“Insanity Laughs Under Pressure” ~ Freddy Mercury/David Bowie, from “Under Pressure”

I must admit that anytime I hear Bowie’s “Under Pressure,” I am reminded of that poser Vanilla Iced Tea, or whatever his name was, and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie, but that’s how my mind works.

Anyway, saw this last night, and got a major chuckle:

                  

Lyrics to “Under Pressure”:

Pressure pushing down on me
Pressing down on you no man ask for
Under pressure that burns a building down
Splits a family in two
Puts people on streets

It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming let me out
Tomorrow gets me higher
Pressure on people – people on streets

Chippin’ around, kick my brains across the floor
These are the days, when it rains it pours
People on streets – people on streets

It’s the terror of knowing
What this world is about
Watching some good friends
Screaming let me out
Tomorrow gets me higher, higher, higher…
Pressure on people – people on streets

Turned away from it all like a blind man
Sat on a fence but it don’t work
Keep coming up with love but it’s so slashed and torn
Why, why, why?

Love
Insanity laughs under pressure we’re cracking
Can’t we give ourselves one more chance?
Why can’t we give love that one more chance?
Why can’t we give love, give love, give love..?

‘Cause love’s such an old-fashioned word
and love dares you to care for
The people on the edge of the night
And love dares you to change our way of
Caring about ourselves
This is our last dance
This is our last dance
This is ourselves
Under pressure
Under pressure
Pressure

“We are fragmented into so many different aspects. We don’t know who we really are, or what aspects of ourselves we should identify with or believe in. So many contradictory voices, dictates, and feelings fight for control over our inner lives that we find ourselves scattered everywhere, in all directions, leaving nobody at home.” ~ Sogyal Rinpoche, from “Glimpse After Glimpse ”

Berenice Abbott: Blossom Restaurant, NYC (1935)

“Autumn teaches us that fruition is also death; that ripeness is a form of decay. The willows, having stood for so long near water, begin to rust. Leaves are verbs that conjugate the seasons.” ~ Gretel Ehrlich, The Solace of Open Spaces

Tuesday early evening. Overcast and humid. White sky.

Berenice Abbott: City Arabesque (from roof of 60 Wall Tower, NYC) (1938)

Last night my dreams were filled with people from my past and present: Kathleen, another woman I used to work with in Northern Virginia who told me to keep my doors locked, and Patrick and Helma. In one part, I was living in (or just possibly staying in) the old townhouse that we used to rent in Alexandria. It was a spacious townhouse in a questionable neighborhood. I was there again, but the furnishings were not mine. The belonged to the women who owned the house.

There were four different sets of dishes, and I was trying to decide which ones to use to serve some hors d’oeuvres to guests. Then my ex was there but in the backyard. It was all very confusing as I didn’t know why this particular mix of people were in my home, so I just decided to make food.

In another part, I was on a ship, a cruise ship I think, but the propellers were visible, and they were attached to the bottom of the ship instead of the aft, and I was wondering how they could possibly propel the ship if they were attached in this way. So I decided to touch one, not too smart, I know, but it was made of plastic.

Some woman from the cruise line told me that they had to keep replacing the propellers because people were always touching them, and I thought to myself how inefficient. Make them out of metal (brass?), and put them out of reach.

Don’t ask me . . . they’re dreams.

“Listen.
We must all stop dying in the little ways,
in the craters of hate,
in the potholes of indifference—
a murder in the temple.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “The Children”

Berenice Abbott: Whelan's Drug Store (44th St and Eighth Ave, NYC) (1936)

The past two days have been very stressful for reasons that I don’t particularly care to revisit at the moment. Suffice it to say that external forces are rearing their ugly heads again like a giant Lernaean Hydra, and each time I manage to cut of one head, two more grow back.

Sometimes, in this particular venture, I truly feel like Hercules, only I’m stuck cleaning out the dung-filled Augean stables over and over again, and my only relief is when I do battle with ugly monsters like the Hydra and the boar. But what I must keep reminding myself is that no one expected Hercules to succeed.

I know that you might be surprised by this particular revelation, but I do not cotton well to males who try to assert their authority over me through power plays. My response is to dig deeper, entrench further, rather than to cede. I’m not suggesting that this is a particularly endearing trait as I am well aware that it is not, but there is just something in me—the same thing that rebels against the idea of being called a housewife—that does not like the idea of someone trying to put me in my place.

I know my place, and it’s not ten steps behind, nor is it in the proverbial kitchen. My place is anywhere I want it to be.

Look, I’m a woman who came of age during a period in society in which roles were shifting greatly, and I like to think that I played a part in breaking some boundaries, that I helped in my own way to educate and enlighten a few people along the way to the realities that women are people, that women can be intelligent and strong, that women can be in charge, that women are not their reproductive system, and all of the rest.

So don’t imply that I’m a “little miss,” even if you don’t have the balls to say it to my face. I won’t act well either way.

