“Behind all this, some great happiness is waiting.” ~ Yehuda Amichai, from “Seven Laments for the War-Dead” (trans. Chana Bloch)

New York Skyline at Sunset
by Corey Fickel (June 2012)*


“-What do you do all day?

-I stand myself.” ~ Émile Cioran, from About the inconvenience of being born

Monday evening. Sunny, hot, and humid.

Clear Blue Waters off Island of Ascension
by Corey Fickel (2012)

The above quote is particularly apt at the moment as I’m having quite a hard time standing myself—for various reasons. Just one of those things.

It seems that I am not going to find the time to write a proper post unless I just make the time. Since Corey arrived home last Tuesday, I have been absorbed, in what exactly I couldn’t tell you. I mean, other than the vast relief and happiness in having him home safe, I just seem to be flitting from one thing to another, unable to focus very well for more than an hour or two.

I’ve been quite hyper and in full OCD mode. I even found myself upset that Corey’s luggage was cluttering the dining room, so yesterday I condensed all of his things that he will be taking back to the ship and promptly announced that they need to go in the garage. Then I spent a couple of hours cleaning off the dining room table and polishing furniture. How can one person contain so many battling emotions simultaneously? I really don’t know: happy, stressed, wired, content . . . It’s all too much.

“The beauty of the world  . . . has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from A Room of One’s Own

The pool is officially open—at last. The dogs (well, not Alfie) are quite happy, as am I. It has been beastly hot the past week, and being able to get in the pool even for an hour is very refreshing. Brett’s new school schedule is during prime pool time, however, from 2:15 to 4:20. It’s just as well, I suppose. I can’t stay in too long, which means that I don’t end up with that sun-sapped feeling.

Looking Towards Antigua
by Corey Fickel (2012)

Eamonn came home from work yesterday with a doggie float. I didn’t even know they made such things. This one is damaged, so the store was just going to chuck it, so Eamonn brought it home. So far, though, neither Tillie nor Shakes seem to be interested in spending any time on it.

On Saturday after swimming, Corey and I gave the dogs baths outside with the hose. Actually, Corey wanted no part of it, but I convinced him to help me, especially when Alfie had one of his psychotic episodes and tried to bite off my hand.

Note to self: Never, ever own another high-strung terrier breed.

Anyway, I ordered K-9 Advantix for their fleas as the Frontline that I have used the past two months has done absolutely nothing to conquer the fleas, and the skin condition that Shakes has seems to get worse after I administer it, so I’m going back to Advantix. Hoping that will take care of the fleas and scratching.

“I have a faith in language.  . . . It’s the most flexible articulation of our experience and yet, finally, that experience is something that we cannot really articulate. We can look out and see the sunlight in those trees, but we can’t convey the full unique intimacy of that experience.” ~ W. S. Merwin, from The Paris Review, The Art of Poetry No. 38

I know that not all of you will be interested in The Paris Review interview segments that I’ve been posting in between, but I’m hoping that those of you who love words and writers might find them as enjoyable as I have. Personally, I always find it interesting to hear other writers (real writers) speak of their craft.

Shades of Blue, U.S. Virginia Islands
by Corey Fickel (2012)

I was saddened by the death of Nora Ephron, who I have always considered to be such a master of the English language, a modern-day Dorothy Parker (two women I adore). I have felt a kinship with her curmudgeonliness and the way that her work always has an edge to it but also has a quiet beauty to offset that edge.

For those of you who may not be aware, Ephron was married to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame). Their stormy marriage led to her novel “Heartburn,” which was turned into a movie directed by her friend Mike Nichols. The movie, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, was a tour-de-force riposte about marriage and infidelity. (Ephron once famously said that the Bernstein character would “have sex with a venetian blind.”

“It is really hard to be lonely very long in a world of words. Even if you don’t have friends somewhere, you still have language, and it will find you and wrap its little syllables around you and suddenly there will be a story to live in.” ~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from I’ll Ask Three Times, Are You OK?

I have a confession: I always imagined myself to be an unknown Dorothy Parker. I mean, if I were going to be famous, and if I couldn’t be a torch singer, then I would want to be someone like Dorothy Parker: a woman who spoke her mind, even in the most polite of company.

Churning Blue Waters, Shoreline, Island of Ascension
by Corey Fickel (2012)

Parker was a columnist, critic, poet, writer, and essayist, but she was best known for her acerbic wit. I mean, the alcoholism I could do without, obviously, but man, she didn’t pull any punches, and she was outspoken about those causes in which she was heavily invested, such as civil rights and civil liberties. Like myself, she was staunchly left-wing and did not suffer fools gladly.

Ephron was of the same ilk, and her recent passing leaves a gaping hole in that class of female writers who really did do it all.

