“I am tired; my heart is sick and sad. From where the sun now stands I will fight no more forever.” ~ Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, Surrender Speech, October 5th, 1877

Horses in a Pasture by Nannette Turner (FCC)

“Who will remember you but the body that birthed you.
Who will remember you but the clouds that swallowed you.
Who will remember you but the moon you threw sticks at.
Who will remember you but your double buried under the apple.” ~ Marion McCready, from “Ballad of the Clyde’s Water”

Monday afternoon, warm and humid with showers, 80 degrees.

Merton’s Horse by Lisa Pownall, Oceania (FCC)

I’m not really sure how far I’ll be able to get with this post. Between everything that’s happened and dealing with the aftermath, the best way to describe it would be pure chaos with a lot of drama and pain.

Let me back up.

Corey went over to see Dallas on Friday last, but couldn’t find him anywhere. It was around 4 in the afternoon. You can usually tell if Dallas is home or not depending upon where his various vehicles are parked and where all of the dogs are hanging out. Corey didn’t see the tractor, and the Geo was there, so he assumed that Dallas was somewhere on his tractor. When Corey returned on Saturday around 2 p.m., everything was exactly the same, so he began to get worried.

When he looked around, he saw Dallas’s tractor sitting upside down at the bottom of the hill on the side of the property; it’s a fairly steep decline. Corey’s first thought was that Dallas had been taken to the hospital, but something made him go down the hill. He found Dallas laying about 20 feet from the tractor, and he was dead.

Corey ran to the neighbor’s house, which abuts the property, and someone called 911. From that point on, it’s been pure chaos as news spread very quickly, as it tends to do around here. Unfortunately, the human vultures have been hovering near the property, ready to claim anything that isn’t bolted down. It’s truly repulsive.

“HUMAN SONG: Perhaps it is the case that you never get over things. You decide you will no longer engage with them. You answer with 
silence until you are reminded once again of the wound and requested 
to be human.” ~ Ken Chen, from “You May Visit the Cosmos but You May Not Speak of It (or on the Tackiness of Elegy).”

Corey came home late Saturday afternoon to tell me the news. Obviously, he was very shaken as his immediate thought was that if he had looked around more on Friday, he might have been able to find Dallas. I tried to assure him that it would have been virtually impossible for someone Dallas’s age to survive such an accident. The general consensus is that Dallas probably crawled from the tractor, but didn’t get very far. One of his puppies was by his side when he was found. It’s likely that Dallas swerved to avoid one of the dogs, and that’s how he fell.

Belgian Draft Horses Nuzzling by fishhawk (FCC)

We went back to the property to find a wrecker crew trying to bring up the tractor, so we went next door to see the neighbors, Brian and Robin. It’s funny. They’ve been in an ongoing feud with Dallas for months now over various things, but you’d never surmise it from their comments.

People are strange. People around her are an entirely different breed of strange.

Animal control had been called, and they scooped up all of the smaller puppies, which still left about 12 dogs. Corey and I brought home four puppies, one of which is a girl from the same litter as Freddy, and the neighbors were able to find about five of the dogs, but not all of the dogs had been found. It was a stopgap measure, at best.

“In the mind there is a thin alley called death
and I move through it as
through water.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “For The Year Of The Insane”

Tuesday morning, cloudy and cooler, 71 degrees.

The autopsy showed that Dallas had a heart attack but no broken bones; he had been dead 24 to 36 hours before Corey found him on Saturday. The reality is that Dallas would have absolutely hated it if he had been found after the accident but then had been incapacitated in some way, and he would have loathed dying in a hospital. We have to console ourselves as best we can, and I like to think that he died as he would have wanted: outside, under the open sky on a summer day, near his animals and on his property.

Animals in a Tennessee Pasture by Lindsey Turner (FCC)

We have no idea what his blood alcohol level was, but Corey had found half a bottle of brandy near the trailer, so he may or may not have been drunk. But I’ve seen Dallas drive that tractor drunk many times, so I still think that he may have swerved to avoid a dog as all of them ran loose all over the property.

Now there are all kinds of people showing up, talking about how they were friends with Dallas, how they had known him for years. I was telling Corey yesterday that a lot of these people reminded me of the goblins in Harry Potter: the goblins believed that if they made something, that it belonged to them in perpetuity, that anyone who bought an item from them only owned it through their life and couldn’t pass it on to descendants, that it should be returned to the goblin who made it. We’re hearing a lot of things like “I sold him those horses, so I’d like them back,” or “I gave him that dog, so he’s mine.” It’s weird and very repugnant, but I suppose it doesn’t really matter.

“See,
there are degrees of loss–
speeds at which pain travels
through the body.” ~ Caitlin Roach, from “Gardening, a Mother Gives a Daughter a Lesson on Mass Loss”

Months ago, I had made a promise to Dallas that if anything ever happened to him, I would be sure to take care of his animals. I had meant it at the time; I still meant it, but the reality of it was overwhelming. We’re talking at least a dozen horses, a couple of foals, about eight cows, a bull, three donkeys, about six pigeons, several fully grown dogs and lots of puppies from two different litters.

Sonya, by Tim Fuller, Germany (FCC)

Our house has been pretty chaotic the last few days. At one point, we had 11 dogs in the house, far too many. Yesterday, we spent two hours trying to find the Dickenson County animal control so that we could drop off three of the puppies. When we were looking around the property on Sunday, we found another puppy all alone and hiding in the barn. Robin had wanted to try to keep on of the puppies that we had, a beautiful boy named Charlie, so we took him to her house first.

Neither Corey nor I were thrilled about going to the shelter as it’s not a no-kill shelter, and it used to have the highest kill rate in the state. Fortunately, we found out that an organization called Brother Wolf helps the shelter in placing animals, and we were told that the puppies go quickly. Once we finally found the shelter, the guy there told us that they had rounded up the last of the dogs on the property that morning, but fortunately, most of the first group had already been placed in homes or with the other organizations, so that made it easier to leave the three puppies there.

We decided to keep Freddy’s sister as she is very sweet and calm, and then we decided to find a dog that Dallas called Boy as he’s fully grown and might be hard to place. He, too, is very sweet and relatively calm around all of the dogs except for Freddy, so we’ll have to see how that goes. Once the rambunctious puppies were gone, things got much calmer in the house; I know that our dogs were pretty stressed from all of the animals and noise. The humans were extremely stressed, too.

