“Ask her what she craved, and she’d get a little frantic about things like books, the woods, music. Plants and the seasons. Also freedom.” ~ Charles Frazier, from Nightwoods

Writer Anne Sexton (1928-1974)

A Different Two for Tuesday

Tuesday afternoon, mostly cloudy and colder, 36 degrees.

Greetings to those of you out there in the ether. Hoping you are well. Luckily, we’ve missed the massive storm that’s hitting everyone, and all of the dogs are better and doing well. So that’s a definite relief.

Apologies for the dearth of posts in recent days; we’ve had Wi-Fi issues, as I stated last night. I hope to be able to do a regular post tomorrow, but I’ve had this particular post planned for a couple of weeks.

Instead of two shorter poems, I’ve been saving this beautiful longer poem by one of my favorite writers, Anne Sexton—

Letter Written During a January Northeaster

Monday

Dearest,
It is snowing, grotesquely snowing
upon the small faces of the dead.
Those dear loudmouths, gone for over a year,
buried side by side
like little wrens.
But why should I complain?
The dead turn over casually,
thinking:
Good! No visitors today.
My window, which is not a grave,
is dark with my fierce concentration
and too much snowing
and too much silence.
The snow has quietness in it; no songs,
no smells, no shouts nor traffic.
When I speak
my own voice shocks me.

Tuesday

I have invented a lie,
there is no other day but Monday.
It seems reasonable to pretend
that I could change the day
like a pair of socks.
To tell the truth
days are all the same size
and words aren’t much company.
If I were sick, I’d be a child,
tucked in under the woolens, sipping my broth.
As it is,
the days are not worth grabbing
or lying about.

Monday

It would be pleasant to be drunk:
faithless to my own tongue and hands,
giving up the boundaries
for the heroic gin.
Dead drunk
is the term I think of,
insensible,
neither cool nor warm,
without a head or a foot.
To be drunk is to be intimate with a fool.
I will try it shortly.

Monday

Just yesterday,
twenty eight men aboard a damaged radar tower
foundered down seventy miles off the coast.
Immediately their hearts slammed shut.
The storm would not cough them up.
Today they are whispering over Sonar.
Small voice,
what do you say?
Aside from the going down, the awful wrench,
The pulleys and hooks and the black tongue . . .
What are your headquarters?
Are they kind?

Monday

It must be Friday by now.
I admit I have been lying.
Days don’t freeze
And to say that the snow has quietness in it
is to ignore the possibilities of the word.
Only the tree has quietness in it;
quiet as a pair of antlers
waiting on the cabin wall,
quiet as the crucifix,
pounded out years ago like a handmade shoe.
Someone once
told an elephant to stand still.
That’s why trees remain quiet all winter.
They’re not going anywhere.

Monday

Dearest,
where are your letters?
The mailman is an impostor.
He is actually my grandfather.
He floats far off in the storm
with his nicotine mustache and a bagful of nickels.
His legs stumble through
baskets of eyelashes.
Like all the dead
he picks up his disguise,
shakes it off and slowly pulls down the shade,
fading out like an old movie.
Now he is gone
as you are gone.
But he belongs to me like lost baggage.


Music by Down Like Silver, “Any Day”

Advertisements

“My real self wanders elsewhere, far away, wanders on and on invisibly and has nothing to do with my life.” ~ Hermann Hesse, from Siddhartha


“A cold grey morning—houses have a faraway look; a bluejay screams; imminent sunshine from east light up palely the eastsides of houses.” ~ Charles Burchfield, Journal entry 3 November 1917

Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy, 52 degrees.

Happy New Year, everyone. Hope 2019 is safe, happy, and healthy for you.

Yesterday when I realized that I couldn’t gather my thoughts adequately to write, I spent many hours going through my drafts, pairing quotes and poem for future posts. I try not to repeat quotes or poem or music selections within posts, but after so many years, I’m certain that I’ve had some repeats inadvertently.

Tumblr is a great source for the quotes and poems that I use. Several of the people who I follow always post wonderful things that serve as a source of inspiration for me. But when I first began posting, before the advent of tumblr, I used to do quotes searches on subjects, like water, or spring, or whatever I was thinking about.

The internet has a plethora of quote sites, but I would caution any of you who choose to use these sites that the attributions are not always accurate. I always try to verify any quotes that I use so that I can be sure to list the correct work or individual from which the quote was taken. Goodreads is also a source for quotes, but again, as the site itself does not verify sources, anyone who belongs can post quotes, and I have found several that are inaccurate. Just a bit of housekeeping information

“My road, that I do not understand, leads me
Toward a blue, lost distance” ~ Hermann Hesse, from “Holiday Music in the Evening” (trans. James Wright)

We think that Tink is getting better slowly. Today, she managed to keep down a bit of mashed rice and chicken that Corey made. So far, the fluffy boy shows no signs of being sick, but both Tillie and Bailey are a bit lethargic today. They’ve had all of their shots, so they cannot get canine parvovirus (CPV), but we’re thinking that maybe they can get a mild form of a virus. At least, that’s what we’re hoping is the case.

