“It was autumn, and I was in my father’s woods building a house out of branches and the leaves that were falling like thousands of letters from the sky.” ~ Joyce Sutphen, from “The Book of Hours”
Saturday evening. Cool, 60’s.
Did you know that the ceiling of New York’s Grand Central Terminal is painted with 2,500 stars: “an autumn-night constellation that was originally painted backward and never corrected”? I didn’t.
When I pulled into the driveway this evening after doing some errands with Brett and Em, Brett opened his car door and immediately said, “It smells like autumn,” and indeed, it did. Brett and I share a deep love of the season, and we both await eagerly that first true scent on the air of damp leaves, woodsmoke, and loam—the unmistakable smell of autumn.
I could have sat outside for hours just to inhale, but alas, I was still hurting far too much as a result of massive trigger point injections on Friday. I suppose they’ve affected me so adversely because it has been too long since my last ones.
Oh well . . .
I’ll just imagine myself in the woods in front of a campfire.
Music by Woodkid, “I Love You” (quintet version)
We Shall Be Released
Every afternoon that autumn
walking across campus
past the conservatory
I heard the soprano
her voice rising
making its way up the scale
straining to claim each note
weeks of work
storms slamming the campus
the semester staggering
to an end
heading out and going home
the campus nearly deserted
but the soprano
still working the scales
when I passed under the trees
the liquidambars on fire
the clouds like great cities
sailing out to sea
and didn’t I ascend
my own weariness
didn’t we rise together
her voice straining
at the top of its range
These are the first days of fall. The wind
at evening smells of roads still to be traveled,
while the sound of leaves blowing across the lawns
is like an unsettled feeling in the blood,
the desire to get in a car and just keep driving.
A man and a dog descend their front steps.
The dog says, Let’s go downtown and get crazy drunk.
Let’s tip over all the trash cans we can find.
This is how dogs deal with the prospect of change.
But in his sense of the season, the man is struck
by the oppressiveness of his past, how his memories
which were shifting and fluid have grown more solid
until it seems he can see remembered faces
caught up among the dark places in the trees.
The dog says, Let’s pick up some girls and just
rip off their clothes. Let’s dig holes everywhere.
Above his house, the man notices wisps of cloud
crossing the face of the moon. Like in a movie,
he says to himself, a movie about a person
leaving on a journey. He looks down the street
to the hills outside of town and finds the cut
where the road heads north. He thinks of driving
on that road and the dusty smell of the car
heater, which hasn’t been used since last winter.
The dog says, Let’s go down to the diner and sniff
people’s legs. Let’s stuff ourselves on burgers.
In the man’s mind, the road is empty and dark.
Pine trees press down to the edge of the shoulder,
where the eyes of animals, fixed in his headlights,
shine like small cautions against the night.
Sometimes a passing truck makes his whole car shake.
The dog says, Let’s go to sleep. Let’s lie down
by the fire and put our tails over our noses.
But the man wants to drive all night, crossing
one state line after another, and never stop
until the sun creeps into his rearview mirror.
Then he’ll pull over and rest awhile before
starting again, and at dusk he’ll crest a hill
and there, filling a valley, will be the lights
of a city entirely new to him.
But the dog says, Let’s just go back inside.
Let’s not do anything tonight. So they
walk back up the sidewalk to the front steps.
How is it possible to want so many things
and still want nothing. The man wants to sleep
and wants to hit his head again and again
against a wall. Why is it all so difficult?
But the dog says, Let’s go make a sandwich.
Let’s make the tallest sandwich anyone’s ever seen.
And that’s what they do and that’s where the man’s
wife finds him, staring into the refrigerator
as if into the place where the answers are kept-
the ones telling why you get up in the morning
and how it is possible to sleep at night,
answers to what comes next and how to like it.
~ Stephen Dobyns
It’s September: I’ve moved into town,
into the attic of an old barn—a big open room I reach
by climbing a ladder that rises through a hole in the floor.
The room is long and high, with windows at each end,
a row of skylights that leak rain, and shake
and chatter in the northeast winds. I sleep beneath
the roof’s steep pitch, my mattress flat on the boards,
looking up at the high ceiling, where morning
diffuses downward in grains of bright dust.
This was the old painter’s studio.
The light in those famous canvases is still here
—he couldn’t carry it away with him—
though his paintings took away everything else,
opening space with a stroke of blue or yellow.
I think of his violent loves, the stories
they still tell about him here.
But how quiet and alive his paintings were,
how they quiver with the life not yet realized.
It’s one day past the Day of the Dead, and this has been
a bad year, six funerals already and not done yet.
But on this blue day of perfect weather, I can’t muster
sadness, for the trees are radiant, the air thick as Karo
warmed in a pan. I have my friend’s last book spread
on the table and a cup of coffee in a white china mug.
