“I really don’t write to an audience. I never imagined an audience. I imagine other lonely people, such as myself. I don’t know who they are or where they are, and I don’t care, but they’re the people whom I want to reach.” ~ A. R. Ammons, from “An Interview with William Walsh”

Soap Film by Umberto Salvagnin

“This past week has been parceled up, or broken down, into so many unrelated parts that I feel like Humpty Dumpty. Suddenly it’s Friday, and I sit here baffled, sulky and wanting a refund, a re-run, a recount.” ~ Robert Phelps in a letter to James Salter (February 20, 1969-70)

Saturday afternoon, cloudy, 43 degrees.

I slept very poorly last night; I finally gave in and took a half of a sleeping pill sometime around 2 a.m. Of course, the fact of my lack of sleep didn’t stop the puppies from waking me at 7 a.m. I’m thinking of trading all of them in for a gerbil; gerbils don’t make noise, right?

So this past week I had an appointment with a neurologist. I had such high hopes that I had finally found a new doctor to take care of my myriad of pain issues . . . alas, not so much.

Plastic Cup + Water + Nail Polish by Milena Vargas

This was the neurologist that I had originally been scheduled to see in June, but Monday afternoon, I decided to call to see if there had been any cancellations, and voila! Cancellation for Tuesday morning at 10. This particular doctor is located in Abingdon, so that meant leaving the house by 8:30. Those of you who know me know that 8:30 in the morning is not my favorite time of the morning.

Anyway, we left on time, and I had my paperwork all completed, and I was greatly anticipating a good situation. I should have known better; this particular neurologist scoffed at the regimen that my former neurologist had me on, a regimen that took much, much trial and error and time to arrive at. She told me that she would never prescribe my particular medication for migraines. I explained, once again, that my regimen was to address not only migraines, but also chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and restless leg syndrome, to which she replied that she was only going to treat my migraines.

I left there less than happy, to say the least and with little intention of keeping the followup appointment in two months.

“Beyond myself
somewhere I wait for my arrival.” ~ Octavio Paz, from “The Balcony (El balcon)”

Then on Wednesday morning, Corey and I got ready again, this time to go to Bristol, an Tennessee/Virginia, a mere hour and a half away, so that I could get an echocardiogram and an ultrasound (for a supposed heart murmur and to check my thyroid). We got there, and Corey dropped me off to go do errands. I tried to check in, only to be told that my appointments were for the next day.

Weathered Metal Plate by Neuköllner

Seriously? I mean . . . seriously?

I imagine that screeching aloud not as a result of physical pain is probably frowned upon in hospitals, so I bit my tongue and asked if there were any way that I could have the tests done then, and . . . of course not. So I asked to used the phone so that I could try to get Corey to return (the whole cell phone situation is still not remedied). Anyway, I cancelled both appointments, and I’ll reschedule after I see the new PCP, which I think I’m doing sometime at the end of March. Granted, the whole heart murmur thing is a concern, but never in having hundreds (thousands?) of people listen to my chest has anyone ever mentioned anything about a murmur.

So one good thing did come from the painful visit to the unhelpful neurologist: I got a referral to a pain management place, one that I’m 100 percent certain that I had already called and tried to get into. Anyway, I have an appointment to see them at the end of May, so if I can just keep trying vitamins and supplements and ibuprofen for the pain, maybe I can hold out until May 30.

“I’m fighting myself. I know I am. One minute I want to remember. The next minute I want to live in the land of forgetting. One minute I want to feel. The next minute I never want to feel ever again.” ~ Benjamin Alire Sáenz, from Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

So that’s the story of my week, one truly disappointing appointment, two non-existent appointments,  two future appointments. By Friday, I was freaking emotionally and physically exhausted (bear in mind, I left the house for two full days, an anathema for me). No wonder I couldn’t sleep last night.

Corpi celesti astratti by Luca Biada

Listen, I know that my expectations are really high when it comes to physicians, but I’m one of those people who has absolutely no tolerance for people being condescending to me, so when I find a doctor who will speak to me one-on-one, without the whole I’m the doctor and I know best vibe, I really connect. Usually, I do better with female physicians, the big exception being my former pain management doctor.

