“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” ~ Annie Dillard, from The Living

book chart the atlantic

“Unsurprisingly, several children’s books appear in the top 20 on the list; as Adamic and Patel point out, we tend to read these books at a very impressionable age. Favorite books from those early years are likely to lodge themselves deeply in our memories.” ~ Claire Fallon, from “‘Harry Potter’ Tops Facebook’s ’10 Books That Stayed With You’ Meme And No One Is Surprised” (Huffington Post)

Thursday afternoon. Sunny with climbing temperatures, 87 degrees.

My goal is to clean today . . . but first . . . not.

Ah, to meme or not to meme . . .

The above graphic (click for larger) is taken from an article in The Atlantic based on a recent meme making the rounds on Facebook in which people have been asked to “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way . . . Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.”

Another article (have forgotten writer, sorry), glibly stated that the addition of Harry Potter to so many lists proves that adults don’t really read books. Um, what? I read all of the Harry Potter books as a bona fide adult. At first, I had wanted to see what all of the commotion was about, the naysayers saying that it was demonic, and the supporters saying that it was a wonderful series. Of course, I agreed with the latter. Reading the series with my kids became a family rite of passage that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and truthfully, I miss the anticipation of the next release date, getting in the car with Brett early on a Saturday morning, hitting Krispy Kreme for hot donuts, and then making our way to the almost pristine cube of books placed immediately in the entrance. Good, good times.

“Indeed, if there is a backlash, I imagine it will be fuelled by accusations of elitism. Weirdly, reading is seen as a middle-class practice . . . This is one meme that has nothing to do with showing off. It’s a place to be honest about what brings you personal delight” ~ Daisy Buchanan, from “Facebook’s ‘Share 10 books’ meme shows that social media doesn’t have to be vicious or bullying” (The Telegraph)

I’ve been reading snarky comments from different people about how people are padding their lists, how most people haven’t read the things they claim to have read. Well . . . maybe. Who knows, but more importantly, who cares?

My point is (and yes, I have one) this: Does it really matter which books have stayed with people? Does it matter if they’ve padded their lists? Does it matter if childrens’ books and YA books appear frequently on peoples’ lists? No. These lists are proof of several key things:

  1. People read. People of all ages read all kinds of things. How can that be perceived in any negative light?
  2. Even if they haven’t read what’s on the list, they are thinking about things they want to read or things they think they should read. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  1. The fact that childrens’ book show up on these lists is wonderful. Study after study show that children who are introduced to reading from very young ages will continue to read on their own. A groundbreaking study found that “having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit” (from The National Literacy Trust).
  2. The people who participated in this meme are proud of their reading, and they should be. So who cares what they read? Bear in mind that unfortunately, access to books, or the lack thereof, directly ties to a person’s success. According to The National Commission on Reading, “The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.”

I could go on and on as I am wont to do, but you get the point. All of those naysayers out there who are making fun of the lists need to shut it. Instead of criticizing, donate some books to a school, or donate some money to First Book, a wonderful organization that helps to connect books with children who don’t have any.

And my final point is this: In this society that places people on pedestals simply for being famous or for having a pretty face or for dunking a basketball or whatever, this meme is a refreshing change. Instead of reading about bullying on Facebook, or hearing about a group of teens who posted directions on how to kill someone (yes, this is true), we are being treated to something real in people’s lives, something that matters, something that adds to the world in which we live: Reading.

“But passionate readers believe books are for all people. Many of us have grown up feeling obscure and alone. Books were our friends when we had no human ones . . . the best literature educates by stealth. Books are there to make us more empathetic and kinder—and in times of emotional turmoil, they can comfort.” ~ Daisy Buchanan, from “Facebook’s ‘Share 10 books’ meme shows that social media doesn’t have to be vicious or bullying” (The Telegraph)

Listen, books saved me—not just once but time and again. Being an only child is lonely. I found friends among the pages. And when I hit my teens and began to suffer from clinical depression, books helped me to understand what was wrong, and they helped to comfort me. And when I lost my beautiful baby girl, books (not self-help books) helped me to escape from the pain.

