“. . . we were just looking at ideas of each other, like looking at your window shade but never looking inside.” ~ John Green, from Paper Towns


“I am not what you see.
I am what time and effort and interaction slowly unveil.” ~ Richelle E. Goodrich, from Slaying Dragons

Thursday afternoon, sunny and beautiful, 74 degrees.

I thought that today’s post should be a Throwback Thursday, as in, do one of those get to know me surveys. I’ve taken one that I found somewhere years ago and  made a few changes. Let me know if you like any questions/answers in particular. I’d love to know some of your responses to any of these questions if you feel like sharing.

Enjoy!


  1. How many pets do you own?
    Such a subjective question. Are horses pets? Goats? Currently, 5 dogs, 2 cats, 2 goats, 2 horses, and there’s a bee that finds me fascinating.
  2. What’s your least favorite season? Favorite season?
    Probably winter, unless it snows. I love snow, but I don’t like to be cold. My favorite season is autumn. February is my worst month.
  3. Most embarrassing moment?
    That time in junior high when I snorted and snot came out of my nose. I wanted to melt into the floor. Why do I still remember that?
  4. Do you believe in reincarnation?
    Yes. I do think we’ve all lived past lives. I’m not certain that I believe in the idea that we keep coming back until we get everything right. I also don’t believe that we’ve all been kings and queens and generals. But I do think that I was a torch singer in a dark bar. Don’t ask me why because I have no explanation.
  5. What do you do to relax at the end of a stressful day?
    Take a long, hot bath with bath salts, staying until the water is cool.
  6. Are you politically active or apathetic?
    Is yelling at the television being politically active? Actually, I have big plans to volunteer in the 2020 election, so yeah, active.
  7. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
    Introvert. I don’t like people, but I love my few friends and family. When I used to go to parties, once upon a time, I would find one person to talk to until I felt comfortable enough to walk around, which didn’t always happen. The odd thing is that I used to be very friendly and chatty and had tons of friends and acquaintances. Perhaps it’s an age thing.
  8. Do you believe in ghosts?
    Yes, I do. I’ve actually had a few weird experiences, but I have no idea if they were paranormal. One in particular involved my aunt’s dog who sat staring and growling at something that I couldn’t see in the corner of the den. This went on for several minutes, and the hairs on his back were raised. Pretty freaky.
  9. What is your favorite thing to drink during the day? In the evenings?
    I try to drink a lot of flavored soda water during the day to make sure that i get my water intake. I gave up Pepsi years ago, but once in a while a really have to have some kind of cola. In the evenings, I have to have my peppermint tea, and once in a while I’ll have wine or cider.
  10. Do you play any instruments?
    I trained as a classical pianist for 14 years. At one time, I really wanted to go to the Boston Conservatory of Music. I also worked on my voice for a few years and had a secret dream of running away and trying to make it on Broadway. Neither thing happened, obviously.
  11. Which do you prefer: numbers or words?
    I love the exactness of numbers, their purity, and I can still do math in my head, but words are my life. Words are life itself. Words encompass every love, every hate, every boon and every misfortune. Without words, we are nothing but empty vessels.
  12. Are you scared of anything?
    I’m terrified of centipedes. Spiders don’t bother me, but centipedes make me shriek out loud. And snakes. How could I forget snakes. Just . . . no . . .
  13. Do you believe in aliens?
    How could I not? With the countless galaxies out there containing countless systems, it would be incredibly arrogant of us to believe that we are the only sentient beings in existence.
  14. What is something you hate?
    I hate racism, fascism, sexism. I cannot abide people who think that they are the only ones who have the right to something based on the color of their skin or their gender or their politics or their religion. There is far too much diversity in this world to be so myopic. In discounting others simply because of their beliefs or their physiology or their spirituality, we only cheat ourselves.
  15. What is something you have given a lot of thought to lately?
    The current state of our democracy. I fear what is happening to this country and its people. Xenophobia is rampant. Our current administration pays no attention to the Constitution or the laws that have ruled this country effectively since its inception. No one is above the law. No one should believe he or she is above the law. Nationalism as it is currently being touted is not synonymous with patriotism, and too fee people realize that.
  16. What do you like to read?
