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

Writer Anne Sexton (1928-1974)

A Different Two for Tuesday

Tuesday afternoon, mostly cloudy and colder, 36 degrees.

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

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

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

Letter Written During a January Northeaster

Monday

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

Tuesday

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

Monday

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

Monday

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

Monday

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

Monday

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


Music by Down Like Silver, “Any Day”

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From “After the Theatre”

“What would people look like
if we could see them as they are,
soaked in honey, stung and swollen,
reckless, pinned against time?” ~ Ellen Bass, from “If You Knew”

Monday afternoon, partly cloudy, 56 degrees.

Well, Maddy is better, but I’m not certain that she’s out of the woods. She had a good day yesterday, but last night she was really sick again. Today, she’s acting better, and she managed to eat some breakfast. All we can do at this point is continue to watch her closely and hope.

Illustration to Chekhov’s A Dreary Story, by Tatyana Shishmaryova (1953)

Tink seems fine these days, playing and running around with her tail up, so at least there’s that. All of the other animals seem to be okay. The big surprise is that last night Corey came home with chickens. Apparently, Dallas bought a bunch of chickens from someone who he knows, and he decided that we should have some.

We do have a chicken coop, and we had plans for chickens in the spring, but the coop is still kind of torn up so Corey needs to work on that right away. For whatever reason, we just keep having animals dropped on us. I’m not sure how I feel about it all, partially good, partially bad. It just seems like a lot all at once, but as with everything else, we’ll find a way to deal.

At least we’ve had some sun the last few days, and the weather is milder. I had hoped that I had more to say, but I’ve been sitting here for over two hours and I just cannot find the words; I’ll leave you with an apt selection from Anton Chekhov’s novella, A Boring Story: From the Notebook of an Old Man (also translated as A Dreary Story):

I write poorly. That bit of my brain which presides over the faculty of authorship refuses to work. My memory has grown weak; there is a lack of sequence in my ideas, and when I put them on paper it always seems to me that I have lost the instinct for their organic connection; my construction is monotonous; my language is poor and timid. Often I write what I do not mean; I have forgotten the beginning when I am writing the end. Often I forget ordinary words, and I always have to waste a great deal of energy in avoiding superfluous phrases and unnecessary parentheses in my letters, both unmistakable proofs of a decline in mental activity. And it is noteworthy that the simpler the letter the more painful the effort to write it .

. . . As regards my present manner of life, I must give a foremost place to the insomnia from which I have suffered of late. If I were asked what constituted the chief and fundamental feature of my existence now, I should answer, Insomnia.

More later. Peace.

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


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

Tuesday afternoon, partly cloudy, 52 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Animals are amazing.

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

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

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

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

Perhaps tomorrow will allow me to write more.

Peace.


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


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

[Everything is lost, the poems first]

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

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

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

~ Ingeborg Bachmann (trans. Peter Filkins)

“I wish to write; I wish to write about certain things that cannot be held. I want to create a sea of freely-flowing words of no definite form and shape waves of fluent exactness.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals, 1897-1909

A Gaggle of Canada Geese on Parade (FCC)

“Then I sit down at my desk and can’t remember how it’s done. Only now and then the lines attack like birds of prey, any time, any place. And demand to be written.” ~ Anna Kamieńska, from A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook

Wednesday afternoon. Beautifully sunny, 48 degrees.

Hello out there. The sun is blazingly bright today, and not a day too soon. Earlier, when I was outside with the animals, I realized that I could actually hear the horses walking in the pasture, and that just blew me away. I mean, it was quiet enough that I could hear horses walking on the grass . . . no cars, no sirens, no loud obnoxious mopeds roaring through the neighborhood . . . nothing. Just the sky, the sun, the birds, and the animals. It was lovely.

Pot-bellied Thrush with an Apple (FCC)

So enough about me—how was your Christmas? Peaceful? Uneventful? Rowdy? Good food and good friends? However you like it, I hope that you had it just that way.

As for us, well, it was a bit eventful. Corey came home with two puppies that someone had left on our driveway. They could only be about four weeks old. Yes, they are adorable as all get out, and I know that I had said that I planned to rescue dogs once we moved here, but, well, it’s a bit soon, especially as I just stole a puppy from Dallas a few weeks ago. Did I mention that our house is small?

