Happy Birthday Joyce!
This kind of reminds me of your mother’s old farm house . . .
Music by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (I had to replace the first video because it didn’t work. Sorry)
This kind of reminds me of your mother’s old farm house . . .
Music by Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young (I had to replace the first video because it didn’t work. Sorry)
Update: Seamus Heaney died on August 30 in Dublin, Ireland (1939-2013)
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.
~ Seamus Heaney
I love to go out in late September
among the fat, overripe, icy, black blackberries
to eat blackberries for breakfast,
the stalks very prickly, a penalty
they earn for knowing the black art
of blackberry-making; and as I stand among them
lifting the stalks to my mouth, the ripest berries
fall almost unbidden to my tongue,
as words sometimes do, certain peculiar words
like strengths or squinched,
many-lettered, one-syllabled lumps,
which I squeeze, squinch open, and splurge well
in the silent, startled, icy, black language
of blackberry—eating in late September.
Music by Ryan O’Shaughnessy, “No Name”
That this particular Wyeth is one of my all-time favorite paintings says a lot about me, but what exactly, I don’t know.
Music by Five for Fighting, “World”
the words have come and gone,
I sit ill.
the phone rings, the cats sleep.
I am waiting to live,
waiting to die.
I wish I could ring in some bravery.
it’s a lousy fix
but the tree outside doesn’t know:
I watch it moving with the wind
in the late afternoon sun.
there’s nothing to declare here,
just a waiting.
each faces it alone.
Oh, I was once young,
Oh, I was once unbelievably
~ Charles Bukowski
I’m in the mood for sparse, hence, the Andrew Wyeth images. My favorite is the last one: “Renfield.”
Lovely visit to the pain management group yesterday. Trigger point injections from my neck to my bum. I saw one of the new Physician’s Assistants that joined the group last November. He seemed a bit nervous about giving me the injections until he realized that I wasn’t squeamish. After that, he proceeded to inject everything in sight (slight overstatement). Anyway, I felt like a pin cushion, came home and had to lie down on the heating pad.
A bit better today, but very sore. I told Corey that I’m not certain about this new guy, and Corey reminded me that he hasn’t been giving trigger point injections for years like my other doctors. Good point. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.
Brett used my computer last night to write something about Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” for school. Personally, I have never been that big of a Kafka fan. Just not my cup of tea, so to speak. A story about a man becoming a giant cockroach gives me the willies. I know. It’s about alienation, distance, loneliness. A masterpiece reflecting the identity of self in society . . . Ya da ya da ya da. He’s still a cockroach.
Once the omnipresent head pressure of the last few weeks began to lessen, I was finally able to read the last three Harry Potter books in quick order. I had forgotten how much I really love the last book. Then I thought about all of the e-mails I get from my Goodreads contacts in which they list what they have read lately, and it made me pause. I haven’t really read anything new in a while. I’ve been rereading old favorites. I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with rereading, as it is something that I have always done, revisiting favorites once a year or so, but sometimes I feel as if I am not making any forward motion in my reading.
What I mean is that I feel a general lack in my background as far as world literature is concerned. I am hard-pressed when it comes to naming new authors from around the world, those who are considered to be contributing to the literary canon, as it were. And when I feel like this, I miss Mari, and teaching, and the department. Being surrounded by colleagues, attending lectures, reading journal articles, going to literary festivals—these things serve as a constant stimulus and impetus; the desire to remain current stays at the forefront at all times.
I miss that. But then, I miss many things, as you are probably weary of hearing me lament. Most probably, I miss the idea of working, the positive aspects of being amidst a job that stimulates the brain. When I get like this, though, I remind myself of the less than positive aspects: the backstabbing, the politics, the endless time-consuming meetings about nothing at all. These things I do not miss.
Corey and I talk about the possibility of my returning to work full time. The idea of doing so appeals to me greatly, but would my body allow it? And working at home would serve no purpose other than to bring in income, which I am doing (to some extent). It would not allow me to get out of the house, be in different surroundings for several hours a day. It’s all so vexing, having no clear answers.
Anyway, Corey did speak with his contact at Vane Brothers, who told him that delivery of the new boat has been put back because of the bad weather. No surprise there. He did tell Corey that he would make a note that Corey has stayed in touch and continued to express interest in working for the company. I suppose that’s the best that can be expected. Yet another shipping company to which Corey applied has said that they are not hiring anyone new at the moment, even though their website listed open positions. Such a depressing mantra.