    Depends. I love poetry and history, but I also love science fiction and fantasy. I don’t really believe in the genre Young Adult because, well, Harry Potter, The Hunger Games, and countless others. I’m not a big romance person, but I have read all of the Outlander books. I love mysteries, especially British ones, and I also have rekindled my love for Stephen King, who I gave up after Pet Cemetery because it scared me so much. I’ve also read most of the Walking Dead graphic novels, and I love Neil Gaiman. So I’m all over the place. What I love most is good, engaging writing of any kind. The loss of most of my library a few years ago still really pains me.
  17. Are you currently where you thought you’d be ten years ago?
    Absolutely not. I never thought that my dream of living in the mountains away from most other people would ever become a reality.
  18. Which do you prefer: pie or cake?
    Ooh, this is hard. I love sugar, chocolate, whipped cream . . . but if I had to choose, and I can’t choose Tiramisu, I’d say pie. I still really miss my other mother’s homemade apple pie. It was the best, ever, and I’ve never been able to duplicate it.
  19. Do you have any tattoos? Do you want more?
    Yes, one. I’ve been wanting a few more for several years (a tree, a bird, some words), but I could never justify the expense.
  20. What are you looking forward to?
    In the short term, walking around the property, exploring, finding new trails. In the long term, fixing up the house and doing some major landscaping. In my life, finally finishing and submitting a manuscript, for god’s sake.
  21. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
    This one is hard . . . Aside from where I am right now, I’d love to live on an island or maybe some place like Costa Rica. But I’ve also always wanted to live somewhere in the UK, like Ireland, Wales, or Scotland. That’s been a dream for as long as the mountains.
  22. Are you stronger mentally or physically?
    Um . . . neither? I mean, my physicality is fine, not incredibly strong but not incapacitated. My mind, I suppose, is strong in that I’ve survived some really horrible things, but at the same time, it is fragile. Like I said, this is a really hard one.
  23. Who are you missing right now?
    Caitlin. Brett. My mom. My other mother. My dad. Olivia. Alexis. Eamonn . . . in no particular order. I miss all of them every single second of every single day. I also miss my fluffy boy Shakes.
  24. Do you think you’re a good person?
    I hope so. I try to be. I try very hard to be the kind of person I told my children they should be: honest, honorable, kind, loving. If we cannot strive for this, then what else is there?
  25. Current favorite television show or movie?
    A tie between “The Magicians” and “Game of Thrones.” Although, I have to say that the season finale of “The Magicians” broke my heart so much that I’m still not over it. Quentin . . . Also, I still really love “The Walking Dead.” I miss “Orphan Black.” That was a great show.
  26. Favorite place to go when you are upset?
    Forest Lawn Cemetery in Norfolk. I really miss it. In the past I would drive here whenever I was upset and just drive slowly down the lanes, taking in the incredible lonely beauty.
  27. Do you have any phobias?
    I’m probably a borderline agoraphobic as I really don’t like to leave home. I’ve been this way for quite a while. It takes a lot for anyone to get me to go somewhere. But I’m definitely claustrophobic. I panic in crowds, and cannot stay in a full elevator.
  28. Do you have any hobbies?
    Aside from writing and photography, I used to make journals, collecting images and then pasting them in blank books. I really enjoyed that. This was before the big scrapbook craze, and my therapist told me that I should try to find a way to make money with my books. I told here that I didn’t think that anyone would be interested . . . Wrong again on that one. I also really love karaoke but haven’t been in years.
  29. What is your favorite genre of music?
    Hmm . . . really depends on my mood and/or the circumstance: I love classical music when I play the piano. I love listening to the blues when I’m writing. I love classic rock or reggae on road trips. I love sad country love songs when I’m depressed. I love opera on Sunday afternoon. I love soundtracks when I feel like singing.
  30. Name one thing you wish you could change about your life right now.
    I really, really wish that we could finish getting everything painted and unpacked. The disarray is really getting to me, but I hate to push because Corey has so much to take care of, and there is only so much that my back will allow. I also really wish that I could get back into my writing groove completely; I mean, into a groove in which the words just flow, and I don’t have to think about them so much. And finally, I really, really wish that I would stop selling myself short and just send out my work already. Time is slipping away, and no one is going to do it for me; are they?

