“My heart wants roots. My mind wants wings. I cannot bear their bickerings.” ~ E. Y. Harburg

Resting Polar Bear by Daniel J. Cox (Polar Bears International)*
Resting Polar Bear
by Daniel J. Cox (Polar Bears International)*

                   

“If a woman writes about herself, she’s a narcissist. If a man does the same, he’s describing the human condition” ~ Emily Gould

Friday, early evening. Partly cloudy and cold, 45 degrees.

I had big plans to take down the Christmas tree today, but now, not so much. I don’t take the tree down on New Year’s Day, partly out of a superstition that says that whatever you are doing on New Year’s Day is what you will spend most of your time doing in the coming year. I do not want to spend a year tackling a rather large sorting, cleaning and storing job. Also, I like to look at the tree for a while after New Year’s.

Maybe tomorrow.

Polar Bear and Cubs USFWS WC
Polar Bear and Cubs
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Wikimedia Commons)

I mean, if I were feeling productive, I could also tackle the large pile on the left side of my desk that has begun a landslide onto the floor, but it’s so much easier to push the pile back into a pile and pretend that it’s not there. However, I really need the black nail file that is usually in my pen cup, but seems to have disappeared beneath the mass of papers, so I may have to do something. I’m one of those people who has nail files and calendars in almost every room; Corey’s family has tissues in every room. Quirks.

I really need an assistant, or an intern, or an assistant intern. Like that’s ever going to happen. How does one persuade someone to be an intern to the job of life? If anyone has an answer for that, I would love to hear it. Anyway . . .

“Misunderstanding is my cornerstone. It’s everyone’s, come to think of it. Illusions mistaken for truth are the pavement under our feet.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver, from The Poisonwood Bible

Olivia spent the day here yesterday as Lex had a doctor’s appointment and wanted to try to get some things taken care of, so we agreed to sit. One thing I have to say about this baby is that she doesn’t sleep for long stretches, which is odd for me as all of my babies loved to nap, Alexis the most, and we would often have to wake her from her afternoon nap. She says that even when she was in kindergarten, the teacher had to wake her from rest time. No wonder the teachers loved her (kidding).

(By the way, the poem choice arises from a new thing that Olivia is doing: Mike’s stepmother taught Olivia how to shake her head back and forth when someone says, “No, no, no, no, no.” And then she laughs . . .)

Polar Bear by Daniel J Cox Polar Bears International
Polar Bear
by Daniel J. Cox (Polar Bears International)

Olivia has had a bit of a cold, and the pediatrician told Lex to use nose drops (saline) and the sucking thing (aspirator?), which Olivia loves (not). My mom is also sick with what sounds like bronchitis or pneumonia, but try to get her to see a doctor? Not happening. I have wanted her to change her primary care doctor for years as I don’t feel that he really pays attention to everything that’s going on with her, but she loves him and won’t change.

My, I have a lot of parenthetical asides today. Sure sign that my mind is going too fast.

Anyway, I did want to know what you think of the new theme. I can’t afford to get one of those custom themes in which you can select all of the colors and all of that other coding, but WordPress does offer a fairly nice selection of free themes. Only problem was that when I changed themes, I lost my rotating globe and all of those stats. Many thanks to Izaak Mak at I Want Ice Water for providing me with the coding needed. So the globe is back. Funny the kinds of things you get attached to on a page.

“Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” ~ Douglas Adams, from Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

I got a little distracted looking up music from the television show “Fringe,” which I’ve started watching again. Somehow, I lost track of it, but it’s being rebroadcast on cable, so I’m watching again. I love the quirkiness of it, almost (not quite) like “X Files,” but a different kind of quirky. I also happen to love both John Noble and Joshua Jackson. Why mention this? Who knows . . . I also had to stop to find quotes for today’s post because I realized that all of the quote that I had previously selected bore absolutely no resemblance to today’s post, which, by the way, has no clear theme.

Polar Bear, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska WC
Polar Bear
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (Wikimedia Commons)

My back has been killing me for the past week. The new doctor gave me a referral for physical therapy, but I haven’t made the appointment yet,mostly because of funds. The post-Christmas dearth of money has hit, that and the fact that Corey is on job hiatus.  But I’m hoping that I’ll be able to start with the PT sometime this month. Honestly, I haven’t had that much success with PT, but I’m willing to give it a go one more time. Out of the five or so different people who have worked on my back, only one actually succeeded in lessening my pain.

Of course, I need to get back to some kind of physical activity, but the motivation has been seriously lacking in that department. I’d like to start walking with Tillie so that both of us get some exercise in this cold weather. Maybe next week.

