“Both the advantage and the privilege of an artist is that he is forced to look. To see. People rarely see the beauty and the greatness around them. They live their lives in half sleep.” ~ William Segal

“Door” (nd)
by Ansel Adams

                   

“Just where you are
searchingly, wholly
go toward the moment
this tremendous new moment
no you, no not you
the pure point
everywhere, always” ~ William Segal, from “Silence Clarity”

Reblogged from crashinglybeautiful:

A man meets his life most poignantly in moments of painful contraction and expansion. At those moments he senses the difference between being present and being taken. If he keeps himself open to the question, he will move in what he believes is a fruitful direction.

Many roads will beckon: art, studies, perhaps drugs—other pursuits. He may not find the answer to his fundamental question but he senses that a reality is escaping him; perhaps that something within himself can change existence. Maybe he has a fleeting feeling while listening to a passage of music, or is struck by a word, by nature. Perhaps some flash appears in the midst of love, of sorrow, or joy—a moment of ah … ! Something is here, strange, wondrous.

And at that moment, a door opens. He may or may not go further. The chances are that the pull of gravity will close the door. He will be shut away from his ever-present possibility. Back to the office and workplace, to vacations, to family, to having a good time/bad time, getting and spending. The door may never open again—or will it?

~ William Segal, from Opening: Collected Writings of William Segal 1985-1997 

From parabola-magazine

                   

Music by The Decemberists, “Sleepless” (long, but really beautiful)

“Take long walks in stormy weather or through deep snows in the fields and woods, if you would keep your spirits up. Deal with brute nature. Be cold and hungry and weary.” ~ Henry David Thoreau, December 25, 1856

"Fresh Snow, Yosemite Valley, California," by Ansel Adams (c. 1947)

                   

“I keep following this sort of hidden river of my life, you know, whatever the topic or impulse which comes, I follow it along trustingly. And I don’t have any sense of its coming to a kind of crescendo, or of its petering out either. It is just going steadily along.” ~ William Stafford

Wednesday, late afternoon. Rainy, mid 50’s.

"Cedar Tree, Winter, Yosemite Valley," by Ansel Adams (c. 1935)

Listening to Vienna Teng in the background. She’s a recent discovery. Voice like silk, beautiful lyrics. The perfect backdrop. I’ve been adding her songs here and there to my other playlists, but I decided to save the entire playlist; she’s that good. Here’s the link if you’re interested.

So, three days later, four days of antibiotics . . . how do I feel? Badly wrung and hung out to dry in the rain. The only way to describe my chest is wet. Coughing is still quite painful. Luckily, I’m not coughing as much, but when I do, my whole body feels wracked. Monday, I had a little burst of energy, felt better than I had in days, so what did I do? Act sensibly? Of course not. I did laundry, the dishes, and wiped down the bathroom. Consequently, I felt worse.

I always do that when I’ve been really sick—the first little glimmer of recovery, and I go overboard, attempting to cram in as much as possible during the energy spurt. You would think that after all of these years that I would know better. Of course, the operative word here is think . . .

Unfortunately, Corey seems to have a chest cold now. He insists that it is not bronchitis, but it sure sounds like it. Of course, his ability to rebound from such things is much better than mine. Here’s hoping that the cold/not bronchitis has resolved itself before he has to go to the colds of Europe.

“Even as a child, she had preferred night to day, had enjoyed sitting out in the yard after sunset, under the star-speckled sky listening to frogs and crickets. Darkness soothed. It softened the sharp edges of the world, toned down the too-harsh colors. With the coming of twilight, the sky seemed to recede; the universe expanded. The night was bigger than the day, and in its realm, life seemed to have more possibilities.” ~ Dean Koontz, Midnight

I have spent some of my down time reading. Corey bought me the Stieg Larsson Milennium Trilogy as an early birthday present. I’ve been wanting to read this series for quite a while. I finished The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo on Monday evening and handed it over to Eamonn, who also wants to read the series because he saw the movie.