That’s all folks!

More later. Peace.


Music by Boygenius, “Souvenir”

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“Of pain you could wish only one thing: that it should stop. Nothing in the world was so bad as physical pain. In the face of pain there are no heroes.” ~ George Orwell, from 1984

One of the Mule Women of Melilla by David Ramos/Getty Images (The Guardian)
“Among the personal objects inside a 2100-year-old Chinese tomb,
archaeologists found nine acupuncture needles,
four gold and five silver.
Long before knowing why,
ancient doctors knew that pain
must be fought with pain” ~ Luljeta Lleshanaku, from “Acupuncture” (Trans. Ani Gjika)

Friday evening, absolutely beautiful day and evening, 60 degrees.

Got the spring cleaning  bug today. Deep cleaned for hours, and now I can’t move. Seriously. My back is spazzing, and I have shooting pains going down my right leg. The back/leg pain hasn’t been this bad in years . . . but my house is getting clean.

Hooray?

In my head, I can relate to those poor women called porteadoras, or mule women, the ones who are paid a pittance to carry heavy bales of goods across the border between the Spanish enclave of Melilla and Morocco for merchants. I cannot even imagine what that must be like.

Anyway, good thing I have an appointment with a pain management doctor in only seven . . . weeks. Yep—weeks. Nothing is ever easy around here. Absolutely  nothing.

More later when I can sit in this chair without cringing.

Peace.


Selections from “Mythologies”

XV.

If you were a painter, you’d paint the wind
Green. It would shake the boughs of the honey locust trees.

It would chase the leaves across the continent.
It would scatter their crumbs in a twist of swirling snow.

It would be colorless and green at the same time,
The wind that aligns the pond and the cloud,

The wind that is everywhere, in constant motion,
As buoyant as Ariel and as scornful of gross Caliban,

The wind that holds up the fly ball, drives it back
Into fair territory, causes it to drift within reach

Of the right-fielder, who waves off the second baseman,
Until a last gust lifts the ball over both their heads

And it lands safely for the double that ends the game
In extra innings, costing our team the pennant.

XIX.

If we were painters we’d favor vibrant stripes,
Primary colors, flat surfaces, a lot of white

Remaining on the canvas. If we were composers
We’d take the music of exotic jungles with us

When we visit the vast vacant tundra. “If I were
Rich enough,” vowed the philanthropist, “I’d move

To a magnolia mansion and spend my days
Translating modern literature into ancient Greek.”

Great plans, distant vistas, a rearguard action
To sabotage the present—and here we’ve all assembled,

At the antiseptic airport, with haunted looks on our faces.
Occasional eye contact between man with tan and woman in white.

“You look like your voice,” she says, breaking the silence.
The rest of us know where we’re going, but we don’t know when.

~ David Lehman


Music by The Corrs, “Everybody Hurts”

“Everything is infected with brightness, throbbing with it, and she prays for dark the way a wanderer lost in the desert prays for water. The world is every bit as barren of darkness as a desert is of water. There is no dark in the shuttered room, no dark behind her eyelids.” ~ Michael Cunningham, from The Hours


My Migraine Brain

Monday evening, cloudy, 55 degrees.

April Fool! I wish . . .

Years ago I created an image that I called “My Migraine Brain.” Of course, that image is on a hard drive somewhere in the house, so I had to resort to google and a little bit of adjustment. Anyway, this is what’s going on with me today. Fiercely. And not in that good way.

“Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are.” ~ Harper Lee, from Go Set a Watchman

Swingset by Nate Lampa (FCC)

“I am tired like the ancients were tired.” ~ Natalie Lyalin, from “Your Brain is Yours”

Saturday afternoon, overcast and warmer, 57 degrees.

So last night was pure hell. Earlier in the evening, Corey spotted a dog that was not ours beneath the swing-set on the side of the house, and then we heard a bunch of howling. He went to investigate, and at the top of the driveway, and he saw several strange dogs roaming around, apparently chasing something.

Anyway, this went on for hours during the night, and each time that the pack would start barking and yelping, Maddy would sit up and begin to bark. It’s really hard to sleep through all that noise. We both had the hardest time getting back to sleep, and consequently, I ended up dreaming that I couldn’t sleep, which is incredibly tiring. I had very strange dreams involving my mother—who has been in my dreams repeatedly lately—a dessert, a gay couple, and Olivia’s toys.

You know the theory that your dreams are your brain’s method of sifting through the day’s detritus? Well apparently my brain was overflowing with many a non sequitur, that is if indeed my dreams are any kind of barometer of such things.

“Let me begin again as a speck
of dust caught in the night winds
sweeping out to sea. Let me begin
this time knowing the world is
salt water and dark clouds, the world
is grinding and sighing all night, and dawn
comes slowly, and changes nothing.” ~ Philip Levine, from “Let Me Begin Again”

Corey has taken all of the dogs for a long walk to the big pond, which leaves the house blissfully quiet, except for my music and the hum of the washing machine. Ever since the first time he took them there, they now head for it anytime he leaves the house; I think that they’re looking for him, but when they don’t find him, they come back. I shouldn’t worry, but I know that there are coyotes here, and the puppies are still puppies, after all.

I know. I know. I worry too much.

When we left the house on Benjamin, I really looked forward to having a house that wasn’t inherently dusty, which that one was; however, as I knew nothing about the soot that wood stoves produce, I was unprepared for the layers and layers of dust that inhabit this house. I suppose as with the mud, I just need to wait for warmer temperatures when the stove isn’t heating the house, and then I can sweep away the dust and cobwebs and start anew.

Of course, I say that now, but who knows how I’ll feel when it is actually spring, and as Corey reminded me this morning, spring is less than two weeks away. My inability to track time seems to be getting worse the older that I get. I’ve always seemed to skip over November and February, but this feels worse, somehow. Don’t ask me how as I truly don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I’m looking forward to warmer temperatures too much that I feel as if once again I’m setting myself up for failure; I mean, I have so many projects that I want to finish. Will I just retreat further inside and get nothing at all accomplished?

Who knows? Certainly not I.

“Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, spilling over its banks. All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That’s it. That’s my heart.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Kafka on the Shore

I wonder how other people do it—live their lives, I mean. I don’t remember a time in my life in which I was not living with my depression. It’s a way of life for me, so I truly wonder how people who do not suffer from this crippling disorder manage to make it through their days. I know that some have religion, and some have drugs, and some have money, but what about the rest of them? Are they floating through their lives as seemingly lost as I have always been?

I know that yesterday I mentioned those two incredibly talented people who I knew in high school, and how their lives turned out so differently than anyone ever thought they would or could. But I mean, come on. I know that there are people out there whose days are not filled with self-doubt. Are they sociopaths? Is that how they move through their days, blissfully unaware of pain and anguish? Or are they so completely satisfied with their lots in life that they just move forward and never look back?

How does it work? How does it work for people unlike me who feel everything too much, so much that eventually we become numb, closed off for protection or fear or both? I think again of concentration camp survivors, most of whom are now dead, but how did they get on with their lives after such unimaginable cruelty was visited upon them? How did they have enough strength and faith to raise families, have careers, kindle friendships? As opposed to their great suffering I feel like an ungrateful peon.

