“—all are mingled, combined, amalgamated in Notre-Dame. This central mother church is, among the ancient churches of Paris, a sort of chimera; it has the head of one, the limbs of another, the haunches of another, something of all.” ~ Victor Hugo
Monday night, clear and cold, 39 degrees.
Rather than a regular post, I feel the need to share some key passages from Victor Hugo’s Notre-Dame de Paris (1831), better known as The Hunchback of Notre Dame.* The burning of this historical masterpiece just breaks my soul, and as news images around the world depict, countless individuals are mourning the loss. The world has lost far too many architectural wonders—to time, but more so, to the ravages of war and genocidal myopia—far too many to list here.
Fans of the Disney movie and/or the novel may be unaware that Hugo originally wrote his book because he was so dismayed by the state of disrepair in which the great cathedral sat in the 1800’s. Hugo wanted to preserve the Gothic architecture he believed was tied so directly to France’s history, rather than see it succumb to renovation or destruction in favor of Baroque buildings. Quasimodo, the hunchback, represents all of the deformities bestowed upon such architecture by subsequent generations, and Hugo bestowed in Quasimodo a pure love for the cathedral and all of its many statuary: “the cathedral was not only society for him, but the universe, and all nature beside.”
Hugo and his endearing creation helped to lead to the massive 1844 restoration of Notre-Dame. The following passages are taken from Chapter 1 of the third book:
The church of Notre-Dame de Paris is still no doubt, a majestic and sublime edifice. But, beautiful as it has been preserved in growing old, it is difficult not to sigh, not to wax indignant, before the numberless degradations and mutilations which time and men have both caused the venerable monument to suffer, without respect for Charlemagne, who laid its first stone, or for Philip Augustus, who laid the last.
On the face of this aged queen of our cathedrals, by the side of a wrinkle, one always finds a scar. Tempus edax, homo edacior; which I should be glad to translate thus: Time is a devourer; man, more so.
If we had leisure to examine with the reader, one by one, the diverse traces of destruction imprinted upon the old church, time’s share would be the least, the share of men the most . . .
. . . the tranquil grandeur of the whole; a vast symphony in stone, so to speak; the colossal work of one man and one people, all together one and complex, like the Iliads and the Romanceros, whose sister it is; prodigious product of the grouping together of all the forces of an epoch, upon each stone, one sees the fancy of the workman disciplined by the genius of the artist start forth in a hundred fashions; a sort of human creation, in a word, powerful and fecund as the divine creation of which it seems to have stolen the double character,—variety, eternity.
. . . these hybrid constructions are not the least interesting for the artist, for the antiquarian, for the historian. They make one feel to what a degree architecture is a primitive thing, by demonstrating (what is also demonstrated by the cyclopean vestiges, the pyramids of Egypt, the gigantic Hindoo pagodas) that the greatest products of architecture are less the works of individuals than of society; rather the offspring of a nation’s effort, than the inspired flash of a man of genius; the deposit left by a whole people; the heaps accumulated by centuries; the residue of successive evaporations of human society,—in a word, species of formations. Each wave of time contributes its alluvium, each race deposits its layer on the monument, each individual brings his stone. Thus do the beavers, thus do the bees, thus do men. The great symbol of architecture, Babel, is a hive.
Great edifices, like great mountains, are the work of centuries. Art often undergoes a transformation while they are pending, pendent opera interrupta; they proceed quietly in accordance with the transformed art. The new art takes the monument where it finds it, incrusts itself there, assimilates it to itself, develops it according to its fancy, and finishes it if it can. The thing is accomplished without trouble, without effort, without reaction,—following a natural and tranquil law. It is a graft which shoots up, a sap which circulates, a vegetation which starts forth anew. Certainly there is matter here for many large volumes, and often the universal history of humanity in the successive engrafting of many arts at many levels, upon the same monument. The man, the artist, the individual, is effaced in these great masses, which lack the name of their author; human intelligence is there summed up and totalized. Time is the architect, the nation is the builder.
. . . architecture does what she pleases. Statues, stained glass, rose windows, arabesques, denticulations, capitals, bas-reliefs,—she combines all these imaginings according to the arrangement which best suits her. Hence, the prodigious exterior variety of these edifices, at whose foundation dwells so much order and unity. The trunk of a tree is immovable; the foliage is capricious.
*You can find an online copy of the complete novel here, thanks to Project Gutenberg.
Music by Gabriel Fauré, “Pie Jesu Requiem, Op. 48”
Sunday afternoon, cold and very rainy, 43 degrees.
I’ve been saving this particular passage for a Sunday afternoon post. Just seemed fitting. I have always wanted to see the ruins at Angkor Wat, as well as the ruins of Petra and the ruins of Masada. Archeology was one of the fields I was seriously considering, that and marine biology. It never occurred to me that I could study something besides English and still write. So short-sighted of me.