“Whether you take the doughnut hole as a blank space or as an entity unto itself is a purely metaphysical question and does not affect the taste of the doughnut one bit.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from A Wild Sheep Chase

I haven’t been doing well with giving up chocolate, what with the abundance of sweets throughout the house, but this one is a must-do, especially because of my blood sugar and my triglycerides. I have been easing off day by day, but the other morning I was shoving Reese’s miniatures in my mouth like they were a supply of oxygen. So glad no one else was up at the time. I mean, who eats peanut butter cups at 7 in the morning?

olar Bear paren sow paren, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska WC
Polar Bear (sow),
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska (Wikimedia Commons)

I do.

Anyway, almost all of the holiday sweets are gone, and that makes me very happy in a weird sort of way. Although, I do still have a keen hankering for cookies, especially those Pepperidge Farm gingerbread men. Delish.

Okay. I’ll stop. I mean, you really didn’t come here to read about my strange cravings and my constant internal debate over whether or not to go over to the dark side where Russell Stover caramel bites and Danish butter cookies reside.

“There are two kinds of people in this world: Those who believe there are two kinds of people in this world and those who are smart enough to know better.” ~ Tom Robbins, from Still Life with Woodpecker

So other than the above inanity, not much going on.

Polar Bear by Craig Taylor Polar Bears International
Polar Bear
by Craig Taylor (Polar Bears International)

I ordered everyone’s calendars after Christmas when the prices dropped by 50 percent. But here’s the thing that kills me: Amazon offers free shipping to Prime members and for orders over $25, which is great, but they sent two different boxes, each one containing only one (count it) one calendar and a sheet of pillow wrap. Both boxes arrived simultaneously, so just look at the waste:

  • Two cardboard boxes (recyclable)
  • Two sheets of pillow wrap (or whatever you call that packing stuff that isn’t bubble wrap but is filled with air) (not recyclable)
  • Two calendars (which will ultimately be recyclable)
  • and shipping for two boxes that had the exact same weight.

Am I the only one who doesn’t see the logic in that? Of course, this isn’t the first time Amazon has done something like this. I remember one time when I ordered Brett some special pens; Amazon shipped them in (I kid you not) a box that was roughly 24 x 6 x 6 inches for a box that measures about 7 x 4 x 3/4.

Whatever.

More later. Peace.

Music by My Morning Jacket, “Thank You Too”

(*Today’s images of polar bears—because I was thinking of Shakes who always reminded me of a miniature polar bear, especially in the way that he lay and tucked his tale under). Some images taken from Polar Bears International site.)

                  

Counting The Mad

This one was put in a jacket,
This one was sent home,
This one was given bread and meat
But would eat none,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one looked at the window
As though it were a wall,
This one saw things that were not there,
This one things that were,
And this one cried No No No No
All day long.

This one thought himself a bird,
This one a dog,
And this one thought himself a man,
An ordinary man,
And cried and cried No No No No
All day long.

~ Donald Justice
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“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John F. Kennedy

“Our holiday food splurge was a small crate of tangerines, which we found ridiculously thrilling after an eight-month abstinence from citrus…. Lily hugged each one to her chest before undressing it as gently as a doll. Watching her do that as she sat cross-legged on the floor one morning in pink pajamas, with bliss lighting her cheeks, I thought: Lucky is the world, to receive this grateful child. Value is not made of money, but a tender balance of expectation and longing.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver, from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle
                   

So here are a few shots of our Thanksgiving feast. Food courtesy of yours truly. Photographs courtesy of Corey’s sister Alana. Hope you had a wonderful holiday. We are very grateful that we had such a bountiful dinner and that we had the company of family.

Thanksgiving
Corey Serving

“The very least you can do in your life is to figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver, from Animal Dreams

Gulfoss Waterfall, Reykjavik, Iceland by m'sieur rico* (FCC)

                   

“—O remember
In your narrowing dark hours
That more things move
Than blood in the heart.” ~ Louise Bogan, from “Night”

Wednesday evening. Cloudy and much cooler, low 60’s.

Not sure how far I’ll get with this particular post. I’ve been fighting this headache for days, and today seems to be the worst yet. I thought I’d try to write in between waves of pain. Pictures are of Iceland, which is actually very green, so why is Greenland so not green?

Reykjavik, Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)

I have laundry going (Alexis’s), and I’ve already taken Tillie outside for her daily playtime. Brett is at school, and Eamonn is on his way out of the house. I’m supposed to be finding a link to a diaper bag for Alexis, but just not in the mood to look at diaper bags. Maybe tomorrow. I finally did the FAFSAs for Brett and Corey. I had completely forgotten about doing those, which is a shame because the earlier they are completed, the better the chance for grant money. It’s my fault, but what can you do?