“. . . but as you know any
amount of time is an uncertain one.” ~ Dalton Day (source uncertain)

Corey is back from his walk, and he managed to tire all of the dogs thoroughly. Tink came in, jumped on the couch and was immediately asleep. I envy dogs and cats their abilities to fall asleep so quickly. I don’t think that animals ever have insomnia, or at least, they don’t toss and turn all night thinking about bills and utilities and missteps and failures. It seems their dreams are filled with running and chasing and playing, as anyone who has ever watched a dog run in its sleep can attest.

Actually, I envy anyone who sleeps easily. Corey is only troubled occasionally with insomnia. My first husband could fall asleep easily. I know that in my youth I could sleep anywhere at any time. On a school trip to New York, I fell asleep at a Knicks’ game, which still amazes me. I have fond memories of curling up on Yvonne’s wing back chair, much like a cat, and falling fast asleep.

When each of my children were babies, I used to lay on the big hammock in my in-laws’ backyard with them, and we would sleep companionably under the shade until someone would wake us. I was never so at peace as the moments I spent with my babes in my arms, asleep, inviolable. Life was so different then, seemingly, but probably not. Whenever we look back, our memories are colored by whatever we wish to wash them wish. I’m not so much a fool that I don’t know that to be true.

“Time is not a solid, like wood, but a fluid, like water or the wind. It doesn’t come neatly cut into even-sized length, into decades and centuries. Nevertheless, for our purposes we have to pretend it does. The end of any history is a lie in which we all agree to conspire.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Robber Bride

There are memories that I can snatch at will, and then there are memories that I can only find the edges of, as if I know that something is there, but I can never quite uncloak it completely in order to take it out and examine it. I am reminded of Oriental puzzle boxes, with all of the false drawers and interlocking pieces; once taken apart, they are so hard to piece together properly, that is, until you find the secret. I think that memories are like that—that there is a secret to the ones stored deeply, and only when you come upon the answer are you allowed to touch them again.

I once thought that I would never forget the way that Caitlin smelled or how soft the skin was on her chubby arms, but I was wrong. I can remember neither. I can only remember the memory of what that was like, but I cannot recall the exact smell or the incredible velvet of her skin. Yet there have been times over the years in which something from some unknown place has assailed my senses, and I am once again in that hospital room, holding her close and inhaling deeply the very essence of her in order to imprint it upon my very cells, the core of my being.

The recall of such memories is both a boon and a curse. I want them more than anything, but once they come upon me, the pain is so acute that I want nothing more than to feel nothing again. And the truly sad part—in my mind—is that I find myself doing that now with memories of each of my children, no longer just Caitlin: the early spring afternoon Alexis and I lay in the hammock in my back yard, and she fell asleep in my arms even though she was six; the time that Eamonn asked me so earnestly when he could tell Corey that he loved him; the many, many times that Brett and I lay in my big bed and watched movies together when no one else was home.

It’s all a deep soul pain t hat never abates, mingled with a spark of contentment that can never be replaced.

Pure love. Irreparable loss.

The heart would have it all again, regardless.

More later. Peace.


Music by Rosie Golan, “Been a Long Day”


End of Winter

Over the still world, a bird calls
waking solitary among black boughs.

You wanted to be born; I let you be born.
When has my grief ever gotten
in the way of your pleasure?

Plunging ahead
into the dark and light at the same time
eager for sensation

as though you were some new thing, wanting
to express yourselves

all brilliance, all vivacity

never thinking
this would cost you anything,
never imagining the sound of my voice
as anything but part of you—

you won’t hear it in the other world,
not clearly again,
not in birdcall or human cry,

not the clear sound, only
persistent echoing
in all sound that means good-bye, good-bye—

the one continuous line
that binds us to each other.

~ Louise Glück

 

“Softly, calmly, immensity taps at your life.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “Tree”

Neverland by Hannes Flo, (FCC)

“My life is a crystal teardrop. There are snowflakes falling in the teardrop and little figures trudging around in slow motion. If I were to look into the teardrop for the next million years, I might never find out who the people are, and what they are doing.” ~ Joan Baez, as found in Joan Didion’s “Where the Kissing Never Stops”

Friday afternoon, snow and rain, cold, 39 degrees.

