“I will vanish in the morning light; I was only an invention of darkness.” ~ Angela Carter, from “The Lady of the House of Love”

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Winter Landscape (no title, no date)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

                    

“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?” ~ Lawrence Durrell, from Justine

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy, and much warmer, 62 degrees.

I have been so cold for days now; thankfully the temperatures today are milder, but a cold front is expected to move through the area soon.

Stepan Kolesnikoff title unknown winter landscape
Winter Landscape, title and date unknown
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

Let’s see, things have been taxing. On Friday, I was driving to my much-needed doctor’s appointment with the pain management group when the Rodeo overheated. I drove just a little bit more after the gauge shot up, and I was in the turn lane to get off the main boulevard when the car just died. I added water/coolant to the overflow and put the hood up. Of course it was the coldest day of winter so far, absolutely frigid temps. I’m glad that I rethought my outerwear when leaving the house and exchanged a long sweater for a wool coat and gloves. The only smart thing I did that day.

Would you believe that even with the hood up and the emergency flashers on, people still beeped their horns at me? People are completely stupid sometimes. And the only person who offered to help was a woman, and I politely thanked her, but truthfully, I needed someone to give me a push off the boulevard. Finally a cop showed up, and he pushed me off and into a parking lot, but I had to get out and help him push it into a space so that it wouldn’t roll backwards. Not the best thing for my back, undoubtedly. And of course while I was sitting there I became overwhelmed and texted Corey; I’m sure I worried him by asking him to call me asap.

Add to this that Corey’s check was supposed to show up in the mail on Friday, and it didn’t, so I have a broken vehicle and no money.

Perfect.

“Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
. . . Here is unfenced existence;
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.” ~ Philip Larkin, from “Here”

My doctor’s office was very understanding, though. I had called when the car stopped and told them that I was only a few minutes away. They said they would hold the appointment, but then when it was obvious that I wasn’t moving, they offered me a slot on Monday. I suppose I’ll have to drive Brett’s car on Monday, you know, the Honda that he still hasn’t registered. It’s legal to switch plates temporarily in Virginia in situations like this, though.

Stepan Kolesnikoff title unknown
Winter Landscape, title and date unknown
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

The other wonderful news I got this week was that Corey will indeed not be home until after the 16th of January. Because he has the necessary license, they are keeping him on the ship until it gets back in port in Louisiana, and they are not leaving Nicaragua until January 10th because of some port inspection. Further, they are talking about putting him in for his remaining training immediately after he gets back in port, so he may not be home until right before my birthday on the 23rd.

I have to tell you that this was most unwelcome news. I found this out on New Year’s Eve, of all times, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. I had been alone in the house for days as Brett was out and about, and then I was hit with this. I had never felt so all alone as I did that night, even though I had Olivia with me.

“There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up; holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind—wrapped tight like skin. Then there is a loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place.” ~ Toni Morrison, from Beloved

I mean, I know that Corey isn’t happy about the change, but we really don’t have a choice in this. The company needs him for this, and he isn’t exactly in a position to say no. We both know that it’s necessary, but that doesn’t mean that we like it. He sent me a text later to try to cheer me up, and for his sake, I am trying very hard not to be transparent about my sadness.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Winter gouache on cardboard
“Winter” (nd, gouache on cardboard)
by Stepan Kolesnikof

I will admit though that I was brought to tears after hanging up the phone. Here I was on New Year’s Eve, just me, the dogs, and a sleeping baby. Outside, all kinds of celebrations were going on, and people were setting off fireworks in the park. It wasn’t that I wanted to be out in the midst of the celebrations, but more that the celebrations were just a painful reminder of my solitude. The noise made the dogs restless, which only added to my own feelings of restlessness and loneliness.

I am glad that I had Olivia for the night, though, as she provided a much-needed distraction from my pity party. On New Year’s day I made her a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast as she is exploring finger foods, and tried to find comfort in her smile, which is not hard to do.

“If you want to become more than a shadow
Among shadows, you must carry back the memory
Of your father disintegrating in your arms,You must bring words that will console others,
You must believe in stairs leading upward
To summer’s resplendent, celestial blues.” ~ Edward Hirsch, from “Sortes Virgilianae (The Fortuneteller’s Words to the Poet)”

So there’s Corey, and there is the Rodeo, and then there is my mother. My mom has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning as a follow-up to her hospitalization. It’s a check-up, and they aren’t doing any procedures, but she had wanted me to take here, which wasn’t a problem until my rescheduled appointment also fell on Monday late morning.

I had called Alexis to see if she might be able to take mom to the appointment so that I could go to mine, but Alexis didn’t seem that willing to help. I know that she’s kind of caught as she has no drivable car at the moment (runs in the family), but she could take my mother’s car. Anyway, I told my mom that one of use would take her to the doctor.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Derevya aka Trees
“Derevya” (Trees, nd)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

Now get this—I had told mom about my vehicle and about my rescheduled appointment, and she had no issue with me taking her and then rushing to get to my appointment, but when I mentioned bringing Alexis into the mix, suddenly my mother is fine in going to the appointment on her own so as not to inconvenience Alexis.

Am I being prickly because I find that bizarre? It’s okay if I rush around to take her and try to fit my appointment in, but not so much for my daughter?

Geez.

Of course I feel guilty because . . . whatever . . . guilt is my middle name.

“There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is the language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten this language. We do not even remember that it exists.” ~ Derrick Jensen, from A Language Older Than Words

Add to this that Corey has asked me to keep the tree up until he gets home. That’s not an issue because it is a fake tree. What is an issue is that my house is cluttered with Christmas decorations, and I’m starting to feel antsy, as in I need to get things back in order. I had Brett take down the outside lights, and I think that this week I’ll take down most of the decorations but leave the tree for him.

This Wednesday we’re going to go ahead and open most of the kids’ presents, rather than have them wait another three weeks. Brett says he doesn’t mind waiting, but I’m leaving it up to Eamonn and Alexis as to what they want to open now. Corey said to leave it up to the kids as to what they want to do. I know that Brett doesn’t feel like celebrating without Corey, and neither do I. Lex and Eamonn are different—not a criticism, just an observation.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Wolf in a Winter Landscape tempera on paper
“Wolf in a Winter Landscape” (nd, tempera on paper)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

And have I mentioned the ongoing migraine?

So once again I find myself physically hurting and emotionally bereft. I know I wouldn’t have made it as a Navy wife, those six-month long cruises? Never. That’s why I never dated a sailor. It has to be hard on everyone in the family, but they get through, and so will I. I need to stop being so damned pitiful and try to pull myself together. Yep. Going to work on that. Meanwhile, I’ll order some more makeup.

Geez, Louise. Where did that saying come from, I wonder . . .

Oh well, I need to do some laundry and dishes and other exciting things, but I am going to try to read another book this evening, try to get back into my reading groove.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Russian artist Stepan Fedorovich Kolesnikoff (1879 — 1955), also known as Stepan Kolesnikov. It was hard to find titles and dates for most of the works I wanted to include. If you know of any, please pass along the information. Thanks.

Music by Wilco, “Far, Far Away”

                   

Drink

When I woke up this morning
the lark was full of tears.
White, bright hail was frying
on the grass.
Now up against the wire
the falcon wrecks the hen
and carries her gray heart
over the redwoods while the new
sun burns on the former rain.
Crossed by her shadow, my hand
cupped beneath the spigot,
I am drinking last year’s snow.
How bad it hurts
that the mountains ascend
to their ghost-deals white
with the wine of next summer.

~ Denis Johnson

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“Mysteriously, wonderfully, I bid farewell to what goes, I greet what comes; for what comes cannot be denied, and what goes cannot be detained.” ~ Chuang-Tzu

"Catterline in Winter" (1963, oil on hardboard)Joan Eardley
“Catterline in Winter” (1963, oil on hardboard)
by Joan Eardley

                   

“I drank coffee and read old books and waited for the year to end.” ~ Richard Brautigan, from Trout Fishing in America

Monday, late afternoon, New Year’s Eve. Cloudy and cold, 40’s.

(c) DACS/Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Breaking Wave” (1960, oil on hardboard)
by Joan Eardley

In the past two days, I have attempted to write a post, only to be stymied after the first few sentences. I’m not really sure why, only that what I did write seemed forced and contrived, which made continuing seem pointless.

Part of me feels as if there is something simmering just beneath the surface, waiting to be voiced, but another part feels completely incapable of giving words to that feeling. Truly, I do not know which direction to take or even if there is a direction to be had, so I decided to find some suitable end-of-the-year quotes and just give it a go, see how it unfolds, as it were. I make no promises that any great revelations will ensue, or even that I will find a common thread among these disparate sentences.

I do know that the looming 2013 seems awkward and strange to me. Thirteen has never been a bad number for me. Corey and I were married on the 13th of May, and that particular thirteen has turned out to be one of the best days of my life. But the year 2013 makes me pause, and for the life of me, I could not tell you exactly why that is.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

I remember being suitably excited when 1999 rolled into 2000, even though the official start of the new millennium did not begin until 2001. But the coming of both of those years seemed momentous to me—so many changes in my life, so much going on, such excitement about what was ahead. I remember that Corey and I spend New Year’s Eve of 2001 in his brother’s hot tub in Ohio. We were surrounded by snow, and it was absolutely freezing outside, but the water was hot and comfortable, and it was a perfect way in which to greet the new year.