I also noticed that I made a mistake on our federal tax returns when I was looking at them to complete the FAFSAs. Great. Just what we need, undue attention from the IRS; although, I have the past ten years of tax returns and receipts all sorted neatly into expanding folders in the top of the living room closet. I’m not saying this to be smug; rather, they are there solely because to get rid of five years worth requires an indecent amount of shredding, and again, I don’t want to do it.

We haven’t heard anything back from the IRS, and I have no idea how long this will take as we had to submit by mail this year instead of online—too many supplemental forms or something like that. And I just realized that we need to submit our state taxes by the end of this month. We owe a little over $100, so I’m waiting until the last possible minute on those.

“Sometimes the drawers of the earth close;
Sometimes our stories keep on and on. So listen—” ~ David St. John, from “Elegy”

I’m working on Brett’s computer today, but I’m counting the days until I can take my CPU in to have the new hard drive installed. Oh happy day . . . simply agog with anticipation.

Waterfall, Reykjavik, Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)

Agog is a good word, sounds like what it is. I love words like that.

I have no idea as to where in the Atlantic Corey is at the moment, but maybe he’s made it into somewhat warmer climes. Well, I suppose that anything is better than northern Europe as far as being warmer.

I hope that if you get a chance, you’ll click on the First Books link that I provided in the post a few days ago. They are a great organization, and their goal is to provide books for children who otherwise would have no books in their house, which, unfortunately, is so much of the population. As for me, I cannot wait to start reading books to the coming addition to our family. It’s never too early to begin reading.

As for First Books, I really like what they are doing, and I’m trying to support them however I can.

“Maybe the only thing each of us can see is our own shadow.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, from Diary

Last night I woke up facing the opposite direction in my bed, as in my head was at the footboard, and my feet were at the headboard. I’m fairly certain that I moved around in an attempt to gain more room. It’s odd how a queen-sized bed still isn’t enough for one human and three dogs, two of which are Jack Russells. How does that happen?

Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)

Then I woke up with a really bad migraine, but didn’t feel well enough to make it to the kitchen to fill a bag with crushed ice. That just sucks, you know? I really like how it was on the Star Trek shows—a little portal that you just speak to, and voila—whatever you desired, Earl Grey tea with lemon (Capt. Picard), a bag of ice for my head . . . why isn’t the 21st century like all the movies said it would be? You know, flying cars, personalized robots, all of the technological accoutrements?

Actually, I should hush my mouth as I’m always the one complaining about how we rely too much on technology. Okay, so I’m a selective technophile—I like it and want it when it can help to make me feel better. I don’t know what made me think of those little portals, let alone remember that Captain Jean-Luc Picard liked Earl Grey tea.

“It’s too late
to be unwritten,
and I’m much too scrawled
to ever be erased.” ~ Mark Doty, from “My Tattoo”

Brett has signed up for a poetry workshop in the fall, and I have to admit that I am more than a little envious of him. Wouldn’t it be grand (in my world) to be in a poetry workshop, feeding off that collective energy, the kind of energy that you can only find in a workshop. It’s impossible to find that kind of energy anywhere else. It doesn’t matter how varied the talent level is in a writing workshop as long as the person conducting it knows what he or she is doing. Being around like-minded people who are in the process of creating is a guaranteed way to creative inspiration.

Gulfoss, Reykjavik, Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)

Brett has had a great introduction to creative writing workshop this semester, and I’m really impressed with the caliber of assignments that his professor has given them.

Mari and I always said that we were going to go away to a workshop, but we never did. It’s an idea that I haven’t let go of, though. I still want to go to a five-day (seven days? ten?) retreat somewhere, work on my craft, get feedback from peers and professionals. I also haven’t given up on the idea of the Warren Wilson low-residency MFA. It’s one of the most acclaimed MFAs in the country, and its faculty has included Raymond Carver, Louise Glück, Stephen Dobyns, Marie Howe, and Gregory Orr, to name only a few.

I know, I know. I need another degree like I need another physical disorder, but you have to understand: I have wanted to get that WW MFA for over 20 years. My ex had said that I should go for it, but when I looked into it seriously, I got the usual spiel about not being able to afford it, and ya da ya da ya da. It’s not a cheap degree, but the people who run it are phenomenal, and they always have a staff that is noteworthy.

More pipe dreams, I suppose.