During the night when I was letting the dogs out, I looked out to see snow covering the ground, which was a surprise. The weather forecast did not call for snow, only more rain. Corey and I agree that the weather here is actually quite depressing. I can only hope that as the weather gets warmer that we are finally able to dry out around here. The mud is overwhelming, as is the near constant rain.

So we lost internet Wednesday night, right as I was watching that new documentary on HBO about Michael Jackson, Finding Neverland. It’s actually quite disturbing as it features two men who were childhood victims of abuse at Jackson’s hands. Truthfully, I’m surprised that they were able to make it. I know that Jackson’s estate sues people all of the time. Nevertheless, it’s more than time that these victims were able to tell their stories.

Anyway, I can’t believe the nerve of some companies, wanting to be paid for their services as opposed to offering them for free. I remember reading something sometime ago about how Tesla wanted electricity to be free, and someone who wanted the internet to be free. Such radical ideas: actually giving the public something that they can use as opposed to making a profit.

Hmm……..Things that make you go hmm……

“I hear two sibilants—here silk,
the snowstorm outside. Beating soul
and breathing blood. We both got what
we wanted” ~ Marina Tsvetaeva, from “Playacting” (Trans. Christopher Whyte)

I decided to be proactive for a change, and rather than wait for the internet to become available again, I decided to go ahead and write some posts on Microsoft Word until we can get it restored on Monday. Then I’ll just post and backdate, which I know is cheating, but hey, when you’re me, and you never know what day it is, does it really matter?

So no podcasts for me for a bit, so I’ve been listening to some of my old music playlists. I made the mistake of putting on an old country playlist while I was taking a bath, and boy, some of those songs are just heartbreaking. For example, there was Blaine Larsen’s, “How Do You Get so Lonely,” which is about a boy who commits suicide, and then there was “Alyssa Lies,” which is about child abuse.

Boy, I know how to put together a playlist that makes you want to cut your wrists with a rusty razor blade—that was a Kathleen saying, or maybe it was a Gail saying. Can’t remember. But those two women were big friends of mine once upon a time.

“I’m tired of my life, my clothes, the things I say. I’m hacking away at the surface, as at some kind of gray ice, trying to break through to what is underneath or I am dead. I can feel the surface trembling—it seems ready to give but it never does..” ~ James Salter, from a letter to Robert Phelps (July 6, 1969-70)

Yesterday, I wrote a letter to another long-time friend of mine, the woman who taught me piano for almost eight years. I always looked up to her, and when she got melanoma years ago, I was so afraid that she would succumb to it, but fortunately, she didn’t, and she went on to have a son by a man who later betrayed her big time.

She was such a classy, talented woman, and oddly enough, she’s the one who made me love Bach, who I had always eschewed before she started teaching me. I was intimidated by Bach—too many notes on the page, as it were, but I learned to master his Two-Part Inventions, and went on to the Three-Part Inventions before I stopped.

I really miss playing, but my piano is in terrible shape. I hope that one day I can find a decent used piano to purchase. Corey’s parents had a beautiful piano in their basement that I always coveted, but then his brother threw out the keys that had come loose, and they got rid of the piano. I miss learning new pieces. I mean, I could teach myself, but there is something special about learning from someone who really knows music. God I loved to play the piano, and I was relatively good at it. I wasn’t one of those naturals who can sit down at a keyboard and just play what they hear in their brains, nor could I ever master changing keys on my own.

I went to school with a couple of people like that, incredibly talented both of them. The one who played the cello died of AIDS during the height of the epidemic, and the other, who played any instrument she touched, ended up having a major tragedy in her life that she never recovered from.

“My wound existed before me;
I was born to embody it.” ~ Joë Bousquet, from “Traduit du silence”

Which just proves that no one is immune from life’s travails, regardless of talent, and here I am still, even when I never imagined being this old, never thought that I would make it this far, and I still feel mediocre every single day of my life. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching for months now, trying to figure out why I can’t be happy. Honestly, I still don’t have an answer, and my inability to find one just makes me madder and madder at myself.