“To be a poet is to surface plainly
from the wound of sleep. To observe how thickly feathered
the heart, how small & bright the planet of human thought.” ~ Kiki Petrosino, from “Cygnus Cygnus”

Nevertheless, Corey couldn’t exactly leave them where he found them, and so now they have a home. We’ll deal with it just as we deal with everything else: as it comes.

Truthfully, him coming home with the puppies is probably the only thing that saved me yesterday. I was doing poorly with the prospect of making it through the whole day. I heard from neither son, and only from my daughter in the evening. And Corey and I had decided to wait a few days before exchanging presents, for various reasons. About the only thing that I had to look forward to yesterday was the ham that I had in the oven.

Vogel in Winter (FCC)

That sounds absolutely pathetic, doesn’t it?

I realize that I’m a bit of a broken record lately, going on and on about my kids. I just never envisioned myself in this place—living each day without hearing a word from any of them. Marking holidays, birthdays without a call, or text, or email. As they were growing up, I took such great joy in watching every aspect of their lives; I believed that my relationship with each of them was inviolable. Until it wasn’t.

I would not wish this kind of pain for anyone, and I’ve wished pain for people before, so that’s quite a statement.

“Everything was a broken line for me in those days. I was slipped into the empty spaces between words.” ~ Betsy Cornwell, from Mechanica

You know how you do something in your youth, and your mother hits you for the first time with the words, “I hope you have a daughter/son/child just like you one day. You’ll see”? (Note on the punctuation: A question mark goes outside the quotation mark when the question is about the entire sentence; just thought that I should point that out, you know, to stay in practice.) And you look at her as if she has taken leave of her senses because you are so certain in your own heart of hearts that you will never make the same missteps that she has made with you, that you will be so much closer with your own children . . .

Male Cardinal in Winter (FCC)

Mothers. Always. Know.

I know that I gave my mother fits when I was around 14 or 15. And 16 and 17 weren’t terribly better. But then I got into college and decided to become a productive adult, and from that point on, I was a model daughter . . . No. Wait. I wasn’t, was I? I wish that I could say that it was true, that I straightened up and never gave my mother another day of heartburn or heartache, but I gave her plenty of both.

I tried so many times to get it right, and now looking back, I see that I probably erred more than I soared. But I never stopped talking to my mom, at least not for months and months at a time. She gave me the silent treatment for weeks at a time because that’s how my mother was: she was vindictive. Where do you think that I learned it? But still, I really tried, honestly tried not to hurt her.

So this is payback, then?

“But you remain with me as a winter sky
shot through with swans of iron, swans of steel.
Let no harm come to the dark you have made.” ~ Kiki Petrosino, from “Cygnus Cygnus”

I would like to say that I never hurt my mother or broke her heart, but I’m trying to be honest here. I know that I did both. More than once.

Cygnus: Lake Ontario Swan (FCC)

I know that I could be surly, and nasty, and darned unpleasant when I was a teen. And later, as a married adult, I was never good with money, and when I lost Caitlin, I spent my way into oblivion rather than drank like my first husband. But they were both escapes, and neither much better than the other once they became an addiction. And unfortunately, my mother had to bail me out more than once.

I wonder if that’s part of how I did my kids wrong, that I bailed them out too many times and made them weak . . . We can love too much, make the landings too soft sometimes, when an abrupt encounter with the cold, hard earth might be better. But that wasn’t how I was raised—for better or worse. I was raised, and in turn I raised with love and a soft cushion, most of the time. Oh, don’t think for a moment that I wasn’t punished (I have vivid memories of a flyswatter on my bare legs), or that I did not punish when called for, but it was never a matter of whether or not there was love. There was always love, and when I used to see Alexis with her own daughter, I saw how tender she could be.

So much love there.