“I have a new love for that glittering instrument, the human soul. It is a lovely and unique thing in the universe. It is always attacked and never destroyed” ~ John Steinbeck

Berenice Abbott: Columbus Circle, NYC (1938)

Ooh. I just had the most marvelous surprise arrive by post. My online friend Leah in NC sent me a care package: four bars of Godiva with a tag to use in emergencies only.

Oh, Leah, if you only knew how very, very much my soul delights in such small joy. I have restrained myself from tearing into one immediately (salt caramel . . .) so that when I finally do succumb, the pleasure will be that much better.

I must say that while I do not have a large following, and I am not read by hundreds of people all over the world, the people who do visit me are so incredible: I addition to Leah, I have my dear, dear friend Sarah who continues to stand by me decades later, my friend Maureen in Australia who keeps me close to her heart, my New Zealand friend Veronica who sends me some of her beautiful photographs and shares recipes, and a few others who may or may not want to be mentioned.

As is the case in life in general, I would much rather have a handful of people in my corner who truly want to be there than a hundred people on my side who have but an ephemeral loyalty to my best interests.

“let’s pour the night
into our stone water jars
this song isn’t red flowers
crushed under silence” ~ Yusef Komunyakaa, from “Blues Chant Hoodoo Revival”

Berenice Abbott: Herald Square (34th and Broadway, NYC) (1936)

Okay, so where was I? (Well yes, I had a taste. Of course I had a taste. It takes a lot of energy to clean these stables) . . .

Oh yes. The stress, and discretion is the better part of valour (prefer the British spelling of that particular word).

I abide by the common courtesies. I know how to shake hands properly and to look people in the eye. I say my pleases and thank yous, and I try (really), try to be polite on the telephone. I was taught the Golden Rule at a young age, and have always found it to be a very good maxim when dealing with people.

All that being said, what has happened to the niceties? People who think they can run roughshod over others? What’s that about? I mean, not just in a personal sense, but take the Wall Street actions. I’ve seen several snarky comments in which critics call the protestors “hippies,” as if that equates them with the dregs of the earth. I’ve read comments in which the protests are being compared to what happened with college students in the 60’s.

Well, hello? What happened because of the 60’s protests was a good thing, remember? Social change, the end of an unjust war, desegregation? Those were actually good things. Those hippies? They believed in peace. No, they didn’t wear the best clothes, and perhaps their personal hygiene wasn’t what you would have wanted, but their messages? Good things.

What is happening in this country right now in New York is but a reflection of what has been happening all over the world in recent years: Social protest against unjust policies, cruel regimes, and financial ruin. I think it’s about time.  I mean, the latest news reports indicate that Wall Street bonuses this year are set to equal or surpass last year’s bonuses . . .

How many of us lost a lot of our retirement funds when Wall Street crashed a few years ago? I know that I did. So don’t talk to me about how these protests are quaint. These protestors are doing what so many of us gripe about but take no action against, and if I were in New York, I’d be out there.

Everything must have been once. That’s why life seems to me like a ghostly undulation. History does not repeat itself; yet it seems as if our lives are caught in the reflections of a past world, whose delayed echoes we prolong. Memory is an argument not only against time but also against this world. It half uncovers the probable worlds of the past, crowning them with a vision of paradise. Regrets spring from the nadir of memory.” ~ E. M. Cioran, Tears and Saints, (trans. Ilinca Zarifopol-Johnston)

Berenice Abbott: Tempo of the City (Fifth Ave and 44th St, NYC) (1938)

So what does Wall Street have to do with my street, with my personal situation? More than you might think. Far too many of us in American society have had serious setbacks in recent years. Far too many of us are struggling just to survive. Far too many of us have lost jobs, lost homes, lost health coverage, and some have lost everything.

Why? Not because we’re lazy, or because we choose not to work. I read post after post about recent college grads who are coming out of school thousands of dollars in debt with school loans and absolutely no prospects for work. I read about one woman with a college degree who makes $7.50 an hour and spends most of her income repaying her school loans.

Are there slackers? Of course there are. Are there people who abuse the system? Of course. But far too many of us do not fall into that category.

Me and mine? We are better off than most. We have food and shelter and a vehicle. We do not live beyond our means, have no credit cards, have no new car payments, have an old house that needs a multitude of repairs, and some of us in this family have health insurance. But we’re surviving. Things aren’t ideal, but truthfully, are they ever?

Four of the five people living in this house are going to college, thankfully with some Pell Grant money, some scholarship money, and a bit of student loans. Four of the five people living in this house are relatively healthy. You don’t need to tell me that we should be grateful, because we are. I guess I just needed to say that.

Like the trees

I don’t know what to sing.” ~ Eduardo Chirinos from Reasons for Writing Poetry

Berenice Abbott: Gasoline Station (Gremont Ave and Dock St, NYC) (1936)

So what happened to set me off on this rant? Everything and nothing. I must remind myself that in the grand scheme of things, Hercules finished his labors. He did not stay in those stables forever, and the Hydra? Well she was vanquished as well.

My personal Hydra seems to keep sprouting new heads, and once in a while, that really torques me out of shape, but not because those heads do anything more than smell pretty bad.

Discretion is the better part of valour.

