with that.
It’s not that I don’t want him here, because I love seeing him all of the time, but it’s more that he would have plenty of room over there, and someone would be around at night if something happens to Mom, like another emergency. Of course, it’s a decision that they would both have to favor, so who knows what will happen.
I only know that if Eamonn is going to stay here, we have to do something about the garbage bags full of clothes, and he has to stay home long enough to move furniture.
Other than that, not a lot happening on the home front. We’re waiting for some expected funds so that we can get the work on the truck finished, and the Rodeo needs a few (more) things. I’d like to be able to send for my Uncle Ely’s Explorer in the fall as Brett will be driving the Rodeo. Of course, he needs to take his driving test, which doesn’t seem to be on the forefront of his list of things to do.
I remember that as soon as Eamonn was of age to get his driver’s permit, he wanted to take the test, and then he psyched himself out so badly that he failed the test a couple of times and had to retake it. My children are all so different. Of course, once Brett has his license, we’ll have to add him to the car insurance, which is not going to be cheap—that’s for certain.
“People observe the colors of a day only at its beginnings and ends, but to me it’s quite clear that a day merges through a multitude of shades and intonations with each passing moment. A single hour can consist of thousands of different colors. Waxy yellows, cloud-spot blues. Murky darkness” ~ Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
I had a lovely telephone conversation with someone the other day in which the person with whom I was speaking told me that she found my last post quite inspiring. Apparently, she had been having a really hard time at work lately, and she was feeling down. She said that my post gave her the mental boost to keep going, that it reminded her that life’s annoyances are only temporary.
I thought that that was such a lovely thing to say. I had been a bit concerned of late that my stats aren’t surpassing 1,000 hits a day like they used to, but comments like that and many others that I receive from regular readers help me to keep things in perspective.
I may not have millions of hits, but I have a lovely little support group that reads me regularly and comments when possible. If I can cheer someone with my tongue-in-cheek irreverence, or if I can inspire someone with my collection of quotes and images, then that’s what makes this blog relevant, not the numbers.
Coming from my last position in which the numbers were the end all and be all of how well I was doing my job, it is far too easy to get caught up in the statistics and to forget that the numbers are actually people. And it’s the people for whom I write, the people who I consider when choosing subjects, the people I think about when trying to decide on the post’s theme, or the selection of content.
And if I haven’t said it lately: You guys are the best. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Let me close with the following:
From my favorite Doctor Who episode, “Vincent and the Doctor,” written by Richard Curtis:
Vincent: Hold my hand, Doctor. Try to see what I see. We’re so lucky we’re still alive to see this beautiful world. Look at the sky. It’s not dark and black and without character. The black is in fact deep blue. And over there! Lighter blue. [the starscape slowly transforms into The Starry Night] And blowing through the blueness and the blackness, the winds swirling through the air. And there shining, burning, bursting through, the stars! Can you see how they roll their light? Everywhere we look, complex magic of nature blazes before our eyes.
Doctor: I’ve seen many things, my friend, but you’re right: nothing quite as wonderful as the things you see.
More later. Peace.
Looking for a song by Blue October to go with my blue theme and found this beautiful one: “Congratulations”
Devotions of a Painter
Cool sinuosities, waved banners of light,
Unfurl, remesh, and round upon themselves
In a continuing turmoil of benign
Cross-purposes, effortlessly as fish,
On the dark underside of the foot-bridge,
Cast upward against pewter-weathered planks.
Weeds flatten with the current. Dragonflies
Poise like blue needles, steady in mid-air,
For some decisive, swift inoculation.
The world repeats itself in ragged swatches
Among the lily-pads, but understated,
When observed from this selected vantage point,
A human height above the water-level,
As the shore shelves heavily over its reflection,
Its timid, leaf-strewn comment on itself.
It’s midday in midsummer. Pitiless heat.
Not so much air in motion as to flutter
The frail, bright onion tissue of a poppy.
I am an elderly man in a straw hat
Who has set himself the task of praising God
For all this welter by setting out my paints
And getting as much truth as can be managed
Onto a small flat canvas. Constable
Claimed he had never seen anything ugly,
And would have known each crushed jewel in the pigments
Of these oily golds and greens, enamelled browns
That recall the glittering eyes and backs of frogs.
The sun dispenses its immense loose change,
Squandered on blossoms, ripples, mud, wet stones.
I am enamored of the pale chalk dust
Of the moth’s wing, and the dark moldering gold
Of rust, the corrupted treasures of this world.
Against the Gospel let my brush declare:
“These are the anaglyphs and gleams of love.”
Gate of Wishes, Mrtivica Canyon, Montenegro (Pixdaus)
“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” ~ John Lennon
Saturday afternoon. Temperatures hovering above 100° F. Thunderstorms.
I awoke with another headache, nothing new. Not too bad, but lots and lots of pressure in my forehead and behind my eyes. Probably due to the barometric pressure and the heat.
Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in years: I went outside during a rain shower and got in the pool. It was so refreshing. The air temperature dropped a bit, and the water cooled. The dogs joined me for a few minutes, but Shakes doesn’t much care for rain. Tillie stayed out with me for the duration. It didn’t rain long, but I enjoyed myself while it did.
I was hoping to do the same again today, but unfortunately the rain is accompanied by thunder and lightning. Even I have enough sense not to get in a metal-clad pool in the middle of a thunderstorm.
I just glanced at my weather icon, and the temperature has dropped 8 degrees in the last fifteen minutes. Now that’s change I can live with . . .
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ~ Oscar Wilde, “Lady Windermere’s Fan”
Monday afternoon. Not nearly as hot.
So I got distracted . . . where was I? Oh yes, drama.
Woke up this morning to lovely news: we should expect a drop-in visit from Adult Protective Services. Whatever . . .
The ongoing drama at our house had been calm for far too long. I knew to expect something soon, and I wasn’t disappointed. Apparently, the pest (nicest word I can think to use for this person), reported Em’s case worker and our home as being . . . shall we say, unfit? Charges include holding her against her will, all of us being insane (I told you this person wasn’t wrapped too tight), beating her down continually (not sure if that was meant to be literal or metaphorical), ya da ya da ya da . . .
In the inestimable words of W: Bring. It. On.
I mean, we have absolutely nothing to hide here. We are exactly as we purport ourselves to be: a middle class family in the burbs that is making ends meet. We have a home, food in our pantry, all of the accoutrements, as it were. We do not claim to be wealthy because we are not. We do not claim to have all of the answers because we do not. We do claim to have a healthy living environment for our family because we do. We do claim to know a few things about people who face challenges in life because we do. We do claim to be good parents because we are.
So when I heard that APS was going to come by, my response was what it only could be: Okay. Whatever. Tell them to drop by as they like because we have nothing to hide.
So they did. Today. A very nice woman who sat down with Em and asked her basic (and I mean basic) questions: Are you able to dress yourself? Yes. Do you take care of your own physical hygiene? Yes. Do you know how to do things around the house? Yes (she does now). Can you get your own food or does someone have to do it for you? Get it myself and can cook a little . . . and lots more in that vein, and then . . . Are you happy? I am now.
We left Em alone with the case worker so that the woman wouldn’t think that we were trying to sway her answers or to influence her unduly (because that’s what I do, you know. I beat people down until they are simpering idiots who have no will of their own . . . right.) The case worker asked her more questions that I didn’t hear because I wasn’t listening. Then I invited her to look through our house, as it were.
Dreaded visit over, and everyone survived. And the case worker didn’t even flinch over Em’s shaved head, which she is loving, by the way, especially since no one has asked her to wear a hat to hide her ears. Of course, after the case worker left I took all of the illegal drugs out of the hall closet, and I let the dozen or so illegal aliens out of the bathroom, and I got back to making the homemade meth that I was cooking up in the kitchen along with barbecued ribs.
It’s a joke, people. Of course, I know that sentence will come back in another form somewhere, but at this point, I am so over it.
“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ~ Aldous Huxley
You might think that such a visit and the results would put a normal person’s mind at ease, that the news that a completely unbiased third party witnessed the supposedly downtrodden young woman healthy and happy would be welcome news. You would think, but the key word here is normal. I know that this saga isn’t over. There will be more frantic telephone calls to whoever will listen. There will be more tossing about of the family name in an attempt to curry favor. There will be more stealing of passages of my blog to try to show how insane I am. There will be more disparaging remarks regarding my character, the character of my family.
As I’ve said before, when I need to, I can have the patience of Job. The more chest-banging this other person does, the less I need to justify myself. And dare I say it? I don’t really have anything to justify. I took in a young woman who felt trapped and mentally abused. I offered a safe haven to a person who did not feel safe, for various reasons. She is healthy. She is happy. She is safe.
I can do no more than what I have already done and what I continue to do—be myself—be patient, be sympathetic and empathetic, be a sounding board when needed.
Oh, and by the way, the illegal things? Puleez. But the part about Em’s shaved head is true; she just hasn’t died it blue yet . . .
“The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche
Even though I’m spending a lot of effort here bitching, I’m actually not at all peeved. Instead, what I really feel is a deep sense of pity. You might think that I’m a sap for feeling pity for an individual who is set upon my ruin, for the person who does not hesitate to disparage me to anyone who will listen, but that is indeed what I feel.
I cannot say that I have ever encountered anyone exactly like this particular individual before, but I have encountered people who are filled with such a determined sense of entitlement and righteousness: They are the only ones who are right, and everyone else is wrong. They are entitled to have this or to be given that because of a skewed sense of self-importance.
Unfortunately, my encounters with this personality type most often have occurred when dealing with members of boards of directors, especially in the arts. I cannot tell you how many people, women especially, who banked everything on their last names. They would meet me, hear my unusual, distinctly not patronage-linked last name, and immediately make assumptions about my value to them. If I could, in fact, give them something they needed or desired, then they would deign to be polite to me, but if my existence did not in any way benefit them, then I simply ceased to matter.