“Words say simultaneously too much and too little. This is why they are perfect for communication, most people’s lives operating in the uncomfortable balance between too much and too little. Nothing more precise.” ~ B.K. Loren, from “Word Hoard” in Parabola, v.28, no.3, August 2003

I looked for the Loren essay (quote above) online as it seemed like it would be quite interesting, but I couldn’t find it unless I order a back issues of Parabola, which I’m not opposed to doing, but getting the essay for free is far more appealing. But I think that anything that’s titled “Word Hoard” would probably be a good read.

Reyjavik, Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)

But getting back to the idea of school, more school for me, my loans will be discharged as of October of this year due to my disability. It’s the one good thing to come of being disabled, having my school loans forgiven.

Frankly, I’m all for forgiveness of school loans. I don’t believe that people should have to decide between rent and paying back their school loans. I’m not saying that people should default on loans; rather I’m saying that there are definite situations in which individuals who have taken out school loans find themselves in positions in which they are unable to repay those loans upon completion of their educations.

How does one repay a school loan if one doesn’t have a job? Another Sisyphean challenge.

Oh don’t even get me started on the whole idea of political hot buttons (school loans being one of them). I’m quite sick of politics at the moment, quite sick of all of the crap from the right about women’s health and women in the workplace. A rich woman who stay home to take care of her children is doing the hardest job in the world, but a poor one who stays home to take care of her children is living off the system, is abusing the welfare system. Geez. Not going to go there, refuse to go there, well, perhaps a post at a later date.

“Literature, the most seductive, the most deceiving, the most dangerous of professions.” ~ John Morley

Let’s see, in other aspects of my mundane life . . .

I watched the first part of Titanic (yet another one) on ABC the other night. Didn’t bother watching the second part. I watched because of some of the people who were featured in it, like Linus Roache, but even he couldn’t save the overblown script. Titanic has been written about by so many people in so many ways. There have been movies, documentaries, conspiracy-theory driven stories. The whole gamut.

Vík í Mýrdal, Iceland Reykjavik Iceland by m'sieur rico (FCC)
I could live on this green patch of land...

I watched “Real Housewives of Orange County” last night, and I have to tell you, I am really sick of those women. A group of them went glamping, which is supposedly camping for the pampered without the camping stuff, like tents, sleeping bags, etc. They ordered their food and found out that they would have to cook it themselves over a fire pit, and you would have thought that someone had told them that they had to give back their fake boobs and hair extensions. Pul-eez. Definitely over the whole Real Housewives franchise.

I also watched “Fashion Star” last night, and thought that I had found a bathing suit that I really liked. It looked good on the runway, but when I looked at it later online, not so much. That show isn’t “Project Runway,” but it will do until the real thing comes back on. So sue me, I like fashion even though it’s not really a part of my real world.

Wow. I’m even boring myself with this blathering about nothing. Time to stop.

More later. Peace.

*All images of Iceland taken from m’sieur rico’s photostream on Flickr.

Music by Royal Wood, “In the Garden”

                   

Come Trembling

In the country where believers eat the bodies
of the gods, we meet a priest who pulls a rope
of thorns through his tongue to make his mind

pure enough for a vision. He dances to music
we can’t hear and waits to come trembling
into knowledge. We don’t recognize ourselves

in his radiance, but we do in his suffering.
He passes through pain and into healing
without seeing the holy rendered visible.

He tells us the oracle died when she refused
to divine the future, but we find her tangled
in her own hair wearing a garland of burrs,

manacled to the bed. We ask for a better world
to die in, but she says, Submit to your freedom.
We tie new knots in her hair and swim

into the belly of a shark to retrieve the book
of signs. Rumors say the secret of life is sewn
into a dead man’s coat, but when we unearth him,

all we find in his sleeves are his fractured arms.
We want to believe, to split open the myth
and lie in it, return to original dark and be changed,

but the bones won’t yield to us, pages are missing
from the book, the gods remain so quiet
we hear water speaking between the stones.

~ Traci Brimhall

“Beauty is ever to the lonely mind a shadow fleeting; she is never plain. She is a visitor who leaves behind the gift of grief, the souvenir of pain.” ~ Christopher Morley

Entrance into Green by Wim Lassche (Pixdaus)

“Give sorrow words. The grief that does not speak whispers the o’er-fraught heart, and bids it break.” ~ William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Tuesday afternoon. Sunny and mild, low 80’s.

People around here are still reeling from the 5.9 earthquake from earlier today. I, however, slept through it and am glad that I did. Last night, I took three Seroquel to ensure deep sleep. You see, my mother-in-law died yesterday afternoon.

