Monday, late afternoon. Unseasonably warm and very windy, 64 degrees.
I thought that I might be able to post today, but I just cannot organize my thoughts. Tink ate for the vets, but she won’t eat for us. We’re trying to make sure she stays hydrated. The only one at home at risk is her brother, Pooh Bear (his name keeps changing). So far, he’s eating just fine, so I’m hoping.
Right now, though, I’m really worried about Tink. I’ll try again tomorrow.
The ice-covered branches of the hemlocks sparkle Bending low and tinkling in the sharp thin breeze, And iridescent crystals fall and crackle on the snow-crust With the winter sun drawing cold blue shadows from the trees. ~ Sara Teasdale, from “Places”
Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and still cold, 30 degrees.
We lost power yesterday until mid afternoon. Luckily, we have a couple of small generators; although, we didn’t really need then for more than coffee. It was cold enough that everything in the freezer and fridges was fine, and we had the wood stove for heat. So I read a book—The Good German, by Joseph Kanon—and Corey and the dogs napped. It was that kind of day. And then once again last night, I couldn’t sleep, wide awake at 3 a.m., 4 a.m., etc.
Today everything is still snow covered, but the temperatures are supposed to start climbing in the next few days, which means we’ll probably have a muddy mess. The last time that it rained a lot, my car got stuck in the mud when I tried to go up the driveway. Eventually, we’re going to have to invest in some kind of gravel or shale.
The first four of today’s images were taken by Corey on the first day that it snowed, and the last two are by me. I spent almost two hours trying to convert a short video that Corey shot into a format that WordPress would accept but to no avail. Sorry.
No stars tonight; the snowflakes came down out of the dark, rushing towards him, endless, uncountable. Silent, too, but not like the stars. Falling snow whispered secrets to itself. ~ Diana Gabaldon, from Lord John and the Brotherhood of the Blade
My other mother Yvonne gave me the book The Good German years ago, but for some reason, I never picked it up. I think that I thought that it was some kind of family saga, but it’s more of a mystery. She had told me that it was good; now, I wish that I had read it then so that we could have talked about it.
That’s what we used to do: swap books and then talk about them. We were the two big readers in the family. When she died, I was supposed to get all of her books, but that didn’t happen, for various reasons. But she had told me that no one else would want them and that she wanted me to have them.
The funny thing is that I had given her many of the books in her collection. We used to give one another books as presents for Christmas and birthdays. Now, I have no one to swap books with or to discuss them with over cups of coffee or tea. I miss her every single day.
“Since it has quietly began to snow, new distances have awakened within me.” ~ Gerrit Achterberg, from Snow Passage
Anyway, I’m waiting for the weather to get a bit more temperate before venturing out for a long walk with the dogs. I haven’t been out for one in days.
I had mentioned to Corey before we moved that I wanted a small ballet barre to exercise on inside the house, and then I forgot about it until the weather got cold quickly. I know how to do basic barre exercises, and I always enjoyed doing them, so today I mentioned it again. There’s really no need to purchase a kit; I mean, I’m not a dancer who needs a professional barre and full length mirrors; I always hated all of the mirrors at the gyms I frequented. Who wants to see themselves sweat and strain, besides body builders, that is . . . Anyway, it should be fairly simple and cheap to make one that’s about 48″ long using supplies from Home Depot.
A wooden rod, probably a closet rod, would come closest to the 1.5″ diameter of a barre, and then all that you need are some heavy-duty brackets, again, probably closet brackets and some bolts to anchor the bar on the brackets. A barre is great for stretching, which is what I’m mostly limited to, but you can do core exercises as well. So here’s hoping I can get that barre sometime in the next month or so.
The earth is covered with it, and it is falling still in silence so deep that you can hear its silence . . . It is snow that can awaken memories of things more wonderful than anything you ever knew or dreamed.” ~ Frederick Buechner, from Telling the Truth: The Gospel as Tragedy, Comedy, and Fairy Tale
I do have something on my mind that I’ve been thinking about quite a bit: For the first time in my entire life, I’m not looking forward to Christmas. In fact, the idea of decorating for Christmas does not appeal to me at all.
Dear reader, you’ve never seen my house at Christmas, but I decorate everything, every doorknob in the house, even the bathroom and kitchen. But this year? I just don’t think that I can do it, and there are several reasons. First, we still haven’t finished organizing the house, and every time that I think that I might have the energy, I just don’t, so there’s no place for a tree.
But secondly, and more importantly, I just don’t see the point, and that might sound harsh, but why, really? None of my kids will be here, and Olivia will not be here. It will just be Corey, me, and the animals. I know that Corey is thinking about going to Ohio for the holidays, and actually, that’s fine with me. I’ll stay here with the animals.
The idea of a beautiful Christmas with decorations and packages only makes me feel more acutely what isn’t here, and I really don’t want to feel that. To feel that would make me also feel ungrateful for what I do have. Being here on this piece of land is everything I ever wanted. Looking out my window and seeing snow and horses and trees? How can I not appreciate that?