(c) Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Storm at Sea” (1960, oil on hardboard)
by Joan Eardley

But if you were to ask me what I did on New Year’s Eve of 2003 or 2005 or even 2008, I don’t know that I could tell you as we really aren’t big New Year’s Eve people. By that I mean that we do not go out. I am too afraid of all the drunk crazies on the roads, and we usually just watch a movie and go to sleep. It may sound boring, but it works for us.

I remember that my m-in-law used to go out on her porch at midnight and bang a pot, more to annoy her neighbors than anything else. I have sometimes gone to parties, but for most of my life, I have stayed in. What does that say about me? That I’m careful? Boring? Lazy? Who knows? But this year I am a bit hesitant about 2013 coming to pass. I don’t know if it’s that still, small voice inside of me that is trembling a bit, or if there is something worrying the edges of my brain, but something just doesn’t feel right.

Don’t you just hate it when you have those kinds of feelings (if you do), and you cannot ascertain as to why?

“Only, there is a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being; the year, in turning, turns in on itself.” ~ Angela Carter, “The Erl-King”

I don’t really do resolutions, either, never have. I know myself only too well, and I try never to make promises that I know I can’t or won’t keep. All of those false promises about quitting this or that, losing weight, exercising more, giving more to charity, being less selfish, more generous . . .

Ya da ya da ya da . . .

Bollocks.

"Setting Sun over Fields" (1955-63, oil on canvas)by Joan Eardley
“Setting Sun over Fields” (1955-63, oil on canvas)
by Joan Eardley

No one does it. Not really, so why say that you will?

Perhaps we make these promises to ourselves because we really do believe that we can or will change in the coming year. Perhaps we think that if we say it, it makes it so, makes it more tangible, harder to ignore. But the truth is that if we don’t want to quit smoking (or drinking or eating chocolate or whatever), then we won’t. The desire has to exist else a thousand words written in stone will not make it real.

And so I make no promises, either to myself or the powers that be or anyone else, at least no coming year promises. I save my promises for important things, like things that I will do for my children or for Corey. I will tell myself that it’s in my best interest to go back on my chocolate fast as the few pounds that I have gained since Thanksgiving/cruise/Christmas dinner are beginning to add up, and I liked it better when I was on a healthier diet, but other than that? Nothing.

“All night we now hear the desperate downwardness.
All day we have watched the last icicle
Drip, drop by drop, as though from a wound—grow less and less.
Dark comes again.  Shut eyes, and think of a sacred cycle.” ~ Robert Penn Warren, from section 1 of “Downwardness” in “Seasons”

One tradition that I do miss is that of building a fire in the fireplace on New Year’s Eve. My ex and I used to do that each year, even that was the only fire we built for the year, but I honestly feel too guilty now when building a real wood fire. Pollution and all of that. But oh how I would dearly love to have a gas fireplace hookup. It’s one of the few luxuries that I want to install if and when we ever go into reno mode. A gas fireplace and a jetted tub—two things that I would so love to have, two things in which I find true comfort.

(c) DACS/Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Snow” (1958, oil on board)
by Joan Eardley

Corey and I only used the fireplace during those two winters in which we did not have gas heat. Those were cold winters, and the fireplace did help, if only briefly.

Some people cannot abide the smell of woodsmoke, and I can understand that, but I am not one of them. One of the things that I loved about going camping in the mountains was building an outdoor fire from fallen branches and twigs. Sitting there in the evening with friends, talking about everything and nothing, watching the wood burn down to embers before zipping up in a sleeping bag.

Simpler times.

“I’ve never been very good at leaving things behind. I tried, but I have always left fragments of myself there too, like seeds awaiting their chance to grow.” ~ Joanne Harris

Anyway, 2012 is in its last hours, and the new year will be hear in less than eight hours. Corey and I will spend the evening with Olivia as Lex and Mike are going out. Eamonn is house sitting for his father, and Brett is with friends. So I think it will just be the three of us and the dogs, and that’s just fine with me.

(c) Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Sarah’s Cottage” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Joan Eardley

I will leave you with this, things I hope may happen in 2013, in the world and at home:

  • Congress will grow up and realize that being obstructionists serves no one well.
  • Automatic weapons will once again be banned.
  • Obama will become the president we all know he could be.
  • Honey Boo Boo, the Real Housewives of everywhere, Dance Moms, Toddlers and Tiaras, Bad Girls, and all of the rest will quietly fade into the background (okay, know this won’t happen, but I can wish).

