“Many many deep thoughts have visited me. And fled. The pen puts salt on their tails; they see the shadow and fly. Life ideas—that’s a bit thick. We’ve exchanged the clever for the simple. The simple envy us our life.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 29 November 1940

Federica Galli 1996 Pian delle Betulle acquaforte su zinco
“Pian delle Betulle” (1996, etching on zinc)
by Federica Galli

                   

“And that time, once so speedy and impatient, is now extremely slow in passing in certain hours of the afternoon, especially at the onset of winter, after the equinox when evening falls treacherously and the lights you weren’t expecting are switched on in the village . . .” ~ Antonio Tabucchi

Saturday, early evening. Rainy and cold, 38 degrees.

I’m baaaaack . . . Did you miss me?

So snow is in the forecast around here. Yesterday it was 60 degrees and beautiful. Of course it’s going to snow. What else would it do here? Secretly, Tillie and I are hoping for snow so that she can go galumphing, and I can take some pictures.

Federica Galli, Cascina Belluria, 1985, etching on zinc
“Cascina Bellaria” (1985, etching on zinc)
by Federica Galli

I know that I copped out this past week, but truly, I just couldn’t do it. I hope that I gave you a few chuckles and a bit of food for thought in my interim posts. I don’t know if I had a mild case of the flu (I did get my flu shot this year), or if it was an episode of fibromyalgia, but I was completely out of it, stuck in bed, no energy, alternating between chills and being too warm, an overall ague (love that word). Anyway, I’m on the mend, as if Brett, who was prescribed Tamiflu, and Corey and Eamonn seem to have escaped.

Speaking of Corey, he won’t be leaving until the end of the month. Apparently, the ship blew something (water pump?) while they were in the Azores, and now everything has been bumped by a couple of weeks. I’m mostly glad because we get to keep Corey a bit longer, but I had already gotten myself mentally prepared for him to leave, so now I need to adjust my thinking. Corey is bummed because he was ready and had set up the finances for the six weeks that he would be gone; now he has to adjust all of those scheduled payments.

Can’t win for losing, I suppose.

“Look / maybe this is the place we’ve been /
waiting for, maybe this place / is the day, inside us, inside each /
corpuscle, the day, that day, everyday is / inside, my body, your body,
everyday is / this thread” ~ Nick Flynn, from “Haiku (Failed)”

Yesterday I had an appointment with the neurologist in the new pain management group. I had told Corey pre-appointment that if this doctor wasn’t any different from the last one I saw in December, that I would have to find a new practice because I was very underwhelmed by doctor a who did nothing more than prescribe things.

Federica Galli 1981 Lanca Gelata, acquaforte su zinco
“Lanca Gelata” (Frozen Oxbow) (1982, engraving on zinc)
by Federica Galli

Turns out doctor b is wonderful, truly wonderful, and I am so glad. I finally have someone who will pay attention to all parts of the equation, who has come up with a plan of action to change my treatment. And most wonderful of all is that he consulted with me instead of talking at me, which is, as you probably already know, a rarity for a physician.

He is tackling my combined chronic pain and migraines in an aggressive way, and I have Botox injections for my migraines scheduled for March. Best of all, I never have to back to doctor a, who had foisted me off on his partners, which means that I never have to go back to the Portsmouth office, another thing for which I am grateful. I really couldn’t tell you just why I am so anti-Portsmouth except that it’s kind of a local thing, which is stupid, so I don’t really have a reason other than I really hate to go through the Portsmouth tunnels (either one) because they are sooo narrow and dark, and my claustrophobia really kicks in.

“Life is the farce we all have to lead.” ~ Arthur Rimbaud

I sat down to write hours ago, but then became distracted in trying to find attributions for my images, which are all by Italian artist Federica Galli, who died in 2009. I was able to find lost of images of her work, but very few had titles or years of creation, both of which I like to include whenever I insert works of art with my posts.