“Motherhood means doing penance not only for your own sins, but for your children’s too . . . Niobe. Niobe—that’s me. That’s every abandoned mother.” ~ Anna Kamieńska, from A Nest of Quiet: A Notebook

I think that this is the loss that I feel most acutely: They are not near me so that I can give them love. Do they still know how much I love them, regardless? Can they possibly believe that I do not care? How do they not realize what their absence costs me every single minute of every single day? How is it possible that they move through their days without me?

Brown-Eared Bulbul (FCC)

So many freaking questions. Absolutely no answers.

It’s now many hours since I first began this post, and the sun is long gone. I apologize, dear reader. I was supposed to be asking after your own holiday, not gazing morosely into the empty glass upon my table. But then, you must have known that I couldn’t go for very many sentences without falling back into old patterns. You see, it’s what I do, and I do it very well: I have supreme confidence in my ability to, or rather, my inability to let go. I just cannot do it, even when I should, even when I have been given every single reason to let go and move on—I simply cannot.

Apparently, I am immune to betrayals of the heart, of any kind. My loyalty tends to be complete, blind, and perhaps dumb. I just never realized from whence such betrayals could come. And perhaps betrayal is not the best word choice, but at the moment, it is the one that seems most apt. Then again, perhaps that is what my sons think about me.

Tomorrow may be different. Who knows? Certainly not I.

More later. Peace.


Music by Billie Marten, “Winter Song”

 


The Abundant Little

We have seen the population of Heaven
in frescoes. Dominions and unsmiling saints
crowded together as though the rooms were small.
We think of the grand forests of Pennsylvania,
oaks and maples, when we see the miniatures
of blue Krishna with farm girls awkwardly
beside a pond in a glade of scrub trees.
The Japanese scrolls show mostly Hell.
When we read about the Christian paradise,
it is made of gold and pearls, built on
a foundation of emeralds. Nothing soft
and rarely trees, except in the canvases
of Italians where they slip in bits of Tuscany
and Perugino’s Umbria. All things
are taken away. Indeed, indeed.
But we secretly think of our bodies
in the heart’s storm and just after.
And the sound of careless happiness.
We touch finally only a little.
Like the shy tongue that comes fleetingly
in the dark. The acute little that is there.

~ Jack Gilbert

For the Emperor a young cherry blossom prepared beforehand | Will fall with that fragrance smelling sweet forever ~ Ensign Toshio Furuichi, Death Poem (Trans. Bill Gordon)

Kamikaze pilots posing with a puppy the day before their suicide missions, 1945. The boy holding the puppy was 17.

“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.

Kamikaze pilots drinking a glass of sake before their attacks during the Battle of Leyte Gulf on 12-10-44 (from history.com)

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.

Japanese high school girls wave goodbye to a Kamikaze pilot with cherry blossoms

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”
Captain Ryoji Uehara

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.


Death Poem

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
Will fall
My way
Not looking back

~ Flight Petty Officer Tsutomu Fujimura (Trans. Bill Gordon)

*Shinshū means divine land, or Japan itself

“I allowed myself to suffer how jarringly destructive the present feels and how fragile the past. The present is over quickly, you might say, and it is, but man it goes like a wrecking ball.” ~ Ann Brashares, from My Name is Memory

Ivan Aivazovsky, “The Ninth Wave” (1850, oil on canvas)
Aivazovsky is considered the most influential seascape painter in 19th Russian art

“I thought, possibly, that what I really needed was to go where nobody knew me and start over again, with none of my previous decisions, conversations, or expectations coming with me.” ~ Maggie Stiefvater, from Forever

Friday afternoon. Rainy again, 44 degrees.

It’s funny, but when I think about Norfolk, I still get a pang. I don’t miss the house, the nosy judgmental neighbors, or even the neighborhood. But I miss the things that happened there: the two Jack Russells who used to escape regularly, and the nice neighbors who would holler at us to let us know where they had gone; walking across the field in the afternoons to pick up the boys from the local elementary school; even mowing the yard on the lawn tractor that my dad bought me once upon a time. Those things are part of that life, that place.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Sea View by Moonlight” (1878, oil on canvas)

My kids were raised in that small ranch house with one bathroom. Their friends all lived within a few miles. And now that house is gone. Who knows who will buy it and make all of the repairs that we never got around to making. It’s hard to take care of a house that you hate, which is how it came to be for us the last few years that we were still there. It was as if the house knew that there existed an antipathy and went out of its way to break down piece by piece.