I can go several weeks without reading a book, and then I can read six books in four days. It doesn’t matter. My to read stack has tripled in size this year, and I know that is mostly as a result of Corey’s new schedule.

Hey, I don’t need to go to bars or hang out with people who aren’t really my friends. I have my one true love, my kids, my dogs, and my books. It may not work for some people, but it works for me.

So even though I don’t do Facebook, I do do bookish memes, so here’s mine, off the top of my head, without any second thoughts, and I know that my list is longer than proposed, and I know that I have two lists, but whatever. So in no particular order, here are the books that have stayed with me, and by that I mean the books I have read over and over, the books from which I can quote, even the books that just thinking about make me pause and smile:

  • The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje
  • The Harry Potter Series, by JK Rowling (I’m cheating in counting these as one, so sue me)
  • Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien (same here)
  • The Little Prince, byAntoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
  • Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • Rich in Love, by Josephine Humphries
  • The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Things they Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  • The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
  • Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood
  • Sherlock Holmes (all the collected works), by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
  • The Alchemist, by Paul Coehlo
  • Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
  • Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Richard III/Henry V, by William Shakespeare
  • Hunt is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
  • The Shining, by Stephen King
  • The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve
  • Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris
  • A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
  • Shogun, by James Clavell
  • The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak
  • Children of Men, P. D. James

” . . . reading novels as a child — implying literary engagement with life’s social, cultural and psychological complexities — can have a positive impact on personality development and social skills. A study published last year in Science found that reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or nonfiction, results in keener social perception and increased empathy” ~ Bret Stetka, from “Why Everyone Should Read Harry Potter” (Scientific American)

Here are my runners up. I will admit that I cheated for this list; I went to my Goodreads list of books and did a quick scan and was surprised by the titles I had forgotten. So again, in no particular order:

  • Reflections in a Golden Eye, by Carson McCullers
  • Cover her Face, by P. D. James
  • Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
  • The Bone Collector, by Jeffrey Deaver
  • Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe
  • Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert

  • The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
  • Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
  • The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin
  • Murder Must Advertise (Lord Peter Wimsey), by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Mystic River, by Dennis LeHane
  • A Child Called It, by Dave Peltzer
  • Darkness Visible, by William Styron
  • The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
  • Heart of Darkness, by James Conrad
  • Dubliners, by James Joyce
  • The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
  • The Velvet Room, ZK Snyder (has stayed with me since 7th grade)
  • The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
  • In the Woods, Tana French
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell (has stayed with me since 6th grade)
  • Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger (wish I could find my copy of this)

And yes, I have read all of these, even James Joyce.

More later. Peace.

Music by Zedd, featuring Foxes, “Clarity”

                   

The Pleasures of Reading

On his deathbed my father is reading
The memoirs of Casanova.
I’m watching the night fall,
A few windows being lit across the street.
In one of them a young woman is reading
Close to the glass.
She hasn’t looked up in a long while,
Even with the darkness coming.

While there’s still a bit of light,
I want her to lift her head,
So I can see her face
Which I have already imagined,
But her book must be full of suspense.
And besides, it’s so quiet,
Every time she turns a page,
I can hear my father turn one too,
As if they are reading the same book.

~ Charles Simic

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“No manipulation is possible in a work of art, but every miracle is. Those artists who dabble in eternity, or who aim never to manipulate but only to lay out hard truths, grow accustomed to miracles. Their sureness is hard won” ~ Annie Dillard, from “Write Till You Drop”

buonarroti-michelangelo-creation-of-adam-1

                   

From Annie Dillard’s “Write Till You Drop”:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ”Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.”

“Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.” ~ Annie Dillard, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Blue Whale Fluke
by mikebaird (FCC)

                   

“Do you know the legend about cicadas? They say they are the souls of poets who cannot keep quiet because, when they were alive, they never wrote the poems they wanted to.” ~ John Berger

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and humid, lower 80’s.

Man, do I love the Berger quote above. I have always loved the sound of cicadas, found it beautiful, but I know that some people find it annoying. Berger’s explanation makes so much sense to me. Of course, you would have to be familiar with my tendency towards anthropomorphism to truly understand this.

