“Todo começo é involuntário.” (All beginnings are involuntary) ~ Fernando Pessao

  

December Snow, Anchorage, Alaska by Janson Jones  

“I’m astounded whenever I finish something. Astounded and distressed.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet 

Cold and rainy here today. No snow. Of course there is no snow. But if feels like it should be snowing. At least that’s what my inner voice is saying. Snow . . . snow . . . snow . . .

University of Alaska Campus, November 2009 by Janson Jones

We haven’t had a good snow in this area for years, which is probably best since everything comes to a complete standstill even with a light dusting. These people don’t know how to drive in the rain, let alone the snow.  And ice? Just stay home. It’s safer.  

Corey and I are talking about trying to make a trip to Ohio for a few days around Christmas. With any luck, it will be snowing, and maybe I can get some good photographs. For some reason, I feel most creative as far as my photography when there is snow. Maybe it’s because I’m really a black and white person as far as my own color palette. I mean, on those quizzes when it asks what your favorite color is, I answer black. On rare occasions I’ll pick red or purple, but mostly, it’s just black.  

I don’t have anything against color, I just happen to like black—black boots, black purses, black pants, black leather jackets. And then there are those 10 or so white sweaters that I have in my closet in various stages of comfort wearability. The oldest is probably from the early 90’s, and it is wonderfully comfortable.  

I know. You are probably thinking that I need to get out more, but even when I left the house on a regular basis, it was mostly black, with some red thrown in and occasionally shades of purple and lavender.  

So shooting pictures in the snow is very rewarding for me. I do have to admit, though, that I haven’t figured out how to set my digital camera to take black and white photographs, so I usually just take out the color in Photoshop.  Not my first choice, but it works. Years ago I had wanted to put a dark room in my house so that I could develop my own black and white film. As with most things, never got around to it, which is just as well since I shoot almost exclusively in digital now.  

“My perfectionist instinct should inhibit me from finishing: it should inhibit me from even beginning.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet   

White House Image of President Greeting Salahis

On the national front Tiger Woods is doing a mea culpa. Those White House gate-crashers, the Salahis, are still firmly holding to their story that they had invitations (sure, you did), and in Orange County, California, thieves broke into a warehouse and stole food and goods that had been collected for the needy. Robbing Salvation Army kettles, stealing donations—can’t these people pick their targets better? Not that anyone deserves to be robbed, but robbing from those who can least afford it?  Bah . . .  

Don’t ask me how I feel about President Obama’s speech in which he declares that he will be sending 30,000 troops to Afghanistan.  I am of very mixed feelings about the whole thing. I mean, Bin Laden was in Afghanistan in the first place. That’s where the war should have been fought, not in Iraq. Perhaps if the previous administration and Darth Cheney had been more focused, there would be no need to send anyone anywhere. I mean, 30,000 troops is a lot of people. A lot. And the proclamation that withdrawal will begin in mid 2011 is ludicrous. There is not way to know that in advance. Another open-ended incursion into another country—not the best news, to say the very least.     

And on a final note, I read a disturbing story about a 13-year-old Florida girl who committed suicide because of sexting bullying. Apparently, this young, impressionable girl sent a topless photo of herself to a boy that she liked. Okay. That’s the first problem. The fact that kids, teenagers, young people can take sexually-explicit photographs of themselves and each other with their phones and not be mature enough to realize the long-reaching implications is truly bothersome (the article cites a poll in which 20 percent of teens admit to sending sexually explicit photographs of themselves over cell phones).  Someone else intercepted the photo while using the boy’s phone, and that person spread the picture throughout the girl’s school and even to nearby high schools. Soon after, classmates began a campaign of fierce harassment, calling the girl a slut and a whore when she walked the school halls.  

What dismays me the most about this story is that at 13, girls are in the midst of one of the most confusing times of their lives. Hormones. Emotions. Body image. Peer pressure. It doesn’t matter what kind of home life these kids have, adolescence is adolescence, which is to say, it’s one of the most tumultuous, stressful, suckiest times of a person’s life. The girl did not tell her family about the bullying, and eventually, it became so bad that she felt that she couldn’t go on, and she hung herself in her bedroom where her mother found her.  