We redid the bathroom a few years ago, from the studs up. We had plans to redo the kitchen and the hardwood floors, but that never happened, and in the end, we left it as a mess, things all over the backyard, a pool that had fish in it, a shed that had old tools in it, an attic that probably still had kids toys in it. It was like shedding a carapace and leaving it where it lay.

You get a strange feeling when you’re about to leave a place. Like you’ll not only miss the people you love but you’ll miss the person you are now at this time and this place, because you’ll never be this way ever again.” ~ Azar Nafisi, from Reading Lolita in Tehran

It’s hard not to think of the things that neighbors must have thought about the way that we left things, but at the same time, there is no way that they could possibly understand the stress and pressure that we were under when we left. If they snooped, which I’m certain that some of them did, they would have seen the hole in the ceiling, the broken back door, the tools that lay in the yard, and their worst impressions would have been confirmed.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Yalta” (1899)

Listen, not all of our neighbors were assholes. The guy across the street helped Corey and me countless times, especially when Corey was at sea. He gave me a jump when my battery was dead, repaired things, helped when the yard was overgrown and my back wouldn’t let me mow. He was a great guy, and because he was always hurting for money, we always tried to pay him whenever he did anything. But he was a minority in that neighborhood. There used to be a really nice woman who lived on the other side across the street, but she died; her kids were always friendly, though. Still, I know that we didn’t make as much of an effort as we could have, but there was a history there that made it hard.

And the fact is that I really shouldn’t care any more about what any of them think or thought, but a part of me still does. I still feel as if that house is mine, even though it isn’t. I lived there for so long, and there are so many good memories from there, probably more good than bad. But there are painful memories from there, and it was definitely time to move away, and now here we are, living in a completely different kind of place, with a different pace of life, and different kinds of neighbors.

“I don’t know. You know the mind, how it comes on the scene again
and makes tiny histories of things. And the imagination
how it wants everything back one more time, how it detests
all progress but its own . . . ” ~ Richard Hugo, from “Letter to Matthews from Barton Street Flats”

We had told ourselves that when we finally moved, that we were going to make a true effort to get to know our neighbors, and we have. Of course, it’s different here. Neighbors are curious as to who bought the ridge. They show up and ask questions, introduce themselves, offer to help. And of course, Dallas knows every last person, so there’s that as well.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Sea View” (1841)

When we were moving in, Corey was driving the box truck and I was driving the rental Ryder truck, which I was very proud of handling the entire seven-hour trip, but then I came down the driveway crooked and ended up driving the front part of the truck off the drive and getting it stuck. We were so worried about how much it would cost us to get someone to come out and unstick it. But instead, two of our neighbors spent hours helping Corey to get it free. I was simultaneously amazed and grateful. We didn’t even know these people, yet there they were, working their butts off for two people who they didn’t know from Adam’s off ox.

And since that day, Dallas has graded the driveway, made it straight and wider, so that coming down isn’t a problem. That’s what I mean about things being different here. No one asks you for anything, yet of course, there is the expectation that you will repay them in kind somehow when the need arises, and so we will. It was never like that in Norfolk. Perhaps the city was too big, the neighborhood too set in its ways. Who knows?

I seem to be asking that question quite a lot lately . . .

“So, this is my life. And I want you to know that I am both happy and sad and I’m still trying to figure out how that could be.” ~ Stephen Chobsky, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower

So the Chobsky quote above is probably the most fitting one that I could choose today. I am both happy and sad, but the difference is that I’m fairly certain as to why. I mean, aside from the fact that I’m still missing one of my antidepressants, and I still haven’t found a good neurologist, and I still don’t have a phone that works—other than those things . . .

Ivan Aivazovsky,”Sunset at Sea” (1853, oil on canvas)

But in honesty, those are relatively minor things—other than the pain, which, like it or not, I’m used to—what makes me sad is that in spite of the beauty and life that surrounds me, there is no water, and there are no children, grown or otherwise.The water? That’s just a part of me. I’m an Aquarius, and even though I’m not a strong swimmer, I have always loved water, in all forms. That, and I lived so very near the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean for most of my life that it’s odd not to smell the saltwater, or to see the violence of the waves during a storm.