The vet said that once a dog has had the virus, they will never get it again, so if we can just get her out of the woods, we’ll be okay. Here’s hoping. There’s a lot of hoping going on in our house right now.

Dallas says that he vaccinated all of the puppies at six weeks, so if that’s accurate, Maddy cannot get the virus. The most interesting part of all of this is how the older dogs, as well as the male cat Ash are treating Tink. Maddy has been seen curling around her as she sleeps. Ash approached her very slowly and licked her, and neither Tillie nor Bailey have growled at her since she came home. The older girls are impatient with the ongoing puppy frolicking between Maddy and fluffy boy (no name seems to stick to him; it’s the strangest thing), but they all seem to know that Tink is sick.

Animals are amazing.

“And only the wildest of the forest creatures continued to hear the echo of a despairing, tortured wail in the soft whisper of the wind.” ~ Diane Hoh, from The Accident

It’s now almost four hours since I first began this post. At first, I thought that I had it in me, but apparently not. I don’t really know what to say, other than we’re taking it slowly, hoping no one else gets sick, working with the puppy, and kind of ignoring the whole idea of holidays.

Obviously the stress of such a sick animal is taxing, in many ways. I just try not to think about all of the implications, and focus instead on the good: watching Maddy and the fluffy boy have play fights; watching Tink sleep soundly on the couch, hoping that the sleep brings her rest and energy.

You might think me extreme for this focus on my dogs, and perhaps I am, but truthfully, I do not care. They are our family for now. They bring me great joy and much needed company. I cannot imagine any of these animals deliberately breaking my heart, and so I will care for them with everything that I have.

Perhaps tomorrow will allow me to write more.

Peace.


Music by Nirvana, “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” (Unplugged version)


Today’s poem is by someone I don’t know much about; I found her on tumblr: Ingeborg Bachmann. For more information on her life and work, you can visit this very good article on Alejandra de Argos.

[Everything is lost, the poems first]

Everything is lost, the poems first,
then sleep, then after that the day
then everything else, what belonged to the day
and what belonged to night, then when nothing
more could be lost, more was lost, and then more,
until there was less than nothing, not even myself,
and there really was nothing more.

Time to retreat to an inner hinterland
with all the promised years and pictured places
still before one’s eyes, where the earth
no longer exists nor the shame, far
back when there is still space, open stretches
covered with doves, silent and bright beneath
the talon, within calling range of him,
the arrival, the silencer.

For the silence, there is desolation
with its perceivable web
that softly spins its madness
until it creates its glass hotel.

~ Ingeborg Bachmann (trans. Peter Filkins)

“ . . . 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

 

“The snow was endless, a heavy blanket on the outdoors; it had a way about it. A beauty. But I knew that, like many things, beauty could be deceiving.” ~ Cambria Hebert, from Whiteout

Napoleon and Sassy in the side yard, waiting for hay, by C. Fickel

The ice-covered branches of the hemlocks sparkle
Bending low and tinkling in the sharp thin breeze,
And iridescent crystals fall and crackle on the snow-crust
With the winter sun drawing cold blue shadows from the trees. ~ Sara Teasdale, from “Places”

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and still cold, 30 degrees.

We lost power yesterday until mid afternoon. Luckily, we have a couple of small generators; although, we didn’t really need then for more than coffee. It was cold enough that everything in the freezer and fridges was fine, and we had the wood stove for heat. So I read a book—The Good German, by Joseph Kanon—and Corey and the dogs napped. It was that kind of day. And then once again last night, I couldn’t sleep, wide awake at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., etc.

My car under the snow near the grand old oak, by C. Fickel

Today everything is still snow covered, but the temperatures are supposed to start climbing in the next few days, which means we’ll probably have a muddy mess. The last time that it rained a lot, my car got stuck in the mud when I tried to go up the driveway. Eventually, we’re going to have to invest in some kind of gravel or shale.

The first four of today’s images were taken by Corey on the first day that it snowed, and the last two are by me. I spent almost two hours trying to convert a short video that Corey shot into a format that WordPress would accept but to no avail. Sorry.