Well . . maybe someday.
We go into the darkness, we seek initiation, in order to know directly how the roots of all beings are tied together: how we are related to all things, how this relationship expresses itself in terms of interdependence, and finally how all phenomena abide within one another. Yes, the roots of all living things are tied together. Deep in the ground of being, they tangle and embrace. This understanding is expressed in the term nonduality. If we look deeply, we find that we do not have a separate self-identity, a self that does not include sun and wind, earth and water, creatures and plants, and one another. We cannot exist without the presence and support of the interconnecting circles of creation—the geosphere, the biosphere, the hydrosphere, the atmosphere, and the sphere of our sun.
~ Joan Halifax from The Fruitful Darkness: A Journey Through Buddhist Practice and Tribal Wisdom
Music by Trevor Hall, “The Fruitful Darkness”*
*If you want to learn more about why Hall named his album after Joan Halifax’s book, you can go here.
Zazen on Ching-t’ing Mountain
The birds have vanished down the sky.
Now the last cloud drains away.
We sit together, the mountain and me,
until only the mountain remains.
“my dry spell the thing I don’t talk about with anyone.
My desperation: first of many. Hollow, or hollowed, depending on where you stand;” ~ Jesse Rice-Evans, from “The Self as Liminal, Endless”
Sunday afternoon, overcast and cold, 43 degrees.
I’ve spent the past few days trying to figure out why I cannot put words down here. It’s disconcerting and weird. But I have landed on one possible reason: I set myself up.
Yes. Exactly that. Let me explain: I find these beautiful passages in my meanderings around the ether, mostly on tumblr. I group them by themes, creating drafts for possible future posts, and then I sit down to write, and nothing that I think I can say seems to be worthy of the words of others. Actually, I think that probably the reason for many instances of writer’s block for me, and possibly others—the writer doesn’t feel worthy, doesn’t feel as if she has anything new to say, so what’s the point.
It’s a twisted kind of self-fulfilling prophecy: my words aren’t good enough so I cannot produce the words. The irony is that half of today’s quotes are not from a previously created draft, but from my most recent tumblr visit. I only have about 120 drafts to work through.
“I don’t think any of us can speak frankly about pain until we are no longer enduring it.” ~ Arthur Golden, from Memoirs of a Geisha
Speaking of beautiful words, Golden’s novel about a geisha is one of the best written novels that I’ve ever read. Unfortunately, I fear that my copy ended up in one of those tubs in storage that we lost. The loss of most of my library still pains me. Some of you may view a collection of books as needless, nothing but something to take up space, but books have always, always been my salvation.
I began reading at a very young age, and as an only child, books became my boon companion. Once I started working as a teen, I began to collect hardback books with the money that I earned. That’s how long I’ve been at it. And I had some truly incredible editions, things that have gone out of print. I remember that I had a two-book, oversized collection of all the works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; I love Sherlock Holmes. But now that set, as well as most of the rest of my collection are gone.
I didn’t just put my books in storage bins and forget them. I can say fairly certainly that I’ve read at least 80 percent of my books more than one time. My dream in the old house was always to have built-in bookcases in the living room. That never happened, and now this small house does not have the space for a wall of bookcases, which I suppose it just as well as I no longer own almost a thousand volumes of fiction, poetry, history, and biographies.
“Here is the river, and here is the box, and here are the monsters we put in the box to test our strength against.” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”
My big plans to clean the house have not materialized. You see, Corey left on Friday for Ohio for a visit with his family, which means that I am alone here with the animals. The being alone part is not problematic, as I’ve stated numerous times. The sticking point is that I’m still sick. The cough awakens me in the middle of the night, and my body is just depleted.
So here I sit in the midst off muddy paw prints on the wood floors; add to that the shredded tissues that the pups have dragged out of the waste baskets, and you are left with quite a mess, one that I find quite oppressive. I suppose it’s all just coalescing and pressing down on me, making me feel as if everything is just too much.
And then, mere minutes after Corey made his way down the driveway, the toilet clogged, and for some reason, the good plunger that I had at the old house is missing, and the only thing I have to work with is some bizarre design of a plunger that requires me to use my non-existent upper body strength in order to create the adequate suction. Aren’t you glad I shared that with you?
And then . . . I got in the car with Bailey to take her for a short drive to the mailbox only to find that my vehicle is dead and probably needs a new battery. Corey took Tilly with him to give her a special treat (she loves to travel with him), so I’m trying to give Bailey extra attention as she was quite pissed when they left, but the new bag of dog chew is probably in the mailbox, which I cannot get to without hiking a few miles.