That fact is that I do. I do truly appreciate that. It’s just that right now, what isn’t here is standing out more.
“Small, red, and upright he waited, ………. while the first snows of winter floated down on his eyelashes and covered the branches around him and silenced all trace of the world.” ~ Anne Carson, from Autobiography of Red
I do so wish that there was a way that I could truly compartmentalize everything, but I’ve never been able to do that even though I’ve tried. And right now I’m just past trying to pretend that everything is okay.
I mean, every time I think about youngest son, I just want to cry. I really want to understand the state of my relationship with him, but I don’t. I want to call him, but I can’t. I cannot contact him until he is ready, and you cannot imagine the pain that causes me. And then eldest son has been removed for years, yet I crave to hear his voice, see his goofy smile, hear his stupid jokes.
I cannot even attempt to discuss the lack of Olivia for Christmas as it’s too acute, and I cannot imagine how Alexis is handling it this year, being so far away from her for the holidays, connected only by phone and texts. And of course, there is the lack of Alexis, the lack of a family Christmas dinner, all of the stress of preparation and the satisfaction of seeing everyone sitting around the table with their constant chatter. It just hurts too much.
And so I have absolutely not idea as to what I’ll do. Maybe I’ll cave right before Christmas and want to decorate, or maybe I’ll just spend the days reading books and trying not to think about the time of year. Am I ungrateful? No. Yes. I don’t know. Who knows? Certainly not I.
More later. Peace.
Music by Natalie Taylor, “Come to This”
Regret nothing. Not the cruel novels you read
to the end just to find out who killed the cook, not
the insipid movies that made you cry in the dark,
in spite of your intelligence, your sophistication, not
the lover you left quivering in a hotel parking lot,
the one you beat to the punchline, the door or the one
who left you in your red dress and shoes, the ones
that crimped your toes, don’t regret those.
Not the nights you called god names and cursed
your mother, sunk like a dog in the livingroom couch,
chewing your nails and crushed by loneliness.
You were meant to inhale those smoky nights
over a bottle of flat beer, to sweep stuck onion rings
across the dirty restaurant floor, to wear the frayed
coat with its loose buttons, its pockets full of struck matches.
You’ve walked those streets a thousand times and still
you end up here. Regret none of it, not one
of the wasted days you wanted to know nothing,
when the lights from the carnival rides
were the only stars you believed in, loving them
for their uselessness, not wanting to be saved.
You’ve traveled this far on the back of every mistake,
ridden in dark-eyed and morose but calm as a house
after the TV set has been pitched out the window.
Harmless as a broken ax. Emptied of expectation.
Relax. Don’t bother remembering any of it. Let’s stop here,
under the lit sign on the corner, and watch all the people walk by.
“I want to be lifted up By some great white bird unknown […] And soar for a thousand miles and be carefully hidden Modest and golden as one last corn grain, Stored with the secrets of the wheat” ~ James Wright, from “The Minneapolis Poem”
Thursday afternoon. Partly cloudy and cold, 39 degrees.
Another bad night. I forgot to apply a new pain patch before bed, and as a result, the ache in my legs awoke me every few hours, which only fueled the dogs to keep pestering me to go out, even when I knew that they really didn’t need to.
I had a very weird dream in which Corey’s sister was balancing our checkbook, and we lived in a different big house that had a sunken tub, and all I wanted to do was escape and soak in the tub, but people kept asking me to do things, and then someone wanted to know why I was having the drapes in my mother’s house altered, and how it only cost $40, and I just didn’t have answers.
And last night as I was watching something, can’t remember what, I realized that my head hurt, and I wonder when I passed over from being acutely aware of my headaches to the point at which their omnipresence has become status quo, so much so that I don’t quite feel them? How does that happen? I mean, I know that the body adjusts its threshold for pain, but this? To actually have to tell myself, “hey, your head really hurts . . . perhaps you should take some medicine for that”?
It just blows my mind.
“There is something maddeningly attractive about the untranslatable, about a word that goes silent in transit.” ~ Anne Carson, from “Variations on the Right to Remain Silent”
At some point during one of my awake periods, I had a fragment of a poem appear, and I rolled over thinking that surely I would remember it, but then I realized that I would never remember it, so I jotted it down in pencil on the first thing I could find, which was the wrapper for my pain patch, and now I have to find it. I have another fragment somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t remember if I stuck it in the middle of one of my countless drafts here, or if I actually opened Word and put it there.
So obviously, forcing myself to write down what I told myself I would remember was a good thing . . .
I had Olivia on Monday and Tuesday of this week, which is always a treat, but since Corey left Monday afternoon, I did not sleep much at all that night. That’s how it always is on the first night after he leaves again. I have to try to remember (that word, again) not to schedule anything for the day after he leaves because I am physically and emotionally useless.
