“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: