“There is something miraculous in the way the years wash away your evidence, first you, then your friends and family, then the descendants who remember your face, until you aren’t even a memory, you’re only carbon, no greater than your atoms, and time will divide them as well.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

This is the post that I was writing on Monday that I stopped. I mulled over whether or not to continue it or just post it . . . so, just posting it.


“We experience life as a continuity, and only after it falls away, after it becomes the past, do we see its discontinuities. The past, if there is such a thing, is mostly empty space, great expanses of nothing, in which significant persons and events float.” ~ Teju Cole, from Open City

Monday afternoon, sunny and mild, 71 degrees.

It’s an absolutely beautiful day today after two days of rain over the weekend. Truthfully, though, the whole concept of weekend has changed so much in my life. No longer is weekend the only time in which I can do things around the house, or catch up on laundry, or run errands, or all of those other ways in which I used to fill those two days. Gone is the need to rush to accomplish everything by Sunday evening in order to get some rest before beginning the work week once more.

And truthfully, I kind of miss that structure. Even though it’s been more than 11 years since I left my full-time job, my career, whatever you want to call it, I still miss work. I miss having deadlines, having places to go, even doing mundane paperwork. I don’t miss my last group of coworkers as they were undoubtedly the most dysfunctional group of people I have ever encountered in an office: one was uber passive aggressive, another was a smile-in-your-face-stab-you-in-the-back master, and the person with whom I worked most closely was a full-blown sociopath.

Hindsight. It’s such a clarifier.

But I never saw that job as the end of my working career. I still had goals, still wanted to accomplish more things, explore more avenues, but that all ceased to be possible in the spate of one week. Even now, all of these years later, I still think about what jobs I’d like to do, what degrees I’d like to earn. It’s hard to let go of it all.

“I can’t explain the goings,
or the comings. You enter suddenly,
and I am nowhere again.
Inside the majesty.” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi

One of the worst decisions I ever made was to have that major back surgery in 2007. Essentially, it wrecked my body and began my long road down a path of chronic, unremitting pain. Had i waited even five years, I’m convinced the surgery and recovery would have been simpler, and my results might have been better.

I know that it’s more than a cliche to say that when you’re young you approach life as if you are infallible, but it’s so true for me. As a teenager I taxed my body as a cheerleader; when I was married the first time, I ended up lifting and carrying more weight than I should have, mostly because my marriage was such a game of one-ups-manship: I would ask my spouse to take care of something; he would ignore it; I would do it to spite him, never realizing that I was only hurting myself. When I taught, I carried around huge stacks of books and papers all of the time. Then when I worked as a retail manager, I used to routinely move fully-loaded fixtures around the floor. In my mind, it took too much time to unload the clothes, so why bother.

Of course, I was very physically fit at the time. It never occurred to me that I might suffer the consequences somewhere down the line, so of course, I did.

Youth and stupidity go hand in hand in oh so many ways.

“I saw the first light, fore-running the sun, gather in a cup of the eastern cloud, gather and grow and brim, till at last it spilled like milk over the golden lip, to smear the dark face of heaven from end to end . . . the clouds slackened, the stars, trembling on the verge of extinction, guttered in the dawn wind, and the gates of day were ready to open at the trumpet . . .” ~ Mary Stewart, from Madam, Will You Talk?

Ever since Dallas took Napoleon, Sassy has become incorrigible. Each day, she comes onto the front porch and stamps her hooves, demanding to have food. I tell Corey that he doesn’t understand that she’s pregnant, so she’s hungry all of the time. In his mind, there’s a pasture filled with fresh grass just ready to be grazed, so why isn’t she cooperating with that? I don’t know if horses get funny food cravings when they are pregnant, but wouldn’t it funny if they did? What if she’s craving sunflowers? Or Kentucky Fescue?

I remember that with each pregnancy, I had different cravings: first it was hot fudge sundaes from McDonald’s and olives, but not together; second was soft pretzels (I think); third was Mexican food, and fourth was mustard.