After all of this time of him shipping out, you would think that I would be used to it, but not so much. I mean, I have adjusted much better to the period when he is gone and being her by myself with just the dogs, and only once in a while does it cause me to fall into a tailspin, but the actual physical separation as represented so starkly in our half empty bed? That gets to me every single time.
“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain By the false azure in the windowpane I was the smudge of ashen fluff—and I Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, from “Pale Fire”
Yesterday I took care of some Christmas returns and exchanges. Brett and Em went with me, so it made it a bit easier. We actually got a tremendous amount done, and we were all done in afterwards.
I had bought myself some dinner at Costco, but only ended up eating a slice of bread. Before you think me too spartan, I have to confess that every time I get up in the middle of the night into the morning, I eat something, whether it’s a piece of chocolate or an Oreo. It’s an abominable habit, one that I would really like to break. The only time I haven’t done this in recent memory was when I had bronchitis, and everything tasted foul.
Anyway, another leftover from the bronchitis is my unabating hankering for Typhoo tea with lemon and honey. I go through phases with my tea, and most of the time I take it like workman’s tea—strong with cream and sweetener, but the honey/lemon combination helps so much with chest congestion. That, or it’s completely in my mind, which has been known to happen.
“My heart always timidly hides itself behind my mind. I set out to bring down stars from the sky, then, for fear of ridicule, I stop and pick little flowers of eloquence.” ~ Edmond Rostand, from Cyrano de Bergerac
Let’s see . . . what else is going on in my fun-filled adventurous life?
I’m gradually getting the house back in order after Christmas. Right before Corey left he finally set up the single bed for Olivia, and we began to sift through the boxes and piles that have accumulated in that corner bedroom. There is just so much. It’s never a good idea to let one room in your house become a junk room because it just gets away from you too easily. I can vouch for that.
He was also able to set up but not finesse the house backup system I bought us for Christmas. This thing has 4 terabytes of memory. Remember when 2G was a big deal? Hell, I remember being happy with megabytes. My how far we’ve come in such a short time.
I have at least two tubs worth of books that I need to sort through and pack, and my reason for not doing so before is silly: I want to record them on Goodreads. It’s not the number of books that I’ve read, but the fact that Goodreads gives me a free repository of the titles in my personal library. Years ago, before PCs, I had a handwritten list of my books, in particular, my poetry books, and it came in very handy after the one place I worked caught on fire. So there’s that.
But there is also a mess of strange cords, loose tools, two bags of shredding to be done . . .
“But in those days what did I know of the pleasures of loss, Of the edge of the abyss coming close with its hisses And storms, a great watery animal breaking itself on the rocks,
Sending up stars of salt, loud clouds of spume.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Dark Harbor”
Well, the end of January is creeping up on me, and I have to admit that I am terribly afraid. My mom has been on my mind so much lately, and she haunts my dreams almost every night. And as much as I wish it would snow, I think that having a snowstorm at the end of January would just about do me in because one of my acutest memories of last year was walking to the hospital in the snow.
Anyway, I’m trying to keep my mind occupied, but who knows . . .
I still haven’t done anything with the now dead poinsettias that I had bought for the cemeteries, and they serve as a constant reminder of what a failure I am at honoring my mother and father. I know. You probably think that I’m exaggerating, trying to get sympathy. But truly, no.
I have never hidden my long-standing love/hate relationship with guilt, but this is something more. I well and truly feel as if I have dishonored and failed my parents by not going to the cemetery at Christmas, by not even visiting Caitlin at Christmas. And yes, I had bronchitis, but still, the feeling looms large, and it pierces my heart, and I just don’t know what else to say, so perhaps I should stop now.
More winter pictures. More later. Peace.
Music by David Beats Goliath, “Maisie & Neville”
Death and the Moon
(for Catherine Marcangeli)
The moon is nearer than where death took you
at the end of the old year. Cold as cash
in the sky’s dark pocket, its hard old face
is gold as a mask tonight. I break the ice
over the fish in my frozen pond, look up
as the ghosts of my wordless breath reach
for the stars. If I stood on the tip of my toes
and stretched, I could touch the edge of the moon.
I stooped at the lip of your open grave
to gather a fistful of earth, hard rain,
tough confetti, and tossed it down. It stuttered
like morse on the wood over your eyes, your tongue,
your soundless ears. Then as I slept my living sleep
the ground gulped you, swallowed you whole,
and though I was there when you died,
in the red cave of your widow’s unbearable cry.
and measured the space between last words
and silence, I cannot say where you are. Unreachable
by prayer, even if poems are prayers. Unseeable
in the air, even if souls are stars. I turn
to the house, its windows tender with light, the moon,
surely, only as far again as the roof. The goldfish
are tongues in the water’s mouth. The black night
is huge, mute, and you are further forever than that.