No stars tonight; the snowflakes came down out of the dark, rushing towards him, endless, uncountable. Silent, too, but not like the stars. Falling snow whispered secrets to itself. ~ Diana Gabaldon, from Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade
Another view from the back deck, by C. Fickel

My other mother Yvonne gave me the book The Good German years ago, but for some reason, I never picked it up. I think that I thought that it was some kind of family saga, but it’s more of a mystery. She had told me that it was good; now, I wish that I had read it then so that we could have talked about it.

That’s what we used to do: swap books and then talk about them. We were the two big readers in the family. When she died, I was supposed to get all of her books, but that didn’t happen, for various reasons. But she had told me that no one else would want them and that she wanted me to have them.

The funny thing is that I had given her many of the books in her collection. We used to give one another books as presents for Christmas and birthdays. Now, I have no one to swap books with or to discuss them with over cups of coffee or tea. I miss her every single day.

“Since it has quietly began to snow,
new distances have awakened within me.” ~  Gerrit Achterberg, from Snow Passage

Anyway, I’m waiting for the weather to get a bit more temperate before venturing out for a long walk with the dogs. I haven’t been out for one in days.

Top of the ridge, by C. Fickel

I had mentioned to Corey before we moved that I wanted a small ballet barre to exercise on inside the house, and then I forgot about it until the weather got cold quickly. I know how to do basic barre exercises, and I always enjoyed doing them, so today I mentioned it again. There’s really no need to purchase a kit; I mean, I’m not a dancer who needs a professional barre and full length mirrors; I always hated all of the mirrors at the gyms I frequented. Who wants to see themselves sweat and strain, besides body builders, that is . . . Anyway, it should be fairly simple and cheap to make one that’s about 48″ long using supplies from Home Depot.

A wooden rod, probably a closet rod, would come closest to the 1.5″ diameter of a barre, and then all that you need are some heavy-duty brackets, again, probably closet brackets and some bolts to anchor the bar on the brackets. A barre is great for stretching, which is what I’m mostly limited to, but you can do core exercises as well. So here’s hoping I can get that barre sometime in the next month or so.

The earth is covered with it, and it is falling still in silence so deep that you can hear its silence . . . It is snow that can awaken memories of things more wonderful than anything you ever knew or dreamed.” ~ Frederick Buechner, from  Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale

I do have something on my mind that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit: For the first time in my entire life, I’m not looking forward to Christmas. In fact, the idea of decorating for Christmas does not appeal to me at all.

The huge holly tree in the front yard with St. Francis standing watch below, by L. Liwag

Dear reader, you’ve never seen my house at Christmas, but I decorate everything, every doorknob in the house, even the bathroom and kitchen. But this year? I just don’t think that I can do it, and there are several reasons. First, we still haven’t finished organizing the house, and every time that I think that I might have the energy, I just don’t, so there’s no place for a tree.

But secondly, and more importantly, I just don’t see the point, and that might sound harsh, but why, really? None of my kids will be here, and Olivia will not be here. It will just be Corey, me, and the animals. I know that Corey is thinking about going to Ohio for the holidays, and actually, that’s fine with me. I’ll stay here with the animals.

The idea of a beautiful Christmas with decorations and packages only makes me feel more acutely what isn’t here, and I really don’t want to feel that. To feel that would make me also feel ungrateful for what I do have. Being here on this piece of land is everything I ever wanted. Looking out my window and seeing snow and horses and trees? How can I not appreciate that?

That fact is that I do. I do truly appreciate that. It’s just that right now, what isn’t here is standing out more.

“Small, red, and upright he waited,
……….
while the first snows of winter
floated down on his eyelashes and covered the branches around him and silenced
all trace of the world.” ~ Anne Carson, from Autobiography of Red

I do so wish that there was a way that I could truly compartmentalize everything, but I’ve never been able to do that even though I’ve tried. And right now I’m just past trying to pretend that everything is okay.

View of the small pond from the pasture, by L. Liwag

I mean, every time I think about youngest son, I just want to cry. I really want to understand the state of my relationship with him, but I don’t. I want to call him, but I can’t. I cannot contact him until he is ready, and you cannot imagine the pain that causes me. And then eldest son has been removed for years, yet I crave to hear his voice, see his goofy smile, hear his stupid jokes.

I cannot even attempt to discuss the lack of Olivia for Christmas as it’s too acute, and I cannot imagine how Alexis is handling it this year, being so far away from her for the holidays, connected only by phone and texts. And of course, there is the lack of Alexis, the lack of a family Christmas dinner, all of the stress of preparation and the satisfaction of seeing everyone sitting around the table with their constant chatter. It just hurts too much.

And so I have absolutely not idea as to what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll cave right before Christmas and want to decorate, or maybe I’ll just spend the days reading books and trying not to think about the time of year. Am I ungrateful? No. Yes. I don’t know. Who knows? Certainly not I.