I don’t always remember that, but I try. I just have a really hard time when someone threatens, even remotely, those who I consider to be under my protection, under my sheltering wing, if you will. It does not sit well, let us say, when aggressive tactics, time-wasting efforts start my week off on a bad note. And so I say and do things that I would not normally say or do. Whatever.

It’s Tuesday. It looks like rain. I have chocolate. The music is playing, and I laughed out loud a few times today. Life, in spite of all of my assertions to the contrary, is good. Sometimes I’m looking at it through a veil of pain, and sometimes it is a veil of tears, but when the rain passes, and the clouds break, the sky is still there, filled with stars or sunshine.

Outside the sky is darkening. I can do this.

More later. Peace.

Music by Fink, “Yesterday Was Hard on All of Us”

*All images from New York Public Library Digital Gallery, Berenice Abbott

                   

Personal

Don’t take it personal, they said;
but I did, I took it all quite personal—

the breeze and the river and the color of the fields;
the price of grapefruit and stamps,

the wet hair of women in the rain—
And I cursed what hurt me

and I praised what gave me joy,
the most simple-minded of possible responses.

The government reminded me of my father,
with its deafness and its laws,

and the weather reminded me of my mom,
with her tropical squalls.

Enjoy it while you can, they said of Happiness
Think first, they said of Talk

Get over it, they said
at the School of Broken Hearts

but I couldn’t and I didn’t and I don’t
believe in the clean break;

I believe in the compound fracture
served with a sauce of dirty regret,

I believe in saying it all
and taking it all back

and saying it again for good measure
while the air fills up with I’m-Sorries

like wheeling birds
and the trees look seasick in the wind.

Oh life! Can you blame me
for making a scene?

You were that yellow caboose, the moon
disappearing over a ridge of cloud.

I was the dog, chained in some fool’s backyard;
barking and barking:

trying to convince everything else
to take it personal too.

~ Tony Hoagland

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf.” ~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Gate to the Sea

                   

“Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~ Meg Chittenden

Monday evening. Much cooler but still humid.

Ocean Archway, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Kind of a slow, sad day. Not exactly sure why, but I think that it has something to do with the disturbing dreams that I had last night. In one, I saw my father standing on the shore and fishing; I saw him so closely that I could see the little moles on his face, and then he disappeared.

Later, in another dream or perhaps the same one, I was at a funeral home, but it was a very unusual funeral home: they specialized in creating replicas of the dearly departed, and these replicas did things like talk or blink or in one case, had eyes that glowed. I kept trying to get out, but each door that I went through took me into yet another room filled with the macabre.

And then I was with my cousins on the Filipino side, and the youngest had stolen Caitlin’s soul. I was frantic, trying to get her to give back my daughter’s soul so that she could be at peace, but my cousin was possessed, and everyone turned against me, locked me in a bathroom, and I couldn’t make anyone see how wrong everything was.

Needless to say, I awoke with a killer headache, and to top it off, achy legs.

I read somewhere that people tend to remember 95 percent of their dream upon waking, and then with each subsequent minute, the dream fades very quickly, so why do the images from last night still haunt me?

“One could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane.” ~ W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

Saintes Maries de la Mer, France, kaneda99 (FCC)

Last night we had our combined Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/Anniversary dinner out. Sushi. So good. Brett and his friend Em came with us even though they had already eaten. Brett cannot resist sushi.

Even though everything was tasty, it was probably the longest that we have ever had to wait for our meal. Only one sushi chef was on duty. Still, everything was tasty.

We came home, and I collapsed in bed. I took three Seroquel last night, which is the dose that my doctor recommended; I’ve only been taking two at bedtime because this is yet another medication that can cause weight gain, so I’ve been trying to be pretty conservative with it. But last night I found myself chewing on my fingers, something I haven’t been doing for a while now, so I realized that for one night at least I needed to take more.

I slept very soundly, and perhaps that is why my dreams were so vivid. Who knows . . . I slept through two telephone calls this morning. I heard the phone somewhere in the distance, but I could not bring myself to get up to find it. This is not a great habit, but hey, at least I slept.

Eamonn came over for a while yesterday for Dad’s day. He gets along so well with Corey; they have a very comfortable relationship. I’m still trying to talk him into moving back here, at least for fall semester because it’s so important that he does well this fall so that he can get into the radiation technology program that he wants. I don’t know if he will come back, but I find myself missing him terribly.

Alexis texted last night. Big surprise there. If she couldn’t make it over for Mum’s Day, I really didn’t expect to see her yesterday. Still, it stings.

Corey brought me a card that he has kept all of these years; it’s an old Father’s Day card from Alexis in which she thanks him for being so supportive and telling him how glad that he is a part of our family. He looked at it wistfully, and I could tell that even though he didn’t say so, he was hurt.

“’I do adore music,’ she said. ‘It just seems to say all the things one can’t say oneself.’ She gave a nervous little laugh and looked from one to another with great benignity, as though she would like to say something but could not find the words in which to express it.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

To the Ocean by Brenda-Starr (FCC)

Truthfully, I think that part of my melancholy stems from the loss of Clarence Clemons. I know that Corey got tired of me playing “Jungleland” yesterday, but that sax solo is so full of emotion that I cannot help but get caught up in it.