“Closed Eyes” (c1894, oil on panel) by Odilon Redon
“The Death of Ophelia” (1905, oil on canvas) by Odilon Redon
“Lady Macbeth” (c1898, pastel on paper) by Odilon Redon
“Beatrice” (1885, pastel on paper) by Odilon Redon
“Closed Eyes” (c1895, pastel on paper) by Odilon Redon
“Closed Eyes” (1899, oil on paper) by Odilon Redon
“Sita” (1893, pastel over charcoals on paper) by Odilon Redon
“Mystery” (nd, oil on canvas) by Odilon Redon
“Woman in Profile under a Gothic Arch” (nd) by Odilon Redon
“Mystical Conversation” (c1896, oil on canvas) by Odilon Redon
“The Golden Cell” (1892, Oil and metallic gold paint on paper prepared with white grind) by Odilon Redon
“Reflection” (c1900-05, pastel on paper) by Odilon Redon
“No matter how careful you are, there’s going to be the sense you missed something, the collapsed feeling under your skin that you didn’t experience it all. There’s that fallen heart feeling that you rushed right through the moments where you should’ve been paying attention.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, fromInvisible Monsters
It’s supposed to be “Two for Tuesday,” but I’m pushing Tuesday to Wednesday because I was up until almost 6 a.m., thinking about words, words that I wanted to say, but I kept myself away from the keyboard because I knew that once I began, it might be days before I stopped. Days, hours, it matters not.
This is what kept me awake: My mother was the one who realized that something was wrong with Caitlin. Not me. She did. She took one look at her and said, “What’s wrong with her eyes?” She said they were bulging. I didn’t really see it, didn’t want to see it, shrugged it off as my mother being overprotective of her granddaughters in the same way that she was overprotective of me.
She was right.
That phone call I received at my very first faculty meeting? That one? It was because my mother had put Caitlin in the car and had taken her to the pediatrician’s office and made them look at her eyes. You see, after the ER doctor had said that she had a virus, I had taken Caitlin to the pediatrician and said that my mother thought her eyes looked funny. The one doctor, the one I never really liked, poo pooed the comment.
My mother was right. I was wrong. The ER resident was wrong. The pediatrician was wrong. It took my mother taking Caitlin to see the other pediatrician in the practice, the gentle one who listened to every word you said—it took that for someone to finally pay attention and send Caitlin to the Children’s Hospital, the hospital that found the brain tumor.
My mother was right.
“How children think of death is how the shadows
gather between trees: a hiding place
for everything the grown-ups cannot name.” ~ John Burnside, from “The Hunt in the Forest”
Look, you’re probably wondering why I’m going over this yet again, but all I can say in way of explanation is one word: fall. Autumn is my best and worst of times. I love every natural aspect of the season, yet the way in which my emotional well-being goes into free fall more often than not leaves me tortured. Nietzsche said it best when he said that autumn was “more the season of the soul than the season of nature.”
Example: Yesterday, after getting my fasting labs done in the early morning, and then having my six-month checkup with my PCP, all I could think about were curly fries. Weird, I know. So I had to maneuver the hell that is a major thoroughfare that it still under construction to get to the nearest Arby’s. My timing was lousy as the nearby grade school was getting out at the same time. Parents in their cars lined both sides of the streets. No one would let me turn into the narrow street. The resultant snafu left me in tears.
Yes, tears, as in crying in the car, which, if you’ve ever been in the car with me, is completely uncharaceristic. Crying over curly fries, crying over curly fries that I couldn’t eat once I had ordered them. Then yesterday evening as I was trying to force myself to post something, I came across the story about a journalist who was beheaded by ISIS, and again, I cried.
Bed. Yes, bed would make it better. But bed, not so much. No sleep. I couldn’t stop thinking about my mother and Caitlin’s eyes, which leads me to this moment.
“. . . how come sorrow is as heavy, lumpen and impenetrably black as an anvil?” ~ Agnès Desarthe, from Chez Moi
November will rear its ugly head in just a few days, and with it I have to confront once again the losses of my daughter, my father, my friend, and yes, even my dog. Isn’t it time to let go, past time, you ask?
Beh. Of course it is. But that’s for normal people, people who do not obsess and obsess and obsess over perceived failings. Example: I did not clean the portal lines that had been inserted into Caitlin’s chest the day that I had taken her in for a follow-up MRI. Why do I remember this? Who knows, but I remember vividly doing a haphazard job of inserting the flushing material in the waiting room at CHKD before they took her into the MRI suite because I wanted to make sure that I had done this one thing for my daughter that I was tasked to do on a daily basis.
Did that failure to use a one-inch square of alcohol on a gauze pad lead to infection? Who knows? Possibly? Probably? Probably not?
The point is that I REMEMBER. I cannot forget. Just as I cannot forget that I did not go back to the hospital that night before my father died even though I had promised his unconscious body that I would come back and spend the night at the hospital. Exhaustion and relief at being away from the white noise of the ICU gave me a false sense of relief, and so I went to bed, and he died in the middle of the night alone.