“Sometimes there is no darker place than our own thoughts; the moonless midnight of the mind.” ~ Dean Koontz, from Fear Nothing: A Novel

Ultimately, there’s a lot of guilt to go around. I had just told Corey on Thursday that I wanted nothing else to do with Dallas, that I was tired of all of his bullshit and heartbroken over Napoleon. And I had really meant it. I had resolved that I wouldn’t go to his house again. The only consolation I have is that I never had any bad words with Dallas even though I had wanted to do so. The truth of the matter is that Corey and I, but especially Corey, did a lot for Dallas and put up with a lot. We were often tired of trying, but there was always the sense that he had no one else but us. He was estranged from his son and daughter for reasons that are unclear, but we never once saw them at his house.

Foggy Day at the Farm by OakleyOriginals (FCC)

Maybe I shouldn’t say this, but I just want my horse back, and a few old things that I know that no one else would want, like an old chair that was in his basement, and the saddle the he promised me. I did say that if no one else wanted it, I would really like to have a silver and garnet ring that he wore all of the time; it would be a nice keepsake. Apparently, his kids don’t want any keepsakes from him; I’m saddened by how fractured his relationships were, and it scares me that my own relationships with my kids won’t be repaired.

Ultimately, I think that we’re both still in shock. Corey is having a harder time than I am as Dallas’s death is more immediate for him. I think this will all hit me more at the funeral, at least, I’m hoping there’s a funeral. Dallas wanted to be cremated, but we have no idea if his son or daughter will even want a funeral. It’s best now if we just keep our distance from the immediate drama and ultimately hope we can get Napoleon back home soon. I’ll update if anything major changes.

More later. Peace.

P.S. Wrote but couldn’t post until this evening. Had to go out and then had a helluva time downloading images for the post.


Music by Saint Claire, “Haunted”


Animalistic Hymn

The red sun rises
without intent
and shines the same on all of us.
We play like children under the sun.
One day, our ashes will scatter—
…………………………………….it doesn’t matter when.
Now the sun finds our innermost hearts,
…………………………………….fills us with oblivion
intense as the forest, winter and sea.

~ Edith Södergran (Trans. Brooklyn Copeland)

“It doesn’t matter who my father was, it matters who I remember he was.” ~ Anne Sexton, from a journal entry, 1972

Life was never like Andy of Mayberry

Two for Tuesday: Poems about Fathers

Tuesday afternoon, sunny and warmer, 43 degrees.

The two poems that I’ve chosen for today are both about communicating with fathers. The first, by W. S. Merwin, I used to teach in my literature classes. I always loved this poem because of its deliberate lack of punctuation, which leaves it open to be read in different ways. For example, if Merwin had punctuated the first few lines as follows—My friend says, “I was not a good son, you understand?” I say, “yes, I understand”—then it could be read that the friend is commenting on his own relationship with his father. However, if you read it with the word that omitted, as most people do in speech, then it would be as follows: My friend says [that] I was not a good son—an accusation against the speaker.

My students used to enjoy playing around with this particular poem; I always felt that it was a perfect example of how poetry can be open-ended, meaning dependent upon what we as individuals bring to the text. Either way, though, the poem is about regret.

The second selection is from a longer poem from I poet who I only found recently. The speaker in this one is female, but as soon as I read it, I was reminded of the Merwin poem, which I had to hunt for because I couldn’t remember the title. In this poem as well I sense a great deal of regret for things unspoken on both sides. This one really reminded me of my father, just as the Merwin one used to remind me of the relationship that I had with my father while he was still alive.

Regret can kill you.

More later. Peace.

Note: I didn’t realize until after posting that I had already used this Merwin poem in a previous post, but as I love it so much, I decided not to change it; I just hope that I didn’t make the same comments . . .


Yesterday

My friend says I was not a good son
you understand
I say yes I understand

he says I did not go
to see my parents very often you know
and I say yes I know

even when I was living in the same city he says
maybe I would go there once
a month or maybe even less
I say oh yes

he says the last time I went to see my father
I say the last time I saw my father

he says the last time I saw my father
he was asking me about my life
how I was making out and he
went into the next room
to get something to give me

oh I say
feeling again the cold
of my father’s hand the last time
he says and my father turned
in the doorway and saw me
look at my wristwatch and he
said you know I would like you to stay
and talk with me

oh yes I say

but if you are busy he said
I don’t want you to feel that you
have to
just because I’m here

I say nothing

he says my father
said maybe
you have important work you are doing
or maybe you should be seeing
somebody I don’t want to keep you

I look out the window
my friend is older than I am
he says and I told my father it was so
and I got up and left him then
you know

though there was nowhere I had to go
and nothing I had to do

~ W. S. Merwin


“father. you always call to say nothing in particular. you
ask what i’m doing or where i am and when the silence
stretches like a lifetime between us i scramble to find
questions to keep the conversation going. what i long to say most is.
i understand this world broke you. it has been so hard on your feet.
i don’t blame you for not knowing how to remain soft with me. sometimes i stay up thinking
of all the places you are hurting which you’ll never care to mention. i come from the same aching blood. from the same bone so desperate for attention i collapse in on myself. i am your daughter. i know the small talk is the only way you know how to tell me you love me. cause it is the only way i know how to tell you.”

~ Rupi Kaur, from “The Hurting,” in Milk and Honey


Music by Gert Taberner, “Fallen”

“Get used to the bear behind you.” ~ Werner Herzog, from 24 pieces of life advice

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Giulia Leonardi 1910
“Portrait of Guilia Leonardi” (1910)
by Ferdinand Hodler*

“I fear I will be ripped open and found unsightly.” ~ Anne Sexton, from A Self Portrait In Letters

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and chilly, 51 degrees.

Well, long time, no write, hmm?