So today I’m back to country music, which is also not helping the mood, but I need soft and soothing today.

I think that if Corey and I still went to karaoke it would actually help. Singing is one way for me to release emotions. Sitting here, just me and the computer, singing my heart out seems kind of counterproductive. The dogs seem to like it, so there’s that.

Music, writing, book-making, collages—these are my artistic outlets. I haven’t made a book in ages, and I’ve been mulling over making one for Brett. Now that I have a better idea as to his literary likes and dislikes, I think that I could put together something creative.

It’s funny, you know, but I made my first book years ago, when I was working at the museum. I took a blank book and pasted in pictures, odd paper scraps, and quotes. I made one for Dr. K when she was expecting her first baby. She loved it and said that I really should think about trying to commercialize it. I told her that I didn’t really think that there was a market for such a thing. Less than a year later, the whole scrapbook thing exploded in the marketplace.

Once again, another train missed. I don’t mind, though. Scrapbooks strike me as cookie cutter a bit; I know that some people create really striking visual products, but there are templates and pre-printed sheets; whereas my books are wholly individual: no one else has these pictures or these papers. I’ve made books for Alexis and for Corey. It never seemed like the kind of thing that Eamonn would like, so I didn’t make him one when he graduated. I wonder if I’m underestimating him.

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.” ~ Bertolt Brecht, “Motto,” from Poems: 1913-56, various translators

Walking to the Ocean by maureen_lederhos (FCC)

I have a confession: I have taken a strong dislike to e-mail. Don’t ask me why, but I find myself checking it only once a week, if that often. Perhaps it’s more of that hermit tendency in me, but e-mail, virtual mail isn’t real. I want paper. That and the fact that I get so many unwanted ad and pleas for money from someone I’ve never heard of. It’s virtual junk mail, and quite frankly, I  abhor it.

Corey is outside making home-made stakes for his sunflowers, which took a real beating in the last storm. He heard from his mom today that one of his aunts is willing to help us with airfare to Ohio for Chad’s wedding. That’s an unexpected but quite lovely gesture. Her entire family is like that—very thoughtful and giving.

Corey’s mom had offered to give me all of her sisters’ e-mail addresses for my Avon, but I just didn’t feel right about approaching them since I don’t see them often. I really don’t know if I will be continuing with the whole Avon venture as it seems to be a money pit as opposed to a money-maker. I’m certain that people who are very active and aggressive about it do very well. We all know that of the two, I am not very active. Hence, the standstill.

I hope everything works out that we can both go to Chad’s wedding as it will be nice to see everyone on such a happy occasion. I could do with a happy occasion or two.

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling. When the bright angel dominates, out comes a great work of art, a Michelangelo David or a Beethoven symphony.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Walk to the Ocean

You know, I probably should not write when I feel this way, when the melancholy threatens to overtake me at any minute, but this is precisely when I need to write, when the need is overpowering, the need to make real the words that are inside me.

One of the things that is making me ache is that the peripheral drama appears to be moving into high gear, and it’s hard to stand idly by, to bite my tongue, to remember that this is not my battle. My tendency to become embroiled in the battles of those I love and those for whom I feel a strong loyalty has taken me into the fray even when I pledged to stand apart.

I just find it hard to watch another person hurt, whatever the reason. I long to step in and say, “Here. Let me take that pain away.” But this is not possible. Witness my own daughter: no matter how much I long to make it so, I cannot help her to find her way, cannot help her to regain her footing in this vast world, a world that sometimes seems so completely unforgiving, so scornful of the weak, of the lost.

Too often, I lead with my heart instead of my head, and this is not always best, although sometimes it is the only way to go. Then, too, I find that I am still able to be surprised by the generosity of other people, people I have never met, people who have been out of my life for years who resurface and say, “Here. Let me help.”

“There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.” ~ Harold Pinter

Path to Nowhere, St. Agnes, Cornwall, by atoach (FCC)

In today’s virtual world, friendship has morphed into a page on the screen on which people list their current state of affairs, their immediate mindset, and missives that may have gone out to only a single friend in the past are now shot-gunned out to however many friends are listed on the side of the page. Close confidences are shared with everyone, almost as if the sharer longs for someone, anyone in the virtual sphere to respond and say, “I hear you.”

Like the paper letters I long for but will not receive, friendship seems to have changed its face with the continual evolution of the web. Who we are is not our icon, not our gravatar, if you will. Our online handle is a reflection of how we see ourselves but not necessarily who we are. With all of this, it is completely expected that we will get lost along the way, that we go through the wrong doors in our attempts to find the exit or the entrance.

And as a result, we have spawned a generation that will know little of the post office, of the possible beauty of a postage stamp. A generation that knows only fleetingly how to converse intimately. A generation that finds comfort in sharing everything, every scintilla of emotion, who knows nothing of self-censoring. We have a generation that is being raised knowing little of shared confidences because everything is shared.