 

"Harvest Time" (1960-61, oil on board)by Joan Eardley
“Harvest Time” (1960-61, oil on board)
by Joan Eardley

and also these wishes:

  • Brett will make his trip to New Zealand and from this experience be able to glean a little insight into what he wants out of life.
  • Eamonn will get a job as a merchant mariner and begin to enter the adult world.
  • Alexis will continue to try to work towards a more stable life.
  • Corey will get the job he really wants.
  • My dogs will remain healthy.
  • Our families will suffer no more losses.
  • I will actually do real work on my novel and poetry.

To all of you out there, may the coming year bring you health, happiness, and safety, and may you move one step closer to achieving your dreams and desires.

Peace.

“Lilac Wine,” Jeff Buckley version and mashup with Nina Simone, couldn’t decide:

                   

New Year Resolve

The time has come
To stop allowing the clutter
To clutter my mind
Like dirty snow,
Shove it off and find
Clear time, clear water.

Time for a change,
Let silence in like a cat
Who has sat at my door
Neither wild nor strange
Hoping for food from my store
And shivering on the mat.

Let silence in.
She will rarely speak or mew,
She will sleep on my bed
And all I have ever been
Either false or true
Will live again in my head.

For it is now or not
As old age silts the stream,
To shove away the clutter,
To untie every knot,
To take the time to dream,
To come back to still water.

~ Mary Sarton

“I can feel the limits of what humans are capable of—that a certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect. And personally I find that encouraging.” ~ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Gargoyle, Holy Trinity Church in Stratford upon Avon, UK, by lowfatbrains (FCC)

                   

“Only, there is a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being; the year, in turning, turns in on itself. Introspective weather, a sickroom hush.” ~ Angela Carter, from “The Erl-King”

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and cool, low 50’s.

Gargoyle, Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Tring, UK, by Today is a good day (FCC)

Well only a few days ago, it was 80 degrees, and then the temperature dropped 30 degrees, and snow fell on parts of the east coast. It seems the weather reflects my state of mind.

I had joked to Ann that we could walk on Friday unless it snowed . . . right. So far, our attempts to start a daily walking routine have been thwarted, but we’re going to try again this week, and with luck, perhaps we’ll have some results.

Gargoyle, Cathédrale Saint-Etienne de Meaux, France (WC)

I awoke on Friday with one of the most painful migraines I’ve had in a while. It was blinding, and any bodily movement meant stabbing pain. I did not move from the bed all day except for necessities. Then this morning when the dogs woke me early to go outside, I stepped out of bed and couldn’t straighten my body because of my back. I have to tell you that this switch off between my back and my head is not in the least amusing, and I could really live without it.

Yesterday, I had planned to post. I gathered my quotes and images, and then ran out of steam, which is unfortunate as I had the whole house to myself, and it was nice and quiet. I think that I overcompensated for Friday’s inertia by doing too much yesterday—laundry, the kitchen, various other small chores, and I found by 7:30 or so that I was too tired to do anything requiring my brain, so no post.

So I’m trying today, and we’ll just have to see how far I get. Unfortunately, I’ve been taking muscle relaxers since early morning because of my back, and while they do not ordinarily affect me, the leftover fatigue from the migraine coupled with the meds is definitely leaving me sluggish.

“Artifacts
Are the accounts we leave behind.
We leave them buried beneath what is buried” ~ Michele Wolf, from “Archaeology”

So I’ve been thinking about gargoyles. Don’t ask me why, perhaps because of Halloween, which is tomorrow. I’ve always been fascinated by these carvings, which can look like anything from the famous pensive statue atop Notre Dame to really hideous statues resembling something out of a nightmare.

Gargoyle Atop Notre Dame, Paris, by Lisa Kline 1 (FCC)

According to one site that I visited, the word gargoyle shares a common root with the word gargle, which comes from the French word gargouille, which means throat. Many people confuse gargoyle with grotesques, the difference being that a gargoyle is a water spout or drain pipe, and a grotesque is not. In a gargoyle, a trough is cut into the back of the carving, and the rainwater flows from the mouth.

Writer Russell Sturgis says that in medieval architecture, “the gargoyles, which had to be very numerous because of the many gutters which were carried on the tops of flying buttresses, and higher and lower walls, were often very decorative, consisting, as they did, of stone images of grotesque animals, and the like, or, in smaller buildings of iron or lead.” Supposedly, gargoyles can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, where such carvings depicted animals like eagles and lions, as well as mythological creatures.