We are coming to the end of February, and Corey’s current unemployment extension is about to end. I know that another bill for yet another unemployment extension is before Congress, but who knows if it will be approved. God know that it should be considering that over 10 percent of the population is unemployed. We can only wait and hope and in the meantime, keep sending in applications.
My Australian friend Maureen of White Orchid mentioned something in a recent post to which I can really relate: Apparently, the reality show “Little Miss Perfect” airs in Australia, and Maureen and her daughter watched an episode. For those of you who do not know to what I am referring, “Little Miss Perfect” is a show about child pageant contestants and their mothers . . . No, I’m not kidding.
Apparently someone thought that this form of child abuse would make for good television. Child abuse? What would you call it? These little girls are made up to look like little beauty contestants, complete with fake eyelashes, make-up, costumes, the works. They have mothers who give them nothing but candy before the pageants so that they’ll be full of energy. This is good parenting?
Okay. I know that there are some people out there who love pageants, love the whole idea of the pageant circuit, participated in it, thought that it was the best thing since Barbie got longer hair. Whatever. You are entitled to your opinion. If you did it and you loved it. Great for you.
I’m looking at it from a totally different perspective: that of a sane person (relatively). These little girls are being indoctrinated into that whole concept that their entire self-worth is tied to their looks, to their ability to charm, to their willingness to please. Does no one else see anything wrong with this? We’ve raised generations of young women who regularly abuse their bodies in attempts to conform to airbrushed magazine images. We have agents who tell size 4 models that they are too fat (just read that one in the news). We have young women who are getting Botox before they are 25.
The need to fit in, to conform, to wear the right clothes, to carry the right purse, to be like everyone else—that need is as ancient as the concept of societies. But there is something very, very wrong with a society that condones taking five-year-old girls and plastering eye shadow on them and sending them out on a stage to compete with other five-year-olds for crowns and trophies rewarding them for being cute.
Let me pause here. No, I do not believe that every child should be given a trophy simply for showing up to school. No, I am not against healthy competition. Yes, I believe that innate talents should be honed and fostered. Yes, there will always be someone who is the valedictorian, and rightly so. But must we start at such a young, impressionable age at teaching our little girls that beauty is the answer to all of their problems?
Just consider the title of the show: “Little Miss Perfect.” What is perfection? The right dress? The best walk? The most winning smile? Are these young girls not being indoctrinated to grow up into young women who strive to fit into a size 2? Who will turn to plastic surgery to take out an imagined imperfection in a nose? And perhaps most importantly, are they being given the tools to face the real world? What will they do when their beauty does not open every door? How will they cope when they get their first stretch mark?
Yes, I know that I’ve said it before, but as I commented to Maureen, this concept of instilling unrealistic expectations at a very young age makes me want to throttle someone. I am reminded of the woman in Texas who put a hit out on the mother of her daughter’s cheerleading rival. True story (click here for info). I am also reminded of the mother of a girl who went to my former high school. This mother called me after cheering tryouts at which I had judged to drill me about why her daughter had not been chosen. All I could think of was how she had gotten my phone number?
Who are these people? Where does that kind of obsessive behavior originate? It has to begin somewhere. “Little Miss Perfect” my ass.
More later. Peace.
Red House Painters, “Have You Forgotten?”
Well, I think that my body does not like the antibiotic Cipro. I started taking this wonderful med last week, thinking that my body would react as it normally does after taking an antibiotic for a few days: No more icky, everything all better. Not this time.
I’ve been waiting a week for the chills and weakness to go away. So far, no go. I stayed in bed all last week, didn’t even come near the computer. My desk began to look like a laundry rack. Finally, on Friday, I had to get out of bed to go to a family cookout for my German niece and nephew who were in the country. I look forward all year to these family parties, seeing everyone, getting out of the house, getting tipsy twice a year.
Not this time.
I was drinking Coke and ice (no Pepsi, pshaw), ate a grilled burger, no birthday cake even. Had to go home and change into jeans and a long sleeved shirt because I was freezing. Good thing we live so close together.
My one day out of bed earned me two more in it. Yesterday, I woke up early with big plans to put away the laundry and to write a blog. By 8 p.m., I knew that it was a lost cause. Today, we went to the airport to see off the travelers. I came home and crashed and woke up at 7. Unfortunately, I did not know if it was 7 in the morning or 7 in the evening.
Totally discombobulated. Don’t you hate that? I actually went out into the dining room and asked Corey if it was nighttime. But as I asked him, I realized the answer to my question because if it were morning, he would have been in bed, not sitting at the computer in the dining room.