You might find that an ironic statement coming from me, a self-proclaimed confessional writer, but trust me when I say that I know how to keep confidences. I have been told things that I have never revealed to another soul. I fear that this generation raised online will not understand the value of one-to-one sharing, the precious regard for heartfelt confession after a night of wine, and movies, and long conversation.

And this saddens me more than I can say.

More later. Peace.

Music by Kenny Chesney, “You Save Me.” For Corey.

                   

I Have Been Living

I have been living
closer to the ocean than I thought—
in a rocky cove thick with seaweed.

It pulls me down when I go wading.
Sometimes, to get back to land
takes everything that I have in me.

Sometimes, to get back to land
is the worst thing a person can do.
Meanwhile, we are dreaming:

The body is innocent.
She has never hurt me.
What we love flutters in us.

~ Jane Mead

“Let us sculpt in hopeless silence all our dreams of speaking.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

 

                   

“rush of pine scent (once upon a time),
the unlicensed conviction
there ought to be another way
of saying
this.” ~ Paul Celan

Thursday evening. Cold. Incipient migraine.

William Blake once said that “in the universe, there are things that are known, and things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.”  I found a card once that depicted a series of doors, and the Blake quote was printed at the top. I had that card on my collage for years.

I think that we very often go through doors without a clear conception of what may be lying on the other side. In our attempts just to move through life, we open a door, hoping that some kind of truth will be waiting on the other side. And that truth may indeed be there, but it just isn’t the truth that we were anticipating.

Does that make any sense?

“There is this white wall, above which the sky creates itself—
Infinite, green, utterly untouchable.
Angels swim in it, and the stars, in indifference also.
They are my medium.
The sun dissolves on this wall, bleeding its lights.

A gray wall now, clawed and bloody.
Is there no way out of the mind?” ~ Sylvia Plath, from “Apprehensions”

Writing in Old Notebook (ca. 1884)

Let me back up and attempt to explain: Each year, in the months of November and December my nuclear family undergoes a change. The change is not sought, nor is it necessarily wanted, but without fail, it rears its head and begins to bite little pieces out of our souls, mine and Corey’s, that is.

You see, in November I try so hard to bring to the forefront of my mind the face of my father and the face of my daughter. Both gone for years, I hope that by being able to conjure the lines of their faces, the shapes of their eyes, their noses, I will be able to regain some semblance of closeness to them.

It is, undoubtedly, an exercise in pain. I know this, but the knowing does not stop me. For the entire month of November, whether or not I realize it, I am a walking time bomb, tormented by slights—real and imagined. My family, being keenly aware of this, takes pains to compensate for my temporary insanity, and I try very hard not to lose too much of myself in my heart-madness.

December 5th passes (my father’s birthday); I begin to emerge, and I try to reset my mind, to move into holiday mood. I do this because my childhood love of Christmas is one thing that I cling to in the hopes of recreating a Currier & Ives holiday that probably never happened. Nevertheless, in my hopes of sharing smiles of happiness with my family on Christmas morning, I use the holidays as my means of escaping the brutal realities of November.

The problem with this scenario? Corey hates Christmas. I don’t really know all of the reasons why, but he has never shared in my childlike (childish?) fondness for all that December encompasses: the lights, the smells, the trees, the gifts, the presents, the appearance of Venus in the sky, brighter and seemingly nearer than any other time of the year. For me, it’s not the spirituality but rather the idea of family, and sharing, and beauty.

For Corey, I don’t know what it is other than something he would rather skip. In fact, Corey becomes downright desolate in December, and that desolation on the heels of my November decline inevitably leads to friction, misunderstanding, and distance.

“While I was looking the other way your fire went out
Left me with cinders to kick into dust
What a waste of the wonder you were

In my living fire I will keep your scorn and mine
In my living fire I will keep your heartache and mine
At the disgrace of a waste of a life” ~ Kristin Cashore, “Dellian Lament,” from Fire

Quill and Writing Desk

The overlapping of these two emotional falls never bodes well. It is as if we are two pieces of tinder, small enough to be borne about by the wind, but infused with enough power to ignite a fire of immense proportions. Trust me when I say that this is not a good thing.

For the past two weeks Corey has been one raw wound.  He snipes, and with my perceived wounds, I retreat into a sullen silence. Today was no exception.  So here I sit feeling bitterly sorry for myself and wondering what I hope to achieve by writing all of this. Hence, the Blake quote about the known and unknown and the doors in between.

When two people are together, no matter how much love is between them, the moments of discord loom larger than the moments of harmony. That is a simple fact. I think that the more love there is, the more potential there is to be hurt. But the very nature of love as a double-edged sword is what draws us to it, what makes us yearn for it, and what makes us fear it. Because of this, some people close themselves off from the potential to be wounded, and then there are those of us who rip off our sleeves, beat our chests, and yell, “more!”

Love is inherently insane, and its slaves are doomed to be made fools again and again.