Under better circumstances, the mileage would not matter, but as I begin to cough and wheeze moving from the kitchen to the bedroom, it doesn’t bode well for a hike down the mud in the cold.
“She was . . . flame-like and fierily sad. I think she did not know she was sad. But her heart was eaten by some impotence in her life.” ~ D. H. Lawrence, from Twilight in Italy: The Lemon Gardens
Among the positives (because, yes, there are definitely still positives), we’ve finally had some clear nights again, and the night sky is breathtaking. One night as I stood on the porch just admiring the view, the stars seemed to be hanging just above the ridge. One day I’m going to get a good telescope. Brett had one when he was younger, but it wasn’t very good, and you couldn’t really see much from the yard of the old house because of all of the light pollution.
That’s definitely not an issue here. Once we turn off the outside lights when we go to bed, the darkness is so complete that you literally cannot see the top of the driveway. It bothered me when we first got here, but now, it’s fine . . . most of the time.
When I woke up coughing around dawn, I looked out the window that faces the front of the house, and I thought I saw a truck parked in front of the house, not Corey’s pickup, but more like a box truck. Then I put on my glasses and realized that it was actually just a square of pitch black between the porch posts. It was weird.
Of course, if there were anyone or anything out there, the dogs would be spastic, especially Maddy, who still barks at the horses as if they only just appeared in the pasture. I really wish that I had taken her from Dallas sooner because she is a bugger to train; even a simple command like “sit” seems to just fly over her head. I won’t even get into Dallas’s beliefs about training dogs except to say that it’s pretty much non-existent except for making them bark like crazy . . .
“One winter I lived north, alone and effortless, dreaming myself into the past. Perhaps, I thought, words could replenish privacy.” ~ Jennifer Chang, from “The World”
I am making an effort not to spend hours on tumblr as I used to when it first came around. My logic is that I need to put the effort here, not there. It is a rather addicting site, though. I mean, there’s so much there. Predictably, I follow people who post quotes from poems and other literature, as well as photography, art, and some architecture, but there are sites that are nothing but memes, or comics, or old firearms, or artistic porn (well, maybe not any more since tumbler instituted puritanical restrictions), etc. ad nauseam
I find it to be quite a good source to jump-start my thought processes, and after perusing my dashboard, which is where the posts appear, my brain seems to be more primed to do something, anything; unfortunately, for the past two (four?) days, that something has been nothing more than playing spider solitaire.
This morning, I deliberately did not open tumblr or spider solitaire; it’s just too easy, and I’m tired of doing easy. Well, I’m tired—that part is true. Seriously, though, I’m fed up with doing nothing. I’m so ready for warmer weather so that I can work on the kitchen cabinets and all of the other projects that have been set aside for winter. But I’m also fed up with myself, fed up with being sick (I really hate to be so sick that I’m incapacitated), fed up with doing nothing.
I keep remembering how I used to clean the entire house, top to bottom, every Saturday morning of my life from the time I was about 10. I enjoyed it—truly. It was the whole thing of being able to get immediate tangible results that I could see as soon as I had finished.
Tangible results aren’t as apparent when you write for yourself, at least not when it feels forced, but you see, I have to take my own advice, the advice that I used to give my students: If you can think of nothing to say, write “I can think of nothing to say, repeatedly, until you do think of nothing to say.” It was an exercise that I started every writing class that I taught, and it almost always produced results.
Okay, so I haven’t written that phrase over and over, but I’m trying to apply the principle: just writing whatever pops into my head in the hopes that I might actually create something more than fodder.
So maybe not so much today, as in more than fodder, but hey, I tried, which is more than I can say about the last few weeks. Anyway, that’s the latest.
More later, in the hopes that the words will flow better. Peace.
Music by Shells, “Jagwar” (discovered this on The Magicians, my current favorite show)
a selection from “Snow and Dirty Rain”
If this isn’t a kingdom then I don’t know what is.
So how would you catalog it? Dawn in the fields?
Snow and dirty rain? Light brought in in buckets?
I was trying to describe the kingdom, but the letters
kept smudging as I wrote them: the hunter’s heart,
the hunter’s mouth, the trees and the trees and the
space between the trees, swimming in gold. The words
frozen. The creatures frozen. The plum sauce
leaking out of the bag. Explaining will get us nowhere.
I was away, I don’t know where, lying on the floor,
pretending I was dead. I wanted to hurt you
but the victory is that I could not stomach it. We have
swallowed him up, they said. It’s beautiful. It really is.
I had a dream about you. We were in the gold room
where everyone finally gets what they want.