All the leaves are ringing, like the tiny bells of God.
My mother, too, is ready to leave. All she wants now
is sugar: penuche fudge, tapioca pudding, pumpkin roll.
She wants to sit in the sun, pull it around her shoulders
like an Orlon sweater, and listen to the birds
in the far-off trees. I want this sweetness to linger
on her tongue, because the days are growing shorter
now, and night comes on, so quickly.
~ Barbara Crooker
Music by Matthew Perryman Jones, “Canción de la Noche”
I just had to find a poem to go with this beautiful image of autumn . . .
The Signature Mark of Autumn
The signature mark of autumn has arrived at last
with the rains: orange of
pumpkin, orange persimmon, orange lichen on rocks
and fallen logs; a copper
moon hung low over the orchard; moist, ruddy limbs
of the madrone, russet
oak leaf, storm-peeled redwood, acorns emptied
by squirrels and jays; and
mushrooms, orange boletes, Witch’s Butter sprouting
on rotted oak, the Deadly
Galeria, and of course, chanterelles, which we’ll eat
tonight with pasta, goat
cheese, and wine.
Heading Towards Darkness by russell.tomlin (flickr)
“Let me keep my distance, always, from those who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say ‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment, and bow their heads.” ~ Mary Oliver, “Mysteries, Yes”
Saturday early evening. Another beautiful blue day, low 70’s.
Seem to be having a reprieve from the five-day-long migraine. I don’t want to say yet that it’s over because that will surely bring at least three more days of pain.
Last night I watched three different exorcism movies. Don’t ask me why I do this to myself, especially when Corey is working the night shift. Perhaps I hope that if I watch enough scary movies, then the current mire of my existence will seem to pale in comparison. Anyway, after this horror marathon, I found myself at 3 a.m. wide awake.
One of the movies that I watched was Exorcist III: Legion. The movie is quite dated in the clothes and the acting as George C. Scott overacts every scene in which he appears. That being said, there is one memorable scene that takes place in a heavenly train station. There is a pseudo big band a la Tommy Dorsey, and weird appearances by Fabio of the long hair and basketball player Patrick Ewing. Okay, so it’s a cheezy, make that very cheezy movie, but it has Ed Flanders and a young Brad Dourif, as well as an appearance by Samuel L. Jackson.
The book Legion is so much better than the movie, but the movie is still entertaining in its own overblown way, not remotely scary, though.
“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”~ Anaïs Nin
So it’s fairly quiet here, well quieter now that Eamonn has left the building. He came home from work and took the house quite by storm. He’s just such a ham, always singing at the top of his lungs, running commentaries about everything—a younger version of his father. I used to hate it, really hate it, when his dad sang in the morning. How do people do that, wake up immediately and begin their days with exuberant singing and talking?
Not me, that’s for sure. I wake up very slowly, allowing consciousness to creep in rather than embracing it wholly and immediately.
Anyway, not sure if I’ll be able to finish this post today as I fully expect Internet service to be interrupted at almost any second. Pesky thing called a bill. Besides, I really should be doing some cleaning around the house, but just not feeling up to it. While the headache has subsided, thel knot at the base of my neck is pulsating as I type.
Nevertheless, the floors need to be swept and mopped, and laundry is piling up. More of that housewifery stuff . . .
I’d much rather sit her and write in between visiting tumblr and playing a few games of Spider Solitaire. Doing all three at once is pretty much my standard approach to getting a post written. I find that if I don’t try to write everything at once, I stay a bit more focused, that is unless I’m having a real creative spurt, which I am obviously not doing today.
“Here. You are at the beginning of something. At the exact beginning.” ~ Jorie Graham, from “Dawn Day One (Dec 21 ‘03)”
Well, almost two hours have passed since I put down my first words. The sky is a dark grey, and the temperature has barely dropped. Laundry is going. I’ve eaten some Twizzlers and had a caffeine-free Pepsi. I still need to do the floors, but don’t know if I’ll be getting to that today or tomorrow. I would hate to think that I measure my days by how many chores I accomplish.
But really, how do I measure my days? By what I’ve read? By any new poets I’ve come across? By what images I’ve seen? By which television shows I’ve watched? By how many times I’ve stopped to throw the tennis ball for Tillie? By how many muscle relaxers I’ve had to take just to make the pain tolerable? By whether or not I’ve peeled off my nail polish by evening? By the quality of the sky? By the songs that I’ve heard?
I suppose this train of thought is just a continuation of yesterday’s pondering. But how do we measure our days really? What makes one day better or worse than another? What makes a day intolerable as opposed to being so-so?
If I were working, my measurement would be different, would definitely encompass what I had accomplished, which tasks I had completed, whether or not I had made the requisite telephone calls and answered the pending correspondence. If I were still in school, I would measure my days according to my schedule of assignments, whether or not they had been completed, or whether or not I had procrastinated until the last minute.