Let’s see. Where were we? When last I posted, I was in the midst of a never ending migraine, one that wouldn’t abate with shots, meds, what have you. Finally, I went on an aggressive two-week regimen with upped doses of my pain meds, and it seemed to break, at least for a while. Good news on that front, yes, but don’t worry. Things continued to be interesting.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait of Berthe Jacques 1894 oil on canvas
“Portrait of Berthe Jacques” (1894, oil on canvas)

It seems I’ve developed akathisia from my seroquel, one of the meds I was on for sleep and anxiety. What is akathisia, you might ask? Well, it’s this wonderful condition in which you cannot stop your body from moving: tapping feet, rocking from side to side, and all kinds of variations. Mine appeared as an ability to keep my feet from moving while lying in bed at night, but I didn’t really think anything of it. I have no idea when it started, exactly, but it’s been going on for a while.

So at my last check-in with my prescribing psychiatrist, she noticed that I was fidgety. She asked me how long I had been that way. Who knows, I said. I’m quite anxious at the moment with everything that’s going on in my life. Could be that, I said. She gave me a look, suggested we switch up meds, try an extended release seroquel. Great.

Well that particular medicine landed me in bed, unable to wake up for more than a few hours. Not so good. I mentioned the fidgeting to my neurologist at that checkup. He gave me that look. Said, look I don’t want to worry you, but I want you to look up extra-pyramidal syndrome and akathisia.

So I did.

Crap.

“As for myself, I am splintered by great waves. I am coloured glass from a church window long since shattered. I find pieces of myself everywhere, and I cut myself handling them.” ~ Jeanette Winterson, from Lighthousekeeping

So ny prescribing psych and I agreed to stop the seroquel completely. Only problem is that at night, I cannot get comfortable. My feet won’t stop, and my legs feel terrible, and everything sucks. Yes, yes. RLS, or restless leg syndrome, which I supposedly do have, but which can be mistaken for akathisia, or vice versa. Add to that that our mattress is worn and it makes my back hurt, and on and on and on . . . ad infinitum. So it’s back to the doctor(s) to try to tweak the meds.

Ferdinand Hodler Portrait study to Look into the Infinity 1916 oil on canvas
“Portrait study to ‘Look into the Infinity'” (1916, oil on canvas)

Look. Enough already. I am so fricking tired of not feeling good that I’m ready to bang my head against a wall, except for that whole headache thing. I need some energy. I need to feel like myself. And I especially need to be able to sit down at this computer and do stuff instead of looking at it across the bedroom as if it were some time bomb getting ready to go off.

I literally have not sat in this chair and plied these keys in weeks. I’ve even taken to glancing at my e-mail on my phone, of all things. Oh the joys of having a smart phone. I look up medical terms like akathisia. I look up the weather. I look up whatever, anything to avoid coming back here.

Don’t ask me why being here, on this computer, on this forum is paralyzing me, but it is. I suppose its my unspoken pact with myself that I will continue to keep this blog going, that I will make it a place in which people who love quotes and art and minutiae will enjoy visiting, and because I have not done that for months now, I feel like such a failure—once again

“It’s never the changes we want that change everything.” ~ Junot Diaz, from The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Ferdinand Hodler Empfindung 1901 tempera on canvas
“Empfindung” (1901, tempera on canvas)

Things are precarious at the moment. One son is completely heartbroken over a relationship that he ended and has decided that former girlfriend is now the love of his life. Ah to be 23 . . . not. Another son has been off his meds and is trying to cope, but I don’t think it’s working. And my daughter? Geez, I can’t begin to figure out what is going on in her mind, what possesses her to continue to do the stupid things that she does. I just want to grab her and shake her and say, “What the hell are you doing with your life?”

Then the whole oil/shipping thing has us over a barrel (no pun intended). We never thought we’d be facing down a repeat of those black years of 2008-2010, but it appears we are. Is it horrible that I want gas prices to go back up? Ah yes, it’s wonderful to be able to fill the tank for under $40, but given a choice, I’d rather spend more at the tank and have jobs come back in the industry.

And out of respect for Corey’s wishes I haven’t written about the situation before, but his family knows now, and the kids know, so what does it matter that I’m throwing it all out there again?

“I would like. I would like anything at all, but fast. I would like to get out of here. I would like to be rid of all this. I would like to start all over again. I would like to leave all this. Not to leave through an exit. I would like a multiple leaving, a whole spread of them. An endless leaving, an ideal leaving so that once I’ve left I begin leaving again right away.” ~ Henri Michaux, from “With Mescaline,” trans. David Ball

So is it any wonder that I have retreated from everything?

I haven’t been on my tumblr in a month. My inbox is completely overflowing. Mail lies unopened on the table by the front door. Furniture goes unpolished. Dust has gathered in corners, forming tumbleweeds. And I walk through the house seeing, but unable to act.

Ferdinand Hodler The Truth 1903
“The Truth” (1903)

When Olivia is here, it is a brief respite, a welcome distraction, but it also exhausts me. I leave the house to go to doctors’ appointments and for little else. Corey and I pass one another silently. He keeps to the dining room, looking out the back door, and I stay in here, a self-imposed prisoner to my bed. We don’t seem to be able to help one another.

What kind of life is this?

The only good thing is that I have been devouring books, that is up until this past week, when I suddenly found it impossible to concentrate on the words before me. Before that, I went through almost a dozen books, but books can only sustain for so long before the brain begins to shut down. And beneath all of this runs the undercurrent of my mother.

“The present is already too much for me. I can’t cope with the future as well.” ~ Salman Rushdie, from Shalimar the Clown

You see, I still haven’t made it to the cemetery to put on the silk flowers I bought ages ago. I still haven’t paid to have the dates put on her gravestone, and now I don’t have the money to do so. And so I have failed her once again.

Ferdinand Hodler The Dream 1897 watercolor on cardboard
“The Dream” (1897, watercolor on cardboard)

Will I ever arrive at a day on which I do not think of my mother and close my eyes in shame and regret for all of the ways in which I failed to make a difference in her life? Do you know the number of times in my life that I can remember my mother telling me she was proud of me? One. The number of times in my life I can remember her telling me she loved me? A handful.

How could this woman who so many found helpful and friendly have had such a completely different demeanor when it came to her only daughter, her only child? I will never have the answer to that question. Not ever, and so I continue to be haunted in the backdrop of each day by what a complete and utter failure our relationship was, how we failed one another, how I never quite measured up.