Granted, the last few years have been majorly stressful, and that I even made it out in sort of one piece still amazes me. I remember years ago, after I lost Caitlin, and I went to that first psychiatrist (who I loathed), and he told me that losing a child is ranked as the second or third biggest stressor in life, with being in a concentration camp ranking as first. How did people even survive that when they were finally liberated? How did they not hate everyone and everything?

Anyway, I had a point, which was that other life stressors include moving, starting a new job, and getting married. I got married (the first time), moved to Blacksburg, and started graduate school and teaching composition all within two weeks of each other.
I supposed I’ve never been one to do things half way. It’s all or nothing. Or maybe, it’s everything or nothing. Who knows.

“All I can hear now is the sound of my own heart, opening and closing, opening and closing, opening.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Handmaid’s Tale

But getting back to the idea of being happy: I know that only I can control my happiness. I’m not naïve enough to think that someone else can make me happy. No matter how much Corey loves and cares for me, he cannot control what is inside of me, nor does he try to.

There is such a feeling of deep regret within me, regret, and guilt, and a sense of being incredibly ungrateful.

Let me explain: I have wanted to live in the mountains, on my own property, for as long as I can remember, ever since the first time I drove into Blacksburg to visit Paul. I knew in that instant that my soul belonged in the mountains. So here I am, surrounded by everything I ever wanted, land, an incredible vista, animals, yet somehow, it’s not enough.

No. Let me back that up. It’s not that it’s not enough; it’s that there is such a large hole in my heart that I’m having a hard time allowing myself to be filled with the splendor with which I am surrounded. Aside from the mud, this place is everything. But I don’t have my kids, and I no longer have a home in Norfolk. I wasn’t able to keep my parents’ home in the family, and I know that many people are not able to do this, but I feel like such a failure because of that, and because I wanted my kids to have the opportunity to have it someday. And more than that, I want my kids.

It’s coloring everything, and I hate it more than I can say, so maybe I should stop trying to say anything more at the moment.

More later. Peace.


Music by Ruelle, “Slip Away”

 


Rebus

You work with what you are given,
the red clay of grief,
the black clay of stubbornness going on after.
Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,
clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.

Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,
each word is a dish you have eaten or left on the table.
There are honeys so bitter
no one would willingly choose to take them.
The clay takes them: honey of weariness, honey of vanity,
honey of cruelty, fear.

This rebus—slip and stubbornness,
bottom of river, my own consumed life—
when will I learn to read it
plainly, slowly, uncolored by hope or desire?
Not to understand it, only to see.

As water given sugar sweetens, given salt grows salty,
we become our choices.
Each yes, each no continues,
this one a ladder, that one an anvil or cup.

The ladder leans into its darkness.
The anvil leans into its silence.
The cup sits empty.

How can I enter this question the clay has asked?

~ Jane Hirshfield (found on Poetry Foundation)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clyfford Still, untitled (1945, oil on canvas)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And later in the interview, he says,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I have no steam.

I am steamless.

I am without steam.

There is no steam anywhere in proximity to my brain.

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

Yep. Meh.

More later. I hope. Peace.

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

Music by Dakota, “Bare Hands”

 


Poem for Nobody

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

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

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

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

we are all
museums of fear.

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

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

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

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

~ Charles Bukowski

“The opinions that are held with passion are always those for which no good ground exists; indeed the passion is the measure of the holder’s lack of rational conviction.” ~ Bertrand Russell, from Sceptical Essays

 
Image result for quotes about how people will believe anything
(Thanks to View Pacific for reminding me of this one.)

“It’s hard to fathom the level of grubby exploitation you’ve reduced yourself to, to turn a buck off of people who are watching their loved ones die in slow-motion” ~ Daryl Khan, whose father hoped food-grade hydrogen peroxide would cure his wife Susan’s cancer

Thursday evening, cloudy again, 48 degrees.