You said Tell me about your books, your visions made
of flesh and light and I said This is the Moon. This is
the Sun. Let me name the stars for you. Let me take you
there. The splash of my tongue melting you like a sugar
cube… We were in the gold room where everyone
finally gets what they want, so I said What do you
want, sweetheart? and you said Kiss me. Here I am
leaving you clues. I am singing now while Rome
burns. We are all just trying to be holy. My applejack,
my silent night, just mash your lips against me.
We are all going forward. None of us are going back.
“Let the light and the winds colour and cleanse my blood.” ~ Gabriela Mistral, from “Quietness”
Wednesday afternoon, overcast, 48 degrees.
Hello out there in the ether. Hope today finds you well. Yesterday I completely forgot that it was Tuesday, which meant that I had a Two for Tuesday post all ready to go. That’s how much my mind is in disarray: I have to look at my phone to see what day it is. Does anyone else have that problem?
I usually begin my day here with a little organizing, trying to figure out what I have to say, thinking about accompanying images and songs, and then I usually watch a few YouTube videos that I subscribe to—Tati (beauty guru), Alexandria (unboxings and try ons), and then maybe someone else. It’s a distraction, and when I’m finished, I feel as if I’ve cleaned my palette, and I’m ready to go with the words.
For a short minute I thought about starting a YouTube channel, but man, people on there are vicious in their commentaries. One wrong word, and your channel explodes. I just don’t have either the patience or the thick skin for that, so I won’t be putting myself out there for that anytime soon.
“I never get tired of watching this, As the mists seem to move, then not move. They don’t, of course, but merely disappear. ……………………………………………………….Perhaps that’s why I like it.” ~ Charles Wright, from Littlefoot: “25”
A few mornings ago (maybe even yesterday?), the fog rolled in very quickly and lay within the trees at the back of the house like one of those old cotton Christmas tree skirts everyone used to use once upon a time. It was so fast, and by the time I thought about taking some pictures, it was gone; hence the Flickr Creative Commons pix of fog. I thought I’d try to get a variety of locations.
Fog has always fascinated me, ever since I was a young child in England. I’m certain that I’ve written about this before, but I still have vivid memories of being caught out in the fog in London and not being able to see anything. It was a different kind of fog—very, very thick and impenetrable. I remember a man walking in front of the buses with a lantern on a ladder to guide the driver.
I have no idea if they still get fog like that. I mean it was a long time ago, and even if they do, I’m sure that no longer use lanterns on ladders. But the first time that mom and I were out in that, it was pretty scary. I, obviously, had never seen anything like it, but then to realize that my mother was as scared as I was—something like that can really unnerve a child.
We were still living in the old house outside of London at the time, the house with the haunted bedroom. Man, if only I could remember where that was. I have absolutely no idea, and I’ve never found anything of mom’s that had that address on it.
“I really love fog. It hides you from the world and the world from you. You feel that everything has changed, and nothing is what it seemed to be. No one can find or touch you anymore.” ~ Eugene O’Neill, from Long Day’s Journey Into Night
I’ve driven through some really terrible fog more than a few times, but it doesn’t bother me. I find fog oddly comforting and beautiful. Living near the Chesapeake Bay, we could get some thick fog rolling in across the bay; of course, I wasn’t on the water at the time. I would imagine that people who work on the water as Corey used to do not find fog at all comforting.
It’s just that in heavy fog, sound changes. It can become completely muffled, and then light seems to disappear. I’ve always imagined having a scene in a book in which someone who is lost in a thick fog comes face to face with the killer. Yes, my mind does go to places like that, frequently, actually. I’m always mulling over plots for mysteries. The problem is that the mulling never moves beyond that.
It makes me wonder if I’m just a dilettante: someone who likes to know a little bit about a lot of things without ever specializing in any of them, and perhaps in a way, I am. I’m a curmudgeonly dilettante who loves words. What to make of that? Hmm . . .
Things that make you go hmm…………
“The light is flat and hard and almost nonexistent, The way our lives appear to us, ……………………………………………..then don’t, as our inlook shifts.” ~ Charles Wright, from Littlefoot: “25”
I suppose that’s enough about the fog, but it’s such a wonderful image, and metaphor, and memory, actually. It’s taken me several years since my mother’s death to begin to remember more. Our relationship was so fractured that I think I tried very hard not to think about her in the immediate months following her death. But now, with some distance, I can begin to sort through the memories better.
One of the sad things, though, is that I know without a doubt that my mom was happiest in England. It seems like everything after that was just a disappointment for her, her marriage, her location, her family, everything. And I only realized too late that it would have been such a simple thing for me to offer to go back to London with her for a visit, but I never did. It never even occurred to me to do that, and now I cannot.
And so the memories of the two of us exploring every inch of London and the surrounding environs are more immediate, as it were.