And what happens when we procrastinate? We put off doing something, but are the minutes we use to postpone just wasted time?
I know that there is a school of thought that all of the minutes of all of the hours should be spent in thoughtful contemplation and achievement. There is also the school of thought that we should spend a portion of our time in silence so as to allow ourselves to commune with . . . nature? God? The self?
“I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds—but I think of you always in those intervals.” ~ Salvador Plascencia
I do believe in meditation, in its healing effects, in its ability to quell the troubled waters of the soul. But that I believe in it does not mean that I am able to do it.
I know that I have achieved a state of meditation—a state in which I was able to clear my mind of all of the swirling thoughts—maybe four or five times in my life. By that I mean that I was truly able to set aside the external and just be.
One time that I distinctly remember was when Corey and I were in the Mediterranean, and we were on a large catamaran being sailed to a bay that was rich with rays. On the way to the spot, I sad on the tarp in lotus position with my eyes closed and just allowed myself to truly be in the moment. I was able to drown out sounds of conversations, the music that was playing. All that I heard was the water and the wind. All that I felt was the sun and the spray.
Being able to achieve that state before communing with the rays made the entire experience so much richer. I don’t know if I’m doing an adequate job of explaining the state that I was able to achieve, and perhaps you might not understand if you have never achieved such a state yourself. I only know that it was a perfect day.
“L’automne est pour moi le signe le plus sûr des recommencements. Depuis l’enfance on appelle cela la rentrée. Quelque chose décline, et quelque chose commence. Je me présente toujours devant l’automne : neuf, prêt, dispos. Quelque chose va se passer, va m’arriver. Je vais apprendre, je vais changer.” (Autumn is for me the surest sign of new beginnings. Since childhood it is called re-entry. Something is declining, and something begins. I always before this fall: new, ready, willing. Something will happen, will happen to me. I will learn, I’ll change.) ~ Pierre Péju
I think that during such times, time becomes suspended, not literally, of course. I mean that in clearing the mind, all of the troubles of the day, no matter how serious or how trivial, are set aside temporarily.
I envy those individuals who so easily achieve this state of meditation, who are able to do so regularly, even daily. I think that if I could do so, I might not feel as if I am wasting so much of my time here, or worse, just biding time.
To live here, in the moment, to feel acutely, to appreciate what life has to offer—these are things that belong to the contented, not to the tumultuous souls. Contentment is that placid body of water, smooth like glass. Whereas for me, there are almost always waves crashing down all around me. There is almost always that sense of being propelled along the water by the wind without a sense of control.
Instead of the one sonorous bell, there is the clanging of many bells being rung at once, each one fighting to be heard. Instead of the graceful arc of a flock in synchronized flight, there is the rush, the onslaught of all of the birds taking to the air at once, the beating of many wings battling for space.
“In the midst of all your memories there is one Faded away beyond recovering; Neither the yellow moon nor the white sun Will ever see you drinking from that spring.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges, from “Limits”
Pay me no heed. I believe that my mind is on some track that I have yet to identify, that to get there, I must first make many missteps, dropping my foot into potholes filled with cold rain.
There is a sense of anticipation and apprehension—simultaneously, as if I am ready for this change but am afraid of it. And who even knows if it is change that awaits me.
I only know that I feel as if I am at the beginning of a long journey, one that I am not certain that I am ready to take. Perhaps my heightened sense of my surroundings is a harbinger of some sort. Or perhaps I am just reading entirely too much into nothing at all. It just feels so much like those moments immediately before the storm when the air hangs so still that even the buzzing of a fly seems too loud. When the moisture on the front of the storm first touches your face, and you have an inkling of what is to come but cannot be certain of just how wet you will get. When the leaves of the trees turn around, showing their backs to the sky. When the stickiness of the air thickens just before the first drop falls.
This is what I feel. This is what awaits me. Undefinable, unrelenting, formless and frayed.
More later. Peace.
Music by Sophie Milman, “La Vie en Rose”
One day someone will fold our blankets
and send them to the cleaners
to scrub the last grain of salt from them,
will open our letters and sort them out by date
instead of by how often they’ve been read.
One day someone will rearrange the room’s furniture
like chessmen at the start of a new game,
will open the old shoe box
where we hoard pajama-buttons,
not-quite-dead batteries and hunger.
One day the ache will return to our backs
from the weight of hotel room keys
and the receptionist’s suspicion
as he hands over the TV remote control.
Others’ pity will set out after us
like the moon after some wandering child.
~ Nikola Madzirov (Trans. Peggy and Graham W. Reid, Magdalena Horvat and Adam Reed)
“Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.” ~ William Cullen Bryant
It’s been a week of perfect autumn weather: brilliant skies, mild temperatures, and vivid colors everywhere. I love days like these as they tend to fill me with a sense of calm, a rare and delightful treat for my psyche.