“How long it takes me to climb into grief! Fifty years old, and still held in the dark, in the unfinished, the hopeful, what longs for solution.” ~ Robert Bly, from “A Ramage for the Star Man, Mourning”
Enough, you say. Stop this madness, you say. No, not nearly . . .
When I left my mother’s room that Thursday afternoon, I secretly congratulated myself on making such a speedy getaway, leaving my mother to talk the ear off the social worker. I had work to do. I needed to get her house ready for her to come home. There was snow to be removed. And so I had a brief visit, long enough for her to bitch at me, and then I left, and then she died the next morning, sometime, they are guessing around 9, alone.
And did I mention that that best friend I lovingly wrote about years ago in my Vale et Memini series, the one who had a brain tumor and survived? Her? Did I mention that she died and I didn’t find out until a few years later, that I never even went to the funeral because I didn’t know that there was a funeral, and the other night it suddenly came to me that hell, I was her eldest daughter’s godmother, a sacred honor that I had completely washed from my memory.
And that other anamchara friend, the one who I always thought I’d be bonded to in perpetuity? I haven’t corresponded with her in years, other than an obligatory Christmas card. Yes, I am a careless friend, the kind of person who withdraws so completely that the only interactions I still have with friends occur in the midst of troubled sleep.
And then there is the nagging curse I imposed upon myself when Corey and I first got together: I had been so certain that he wouldn’t have to be burdened with me for years and years because I never wanted him to see me get old, and so I had this feeling, this sense, that I would die when I was 56. And you hear of people who have feelings that they will die young, in their teens, who do, and people who have a feeling that they will not live to be old, and they do not, and so what have I done to myself.
“Endlessness runs in you like leaves on the tree of night.” ~ Anne Carson, from “TV Men: The Sleeper”
Listen, if you recently subscribed to this blog because you found it amusing and slightly entertaining, or if you enjoyed the art or the poetry or the music, if that was your reason? Well I’m sorry. Because this post is really what this blog is about. This endless cacophony of doubt, and blame, and grief, and sorrow, and pain.
That other person, the one who offers up stuff from Takei’s tumblr or other such sites? She’s a phony. She is neither glib nor witty. She masks all of the pain behind little ditties about animals and absurd abuses of the English language because to do otherwise would be peering far too keenly in Nietzsche’s abyss, and we all know what happens when you do that.
The only good thing about this post is that I did not get out of bed at 4 a.m. to begin it. Had I done so, I am completely certain that the maudlin factor would have been even worse, if you can imagine that.
I always, always know when the words are going to come fast and furious, when there is no stemming of the onslaught. It has always been this way, since I was but a child, hiding in my room, trying not to let my mother see that yet another book had reduced me to tears and heartache because her solution, of course, was to think happy thoughts, and for a soul such as mine, one might as well say something along the line of “you could be happy if you just tried.”
Oh, but if you only knew the truth of my esse, my life force, that tortured, tormented, and torrid do not begin to encompass the four corners of my heart.
More later. Peace.
All images by French artist Odilon Redon (1840-1916). I am intrigued by how many of the subjects in his paintings have closed eyes or eyes narrowly opened, to which I can relate: going through life with eyes closed, surrounded by beauty . . .
Music by Will Hoge, “When I Get My Wings”
Consider the Space Between Stars
Consider the white space
between words on a page, not just
the margins around them.
Or the space between thoughts:
instants when the mind is inventing
exactly what it thinks
and the mouth waits
to be filled with language.
Consider the space
between lovers after a quarrel,
the white sheet a cold metaphor
Now picture the brief space
before death enters, hat in hand:
vanishing years, filled with light.
“My brother once showed me a piece of quartz that contained, he said, some trapped water older than all the seas in our world. He held it up to my ear. ‘Listen,’ he said, ‘life and no escape.’” ~ Anne Carson, from Plainwater: Essays and Poetry
Sunday afternoon. Drizzly and cool, 64 degrees.
Corey is outside with the chipper shredder processing all of the trees and shrubs that he and Mike cut down yesterday. It was a massive undertaking, but one that had to be done.
The pain from my trigger point injections on Friday is finally receding, which is a good thing because I have so many things that I need to do. We’ll see how much I’m able to accomplish. I have to say, though, that I’ll be really glad when that noise is over. Two days of really loud equipment going all out right outside my bedroom window is really hard on the head.