More later. Peace.


Music by Natalie Taylor, “Come to This”


Antilamentation

Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not
the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not
the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.

You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the window.
Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.
Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it. Let’s stop here,
under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.

~ Dorianne Laux

“In the falling quiet there was no sky or earth, only snow lifting in the wind, frosting the window glass, chilling the rooms, deadening and hushing the city.” ~ Truman Capote, from “Miriam”

View of the farm from the back deck
“Boughs of trees adorned with thick pillows,
so fluffy someone must have plumped them up;
the ground a series of humps and mounds,
beneath which slinking underbrush or outcrops of rock lay hidden;” ~ Thomas Mann, from The Magic Mountain

 Sunday afternoon, cloudy and cold, 32 degrees, more snow forecast.

View of the pasture from the front of the house

It began snowing during the night and continued into early afternoon. I estimate about five or six inches on the ground, and the weather is predicting more to come. I am mesmerized by how everything here looks. It is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

In scouring the internet in search of appropriate quotes and a poem for today, I was dismayed to find only the most well known of quotes and poems, you know, Christine Rossetti’s “In the Deep Midwinter,” which I love, but I’ve used before, I’m certain. And I do try very hard not to repeat the poems or songs that I include; although, it’s a bit harder with quotes.

But I thought of Galway Kinnell, one of my favorite poets, and I reasoned that he had to have a poem that fit the mood of this post. I was not wrong, but the poem, which is about his wife, is a bit melancholy, I’ll admit, just so you know.

“Is it snowing where you are? All the world that I see from my tower is draped in white and the flakes are coming down as big as pop-corns. It’s late afternoon – the sun is just setting (a cold yellow colour) behind some colder violet hills, and I am up in my window seat using the last light to write to you.” ~ Jean Webster, from Daddy-Long-Legs

Corey has driven to Dallas’s house to pick up some hay for the horses; although they seem to be grazing just fine beneath the snow. Napoleon and Sassy continue to break out of the pasture, and have taken to coming onto the front porch to get my attention. While Corey wonders how we always manage to have animals with so much personality, I smile inwardly. It does not surprise me at all that the horses have already developed distinct personalities. It just take a little conversation, a little attention, a little love.

Tillie in the snow in her very big coat

Animals are not dumb. People are.

I put the coats on the dogs before they ventured out again. Tillie loved hers, Bailey not so much. Though it looks as if I’m going to have to switch them—the coats, not the dogs. Originally I had bought a bigger coat for Tillie, but hers is too big, and Bailey’s is, well, a bit snug; she was not amused when I told her that she had gotten bigger.

Anyway, while the dogs are enjoying the snow, and the horses seem a bit indifferent, the cats are having none of it. Ash took a quick peek out the front door and immediately turned around and plopped himself back down in front of the wood stove, as if to say, “You must be joking.” Cleo, the other cat, rarely stirs from sleeping 23 hours a day unless it’s to eat or to peer out the back door as if to reassure herself that she is no longer living outside.

Speaking of the wood stove, we really need to buy a bellows for it. It’s not that large, but it puts out a lot of heat once the fire gets going, that being the operational phrase—gets going, as in it takes a lot for that to happen. Corey ends up frustrated daily by the lack of cooperation that he gets from the stove/fire.

“All Heaven and Earth
Flowered white obliterate…
Snow…unceasing snow” ~ Hashin (only known haiku)

When I awoke very early this morning, the flakes that were falling were big drops of fluff, bigger than I’ve seen in quite a while. I had to stop myself from waking Corey so that he could see, as I didn’t think that he’d appreciate it.

View of outbuildings from the kitchen window

Once we finally stirred ourselves hours later, it was still snowing. I noticed that it was almost impossible to make out the top of the ridge as everything was snow covered, and the sky was white, so it appeared as one long white gradient. Sometimes, it’s nice to see the world a little blurry as I do without my glasses and truthfully, sometimes with them; but I do enjoy seeing the lines blurred between nature’s boundaries, earth to sky.

Unfortunately, I know that I need to get my eyes checked again before ordering new glasses. The last time that I was at the eye doctor in Norfolk, she had said that my vision will continue to deteriorate because of the cataracts but that the cataracts weren’t yet bad enough to operate.

A classic catch-22. Aging is fun.

What will also be fun is trying to find an eye surgeon around here that I trust to do the work on both eyes, and with my ill luck in finding just a regular doctor, I’m seriously considering going back to Norfolk at the beginning of the year to get my eyes checked out and to make an appointment for the operation.