Blue Damselfly
by aussiagall (FCC)

Anyway . . .

So it’s a blue Monday—I’ve got my blues playlist going on in the background, and of course, the blue images of different things that I found in various places. I’m just feeling, well, blue.

Not really certain as to any particular cause, more of an overall blue—the day, the atmosphere, my mood, my disposition. I have a sink full of dirty dishes that were not there when I went to bed last night, and laundry that keeps appearing after I’ve done an all-call for dirty clothes. I wonder if anyone in this house ever wonders from where clean clothes and clean dishes come. Does it ever occur to them that the cleaning fairy actually does not exist?

Don’t mind me. I’m tired, and I overdid it this weekend by taking everything out of the kitchen fridge and scrubbing. I wanted to do the old fridge in the garage, but ran out of steam. I managed to cure the leaking washer, but there is still water leaking from the old fridge. One leak at a time, I suppose.

“To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go.” ~ Tao Te Ching

Actually, a better adjective for my mood might be testy. Everything and everyone should be warned. Just not in the mood for anyone’s whims today.

Blue Window
(Source imgfave)

Actually, a whole string of adjectives might be more appropriate: blue, testy, tested, tired, tried, sore, unsure, underappreciated and overtaxed. I’m weary to the bone and wary of what’s to come. My confidence is gone, and my days seem to be running short. And the more that I write here, the less I am certain that I should continue. Not just now, not just today, but tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Hell. I don’t even know what I’m saying. I think that I’ll take a break and go clean something. I’ve remembered why I used to clean so much: it passes the time mindlessly, and when you’re finished, you can look at something and say, “Now that’s a polished dining room table,” not that anyone should really be saying that because it’s the height of mundane and who cares anyway? I mean really. Are you going to get an award because your dining room table now has a great reflective surface? But when you are feeling the way I’ve been feeling lately, these seemingly small victories are just about all that’s available for the taking, so I’ll take them for now.

Oh, and I broke my only pair of glasses in half last night. This sucks.

“When I look at my life and its secret colors, I feel like bursting into tears. Like that sky. It’s rain and sun both, noon and midnight . . . I think of the lips I’ve kissed, and of the wretched child I was, and of the madness of life and the ambition that sometimes carries me away. I’m all those things at once. I’m sure there are times when you wouldn’t even recognize me. Extreme in misery, excessive in happiness—I can’t say it.” ~ Albert Camus, from A Happy Death

So while I was in the shower just now, I tried to think about what has brought about this latest downturn, and I realize that it’s quite a combination of things:

“Seizure” Art Installation, London
Roger Hiorns*

First, Corey is not doing well on this hitch. He is feeling quite down because so much has gone on for his family in Ohio in the last months or so, and he has been unable to be there for any of them. That, and he’s feeling lonely. I send him e-mails in which I try to brighten his spirits, let him know how much everyone loves and misses him, but I feel that it’s a very small band-aid, and with him being physically so far away, I cannot help but worry.

Also, last night I had a very vivid Caitlin dream. I haven’t had one of those in quite a while, but this one was a hospital/doctor/Caitlin dream, and those are the absolute worst. I was fighting with the doctor who was admitting her because he just kind of glanced over what was wrong with her, and I didn’t understand what he was saying. I was telling him not to be condescending, that I needed facts, not kind words. Then, and this was the really bad part, Caitlin was another daughter of mine who was sick, but I kept calling her Caitlin because I couldn’t remember my daughter’s name, so I was terrified that the people at the hospital would think that I was a horrible mother and take her away.

Add to that my screwy sleep schedule, the ongoing melodrama with Social Security, my upcoming home visit with the disability people, the fact that another huge pane of glass fell out of the sliding door in the middle of the night, and well, you have a recipe for major doldrums.

“What is it about us human beings that we can’t let go of lost things?” ~ Leslie Marmon Silko, from The Turquoise Ledge

In addition to the Caitlin dream, I followed it with a dream in which someone was chastising me for still grieving. I was trying to explain why my grief never ended, but I couldn’t find the words, and I have to wonder if I will ever, ever, ever get over my keen sense of loss of not only my daughter, but also my inability to have another daughter.