It’s hard for me to think of my relationship with my mother as a whole. I’ll give you a classic example of how it was with us: My cousin once told me that my mother talked about me all of the time, and he could tell that she was proud of me. This caught me completely off guard. I never would have believed it if he hadn’t said it as I can remember exactly one time as a teenager or adult that my mother told me that she was proud of me.
Perhaps she said it as a matter of course when I was a child, because I was very much as Alexis was as a child: everything you could want in a daughter—smart, polite, attentive, hard-working, focused. Perhaps when I hit puberty, I became a foreigner to my mother, much as Alexis did to me when she entered high school.
Perhaps. Who knows? Certainly not I.
“Gloom is literally atmospheric, climate as much as impression . . . Gloom is more climatological than psychological, the stuff of dim, hazy, overcast skies, of ruins and overgrown tombs, of a misty, lethargic fog.” ~ Eugene Thacker, Cosmic Pessimism
As these things are want to do, I have said much more than I had planned to say. The genesis was the fog, and then the floodgates opened. And truthfully, I’m not in the best place emotionally or mentally for open floodgates. I’ve spent the last two days in my pajamas, and when I looked in the mirror last night, I had to admit to myself that I just plain looked rough.
It’s been a rough kind of week. Tink isn’t out of the woods yet, and it’s hard for either of us to concentrate on much else, but I decided today to make an effort, you know, bath, put on clean clothes, maybe some lipstick, try to write, do more than just stare blankly at the screen. And so this is that effort.
Anyway, because it’s on my mind as well, I am reminded of a line from Charles Wright’s Littlefoot: “I live here accompanied by clouds.” There are so many clouds here, and I don’t yet know if that’s a year-round thing, or just fall and winter. My father would have hated that part. I’m fairly certain that he had Seasonal Affected Disorder; as the months became colder and light began to fade, his depression would worsen.
I can relate. I know that my own temperament is greatly affected by the weather. Take today, for instance: no sunlight anywhere, nothing dappling on the leaves on the trees. Just grey clouds, and clouds aren’t the same as fog. Grey clouds—unlike fluffy white clouds shaped like animals—are just, well, there, making everything look cold and grey and yes, gloomy.
So enough of that.
More later. Peace.
Music by Paloma Faith (loving her these days), “Only Love Can Hurt Like This”
Missing the Dead
I miss the old scrawl on the viaduct,
the crazily dancing letters: BIRD LIVES.
It’s gone now, the wall as clean as forgetting.
I go home and put on a record: Charlie Parker Live at the Blue Note.
Each time I play it, months or years apart,
the music emerges more luminous;
I never listened so well before.
I wish my parents had been musicians
and left me themselves transformed into sound,
or that I could believe in the stars
as the radiant bodies of the dead.
Then I could stand in the dark, pointing out
my mother and father to all
who did not know them, how they shimmer,
how they keep getting brighter
as we keep moving toward each other.
“In a real sense it is certainly true that a pilot in our special aerial attack force is, as a friend of mine has said . . . nothing more than that part of the machine which holds the plane’s controls—endowed with no personal qualities, no emotions, certainly with no rationality—simply just an iron filament tucked inside a magnet itself designed to be sucked into an enemy air-craft carrier.” ~ Capt. Ryoji Uehara, from “My Thoughts”
Sunday afternoon. Rainy again, 37 degrees.
A new horse showed up in our yard last night, not another present from Dallas, but one from down the ridge. There’s a guy who owns several horses that are always out in the road foraging for food. They all look emaciated every time that I see them, and quite obviously, it bothers the crap out of me, so I have no problem with this errant horse hanging out with us for a few days until its owner comes looking for it. I mean, it’s not like we can put her in the back of the truck and take her home, now is it?
Anyway, two days until Christmas. No, I never put up the tree or decorated a darned thing. No, I haven’t wrapped anything. No, I haven’t addressed cards. I really don’t want to talk about it.
In that vein, I’ve done something different for today’s post. I’m sharing with you something I’ve been reading lately, besides the entire Harry Potter collection.
Recently, I’ve come across several letters from Japanese Kamikaze pilots, letters written to parents, loved ones, on the eve of their suicide missions. The term Kamikaze means “divine wind,” and the pilots in their mostly one-way planes with a bomb on one side and a fuel tank on the other were supposed to be the divine wind that blew away Japan’s enemy from its shores, much like the typhoon that felled the Mongolian invaders in the 13th century, which is where the term originates.
Many of these pilots were very young men who had been conscripted into the military, especially after Japan did away with the exemption for men in college. History tells us that long before 9/11 and Al Qaeda, about 2,800 kamikaze pilots sank dozens of allied ships, damaged hundreds more and killed 4,900 American sailors between 1943-44. Contrary to popular belief, the Japanese pilots who attacked Pearl Harbor were not officially Kamikaze pilots; however, some had vowed to crash rather than surrender or be captured. The use of the Kamikaze did not become the official strategy of the Japanese until 1943.