And you know what? That really and truly sucks.

More later (I truly hope to keep this promise). Peace.

*All images are by Swiss artist Ferdinand Hodler (1853-1817), one of the leading symbolist painters of the late 19th century. I love his paintings of women.

Music by Beth Orton, “Mystery”

                    

The Sensual World

I call to you across a monstrous river or chasm
to caution you, to prepare you.

Earth will seduce you, slowly, imperceptibly,
subtly, not to say with connivance.

I was not prepared: I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen,
holding out my glass. Stewed plums, stewed apricots–

the juice poured off into the glass of ice.
And the water added, patiently, in small increments,

the various cousins discriminating, tasting
with each addition–

aroma of summer fruit, intensity of concentration:
the colored liquid turning gradually lighter, more radiant,

more light passing through it.
Delight, then solace. My grandmother waiting,

to see if more was wanted. Solace, then deep immersion.
I loved nothing more: deep privacy of the sensual life,

the self disappearing into it or inseparable from it,
somehow suspended, floating, its needs

fully exposed, awakened, fully alive–
Deep immersion, and with it

mysterious safety. Far away, the fruit glowing it its glass bowls.
Outside the kitchen, the sun setting.

I was not prepared: sunset, end of summer. Demonstrations
of time as a continuum, as something coming to an end,

not a suspension: the senses wouldn’t protect me.
I caution you as I was never cautioned:

you will never let go, you will never be satiated.
You will be damaged and scarred, you will continue to hunger.

Your body will age, you will continue to need.
You will want the earth, then more of the earth–

Sublime, indifferent, it is present, it will not respond.
It is encompassing, it will not minister.

Meaning, it will feed you, it will ravish you,
it will not keep you alive.

~

“Nothing human is finally calculable; even to ourselves we are strange.” ~ Gore Vidal, from Julian

Filippo De Pisis  1933 Paesaggio con passero e casolare
“Paesaggio con passero e casolare” (1933, oil on canvas)
by Filippo de Pisis

 


 “I have dreamed much and done very little.” ~ Gustave Flaubert

Tuesday night. Partly cloudy, 58 degrees.

In this dream I have been placed on my back in a solution that is slowly killing me. As the minutes pass, I keep thinking that I can’t die because that wouldn’t make sense. There is a woman who is pure evil, and apparently, she’s the one ordering people to be put into this solution. As I feel myself dying, I start to give away my jewelry, holding a piece out and declaring that it is for x, and another and another, until I have no jewelry left on my body. I know that someone is going to save me, but I don’t know how I have this knowledge.

Filippo De Pisis Natura Morta Marina con Ali di Gabbiano 1929 oil on canvas
“Natura morta marina con Ali di Baggiano” (1929, oil on canvas)
by Filippo de Pisis

Is it any wonder I walk through my days as if lost?

I did manage to get out of the house today and vote. Made Brett go with me. Too many people don’t place enough importance on mid-terms. Eamonn went fishing instead. At least Corey did an absentee ballot before he went back.

Skipping Two for Tuesday again today. You might not believe it, but putting together that kind of post takes thought, more thought than I am capable of at the moment. So some randomness instead:

  • Just three days after Halloween, and people in my neighborhood are putting up Christmas decorations.
  • Would it be okay to shoot these decorations with a paint gun?
  • I do not own a paint gun, for the record, but the thought of doing something radical is oddly comforting.
  • Days before Halloween, stores were already stocking Christmas decorations . . . I just can’t, just can’t even . . .

“I wanted the moments of my life to follow and order themselves like those of a life remembered. You might as well try and catch time by the tail.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from Nausea

Filippo de Pisis La Felana 1945
“La Felana” (1945)
by Filippo de Pisis
  • My mother collected clowns—figurines, dolls, pictures
  • I am terrified of clowns, so are all of my children
  • I used to absolutely hate the color yellow, so much so that I would protest if the graphic designer chose a Pantone shade of yellow for a design.
  • I now love yellow and all of its various hues.
  • I cannot explain any of the above.
  • White noise (noise that is so constant that you forget that it’s there) that fills my days: the cooling fan of my CPU overworking itself, the very loud window unit air conditioners throughout the house
  • The kind of white noise I would prefer: running water, bird songs

“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” ~ D.H. Lawrence, from Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Filippo de Pisis Natura morta con calamaio 1951 oil on masonite board
“Natura morta con calamaio” (1951, oil on masonite board)
by Filippo de Pisis
  • I have never gotten my paper degree from GWU for my publishing master’s. I think I owe them $50.
  • Throughout most of my adulthood, I have had a very hard time with mail, as in opening it when I get it. It bothers me a great deal, and I have no idea as to why.
  • I have so much paperwork that I need to do, but again, this is something that I put off and put off until I cannot possibly put it off any longer.
  • I have an abiding antipathy towards paperwork, i.e., completing forms, responding to requests for information, filing, etc.
  • The above is a direct result of years and years of having to fill out medical paperwork, going all the way back to Caitlin

“Give me a report on the condition of my soul.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “Anna Who Was Mad”

Filippo de Pisis Foglia nella tempesta 1940 oil on canvas
“Foglia nella tempesta” (1940, oil on canvas)
by Filippo de Pisis
  • I need (no, really) a new purse.
  • I am lousy at small talk.
  • I have always been a bag lady. I asked for and got my first leather briefcase when I was five. True story.
  • Alexis, and now Olivia are both bag ladies. One of Olivia’s favorite things to do is to go through my purse, take everything out, and put it into one of her bags.
  • This is not taught behavior. Is there a gene for an affinity for purses and carryalls?

All images are by Italian painter and poet, Filippo de Pisis (11 May 1896 – 2 April 1956). Something in these somber images calls to me.

Music by Beth Hart, “Sister Heroine”

                   

Death Comes to Me Again, a Girl

Death comes to me again, a girl
in a cotton slip, barefoot, giggling.
It’s not so terrible she tells me,
not like you think, all darkness
and silence. There are windchimes
and the smell of lemons, some days
it rains, but more often the air is dry
and sweet. I sit beneath the staircase
built from hair and bone and listen
to the voices of the living. I like it,
she says, shaking the dust from her hair,
especially when they fight, and when they sing.