But as I try to type this, Sassy is on the porch stamping, which causes Maddy to bark like crazy. It’s very distracting, but then, pretty much everything out here is distracting: the small spider crawling up the side of my screen, all of the different bird songs, including the hawk that just flew over, the podcast that I have running in the background, the way all of the pups suddenly decide to chase the goats, just out of the blue.

That’s another thing that’s changed with me: I used to be able to concentrate so fully on a task that I would forget to go to the bathroom. Single-minded was a good description. Now, scattershot comes to mind.

More later. Peace.


Music by Iron & Wine, “Muddy Hymnal”

“How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.” ~ Khaled Hosseini, from A Thousand Splendid Suns

A view towards the far end of the pond

“Here I saw the truth of the horizon,
the way of coming and going in this life.
I never drifted up from my beginning:
I rose as inexorably as heat.” ~ Denis Johnson, from “The Confession of St. Jim-Ralph”

Monday afternoon, partly cloudy and absolutely lovely, 76 degrees.

Apologies. It’s been a few days since I wrote anything here. I’ve been distracted, more than usual. I began listening to a podcast, “A New Winter.” I began listening last week, and then became so absorbed that I binged right through the weekend. Unlike the true crime genre to which I’m partial, it’s a creepy dramatization, and I was hooked, all the way through 62 episodes. Yep. Sixty-62.

Red Bud in bloom

I know. Too much, right?

Anyway, I had a Two for Tuesday planned, and then on Wednesday, I had another one of those doctor’s appointments that didn’t happen because my appointment had been changed somehow, or I changed it somehow, thinking that I was actually changing my neurologist’s appointment. I honestly don’t know, but I got ready, put on real clothes, arrived on time, only to be told that my appointment was on June 5. From that point on my week was wrecked.

So here I am, trying to start over, get back into the rhythm of writing, creating, putting something out there. Anything. We’ll just have to see how this goes. I do have new pictures of the farm and the animals, at least.

“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.” ~ Eckhart Tolle, from an interview with The Guardian (10 April 2009)

So I’m sitting outside at yet another makeshift work station, kind of hunched over, and my back is protesting mightily. But it doesn’t matter because the birds are serenading, and the sun is peeking through the clouds, and the air is clean, and there’s a light breeze making the Dogwood tree sway and the bamboo wind chimes clatter in a non-jarring way. The goats and the dogs are outside, as well, and Ruby, the female goat just came by to have her ears scratched; Max isn’t quite as loving, and his crooked jaw makes him look, well, a little goofy, but he’ll eventually come to have his ears scratched.

Not sure what this is, but it looks cool

I was sitting here a little while ago just listening to music and the birds and absolutely nothing else—no car horns, no sirens, no airplanes, no leaf blowers—nothing. Sometimes I forget to notice this nothingness, forget to appreciate what it took to achieve it. The last few years have been so freaking tumultuous, and sometimes it seemed like there was no end in sight, but there was, for the most part, perhaps not the ending that we had envisioned, but an ending of sorts, and now I’m here, sitting on property that is mine, and my nearest neighbors are far away.

No judgmental next-door neighbors peering over the fence, no city ordinances, no community rules. Of course, we also don’t have curbside recycling or trash pickup, and that is a definite loss, but in the grand scheme of things, I suppose we are still firmly on the plus side of the columns.

“Lift up your dark heart and sing a song about
how time drifts past you like the gentlest, almost
imperceptible breeze.” ~ Jim Harrison from “Cold Poem”

Corey needs to call the gas company to let them know that part of the driveway washed away with the most recent rain; they’re responsible for the upkeep of the drive since they have wells along the way—it’s a weird setup. But first he’s gone to Coeburn and Norton to pick up an ink cartridge for the printer so that I can send yet more forms to the IRS, trying to get us a waiver for Corey not having health insurance because, well, money.

Wildflowers growing all over the ridge

I mean, I’m completely for the Affordable Care Act, but I’ve never understood penalizing people for not having health insurance if they cannot afford to have health insurance, and the only way that those same people can get out of the penalty is if they ask for it and justify the lack. That doesn’t even make sense. I’m fairly certain that a majority of people would have health insurance if they could actually afford it. Not having it really, really sucks. There should have been a built-in opt-out function for those of us without the funds to afford the coverage instead of a built-in penalty that you can only get rid of once you’ve been granted a waiver.

