“If the earth needs night as well as day, wouldn’t it follow that the soul requires endarkenment to balance enlightenment?” ~ Tom Robbins from Jitterbut Perfume

Abstract: Branching Dream in Blues, by russell.tomlin
                   

“Where do colors go at night, before they are returned to us at dawn?” ~ Lorenzo

Sunday evening. Clear and chilly.

"Un Parc la nuit," by Jozsef Rippl-Ronai (ca. 1892-1895, Musee d’Orsay)

Last night I dreamed that I was fighting a dragon, a huge, purple dragon that swooped down over the meadow I happened to be in, and somehow, I escaped, only to fight a wolf with my bare hands. Weird, huh?

I love my husband; he shares everything me. For instance, his winter cold—clogged ears, cough, aches, and all. His symptoms began about four or five days ago. Mine hit their high point yesterday, so another day in bed for me. How does one repay such generosity of spirit? I’ll find a way. Trust me.

 I didn’t come near the computer yesterday, which should give you an idea as to how low I felt. Instead, I read another book, this one by James Rollins. Please don’t ask me the title as I haven’t the foggiest idea. I just breezed through it in between napping. It possessed my little grey cells only for as long as I was actively reading. Sometimes those are the best kinds of books: formulaic plots that don’t tax the mind too much but manage to pass the time suitably, i.e., smart, independent woman, strong man, mad scientist/curator/military leader, possible end of the world scenario.

In other news, I think that I have finally, finally gotten my health insurance fiasco fixed. My last e-mail exchange with the HR rep at GW seems to confirm this, which makes it less fantasy and more possible reality. I know. Stupid isn’t it when wishing that you had health insurance that you are paying for actually worked? So if everything goes as hoped, I can make appointments with all of the specialists that I need to see: the neurologist, the gastro guy, the gyn, the eye doctor, and the mood doctor. Oh, and the breast smashing-people.

I have so much to look forward to.

“. . . Man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life.”~ John F. Kennedy 

Tunisian Demonstrators Place Flowers in the Barrels of Soldiers' Guns from the majalla.com

On to other things . . . Corey has an aunt and uncle in Egypt. I’m not exactly sure as to their location, but I do know that they live in an American compound. Still, it’s a situation fraught with dangers. I will admit that I am not as up on the background that led to the current uprisings. My ongoing headache has greatly affected my usual perusal of news sites. But I did come across the following on my tumblr dash:

“The current popular unrest in the Arab world has a lot of lessons for Washington. Undoubtedly one of the most jarring is this: The leak of a simple series of cables from a U.S. ambassador in an obscure country — officially condemned by Washington — may have done more to inspire democracy in the Arab world than did a bloody, decade long, trillion-dollar war effort orchestrated by the United States.”

Michael Hirsch of The National Journal was referencing Tunisia in the above passage, which many feel has a direct link to what is happening now in Egypt. According to The Daily Mail, “A 2008 diplomatic cable leaked by the WikiLeaks site outlines how the U.S. State Department supported a pro-democracy activist and lobbied for the release of dissidents from custody.” The article goes on to state that “the protests were triggered by the overthrow of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Al Ben Ali. Street protests in Tunis focused on similar issues, including poverty and political repression.”

I must take the time to research the situation more thoroughly. If anyone has any good links, I’d appreciate the info.

“The trouble is, you think you have time.” ~ Guatama Buddha

Grass on Water by Russell.Tomlin

In less world-shattering news, I have decided to enter an informal poetry contest that one of my fellow tmblrs is holding (A Poet Reflects).

Now, I should probably explain a few things here for those of you who think that entering such a contest is old hat for me. First, and probably most importantly, to enter the contest, I must submit my work. This means that someone other than my computer and occasionally a few family members will see my poetic attempts. The idea of such a thing scares the ever-loving bejeezus out of me.

Second, I don’t practice my poetry often; dabbling might be stretching the reality a bit. I am much more comfortable in prose. But occasionally, a poem comes to me out of the blue. You would think (well, most logical people would think) that such flashes would inspire me to hasten to some writing utensil to put down the words that are bouncing around in my head so that I can work with them more. Nope. Don’t do it. Too scared.

Too convinced that my poems are hack. Too certain that there is no point. So after reading about this contest, that night in bed the opening of a poem came to me. I went over it several times, rearranging words, deleting some, inserting others. By the time I was finished with my musings, I probably had eight or ten lines. Now anyone else might get out of bed and write these lines down so that they could be revisited in the morning. Did I do that? No. I told myself, ‘self, surely you will remember all of this mental gymnastics in the morning. Go to sleep.’

And so I did.

“So many worlds, so much to do, so little done, such things to be.”~ Alfred, Lord Tennyson

"Chinese Lanterns at Night," by Thomas Watson Ball

 Of course I did not remember. This is the third thing in the list of things you should know about my poetry, and/or writing in general: I am my own worst enemy.