Anyway, hours later, I finally found the information on all of the images that I had chosen, but had found that I had sort of run out of steam, so I decided to have a hot shower and a cup of tea and then to try again. So shower, tea, biscotti (110 calories), not back again. Since I haven’t written anything in several days, I thought that I’d add some random observations from the past few weeks.

Federica Galli il giardino della Villa Reale a Monza 1996-7
“Il Giardino della Villa Reale a Monza” (Garden of the Reale Villa in Monza) (1996-7, etching on zinc)
by Federica Galli

Here they are:

  • Are there actually people out there who still listen to what Dick Cheney has to say? Why?
  • RNC Chair Reince Priebus (what kind of name is that) thinks that Republicans just need to smile more when delivering their message, which he does not believe needs to be changed. Smile? Really? This will fix what ails you?
  • Convicted pedophile and self-proclaimed prophet of the LDS Warren Jeffs just looks like a pedophile, know what I mean?
  • The pope is resigning. Conspiracy buffs proceed to salivate.
  • The people on the ill-fated cruise ship that lost power deserve a lot more than $500 after being given red bags in which to, er, empty their bodily waste. The embarrassment alone is worth at least $1,000.
  • No one remembers what Marco Rubio said in his SoU rebuttal because of the whole sweating thing.
  • The minimum wage should be raised. If you disagree, try to live on $9 an hour for one month, and then get back to me.

“So many things I had thought forgotten
Return to my mind with strange pain:
—Like letters that arrived addressed to someone
Who left the house so many years ago.” ~ Philip Larkin, from “Why Did I Dream of You Last Night”

I’ve decided once again that Valentine’s Day is a stupid holiday, and I kind of wish that I hadn’t bought everyone cards.

Life is too short . . .

  • to drink cheap coffee

    Federica Galli 1996 albero gelato al pian delle betulle
    “Albero Gelato al Piano delle Betulle” (1996, etching on zinc)
    by Federica Galli
  • not to enjoy good chocolate
  • not to have at least five types of tea on the shelf at any given time
  • to wait for the right time to see other parts of the world
  • to hate your hair and not do something about it
  • not to spring for a good cable package, one that includes BBC America, AMC, and Sundance
  • to think that pedicures are luxury and not a necessity
  • to eschew playing in the snow
  • to pretend that cookies aren’t a food staple
  • not to read poetry
  • to spend time with people you don’t really like (this one is from a roommate I had in college, and I appreciate it more as I get older)

“Every life is inexplicable, I kept telling myself. No matter how many facts are told, no matter how many details are given, the essential thing resists telling.” ~ Paul Auster

And some random thoughts, just because:

  • Carson and the Dowager Duchess are my favorite characters on “Downton Abbey”

    Federica Galli 1981 La Nevera, Acquaforte su zinco
    “La Nevera” (1981, etching on zinc)
    by Federica Galli
  • I keep telling myself that I could design/sew if I just had a sewing machine. This is nonsense, of course.
  • My dreams never included zombies until I started watching “The Walking Dead.” I blame Corey for this.
  • Apparently many insects are a good source of protein and have no fat. Knowing this still does not make me want to try scorpions on a stick. However, if the zombie apocalypse does rear its ugly head, I promise to rethink this.
  • Costco is selling emergency ration packages, anything from three days worth of food to weeks worth. Are their marketing people watching “The Walking Dead”?
  • Is it weird that I really want to own a good shredder?
  • And a sword?
  • In the last few years, I have reduced my news sources to “The Daily Show” and tumblr, and I am still probably more informed than most people in the U.S.
  • If I subscribe to NetFlix, I may never have to leave the house again . . .

That’s all for now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Birdy, “Just a Game”

                   

Oppressive Light

Two trees stand in the snow,
tired of the light, the sky
heads home—nothing nearby
where the gloom makes its abode.

And behind those trees,
houses tower in the dark.
Now you hear someone speak,
now the dogs begin to bark

The round, beloved moonlight
lamp appears in the house.
When again the light goes out
A gaping wound remains in sight.