“The crisp path through the field in this December snow, in the deep dark, where we trod the buried grass like ghosts on dry toast.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from Quite Early One Morning: Stories

I’m torn between putting on layers of clothes and venturing outside for real, as in past the porches, or taking a nap, or taking a hot bath. For now, I’ll just sit here and write until something changes, I suppose.

A view of the ridge from the front of the house

Last night I had a very strange dream in which there was a lot of movement between two houses, people going back and forth. What is strange about this dream is that the night before, I dreamed that an old friend was supposed to come to dinner, but I had forgotten to tell him that I had moved, so he went to the old house and then had to drive to the new one. It doesn’t take a dream interpretation book to understand the underlying contexts; still, it’s a bit unnerving in that the people who populate these particular dreams are ones I have not seen in many years.

A few nights ago, when I could not sleep, I wrote a poem, something very unlike most of my other poems. It was a take from a news article that I wrote a lifetime ago about the nightlife in Norfolk. For that particular story, I girded myself with an assortment of my male friends, and for several nights ventured into various seedy after-hours establishments around the city, one of which was a strip bar outside Gate 1 of what used to be the Amphibious Base. I use the term strip loosely as Norfolk outlawed stripping years ago, so the women wore bathing suits and/or shorts.

Anyway, the poem that I wrote was about that bar. Again, something from years ago. I truly haven’t the faintest idea why that experience would pop into my head at 2 a.m. or why I would suddenly be possessed to write a poem about it, but it did, and I was.

Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

“In your hands winter
is a book with cloud pages
that snow pearls of love.” ~ Aberjhani,from “Angel of Earth Days and Seasons”

So I suppose the last thing on my mind is this preoccupation we now have with trigger warnings. I mean, I just watched the video for “Drunk Girl,” by Chris Janson, and there was actually a warning about the video’s contents. I just don’t understand.

Looking through the trees straight through to infinity

Look, I absolutely do understand that people have terrible experiences that can come roaring back out of the past without any warning, triggered by an image or a song or whatever. I know that only too well as it happens to me. But country songs are all about love and hurt and heartbreak and the wrong man and the wrong woman and life and . . . And now we have to put warnings on videos that contain no nudity, no violence, nothing of the sort, only an implied abusive relationship?

I read a story in the news a few days ago about how today’s youth wants to be sheltered from so many things, and it isn’t good for them. Okay, so I just used the phrase “today’s youth,” which is really, really weird. Next, I’ll be yelling for people to get off my lawn. But I digress . . .

I suppose it’s a combination of helicopter parenting and that derogatory term of snowflakes to describe young people. But if a person is never exposed to anything that might, just might, maybe, possibly be a bit negative, then how on earth is that individual ever going to grow? Going to develop that invisible exoskeleton with which we armor ourselves in order to deal with life?

We’ve gone from the horrors of forcing children to work 18 hours a day for mere pennies to shielding them from commercials that might have a scary message. I am completely befuddled, but then, that’s not exactly a new thing.

Okay. Time for a hot cup of tea and a bath. All of the images are mine.

More later. Peace.


Music by David Lanz, “Whiter Shade of Pale” (bet you thought it was going to be “Drunk Girl”). I cannot tell you how many times I listened to David Lanz’s CD Cristofori’s Dream while driving through the cemetery on cold winter days.


Two Seasons

I

The stars were wild that summer evening
As on the low lake shore stood you and I
And every time I caught your flashing eye
Or heard your voice discourse on anything
It seemed a star went burning down the sky.

I looked into your heart that dying summer
And found your silent woman’s heart grown wild
Whereupon you turned to me and smiled
Saying you felt afraid but that you were
Weary of being mute and undefiled

II

I spoke to you that last winter morning
Watching the wind smoke snow across the ice
Told of how the beauty of your spirit, flesh,
And smile had made day break at night and spring
Burst beauty in the wasting winter’s place.

You did not answer when I spoke, but stood
As if that wistful part of you, your sorrow,
Were blown about in fitful winds below;
Your eyes replied your worn heart wished it could
Again be white and silent as the snow.

~ Galway Kinnell

“See, the darkness is leaking from the cracks. | I cannot contain it. I cannot contain my life.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” Second Voice

“Portrait of Ted Hughes” by Sylvia Plath*
“There is an emptiness.
I am so vulnerable suddenly. ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” Third Voice

It’s been almost two years since my life was upended into total chaos. Two years since my idea of normalcy faded into a new normal that is anything but. Two years since I felt like my life and those within it might be moving back into some semblance of everyday existence.

I was so very wrong.

“Boats off Rock Harbour, Cape Cod”

Any approach to normalcy that we may have been nearing exploded into shards of glass in one afternoon, and there was no chance of normalcy after that. Not one second passes when I don’t ask myself what if . . . what if I had done this or hadn’t done that . . . what if I had never, or if only I had . . .