We had visited on Sunday, and it was obvious then that she did not have very long. She was not conscious, but her breathing was labored. We talked, and I rubbed her arms with lotion and massaged her hands. I cleaned her teeth as I knew that she would hate to have dirty teeth. When I left, I told her that I loved her and said that I would see her later. I had every intention of going back yesterday or today.

Now, she’s gone.

Her body will be cremated, and there will be a memorial service at her church. It will have to be on a weekend so that Ann’s daughter can get back from Virginia Tech. Since next weekend is a holiday weekend, it will probably be the weekend after that. She had said that she would like for her ashes to be buried beneath a tree or spread in the Pacific Ocean.

I have volunteered to write the obituary, which is what I should be doing at this moment but cannot.

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.” ~ Henri J. M. Nouwen

Ann called me yesterday afternoon. The rehab center had called her as she was on her way home from taking my niece to Blacksburg. I had Brett with me in the car as we were on our way to do school errands, and I called Alexis and Eamonn. I was also the first to reach Paul. In the midst of phoning everyone, my mother called, and I was crying. Her response was to tell me to stop crying.

I love my mother, but she refuses to acknowledge grief.

Actually, at this moment, my face and head hurt from the effort that I’m exuding not to give in to tears as I do not wish to be consumed at this moment. To be honest, I do not want to feel, do not want to acknowledge everything that is coursing through my heart, my head, my soul. It’s just too much at the moment.

Perhaps later, I will write about the woman that she was, the things she loved, the memories that I have. But not now.

Not now.

“Joy and sorrow in this world pass into each other, mingling their forms and their murmurs in the twilight of life as mysterious as an overshadowed ocean, while the dazzling brightness of supreme hopes lies far off, fascinating and still, on the distant edge of the horizon.” ~ Joseph Conrad

The sink is full of dirty dishes, the bed unmade. The laundry hamper is full. Frankly, I don’t care. I cannot make myself care.

I was supposed to see my pain doctor today, but I rescheduled. I don’t want to see anyone, don’t want anyone to ask me how I am, don’t want anyone to touch me.

If I had a shell, I would retreat inside and hide from the world for as long as it takes, but of course, I don’t have a shell. So I will just shut myself off for a while. Yesterday, I kept myself busy until the moment I got into bed, the logic being, of course, that if you are busy, then you cannot focus on other things; if you cannot focus on other things, you cannot think too much.

I always think too much.

I don’t want to think at all. I don’t want to feel anything, let alone sorrow, and certainly not grief. I’m not in denial. I know what has happened, or at least my brain knows. But I am in postponement. I actively choose to wait to feel. This membrane between normalcy—the moments in which everything is as we know and expect it to be—and loss—after everything has changed—is far too thin. I have chosen not to let the knowledge of her death reach my heart yet.

Not yet.

This is all for now. Let me close with these words:

“Listen. To live is to be marked. To live is to change, to acquire the words of a story, and that is the only celebration we mortals really know. In perfect stillness, frankly, I’ve only found sorrow.”

~ Barbara Kingsolver, from The Poisonwood Bible

“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” ~ Anne Sexton

  

   

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.”~ Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
Barbara Kingsolver, author

 

Wow. Can I just tell you how good it felt to put up a  post yesterday? I know that I didn’t exactly reveal any great truths or ponder any of life’s deep mysteries; nevertheless, it felt good to write something. Since my computer died, I’ve been spending more time on tumblr, reblogging other people’s pictures and quotes, which is always nice as far as finding new things,  but just isn’t the same as moving some words around the page.  

So much has been happening on the political front, but I’m not in the mood to castigate Neanderthal thinking tonight. Instead, I thought that I might just write and see what comes to me—open the window, so to speak, to allow whatever thoughts are drifting by to coast inside and cogitate a bit.  

“You see, I am a poet, and not quite right in the head, darling. It’s only that.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay, poet

 

I found out yesterday that Brett hasn’t been taking his medication, not for about five days. I am of mixed feelings about this. I mean, he seems to be doing okay, and perhaps without the steady stream of stress from school he really is feeling balanced at the moment. However, he starts college in less than a month and a half, and if that’s isn’t a stress inducer, I don’t know what is.  

I do understand his desire to be off medication, to be normal, as it were. I often think of being without medication (not pain medication, but the other kind). I know that as far as writing, creating, it is easier without medication than with. I know from  times past that the highs and lows, the keen sense of soaring when things are good, and the abysmal sense of falling when they are not—these undulating moods can be like a drug to the one who is being tossed about on the waves.  