Anyway, I need to print those and another form, and something else. Honestly, it’s been a few days since I first tried to print only to find out that we were out of ink, so now I’ve forgotten. I’ll have to go back and look at my notes. I make lots and lots of notes, and the fact that I still don’t have my desk set up means that my post-its are still in a box somewhere, as are my colored paper clips that I used to organize papers, and all of that other helpful stuff that I’ve come to depend on over the years. Truthfully, I’ve had a long-standing love-affair with office products; don’t ask me why. Alexis has the same penchant, as well as an unhealthy attachment to large, oversized bags and purses. I cannot imagine where she got any of that from.

I need my notes. I just can’t function without them. I know my mind too well. I have no problems with long-term memory, or memories of most important events, or things like song lyrics, but ask me what I had planned to do in a few hours, and, well . . . not so much . . .

“The future was a dark corridor, and at the far end the door was bolted.” ~ Gustave Flaubert, from Madame Bovary

I’m curious, actually. Does anyone even read these quotes? Does anyone out there find them as fascinating as I do? I mean, I spend a lot of time looking for my quotes, and then I spend an inexorable amount of time planning posts thematically, taking into consideration the kinds of posts that I tend to write the most, or thinking about something that I think that I might want to tackle in the future.

Tink and Ash snuggling

I’m asking because my tumblr meanderings, when I do them, are mostly in search of quotes, new poems and poets, and images. I’m not much for the other kinds of posts, but I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should post the quotes there and leave them out of my posts.

The problem, for me, as I see it, is that I’ve been using this format since almost the beginning: five quotes, a header quote, six images, a poem, and a song. It’s worked, or at least, it works for me—most of the time. The quotes are my springboard, as it were, a way to tap into my muse and see what comes out.

Who knows, really? Certainly not I.

“It had occurred to me that all human beings are divided
into those who wish to move forward
and those who wish to go back.” ~ Louise Glück, from “Faithful and Virtuous Night”

I’m thinking that the only thing that would make being outside today better would be if we had a hammock set up. I really miss my hammock. I’ve always had a hammock, ever since I was first married to my ex. When I was living with my parents. they had this hammock thing that fit on a metal frame, but it was canvas. I used to spend a lot of time on that in the backyard, reading in the sun. I had actually forgotten about that.

I actually have a brand new cheap hammock that came in one of my subscription boxes; I doubt that it’s terribly comfortable, but I wouldn’t know because there isn’t anywhere here to attach it. We have a lot of trees, but they are either too close together, like the apple trees, or too far apart. Ideally, I’d love to get on of those frames from Costco and the big, double rope hammock. Ah yes, that would be the ticket.

Sine I first began this post, the sun has become obscured by more clouds, and the wind has picked up. I think that I’ll stay out here for a little longer and then go inside and try to do a bit of cleaning. I still haven’t figured out where all of the dust comes from that settles in the house so quickly. We don’t have the furnace running, no ceiling fans on, so where does all of the dust come from? I’m reminded of the importance of dust in Philip Pullman’s series His Dark Materials, but unfortunately, my dust isn’t magical. It’s been years since I read that, and I still haven’t gotten a copy of La Belle Sauvage, the first book in the follow-up trilogy even though it was published in 2017. It on my to-read list, which probably has about 200 things on it.

So much to do, so much to do . . . Books to read, cabinets to sand and paint, rooms to paint and unpack . . . And then there’s my car, which needs work, a barn that needs to be built . . . Ugh, enough for now.

More later. Peace.


Music by The Civil Wars, “Dust to Dust” (acoustic)


To Drink

I want to gather your darkness
in my hands, to cup it like water
and drink.
I want this in the same way
as I want to touch your cheek—
it is the same—
the way a moth will come
to the bedroom window in late September,
beating and beating its wings against the cold glass,
the way a horse will lower
his long head to water, and drink,
and pause to lift his head and look,
and drink again,
taking everything in with the water,
everything.