Ah, well.

“I am not alone. Whatever else there was or is, writing is with me.” ~ Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

Let’s see, what else?

Wild Goats on Hillside, Antigua
by Corey Fickel (2012)

Brett got an A in his first section of pre-Calculus. Eamonn is applying for the apprenticeship school at the shipyard. Corey is enjoying yard work, in spite of the heat, and Alexis is very heavy with child.

The heat is getting to her, and she is already visibly dropping. I predict a delivery date of July 8th. She and Mike have everything just about ready in the apartment. I’ve ordered a new mattress for the cradle as the old one is quite thin and torn in a few places. I couldn’t find any mattresses in any local stores, at least none that I could afford, but I found a nice two-inch one on Amazon, and I ordered some cradle sheets. My mother bought a car seat for me to have in my car (I’m just letting her do whatever makes her (my mother) happy at this point, and she was determined to buy it).

I’m having work done on the Rodeo this coming week so that it will be a safe vehicle for transporting mother and child if necessary. I have to admit that I am quite excited and like Lex, more than ready for baby (Olivia, we think) to be here.

Well, I didn’t do so bad for a quick post, did I?

More later (but sooner, I hope). Peace.

*All images are from Corey’s recent hitch. Enjoy.

Music by Peter Bradley, “Heart of a Girl”


Work, Sometimes

I was sad all day, and why not. There I was, books piled
on both sides of the table, paper stacked up, words
falling off my tongue.

The robins had been a long time singing, and now it
was beginning to rain.

What are we sure of? Happiness isn’t a town on a map,
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work
ongoing. Which is not likely to be the trifling around
with a poem.

Then it began raining hard, and the flowers in the yard
were full of lively fragrance.

You have had days like this, no doubt. And wasn’t it
wonderful, finally, to leave the room? Ah, what a

As for myself, I swung the door open. And there was
the wordless, singing world. And I ran for my life.

~ Mary Oliver


“Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.” ~ Bertrand Russell

Sunset in Antigua by AvidlyAbide (FCC)
Hawksbill to the Left


“With looks that lose themselves in cherished looks;
The hour of steaming tea and banished books;
The sweetness of the evening at an end . . .” ~ Paul Verlaine, from “The Rosy Hearth

Saturday, late afternoon. Sunny and mild, 76° F.

Well  . . where to begin?

Corey got under way yesterday afternoon (I remember my AP Style Manual was very specific that under way is two words when referring to nautical movement). I drove him to the ship at 3:30 in the morning, and that was that. They took the ship out to test the radar, made a few tweaks, and left for Antigua. That’s right, Antigua. Did you know that there are 365 beaches on Antigua? I didn’t. He has tried to take the sting out of that by assuring me that they won’t spend any time in port, to which I reminded him that at least he’ll see the incredible blue waters, the azure blue, the Caribbean blue.

Lord How Island, Barbuda and Antigua (Globe Images)

And then there was that mention of the Virgin Islands . . .

They should have good weather going down, which is good, as he had terrible weather off Dover, which is not surprising. He was actually seasick, something that is not par for him.

Anyway, I came home from leaving him at the ship, crawled back into bed, and awoke around 9 a.m. with a killer migraine. To say that I was not surprised is an understatement.  However, I was surprised by the duration—all day. As a result, I did nothing all day, but I was able to read last night. I conquered about 400 pages of the third book in the Game of Thrones series, read until I was exhausted, and then prayed for sleep.

When it came, it brought nightmares that had me screaming in my sleep again. I remember Jews being marched off to ovens next to a garden party, but there was more, so much more, including my father taking a shower and telling me good night, and my mother tearing apart her kitchen. Then I was at a corporate Christmas party with the builders I used to know, and there was a wedding, and I wanted good bourbon, but the bar only had cheap stuff, and then I was teaching again . . . too much, too much . . .

“I do not know myself sometimes, or how to measure and name and count out the grains that make me what I am.” ~  Virginia Woolf,  from The Waves

So today I awoke with . . . wait for it . . . another migraine. I’ve been stuffing my meds in all day, and I decided that nothing was going to get better (as regards my back), so I went ahead and bathed the dogs. They really needed their flea medicine, and I always like to give them a bath beforehand. The dog baths led to scrubbing the bathroom, which led to cleaning the bathroom floor, which led to cleaning the hardwood floors, which led to stripping the beds, and in between, starting laundry. My hands smell of bleach and aloe, and are tight and achy.

Turner Beach, Antigua (Globe Images)

I’m sitting here in a daze. My back is on fire, right below my neck, between my shoulder blades. I’m writing blind again, with my eyes squinting against the sun coming through Eamonn’s window, and yes, I’m back on this POS computer. The squinting is definitely not forestalling the headache that is seeping back in at the left corner of my forehead.