Pain can be addictive. Pain can make the sufferer feel more alive. Pain separates the anguished from the even; the heady ride into the unknowing can be positively euphoric when compared to notions of normalcy. The years that I spent without medication, immersed in my grief and pain were some of my most prolific as far as churning out pages and pages of angst. But really, how much of it was good, was readable? How much of it would I put out there for public consumption? I do not think that I can answer that honestly, and certainly not without bias.  

“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes. ~ André Gide, Journals, 1894
Andre Gidé, author (LIFE 1947)

 

Those of you who have never ridden these waves probably find me incomprehensible. How could anyone possibly enjoy suffering? Well, enjoy is not the best word. I don’t think that anyone enjoys suffering (well, almost anyone). It’s more that the suffering becomes so entwined in the very fiber of being that to be without it feel as if a hollow has replaced the niches in which the pain and suffering resided.  

Consider Emily Dickinson. Hers was a life of complex solitude that led to pages and pages of contemplation about life, death, grief, spirituality, hope, and pain. Dickinson’s poems often expound on the idea of what life must be like for other people—their dreams, sorrows, etc.:  

I measure every grief I meet
   With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
   Or has an easier size.  

I wonder if they bore it long,
   Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
   It feels so old a pain.  

I wonder if it hurts to live,
   And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
   They would not rather die.  

That no one found the poet’s written pages until after her death reflects her intense need for privacy. Perhaps Dickinson believed that no one else would be able to comprehend that of which she spoke, that no one else would care to share her intimate thoughts. Of course, many years later Dickinson has become a mainstay in the American literature canon.  

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle
Anne Sexton, Poet

 

Does the individual need to be mad to be an artist? Of course not. Is there a tinge of madness in many artistic souls? Probably.  

I think that it, this kinship with madness, comes from feeling too much, that there must be something in the artistic temperament that makes bearing witness to life and death, love and hate, elation and despair—that makes the knowing too hard to be left untold. Hence, reams and reams of poetry and prose, canvases awash with emotion, photographs that capture that absolute essence of a moment in time, songs that run so deep that listeners weep upon the hearing; sculptures, carvings, tapestries, mosaics, and architecture that reflect a connection with beauty, a knowledge of pain, a reflection of loss.  

It’s all here. It always has been, ever since the first person took a finger, dipped it in blood or berry juice, and began to draw on a cave wall, ever since someone else took a rock with a sharp edge and hewed into a larger stone. The need to translate what is felt into something tangible is as ancient as time.  

“The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person.” ~ Frank Barron
Pablo Neruda, poet

 

So, the question perhaps is whether or not to medicate the artistic mind. To what end? To allow that person to become more normal? To bring that person some sense of peace? Who decides just what is acceptable, what is normal? Can peace of mind be induced chemically?  

Or is the call for medication more for those around the artist so that the surrounding family, friends, whatever, can live life with fewer disruptions caused by the shifting moods of the odd one? You know, the one who doesn’t really fit in, who has never really fit in—the outsider.  

But consider this: Often when not medicated, the artistic individual will turn to other sources for calming or for stimulation. Alcohol? Heroin? All of it? How many creative geniuses has society lost to the vices employed as balms to the tortured soul?  

  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning (opium)
  • Ernest Hemingway (alcohol)
  • Beethoven (alcohol)
  • William S. Burroughs (heroin)
  • Kurt Cobain (heroin)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay (alcohol)
  • Tennessee Williams (alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates)
  • Charlie Parker (heroin)
  • Jack Kerouac (alcohol)
  • Hunter S. Thompson (anything and everything)

And then, of course, are the artists who were depressed, suicidal, and/or addicted: Anne Sexton, Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, James Wright, and many, many others. Would Van Gogh have painted “Starry Night” if he were on lithium? Could he have even envisioned those passionate swirls with all of their intense aching if were pumped full of prozac?  

Just wondering. More later. Peace.  

                                                                                                               

VII  

 

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”  

~ Pablo Neruda from Still Another Day  

                                                                                                              

Music by  Neko Case, “Furnace Room Lullabye”  

  

“Life is a spell so exquisite, that everything conspires to break it.” ~ Emily Dickinson

 

Virginia Woolf’s Writing Table, Monk’s House, by Gisele Freund

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson

Poets' Walk, Central Park, NY

I woke up speaking French again. Very disconcerting. However, as Corey pointed out, what would be more disconcerting is if I did not actually know French, but I was speaking it in my dreams. Granted, my conversational abilities are very limited, but for some reason, I dream in French occasionally.