Fort Bragg residents used to throw their garbage (including glass bottles) over a cliff onto the beach before it was outlawed in 1967. Over the decades the waves and sand have broken down the glass into smooth, rounded pieces. (Photo: mlhradio/Flickr)
Jokulsarlon Lake – Iceland
The glacial lake is located in the Vatnajokull National Park, and the shore is filled with huge pieces of ice resting on black volcanic sand. But what really makes this beach unique is that during the winter, it is the perfect place to see the breathtaking northern lights. (Photo: Ingo Meironke/Flickr)
Bowling Ball Beach – Schooner Gulch, California
The rocks at the Schooner Gulch State Beach are almost perfectly round due to a natural process called concretion. (Photo: John K/Flickr)
Shell Beach – Shark Bay, Australia
This beach is home to billions of coquina bivalve shells instead of fine grains of sand. The water has a high salt concentration that attracts the shelled creatures. (Photo: Stefan L/Flickr)
Maldives Beach – Republic of the Maldives
This beach in the Maldives lights up at night, thanks to microscopic organisms called bioluminescent phytoplankton. The organisms respond to changes in the water. Any movement will leave an impressive trail of bluish lights. (Photo: Exilism/Flickr)
“There’s a space at the bottom of an exhale, a little hitch between taking in and letting out that’s a perfect zero you can go into. There’s a rest point between the heart muscle’s close and open—an instant of keenest living when you’re momentarily dead. You can rest there.” ~ Mary Karr, from Lit: A Memoir
Wednesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and unseasonably warm, 72 degrees.
Finally got all of my meds refilled, and with the beginning of the year deductible, it almost cost $200. Painful. Everything hasn’t kicked in yet, so I’m still feeling a bit out-of-sorts.
On Monday I allowed myself to get caught up in Dave Cullen’s book Columbine (my other birthday book), and I never wrote a real post; however, I’ve been saving the NASA Gangnam style video for one of those days, so it all worked out. Columbine is an incredible look at the events leading up to that fateful day, as well as events afterwards. So much of what I had come to believe was based on the myths perpetuated by the media: that the two shooters were outcasts (they weren’t), that the two belonged to some group called the Trench Coat Mafia (they didn’t), that they targeted jocks (they didn’t), that the two were goth kids (they weren’t).
I found the book fascinating in its straightforward presentation of facts based on countless interviews, journal entries, videos, police reports, etc.; I also appreciated the ways in which Cullen addressed the prevailing myths and then debunked them.
“Sometimes I dream a sentence and write it down. It’s usually nonsense, but sometimes it seems a key to another world.” ~ Anne Carson
Last night I dreamed that someone wanted to borrow my car to make a drug deal. I was uncomfortable with it but too afraid to say no. Then I was back in the small apartment that appears frequently in my dreams, and I was trying to figure out why one half of the kitchen was on one wall and the other half was across the apartment and why there were so many beds, five or six.
A few nights ago I dreamed that my dad and my Aunt Remy had decided that Corey and I should move to South Carolina to run the fish business. I didn’t really want to go, especially because we would have to live in a trailer, but I didn’t want to disappoint my dad or my aunt. As an incentive, my aunt offered to pay for me to get my hair done. It was a very strange dream.
Then the night before I awoke Corey by saying out loud, “You act like you’re still single.” Apparently I had been having a dream in which the two of us were arguing about something, and I said that to him in the dream, only I actually said it out loud. He was very confused.
Still not as funny as the dream that Corey had last week in which he dreamed that his mother had starting calling him Hot Dog, and when he asked why she was calling him that, she told him it was because he was a little slow. Boy was he upset over that dream. I assured him that his mother would never call him Hot Dog and that no one thought for a second that he was slow.
“And that sound, that single sound, When the mind remembers all, And gently the light enters a sleeping soul, A sound so thin it could not woo a bird” ~ Theodore Roethke, from section 3 of “The Rose”
Yesterday we were watching Olivia, who has recently begun to eat baby food, which is fun yet still a reminder of just how quickly time passes.
I called my mother to let her know that Olivia was at our house, and of course she arrived when the baby was sleeping. I offered to awaken her, but thankfully my mother declined. Olivia’s naps are too short as far as I’m concerned, and if’s actually sleeping, then I want to leave her alone. Not sure what Alexis was planning to accomplish (if anything) while we had Olivia, but I’m just glad to spend time with her.
I kind of wish that I had thought to tell Alexis to send the stroller as it was amazing outside, and I don’t think that Olivia gets outside very much. When the boys were small, I had a double stroller, and I would take them for walks all of the time, Eamonn sitting in the front, and Brett usually napping in the back. Ann and I would walk to Lex’s school to pick her up, babies in tow, Rebecca in Ann’s stroller, and first Eamonn and then both boys in mine. Those were good days.
“We walked on the river bank in a cold wind, under a grey sky. Both agreed that life seen without illusion is a ghastly affair.” ~ Virginia Woolf, Diary Entry, 10 November 1917
I read the most depressing news story today: A teenager who performed in the inaugural festivities just a few weeks ago was killed in a gang-related shooting. Fifteen-year-old Hadiya Pendleton and one other boy were shot near King College Prep on the South side of Chicago. According to the Chicago Tribune:
Friends of the slain girl said King was dismissed early today because of exams, and students went to the park on Oakenwald—something they don’t usually do.
Friends said the girl was a majorette and a volleyball player, a friendly and sweet presence at King, one of the top 10 CPS selective enrollment schools. Pendleton performed with other King College students at President Barack Obama’s inaugural events.