Fall used to herald boots-and-sweaters season for me, but not so much any more as I no longer need to get dressed for work, the one aspect of a full-time job that I can sincerely say that I miss terribly (probably the only aspect)
I’m back home full-time now. I stop in on my mother after taking Brett to school each day. She is slowly retaking her house, which is to be expected, and she spends more time sitting than lying down, a sure sign that she feels better. The next big step is driving, which she says that she is ready to do; I know that she is eager to be out of the house on her own, but I don’t think that she’s considering what might happen if she has to slam on her brakes. Just saying.
“Our world—don’t you just feel we’re becoming more fragmented? I used to think that when I got older, the world would make so much more sense. But you know what? The older I get, the more confusing it is to me. The more complicated it is. Harder. You’d think we’d be getting better at it. But there’s just more and more chaos. The pieces—they’re everywhere. And nobody knows what to do about it.” ~ Rachel Cohn, Nick and Nora’s Infinite Playlist
Corey and I are working on the house (in the house?). For several weeks he has been shampooing the remaining living and dining room carpet (as in the carpet yet to be ripped up, revealing the hardwood floors that need to be refinished). I’m not sure how cleaning the carpets could turn into a month-long endeavor, but somehow my charming spouse has managed to do just that. I’ve made him vow to have all of the furniture back in place by the end of the weekend as I cannot begin a holiday week with everything in such disarray.
In the meantime, I need to switch t-shirts for sweaters, and summer night shirts for winter pj’s, and sandals for boots, which (of course) involves several other steps and lots of shifting as our home has 1950’s closets, i.e., not even close to walk-in. And when I came back from my mother’s house, I pitched a pile of hanging clothes on one of the dining room chairs that is currently sitting in the middle of the living room, and I have yet to sort through that morass as just walking through the obstacle course that is my house is too daunting.
In other words, our house is completely wrecked, and it’s making me very stressed and a wee bit testy. While I was at mom’s, I got in the habit of keeping everything very clean and tidy, which is easier in her house as she is not in the midst of a major home remodeling project that had to be abandoned when Corey lost his lucrative tugboating job—over two years ago. So I have become accustomed to neat and tidy, and the return to chaos is more than a bit unnerving.
“Fate is like a strange, unpopular restaurant filled with odd little waiters who bring you things you never asked for and don’t always like.” ~ Lemony Snicket
Of course, the complaints about chaos are completely gratuitous as I would not recognize my life if it were not constantly imbued with chaos, disorder, and entropy.
But speaking of Corey and jobs, he is still waiting for his contact at Company X to get back to him. I know that we’ve heard this story before, but this time, there actually seems to be a hint of truth to it. Company X did buy a new boat and land a new contract, so we’ve moved beyond the this may happen stage into the we’re definitely interested in having you on one of our boats stage.
The best aspect—the one that makes this situation so much better than the Vane Brothers wait-and-see situation—is that Corey went from the introduction phase to the two-hour interview phase in a matter of weeks.
No hope-pinning, but hopeful waiting, at least.
“Time folds you in its arms and gives you one last kiss, and then it flattens you out and folds you up and tucks you away until it’s time for you to become someone else’s past time, and then time folds again.” ~ Margaret Atwood
So here we are: Brett’s first semester of college will be ending in a month. Eamonn is thinking about joining the Peace Corps (I know. Surprised the hell out of me too). Alexis is still not working and does not appear to be ready to return to work anytime soon, something I try not to ponder too much as my mother is doing enough fretting over the situation for the both of us.
I am approaching December without fulfilling the one goal that I set for myself for 2010, and I am totally unsurprised by that. I am trying to get back into my habit of writing daily and hope to have my own computer back in working order before 2011. Of course, having said that, Corey’s computer is now dying, and we are unsure as to what it needs to be healed. Could be something as simple as a graphics card, or could be something more . . .
We are hoping to have Corey’s truck fixed as soon as Ford gets back to us with the Windstar recall package (don’t remember if I mentioned this or not, but the Windstar was found to be hazardous because of an axle problem, so Ford had to buy it back from us). Meanwhile, they are paying for a rental and we are pricing rebuilt transmissions.
And so it goes. More waiting and hoping and hoping and waiting. Meanwhile, the world spins madly on; the seasons creep into each other relentlessly, and time morphs from second to second, seemingly dragging its heels one moment only to metamorphose in the next instant into a nimble-footed fellow, fleeing from invisible fire.
The only constants remain my unflinching capacity for seeing only the bad in myself, the deep love of my dysfunctional family, the continued delight I receive from my dogs, and my surprising ability to still be moved to tears by nature’s breathtaking beauty.