Teenage Girls With Cell Phones

So many things wrong with this situation: the lack of privacy as a result of cell phones with cameras, the lack of good judgment on the part of those involved, the cruelty with which teenagers and children treat each other, never realizing just how horribly words and actions can affect a boy or girl who is already feeling isolated, or confused, or sad. It just makes me ache inside for this girl’s family and friends, and it makes me want to throttle the bullies, which, I know, is not the best reaction.  

“But I get distracted and start doing something. What I achieve is not the product of an act of my will but of my will’s surrender.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet 

I speak from experience when I say that teenage girls are most vicious when it comes to other teenage girls. I think that the jealousy hormone ratchets out of control with the onset of puberty. These young girls are so starved for attention, even the wrong kind, that idle gossip can soon turn to slander which can then escalate into bullying. Teenage boys, because they have pretty much one main focus, will easily become caught up in these campaigns. No one wins.  

The gossip-mongers learn that being vocal gets them noticed. Their friends don’t want to seem unsupportive, so they join in. The victims, not having endured workforce mongering and backstabbing, are totally unprepared for the onslaught. If you don’t believe that middle schools are hotbeds of jungle socialization, then you are living with your head in the sand.  

Is this solely a family problem? No, because no amount of good parenting can prepare a child for the ferocity of what can go on in school, any school, from one day to the next. Is this a school problem? No, but yes. Teachers and administrators aren’t responsible for peer pressure and psychological factors; however, that being said, they should be responsible for alerting parents and guardians to potential problems when they are aware of them, which in this case, they did not. Is this a societal problem? Yes, absolutely.  

I know. I’m beating that long-deceased horse carcass again, but it would be a lie to say that children aren’t socialized by countless factors from a very young age to fit in, to be pretty or handsome, to get invited to the right birthday parties in pre-school. It starts that soon.  

I know that there is actually no one right answer to this problem. I also know that access to technology is not always a good thing. Witness the number of adults who have made sex videos only to have them surface after the breakup of a relationship that was supposed to last forever.  If grown-ups don’t have enough sense not to do these kinds of things, how can we expect impressionable youth to know better?  

“I begin because I don’t have the strength to think; I finish because I don’t have the courage to quit.” ~ Fernando Pessoa from The Book of Disquiet   

I’ve worked myself into a lather, so perhaps this would be a good stopping point. Or perhaps, I should go back to boycotting the news. Whatever.  

Other than those tidbits, not a whole lot else going on. Everyone has retreated to the comfort of their own niches: Corey is on the computer in the dining room; Eamonn is sleeping in his room, and Brett is in his room, probably watching television. I’m sitting here in a white sweater and jeans, Christmas socks on my feet, and snowmen earrings on my lobes.  

Admittedly, it was hard motivating myself to write this post. I played a bit of spider solitaire and then sat here looking at the screen. Turned on one of my playlists and hoped that music would inspire me, but truthfully, it didn’t. So I thought that I’d just ramble for a bit and call it a day, but once I got started, the steamroller took over. Weird how that happens.  

More later. Peace.  

K. D. Lang’s “Barefoot”  

  

                                                                                                                                     

Lyrics to Barefoot  

When the sun goes down here
And darkness falls
The blanket of winter
Leaves no light at all
  

You search for shelter
To calm the storm
Shaking with an instinct
Just to stay warm
  

Chorus:
But I’d walk through the snow barefoot
If you’d open up your door
I’d walk through the snow barefoot
  

You hear the howling
Of dogs and wind
Stirring up the secrets
That are frozen within
  

The ice will haunt you
It lays so deep
Locking up inside you
The dreams that you keep

“To me, the greatest pleasure of writing is not what it’s about, but the music the words make.” ~ Truman Capote

Trail of Blue Ice Portage Valley AK by JJ

Trail of Blue Ice (Portage Valley, AK) by Janson Jones

 

“Often when I write I am trying to make words do the work of line and color. I have the painter’s sensitivity to light. Much . . . of my writing is verbal painting.”
~ Elizabeth Bowen

Two of the worst words in the history of language: ignorance and indifference ~ L. Liwag

Few words tonight. Too many thoughts running through my head about the world in which we live. To much tumult to reconcile in a coherent post. Janson’s “Blue Ice” image is the perfect visual accompaniment to how I feel.