“What if” is a phrase that will kill you, you know. My ability to blame myself for everything is a long-standing state of being, as long-standing as my love affair with guilt. I honestly don’t know where it all started, if I was just a child and felt such profound guilt that my parents’ marriage wasn’t the storybook kind, that somehow it was my fault. Kids take on a lot more guilt than adults give them credit for. But it started long ago, and it has never abated, this consuming sense that I am the one who could have prevented this or that tragedy, that I am the one who should have seen the signs before this or that happened.

It’s pretty frigging arrogant, right? This sense of omnipotence and omniscience with which I feel I should be imbued. Only children are great at seeming arrogance. It hides their insecurities well.

“I have had my chances. I have tried and tried.
I have stitched life into me like a rare organ,
And walked carefully, precariously, like something rare.
I have tried not to think too hard. I have tried to be natural. ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” Second Voice

If left alone with my thoughts for too long, I inevitably begin a deep dive. It matters not how well I know exactly where I will land nor how badly I will fall. That never even factors into it. The truth is that I really have very little control over these dives.

“Citronnade Stand in Tuileries”

My mother never understood this, nor did my first husband. They were both of the school of think happy thoughts to fix whatever ails you. He saw my depressions as self-absorbed; she saw them as completely perplexing. What did I have to be depressed about? What, indeed. I lived in a nice house in a nice suburb. I had friends, family, seeming popularity in school. I could go on and on, but it doesn’t really matter.

Ask a person suffering from debilitating depression why, and the chances are very good that they cannot answer you; just as if you begin to list for them all of the things for which they should be grateful and happy, you will only push them farther down. Trust me. We know what we should be grateful for, but we can negate your list and add 50 more things before you take a breath.

“What is it I miss?
Shall I ever find it, whatever it is? ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” Third Voice

The irony of the moment is that I am not within the full throes of a debilitating depression; rather, it’s just more of a commonplace, ordinary depression. You know, a run of the mill kind of thing in which no one specific thing is wrong. Nothing has really happened. It’s just there. On the fringes, as it were.

“Cambridge: A view of gables and chimney-pots”

So how do I know that the deeper fall is incipient? How do I know that night will be followed by day, and so on? Years of experience, my dear. Years. For instance, there was that song that came up in my YouTube playlist, the one that made me teary-eyed, and then there was that thing that reminded me of that time, and the smell that hearkened back to that day.

I cannot explain it to you. It’s like trying to catch rain in a colander. You can’t, and we’ll both end up wet. (The glibness is affected, and it hurts my heart, yet I provide it for you, don’t you see?) Shall I call you listener, or reader, or friend? No? Should you call me wanderer, sojourner or wayward one? Perhaps.

“The voices of loneliness, the voices of sorrow
Lap at my back ineluctably. ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” First Voice

It’s strange, you see, in that the way I feel about my life at the moment hearkens back so clearly to exactly how I felt after I lost Caitlin. Then, I had no control over anything, no power to make anything better or right or good. Now, it is the same, but not. This time, the losses are not from death, but they feel as if they are. They feel just as permanent, and sometimes I feel as if I have been rent, from stem to stern, as it were, and there is no clear path to healing.

I could pause here and say, “oh, don’t listen to me. I’ll be fine in the morning.” And there is a distinct possibility that it may be so. And there is also a possibility that it may not be so. It all depends on how far my mind races with these thoughts before I am able to call a halt, if I am able to call a halt, that is. I keep thinking that I could have fixed all of this, that I could have done something to make everyone  and everything okay in the end.

“Tabac Opposite Palais de Justice”

Isn’t that what mothers are for? To offer a salve for the hurts? To be the one that brings everyone back together after a rift? If not for that, then what? That’s a real question, dear reader. I don’t know what my role as mother means, any more. I realize that there are all kinds of mothers out there, and plenty of them are perfectly happy not to have constant contact with their offspring. Everyone moves along on their individual life trails, rarely crossing or interacting. Weird.

What you have to understand is that I was raised in a household with a decidedly Filipino approach to family, in spite of my North Carolinian mother. In a Filipino household, generations live together, and there are often cousins, too, first, second, no matter. The terms uncle and aunt do not necessitate blood kin. They are honorifics. The point is that children are rarely very far away from their parents in these kinds of households. It’s completely alien to me, and it’s also another source of pain: to realize that if either of my parents were still alive that this state of affairs would absolutely kill them.

Perfect. Now I’ve added the parental guilt (mine for them, not theirs for me) to this particular dive.