It’s absolutely beautiful here today, a perfect spring day. That is, everything would be perfect if not for one thing: yesterday was opening day at the park that our house abuts. Opening day is exactly what it sounds like: the baseball season opening, which means lots of cars beeping their horns, the loudspeaker blaring at 9 in the morning, car alarms, and litter.  Every year, people park illegally in front of our house. I say illegally because of the no-parking signs and the fire hydrant, not because I don’t want them to park there. I try to warn people if I see them parking that they will get a ticket if the police happen by, but they usually just look at me as if I am being the neighborhood bitch.

Hello. Fire hydrant. Blocking it is a bad thing, remember? Oh well.

I’m very excited because season 4 of The Tudors premieres tonight. This will be the last season for the Showtime series, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Henry VIII. In this season, Henry will marry his last two wives (Katherine Howard and Catherine), get old and fat, and go to war. So far, season 2 has been my favorite.

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.” ~ T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Poets' Walk, Clevedon, UK

The news is full of sad things: the death of the Polish president and his contingent while en route to Smolensk, Russia for a memorial. According to news reports, the visit to the Katyn forest was to mark the 70th anniversary of the killing of thousands of Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret security during World War II, an action that led to a huge rift between Poles and Russians.

In Comfort, West Virginia, the bodies of the four missing miners were found, bringing the total number of those killed to 29. The Upper Big Branch mine disaster is the worst in U.S. history since the 1970 disaster in Kentucky. Apparently, the rescue crews walked past the four bodies that first day, but could not see them because the air was so smoky and dusty.

A Tennessee woman put her seven-year-old adopted Russian son on a plane by himself. The plane was going to Russia, and the ticket was one-way. The mother claims that the boy, renamed Justin, terrified her family by threatening to burn down the house with everyone inside. Now the woman’s family is claiming that the Russian orphanage lied to her about the boy’s behavior problems. So many things wrong with this story, not the least of which is the fact that the woman wasn’t returning a broken vacuum to Wal Mart. The adoptive grandmother bought the ticket, and the family arranged to pay a man in Russia $200 to take Justin from the airport and leave him at the Russian education ministry. A note was sent with the boy that read in part, “After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child.”

And on another sad note, Dixie Carter, star of television series “Designing Women” has died at the age of 70. I loved wise-cracking Julia Sugerbaker. Like the woman who portrayed her, she was smart, attractive, and took no guff from anyone. Funnily enough, some of my friends used to compare me to Julia Sugerbaker, can’t understand why. Carter was married to actor Hal Holbrook.

“your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose” ~ e. e. cummings, “somewhere i have never travelled”

Poets' Walk, Red Hook (Hudson River Valley), NY

One of my blog friends is packing some books to ship to me. I cannot wait. For me, nothing is better than a box of books, not even a squishy black leather Kenneth Cole purse, if that gives you any idea as to how much I love books. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a Kenneth Cole purse, but since no one is offering . . . Anyway, Kelly is a bibliophile like myself, so she understands just how dispiriting it is not to have books to read, hence her very generous offer to send me some books. In the future, I hope to participate in the Goodreads Book Swap, which is a wonderful idea.

If you love books but have yet to visit the Goodreads site, I suggest you do so soon. Goodreads is a great resource for readers in so many ways. Go to http://www.goodreads.com/. You’ll be glad that you did.

My ex called me last night, just to talk. Wow. I don’t remember seeing the news that hell had frozen over. No really, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a conversation that did not quickly escalate into an argument. He even sounded relatively sober, another first. I did suggest, very gently, that he might want to try to spend a bit more time with his mother as there is no way of knowing how much longer she will be around. I am one of the few people who can get away with saying something like that to him. His sister has tried, but he sees that as her way of trying to tell him how to live his life. I had heard that his girlfriend is moving here from Chicago. He confirmed that she will be here in July. That should be interesting. His last two serious relationships went up in flames. I hope this one works for him.

Now don’t be that way. I’m being sincere. As much as we have our problems—and boy, do we have our problems—I do wish him well. If for no other reason than the fact that when he’s happy, we get along better and can actually have adult conversations that don’t devolve into name-calling. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how Eamonn gets along with a new stepmom.

On that note, I think that I’ll close for today with an appropriate quote from Barbara Kingsolver:

“April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot wrote, by which I think he meant (among other things) that springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can’t keep, all passion is really a setup, and we’re doomed to get our hearts broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go out there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally . . . Come the end of the dark days, I am more than joyful. I’m nuts. “

More later. Peace.

The one and only Ray Charles singing “Georgia on My Mind.” Classic.