“I sought the peak of prudence, but I found
the hemlock-brimming valley of your heart,
and my own thirst for bitter truth and art.” ~ Federico García Lorca, from “Stigmata of Love” 

Selection from Old Manuscript

It is now 3:30 a.m., early Saturday morning. The incipient migraine hit me full force while writing this post, and I have not been able to return to it until now. I should probably go back and try to make more sense of what I wrote before, but quite frankly, I just don’t care. That I am not asleep is a reflection not only of the effects of the migraine but also of the deep depression that crept upon me in the last 48 hours.

The depression is an amalgamation of many factors that have been building over the past few weeks. When Corey asked me a few nights ago just why I was so prickly, I took his question to heart and made myself do some searching within. These are the things that have been bothering me:

My mother, with whom I lived during the time immediately after her fall and during her recovery, had a sort of mantra with which she filled our days together: She was on a fixed income (lost count of how many times I heard that), and paying her bills was of such import to her that she tried to get out of her sick-bed only a few days after falling so that she could make out her checks. As I mentioned in previous posts, I ended up doing her bills for her in the interim, so I have more than a passing knowledge about her income and her financial obligations, which are, for the most part, just the costs associated with day-to-day living: utilities, food, insurance. She is not well off, but neither is she in the poor house.

So when she began to talk of buying another car so that she could give Alexis her 2002 Honda Civic, I listened/only half-listened. I had heard it all before, and she changed her mind daily, depending upon whether or not she was angry with Alexis. This is how my mother operates. Not to mention the fact that I did not want to think about  the complaints that the coming months would bring if my mother took on a car payment, how she is barely making it. I know: I sound like the bitch that I am.

Admittedly, I was also not necessarily pleased with the idea of my mother giving my daughter yet another car (third since my father died), mostly because Alexis is still not working and not making any attempts to find employment. I thought that such an act on my mother’s part would only continue to reinforce Alexis’s less than responsible behavior. But what do I know as I am only her mother . . .

The short of it is that my mother ended up buying herself a new Honda Accord and gave Alexis the Civic so that she (Alexis) can look for a job. I tried to stay out of the whole process as much as possible, which is pretty much impossible in matters involving my mother as she is a master at guilting me into doing things that I would prefer not to do. I acquiesce because it is easier and because I carry an inordinate amount of guilt in matters concerning my mother.

I decided to put my foot down in the only way that I thought made sense: I declared that Corey and I would not be footing the bill for Alexis’s car insurance, which we have been doing without any recompensation from her for quite a while now. Corey declared that I was being petty, which led to some of the discord to which I referred above.

“Nothing adds up.
It all adds up. How long will this storm go on?” ~ Raymond Carver, “Stupid”

Quill and Inkpot

I have never thought of myself as petty, so the word hurt terribly, especially coming from Corey. Is it petty that right now I have problems of my own that consume me? That right now, I find that my empathy, my sympathy, my whatever-pathy is lacking? More guilt. 

But what was and is really bothering me? So much and so little, as usual. Alexis, 26, no job, no apparent ambition, coasting and casting about and living off the kindness of those who love and care for her. ‘She has problems,’ I am reminded, words that I have spoken myself on occasion. I despair of what will become of her; I know that whatever that is, it is beyond my doing now. That realization  is hard as the love that I bear for my children is so powerful, so all-consuming.

My instincts always are to protect, to help, to soothe. But is this not a disservice in some ways? Have I not contributed to my daughter’s sense that someone will always be there for her? And yet, I never want her to feel the despair that I have felt. I never want her to feel as if she has no one in the world who is there for her as I have felt.

As a parent, will I ever reach a point at which I do not feel both responsible and burdened? Perhaps this time of the night is not the best time to try to unravel these mysteries.

Yet I wonder if I will ever reach a point in my life in which melancholy will not be able to envelop me so completely. I feel as if I am deep inside a crevice, looking up towards a sky that I know is there but cannot reach. I have no ulterior motive—no arrière pensée, if you will—for revealing the turmoil which I feel.

I long to have someone to call in the middle of the night who will be able to discern just from the timbre of my voice that while I may feel impenetrable, I can still be reached. I miss having a best friend.

Enough already. I have written myself into a corner. As I have said before, it is all too much and not enough, and to continue pick at the wound will only leave a scar.

More later. Peace.

Music by Glass Pear, “My Ghost” (what an incredible voice)

                   

All the True Vows

All the true vows
are secret vows
the ones we speak out loud
are the ones we break.

There is only one life
you can call your own
and a thousand others
you can call by any name you want.

Hold to the truth you make
every day with your own body,
don’t turn your face away.

Hold to your own truth
at the center of the image
you were born with.

Those who do not understand
their destiny will never understand
the friends they have made
nor the work they have chosen

nor the one life that waits
beyond all the others.

By the lake in the wood
in the shadows
you can
whisper that truth
to the quiet reflection
you see in the water.

Whatever you hear from
the water, remember,

it wants you to carry
the sound of its truth on your lips.

Remember,
in this place
no one can hear you

and out of the silence
you can make a promise
it will kill you to break,

that way you’ll find
what is real and what is not.

I know what I am saying.
Time almost forsook me
and I looked again.

Seeing my reflection
I broke a promise
and spoke
for the first time
after all these years

in my own voice,

before it was too late
to turn my face again.