Neighbors said students from King do hang out at Harsh Park, 4458-70 S. Oakenwald Ave., and that students were there this afternoon before the shooting took place. A group of 10 to 12 teens at the park had taken shelter under a canopy there during a rainstorm when a boy or man jumped a fence in the park, ran toward the group and opened fire, police said in a statement this evening.
Gun violence is nothing new in Chicago, but poignancy of this story brings it home: She was just celebrating in the nation’s capital, participating in something incredible, especially for someone so young, and then in just a blink, she is gone.
The U.S. averages 87 gun deaths a day, according to most sources. It just befuddles me how we as a nation are so inured to gun violence.
“I wanted silence. My daydreams were full of places I longed to be, shelters and solitudes. I wanted a room apart from others, a hidden cabin to rest in. I wanted to be in a redwood forest with trees so tall the owls called out in the daytime.” ~ Linda Hogan from “Dwellings”
I think that I’ll probably spend the rest of the afternoon absorbed in another book. I still feel a real lack of energy, and my concentration is not strong, so it would not be a good day to tackle the taxes, too likely to make stupid mistakes.
I do wish that Eamonn would complete his paperwork for his merchant mariner’s documents, but I’m not going to nag. This has to be his decision, and he has to be the one to do the work for it. It’s hard, though.; it would be so easy for me to sit down and complete the paperwork for him, but then what would I be teaching him? That if he procrastinates long enough, Mom will do it for him?
Not good. Not acceptable.
Still, my need to take care of things for my children threatens to come to the forefront all of the time, but if I am to be honest, that need is selfish as it allows me to rescue them, and perhaps they don’t need rescuing, at least not in the way that they did years ago. Perhaps if left to their own devices they will do just fine. It’s such a weird balancing act, this whole parenting thing, how to know when to and when not to, how to decide when help is more hindrance and when help is truly helpful.
I know that I was fortunate in that my parents helped me tremendously when I was my kids’ ages, but at the same time, I had a very, very strong streak of independence, and I never would have dreamed of asking my mother to fill out paper work of any kind for me. I must remember, must remind myself that they are not me. And how wonderful that they are not.
More later. Peace.
Music by Morcheeba, “Crimson”
This Hour and What Is Dead
Tonight my brother, in heavy boots, is walking
through bare rooms over my head,
opening and closing doors.
What could he be looking for in an empty house?
What could he possibly need there in heaven?
Does he remember his earth, his birthplace set to torches?
His love for me feels like spilled water
running back to its vessel.
At this hour, what is dead is restless
and what is living is burning.
Someone tell him he should sleep now.
My father keeps a light on by our bed
and readies for our journey.
He mends ten holes in the knees
of five pairs of boy’s pants.
His love for me is like his sewing:
various colors and too much thread,
the stitching uneven, But the needle pierces
clean through with each stroke of his hand.
And this hour, what is dead is worried
and what is living is fugitive.
Someone tell him he should sleep now.
God, that old furnace, keeps talking
with his mouth of teeth,
a beard stained at feasts, and his breath
of gasoline, airplane, human ash.
His love for me feels like fire,
feels like doves, feels like river-water.
At this hour, what is dead is helpless, kind
and helpless. While the Lord lives.
Someone tell the Lord to leave me alone.
I’ve had enough of his love
that feels like burning and flight and running away.
“He is like an old ferry dragged on to the shore, a home in its smashed grandeur, with the giant beams and joists. Like a wooden ocean out of control. A beached heart. A cauldron of cooling melt.” ~ Jack Gilbert, from “Refusing Heaven”
Very early Friday morning. Cloudy and cold. 2:30 a.m.
I had thought that after I wrote the last post I might be able to find sleep. I was wrong. Apparently my attempts to purge my grief did not succeed. Each time I laid back and tried to close my eyes, my mind began that headlong rush into a miasma of thoughts, thoughts that I cannot control, so here I am. I can change the channel on the television, or play another hand of spider solitaire, or walk out to the kitchen. But I know what is wrong, why sleep eludes me: There is no warm snoring body curled into the crook of my knee.
Oh, he was smelly, between the ongoing crud in his ear and his perpetual halitosis, Shakes was a smelly dog. But I knew that smell. That smell followed me from room to room, sat patiently as I washed dishes. Daily spritzing with Febreze helped, but the smell persisted. Now that smell is gone.
You might find this an odd thing to think about, but smell does that to me. After Caitlin died I carried the outfit she had worn to the hospital in a plastic bag. I took that bag everywhere with me, and once in a while, when I felt the need to torment myself, I would unseal the bag and inhale deeply. It took a long time for her smell to fade.
“My brother once showed me a piece of quartz that contained, he said, some trapped water older than all the seas in our world. He held it up to my ear.