~ Dorianne Laux

“We’re all going to die, all of us, what a circus! That alone should make us love each other but it doesn’t. We are terrorized and flattened by trivialities, we are eaten up by nothing.” ~ Charles Bukowski, “The Captain is Out to Lunch and the Sailors Have Taken Over the Ship”

Charles Warren Eaton Quiet Shore c1885 oil on canvas
“Quiet Shore” (c1885, oil on canvas)
by Charles Warren Eaton

                    

“the soft-aired Tennessee night
Gathers it children in its cupped hands.
Time has its covenant, and who’s to say that it is unjust.
We make our sad arrangements.
The sky clears, the sun sets.
No matter the words, we never forget our own song. ~ Charles Wright, from “Arrivederci Kingsport”

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy and cool, 60 degrees.

A very quiet afternoon, alone in the house, just the dogs and me. Sometimes the quiet is too dense, as if it is filling all of the spaces around me, removing the oxygen and replacing it with something unnameable but palatable.

Robert Vonnoh The Bridge at Grez c1890
“The Bridge at Grez” (c1890, oil on canvas)
by Robert Vonnoh

It’s this first week in November that does me in, causes my heart to collapse, makes my mind travel to dark places. This week—it is too much with me. “The world is too much with me” . . . Wordsworth? Yes, Wordsworth. For a moment almost said Eliot, but it is not cynical enough. Wordsworth still had hope, I think.

Don’t worry if you cannot follow along. I cannot either. Heavily immersed in stream of consciousness, easier than linear thought—at times, this is so.

If you want to know how little you matter in the grand scheme, Google your name. Grandeur is quickly extinguished. Who does this?

“There is a basin in the mind where words float around on thought and thought on sound and sight. Then there is a depth of thought untouched by words, and deeper still a gulf of formless feelings untouched by thought.” ~ Zora Neale Hurston, from Their Eyes Were Watching God

In memory, the days from that Halloween until the seventh of November all collapse upon each other, like white-dotted dominoes laid out in a row.  Unable to halt the tide, unable to hold at bay the hours. Nothing could have stopped what happened.

Wojciech Weiss Sunset ca1902
“Sunset” (c1902, oil on canvas)
by Wojciech Weiss

Alexis, small and innocent, a fairy princess, a silver magic wand, a plastic crown. Standing on the front porch, posing for her last picture as a sister until years later.

There was a nurse in a clown costume, or was it a rag doll costume(?). I remember only the bright colors, the two red circles on her cheeks. I wondered then how anyone who worked amidst such perpetual sadness could muster the mettle to come to work in costume, to tend the grievously ill for 12 hours dressed as a doll? Who does this?

Now it makes perfect sense. The costumes provided an escape, albeit temporary, from the monitors, the beeps, the sterile white noise that is the backdrop to everything in an intensive care unit.

“If you have endured a great despair,
then, you did it alone;
getting a transfusion from the fire,
picking the scabs off your heart,
then wringing it out like a sock.” ~ Anne Sexton, from Courage

From that night forward, it was as if we were propelled by adrenaline and sadness. Ineffable sadness. The six days between were anomalous to the twenty-four-hour cycle, having only two or three hours a day. I’m certain of it. Time was different then. Supernormal with its sunrises and sunsets heaped upon one another, not enough minutes between sleeping and waking, perpetually exhausted.

Pierre Bonnard Landscape, Pink House, Sunset c1934
“Landscape, Pink House, Sunset” (c1934, oil on canvas)
by Pierre Bonnard

Did I eat? I don’t remember. I do remember many cups of coffee.

Approximately one hundred and forty-four hours between Alexis’s fairy princess smile and Caitlin’s pale countenance. Everything about the two was opposite: Alexis’s fair skin and hair, and Caitlin’s olive skin and dark dark hair—as if fate sought to heighten the differences between the two.

Of course we will never know what kind of personality Caitlin might have had, whether she would have been a reader, or perhaps a writer, what she would have liked to do with her time, what paths she might have chosen. All such speculation is pointless. How much can you know of a person in seven months? How much of a person can seven months reveal?

“I don’t know. I just feel stuck, like I’m afraid to take any steps, in case they’re the wrong ones.” ~ Rebecca Stead, from When You Reach Me

Long before Google could tell me of my irrelevance, I met it first-hand on a November afternoon. It only took a few minutes to break my heart irreparably, to harden me with a cold cynicism bred from loss.

Pang Xunquin Autumn on Fragrance Hill 1962
“Autumn on Fragrance Hill” (1962, oil on canvas)
by Pan Xunquin

I think that I laughed more easily before that day, found more joy in the ordinary nothingness. I know that I smiled more, or at least, I think so. But it would be a lie to say that I knew how to be happy then because I don’t think that I’ve ever quite known how to do that.

I will not lie to you: I do not remember what Caitlin looked like. I mean, I know from the pictures, but I cannot, simply am quite unable to conjure her image in my mind. She has become two-dimensional.

I never thought I would find the day in which I could no longer smell her, so long did I carry her belongings with me wherever I went.

It this all too much for you? Perhaps I should have warned you sooner of my propensity to crash so completely, should have placed a label somewhere to shield you from my carefully guarded obsession with those days in early November, the ones that I hoard like first editions and garage-sale masterpieces.

“But I understand how light works.
. . . . . . . . . .

Later I will go out in a leopard-coat of light
with you: just me and the trees baring themselves
for winter, and the marbled paving stones,
and my empty hand shining” ~ Henry Shukman, from “The Call”

I am never quite sure how much to say when my mind and heart conspire against me and take me back to that afternoon and the days immediately preceding. It’s as if I somehow can still be caught unawares, regardless of how many times I have made this journey.

Max Slevogt Red Arbor with Dog 1897c
“Red Arbor with Dog” (c1897)
by Max Slevogt

And sometimes I think it would be better if I did not allow myself to acknowledge this tack, pretend it is not just there, on the periphery of my vision, waving its arms madly to get my attention. If I just don’t look . . . perhaps . . . maybe. If I spend enough hours in the bathtub with the lights out, it won’t be able to get a toehold, will fall away.

Who am I kidding? It always wins. Always.