What a small life to know
and so much nothingness nearby.
Tired of the light, the sky
has given everything to the snow.

The two trees dance with grace,
bend their heads and nod.
Clouds race across the sod
of the world’s silent face.

~ Robert Walser

(Revised version (w. restored rhyme scheme) of Daniele Pantano’s translation)

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” ~ Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Loch Maree, UKby Tobias Richter
Loch Maree, UK
by Tobias Richter

                   

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary sea-bird that opens its wings on the stake. Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Wednesday afternoon. Rainy and cold, 44 degrees.

Technology is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, technology allows us to connect with people all over the world at any given our of any given day. We can share what is going on in a country at war with itself in real time. Consider the Arab Spring. We cam share a sunrise on the other side of the world via real-time posts of photographs on networks like tumblr or Facebook or Twitter.

Isle of Skye: Talisker Bayby Tobias Richter
Isle of Skye: Talisker Bay
by Tobias Richter

Yet for all of its benefits, technology also serves to isolate us. I am speaking, of course, from personal experience.

It is so much easier for me to correspond with people in the various circle of my life via text or e-mail or comments sections than it is to get in the car, drive, and visit someone in person. For isolationists such as myself, this is not a boon. By making it so easy to maintain virtual relationships it has also become so easy to abandon real-life relationships.

What I am contending is not anything new or groundbreaking, but it does help to answer some questions that I’ve been pondering, namely, how is it easy for me to stay in the house for weeks at a time? That, and have I become boring?

Technology answers the first, and probably the second.

“I am infinitely strange to myself.” ~ John Fowles, from The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Bollhagen, Germanyby Tobias Richter
Bollhagen, Germany
by Tobias Richter

Perhaps I should have prefaced the former by saying that today is a bad day. I am now officially out of my antidepressant; my health insurance is in limbo awaiting reinstatement after we catch up on premiums; Corey is becoming more sullen with each passing day that he is not working or hearing from prospective employers. Granted, he is still officially employed, but he so wants to move to a position that does not take him away for 90 days at a time, so this time his hiatus is quite different from the last time.

Nevertheless, he worries, as do I, and both of us fretting makes for tension. Between my health insurance, the mortgage, and the utilities, our income is being eaten before it materializes. Neither of us wanted to be back in this position. It is far too stress-inducing. The term “financial cliff” is more than a metaphor for the nation’s current solvency, and that is unfortunate. At least we don’t have to have a super majority vote to rectify our personal cliff, which, I suppose, is somewhat of a comfort.

So yes, today is prickly. I’ve had Patty Griffin’s playlist running for the past couple hours, prompted in part by Izaak Mak’s posting of the song on NCIS last night (see below). I love her voice, but granted, her songs are not exactly happy feet music. Of course, I don’t really like happy feet music, do I?

“The unknown is an abstraction; the known, a desert; but what is half-known, half-seen, is the perfect breeding ground for desire and hallucination.” ~ Juan José Saer, from The Witness

I had my military dream last night; the difference was that I was not in the military, but I had been chosen to teach a class to a group of soldiers, all female. The strangeness began when we boarded a bus that then became a boat of sorts. It took us down this waterway that was a graveyard for vessels of all kinds, shapes, and sizes. I was wondering how the bus was maneuvering through all of this without hitting anything when I suddenly saw a pile of skulls out the bus window. The skulls were bleached white from the sun.

Cuckmere Bay, Seven Sisters, UKby Tobias Richter
Cuckmere Bay, Seven Sisters, UK
by Tobias Richter

As the bus continued through the water I saw more piles of skulls, some small and some so massive that they were cascading. I wondered how the military could allow its soldiers to come to their final resting place in wreckage, and it bothered me tremendously.

I realized that I had never seen a real human skull up close, only in film, and the starkness of the piles tore at me, but I could not show weakness in front of these female soldiers. I asked for a cup of strong coffee and tried to shake it off.

I awoke with a massive headache.