"Locust Strees in Snow, Yosemite Valley," by Ansel Adams (1929)

It’s intense reading, lots of characters, densely written, but most excellent. I read that Larsson, a Swedish journalist, signed a contract for three books, a rare opportunity for an unpublished writer. Unfortunately, Larsson died right before the first book in the series was published. He had written books one and two before trying to find a publisher, and had apparently had conceived of ten books.

I know that I’m coming to the series late, but I’m so glad that I’m finally reading the books contain one of the most intriguing characters I’ve come across in a long time in crime/mystery novels, Lisbeth Salander. The other really great thing for me was that I did not figure out the plot halfway through, which, unfortunately, is usually the case.

Now that I’ve read book one, I can see the movie, which is the good side. The bad side is that there are only three books to read. How cool it would have been to read ten of these.

“The misery and greatness of this world: it offers no truths, but only objects for love. Absurdity is king, but love saves us from it.” ~  Albert Camus, Notebooks 1935-1942

So in just the past few days I’ve found a new singer/songwriter and a new author. At least the days haven’t been a total wash.

Yesterday I sat down and collected quotes for a post, but that was as far as I got. I just didn’t have it in me to think, actually think about anything more than staring at the screen. Tumblr is good for situations such as that, when the main function is looking and not necessarily discerning. So I ran through a couple of days of my dashboard and then went back to bed.

"Winter--Yosemite Valley, California," by Ansel Adams (1951)

ODU spring semester began on Monday and Brett and Em went back to class. Eamonn is not going to college this semester. He has submitted an application to the shipyard’s apprenticeship program, the same program that Corey applied to a couple of years ago. Corey didn’t qualify because his high school curriculum did not include advanced math classes. Luckily, Eamonn did take Algebra and Geometry in high school, as well as technology and computer science. Applicants must have four out of six or seven required classes.

Here’s hoping it works out for him.

Brett is still fine-tuning his schedule, which is unfortunate. It just turned into one of those last-minute things because he is still undecided as to what he wants to do. His first love is astronomy, which means that he will need to get his bachelor’s in physics and then do his graduate work at another university that offers astronomy.

He was seriously considering going into nursing with a goal towards becoming a nurse practitioner. Things are so unsettled in so many ways right now that I know that he is anxious and stressed, and this is not the best way in which to begin a new semester. I’ll just be glad when tomorrow is over, and we can all settle down. I can’t write about tomorrow’s anticipated drama, but will write when it’s all over.

“I saw but was not seen. I walked unshadowed; I came unheralded.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Waves

I had asked Corey to take a picture of me in front of the Christmas tree before we took it down. You must understand, I do not often seek for anyone to take my picture, so this was an unusual request. The entire thing became kind of farcical: I would pose while trying to look as if I weren’t posing. Corey would push the button, and nothing would happen. I would turn my head, and then the camera would click. Or, right as the shutter closed, one of the dogs would nose their way into the frame.

"Oak Tree, Snow Storm, Yosemite," by Ansel Adams from Portfolio One: Twelve Photographic Prints (1948)

Consequently, there really weren’t any good shots. Corey liked a few. I hated all of them. I have a very weird hang-up about my body (other than all of the other ones that I’ve mentioned): I hate my neck. I always envied those women with swan necks—long and elegant, but I could accept that I did not have the neck of a ballet dancer, that is until my neck became flabby.

When I lose weight, I lose it in my face and belly. But how does one go about losing weight in the neck? I mean really . . . think about it. So I have these extra chins, or whatever, and along with everything else, I am terribly self-conscious about it, which means that in each photo that Corey took, I could only see this part and nothing else.

Gawd I hate my self-image, and I hate that I have such a bad one, and I hate that I bought into the commercial hype of beauty, and I hate that I cannot rise above that which I know is crippling me.

“I think I still have rain somewhere in my heart.” ~ Kelwyn Sole, from “Near Brandvlei

Anyway, I still haven’t had the strength to take down Christmas, and it doesn’t appear that anyone else is going to take the initiative since Christmas around here is a mom thing . . . Funny how that works. Brett did take down the outside lights, so at least we’re not the only family in the neighborhood to have decorations still up on our house.

"Pine Forest in Snow," by Ansel Adams (1932)

Since I first began this post, the sky has darkened, and the temperature has increased by two degrees. Go figure.