More later. Peace.

Music by Bastille, “Oblivion”

                    

Any Night

Look, the eucalyptus, the Atlas pine,
the yellowing ash, all the trees
are gone, and I was older than
all of them. I am older than the moon,
than the stars that fill my plate,
than the unseen planets that huddle
together here at the end of a year
no one wanted. A year more than a year,
in which the sparrows learned
to fly backwards into eternity.
Their brothers and sisters saw this
and refuse to build nests. Before
the week is over they will all
have gone, and the chorus of love
that filled my yard and spilled
into my kitchen each evening
will be gone. I will have to learn
to sing in the voices of pure joy
and pure pain. I will have to forget
my name, my childhood, the years
under the cold dominion of the clock
so that this voice, torn and cracked,
can reach the low hills that shielded
the orange trees once. I will stand
on the back porch as the cold
drifts in, and sing, not for joy,
not for love, not even to be heard.
I will sing so that the darkness
can take hold and whatever
is left, the fallen fruit, the last
leaf, the puzzled squirrel, the child
far from home, lost, will believe
this could be any night. That boy,
walking alone, thinking of nothing
or reciting his favorite names
to the moon and stars, let him
find the home he left this morning,
let him hear a prayer out
of the raging mouth of the wind.
Let him repeat that prayer,
the prayer that night follows day,
that life follows death, that in time
we find our lives. Don’t let him see
all that has gone. Let him love
the darkness. Look, he’s running
and singing too. He could be happy.

~ Philip Levine

“There are times when a feeling of expectancy comes to me, as if something is there, beneath the surface of my understanding, waiting for me to grasp it. It is the same tantalising sensation when you almost remember a name, but don’t quite reach it.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from The Journals of Sylvia Plath

Eilif Amundsen In the Window nd oil on canvas
“In the Window” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Eilif Amundsen

                   

“I am a collection of dismantled almosts.” ~ Anne Sexton, from Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters

Thursday afternoon. Rainy and much cooler, 77 degrees.

So . . . ten days since last real post . . .

Eilif Amundsen House in the Park 1994 oil on canvas
“House in the Park” (1994, oil on canvas)
by Eilif Amundsen

So many reasons why, but better just to move on. First, status report on the bathroom renovation:

  • Tub has been installed. This after Corey had to take back the first two tubs to Home Depot (missing parts, cracked rim).
  • Almost all wood work has been done: joists, studs, ledgers; only need to frame the niches.
  • Toilet has been installed. Had to take back the first one because of a crack. Nothing is ever easy.
  • Sub floor is down as well as additional piece of wood to bring floor level with tub
  • Most of the plumbing is in place.
  • Wiring for tub is done; luckily, we had one breaker that only had a ceiling fan on it, which never made any sense to me.

What’s next?

  • Installing Hardiebacker board on floor and walls
  • Laying Ditra (waterproofing membrane)
  • Installing glass block window
  • Patching ceiling and painting (primer and paint)
  • Sanding door and painting
  • Installing vanity, cabinet, light fixture, ventilation fan
  • Tiling . . .

I’m sure I’ve forgotten things in both categories, but it’s nice to spell it all out. I’m itching to start the tiling, but can I just take a moment to say hooray for indoor plumbing?

“When you have nothing to say,
the sadness of things
speaks for you.” ~ Ruth Stone, from “Interim”

I’m still in one of those writing funks, the kind in which finding words is such a chore, rather than being a pleasurable experience. It’s hard for me, especially since most of the time words are my boon companion, my constant in a sea of change. Anyway, I decided I’d just do a random thoughts post and see where that takes me. Here goes . . .

  • I did one of those random tumblr surveys (McPoverty Calculator) about how much more I would be willing to pay for a Big Mac to help fast food workers make more money. I put in the highest amount, which was a whopping $.22. Based on their calculator, workers would make $15.23 per hour, or $31,671.83 per year as a result of this increase.

    Eilif Amundsen Danish Still Life, Window 2000 oil on canvas
    “Still Life, Window” (2000, oil on canvas)
    by Eilif Amundsen
  • Isn’t bettering someone’s life worth $.22, especially since what you are paying for is so bad for your body?
  • I don’t understand our society: We let people kill other people based on some kind of weird social indicator that points to our possessions being more valuable than people’s lives (like the law in Texas that allows you to shoot anyone who trespasses on your property that you deem could do you harm).
  • We are supposed to be a great country, yet one in almost four children live in poverty. Tell me, what is great about that? Dites moi . . .
  • Did you know that the most recent data show that over 16 million children are living in food insecure households (tenuous access to food)?
  • Contrary to what the Koch brothers contend, raising the minimum wage would benefit the nation as a whole because more people would be able to live without subsistence. That’s a good thing, right?

“Nevertheless, I can tell you that you will awake someday to find that your life has rushed by at a speed at once impossible and cruel. The most intense moments will seem to have occurred only yesterday and nothing will have erased the pain and pleasure, the impossible intensity of love and its dog-leaping happiness, the bleak blackness of passions unrequited, or unexpressed, or unresolved.” ~ Meg Rosoff, from What I Was

Okay, so I went off on a bit of a political rant, but it can’t be helped. Blame it on the Big Mac . . .

  • Bailey the Puppy has adjusted very well to life here. Only a few accidents here and there, mostly if it rains. I tried taking her out with an umbrella, but she was too afraid of the huge golf umbrella and ran inside, leaving me standing in the wet grass.

    Eilif Amundsen Atelier Mirror 1985 oil on canvas
    “Atelier Mirror” (1985, oil on canvas)
    by Eilif Amundsen
  • Tillie is loving have a puppy to play with. I’m so glad this worked out well.
  • In between renovations, Corey has been taking some amazing photographs. I’ll post soon.
  • I feel terrible that I haven’t spent any time with my niece Hannah, but in between renovations and battling bubbly face, it hasn’t worked out. I’m hoping to see her this Saturday.
  • Brett officially changed his major from physics to English. I’m secretly delighted. Okay, maybe not so secret.
  • I finally gave in and expanded my LinkedIn profile. It’s not social like Facebook, so I think that I can deal with it.
  • Have I mentioned how glad I am to have indoor plumbing? I did? Well, it can’t be stated enough.