The next day, after bemoaning the fact that I could remember not even one line, I took a pad of paper and pen and sat on the bed to begin again. (I prefer to draft poems with pen rather than computer—probably the only kind of writing that I do with pen any more.) I was rather pleased when I drafted eight quatrains, rapid-fire. Rather surprised, too. Then I reread them and promptly put down the pen and paper and thought to myself, “Crap. Crap. Crap.” A few hours later, a totally new opening came to me, and having learned my lesson somewhat, I wrote down the new opening. Then I left everything alone so that I could mull and stew a bit (I view poems a lot like my homemade spaghetti sauce: it needs to simmer to reach its optimum flavor).

Okay, now here is the kicker: I put the three pages of pen-written draft in my book basket next to my side of the bed. At some point during the evening, I knocked over my cup of tea. Where did most of it land?

Do I really need to tell you? On my draft. I spread the soaked sheets of paper on plain white paper (one was written on both the front and back, something I rarely do) and left them to dry. It’s been two days. Have I looked at the pages to see if they are readable?

Of course not. Will I finish this poem in time to submit by the deadline? Who knows.

Perhaps the more interesting aspect is the journey that I have taken to write the poem rather than the poem itself. Then again, that just might be more of my self-justification for not doing what I need to do. Did I mention that a book of Pessoa’s poetry is the prize? That alone should motivate me to enter the contest.

I’ll let you know what I do when I know what I’m going to do.

More later. Peace.

Music by Jenny Lewis, “Godspeed”

                   

From “Silence,” by Edgar Lee Masters

I have known the silence of the stars and the sea,
And the silence of the city when it pauses,
And the silence of a man with a maid,
And the silence for which music alone finds the word,
And the silence of the woods before the winds of spring begin,
And the silence of the sick,
When their eyes roam about the room.
And I ask: For the depths
Of what use is language?
A beast of the field moans a few times
When death takes its young.
And we are voiceless in the presence of realities—
We cannot speak.

“There is no later. This is later.” ~ Cormac McCarthy

 

 Old Red Barn (December 2009) by L. Liwag©

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” ~ Buddha

Not going to write about Haiti tonight. It’s too emotional, and three posts in a row are enough, for now. Like my friend Maureen at White Orchid, my mind has been on the past lately, although I am not certain as to why. Well, the genesis began with a contact on Facebook from a person with whom I used to work at the Museum. From there, though, my mind has been traveling down different paths, and I have been dreaming of different people, so I thought that I would make tonight’s post about some of those people, not all of whom I would like to see again.  

For various reasons, I will not identify these individuals by name.  

“You never really know your friends from your enemies until the ice breaks.” ~ Eskimo Proverb

Frozen Stepping Stones by L Liwag©

First there was the gay man who I used to love. I knew that he was gay, but that did not stop me from loving him, from thinking that we could be together in one of those strange but true platonic relationships based on friendship and mutual respect. When I first met him, I thought that he was funny, talented, and kind. It was only later that I realized that yes, he was funny when he was high. He was talented at making people believe that he was what he was not, and he had a vicious cruel streak that spared no one.  

Why would I spend time with someone like that? I asked my therapist the same thing. She said, and I agree, that my marriage to my ex was so strained by the point at which this man entered my life that I was starved for attention, and my gay friend certainly gave me that. He took me to dinner, bought me things, even gave me a job when I needed one. But what I did not realize then but realize now was that there was a cost for everything.  

Yes, my marriage was already in trouble when I met this person. My ex and I were spending more and more time apart and with our separate groups of friends, but I know that spending time with this person did not help an already-strained situation. In the end, I finally broke with this person when he revealed his nasty true self by involving my mother in a situation over which I had no control.  

When Corey and I got married, I wanted to use my friend as my caterer. I gave him a $1,000 cash deposit. Our wedding was small, and we wanted to keep it intimate, so the catering was pretty straightforward. One thing that I did not count on was that when Corey and I went away for our honeymoon, my employer’s payroll company direct-deposited my check into my savings account. As a result, the checks that I wrote to the caterer, florist, and someone else (cannot remember who), all bounced.  

This was not my fault. I had no way of knowing that my money had been deposited into my savings account as I was out of the country. When we returned from our honeymoon, I walked into a firestorm. This person, my supposed friend and one-time companion, had been calling my mother, telling her horrible things about me. The worst part was that she believed him (of course). I haven’t seen him since my wedding, and as far as I’m concerned, hell can have a raging ice storm before I would give him the time of day.  

Is that gracious of me? No. But I have a long memory, and some things should not be forgiven.  

“It takes your enemy and your friend, working together to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Winter Stilllife by L. Liwag©

Then there was the friend who was a friend but then she wasn’t. I know that most of you have had this kind of person in your life. To be honest, I have found that when it comes to other women, in most cases my relationships tend to be more complicated than say my friendships with men, and this particular relationship was incredibly complicated. This female friend and I grew very close from working together on so many projects. We spent time together outside of the office, and she became very involved in my life.  

But it was a taxing relationship. To her credit, she was going through a bump in her life, learning more about herself and her own marriage, but it caused her to be needy, and I tried to help fill that need. Let me pause here to say that this is precisely how I get into trouble in almost all of my female friendships: by trying to be there for them to the point that I begin to lose myself or to have my judgment clouded.  