It’s impossible to be able to tell time by the dogs because they are quite content to stay in bed with me day and night, occasionally moving under or above the covers depending on whether or not I’ve turned off the air conditioner.
Oh yes. Life has been pleasant for Corey since I’ve been shutting off the a/c in the bedroom since I’ve been sick. First I get chills, and then I’m too hot. A/C on and no covers . . . a/c off, lots and lots of covers. He said that he woke up a few mornings ago and I had completely buried myself under the blankets. He couldn’t even see my nose.
So that’s what life has been like in my house for a while. Completely unexciting. Nothing to tell. No energy to post. I have had plenty of time to ponder a few things, which I thought that I would share with you because that’s just the kind of person that I am:
I’m going to stop for now because I think that I’ve taxed my brain with just this little bit of fodder. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll be able to piece together something more interesting; for instance, how can John Sandford of the Argentinian boddice-ripping e-mails actually compare himself to David in the Bible and do it with a straight face? Now that’s food for thought.
And to everyone who has been stopping by to check on me, thanks. It’s always nice to hear from you. Mean it.
More later. Peace.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
It has been a few days since my last post in which I wrote about not being able to write. I proposed that my inability to write might be chemical, might be emotional. I finished that entry, posted it, and did not come near my computer for more than 48 hours. On the third day, I looked in on some regular sites, made a couple of short comments, then walked away from the computer again. It was as if the keys themselves had evolved into hot coals, devices of torture.
My computer, my sounding board, had become my personal albatross, but instead of hanging round my neck, it sat quietly humming in the corner of the bedroom, taunting me, as if to say, “I’m waiting.” At times during the past few days, I have glared at my computer, wishing its presence away rather than having to set my fingers to the keyboard again. At other moments, I have looked at it longingly, wishing that I could reconnect with it, and in so doing, with myself.
That’s not to say that I haven’t been reading; I’ve been reading notes of support from faithful readers, all essentially saying the same thing: It will be okay. When you are ready, the words will come. Those missives have been manna, sustaining me, reminding me that anyone who writes experiences periods of drought, periods in which the words simply will not form, will not make that connection from all of the fiercely firing thoughts racing through the brain to a message that is not even necessarily well formed, just simply a message, a communication of some sort, any sort.
But this time, this time was different, and I knew it. You see, I had come so far in my journey this time, that to abandon it, or to let it abandon me, simply was not an option.
And so I sat down this afternoon, placed my fingers on the keyboard as I have done a thousand times before, and instead of waiting for the words to come, I went searching for them, knowing them to be harbored somewhere deep within the recesses of my mind. I opened doors to thoughts. I walked down hallways of the past. I flung open windows of memory. And then I suddenly realized that I was looking in the wrong place.
The words were not in my mind. They were in my heart, within these four chambers that enclose all of my passion and all of my grief. All of my desires and all of my fears. All of the joy and sorrow and all of the other countless contradictions that make me who and what I am: a woman who loves deeply, who protects fiercely, and who, when hurting the most, feels the least capable.
I allowed myself the indulgence of moving through this place—intimately familiar yet foreign at times. And I realized that the words were not gone, were not lost, and neither was I. That in the midst of my outward sadness, I had erected a barrier of protection, as often I am wont to do. I had allowed my fear to paralyze me: If I did not try to write, then I could not fail to write.
So in the end, I wrote—an explanation as much for myself as for anyone else. Yes, the doubt still lingers, probably always shall: am I good enough? Does what I do matter? To those questions, I may never have an answer, or rather, the answer. But perhaps I understand the doubt a bit more, can look it in the eye for what it is.
I sit here and write because I have something to say. Just exactly what I say does not necessarily have to be profound or deep or even eloquently written, no matter how much I might wish it to be. But in the saying, I am sending out the words because I want them to be read. And in the reading, I want the words affirmed and myself to be understood. It is my communion.
We are no different than the other beasts of the world in sending out our calls to our own kind, hoping for responses, acknowledgement that another like us is nearby. Our reasons for so doing are as varied as the calls of the birds outside my bedroom window just before dawn. Our methods vary: Some compose music, stringing together harmonies; others paint or draw, creating beauty and introspection that can be seen. And then others, those of us who would, write.
We create to communicate, to share, to remember and be remembered. Regardless of the trappings of our media, we communicate because we can, and if we did not, then we would perish as people.
I write because I can, because I desire to, because I need to. But most importantly, I write because I must.