Hanging Rock, Baltzer Lookout, Blackheath, NSW
by JIGGS IMAGES (FCC)

For those of you who may be tired of this song, feel free to fast forward, not that I can promise that it gets any better in the next section . . .

I can say that this section and the previous one share one good thing: Camus and Silko, two writers I adore.

Anyway, back to trying to decipher my mood: When I looked in the bathroom mirror this morning when I first awoke, I saw a face that looked unfamiliar. Without the daily dose of beauty cream and under eye dark circle cream, my face bare, I looked, well, old. Older than I have ever looked. Apart from not having my miracle cream, I also do not have my daily dose of Corey telling me that I’m beautiful (which I never believe, but which helps, nonetheless). And for a nanosecond, I feel as if I’ve become my mother—the woman who has tried to stave off time with multiple operations, who has treated her hair so much that its texture resembles fine straw (ooh, I also dreamed that I was losing my hair), the woman who never wanted to be called grandma.

Oh. My. God. I have become my mother.

“We are silhouettes, hollow phantoms moving mistily without a background.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

I never, ever wanted to face aging in the way that my mother faced it: full retreat. I wanted to be one of those strong, secure women who never lied about her age, who never went under the knife, who displayed her crow’s feet like a badge of honor. That’s what I always told myself I would do, who I said I would always be.

Blue Bottle Tree Sculpture, Seattle WA
by ingridtaylar (FCC)

When did I become this huge bundle of insecurity? Was it when I married a younger man and began to see each year as another 365 days that separated us? I think so, or maybe not. I mean, I’ve always been insecure, but I was able to hide it behind a demeanor full of bravado.

You must understand, the age thing has never bothered Corey. And as regards my heart, it has never bothered me. And actually, it’s not the physical in so much as it is the counting of the days, which makes no sense. I, who have always felt so much older than my number, am at a loss to explain this discrepancy. I’ll share this with you, though, as I suddenly remembered it a few days ago, and now that I think of it, this memory barreling out of nowhere is probably what precipitated everything: When I told my mother that Corey and I were going to get married, she said this: “Well you can probably get away with it now because you don’t look your age, but that’s not going to last forever.”

Once again, thanks mom. Can you imagine being told such a thing by a parent? But that’s how it has always been between us, a kind of generous love tempered with a bit of spite. It’s not a pleasant thing to admit.

I guess that break in which I did more laundry, cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom helped because I’ve written the last three sections in less time than it took to write the first two.

More later. Peace.

Music by Fiona Apple, “Sullen Girl” (“my blue oblivion”—perfect)

*A note about one of the pictures: SEIZURE is by British artist Roger Hiorns who pumped 75,000 litres of copper sulphate solution into a London council flat to create “a strangely beautiful and somewhat menacing crystalline growth on the walls, floor, ceiling and bath of this abandoned dwelling.” To see more images of this installation, click on the link. Beautiful.

                   

The Hay Devil, Section V

And now
this evening’s sky:
the seep of cloud through cloud so black
it looks like wreaths of ink
unfurled in water
dock-lights
spotting the further shore:
quicksilver
gold
and crimson
one white boat
dissolving in the firth.
It’s gone before I’ve seen it: details
changing
light
imagining a world:
the play of wind
and traffic
voices
footsteps on the streets
intruding on my thoughts like some
perpetual film of space
or coming home
or counting out a lifetime’s worth of sails
and other people’s gardens smudged with rain
or wisps of drifted hay
that catch the light
and vanish
as I never quite arrive
at absence
which is presence somewhere else
in some bright field
some miracle of air.

~ John Burnside

“Our life is a faint tracing on the surface of mystery, like the idle, curved tunnels of leaf miners on the face of a leaf.” ~Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Gate to the Sea

                   

“Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at the walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing.” ~ Meg Chittenden

Monday evening. Much cooler but still humid.

Ocean Archway, Amalfi Coast, Italy

Kind of a slow, sad day. Not exactly sure why, but I think that it has something to do with the disturbing dreams that I had last night. In one, I saw my father standing on the shore and fishing; I saw him so closely that I could see the little moles on his face, and then he disappeared.