The first time that this happened, I was highly affronted, and my alpha side reared its head: You will listen to me because I do know exactly what I am talking about . . . I may as well have been barking at the moon for all of the good that it did me. This personality type is impermeable to reality, well, at least the reality in which so many of us exist. I took a lesson from my director, who was a very soft-spoken, wise man when he told me that I simply could not treat these people using logic because in their worlds, Copernicus was wrong, and the universe did indeed revolve around their spheres.
“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” ~ Ansel Adams
I have written about self-entitlement before, but usually as it pertains to teenagers and how we have an entire generation of people who think that they deserve whatever they want simply because. It’s not often that I encounter someone from my own generation who operates with this same sense of entitlement. People within my age group have usually worked hard to get to the points in our lives at which we find ourselves. Many of us our self-made, and many people I know are second generation to this country.
Being second generation (even on one side) imbues those of us like this with a strong work ethic because the desire not to fail our parents is extremely important. Being second generation also means that few of us have family names on which to fall back. We have made our own names, and we don’t depend upon our ancestors to define us. I cannot imagine being the kind of person to make requests simply because of what my name happens to be, but I have met people like this, and they have no qualms about throwing around that name as if it we still lived in a system with peers and nobles.
I think that part of what makes me strong is the fact that I have worked for everything that I have, that my parents came from humble beginnings and worked and saved for everything that they had. I’m proud to come from working-class stock. I was taught the value of a dollar, and I was taught that respect is something to be earned, not something to be bestowed upon someone simply because of who they are.
So what it boils down to is that in the midst of all of this, I try to retain my patience, and I try to retain my sense of humor, much taxed though they may be. And when in doubt, I remember the rule of three: that what we send out into the world comes back to us threefold.
Karma. It’s a bitch.
More later. Peace.
Music by The Morning After Girls, “Hidden Spaces”
Picture of the Author with Vice President
That’s me on his left. If neither one of us
looks comfortable, it’s because I said
I’m sorry to hear about his heart.
A small machine, he says, sends tiny sparks
in there, to pace the flow of blood.
Some people will dispute this photo; his office
has denied it’s me; but I have to believe
I am in the picture. It’s awkward, yes,
for we don’t know each other;
and if he’s known as a man who keeps
public secrets, I’m not known at all.
Even so, he and I share something
that we cherish, deeply, which is our love
of trout. On his Wyoming ranch, he owns
a trout stream for himself. When I raise
the question—How’s the fishing?—he will rise
to the subject, and we will have grown
a little closer, having now disclosed
a passion no one, having known, lets go.
And he, too, is a man who knows cold blood
of trout cares nothing for who you are.
Nor do they care who owns the land
their water flows within: So long
as land and stream stay clean, they live.
Because I must rely on public lands
to find—weighed out in the flash
of a trout’s brilliant scales—that cleanly order,
I’m concerned about his sympathy
with those who call such places “undeveloped.”
But I know better than to say as much
to a man who’s so well versed
in the rhyming of ecology with economy—
abstract nets that hold so many tangibles,
such as meadow grass that filters silt
so cutthroat trout may have clean beds
of gravel for their spawning redds;
or the English teacher whose hopes
for a pay raise float on the promise
of a growing tax base—in other words,
the new sport coat I’m wearing
in the photo, bought for this occasion.
Still, I want to believe in the heart
of a man who would fish a barbless fly
for a trout, and let it go; who would spend
that much time to be where trout live, to step
so softly in their stream, they do not frighten.
So I am going to tell him a story
about the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico,
and a man who lived there. By all accounts,
William Myers knew the land, but owned
none of it. Had no money, so in order to live
in the mountains, he bartered work
for the privilege of staying in
other people’s second homes.
One day, he drove his ATV up a ridge
to scout the most likely route to run a pipe
to his friend’s house. He lit a cigarette,
studied the forest floor, as he’d often done
for fresh deer lies, bear scat, a crop of mast
that might draw wild turkeys in.
Whether it was a spark from the ATV
or the cigarette, he didn’t know; but he was sure,
he told police, that it was he who caused the fire.
That night, a glowing orange blemish on the sky;
by next day, a dry mist with a taste
of wet paper. Nine thousand acres
of forest he had hunted, ponds and creeks
he’d fished—the bell-note of hummingbird wings,
the raccoon crooning to her pups—gone up
in a surf of flame; sap-laden pines burst
like the improvised gas-and-bottle bombs
he’d learned to make in the army. Helicopters
dropped fire-retardant chemicals on a woods
he’d loved but never owned, and never meant
to burn. They fell in scarlet plumes, like blood
that must have sprayed from his skull
when he stood in front of the gun
he held in his own hand, and fired.
—Well, it may have been the words
like blood, and skull, and gun,
that made the men in sunglasses bring
our conversation to a polite, efficient end.
Or it could have been my agitation
over a man who took responsibility—
who, as his scribbled farewell letter read,
could never live with what he had destroyed.