“When I am in a plane perhaps I am nothing more than just a piece of the machine, but as soon as I am on the ground again I find that I am a complete human being after all, complete with human emotions—and passions too.” ~ Capt. Ryoji Uehara, from “My Thoughts”
In 2015, the city of Minamikyushu, Japan sought for a second time to gain UNESCO World Heritage status like that for Anne Frank’s Diary for hundreds of these letters. According to Mayor Kampei Shimoide, the bid was not to “praise, glorify or justify the kamikaze mission,” but to “help to promote peace by highlighting the horror of war.” However, the bid has not been without its critics, especially China, who claim that the move would “beautify” Japan’s aggression.
My interest, however, has been in the letters and poems themselves, and the men who penned them. The Japanese have a centuries-old tradition called jisei, which is the creation of a death poem immediately before the moment of death; many of the Kamikaze pilots adopted this tradition before their flights.
Years ago I wrote a poem about bushido, which might seem weird for the daughter of a Filipino veteran who suffered at the hands of the Japanese. I’ve never quite understood my fascination with the Japanese other than the feeling that I might have been one in another life. Don’t laugh.
Anyway . . . One of the most famous of these attack pilot writers was Captain Ryoji Uehara, who wrote several letters, one of which was sent to his parents via military censors. This particular letter mentions his deceased brother, who was killed in the war, and attempts to express his acceptance of death:
At this point, therefore, I gladly give up my life for Japan’s liberty and independence.
While the rise and fall of one’s nation is indeed a matter of immense importance for any human being, the same shift dwindles to relative insignificance when and if that same human being places it within the context of the universe as a whole.
To read the complete letter to his parents, go here.
“. . . Tomorrow one believer in liberty and liberalism will leave this world behind. His withdrawing figure may have a lonely look about it, but I assure you that his heart is filled with contentment.” ~ Capt. Ryoji Uehara, from “My Thoughts”
Capt. Uehara also wrote a letter called “My Thoughts,” which is a beautiful reflection by a young man who is about to face death, and in it the more traditional Japanese outlook about serving the fatherland is replaced by an impassioned philosophical tone. Uehara passed this letter on to a public affairs officer who kept the letter secret until after the war. Many families who had received letters and cards from sons destroyed them because of a rumor that the US would punish anyone related to the attack forces. Fortunately, the Uehara letter survived:
I believe that the ultimate triumph of liberty is altogether obvious . . . I believe along with him [Italian philosopher Benedetto Croce] that this is a simple fact, a fact so certain that liberty must of necessity continue its underground life even when it appears, on the surface, to be suppressed—it will always win through in the end.
It is equally inevitable that an authoritarian and totalitarian nation, however much it may flourish temporarily, will eventually be defeated . . . we see that all the authoritarian nations are now falling down one by one, exactly like buildings with faulty foundations. All these developments only serve to reveal all over again the universality of the truth that history has so often proven in the past: men’s great love of liberty will live on into the future and into eternity itself.
To see this complete letter, go here. To see a much larger collection of letters and writings from pilots, go here.
Uehara was a student at Keio University, one of Japan’s most prestigious schools, in December 1943 when he was conscripted into the Imperial Japanese Army. He was killed during the Battle of Okinawa, May 11, 1945. He was only 22 years old. Among his personal effects was a book on philosophy by Croce, in the cover of which he had written:
Goodbye, my beloved Kyoko-chan. I loved you so much; but even then you were already engaged, so it was very painful for me. Thinking only of your happiness, I suppressed the urge to whisper into your ear. That I loved you. I love you still.
More later. Peace.
I do not have a last letter. I do not have a will.
I believe in the permanence of Shinshū.*
I will push forward as my duty.
I live for an eternal cause.
Blossoms on cherry tree
Left to wind
Not looking back
~ Flight Petty Officer Tsutomu Fujimura (Trans. Bill Gordon)
“You could rattle the stars . . . You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.” ~ Sarah J. Maas, from Throne of Glass
Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and 44 degrees.
Another cloudy day on the ridge. This morning, both Sassy and Napoleon were outside the pasture and the top of the driveway. I wonder where they thought they were going . . .
I’ve been doing some clean up on my blog, looking at drafts that I’ve put together with quotes and poems, and I noticed in my stats that I’ve published 1,859 posts. That’s a lot, isn’t it? Yes, some of those are just Friday leftovers and such, but for the most part, it’s all my writing crammed in between quotes and images, with the average word count being around 1800 words. If you deduct about 150 for the quotes and about 250 for the average length of poems, that still means that I’ve rambled on for about 1400 words.
