“I am obsessed at nights with the idea of my own worthlessness, and if it were only to turn a light on to save my life I think I would not do it. These are the last footprints of a headache I suppose. Do you ever feel that? — like an old weed in a stream. What do you feel, lying in bed? I daresay you are visited by sublime thoughts. Dearest, do write to me; for I long for your words. Do tell me you wish to see me.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a letter to Vita Sackville-West dated 18 August 1929
Friday afternoon. Cloudy, drizzle, low 70’s.
It’s been a hellacious few days. My dog Shakes is not doing well. That I am alone in this, or rather, without Corey, is exacerbating the pain. I spent last night intermittently listening to him wheeze, a strange reassurance that he was still breathing. Sleep, when it came, was uneven and troubled.
We humans are a funny lot, what with our emotions, our needs, our desires. But I do not believe that we are the only sentient beings in existence. Each day, science reveals yet another way in which members of non-human species possess the ability to reason, the ability to care, the ability to protect. Sentience, though, is truly a double-edged sword: it makes us aware, even when remaining ignorant would be so much easier, even when an ability to emote sometimes results in feelings akin to being slammed against a cement wall, the wind knocked from our lungs.
Sentience is the price we pay for free will, I suppose, and sometimes, it is an exorbitant price.
I think that I finally understand that line from Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”—”I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” After all, if that were my only lot in life, I would not care about everything happening around me, would not be aware that the world is so much more—bad and good.
“What you can’t get over,
You must get past. Through a haze of smoke and rum,
What’s left of me squints at the odds and ends.” ~ Elton Glaser, from “Downloading the Meltdown”
Of course, because I’m already vulnerable, I came across a Springsteen song that I had completely forgotten about—”If I Should Fall Behind.” Man, what a song. And because I have a very morose personality, such songs pierce my heart quite acutely, make me think about what ifs, whens. hows.
The other day I was trying to tell Brett about the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, what a force he was, how he played the saxophone like he had a direct pipeline to the gods. How Springsteen and Clemons were an incomparable duo. Man, I miss Clemons.
Music has always been one of my primary ways of reflecting my mood, but of course, this is a trait many humans share. Music has been a part of life far longer than most people realize. In 1995, a Slovenian archaeologist discovered a bone carving with evenly spaced holes. This carving, believed to be about 43,000 years old, was named the Divje Babe flute. Other flutes made of bird bone and mammoth ivory have been carbon-dated as being approximately the same age.
I find it fascinating that early humans integrated musical sounds into their societies for whatever reasons. It is entirely possible that we have sought sounds to soothe for millennia. And we are not alone. Consider whale songs—those intricate, long underwater melodies.
“What uniform can I wear to hide my heavy heart?
It is too heavy. It will always show.” ~ Jean Cocteau, from The Holy Terrors
Don’t really know how I got off on that particular tangent. My mind is not exactly cohesive of late. More often than not, I realize that I am sitting in front of this computer screen, and nothing is happening—no music, no words, just my wallpaper and icons.
An example of the state of my mind? Yesterday I went to pick up prescriptions. I got home with only one, even though I had paid for four, and didn’t realize it until hours later. I haven’t been back to get the others as that would take so much effort. Just writing about it makes me tired all over.
Actually, this post is making me tired all over. I don’t know that I’m getting anywhere, that I’m saying anything. If feels more like an exercise in futility. I’ll leave you with a few things that I’m pondering:
- When will I be able to read again? I hate it when this happens, when I cannot still my mind enough to become absorbed in someone else’s words.
- Which plot idea will I actually begin to work on when I start this project?
- How long before I give up this project, convince myself yet again that I have nothing to say?
- How will I ever make it through the upcoming holidays? The thought of getting the house ready, preparing the meals—it all makes me so very, very tired.
- How can October be two-thirds over?
- How will I ever find the energy to make Brett’s costume for him?
- How much of my life has been spent in dwelling on the imponderables?
“I would like a simple life
yet all night I am laying
poems away in a long box.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “The Ambition Bird”
Just a few more . . .
- I have no idea as to what kind of images I can pair with these words. Nothing fits.
- My words feel hollow. I wonder if they read that way . . .
- I’m already regretting signing up for NaNoWriMo.
- At this very second, I have a spot almost in the middle of my scalp that feels like someone is picking at it with a sharp object.
- I did not realize until now that I am squinting.
- The last two items mean that a headache is coming.
- Can I please just hide in my bedroom until the year is over?
(Decided that sunset on the Oregon coast seemed to fit somehow.)
Music from the Boss, “If I Should Fall Behind” (couldn’t pick my favorite version, so I posted both)
The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart
How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.
~ Jack Gilbert