My overall mood can best be expressed by Dead Can Dance’s Lisa Gerrard singing “Now We are Free.” Many thanks to my compatriot Janson Jones for reminding me of their incredible music.

 

And to close the evening, here is “Host of Seraphim.” Let me warn you that this particular vid can be very depressing. I may try to tackle this topic tomorrow.

 

More later. Peace.

The Road Less Taken

Point Woronzof Park along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail AK

 Point Woronzof Park Along The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail, Alaska by Janson Jones

 

“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood

edward-hopper-rooms-by-the-sea-1950
"Rooms by the Sea," Edward Hopper (1950)

Today, my mind seems to be going in seventeen directions at once. I feel that I am being bombarded by thoughts and feelings too complex to unweave. Part of me is in Australia where a dear friend is going through some major life difficulties. To worsen things her daughter is also ill and experiencing ups and downs.

Another part of me is thinking about the wife of one of the writers whose site I visit. She, too, is ill and awaiting some kind of relief from her doctors.

Another blogger, one whose writing is just amazing, is anticipating the death of her beloved dog who has been with her for years.

A poet with whom I try to stay in contact has just lost her nephew. Her words are full of pain and sorrow, yet they are hauntingly beautiful at the same time.

Yet another compatriot is awaiting the birth of his daughter. The excitement that he is feeling is palpable, making me excited for him.

It’s so hard in some ways to be connected to so many people, to be intimately familiar with their lives and their loved ones. These connections bring me laughter, insight, opinions, joy, and sometimes, heartbreak.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear; 

It is the empathic side of me that feels too much, that perhaps delves too deeply into the pain and joy of others, leaving me bereft at times, and full of inner delight at other times. I have always been this way—too willing to take on the emotional burdens of others. I remember being a young girl and feeling such complete despair when one of my friend’s dogs was hit by a car, and then being filled with delight when a neighbor’s dog had puppies. Granted, these are probably normal childhood emotions, but it is hard to put into words the keenness I have always felt emotionally, the incisive way in which my emotions have held sway for as long as I can remember.

Henry County Indiana from When Worlds Collide
Henry County Indiana by Julayne from When Worlds Collide

I remember being devastated when someone I worked with at the newspaper died after a bout with cancer. And how absolutely crushed I was when I heard that John Lennon died.

My emotions have always guided me, which is why, I suppose, I have the incredible highs and merciless lows in my life. I’m not suggesting that this is the preferred way to live. On the contrary: There have been many times when I have wished that I could simply turn a switch, turn off everything that I was feeling. There have been moments in which I would have given anything not to be able to feel. To be numb, completely without thought, emotion, or concern.

No one has ever accused me of being a Stoic. For me, nature is not rational and perfect. I do not see everything from a fatalistic viewpoint. In Stoicism, whatever happens, happens, and nothing can change that which is determined, so there is no point in questioning or trying to alter things that are not within the individual’s power. I would never have been able to converse with Zeno, the father of stoicism and his philosophers of the porch. For each statement made, I would have asked why.

But why? Why does this happen? Why didn’t that happen? Why? Why? Why?

For me, every change is felt, not just within my psyche, but by my corporeal self as well. It’s as if my body is a barometer to my soul.

Admittedly, pure elation is an emotion that eludes me much of the time. That’s not to say that I have not been elated many times in my life. Of course I have: when I first held each of my children, on the day that I graduated with my B.A., when I finally completed work on my publishing degree, whenever I finish a piece of writing that I feel certain has come together well, each time that Corey returned home safely after being on the water, each accomplishment in my children’s lives, to name only a few.

As I have mentioned, the beauty that I find in the smallest things—flowers, birds, beautiful images, music, words—brings me a tremendous sense of inner peace and can affect my mood and sometimes reverse an impending low.

But spontaneous elation? I am mystified by people who are like that. You know the ones—they are genuinely happy most of the time. Very little seems to penetrate their cheery dispositions.