I really looked forward to those appointments, not only because of the pain-relieving trigger point injections, but also because that doctor and I had really great political discussions. That’s a rarity: a doctor who sees you as an intelligent human being worthy of having a conversation with.

This new neurologist? Absolutely not. She did everything but pat me on the head. Or at least that’s how it felt.

Whatever. I just cannot even.

I know. I know: lower my expectations.

“—How
will I begin When shall I
open my mouth
and let half
the world
fall in.” ~ Patrick Rosal, from “Meditations on the Eve of My Niece’s Birth”

Except, I will not lower my expectations. I’m tired of lowering my expectations. I’m tired of rampant stupidity. I’m tired of attitude problems from physicians and insurance companies and pharmacies. I’m tired of people on tumblr not even knowing the difference between simply homonyms, or even knowing what a homonym is. And I won’t even get into politics.

Dirt, shadows and reflections on glass in a greenhouse in Manchester by Liz Sullivan

Enough on the physician rant, the societal rant, the spelling rant (okay, maybe not the spelling rant, not ever).

Petra (one of the horses) is much better. I did some research on the condition that Dallas identified as being what was wrong with her, and he was incorrect, sort of. It is a grass sickness, but it isn’t tetany, as that’s mostly a cattle sickness. For horses, it’s called equine grass sickness.

In the meantime, Napoleon and Sassy are enjoying being the only horses in the pasture. Corey picked up some apple treats for horses, and I doled out a few this morning. Major hit.

“The verb kalchainein, ‘to search for the purplefish, came to signify profound and troubled emotion: to grow dark with disquiet, to seethe with worries, to search in the deep of one’s mind, to harbor dark thoughts, to brood darkly.” ~ Anne Carson, from “Variations on the Right to Remain Silent”

That’s about all for now, I suppose. The current obsession with podcasts continues. Currently, I’m listening to “Crime Junkie,” as I like the chemistry between the two hosts, that, and the fact that there is not inane banter. I may revisit Night Vale at some point, except that it reminds me of Brett, and that’s still way too painful.

Small Glass Bead by Dave Croker

Corey and I both seem to be on the mend as far as the upper respiratory gunk we’ve been dealing with. Even the missing fingertip seems to be on the mend. It is still quite painful whenever I bang it into something, which I do with great frequency as it’s one of my longest fingers, or rather, it used to be . . . Typing is still tender, so there’s that as well.

On a totally different tangent, I’m wondering if anyone out there in the ether has any subjects in particular that they would like to see me tackle. Think of it as a writing prompt for me. Nothing political, as that would only result in thousands of words embodying scathing commentary on my part. I have thought about updating one of those personal surveys, as the last one was several years ago, but I’m not sure. Too juvenile? Random?

Thoughts? Comments? Snoozes?

As always, more later. Peace.

All of today’s images, which are examples of abstract photography, which I love and wish that I could do, were found on Wikimedia Commons.

Music by X Ambassadors, “Unsteady”


“Again, my mind vibrates uncomfortably as it always does. Actually, I am overwhelmed with things I ought to have written about and never found the proper words. I do not let myself think. This is a fact. I cannot face much of the meaning. Shut my mind to anything but work and bowls. And I wonder as I let the month run through my fingers: Can I get out of it? Out of it all? Truth is, I feel all shadows of the universe multiplied deep inside my skin. (Isn’t it all dust and ashes?) I am impressed by the transitoriness of human life to such an extent that I am often saying a farewell…and my heart currently resembles the ashes of my cigarettes; In fact, I’m in the mood to dissolve in the sky.”

~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 1 July 1918

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” At this time of year there is no sunset | just some movements inside the light and then a sinking away.” ~ Anne Carson, from “The Glass Essay”

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 snow was endless, a heavy blanket on the outdoors; it had a way about it. A beauty. But I knew that, like many things, beauty could be deceiving.” ~ Cambria Hebert, from Whiteout

Napoleon and Sassy in the side yard, waiting for hay, by C. Fickel

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.

