“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