To be honest, I am uncomfortable being around people who are like that. Something in me tries to find the falseness behind the cheer. But sometimes, there is no falsehood. These people are happy, with every fiber of their being they are happy. I don’t understand that, nor do I particularly care for it, or perhaps the more accurate statement would be believe it.

Don’t get me wrong, I do not wish unhappiness for these people, but to have that much happiness all of the time? How does one go about feeling the inevitable calamities in life if everything is always good? Positive? When faced with tragedy, to speak homilies such as “well, it was probably meant to be,” or “you’ll feel better soon” seems to ignore the pain. And if pain is ignored, if the individual does not allow herself to move through it, embrace it, and come out on the other side, how can any knowledge be gained?

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 

Bear Lake Trail Everglades Fl by JJ
Bear Lake Trail, Everglades, Florida by Janson Jones

Admittedly, I am a cynic. I question everything, take nothing at face value, and tend not to accept glib explanations. Am I proposing that that is the way to live life? No. Sometimes, I wish that I could just enfold myself in the easy answers, ignore the nagging doubt. Wouldn’t that be easier?

But then, I would not be true to myself if I did so. I question. I doubt. I wonder. But once I believe in something, I will argue vehemently in support of whatever it is that I believe.

For me, the path isn’t always clear. Where it is going is never defined, but I would never change that. The not knowing is what allows for exploration, what encourages the soul to seek out the truth, even though the truth is not always what we desire or what we are prepared to accept.

The truth is such a complex animal. It changes with the wind. It is ephemeral. And that is why the search for it is usually not well-trodden nor lit with beacons pointing in the right direction.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

andrew-wyeth-easterly detail
"Easterly" (detail), by Andrew Wyeth

My life has been one long search for beacons pointing the way, but just as sailors have been misdirected by false light, I too have been misdirected: by believing the words of the wrong person, by holding dear to someone who was not worthy of my heart, by listening to misleading echoes.

And then the path becomes unclear, no boundaries, no borders. And at these times, I have become lost. Yet I have always made my way back, whether it was a friend who guided me, or my love for someone or their love for me, or just being attuned to my esse—I have always managed to find my way home.

For me, the lie is the worst thing. It rips apart the existing reality. It causes shifts in time and space, and as a result, things must be moved around until a new pattern can be formed, and the result is a grey spot where the truth used to be.

But then the opposite holds true: each new friendship, each new person who enters my life in a meaningful way also causes a shift, but the resulting move to accept these new people into the fold increases the beauty of the tapestry, enriches the colors, emboldens the pattern.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I— 

Even though I may wish at times that I had it within me not to feel things so deeply, I know that that will never be. I have my peaks and my valleys, and the movement between the two is an amazing journey, regardless of the pull on my psyche or the taxing of my constitution. My emotions are my plinth: They bolster me and keep me buoyant. But more importantly, they allow me to open my heart to others, to sustain my empathy, to avow the truths of my soul.

Arctic Valley Chugach St Prk Anchorage by JJ
Arctic Valley, Chugach State Park, Anchorage by Janson Jones

Admittedly, the pinnacles of my highs and the chasms of my lows do not make me the easiest person with whom to live, or even, to love. But I hope that the ferocity of my loyalty and my unstinting willingness to follow those for whom I care into the breach help to compensate for my ever-shifting spirits.

And so it is my hope that all of those individuals who I mentioned in the beginning of this post know that even though many miles separate us, my heart and my thoughts encompass them as fully as if I were sitting across the table from them, sharing a cup of tea.

I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference” ~ Robert Frost
 

edward-hopper-houses-of-squam-light detail
"Houses of Squam Light" (detail), by Edward Hopper

I do not know where my path will continue to lead. I only know that I am willing to follow it to its end. I hope that along the way I continue to meet new people, to enter new lives, to touch those who seek comfort, to share in the great moments of bliss, to ease the way for those who will allow it, and to love and be able to call myself beloved.

It is these stops, these waysides that make that path more enthralling and that make me want to continue on this journey. I do not know the full purpose of my quest; I only know that it began years ago and that I still have a long way to go, many more observations to make, and more words to write before I reach my inn.

I’ll leave you with this track from Die Romantik. Haunting song.

 

More later. Peace.

 

The Road Less Taken by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.