~ Jane Hirshfield

“. . . there was a sharp distinction between what was remembered, what was told, and what was true.” ~ Kevin Powers, from The Yellow Birds

Robert Julian Onderdonk, “Bluebonnets in Texas” (1915, oil on canvas)

“Words are pale shadows of forgotten names. As names have power, words have power. Words can light fires in the minds of men. Words can wring tears from the hardest hearts.” ~ Patrick Rothfuss, from The Name of the Wind

Sunday afternoon, cloudy, cooler temperatures, 46 degrees.

It was cold yesterday, so cold that we actually had to turn on a few space heaters. In fact, the forecast actually called for snow flurries. All I can say is that the weather in this locale is well and truly whhackkk. Yes, that’s a word.

Frederic Matys Thursz, Untitled (Blue Field, 1961, oil and paper collaged on board)

Yep.

I’ve been on a “Game of Thrones” binge lately, watching all of the back seasons before this final season. I’ve done this before, but what I always find phenomenal about this show is how much you can miss on a first viewing, especially all of the foreshadowing. The writers are very, very good in maintaining continuity from season to season.

I came to the show after reading the first three books, so I was fully prepared to be disappointed because the move from novel to screen is haphazard at best. Stephen King is said to be disappointed with almost every screen adaptation of his work, and George R. R. Martin’s writing is particularly dense with characters, locations, languages, plots and subplots. However, the HBO series has become its own phenomenon: It’s one of those rare shows in which the casting and the execution have melded well, and in that sense, it reminds me of “The Sopranos” and “Orphan Black.”

And as most people know, the show ends with this season, but the novels continue . . . at least that’s what everyone thinks. Martin is a methodical writer, and readers are still impatiently awaiting the next book in the series, The Winds of Winter. No publication date has been set yet as Martin has admitted that the writing has been hard.

I can sympathize, George, and I only shoot for about 1200 words a day.

“you know how deceptive memory is and how coarse the real world.
Nostalgia amplifies things. The memory preserves tastes and smells and images that are of its own making, or that are not as they were in reality.” ~ Amjad Nasser, from Land of No Rain

I actually enjoyed doing Thursday’s update; it was a good writing exercise. I’m still floundering, though, attempting to find that rhythm that I’ve lost as it continues to elude me. It’s hard to explain this to people who do not like to write or for whom words are not foremost in their lives.

Paul Jenkins, “Phenomena Astral Blue (1968, oil on canvas)

That’s not a slur in any way, only an attempt to explain why my recent posts seem to be preponderantly superficial. I have so much roiling inside, so many things that I want to say, but when I start, the words sound hollow, so I stop and try to find other way to keep this blog going.

Consider: If you were an expert at landscaping, and you took your tools to a piece of land, fully prepared to create something beautiful, but once you arrived, you couldn’t remember the purpose of any tool. Or let’s say that you were a proficient bookkeeper, and you sat down with some raw data, and your computer, and you couldn’t remember how to reconcile a spreadsheet. Or what if you were a wonderful tailor, and you had a bolt of cloth and measurements, but you suddenly forgot how to pattern.

I deliberately didn’t choose painting or sculpting or composing music or any of the other traditional categories of art as anyone who dabbles in those or for whom those are a way of life already is all too familiar with the terrible periods of being unable to create. Rather, I am attempting to explain my problem to those of you for whom life is more structure and traditional, but I don’t know if my explanation only adds to the confusion.

“The years of searching in the dark for a truth that one feels but cannot express, the intense desire and the alternations of confidence and misgiving . . . are known only to him who has experienced them himself.” ~ Albert Einstein, from the Gibson Foundation Lecture, 1933

One of the reasons that I do not sleep well is that I have a very hard time turning off my brain. It’s not just mulling over the day or worrying about bills or money or the house or whatever. It’s also that I start to think about things that I want to say. More times than I can count I think that I should just get out of bed and sit down and write, but then I tell myself that if I did so, I would be useless the next day.