Later, in another dream or perhaps the same one, I was at a funeral home, but it was a very unusual funeral home: they specialized in creating replicas of the dearly departed, and these replicas did things like talk or blink or in one case, had eyes that glowed. I kept trying to get out, but each door that I went through took me into yet another room filled with the macabre.

And then I was with my cousins on the Filipino side, and the youngest had stolen Caitlin’s soul. I was frantic, trying to get her to give back my daughter’s soul so that she could be at peace, but my cousin was possessed, and everyone turned against me, locked me in a bathroom, and I couldn’t make anyone see how wrong everything was.

Needless to say, I awoke with a killer headache, and to top it off, achy legs.

I read somewhere that people tend to remember 95 percent of their dream upon waking, and then with each subsequent minute, the dream fades very quickly, so why do the images from last night still haunt me?

“One could not say whether one goes on writing purely out of habit, or a craving for admiration, or because one knows not how to do anything other, or out of sheer wonderment, despair or outrage, any more than one could say whether writing renders one more perceptive or more insane.” ~ W. G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

Saintes Maries de la Mer, France, kaneda99 (FCC)

Last night we had our combined Mother’s Day/Father’s Day/Anniversary dinner out. Sushi. So good. Brett and his friend Em came with us even though they had already eaten. Brett cannot resist sushi.

Even though everything was tasty, it was probably the longest that we have ever had to wait for our meal. Only one sushi chef was on duty. Still, everything was tasty.

We came home, and I collapsed in bed. I took three Seroquel last night, which is the dose that my doctor recommended; I’ve only been taking two at bedtime because this is yet another medication that can cause weight gain, so I’ve been trying to be pretty conservative with it. But last night I found myself chewing on my fingers, something I haven’t been doing for a while now, so I realized that for one night at least I needed to take more.

I slept very soundly, and perhaps that is why my dreams were so vivid. Who knows . . . I slept through two telephone calls this morning. I heard the phone somewhere in the distance, but I could not bring myself to get up to find it. This is not a great habit, but hey, at least I slept.

Eamonn came over for a while yesterday for Dad’s day. He gets along so well with Corey; they have a very comfortable relationship. I’m still trying to talk him into moving back here, at least for fall semester because it’s so important that he does well this fall so that he can get into the radiation technology program that he wants. I don’t know if he will come back, but I find myself missing him terribly.

Alexis texted last night. Big surprise there. If she couldn’t make it over for Mum’s Day, I really didn’t expect to see her yesterday. Still, it stings.

Corey brought me a card that he has kept all of these years; it’s an old Father’s Day card from Alexis in which she thanks him for being so supportive and telling him how glad that he is a part of our family. He looked at it wistfully, and I could tell that even though he didn’t say so, he was hurt.

“’I do adore music,’ she said. ‘It just seems to say all the things one can’t say oneself.’ She gave a nervous little laugh and looked from one to another with great benignity, as though she would like to say something but could not find the words in which to express it.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

To the Ocean by Brenda-Starr (FCC)

Truthfully, I think that part of my melancholy stems from the loss of Clarence Clemons. I know that Corey got tired of me playing “Jungleland” yesterday, but that sax solo is so full of emotion that I cannot help but get caught up in it.

So today I’m back to country music, which is also not helping the mood, but I need soft and soothing today.

I think that if Corey and I still went to karaoke it would actually help. Singing is one way for me to release emotions. Sitting here, just me and the computer, singing my heart out seems kind of counterproductive. The dogs seem to like it, so there’s that.

Music, writing, book-making, collages—these are my artistic outlets. I haven’t made a book in ages, and I’ve been mulling over making one for Brett. Now that I have a better idea as to his literary likes and dislikes, I think that I could put together something creative.

It’s funny, you know, but I made my first book years ago, when I was working at the museum. I took a blank book and pasted in pictures, odd paper scraps, and quotes. I made one for Dr. K when she was expecting her first baby. She loved it and said that I really should think about trying to commercialize it. I told her that I didn’t really think that there was a market for such a thing. Less than a year later, the whole scrapbook thing exploded in the marketplace.