The atmosphere in the house at the moment is tense and prickly. It’s as if we’re all sitting on an unexploded bomb. Truly, I resent this intrusion into our lives. I have no doubts that the stress of this outside situation has contributed adversely to my health. I just want it all to be over so that I can go back to the normal insanity of our lives without others’ insanity stalking the periphery of what we call normalcy.

I wish at this moment that I could just enjoy the sound of the rain outside my window. Perhaps the soup that Corey is making for dinner will sweeten my disposition. It’s an old family Filipino recipe for chicken and rice soup, Arriz Caldo. It’s Corey’s first time making it, but it’s fairly simple. The key is using fresh ginger, and everyone knows that ginger is always good for what ails you.

More later (I hope). Peace.

Music by Vienna Teng, “Transcontinental, 1:30 AM”

                   

To the New Year

With what stillness at last
you appear in the valley
your first sunlight reaching down
to touch the tips of a few
high leaves that do not stir
as though they had not noticed
and did not know you at all
then the voice of a dove calls
from far away in itself
to the hush of the morning

so this is the sound of you
here and now whether or not
anyone hears it this is
where we have come with our age
our knowledge such as it is
and our hopes such as they are
invisible before us
untouched and still possible

~ W. S. Merwin

“Reality is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.” ~ Gary Zukav

Gate of Wishes, Mrtivica Canyon, Montenegro (Pixdaus)

“The more I see, the less I know for sure.” ~ John Lennon

Saturday afternoon. Temperatures hovering above 100° F. Thunderstorms.

Keyhole Arch in Monument Valley

I awoke with another headache, nothing new. Not too bad, but lots and lots of pressure in my forehead and behind my eyes. Probably due to the barometric pressure and the heat.

Yesterday I did something I haven’t done in years: I went outside during a rain shower and got in the pool. It was so refreshing. The air temperature dropped a bit, and the water cooled. The dogs joined me for a few minutes, but Shakes doesn’t much care for rain. Tillie stayed out with me for the duration. It didn’t rain long, but I enjoyed myself while it did.

I was hoping to do the same again today, but unfortunately the rain is accompanied by thunder and lightning. Even I have enough sense not to get in a metal-clad pool in the middle of a thunderstorm.

I just glanced at my weather icon, and the temperature has dropped 8 degrees in the last fifteen minutes. Now that’s change I can live with . . .

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ~ Oscar Wilde, “Lady Windermere’s Fan”

Monday afternoon. Not nearly as hot.

Kicking Horse River through Natural Bridge, Canada

So I got distracted . . . where was I? Oh yes, drama.

Woke up this morning to lovely news: we should expect a drop-in visit from Adult Protective Services. Whatever . . .

The ongoing drama at our house had been calm for far too long. I knew to expect something soon, and I wasn’t disappointed. Apparently, the pest (nicest word I can think to use for this person), reported Em’s case worker and our home as being  . . . shall we say, unfit? Charges include holding her against her will, all of us being insane (I told you this person wasn’t wrapped too tight), beating her down continually (not sure if that was meant to be literal or metaphorical), ya da ya da ya da . . .

In the inestimable words of W: Bring. It. On.

I mean, we have absolutely nothing to hide here. We are exactly as we purport ourselves to be: a middle class family in the burbs that is making ends meet. We have a home, food in our pantry, all of the accoutrements, as it were. We do not claim to be wealthy because we are not. We do not claim to have all of the answers because we do not. We do claim to have a healthy living environment for our family because we do. We do claim to know a few things about people who face challenges in life because we do. We do claim to be good parents because we are.

So when I heard that APS was going to come by, my response was what it only could be: Okay. Whatever. Tell them to drop by as they like because we have nothing to hide.

So they did. Today. A very nice woman who sat down with Em and asked her basic (and I mean basic) questions: Are you able to dress yourself? Yes. Do you take care of your own physical hygiene? Yes. Do you know how to do things around the house? Yes (she does now). Can you get your own food or does someone have to do it for you? Get it myself and can cook a little . . . and lots more in that vein, and then . . . Are you happy? I am now.