David Whyte, from The House of Belonging

Happy! Happy! Joy! Joy!

 

Brett and Grandma 

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

  

 

  

  

  

  

  

Eamonn, Brett, and Rebecca 

  

  

  

  

  

Mom and Brett  

  

  

  

  

  

   

Brett in a Sea of Caps and Gowns 

  

  

  

  

  

 

Brothers in Arms 

  

 

“That proves you are unusual, returned the Scarecrow; and I am convinced the only people worthy of consideration in this world are the unusual ones. For the common folks are like the leaves of a tree, and live and die unnoticed.” ~ Frank Baum

 

The Graduate

  

“The future is a convenient place for dreams.” ~ Anatole France

Well, we survived graduation, all of us. I spent Sunday worrying about Monday. I spent Monday morning worrying about Monday night. I spent Monday night worrying about the next few minutes. I finally relaxed once it was all over and I was home. Of course, that’s when the migraine began . . . 

 But everything went the way that it was supposed to: Brett marched in with his class, received his diploma, and managed to smile. Actually, he smiled a lot. We took lots of pictures, but the camera was acting funky, so they aren’t the best shots, unfortunately. I think that fact that it was in the mid 90’s even at 9 in the evening also contributed to the overall feelings of craziness. We were all melting. No one wanted to stand still for pictures, and Brett insisted on making goofy faces in many of the pictures. 

Alexis, Me, Brett, Eamonn

 

Brett and Corey

 

  

That’s okay, though. It was nice to see the joy on his face and to know that when all was said and done, he was able to enjoy himself. 

Now, I get to start worrying about college . . . 

Music by Sheryl Crow, “Always on Your Side”

“You spend your whole life stuck in the labyrinth, thinking about how you’ll escape it one day, and how awesome it will be, and imagining that future keeps you going, but you never do it. You just use the future to escape the present.” ~ John Green

Medieval Illustration: Astrology and the Body

  

“We all get lost once in a while, sometimes by choice, sometimes due to forces beyond our control. When we learn what it is our soul needs to learn, the path presents itself.” ~ Cecelia Ahern
Medieval Medicinal Herbs

It seems that I was just talking about the number of people I have come across who are giving up blogging. For some people, the time just seems right to close a chapter in their lives. For other, it is less a matter of timing and more a matter of  giving up the ghost, as it were. Blogging no longer offers the sense of accomplishment, or the challenge, or the outlet for release that it once did, and so, the blog dies—sometimes naturally, and sometimes with assistance. I find it sad no matter what the cause.

So extremely sad news, not just for me but for all fans of one of my favorite blogs: Floridana, by Janson Jones. Janson, whose life is very full with his family and his full-time job teaching at the University of Alaska, has decided to end his current blog.

I’ve been following Janson’s blog since I first began blogging myself. To not have it available for weekly reading is going to be a loss. The good news is that Janson plans to keep posting his beautiful photographs on deviantArt. DeviantArt is a wonderfully eclectic site that features submissions in many categories: digital art, photography, traditional art, film and animation, manga/anime, flash, and fan art.  If you’ve never visited this site, you might want to take a stroll through the submissions, many of which can be purchased.

Janson’s link on deviantArt can be found on my blogroll under Visual Stimulation or by clicking here. Janson, I’m really going to miss your posts and your incredible photography of Alaska, Florida, and other parts. Take care.

I have come to drag you out of yourself and take you in my heart. I have come to bring out the beauty you never knew you had, and lift you like a prayer to the sky.” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi
Medieval Illustration: Veins in the Body

In other news around the blogosphere, I came across a few posts in recent days that deserve mentioning. First, there was a wonderfully-insightful post on Truth and Rocket Science called “Glass Full of Oil.” John, the author of the post, is originally from New Orleans, so he feels the acute dismay of this spill keenly. The post deals with the ethical issues of a country dependent upon fossil fuels, oil, and the oil business. Ultimately, it asks the hard question:

This isn’t rocket science.  It’s a matter of will.  We are the richest country on Earth, and we can do this if we want to.  While we’re at it, we can finally clean up the mess and set things to right from Katrina.  What America does shows the world—and more importantly, ourselves—what we really want and what we really care about.   What shall we do this time?

Another wonderful post comes from Rodibidably, who recently posted about healthcare reform. This post includes videos from Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow, and Representative Barney Frank. The author is worried that the American people have become complacent about reform, and as a result, the opposition is gaining ground. He posits five action points on what still needs to be done about healthcare reform:

  • Ensure that EVERYBODY is covered and has equal access to health care
  • Ensure that medical professionals are making the decisions for what treatment should be given, and not accountants at an insurance company
  • Ensure that NOBODY goes broke due to health care costs
  • Ensure that everybody has access to medical treatment, regardless of the providers’ personal feelings about such treatment (i.e. don’t allow pharmacists to refuse to give women “the pill”)
  • Ensure that “Science Based Medicine” is the basis of treatment

And finally, Titirangi Storyteller featured a post on the 6th of June called “Women Time Forgot.” Unlike the previous two, this is more of a personal post in which the author talks about how we as women are supposed to age as compared to how we really age. Witty and ultimately enjoyable. Here is a taste:

Who are we? Where do we belong? We are the women that time forgot.