Once again, another train missed. I don’t mind, though. Scrapbooks strike me as cookie cutter a bit; I know that some people create really striking visual products, but there are templates and pre-printed sheets; whereas my books are wholly individual: no one else has these pictures or these papers. I’ve made books for Alexis and for Corey. It never seemed like the kind of thing that Eamonn would like, so I didn’t make him one when he graduated. I wonder if I’m underestimating him.

“In the dark times
Will there also be singing?
Yes, there will also be singing.
About the dark times.” ~ Bertolt Brecht, “Motto,” from Poems: 1913-56, various translators

Walking to the Ocean by maureen_lederhos (FCC)

I have a confession: I have taken a strong dislike to e-mail. Don’t ask me why, but I find myself checking it only once a week, if that often. Perhaps it’s more of that hermit tendency in me, but e-mail, virtual mail isn’t real. I want paper. That and the fact that I get so many unwanted ad and pleas for money from someone I’ve never heard of. It’s virtual junk mail, and quite frankly, I  abhor it.

Corey is outside making home-made stakes for his sunflowers, which took a real beating in the last storm. He heard from his mom today that one of his aunts is willing to help us with airfare to Ohio for Chad’s wedding. That’s an unexpected but quite lovely gesture. Her entire family is like that—very thoughtful and giving.

Corey’s mom had offered to give me all of her sisters’ e-mail addresses for my Avon, but I just didn’t feel right about approaching them since I don’t see them often. I really don’t know if I will be continuing with the whole Avon venture as it seems to be a money pit as opposed to a money-maker. I’m certain that people who are very active and aggressive about it do very well. We all know that of the two, I am not very active. Hence, the standstill.

I hope everything works out that we can both go to Chad’s wedding as it will be nice to see everyone on such a happy occasion. I could do with a happy occasion or two.

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling. When the bright angel dominates, out comes a great work of art, a Michelangelo David or a Beethoven symphony.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle

Walk to the Ocean

You know, I probably should not write when I feel this way, when the melancholy threatens to overtake me at any minute, but this is precisely when I need to write, when the need is overpowering, the need to make real the words that are inside me.

One of the things that is making me ache is that the peripheral drama appears to be moving into high gear, and it’s hard to stand idly by, to bite my tongue, to remember that this is not my battle. My tendency to become embroiled in the battles of those I love and those for whom I feel a strong loyalty has taken me into the fray even when I pledged to stand apart.

I just find it hard to watch another person hurt, whatever the reason. I long to step in and say, “Here. Let me take that pain away.” But this is not possible. Witness my own daughter: no matter how much I long to make it so, I cannot help her to find her way, cannot help her to regain her footing in this vast world, a world that sometimes seems so completely unforgiving, so scornful of the weak, of the lost.

Too often, I lead with my heart instead of my head, and this is not always best, although sometimes it is the only way to go. Then, too, I find that I am still able to be surprised by the generosity of other people, people I have never met, people who have been out of my life for years who resurface and say, “Here. Let me help.”

“There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.” ~ Harold Pinter

Path to Nowhere, St. Agnes, Cornwall, by atoach (FCC)

In today’s virtual world, friendship has morphed into a page on the screen on which people list their current state of affairs, their immediate mindset, and missives that may have gone out to only a single friend in the past are now shot-gunned out to however many friends are listed on the side of the page. Close confidences are shared with everyone, almost as if the sharer longs for someone, anyone in the virtual sphere to respond and say, “I hear you.”

Like the paper letters I long for but will not receive, friendship seems to have changed its face with the continual evolution of the web. Who we are is not our icon, not our gravatar, if you will. Our online handle is a reflection of how we see ourselves but not necessarily who we are. With all of this, it is completely expected that we will get lost along the way, that we go through the wrong doors in our attempts to find the exit or the entrance.

And as a result, we have spawned a generation that will know little of the post office, of the possible beauty of a postage stamp. A generation that knows only fleetingly how to converse intimately. A generation that finds comfort in sharing everything, every scintilla of emotion, who knows nothing of self-censoring. We have a generation that is being raised knowing little of shared confidences because everything is shared.