Abraham Lincoln’s opinions on the internet notwithstanding, a little something different for today . . .

So you wouldn’t believe the number of websites, books, videos, and pamphlets that I found from supposed health gurus, truth tellers, and conspiracy theorists who want you to introduce food-grade hydrogen peroxide into your life, you know, for all of the health benefits, because it can cure gingivitis and cancer, simultaneously, and, well, just because.

Found on the Truth About Cancer website
PLEASE, PLEASE DON’T FALL FOR THIS! IT’S A BUNCH OF HOOEY THAT CAN DAMAGE YOUR INTERNAL ORGANS AND POSSIBLY KILL YOU!

According to a 2017 article in The Washington Post, “Hundreds of people have become severely ill and at least five have died after consuming high-concentration hydrogen peroxide that some people take as an additive to their diets, according to a new study.”

A ten-year study by the U.S. National Poison Data System and the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) was published in Annals of Emergency Medicine; the study encompassed the years 2001-2011. During that time, “nearly 300 cases of high-concentration peroxide poisoning were identified.”

Dr. Benjamin Hatten, the lead study author, told CBS News that

The poisoning resulted in significant physical injuries, ranging from respiratory distress to seizures, strokes and heart attacks. About 14 percent of the patients experienced heart embolisms, while 7 percent died or had long-term disability after drinking hydrogen peroxide.

According to the NCBI of the NIH:

Hydrogen peroxide is relatively unstable and will rapidly decompose, through an exothermic reaction, into water and oxygen in the presence of alkali, metals and the enzyme catalase, which is found in mucous membranes, liver, kidney, red blood cells and bone marrow (). There are three main mechanisms of toxicity from hydrogen peroxide: caustic injury, oxygen gas formation and lipid peroxidation ().

The brown bottles of hydrogen peroxide that most of us have in our homes are 3 percent solutions. That’s a big difference from food-grade, which is usually a 35 percent solution, and often these food-grade jugs are clear or milky, resembling bottled water or milk products, and that’s a big problem if you have kids in your home, especially if they cannot read. The average amount of hydrogen peroxide in things like toothpaste and mouthwash is .1 percent. For more related facts, go here.

Go here for a good article explaining why food-grade hydrogen peroxide is not good for your health.

A marketing campaign aimed at making you believe that this is legitimate

I know that it might seem odd coming from me that I’m so adamantly against ingesting so-called food-grade hydrogen peroxide, but the supposed health benefits of using this dangerous 35 percent concentration, even diluted have never been studied by any reputable lab.

HydroProx-35-Pure-35-Food-Grade-Hydrogen-Peroxide-Diluted-to-8

Look, in recent years I’ve been trying to find natural and/or homeopathic and/or cruelty-free products in all areas of my life, but, and this is a BIG but, I research every supplement and/or vitamin that I add to my regimen; I monitor side effects and any possible benefits before deciding whether to continue or discontinue. And I in no way claim to be an authority on any of this.

I can tell you that Manuka honey has natural antibacterial properties that can do wonderful things for minor skin wounds. And rosehip oil is a wonderful moisturizer for your face. And snail slime, yep, even that, has beneficial properties. But a solution of diluted 35 percent hydrogen peroxide will not cure cancer, nor will it help with diabetes, nor will it help to oxygenate your cells.

I wrote this post because I had been sucked in by an article on the whole food-grade benefits about a month or two ago (who remembers time, so ephemeral…), so much so that I even priced a bottle on Amazon at that time (which has supposedly since banned 35 percent solutions, but a few can still be found). But then I began to dig deeper, and I realized that what was being touted was snake oil—pure and simple. And that’s the case with many, many supplements, health rinses and tonics (like turpentine), etcetera that are on the market today.

All that I am saying is please, please do your due diligence. Be an informed consumer, not a ill-informed victim.

More later. Peace.


And FYI:

Image result for Poison control center