And yet, to put that down here makes me feel so very ungrateful. I used to say that my ideal place to live would be on a mountaintop overlooking the ocean; the reality is that such a place would cost a fortune. But here, I have the mountaintop, the horses, the deer, the dogs. And god how I love it all. I truly do. I cannot imagine going back to where we were. So why can I not be satisfied?

“I don’t know what’s worse: to not know what you are and be happy, or to become what you’ve always wanted to be, and feel alone.” ~ Daniel Keyes, from Flowers for Algernon

Will I ever be satisfied? I really don’t know. I do know that I can be happy—happy for me. It may sound as if I’m trying to convince myself, but that’s really not the case. I have a lot to be happy about, a lot to be grateful for in this new life. The caveat, for me, is not said lightly. It’s too complicated, and yet maddeningly simple: I am just too aware of my chemical makeup the way that my brain and heart work. I can be absolutely ecstatic about how my life is going, and yet there will always be this still small voice within that doubts, doubts my worthiness to be happy.

Ivan Aivazovsky, “Sunset a Lone Sailboat” (1853, oil on canvas)

How to explain to someone who has never met this voice? I don’t know if that is even possible. However, that state of being satisfied is not tied to my ability to be happy. Satisfaction, for me, is something entirely different, dependent upon reconciliation with my sons—in other words, I don’t believe that I can ever be completely satisfied until I am able to know that they are an active part of my life again, and since I don’t have any way of making that happen at this point, I just have to live with things as they are for now.

Look, that’s life. You know it, dear reader, and so do I. The basket will never be completely full of unbroken eggs. The day will never be without a cloud somewhere on the horizon. Yet there is always a horn-a-plenty if we but recognize it. What I’m trying to say is that life is complicated. I’m complicated. Every human is a mixture of good and bad, happy and sad; I’m no different, but I am trying very hard to be this person here, the one who is present in her life as it is. I may not be entirely succeeding, but at least I am aware, and for me, that is more than you can ever know.

More later. Peace.

Music by Adele, “Hello”

 

 


She Loved Mozart

There’s a sadness to it, of course, my becoming more
and more isolated from the world. I remember, years ago,
when I was living at the motel, there was this woman who
used to come and go, sometimes staying for months at a time.
Every so often I’d go over to her room, sit around, and talk with her.
The room would smell from clove cigarettes and dirty wash.
Over the lampshades pieces of clothing were draped, to bring
the light down to the most remarkable dimness. This light
never failed to charm and attract me, as a moth would be
attracted to a bright light (although, I suppose moths are
drawn to dim light also). Anyway, I find myself steadily
becoming increasingly like this woman, and it’s not always
the most comfortable realization. Although, I cannot say
that I am living with dirty wash. No, this I cannot admit to.
If anything, I’m fanatical about washing clothes. My
clothing has worn thin, not from my wearing it but from
the continuous washings. But, my god, like this woman
I’m letting the house go dark. She died at the motel, from cancer.
Some nights I’d see her crossing the parking lot, meager flesh
on her bones, and she’d knock on my door and she’d ask me
to play Mozart on my stereo set. She loved Mozart.
In her youth she had been a very promising violist, but
injury and shock from a fire had made her a ghost
of her old talent, her old self. I used to feed her also,
the miniscule amount she was capable of eating.
She loved sharing a thin sandwich as much as
she loved Mozart. I told her it takes
a lot of solitude to write a poem.
She told me it takes a lot of solitude
to die.

~ Marge Piercy

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

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

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

Thursday afternoon. Overcast again and rainy, 46 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bálför Viking Funeral Card

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

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

Who knows? Certainly not I.

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

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

Viking Funeral, Created by yoguy108

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

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

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

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

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

Viking Boat Funeral, via the Good Funeral Guide

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

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

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

More later. Peace. 


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


Gacela of Dark Death

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

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

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

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

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

~ Federico García Lorca