‘Listen,’ he said, ‘life and no escape.’” ~ Anne Carson, from Plainwater
Shakes could also be mean. He hated to have his nails cut, and his ear problem never fully resolved because he fought attempts at cleaning and medicating. I bear a few scars from when he bit me. In fact, on my right arm, I have a c-shaped scar that I have seriously contemplated having a crescent moon drawn around. Turning a scar into a badge, if you will.
So he could be mean, and he smelled. But he was also fiercely loyal, very jealous, and quite funny. I know that I’ve posted pictures of him as he lay with his head upon my pillow, or tented beneath the quilt, or sitting by the window.
In these last few months, I tried to take him on car rides when I could, and I didn’t scold him when he stole a piece of French bread. He knew that he was being spoiled, and he probably took advantage of it. Who cares. I just hope that he had a good life, one filled with memories of cookies and treats, doing army crawl across the grass to scratch his belly, playing games of tennis ball and jumping into the pool. I hope he knew how much he was loved, in spite of his grouchy old man demeanor. I hope that I did right by him.
“There are still days you can catch me tape recording eternal silence and playing it backwards for an empty room” ~ Buddy Wakefield, from “Human the Death Dance”
I suppose I am trying to write myself into oblivion. If I type enough words, if I confess enough, if I reveal everything—bad and good and in between—if I do all of these things, perhaps then my soul may find some rest.
Or perhaps I’ll just keep writing and keep feeling and keep scratching off that thin veneer of a scab that is only just forming, worry it in that way that I do, pull on it until the wound that is bared is deeper than it originally began. If you tear at something long enough, it will fray. Mess with it long enough, the fabric will wear, erode, crumble. Perhaps I will do all of these things enough times that when I finally lay back and close my eyes, I will see . . . nothing. And (one can only hope) be blessed with dreamless sleep.
Too bad the waters of Lethe are not accessible in this sphere. Forgetfulness would be a good thing.
“Even in a place you know intimately, each night’s darkness is different.” ~ Anne Michaels, from Miner’s Pond
Friday afternoon. Cloudy and cool, 50’s.
So I eventually found sleep around 4 a.m. Awoke around 7 with another headache. Actually, Tillie woke me at 7, then again at 9:30. At 7 she wanted out, but at 9:30 she wanted to play. I asked Corey to wake me no later than 11 so that I could try to sleep tonight.
The headache is gone for now, but my back muscles are like a basket of walnuts—all crammed up against one another and compressed into a space that is too small to accommodate them. In spite of the pain, I feel a bit better emotionally. I haven’t cried once since waking, and I don’t appear to be leaking incessantly. My chest also seems to have loosened, as in it doesn’t feel so constricted and painful. I suppose I have begun the long process of healing yet again.
But we all know not to expect too much of that. Right?
So my dog Shakes was smelly and temperamental and funny and loyal and fluffy in spots where dogs shouldn’t be fluffy, and his mouth looked like it had been lined with black eyeliner, giving him perpetual lipstick. He would do spite pees in the house, as in if I left him for too long alone, he would mark something, usually the end of my iron bed. He was a Jack Russell without spots and with long legs. For some reason, I remember the sire’s name was Simon, from the litter into which both Shakes and Alfie were born. They were the last two pups left, and the woman sold both of them to my mother for the price of one pup, which is how I came to own two male dogs.
“And he told stories about the stars above, about the earth below. He told them to make the night pass, and also because his heart was all reflections in which the soul of the world moved.” ~ Jean Giono, from The Serpent of Stars
I think that when I’m finished here, I’ll curl up beneath a blanket and read. I’ve abandoned NaNoWriMo mostly because I’m so far behind that I know I cannot catch up, especially as it is past the mid-point of the month. However, I have not abandoned the story. As I mentioned, I like my protagonist, and I like the sketchy plot that I have so far. I just know that I’m not in the frame of mind in which to flesh out characters and plot lines.
I need to spend the weekend cleaning and polishing silver, getting ready for Thanksgiving dinner. I think because we’re going to have so many people that we’re going to cook a turkey and a ham, at least that’s the plan for now. When I first began planning the meal in my head, I had considered trying to bake a special cake. Not going to happen now. Apple and pumpkin pies from Costco—always a good plan.
Look. I’m just holding on at the moment. I’m better, but not there yet. I’ll spend my time this weekend doing mindless chores, and with any luck, I can burn away the pain. I don’t want to be a complete emotional wreck when Corey’s parents get here.
For now, we’ll just see how the days unfold.
More later. Peace.
Music by Benjamin Francis Leftwich, “Sophie”
A Journal of the Year of the Ox (excerpt)
It is as though, sitting out here in the dwarf orchard,
The soul has come to rest at the edge of the body,
A vacancy, a small ache,
the soul had come to rest
After a long passage over the wasteland and damp season.
It is as though a tree had been taken out of the landscape.
It is as though a tree had been taken out
and moved to one side
And the wind blew where the tree had been
As though it had never blown there before,
or that hard.