You might find that an ironic statement coming from me, a self-proclaimed confessional writer, but trust me when I say that I know how to keep confidences. I have been told things that I have never revealed to another soul. I fear that this generation raised online will not understand the value of one-to-one sharing, the precious regard for heartfelt confession after a night of wine, and movies, and long conversation.

And this saddens me more than I can say.

More later. Peace.

Music by Kenny Chesney, “You Save Me.” For Corey.

                   

I Have Been Living

I have been living
closer to the ocean than I thought—
in a rocky cove thick with seaweed.

It pulls me down when I go wading.
Sometimes, to get back to land
takes everything that I have in me.

Sometimes, to get back to land
is the worst thing a person can do.
Meanwhile, we are dreaming:

The body is innocent.
She has never hurt me.
What we love flutters in us.

~ Jane Mead

I slept the sleep of the tortured: fitful, broken, and too short. And when I awoke, I knew that not enough time had passed, and so I tried to sleep more, but it never came. ~ L. Liwag

Flower Shop in Paris 

  

“The page, the page, that eternal blankness, the blankness of eternity which you cover slowly, affirming time’s scrawl as a right and your daring as necessity; the page, which you cover woodenly, ruining it, but asserting your freedom and power to act, acknowledging that you ruin everything you touch but touching it nevertheless, because acting is better than being here in mere opacity; the page, which you cover slowly with the crabbed thread of your gut; the page in the purity of its possibilities; the page of your death, against which you pit such flawed excellences as you can muster with all your life’s strength: that page will teach you to write.” ~ Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

On Saturday, I finally made it into the pool. The dogs have been swimming for a few days, but I wanted sun. The air was filled with the sweet smell of my gardenia bush in bloom, and there was just enough breeze to fool me into thinking that it wasn’t that hot. I was lulled into a wonderful feeling of comfort, arms flung wide, staring up into the clear blue sky, just a few cumulus puffs dotting the sky here and there. 

Silly me. I didn’t even think about putting on sunscreen except for my face. I really don’t know what I was thinking. I stayed out for hours, just enjoying the water, the breeze, the dogs . . . I got sunburned on my arms and chest. 

Beh. 

I never used to get sunburned. Ever. I would give my friends a hard time whenever they burned, taunting them with my olive skin. I suppose this is payback. The other thing that I got from the sun was a migraine, a killer migraine, one that has only this afternoon subsided into a tightness in my forehead. Poor, poor, pitiful me. 

I remember endless summer days spent in the sun, lying on the beach with my friends, or on the catamaran with my friend John, or water skiing with the guys. Good times. Never burned, just browned. When I worked at the newspaper, I finished at 3:30, still early enough to catch some afternoon rays. The summer before I got married to my ex, I worked and sunned. Last summer of my life in which I was able to be carefree and careless with time and money.

an orchid’s scent
its incense perfuming
a butterfly’s wings ~ Basho
Flower Shop in Kuala Lumpur

So today, it’s 75 degrees, almost 20 degrees cooler than this weekend. There were a few thunder boomers last night, but nothing major. 

Last night I watched the movie Memento, with Guy Pearce, Joe Pantoliano, and Carrie-Ann Moss. Wow. What a puzzle, but very deftly done. Directed by Christopher Nolan, the movie combined two different timelines, one ongoing and one flashback. Lots of visual clues, riddles, a few red herrings. The plot revolved around memory, what is real, what is thought to be real, what is imagined. The main character, Leonard (Pearce), suffers from anterograde amnesia: he cannot make new memories. 

I would highly recommend this movie if you liked The Usual Suspects or The Sixth Sense. That being said, Memento is not as easy to discern as either of those two, not that either of those films were straightforward in any way. Nolan directed the movie in 2000, followed by a few movies with which you may be familiar: the two new Batman movies, The Prestige. If you are interested in an analysis of the movie, Andy Klein wrote a thorough deconstruction for Salon.com. 