“I am calm. I am calm. It is the calm before something awful:
The yellow minute before the wind walks, when the leaves
Turn up their hands, their pallors. It is so quiet here. ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” First Voice

I deliberately left the last parts of this post unfinished last night, thinking that if I came back to it later, that I would no longer feel the need to finish, that I would be calmer, more fixed. I am neither, and the constant thrum of a migraine sits somewhere just behind my eyes; this does not engender any sense of well being, only adds to the unease . . . dis-ease? Disease?

Hmm . . . never approached that word in that way before. Curious.

“Harbor Cornucopia, Wiscosin”

Today is grayer and colder than yesterday when I began, and even though I slept for most of the night with only 3 awakenings (few, for me), I still began the day unsettled, which is how I began this post. Dear reader, whoever you are, wherever you are, I apologize for this self-indulgence. Better are the days in which I skate just along the surface of everything, as it is on those days that I can actually breathe most freely, feel less in order to feel better.

Forgive me for that last bit—it made complete sense in my head. I suppose that my point is that on the days in which I am able to block many of my thoughts, on those days I can find a calming peace in the simplicity of my life now, here, on this land, surrounded by trees, wildlife, and no sounds of traffic or people or cities. But I must admit that when I do finally allow my thoughts to brook my consciousness at some point, I always feel just a tad guilty for trying to shut everything out.

Yes, I know, that makes little to no sense. Alas, alack, as it were.

“Again, this is a death. Is it the air,
The particles of destruction I suck up? Am I a pulse
That wanes and wanes, facing the cold angel?
Is this my lover then? This death, this death?” ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Three Women,” Second Voice

In my attempts to respect the privacy of others, I find that I am frequently talking in a coded language that only I can understand, which tends to defeat the purpose of sharing, does it not? It’s like collecting shells on a beach after a storm: There is always so much detritus at hand, but finding unbroken shells always requires a careful search and much sifting out of the unnecessary.

“The Pleasure of Odds and Ends”

Nevertheless, share I will. I will toss these scattered thoughts out into the ether in the hopes that in so doing, I might be able to purchase a little peace for myself, or if not peace, exactly, at least a few hours in which the widening gyre that Yeats so often spoke of does not continue to spin. Of course, he was alluding to the constant movement of history towards chaos. I speak only of my personal history and my attempts to stop its spinning towards entropy.

Enough. There will be more later. Peace.

*All images are pen and ink drawings by Sylvia Plath, who was originally an art major before switching to English. In 2011, a collection of 44 drawings by the poet went on display at the Mayor Gallery in London. According to an article in The Independent, “the sketches were given to Plath’s daughter, the artist Frieda Hughes, by her poet father and Plath’s former husband Ted Hughes before he died . . .The drawings date from 1955, the year Plath graduated from Smith College, Massachusetts and won a Fulbright scholarship to Newnham College, Cambridge, in England, where she was to meet and marry Hughes. In 2017, the National Portrait Gallery of The Smithsonian Institute hosted a retrospective of Plath’s art and memorabilia.

No poem today as I think that I covered that aspect well enough with all of the Plath quotes.


Music by Larkin Poe, “Mad as a Hatter”

 

 

Monday Maquillage

Coiffure (Oshidori-mage) by Uemura Shoen,1916
“Coiffur (Oshidori-mage),” by Uemura Shoen, (1916, Wikiart)
“A self that goes on changing is a self that goes on living.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from “The Death of the Moth and Other Essays”

Monday afternoon. Sunny and cooler, 46 degrees.

“After the Bath,” by Ito Shinsui (1929, WIkiart)

Today’s post debuts my new category: Monday Maquillage, which will focus on my most recent forays into all things beauty related, like makeup, skincare products, tools, etc. As I had mentioned, I’ve spent roughly the last three years obsessed with all things makeup related, rather than spending time on here writing simply because it was an easier distraction. And if you find it ironic that a self-professed hermit bothers with makeup, you wouldn’t be wrong. I mean, do I wear it for the dogs? No. My spouse? No. Who then, you might wonder . . .

Well, me. I buy makeup and skincare items for me—because I like to, because I enjoy it, and do I really need a reason to have an obsession with makeup brushes and Korean skincare? Not really.

Anyway, I thought that since I’ve been doing so much research in these areas, that I would share some of my finds with you on a semi regular basis, depending on the weather, my whims, and your responses (if there are any). So without further adieu . . .