“To find is the thing.” ~ Pablo Picasso

So back to my opening statement.

My world has extended far beyond the borders of this house or this yard or this neighborhood. Beyond this city or this region or this country, and that is something I have always sought—to be a child of the universe, per se.

Each day I peruse pictures of nebulae, coastlines, ruins, architecture, pictures taken with satellites and phones. I see things that I wouldn’t have had easy access to even 20 years ago. I find this miraculous really. I mean, I know what’s going on in Namibia, Queensland, and Reykjavik. And if I am honest, I must admit that by expanding my horizons in this way I have also expanded my empathic circle.

Isle of Skye: Neist Pointby Tobias Richter
Isle of Skye: Neist Point
by Tobias Richter

By that I mean, I care so much more. Let me back up for a moment. When I was young, a child only, I saw pictures of the war on the news and in newspapers. I saw suffering as it was presented to me through the filter of editors, publishers and producers. My first glimpse of a crystal blue sea was in a book.

Now, I access such information without anyone on the other side deciding whether or not it’s a good idea to put this image or that story out there for consumption. This is both good and bad. It is good as it allows us—all of us who care to—allows us to see what’s happening, but without the filter of an editor or a producer, we very often encounter those things that are extremely disturbing.

Without an authority figure out there to decide what is best for us, we can literally see everything. Is it too much?

“There is pleasure in the pathless woods.” ~ Lord Byron, from poem of same name (correction; previously attributed to Jon Krakauer)

I don’t think that this is the kind of discovery that Thoreau had in mind, and part of me yearns for simpler times, but isn’t that always the way that it is?

Regardless of how misguided you think Christopher McCandless was when he went into the wilds of Alaska, there is still something admirable about his vision quest when looked at simply: He wanted to be able to find his own truth without outside influences telling him what he should do or how he should think.

Isle of Skye: Trotternish Highlandsby Tobias Richter
Isle of Skye: Trotternish Highlands
by Tobias Richter

I know that in many, many ways, that is the same thing that I have always wanted. Yet here I sit, allowing so very many outside influences into my life, pouring into my brain images of this or that or the other. I seek this deliberately, and in so doing, I contradict myself.

My friend on Titirangi Storyteller posted a beautiful image of a lighthouse on a craggy island. I was immediately drawn to this image much like the image in the section above, immediately understood what she meant about wanting to live there. But to live there would be, essentially, to live without all of the accoutrement of today’s technology. I am certain there is no wi-fi on that island, no cable, no BBC America, no tumblr, no Internet.

It’s starkness appeals to me, but could I do it? Could I abandon these tethers for that kind of freedom? And if I did something like this, would it actually be freedom?

I have no answers, only more questions.

More later. Peace.

(All images by Tobias Richter, used with permission.)

Music by Patty Griffin, “Not Alone” (from last night’s episode of NCIS)

youtube=http://youtu.be/chU5b7bgls4

                   

The Moment

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

~ Margaret Atwood

“People fall so in love with their pain, they can’t leave it behind. The same as the stories they tell. We trap ourselves.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Haunted

Medieval City of Albarracín, Spain, by Jose Luis Mieza (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“Nouns, verbs do not exist for what I feel.” ~ John Berryman, from “Epilogue”

Sunday afternoon. Blue skies, moderate temperatures, mid 70’s.

Medieval City of Albarracín, Spain, by Jose Luis Mieza (WC)

Corey is coming off three shifts, each with less than eight hours in between, which means that he’s exhausted. But he can’t complain. At least he might actually get 40 hours this week, a rarity lately.

I’m still on the residual effects of this last headache. I’ve tried not to take anything for the last day and a half as sometimes a migraine can actually be caused by pain medicine. Go figure. Logical, huh?

But because I haven’t taken anything, I’m sitting here, with these beautiful blue skies outside, squinting my eyes at the daylight. Perhaps I was a vampire bat in another life. I won’t even go into the throbbing in my temples. What’s the point?