Of the three dogs, Shakes was actually the best this time, and Tillie was the worst. She does not like baths, but she loves the pool, such a silly dog. Alfie tried to bite me when I tried to clean out his ongoing wound below his right eye, but I fought and won. He has this, for lack of a better word, hole directly below his eye where he had a cyst. We cannot get it to heal because he always ends up scratching it. I cannot put a cone on him because, well, he’s a wee bit insane, and a cone would drive him over the edge, so we clean it and medicate it, and he walks around with a hole in his face the size of a very small pea.

Don’t judge. Our dogs are spoiled and healthy, and now they smell clean, my back be damned.

(Informational aside: While the Wal Mart flea medicine claims to be as good as Frontline, I have found that it just doesn’t seem to last as long, so I went back to Frontline.)

“There is almost nothing that does not signal loneliness,
then loveliness, then something connecting all we will become.” ~  Stanley Plumley, from “In Passing”

Corey will be crossing the equator this trip, something he’s never done before. That’s a milestone for a seaman, and he’s supposed to get a turtle tattoo, according to traditional lore. His Atlantic crossing means that he can wear an anchor tattoo, which is something that he’s been wanting for several years, and if he crosses the International Date Line, he can get a dragon.

Saint John’s, Antigua and Barbuda (Globe Images)

I don’t think the International Date Line will be happening anytime soon, especially since the company has sold their Pacific ship.  But at least he’s going to be able to finish this hitch, which is going to earn him more deap-sea time, and just a few days ago, we weren’t even certain about that. After that, who knows?

I miss him already, miss sleeping next to him, miss reaching out in the middle of the night to touch his arm. Even though he was working most of the time that he was in port, it was simply reassuring to know that he was just a few miles from home. I’m trying not to think too much about the upcoming weeks. At least with Brett starting summer school on Monday, I’ll have some distractions.

“What we seek, at the deepest level, is inwardly to resemble, rather than physically to possess, the objects and places that touch us through their beauty.” ~ Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness

So this weekend I need to print and mail the shower invitations. However, there’s just one problem: The ink cartridges that I ordered, which were supposed to arrive yesterday, have not yet appeared. I really did not want to pay full price for ink cartridges; they’re just too blasted expensive in a store, but I also need to get these invitations in the mail.

U.S. Virgin Islands by yawper (FCC)

I also have Corey’s Mom’s Mother’s Day card and present to mail. Have I done that yet? Nope. Sorry. I just realized that it’s Saturday and that the post office closed about five hours ago. I’m hopeless. But my dogs are clean . . .

Time out to make sun-dried tomato wraps for Brett and myself: Honey-baked turkey, guacamole (for me), Muenster (again, for me), tomato slices, sea salt, lettuce, and Vidalia onion dressing. Quite yummy, actually. Speaking of fresh, I wonder if we’ll get a garden in this year. Because of the climate around here, we can still put things in the ground in July and harvest in September, one of the better aspects of living where we live.

I would love some fresh garden tomatoes as store-bought ones have no flavor, that is unless I splurge and buy the vine-ripened ones. And nothing beats fresh cucumbers.

“There is a time for the evening under starlight,
A time for the evening under lamplight
(The evening with the photograph album).
Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.” ~ T.S. Eliot, from “East Coker” from Four Quartets

Well, as to Mother’s Day tomorrow, I hope that all of you out there in the ether have a lovely day. I plan to do a whole lot of nothing. Preferably, reading for hours and hours.

Tomorrow is also our wedding anniversary: Eleven years ago tomorrow, Corey and I married on a lovely Sunday afternoon in an old house in Ghent, surrounded by family and friends.  The night before was pure hell as we were having everyone over for dinner. I was making table arrangements and the bridesmaids’ bouquets, and that overall sense of panic was consuming me.

Antigua Sunset

But Sunday? That was good, in spite of the table arrangements tipping over in the car, trying to decorate the house hours before the wedding, having to clean up afterwards, not having all of the food that we had ordered (yes, I noticed), being surprised by the condition of the rental chairs, having my hair ruined by my mother’s friend, taking my hair down and completely redoing it one hour before the wedding, having the groomsmen refuse to wear the ties for the tuxedo European style, and just a few other things. In spite of all of that, it was one of the best days of my life, certainly one of the happiest.

The years since have been filled with highs and lows, but through it all I have never regretted marrying a much younger man who has come to be my best friend and true companion, a man who knows me far better than I know myself sometimes.

Years are meaningless to the heart.

Joyeux anniversaire, mon amour, où que vous soyez . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Lonestar, “I’m Already There”



More than air
More than water
More than lips
Light light

Your body is the trace of your body

~ Octavio Paz