There is no name for us. No single word or box we fit into. There is only one acceptable definition – we are The Wild Women!

We’ve paid our dues. We’ve proven everything we need to prove. They ain’t got anything on us! The reason it’s been kept a secret is – we are the most dangerous people alive… We’re no longer living for them – whoever they may be.

Wild women. Women of a certain age. Women time forgot. All of these or perhaps none. Only the woman herself can know.

By the way, Titirangi is in Auckland, New Zealand.

Sometimes inspired thoughts weave themselves into the finest fabrics,
And grow ever fresher and more comely as they expand,
Glistening with colors of the most exquisite embroidery,
And tuned to the poignant music of a thousand strings. ~ Lu Chi
Medieval Illustration: Bloodletting

So last night, just as I was adding the images to my post about feverfew and sunflowers, the Internet went out. The post itself isn’t anything special, but it was one of those that took every ounce in me to write as I was feeling less than creative, downright listless, in fact. So when my computer stopped working, I was royally torqued out of shape. It had taken me almost two hours to write less than 1,000 words. The entire process reminded me of bloodletting.

You know, what they used to do to get rid of illnesses in people: cutting them open and letting the blood drip out so as to rid the body of ill humours, those four things that resided in the body and controlled a person’s health. Never heard of it? Then you didn’t study Medieval and Elizabethan literature because doctors in literature were always bleeding someone or using leeches to cure the ill. Hamlet, for example, is ripe with allusions to his ill-humour.

Even though medicine in the Middle Ages was derived from ancient Greek and Roman texts, elements of Islamic medicine were also incorporated, particularly during the Crusades. Hand-in-hand with the pervasive suspicions and beliefs in the supernatural, Medieval medicine was also based on the idea that factors such as destiny, sin, and astral influences could affect the human body.

The underlying principle of medieval medicine was the theory of humours, which was derived from ancient medical works. The idea of humours, which dominated all western medicine up until the 19th century, stated that within every individual there were four humours, or principal fluids: black bile (earth), yellow bile (fire), phlegm (water), and blood (air). These fluids/humours were produced by various organs in the body, and they had to be in balance for a person to remain healthy.

For example, my melancholy would have been diagnosed as too much earth. Too much phlegm in the body, for example, caused lung problems; so the individual would have been told to cough up the phlegm to restore a balance. The balance of humours in humans could be achieved by diet, medicines, and by blood-letting, using leeches. The four humours were also associated with the four elements and the four seasons, black bile-autumn, yellow bile-summer, phlegm-winter and blood-spring. The signs of the zodiac were also associated with certain humours. Even now, some still use words “choleric”, “sanguine”, “phlegmatic” and “melancholy” to describe personalities.

Aries Avoid incisions in the head and face and cut no vein in the head.
Taurus Avoid incisions in the neck and throat and cut no veins there.
Gemini Avoid incisions in the shoulders, arms or hands and cut no vein.
Cancer Avoid incisions in the breasts, sides, stomach and lungs and cut no vein that goes to the spleen.
Leo Avoid incisions of the nerves, lesions of the sides and bones, and do not cut the back either by opening and bleeding.
Virgo Avoid opening a wound in the belly and in the internal parts.
Libra Avoid opening wounds in the umbellicus and parts of the belly and do not open a vein in the back or do cupping.
Scorpio Avoid cutting the testicles and anus.
Sagittarius Avoid incisions in the thighs and fingers and do not cut blemishes and growths.
Capricorn Avoid cutting the knees or the veins and sinews in these places.
Aquarius Avoid cutting the knees or the veins and veins in these places.
Pisces Avoid cutting the feet.
Treatment According to Zodiac Sign
 
“Man is a microcosm, or a little world, because he is an extract from all the stars and planets of the whole firmament, from the earth and the elements; and so he is their quintessence.” ~ Parcelus, 16th Century Physician
Medieval Doctor's Bloodletting Blades

Historically, physicians believed that many illnesses were caused by an excess of blood, and bloodletting was a frequent prescription for a wide range of conditions. As far-fetched as it may sound, the bloodletting may have actually been beneficial in some cases, as, for example, in cases of high blood pressure. Lowering blood volume would lower blood pressure. On the other hand, the loss of too much blood could make  patients sicker, and unfortunately, repeated bloodletting was often employed if a patient did not show improvement.

Therapeutic bloodletting was accomplished by puncturing veins punctured with knives or needles, or by using leeches to suck blood from a patient. Leeches are still used in modern medical treatment to treat specific conditions, such as poor circulation. In some cases, leeches can actually restore the flow of blood to a damaged extremity, potentially preventing the loss of that extremity.

So, bearing all of that in mind, I need to avoid cutting my knees, and I need an infusion of lemon balm (insomnia), chamomile (headaches), and yarrow (pain relief).

More later. Peace.

Eric Clapton, “Change the World”