“Reality is yours, and your spirit is your own.
Stand here, or anywhere, long enough, and you will learn that.
It’s not the stream or the bridge; it’s where I stand
At a precise spot of nowhere and timelessness
Within myself, a door I can go through and be invisible” ~ Douglas Dunn, from “Just Standing There”

Let’s see . . . what else is going on in my mind or otherwise . . .

  • So I saw my new pain doctor on Monday and got a shot in my knee, so painful, and a series of shots in my right hand and wrist.

    Eilif Amundsen Green Backlight 1977
    “Green Backlight” (1977, unknown media)
    by Eilif Amundsen
  • Apparently, the x-rays I had done last week show arthritis in both of my knees. Lovely . . .
  • Of course because I just saw my doctor, I am now on day two of this particular migraine.
  • Speaking of my knees, can’t wait until I get to tile the bathroom floor, he, he, he.
  • The doctor was not amused when I told him that I was thinking of holding off on the wrist shots because I was getting ready to do a tiling project. His comment? “You should hired someone.” My response? “Are you paying?” (at least that was the response in my head)
  • I dropped by Lex’s apres le docteur so that I could see Olivia. If I waited for Alexis to come by, the baby might be in preschool . . .
  • That last comment was snarky, wasn’t it? Well . . . is it still snarky if it’s true?
  • I’m a little perturbed at her for various reasons, but I’ll get over it.
  • Olivia has more teeth coming in. I’ll be glad when we’re finished with the renovation, mostly because I’ll be able to have the baby over again . . . well, there’s that, plus the new bathroom and jetted tub and no holes anywhere.

“I am an old boudoir full of withered roses.” ~ Charles Baudelaire, from “Spleen”

I really love this quote

  • I haven’t read much Baudelaire (any?)
  • Another pitfall of this funk—haven’t been able to read either.
Eilif Amundsen Chair, Table, Window, oil on canvas
“Chair, Table, Window” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Eilif Amundsen
  • Because of the renovation, I’ve been doing most of the cooking, which reminds me that I hate to cook. I used to love it, but not so much any more.
  • Last night I made Mongolian Beef, which I’ve been thinking about cooking for a while. I don’t think that I like it any more.
  • I finally made Chicken Pad Thai for Corey. That was a hit.
  • Oh, did I mention that our refrigerator is broken? Probably not because I’m in denial, although why I couldn’t tell you. I mean, it’s so just our luck that our refrigerator would stop working now that we’re making real progress in the bathroom. Can’t be 100 per cent operational in this household.
  • I still contend that one of those crazy bitches I used to work with put a curse on me, but don’t ask me which one . . .
  • Speaking of which, last night I had a department store dream again. I was in the dog house for something, which is pretty close to the reality that of that period of my life.
  • My back is killing me. I think I’ll stop for now and go have some puppy time.
  • I do want to mention, though, that I think this random post helped. I’m been feeling progressively more comfortable with the words with each bullet.

Belated Happy Birthday wishes to my father-in-law John. Hope it was happy!

More later. Peace.

All images are by Norwegian artist Eilif Amundsen (1930-2007).

Music by Sara Bareilles, “Breathe Again”

                   

Rembrandt’s Light

We’re crossing Depression Era bridges
and she is becoming more beautiful,
driving with both hands on the wheel
as we head inland: away from saltwater eddies
where every few months an empty row boat
falls victim to the current, recirculates
against the rocky shore for weeks
before splintering its wooden hull
on the land’s dull and uncompromising teeth.
Rembrandt’s light always came from the left.
He painted and hoped the canvas would keep
his shadows, the eye drawn to where the flesh
was softest and the most tired: just beneath
the eyes where we keep our hurt and our joy,
where we seldom touch for how easily
the thin skin can bruise. Evergreens
invite us to agree on beauty. The fenced-off pier
begs for passengers. She says the light
is bleeding from the clouds. The pavement,
the undersides of leaves: every darkness shining.

~ Luke Johnson

“The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Dance Dance Dance

Chang Dai-chien Splasher Color no title2
Splashed Color (nd, no title, color and ink on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

                   

“Almost impossible to sleep; plagued by dreams, as if they were being scratched on me, on a stubborn material.” ~ Franz Kafka, from Diaries

Wednesday early evening. Partly cloudy, 83 degrees.

Lots of drizzle the past few days mixed in with scattered thunderstorms. My body has reflected the weather: I feel dampened, pending somehow, as if something is incipient. Yesterday, I wasn’t able to get out of bed for most of the day. Hate days like that, but there was nothing for it. I just wasn’t able.

Chang Dai-chien Splashed Color no title
Splashed Color (nd, no title, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

I’ve spent days and days calculating square footage, calculating how much insulation, how many tiles, how much backerboard, etcetera. I am nothing if not a stickler for precision. I know that this is not what Corey had planned when he said he was going to tear out the bathroom, but there was no point in doing it halfway only to have to do more before we sold it.

Tile board (which he had planned to use) looks cheap, but it serves its purpose in a rental property. We’re going with ceramic and mosaic tile. Essentially, we’re gutting down to the studs and starting over. I keep waking in the middle of the night and going to the computer to check something, to make absolutely sure that I have allowed for this or that. Corey says he’ll just be glad when we start to that I will quit obsessing. I concur.

Tomorrow we go to the big box stores to get what I couldn’t get online. Luckily, because it’s the 4th, Corey gets credit for his military service, and we get a 10 percent discount. Any discount is better than no discount.

“I need the shade of blue that rips your heart out. You don’t see that type of blue around here.” ~ Cath Crowley, from Graffiti Moon

Aside from preparing for the bathroom reno, there isn’t much going on. We’re still struggling with puppy training. Still lots of hit or miss. I told Corey that not every dog can be as intelligent as Tillie who seemed to train herself that first week. Bailey makes up for the mistakes in cuteness, though. Would that all of life were so . . .

Chang Dai-chien Snow Storm, Switzerland
“Snow Storm, Switzerland” (nd, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

Ever since my last post about that memory, I have been melancholy. I couldn’t put a name to why, exactly, but it’s here. I know that when I have these health relapses it always throws me, makes me afraid that I’m regressing to those first months after going out on disability when I was so dependent on everyone else, when I could do so very little on my own. That kind of dependence is frightening, perhaps because it may be a precursor to how life will be in the latter years, when so much of life is beyond your control.