My car under the snow near the grand old oak, by C. Fickel

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
Another view from the back deck, by C. Fickel

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.

Top of the ridge, by C. Fickel

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.

The huge holly tree in the front yard with St. Francis standing watch below, by L. Liwag

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.

View of the small pond from the pasture, by L. Liwag

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”


Antilamentation

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.

~ Dorianne Laux

“This has become my picture of my future self: wandering the house in the darkness, in my white nightdress, howling for what I can’t quite remember I’ve lost.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “The Bad News”

Zinaïda Serebriakova Poultry Yard 1910
“Poultry Yard” (1910)
by Zinaïda Serebriakova

“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.

Edvard Munch Winter in Kragerø 1916 oil on canvas
“Winter in Kragerø” (1916, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

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.

Boris Anisfield Stony Point, New York 1925 oil on canvas
“Stony Point, New York” (1925, oil on canvas)
by Boris Anisfield

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.

Vincent van Gogh The Old Station at Eindhoven 1885
“The Old Station at Eindhoven” (1885, oil on canvas)
by Vincent van Gogh

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.

“Winter Sketch” (1912, oil on paperboard)
by J. E. H. McDonald

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.

Pekka Halonen Lumisia Mannyntaimia Snowy Pine Seedlings 1899
“Lumisia Mannytaimia (Snowy Pine Seedlings)” (1899, tempera on canvas)
by Pekka Halonen

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.

~ Carol Ann Duffy

“Life might be brief and transient, scrawled in the sand. But death was written in a much harder alphabet.” ~ Stephen Booth, from Dancing with the Virgins


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, from Invisible Monsters

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and 83 degrees, yes, 83 degrees . . . whatever . . .

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.

Odilon Redon Closed Eyes 1890 oil on canvas
“Closed Eyes” (1890, oil on canvas)
by Odilon Redon

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”

Odilon Redon Ophelia
“Ophelia V” (c1905)
by Odilon Redon

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?

Odilon Redon The Yellow Cape 1895 pastel on paper
“The Yellow Cape” (1895, pastel on paper)
by Odilon Redon

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.

Odilon Redon Closed Eyes c1894 oil on canvas
“Closed Eyes” (c1894, oil on canvas)
by Odilon Redon

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.

Odilon Redon GIrl with Chrysanthemums c1905 pastel on paper
“Girl with Chrysanthemums” (c1905, pastel on paper)
by Odilon Redon

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
between them.

Now picture the brief space
before death enters, hat in hand:
vanishing years, filled with light.

~ Linda Pastan

Sunday afternoon . . .

“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.

But then again, what isn’t?

Here. Have something pretty . . .

More later. Peace.

                   

Reblogged from All That is Odd:
source
Five Fascinating Beaches Around the World
Glass Beach – Fort Bragg, California

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)

                   

Music by Sleeping at Last, “Ruby Blue”

“The lights dim and everyone moves in amber. They flicker like votives. That’s what we will all be one day, insects in sap, strange jewels.” ~ Vanessa Veselka, Zazen

"Winter" (1902, tempera on canvas)by Akseli Gallen-Kallela
“Winter” (1902, tempera on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

                   

“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.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela Snow-Covered Cliffs at Kalela, 1901 tempera on canvas
“Snow-Covered Cliffs at Kalela” (1901, tempera on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

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.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela Imatra in Winter 1893 oil on canvas
“Imatra in Winter” (1893, oil on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

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.

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Lake Keitele 1905 oil on canvas
“Lake Keitele” (1905, oil on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

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:

Akseli Gallen-Kallela, Frosty Birch Trees, 1894, oil on canvas
“Frosty Birch Trees” (1894, oil on canvas)
by Akseli Gallen-Kallela

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?

Akseli Gallen-Kallela The Lair of the Lynx 1909
“The Lair of the Lynx” (1909, oil on canvas)
Akseli Gallen-Kallela

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.

~ Li-Young Lee