Since I was home alone last night, I spent hours catching up on my “Law & Order Criminal Intent” backlog on the DVR. I’ve seen all of these episodes before, but they’re the good ones with either Goren or Logan, two of my favorite detectives, Lenny Briscoe being the all-time best, of course. Corey and I need to catch up on our backlog of “Luther,” which I’ve been taping off BBC America, another really great show. Perhaps we’ll be able to watch tonight.

I know, sad commentary on my life that the thing that I’m currently looking forward to is watching more crime dramas . . .

“We live in a system that espouses merit, equality, and a level playing field, but exalts those with wealth, power, and celebrity, however gained.” ~ Derrick Bell

Medieval City of Albarracín, Spain, by Jose Luis Mieza (WC)

So, my last post was a bit of a downer, eh? Sorry about that, but that’s just how I roll . . . as in not too well or too lightly.

I’ve started to follow a blog on tumblr called “We are the 99 percent” (I’ve added the link to my blogroll on the right if you’re interested). Talk about depressing. The stories on there are so heart-wrenching, and completely relatable—people who were laid off in 2008 who still haven’t found jobs, people who have lost their homes, people who were living on their savings that has long since run out, and on and on.

It actually makes me ashamed to complain. As I’ve said, I know that while we are definitely within that 99 percent, we are still lucky. We haven’t lost our house, and we manage to keep food in the house and the utilities on. And while I’m on disability, at least it’s more than a few hundred dollars a month.

So many of these stories involve people who have worked hard all of their lives only to now find themselves without anything, and then there are the young adults who pursued the so-called American Dream: went to college only now to find that there are no jobs or that jobs in their fields pay the bare minimum and don’t offer any benefits.

What kills me are the people who comment about how the Wall Street protestors and others are whiners. I mean, come on. This country bailed out Wall Street when it could ill afford to do so, and how much of that money has been paid back? How many on Wall Street still receive multimillion dollar bonuses? How many of those large corporations are paying taxes at unbelievably low rates while so many of us pay at 25 percent or more? If this is whining, then hell yes, I’m whining.

“I lie in the dark
wondering if this quiet in me now
is a beginning or an end.” ~ Jack Gilbert

Medieval City of Albarracín, Spain, by Jose Luis Mieza (WC)

What kind of brings me up short is the realization that even if I had applied for that job, the chances of my getting hired, even with my experience and background, were slim at best.

Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

Almost every job I’ve ever had I kind of fell into, wasn’t necessarily looking, or only submitted an application on an off-chance. I guess that kind of thing doesn’t happen any more. I mean, my first real job after graduate school I had applied for an admin job, but the guy who interviewed me said, hey, we’re going to be needing an editor soon. Wouldn’t you rather have that? Bingo.

I went to work at the museum part time, and within three months it had turned into a full-time writing position. I took the retail job as a fill-in to get me back on my feet, and within three months I had been promoted to manager. After my dad died, I was so depressed and out of work. I applied for the marketing director’s job with the realtor never even thinking I’d get an interview, and I got hired. I applied to GW on day because I happened to be cruising the want ads on a slow day at work. Bingo again.

That’s not to say that it’s always been that easy, as I’ve lost a few jobs, for reasons I never really understood, within that probationary period, two back-to-back. Losing a job sucks, big time. The crushing blow to the self-esteem, the complete loss of faith in your own abilities, and then the running commentary from my mother about how this will go on my permanent record . . .

“Natures of your kind, with strong, delicate senses, the soul-oriented, the dreamers, poets, lovers are always superior to us creatures of the mind. You take your being from your mothers. You live fully . . . Whereas we creatures of reason, we don’t live fully; we live in an arid land, even though we often seem to guide and rule you. Yours is the plentitude of life, the sap of the fruit, the garden of passion, the beautiful landscape of art. Your home is the earth; ours is the world of ideas. You are in danger of drowning in the world of the senses; ours is the danger of suffocating in an airless void . . . You sleep at your mother’s breast; I wake in the desert. For me the sun shines; for you the moon and the stars.” ~ Hermann Hesse

Medieval City of Albarracín, Spain, by Jose Luis Mieza (WC)

Anyway, moving along . . .