And for those of you who loved “Designing Women,” here is a classic Julia Sugerbaker moment:

“Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask, “Is life a multiple choice test or is it a true or false test?” . . . Then a voice comes to me out of the dark and says, “We hate to tell you this but life is a thousand word essay.” ~ Charles M. Schulz

Old Whiskey Barrel

“Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.” ~ Khaled Hosseini, A Thousand Splendid Suns

The reality that has been today is such a cliché that I think I might have to go outside and hug a tree before I put my fist through a wall. It’s a classic case of good news/bad news; why can’t it ever just be good news?

Corey has an interview set for tomorrow for the port security position. He is absolutely convinced that it will not go well. Somehow, I have to convince him not to dig this hole too deeply, or he will fall into it and not be able to climb out again. This is the good news, sort of.

This is the bad news: Corey’s parents, who have spent the past few months helping us to stay on our feet, are now facing a crisis of their own. It just breaks my heart. Corey is convinced that the dark cloud under which we exist has now spread to his parents, kind of a bad luck by association kind of thing. I try to remind him that they have their own good ju ju going in the form of their deep faith. Yet somehow, Corey has assumed the blame for this, too.

Sometimes, I feel as if this whole life thing is much too confusing. Just when it seems that I have figured out how things work, something happens to make me realize that I really know very little. Sisyphus comes to mind: continually pushing that big boulder uphill only to have it roll down again. No forward motion. No gathering momentum. No strong foothold.

Don’t mind me. I’m feeling lost and confused and very, very frustrated.

“I know the answer! The answer lies within the heart of all mankind! The answer is twelve? I think I’m in the wrong building.” ~ Charles M. Schulz

I am in the process of developing something, though. It’s much too tenuous to talk about in any detail. Let me just say that if this works out, it would be tremendous. It would mean that I have finally found that small magic porthole through which I might be able to touch my dreams. And no, it’s not a job. It’s a project, a big project that I have thought about for almost ten years. Let me leave it at that.

I sent out yet more forms today: three to pharmaceutical companies, one to my long-term disability carrier, and one to the company that is serving as my interface to the Social Security administration. I collected everything last night, and Corey took all of it to the post office today. As a result, my desk is much cleaner now. Well clean might be an overstatement—perhaps neater is more accurate.

I just had to pause to listen to “Vide Cor Meum,” which is playing in the background. I’m playing all of my YouTube selections. If anyone is interested in subscribing to my YouTube account, I believe that this is the link: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=1B61E79445B7518E. I’m kind of new at this whole YouTube account thing.

I told Corey that I want to make some videos of my own for some songs that I cannot find, but I don’t know how to go about doing that. I imagine I need some kind of program. If you are a YouTube person, some advice would be much appreciated.

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.” ~ Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams

Winter Stilllife

I took a look at my stats page yesterday, something that I haven’t done in a while. I always find it interesting to see who is linking here, and from which sites people are getting to my site.

I found a few new addresses, but it’s always a bit disconcerting to go to an address listed and find your own blog as part of a larger blog. I don’t really know how that works. I mean, I know about web crawling and spiders, and all of that, but it never fails to amaze me when I end up on things like a forum for psychologytribe.com. When I first began this whole blogging thing, I never anticipated having my blog name or url show up in some of the places that it has been featured.

Don’t misunderstand, I appreciate the exposure. I really do. I suppose it’s just that I’m still a bit ignorant as to the hows and wherefores of links and referrals. That being said, my two posts about beauty continue their unbroken reign in my top posts/most viewed, as does my post on The Great Gatsby. In fact, I just received a new comment on the Gatsby post from a 15-year-old girl who wanted to assure me that not all teenagers are mindless twits, which, of course, I already knew, but I was delighted that she took the time to comment.

By the way, I’m not ignoring the devastating earthquake in Chile. But writing about the quake in Haiti three times in a row took its toll on me emotionally. I am offering this link to an MSNBC slideshow featuring pictures from the quake in Chile, which was ranked 8.8 on the Richter Scale, one of the most powerful quakes to hit anywhere on the earth in over a century. Thankfully, the death toll is much, much lower than that in Haiti, mostly because of Chile’s stringent building codes. The quake, which hit 200 miles outside of Santiago, was especially destructive to the town of Concepcion.

Unfortunately, the tsunami that hit the coast after the quake was also powerful. The seaside town of Constitucion was hard hit by the surging tsunami, and hundreds of people are missing. Three waves hit after the quake, with the third one being the most powerful and causing the most damage.

Fortunately, the waves that passed Hawaii, Australia, Japan, and other places were much smaller than had been originally predicted.

That’s all for today. Images featured are more pictures taken after the snowstorm.

More later. Peace.

“When the Music’s Not Forgotten,” by Deadman (heard on an episode of “Criminal Minds”)