We left Em alone with the case worker so that the woman wouldn’t think that we were trying to sway her answers or to influence her unduly (because that’s what I do, you know. I beat people down until they are simpering idiots who have no will of their own . . . right.) The case worker asked her more questions that I didn’t hear because I wasn’t listening. Then I invited her to look through our house, as it were.

Dreaded visit over, and everyone survived. And the case worker didn’t even flinch over Em’s shaved head, which she is loving, by the way, especially since no one has asked her to wear a hat to hide her ears. Of course, after the case worker left I took all of the illegal drugs out of the hall closet, and I let the dozen or so illegal aliens out of the bathroom, and I got back to making the homemade meth that I was cooking up in the kitchen along with barbecued ribs.

It’s a joke, people. Of course, I know that sentence will come back in another form somewhere, but at this point, I am so over it.

“There are things known and there are things unknown, and in between are the doors of perception.” ~ Aldous Huxley

Keyhole Arch, Apostle Islands (National Park Service)

You might think that such a visit and the results would put a normal person’s mind at ease, that the news that a completely unbiased third party witnessed the supposedly downtrodden young woman healthy and happy would be welcome news. You would think, but the key word here is normal. I know that this saga isn’t over. There will be more frantic telephone calls to whoever will listen. There will be more tossing about of the family name in an attempt to curry favor. There will be more stealing of passages of my blog to try to show how insane I am. There will be more disparaging remarks regarding my character, the character of my family.

As I’ve said before, when I need to, I can have the patience of Job. The more chest-banging this other person does, the less I need to justify myself. And dare I say it? I don’t really have anything to justify. I took in a young woman who felt trapped and mentally abused. I offered a safe haven to a person who did not feel safe, for various reasons. She is healthy. She is happy. She is safe.

I can do no more than what I have already done and what I continue to do—be myself—be patient, be sympathetic and empathetic, be a sounding board when needed.

Oh, and by the way, the illegal things? Puleez. But the part about Em’s shaved head is true; she just hasn’t died it blue yet . . .

“The most perfidious way of harming a cause consists of defending it deliberately with faulty arguments.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Keyhold Arch, Antelope Canyon

Even though I’m spending a lot of effort here bitching, I’m actually not at all peeved. Instead, what I really feel is a deep sense of pity. You might think that I’m a sap for feeling pity for an individual who is set upon my ruin, for the person who does not hesitate to disparage me to anyone who will listen, but that is indeed what I feel.

I cannot say that I have ever encountered anyone exactly like this particular individual before, but I have encountered people who are filled with such a determined sense of entitlement and righteousness: They are the only ones who are right, and everyone else is wrong. They are entitled to have this or to be given that because of a skewed sense of self-importance.

Unfortunately, my encounters with this personality type most often have occurred when dealing with members of boards of directors, especially in the arts. I cannot tell you how many people, women especially, who banked everything on their last names. They would meet me, hear my unusual, distinctly not patronage-linked last name, and immediately make assumptions about my value to them. If I could, in fact, give them something they needed or desired, then they would deign to be polite to me, but if my existence did not in any way benefit them, then I simply ceased to matter.

The first time that this happened, I was highly affronted, and my alpha side reared its head: You will listen to me because I do know exactly what I am talking about . . . I may as well have been barking at the moon for all of the good that it did me. This personality type is impermeable to reality, well, at least the reality in which so many of us exist. I took a lesson from my director, who was a very soft-spoken, wise man when he told me that I simply could not treat these people using logic because in their worlds, Copernicus was wrong, and the universe did indeed revolve around their spheres.

“No man has the right to dictate what other men should perceive, create or produce, but all should be encouraged to reveal themselves, their perceptions and emotions, and to build confidence in the creative spirit.” ~ Ansel Adams

Keyhole Tree, Broome, Australia

I have written about self-entitlement before, but usually as it pertains to teenagers and how we have an entire generation of people who think that they deserve whatever they want simply because. It’s not often that I encounter someone from my own generation who operates with this same sense of entitlement. People within my age group have usually worked hard to get to the points in our lives at which we find ourselves. Many of us our self-made, and many people I know are second generation to this country.