Van Morrison is singing “Into the Mystic,” one of my favorite songs. Such a wonderful singer and songwriter, and his voice has only gotten better with age.

So an acquaintance, if that even, referred to me as “that fat woman.” Whoa. Talk about being brought up short. I mean, I know that I’m carrying extra pounds, and I would certainly not describe myself as svelte, but fat?

This from a man with a terrible short-man’s complex. I know. Consider the source . . . but how many of us can really do that, put something into perspective to see it for what it really means or reflects?

Not me. I’ll admit it. It’s easy enough to say, consider the source, but sheesh. So I dreamed that I was getting liposuction on my belly, which is pillowy. And in my dream, the doctor told me that I would only lost 15 pounds with the procedure. So I had to think about that. Was it worth it to undergo this surgery only to lose 15 pounds?

The reality is no. But would I like to get rid of my pillowy belly? You bet. Do sit-ups, right? Negits. Can’t do them any more. Used to do 100 crunches every morning of my life. That was when I had a waist. That ice pick that I have stuck in the base of my spine kind of prevents crunches. But I have do to something because I know that I can’t just take that remark in passing and not do anything about it no matter what I think of the source, so I’m going to try to give up my daily can of caffeine-free Pepsi.

We don’t really keep cookies or ice cream in the house, and there is my emergency stash of chocolate, of which I have not even finished the first bar. But it’s not enough.

That fat woman. Wow. No matter how much I try to negate it, the first time someone actually refers to you as being fat is painful.

“Even as you lean over this page,
late and alone, it shines: even now
in the moment before it disappears.” ~ Mark Strand, from “The Garden

So here I am, bemoaning my fate once again. Sometimes I really get so sick of myself. Sometimes I feel as if this page, these words are not doing me any favors. I mean, what am I doing here really?

Medieval City of Albarracín, Spain, by Jose Luis Mieza (WC)

Bitch, bitch, bitch.

Poor pitiful me.

I need to get over myself . . . if I only knew how. Solitude is both wonderful and awful. It allows time for reflection, introspection, deep thought, but does it not also engender a sense of belly-button gazing? Yet I love my solitude, my self-imposed isolation, love it until I don’t.

People who knew me in that time period after my ex and I split would not recognize the person I have become. Not because of physical changes, but more because of my complete lack of involvement in most things. I mean, how does a person go from working 12 to 16 hours a day, exercising every day, to doing nothing physical, nothing more physical than laundry?

Okay, if I were going to cut myself a break, which I am loathe to do, those 16 hour days? That constant movement that involved using my entire body to haul and move things (while in heels)? That’s probably what finally killed my back. I know that, deep inside. And yet again, I need to consider the source, the source of where I am now as opposed to where I was then.

As a single mother of three, I had to be on the go all of the time. That was my life. Humans are incredibly adaptable, whether it’s to activity or inactivity. I just know that no one ever referred to that fat woman.

Whatever.

More later. Peace.

Music by Van Morrison, “Sometimes We Cry”

                   

Letter from a Mental Hospital

From the heart of an old box of letters
I lift a small water-stained envelope.
Inside, a note card as thin and brittle as a frozen leaf
bears a message written fifty years ago
by a woman who shares my name.

She delivers no greeting, no sorry to have been away so long.
She leaves no record of visitors, rationed cigarettes,
group art, or the barren iceberg of treatment.

I imagine her listening to the ping of the radiator
on a snowy morning, seated in her nightgown and socks
by an open window. A bell rings in the hallway
but she doesn’t move toward her robe or her slippers or her brush.

I see myself sitting beside her, reaching
toward her dull pencil to place my fingers over hers,
hand on hand, gliding over the words, moving
like two skaters on a lake tracing the solitary line—
Please come get me.

~ Kim Lozano