We began the bathroom renovation today . . . Gutting, finding lots of problems beneath, water damage, mold. This is going to be long, slow, and very, very painful. There isn’t enough chocolate in the world to make this better.
Oh, on one positive note—my migraine left for about 12 hours, but gone completely? Heavens, that would be miraculous . . .
Thought I’d post these images of abandoned North Brother Island as this is kind of what our bathroom looks like at the moment.
North Brother Island, located in between Queens and the Bronx in New York, has a long and fascinating history. The entire island has now been abandoned for nearly 50 years.
In the 1880s, the island was used to build a hospital complex to quarantine and treat people suffering from smallpox and typhoid fever. This hospital was home to the infamous “Typhoid Mary.” She was forcibly isolated twice by public health authorities after infecting 51 people with typhoid, three of whom died, over the course of her career as a cook. She spent nearly three decades in isolation on North Brother Island until her own death.
The hospital was later turned into housing for World War II veterans attending school on the GI Bill. In the 1950s, the island was home to one of the first juvenile drug rehabilitation centers in history. It remained in operation until the island was abandoned in 1963.
They tried to sell the island to private investors in the 1970s but the cost of construction, transportation to the island, and the noise from Laguardia airport discouraged anyone from buying it.
In June, 2013, it was announced that two architecture students are planning to construct a learning school for autistic children on the 20-acre island. It is currently unknown if and when this project will come to fruition.
“Don’t think that the person who is trying to comfort you now lives untroubled among the simple and quiet words that sometimes give you pleasure. His life has much trouble and sadness, and remains far behind yours. If it were otherwise, he would never have been able to find those words.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters To A Young Poet
Sunday late afternoon. Cloudy and low 70’s.
I actually had to look at the calendar to see if it was Saturday or Sunday. That kind of week. That kind of weekend. That kind of day.
I just came in from playing stick with Tillie the Lab. I had sat down to write, and she tried to crawl into my lap. Look at me, Mom. Right. Labrador Retrievers are not lap dogs. Now that I’ve worn her out for the next half hour or so, she’s under the bed, and I can sit here for a bit.
I gave all of the dogs baths today. Had to as I needed to apply flea medicine. I found out that the medicine that I ordered for Shakes’s cough is unavailable without a prescription from a veterinarian. I even looked on Canadian sites, but no joy. This means that I’m going to have to pay the vet to tell me what I already know. I’m going to the vet at the animal shelter, which should save me a bit of money, but I don’t look forward to actually taking Shakes there as he does not do well on car rides nor at the vet’s office.
I also did the floors, the bathroom, and the ceiling fans/light fixtures. Yes, I know. I’m a glutton for punishment. My hand was feeling better, so I decided to take care of these things while I could. Corey is due in port towards the end of the week, and I didn’t want to be scrambling to do this stuff when he calls. Of course, not sure how he’s going to call without a phone . . .
“My story isn’t pleasant, it’s not sweet and harmonious like the invented stories; it tastes of folly and bewilderment, of madness and dream, like the life of all people who no longer want to lie to themselves.” ~ Hermann Hesse, from Demian
At the moment, I’m trying to resist the urge to scratch my calves as I must have been bitten by a thousand mosquitoes while I was out with the dog. Yes, a thousand.
The pool is a lovely shade of green. The hose that I bought to replace the leaking hose is still in the box, and the yard needs to be mowed. All chores for eldest son. Need I say more?
I have to try to keep Tillie from jumping into the pool as I don’t want that brackish swamp water on her, especially now that she’s had a bath and flea medicine. I’m going to resist the urge to cut the grass myself. Actually, I don’t think that I could do it with my wrist in the shape that it’s in.
Speaking of which, the guy from my long-term insurer came on Wednesday to chat. He asked me a bunch of questions, took a bunch of notes; I gave him copies of what I had sent Social Security, including my typed statement. He asked me to sign a release for my therapist’s notes. I did, but I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, what is the point of privacy between a therapist and a patient if anyone can read the notes. I didn’t really have a choice, though. He was nice enough, a former cop from North Carolina, but the whole process was exhausting, having to go over things that I’ve gone over so many times before. Trying to remember dates that have faded in the five years since this whole ordeal began.
I suppose since so much time has passed they had to see if I was faking or whatever. I don’t know, I only know that I resented it, but I tried very hard not to let that show.
“Cicadas on the olive trees rage in brevity. When I go out at night, the stars and quiet smell of jasmine and I long for a life” ~ Jack Gilbert, from section III of “Threshing the Fire”
I really wish that our windows were new so that I could open them in the evenings to let in the cool air and listen to the chirps of crickets and other insects. I think that I’d probably sleep better. But windows are yet another thing on that very long list of things needing replacing in this house.
The nights are so lovely at this time of year, cool, crisp. It’s beginning to smell like autumn, which reminds me that I need to put flowers on Caitlin’s grave, something I’m determined to do this week.