I hadn’t realized that I was so verbose; actually, that’s just not true. I know that I’m verbose. All. The. Time. I remember when I had been into this blog for about half a year that I posted an explanation that my posts are actually blongs, or long blogs. It appears that not much has changed on that front—I’d be surprised if it had.
“Alive, it all returns to the mind, Unattainable now time has passed; Like a sharp sure dagger Its memory pierces my breast.” ~ Luis Cernuda, from “Native Land”
I’m trying to post every day, but obviously I’m not quite there yet. Part of me feels guilty sitting here for hours at this keyboard while there is still so much to do. I suppose that I’m resigned that there will be no Christmas decorations this year. It doesn’t happen if I don’t do it, and I truly don’t think that I can, at least not this year. I’ve never not had at least a tree. I remember one time in England that my mom put up one of those small silver trees on a table; they probably don’t make those any more. I still have wonderful memories of Christmas in London: Everything in the city was decorated and lit.
When I was a teenager, I kind of assumed the responsibility for buying a tree and decorating it, back when we still used live trees, until we found out that the tree was directly affecting my mom’s lungs, my lungs, and Brett’s lungs. Of all of us, Brett had the worst asthma; he would get so sick. It was artificial trees after that. But I’ve always tried to have a real wreath on the door so that there would at least be the smell of Christmas when you came to the door. This year, no wreath either. Le sigh.
It was always my responsibility, or rather, I always took on the responsibility for decorating the tree, the house, everything. In my old house, once upon a time I used to also do the outside lights, climbing the branches and wrapping the lights around each one, that is until the trees became too tall. I have always loved climbing trees, that is, until I couldn’t. Once Brett was older, he actually helped with the outside lights. I wonder if he misses that as much as I do.
“Listen: you are not yourself, you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who never lived, as strangers you never met. Rebecca Solnit, from The Faraway Nearby
Corey’s brother is supposed to be here tomorrow evening to go to an auction for some property near here. There’s a house (bigger than this one), garage and some outbuildings on the block; it all used to belong to Dallas’s sister. There’s also a stream that runs next to the property. Steve has been here a few times, and out of all of Corey’s family, he’s the one that seems to like it here the most. I was the one who had actually suggested to Corey that he tell Steve about the property. Ironically, it’s situated on the other side of the ridge from here, but that’s not how you get there unless you’re hiking.
I imagine that his brother is looking at it for an investment for now, but it would be nice if his family had access to it for visits. It’s less remote than here, so his father would feel more comfortable, I think. When we were first talking about buying this, we thought about maybe getting a trailer for visitors since there are only two bedrooms and one bath in this house; it’s perfect for the two of us, but a bit small for more than a few visitors.
I have no idea if Steve will actually bid on the property, but he’s coming to take a look at it and then plans to leave the next day. I’m trying not to stress over his visit, but that’s impossible for me. I always feel such a weight whenever anyone, I mean anyone visits. Even for a few hours. I suppose it comes from years and years of keeping an immaculate house, first at my mom’s and then later in my first house. And now that I don’t clean like that any more because of my back, I always feel as if I don’t want anyone to see my house.
Yes, I know. It’s weird.
“We re-enact the rituals, and our faces, like smoky icons in a certain light, seem to learn nothing but understand all.” ~ Tim Dlugos, from “Pretty Convincing”
Last night I had one of those dreams that stick with you: First, Corey and I were at Nags Head with the dogs, and I walked to the water’s edge to sea how cold it was. The dogs were standing in the surf, and Corey was a few feet out getting ready to throw the ball for Tillie. Then suddenly I was in the backyard of my mother’s house. There was a split tree running the entire length of the back fence, and there was a huge pile of sticks that I thought would have been good for kindling. I told myself to remember to tell Corey.
Then I was inside in my mother’s bedroom with Corey, and I knew that my mom was dead. We were still going through stuff in her closets. Then I heard my father coming down the hall with three of the Yorkies we had when I was younger. He was getting ready to go to his apartment and couldn’t take the dogs with him. (My dad never had an apartment.) But I saw him so clearly and talked to him, heard his voice, and part of me knew that he couldn’t be there if my mother wasn’t also there.
Then there was one more part in which I was in a candy store in Nags Head, and I was looking for a Chik-o-Stik, something I haven’t eaten since I was a kid. There was a man there who was slightly mentally challenged, and he was helping me to find the candy. But he was also upset with me because I had sold my mother’s house and now he had nowhere to live, and I was so upset that I wanted to cry. But I really wonder how that candy stick made its way into my consciousness . . .
I woke up wanting to write. That’s been happening with more frequency.
“Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the present by; the art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, from A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Now that I’m back here and back on tumblr, I’m finding all kinds of new poems that I haven’t read, and it’s stirring something in me. I read one yesterday that actually took my breath away because it was so freaking beautiful, and I thought to myself that it was something that I wished I had written.
I have to admit that I haven’t had that particular feeling in several years. I haven’t felt inspired, and I haven’t felt that I could actually create—sit down and write a real poem. I just don’t know how to describe this particular feeling well enough to relate it to you, dear reader.
It’s like for years there has been this dam in my brain, a thick wall keeping the words from forming and exiting. But not just the words—the actual feeling in my soul that there were particular words within me that I needed to put down on the page, that I needed to place and rearrange and take out and insert until there was something there that meant something, at least to me.
So now, maybe, perhaps, the dam is breaking? I really hope so because I have missed that ritual of creation, creating something beyond here but a companion to here, if that makes any sense. I have missed words, the magic of them, running them through my brain, rolling them on my tongue to see how they sound together. And when it works, it’s like music in my brain and in my soul.
Enough for now. More later. Peace.
Music by Lady Gaga, “Joanne” (forgive me if this is a repeat, but I really love this song)
He lets me listen, when he moves me,
Words are not like other words
He takes me, from under my arms
He plants me, in a distant cloud
And the black rain in my eyes
Falls in torrents, torrents
He carries me with him, he carries me
To an evening of perfumed balconies
And I am like a child in his hands
Like a feather carried by the wind
He carries for me seven moons in his hands
and a bundle of songs
He gives me sun, he gives me summer
and flocks of swallows
He tells me that I am his treasure
And that I am equal to thousands of stars
And that I am treasure, and that I am
more beautiful than he has seen of paintings
He tells me things that make me dizzy
that make me forget the dance and the steps
Words…which overturn my history
which make me a woman…in seconds
He builds castles of fantasies
which I live in…for seconds…
And I return…I return to my table
Nothing with me…
Nothing with me…except words
“But, of course, mermaids were always terrifying. With the exception of the Little Mermaid of the Hans Christian Andersen tradition, they would take your soul. And fairies were never things that people embraced — they were unknowable, dangerous, capricious. They could cause real trouble for you.” ~ Neil Gaiman, on the Royal Mail Mythical Creatures stamps
Sunday late afternoon. Partly cloudy and mild, 55 degrees.
Today sharing Neil Gaiman‘s write-ups for the Royal Mail’s Mythical Creatures stamps, with artwork by Dave McKean. The stamps came out a few years ago, but I thought it was a nice bit of fairy tale magic for the afternoon:
If it were not for the giants, Britain would look very different. In the dawn days they feefifofummed across the land, picking up rocks and throwing them at other giants in friendly rivalry, or alone they would break mountains, crush rocks into causeways, leave henges and stone seats to mark their passing.
The giants were big, but not bright. They were outsmarted by clever boys named Jack and fell from beanstalks or were tricked to death. They died, but not all of them are dead.
The remaining giants sleep, lost in deep slow dreams, covered in earth and trees and wild grass. Some have clouds on their shoulders or long men carved on their sides. We see them from the windows of cars and tell each other that from some angles they look almost like people.
Even giants can only sleep for so long. Do not make too much noise the next time you walk in the hills.
Nobody remembers who sent the first King of Scotland a unicorn. They are long-lived creatures, after all. The Kings of Scotland were proud of owning a unicorn, and left it to run, tangle-maned and alone, across the stark highlands, an ivory flash against the heather.
And then James VI got the news from the south and he sent a maiden into the hills. She sat and waited until it came and placed its head in her lap, then she bridled it with a silver bridle and walked it, skittish and straining, to the King.
The royal procession was made all the more exciting by the presence of the fabulous beast at the head. And then they were in London, and the Tower rose before them.
The unicorn was led into its stall. It scented the animal, caged across the way, and heard it roar before it saw the golden mane, the tawny eyes. The only lion in England was caged in the Tower, beside the only unicorn. The artists placed them on each side of the crown.
Two hundred years later, the unicorn’s horn in the Tower was valued at 20,000 guineas; but now even that is lost to us.
She keeps the souls of the drowned in lobster pots that she finds on the seabed. They sing, the captive souls, and they light her way home beneath the grey Atlantic.
She had sisters once, but long ago they shed their tails and scales and stepped gingerly ashore to live with fishermen in their dry-land cottages. Now she’s lonely, and not even the souls of the dead are company.
Walk the sea’s edge in winter and you may see her, too far away, waving to you. Wave back and she will take you down to her world, deep below the waves, and show you cold wonders, and teach you the songs of the merfolk, and the lonely ways beneath the sea.