James McNeill Whistler, “Nocturne: Blue and Silver—Chelsea” (1871, oil on wood)

But would being useless the next day really matter in the grand scheme of things? I feel as if I’m doing myself a disservice by not writing when the so-called spirit moves me. Yet at the same time I feel guilty for wanting to eschew traditional sleep and approaches to time because there is so much of daily life with which to contend. Honestly, though, my days are still not productive in that all of my to-do list goes unattended, so the guilt and feelings of worthlessness are there no matter which path I choose.

Consider: Parkinson’s law commonly states that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. But Asimov’s corollary to Parkinson states that in ten hours a day you have time to fall twice as far behind your commitments as in five hours a day. A la Parkinson, I manage to fill my days with mostly nonproductive actions, and a la Asimov’s corollary, I fall twice as far behind.

“Everything about me is unfinished, insufficient.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from a letter to Lou Salomé written c. December 1905

In doing a big of reading about eponymous laws, I came across the intriguing idea of the centipede principle, which I chose deliberately because of my great fear of those multi-legged creatures; in essence, this principle addresses overthinking, as in if a person thinks too much about something that comes naturally, then that action can be impaired.

Martiros Sarian, “Blue Flowers” (1914, oil on canvas)

The centipede principle or effect supposedly is based on a short poem written in 1871 by the Katherine Craster (go here to see the original poem), in which the centipede is asked which leg moves first and then next when he walks, and then because he is asked, he cannot walk.

English psychologist George Humphrey propounded his eponymous law about hyper-reflection in 1923, referencing the centipede tale. I also came across another reference to this centipede effect in the work of Karl Popper, who states that “if we have learnt certain movements so that they have sunk below the level of conscious control, then if we try to follow them consciously we very often interfere with them so badly that we stop them.”

In other words, do I set myself up to be unable to write because I think too much about being unable to write? Am I unable to begin the projects that I have set for myself because I think too much about whether or not I can actually accomplish these projects? I was once told that I live my life as a self-fulfilling prophecy: my behavior directly causes my predicted outcome; i.e., I don’t send my work out for publication, so I am never published.

“People who are burdened by acute misgivings about their coping capabilities suffer much distress and expend much effort in defensive action . . . they cannot get themselves to do things they find subjectively threatening even though they are objectively safe. ” ~ Albert Bandura, from Social Foundations of Thought and Action
Thomas Downing, “Blue Space” (c1954, acrylic on cotton)

I realize that this post took a turn towards psychoanalysis, but what of it? Years of therapy have conditioned me to ponder such questions about the self. That, and I have a particular penchant for eponymous laws; I find them fascinating. (If you happen to be interested in such things, Wikipedia happens to have a good listing of them from A to Z here.)

Anyway, I think that most people could do with more introspection about their thoughts and actions. Too few people today actually give deep thought to things beyond the surface (how many likes did my picture get? was I reblogged? etc.). Yet I know that I am the opposite: I think too much. I consider too much. And in so doing, I paralyze myself. I wish that I could say that I am motivated by strength, but the truth is that I am motivated by fear. And truly, I hate that most about myself.

But unlike many who are motivated by fear, I do not cloak that fear with bombast or sanctimony, only to project that fear outward and punish those who seem weaker or more vulnerable. Instead, I project inward, causing harm mostly to my psyche. Regardless, someone is always damaged in the end.

More later. Peace.


Music by Sarah McLachlan, “Hold On”


A Secret Life

Why you need to have one
is not much more mysterious than
why you don’t say what you think
at the birth of an ugly baby.
Or, you’ve just made love
and feel you’d rather have been
in a dark booth where your partner
was nodding, whispering yes, yes,
you’re brilliant. The secret life
begins early, is kept alive
by all that’s unpopular
in you, all that you know
a Baptist, say, or some other
accountant would object to.
It becomes what you’d most protect
if the government said you can protect
one thing, all else is ours.
When you write late at night
it’s like a small fire
in a clearing, it’s what
radiates and what can hurt
if you get too close to it.
It’s why your silence is a kind of truth.
Even when you speak to your best friend,
the one who’ll never betray you,
you always leave out one thing;
a secret life is that important.

~ Stephen Dunn