I picked up my glasses on Friday, and I’m still getting used to them. These progressive lenses are kind of weird because you have to move you head, not your eyes to focus. The first time I sat down to watch television, I couldn’t see anything until I positioned my head in the right way so that I was looking out at the part for distance. I’m actually wearing them now, even though I don’t really need glasses for computer work. I’m very happy with the frames that I picked, even though I got them in the mens’ section at Wal-Mart. I couldn’t find what I wanted anywhere else.
So I can mark glasses off my list of things that I need. Now I can get back to fixating on my hair. Do I let someone else give me a perm, or do I crawl back to Kathy and beg forgiveness? Decisions, decisions. Frankly, I don’t trust my hair to just anyone. I need a good cut and a loose perm. I’m tired of some strands being curly and some strands being straight. It’s bizarre.
My life: so much minutiae and so little depth.
“Maybe all one can do is hope to end up with the right regrets.” ~ Arthur Miller
“I will follow you into the dark” by Death Cab for Cutie is currently playing. I love that song. It’s my ringtone for Brett. Don’t ask me why other than one time he said that he liked that song.
Speaking of Brett, I’m hoping to go to a few of the events in this year’s Literary Festival. I can remember when the lit festival was such a big event for Mari and me. We’d go to the readings and the receptions afterwards. I met some really wonderful writers from the lit festival and the Visiting Writers’ Program. The festival has expanded over the years to include artists and performing artists, and I’m not sure how I feel about that. I mean, perhaps they should just rename it. I’m not against having other artists, but I’m against using the term Literary Festival. Why not Fine and Performing Arts Festival? Probably because it’s going into its 35th year, and that’s the brand.
I’m just being picky.
I’ll never forget the student who gave me a bad evaluation, saying that I had made fun of a visiting modern dancer. I hadn’t made fun. I had made the statement that I didn’t know enough to understand modern dance. A statement of fact, not opinion.
Why do I remember that? I mean, really, in the grand scheme of things, why that?
“Once I wished to be a verse of gorgeous sinuosity, a lyric poem, some tightly belted perfect sonnet or deftly figured villanelle.” ~ Kate Daniels, from “Farewell to the Maiden”
I remember the year Kate Daniels came to campus for the Literary Festival. I had never read any of her poetry before that, but I became a big fan. I suppose it’s because she came the year after Caitlin died, and she had written a series of poems called the Niobe poems, which were about the Niobe myth (Encyclopedia Mythica):
Niobe was the queen of Thebes, married to Amphion, King of Thebes. They had fourteen children (the Niobids), and in a moment of arrogance, Niobe bragged about her seven sons and seven daughters at a ceremony in honor of Leto, the daughter of the titans Coeus and Phoebe. She mocked Leto, who only had two children, Apollo, god of prophecy and music, and Artemis, virgin goddess of the wild. Leto did not take the insult lightly, and in retaliation, sent Apollo and Artemis to earth to slaughter all of Niobe’s children. Apollo killed the seven sons while they practiced their athletics. The last son begged to be spared, but the arrow had already left Apollo’s bow, and the boy was struck dead. Artemis killed the seven daughters with her lethal arrows.
At the sight of his dead sons, Amphion either committed suicide or was also killed by Apollo for wanting to avenge his children’s deaths. In any event, Niobe’s entire family was dead in a matter of minutes. In shock, she cradled the youngest daughter in her arms, then fled to Mt. Siplyon in Asia Minor. There she turned to stone and from the rock formed a stream (the Achelous) from her ceaseless tears. She became the symbol of eternal mourning. Niobe’s children were left unburied for nine days because Zeus had turned all of the people of Thebes into stone. Only on the tenth day did the gods have pity and entomb her children.
Niobe is weeping even to this day. Carved on a rock cliff on Mt Sipylus is the fading image of a female that the Greeks claim is Niobe (it was probably Cybele, the great mother-goddess of Asia Minor originally). Composed of porous limestone, the stone appears to weep as the water after a rain seeps through it.
For some reason, I had never heard of the Niobe myth before reading the poems, and they affected me greatly. In fact, Daniels’s book The Niobe Poems remains one of my favorite books of poetry. It was out of print for a while, but I believe that it is back in print. However, I can find no poems from the book anywhere on-line, and today, I’m too tired to type them, perhaps for Tuesday.
More later. Peace.
*Today’s post features beautiful aerial photography of a river draining into the ocean from a volcano in Iceland by Andre Ermolaev. His photographs remind me of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings with the curves and colors.
Music by Lex Land, “What Happens Now”
More Than Halfway
I’ve turned on lights all over the house,
but nothing can save me from this darkness.
I’ve stepped onto the front porch to see
the stars perforating the milky black clouds
and the moon staring coldly through the trees,
but this negative I’m carrying inside me.
Where is the boy who memorized constellations?
What is the textbook that so consoled him?
I’m now more than halfway to the grave,
but I’m not half the man I meant to become.
To what fractured deity can I pray?
I’m willing to pay the night with interest,
though the night wants nothing but itself.
What did I mean to say to darkness?
Death is a zero hollowed out of my chest.
God is an absence whispering in the leaves.