I think of Corey’s grandfather, my own mother, how the years are not friendly to the elderly. I watch my mother diminish little by little, unable to finish sentences, repeating things she’s already told me five times. It’s painful. I can do little but watch and try not to add the phrase “I already told you this” to my sentences when we talk.

“I do not want my voice to go out into the air while my heart is sinking.” ~ E. M. Forster, from The Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction”

What am I afraid of, really? Dying without ever doing anything? Without accomplishing a damned thing?

Chang Dai-chien Snowy Mountain
“Snowy Mountain” (nd, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

Yes.

I am mightily fearful that my life will have meant nothing when I am gone, that I will have left my children with little, not monetarily, but in the ways that mean the most—in the kinds of memories that they will share with their children, the remembrance of small moments that might still conjure a smile.

I am afraid that I will reach my last days and that I will still be sitting here wondering when I’m going to get around to writing that book, trying to decided whether or not I should get a doctorate. I don’t want to be that person, that lost soul who never quite found her way. I don’t want people to remember me as the woman who never did anything, who never lived up to her potential.

“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Thus Spake Zarathustra

God that sounds so narcissistic, as if I have so much to give, so much to contribute. What makes me any different from the next woman, from the woman in the car next to me at the stoplight, the one who is keeping time on her steering wheel, all the while wondering if she remembered to thaw anything for dinner . . .

Chang Dai-chien Mist at Dawn ink and wash 1974
“Mist at Dawn” (1974, ink and wash on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

It’s ridiculous, I know, but I still fancy myself that mysterious woman, the one who people wondered about, the one who a professor referred to as a woman of mystery. I like to pretend that’s still me, even though the mystery has faded, and I am just another person trying to get along, trying to survive without going mad.

Can I tell you a secret? Of course, it isn’t much of a secret considering where I am at the moment, but anyway—I always relished my differentness. Not a word, I know, but difference isn’t quite accurate. I have liked being different, not being able to fit into any predetermined niche. I have liked that very much. I have liked that I do not have blond hair and blue eyes, that my name is not ordinary, that my lineage is not easily identifiable.

And yet, there were days when I would have given anything to be like everyone else. Granted, I was still but a child, but to be different when you are a child is a very hard thing.

“He carries stars in his pockets because he knows she fears the dark. Whenever sadness pays her a visit, he paints galaxies on the back of her hands.” ~ Alaska Gold

There was a scene recently in a show that I follow in which the detective goes inside a closet and looks up; she sees stars, the kind of luminous plastic stars that you can stick to the ceiling in a child’s room. I have those stars above my bed. They used to be in the shape of a few constellations. I took great care in the placement, but in the years since, some have fallen down, and the constellations are incomplete. It wouldn’t have taken much to replace the ones that fell, but I chose not to because somehow the incompleteness of what I had created seemed to make more sense.

Chang Dai-chien Diety Trees 1970 ink and color on paper
“Diety Trees” (1970, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

And that, my friends, is the true story of my life.

I gravitate towards the incomplete, the imperfect, the jagged and the broken, the lost, the wandering. It’s a harder road, one that fits squarely inside Frost’s maxim about the less traveled path. I remember I came upon that poem in high school, and it made perfect sense to me.

Why choose the road that everyone else has already taken? Discoveries cannot be made on such roads. Everything new under the sun, if there is still such a thing, will not be on a well-trod path. This I know, but I also admit that I probably could have avoided many falls and scrapes had I chosen differently.

“Look at how beautiful this ink is. Now do you understand why I needed clear water? Water is the brightness of the day and the whiteness of the paper. Black is the velvet of night and the satiny ink of the paintbrush. If you know how to make ink correctly, you will never again be afraid of nightmares.” ~ Françoise Place, from Hokusai (The Old Man Mad About Drawing)

Chang Dai-chien Earth
“Earth” (nd, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I once wrote a poem about my ex called “For My Husband, Returning to His Lover” in the style of Anne Sexton’s “For My Lover Returning to his Wife.” I mention this now because I remember a particular passage of my poem in which I refer to my stretch marks:

Look closely, these faint gray lines
at the tops of both my thighs, surely
she has not acquired anything
quite as exquisite.  Mine are badges,
earned by keeping pace with him
for decades–the many treks
we made across life’s arduous terrain.

Each scar on my body is a story. And had I gone the easy way, I would not have these stories to tell. I don’t regret any of it.

Chang Dai-chien Spring Clouds 1965 ink and color on paper
“Spring Clouds” (1965, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

Look, I once refused to go on antidepressants because I wouldn’t be able to write. I told that particular doctor—who was a misogynistic quack—that he just didn’t understand, that I was nothing without my extreme highs and lows. Later, a doctor who I respected convinced me otherwise, but there is a part of me that still remembers the intensity of living without medication, and I would be lying if I said that I don’t wish that I had that, had those intense emotions all of the time, but the truth is that living day-to-day with such emotions will kill you, sometimes quickly, and sometimes slowly.

This post has taken on a life of its own, which is what happens when I suddenly unleash the floodgates.

Enough.

More later. Peace.

(I am late in discovering Chinese artist Chang Dai-chien, also known as Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). In 2012, “Lotus and Mandarin Ducks (1947), a  painting by the artist fetched $191 million (Hong Kong) at auction. The price was more than nine times Sotheby’s estimate of HK$20 million.)

Music by Gretchen Peters, “On a Bus to St. Cloud”

We Should Be

We should be born old,
Come wise into the world
Already able to choose our destiny,
Already knowing the pathways that lead from the crossroads of the origin.
Then, it would only be irresponsible to yearn to go ahead.
Afterwards, we’d gradually grow younger,
Come to the gateway of creation mature and strong,
Pass through, and enter into love as adolescents,
Then be children when our children are born.
They’d immediately be older than we are.
They’d teach us to talk; they’d rock us to sleep in a cradle,
And then we’d disappear, getting smaller and smaller,
Like a grape, like a pea, like a grain of wheat …

~ Ana Blandiana