While gargoyles and grotesques can appear to be quite ugly, something about them fascinates me. I love that these intricate carvings can be found all over the world, but the ones that I really like are the really old ones atop cathedrals. I like the juxtaposition of the grotesque with the holy. While the consensus is that the gargoyle was supposed to represent evil outside the church walls, I just cannot imagine the medieval sensibility, which believed in all sorts of evil spirits, not cringing each time it passed beneath one of these faces to enter a church.

“I will walk home alone with the deep alone, a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.” ~ Edward Hirsch

Gargoyles, St. Stephens, Vienna, by ccarlstead (FCC)

Anyway, Halloween around our house is usually just an excuse for me to eat more candy, but I’m really trying this year. I haven’t opened the bags of candy that I bought to pass out to the neighborhood kids. Of course, that’s the second batch of candy. The first batch of candy my mom brought over, and it included mini Almond Joy bars, which are a big weakness for me,and Reese’s peanut butter cups, which Corey loves. Love those, but they are so bad for me, between the chocolate and the coconut, bad for my head and bad for my cholesterol.

Not to worry, though. I polished those off weeks ago, which is why I had to buy more candy. I try to buy things that I’m not crazy about so that I don’t succumb to temptation, but it has to be stuff that someone in this house will eat in case we have leftovers, which we can never predict. Sometimes, we have lots and lots of kids and run out of candy, and sometimes we have fewer than ten, which means leftovers.

Gargoyle, Manchester Cathedral, UK, by Gordon Marino (FCC)

I do miss the days when the kids went trick or treating, helping them to pick out their costumes, doing their faces. Some years their costumes were extravagant, and some years, just a black cape and some fake blood.

I remember when I was a kid, and I would take a pillow case, and Cathy Weaver and I would have to come home at least once to empty our sacks before going out again for more. Of course those were different times. We went all over the neighborhood and to houses around the schools. We would hit at least ten different streets. Neighbors knew each other, and trick or treating went on for hours, or until you were exhausted. There were the stories about razor blades in apples, but really, who went to houses that gave out apples?

I remember after 9/11, the hospitals set up free x-rays of Halloween candy. Bizarre. We only took the kids to houses that we knew, so we never felt a need to have the treats undergo x-ray. Nothing has the innocence of years past. Nothing.

“It’s not humankind after all
nor is it culture
that limits us.
It is the vastness
we do not enter.
It is the stars
we do not let own us.” ~ Simon J. Ortiz from “Culture and the Universe”

Gargoyle, Arundel Cathedral, Sussex, UK, by howzey (FCC)

So other than those tidbits, not a whole lot going on. Corey is working at least four shifts a week, which is always good. And more and more, I’m really glad that I didn’t submit that application packages as my health in the past month has been a real roller coaster, with far more downs than ups.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, and my other m-in-law is on my mind a lot. This year’s holidays will be the first without her, and it’s going to be so hard. Even if we didn’t eat dinner with her, we always spent some time at her house, even if it was just to visit and have dessert. She loved to cook for her family in the old days when she could still cook. She would set the table with her best china and her silver and make enormous quantities of food.

Gargoyle, Château de Chenonçeau, France, by bolt of blue (FCC)

It’s going to be very strange. This losing parents thing really sucks, I have to say.

I don’t know if we are going to try to  make a trip to Ohio around Christmas. That’s always iffy and dependent upon so many things, but it’s nice to be there at the holidays, especially if it snows.

Anyway, I don’t know why I’m already thinking about the holidays; although, it’s probably because the stores have all of their Christmas stuff out already, and I’m seeing advertisements for holiday sales. So glad not to be in retail any more, even though there were parts that were definitely fun. I remember when I managed the home store, and we had a party for the associates to decorate the display trees one evening after work. Those are the good memories, admittedly, not that many.

Well, back is really hurting again, so time to go.

More later. Peace.

Music by Land of Talk, “Troubled”

                   

The Last Days of Summer Before the First Frost

Here at the wolf’s throat, at the egress of the howl,
all along the avenue of deer-blink and salmon-kick
where the spider lets its microphone down
into the cave of the blackberry bush—earth echo,
absence of the human voice—wait here
with a bee on your wrist and a fly on your cheek,
the tiny sun and tiny eclipse.
It is time to be grateful for the breath
of what you could crush without thought,
a moth, a child’s love, your own life.
There might never be another chance.
How did you find me, the astonished mother says
to her four-year-old boy who’d disappeared
in the crowds at the music festival.
I followed my heart, he shrugs,
so matter-of-fact you might not see
behind his words
(o hover and feed, but not too long)
the bee trails turning to ice as they’re flown.

~ Tim Bowling