“Our wounds are often the openings into the best and most beautiful part of us.” ~ David Richo, from The Power of Coincidence

One of my best finds over the last few years is rosehip oil. I know, sounds weird, right? But hear me out. Prior to discovering facial oils, I eschewed anything oil related because my skin has always been oily. To combat that, I used a lot of alcohol based things like toners and cleansers, and I tended to go for anything oil-free, but in spite of this, I always felt like I had an oil slick on my forehead by noon. When I was still working full time, I used to retouch my makeup at lunchtime because most of it had melted by then.

Molivera Rosehip OilThen I read a post by someone that literally changed my entire approach to oil. In this post (sorry, author long forgotten), the woman said that the more we try to combat facial oil with the kinds of products that I had been using for a very long time, the more oil our skin will produce because we’ve stripped all of the natural oils from our skin. To compensate, our skin produces more oil. Makes sense, right?

So if you use oil as a moisturizer or as a cleanser, your skin becomes more balanced. I can testify to this because I no longer have an oil slick on my forehead by noon. The oil that I’ve been using is by Molivera Organics, and it can be found on Amazon, for around $12 for 4 ounces, such a good buy.

“What is my worth, if I cannot be attractive? What is my worth, if I cannot attract attention?  . . . The language of feminism was meant to answer those question by reminding women, and men who live outside the self-prescribed boxes of gender, that your worth is inherent, it arrived when you were born, it stays with you long after you die.” ~ Chinwe Ohanele, from “Afromentality-Shame”
“In the Bath,” by Torii Kotondo (1929, Wikiart)

In a related vein, another product that has become a staple in my skincare regimen is a toner, specifically Thayers Alcohol-Free Toner, in Rose Petal with Aloe Vera; a 12 ounce bottle on Amazon costs around $7.60. I say around when quoting Amazon prices because prices go up and down, and I pay less for some things that I have on my subscription with them.

This toner contains witch hazel, to which some people may be sensitive, but I find that it does wonderful things for my skin. I use this immediately after washing my face in the morning and before using my essence.

The essence is part of my Korean skincare routine, which I’ll save for a later post as it’s pretty involved. But let me just say that my skin looks better now than it did when I was 20 or even 30. Yes, I know that part of that is because of my good genes, but another large part of it is that I now know more about my skin than I did in my youth. Trust me, you are never too old to incorporate a good skincare regimen into your days and nights.

“There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.” ~ Edgar Allan Poe, from “Ligeia”

Let me just pause here to say that I never thought that I’d be writing about makeup and skincare on this blog, never thought that I’d have a post category called “Monday Maquillage” (French word for makeup). In fact, once I stopped working and went out on disability, I went several years without wearing any makeup at all, and my skincare routine consisted of using facial wipes and washing my face in the shower with a pretty strong exfoliator.

“Before the Mirror,” by Ito Shinsuie (1916, Wikiart)

So what changed? Well, I changed, not fundamentally in my beliefs or my politics, but in my approach to myself. I decided to spend a little more time on self-care, like primping. That, and I discovered subscription boxes, both the bane and boon of my everyday existence.

Man, I really wish that I had thought of selling people monthly subscriptions to makeup, skincare, food, snacks, cigars, wines, socks, whatever . . . It’s such a simple idea that has blossomed into a major business, in part as a response to the public’s desire to do more shopping online as opposed to brick and mortar stores.

Anyway, I began simply, as most people do, with a single, $10 monthly subscription to Ipsy, one of the more popular monthly subs, but then, as with most things in which I find an interest, things spread from there. My love affair with subs is also a post for another time. I just wanted to mention how I got on this whole beauty kick in the first place. In fact, I once tried to convince Corey that if he opened an online store selling nothing but Korean skincare and makeup that he’d rake it in. He didn’t listen to me, and now that market has exploded. Oh well . . .

So that’s about all for today, just two mentions of two very affordable products, and as with most things about which I opine, there will be more later.

Peace.


Music by Sara Bareilles, “She Used to be Mine”


Roses Only

You do not seem to realise that beauty is a liability rather than
   an asset—that in view of the fact that spirit creates form we are justified in supposing
     that you must have brains. For you, a symbol of the unit, stiff and sharp,
   conscious of surpassing by dint of native superiority and liking for everything
self-dependent, anything an

ambitious civilisation might produce: for you, unaided to attempt through sheer
   reserve, to confute presumptions resulting from observation, is idle. You cannot make us
     think you a delightful happen-so. But rose, if you are brilliant, it
   is not because your petals are the without-which-nothing of pre-eminence. You would look, minus
thorns—like a what-is-this, a mere

peculiarity. They are not proof against a worm, the elements, or mildew
   but what about the predatory hand? What is brilliance without co-ordination? Guarding the
infinitesimal pieces of your mind, compelling audience to
   the remark that it is better to be forgotten than to be remembered too violently,
your thorns are the best part of you.

~ Marianne Moore