Memento had been on my list of movies to see, and I find it very rewarding when I finally see something I’ve had on that list and it turns out to be worthwhile. The other movie that I watched was Valkyrie, with Tom Cruise. This was another one that has been on my list, and unlike many people, I liked it. No, Cruise does not attempt a German accent, but that didn’t bother me, better no accent than a poorly executed accent. 

The plot, in case you don’t know, is based on the July 20 plot to kill Adolf Hitler and real-life Operation Valkryie, which was a plan to call up the German reserve army to maintain order in the case of an emergency. The historical drama depicts the plot, led by Claus von Stauffenberg, the last of 15 failed plots to assassinate Hitler.   

The 2008 movie had quite a cast; aside from Cruise as von Stauffenberg, Kenneth Branagh, Bill Nighy, Eddie Izzard, Terence Stamp, and Tom Wilkinson all had roles in the Bryan Singer (X-Men) film. I remember that there was a big controversy in casting Cruise because of his scientology beliefs. 

“Life is like Sanskrit read to a pony.” ~ Lou Reed

 


Flower Shop in Bath, England 

 

Alexis came by on her way home from work today. I helped her to find some information on patient assistance with some of the medications that she takes. Having filled out numerous forms for myself, I am fairly familiar with the process. She will not be able to get health insurance at the thrift store as they do not offer it to their employees, even the full-time people. Yet another reason to hope for some kind of healthcare reform. 

I know that I’ve been featuring more political posts than usual, but it seems that every time I sit down to read the daily news, I come across yet more inanity, something that I find very hard to ignore. Ignorance, racism, sexism, hate-mongering—it’s all so disconcerting. 

What is happening to us, to American society? Has the election of a man of color caused so much unrest among those who oppose him—or liberals, or Democrats, or blacks, or whatever it is—that seeing conspiracies and promoting fear have become the societal norm? Has the so-called American way-0f-life been imperiled by putting a black man in the Oval Office, in the same way that electing a Catholic in the 1960s threatened the very fiber of our being? 

I see a lot of similarities to the 1960s, and that’s not a good thing. Yes, the unrest of the 1960s caused major social changes, changes that were desperately needed. But the 60’s also saw discord elevated to levels unparalleled, discord that morphed into senseless violence (race riots, Ohio State), attempts at oppression (Hoover’s FBI). Chillingly, the war in Iraq has now surpassed the Viet Nam War as the longest American war (eight years, eight months, and counting). And the country had a young, idealistic president who many feared just because of who and what he was. 

Remember, the 60’s led to the election of Richard Nixon, gave power to men of questionable scruples, such as Henry Kissinger, and led to a political climate that fostered the events of Watergate. Remember?

“Some things you must always be unable to bear. Some things you must never stop refusing to bear. Injustice and outrage and dishonor and shame. No matter how young you are or how old you have got. Not for kudos and not for cash, your picture in the paper nor money in the bank, neither. Just refuse to bear them.” ~ William Faulkner
Flower Shop in Amsterdam, the Netherlands

I know. I am still a starry-eyed idealist in many ways, but that is balanced by my stark realist side. I believe in equality for all peoples, regardless of race, sex, sexual orientation, or creed. I don’t understand why that is such a hard concept. I also believe that children should not die of hunger or dysentery, that there is no difference in the capabilities of the sexes, and that there is no such thing as a good war. At the same time, I know that people like Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Steve Blair—who thrive on discontent, who cultivate a fear of otherness, who opine loudly as if the tone and timber of a voice is all that is needed to make it right—people such as these have millions of followers. 

And quite frankly, that scares the hell out of me. It also frightens me that I sometimes self-censor on this blog because I do not want the crazies to find me. In essence, I am allowing myself to be repressed out of my own unwillingness to cater to confrontation. Bearing that in mind, I do not apologize for my political posts, even though this is not a political blog. I do not apologize for who I am, for what I believe, or for where I stand on the issues that are important to me. 

I’m certain that I will continue to have political posts because people will continue to amaze me with their brazen bigotry. People will continue to astound me with their asinine declarations. As long as events continue to occur that make me stop and say WTF, I will continue to opine, and if you find my posts offensive, then exercise your Constitutional freedom not to read me. 

I won’t hold it against you. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Mazzy Star, “Take Everything”