Being second generation (even on one side) imbues those of us like this with a strong work ethic because the desire not to fail our parents is extremely important. Being second generation also means that few of us have family names on which to fall back. We have made our own names, and we don’t depend upon our ancestors to define us. I cannot imagine being the kind of person to make requests simply because of what my name happens to be, but I have met people like this, and they have no qualms about throwing around that name as if it we still lived in a system with peers and nobles.

I think that part of what makes me strong is the fact that I have worked for everything that I have, that my parents came from humble beginnings and worked and saved for everything that they had. I’m proud to come from working-class stock. I was taught the value of a dollar, and I was taught that respect is something to be earned, not something to be bestowed upon someone simply because of who they are.

So what it boils down to is that in the midst of all of this, I try to retain my patience, and I try to retain my sense of humor, much taxed though they may be. And when in doubt, I remember the rule of three: that what we send out into the world comes back to us threefold.

Karma. It’s a bitch.

More later. Peace.

Music by The Morning After Girls, “Hidden Spaces”

                   

Picture of the Author with Vice President

That’s me on his left. If neither one of us
looks comfortable, it’s because I said
I’m sorry to hear about his heart.
A small machine, he says, sends tiny sparks
in there, to pace the flow of blood.
Some people will dispute this photo; his office
has denied it’s me; but I have to believe
I am in the picture. It’s awkward, yes,
for we don’t know each other;
and if he’s known as a man who keeps
public secrets, I’m not known at all.
Even so, he and I share something
that we cherish, deeply, which is our love

of trout. On his Wyoming ranch, he owns
a trout stream for himself. When I raise
the question—How’s the fishing?—he will rise
to the subject, and we will have grown
a little closer, having now disclosed
a passion no one, having known, lets go.
And he, too, is a man who knows cold blood
of trout cares nothing for who you are.
Nor do they care who owns the land
their water flows within: So long
as land and stream stay clean, they live.
Because I must rely on public lands
to find—weighed out in the flash
of a trout’s brilliant scales—that cleanly order,
I’m concerned about his sympathy
with those who call such places “undeveloped.”

But I know better than to say as much
to a man who’s so well versed
in the rhyming of ecology with economy
abstract nets that hold so many tangibles,
such as meadow grass that filters silt
so cutthroat trout may have clean beds
of gravel for their spawning redds;
or the English teacher whose hopes
for a pay raise float on the promise
of a growing tax base—in other words,
the new sport coat I’m wearing
in the photo, bought for this occasion.
Still, I want to believe in the heart
of a man who would fish a barbless fly
for a trout, and let it go; who would spend
that much time to be where trout live, to step
so softly in their stream, they do not frighten.

So I am going to tell him a story
about the Sacramento Mountains of New Mexico,
and a man who lived there. By all accounts,
William Myers knew the land, but owned
none of it. Had no money, so in order to live
in the mountains, he bartered work
for the privilege of staying in
other people’s second homes.
One day, he drove his ATV up a ridge
to scout the most likely route to run a pipe
to his friend’s house. He lit a cigarette,
studied the forest floor, as he’d often done
for fresh deer lies, bear scat, a crop of mast
that might draw wild turkeys in.
Whether it was a spark from the ATV
or the cigarette, he didn’t know; but he was sure,
he told police, that it was he who caused the fire.
That night, a glowing orange blemish on the sky;
by next day, a dry mist with a taste
of wet paper. Nine thousand acres
of forest he had hunted, ponds and creeks
he’d fished—the bell-note of hummingbird wings,
the raccoon crooning to her pups—gone up
in a surf of flame; sap-laden pines burst
like the improvised gas-and-bottle bombs
he’d learned to make in the army. Helicopters
dropped fire-retardant chemicals on a woods
he’d loved but never owned, and never meant

to burn. They fell in scarlet plumes, like blood
that must have sprayed from his skull
when he stood in front of the gun
he held in his own hand, and fired.
—Well, it may have been the words
like blood, and skull, and gun,
that made the men in sunglasses bring
our conversation to a polite, efficient end.
Or it could have been my agitation
over a man who took responsibility—
who, as his scribbled farewell letter read,
could never live with what he had destroyed.

~ William Wenthe (as found in The Paris Review)