Anyway, the thing was that she talked about me to other people, and I knew this. She also never hesitated to let me know what other people were saying about me. It bothered me, of course, but my response was passive aggressive: Do nothing but be hard to get along with. Another thing about this person was that she was extremely judgmental and did not hold back with her pronouncements. Granted, I was pretty judgmental myself back then, so that part of our personalities probably meshed well.  

Our relationship didn’t exactly die; it frittered away. We stopped working together on projects, and what had brought us together no longer served as an adhesive. My relief at not having her in my life is a sad reflection on my own state of mind at the time. Instead of working on the relationship, I just let it go. When I think back on my state of mind at the time, it was precarious at best. It was just before I made the final decision to end my first marriage, a long, painful process that had only one possible outcome. The truth is that it was just too hard to be around some of the people from my past. What that says about me I don’t know.  

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him, his own.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

Bird Feeder in the Snow by L. Liwag©

And then there is another woman from the same time period with whom I became friends. What I remember the most about this woman was her grace. She was (probably still is) intelligent, articulate, and calm. Oh, she could get riled, but in the face of some pretty nasty situations, she always held her own.  

What I remember most about our relationship is that she truly nurtured me, and we respected one another. She told me that I was talented, and she gave me a forum in which to express my talents. People like that drop into our lives seldom, but how they affect our lives stays forever.  

As with most people, we drifted apart more from circumstance than anything else. Our jobs took us into different places, and she moved out of the area. I have since learned that during the time that we have been apart she has been very productive. I wouldn’t expect anything less from her.  

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

I’m not exactly sure what made me make that little trip through the past. I believe that it was Lee Iacocca who said that when you die, if you have five good friends, you’ve had a good life (or something similar).  I agree.  

People come and go throughout our lives. Some things are constant, and some people are constant. Some friendships last a year, while others last a lifetime. The length of the friendship does not determine the quality. What makes the friendship valuable, worth the time that you have invested, is if when you think of that friend, a smile crosses your lips and your heart feels a sense of peace. Otherwise, what was the point? I only know that “in my life, I’ve loved them all.”  

More later. Peace.  

(More pictures from our December trip to Ohio in the blizzard)  

The incomparable, divine Bette Midler singing “In My Life”  

   

  

   

                                                                                                                                   

Lyrics to Lennon & McCarthy’s “In My Life”  

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all
  

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I’ll love you more  

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I’ll love you more

“The tongue like a sharp knife . . . kills without drawing blood” ~ The Buddha

contemplation-too1

Contemplation Too, by L. Liwag©

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Ling Chi

I was listening to the radio this morning on my way to the doctor, and I heard a quote that I had not heard in many years. John Mar, co-head of sales trading at Daiwa Securities SMBC Co. in Hong Kong was discussing the worldwide stock markets, and he likened the situation to “death by a thousand cuts.”

The quote itself is actually Chinese and refers to a form of torture and execution known as Ling Chi. The punishment, which was used for high treason, dates back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279). The cuts would usually be made on the arms, legs and torso of the criminal, the “thousand cuts” an exaggeration referring more to the humiliation the accused would suffer before the final decapitation (http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Death-by-a-thousand-cuts).

braveheart_ver3

Of course, the Chinese were not the only ones to use this form of torture  and execution; their name for it just happens to be more poetic. The Inquisition was very big on meting out small measures of pain to the body in various ways before final decapitation. And who can forget the final scene in Braveheart in which William Wallace’s body is made to suffer various assaults in an attempt to make him confess his sins before his decapitation.

The “thousand cuts” have become a metaphor for any kind of slow, painful endurance, for anything from economics to failed business models to closing hospitals. It’s not just the one big thing that causes the death or collapse, but sometimes, lots and lots of small ones that, in the end, prove too be to painful to overcome.

The First Cut Isn’t Always The Deepest

Which leads me to my own interpretation of death by a thousand cuts. In pondering the phrase, it seems to touch much more on the soul than the body. By that I mean that the physical body can withstand pain, a lot of pain in various forms. But the psyche, the esse that makes us who we are, that is a different matter.

When asked to consider the source of pain to the psyche, most people would reach far back, to that first cut, the first cut that stays with memory, that has become so insinuated that it cannot be forgotten. Some of us have fewer cuts, some have more. For a lucky few, the cuts make no lasting marks, just faded memories of something bad, much like the wolf in the story that had teeth but never had the chance to bite.

For some, the cuts are a bit deeper, leaving reminders of troubled times, but no visible scars. And then for some of us, the cuts trail through our lives like a ribbon around a maypole: wound in and out and around, a leit motif to our lives, no matter how far we travel to escape them.

“The most unkindest cut of all” ~ Shakespeare

Amidst doubt, incertitude, and dismay, we may look back on some of our cuts—those we’ve received and those we’ve given—and realize that we have drawn nearer to the thousand than first we believed. We may wish that we could undo the harm we have perpetrated, or we may wish to exact our own harm upon those whose cuts have gone deeper than others before them. We may wish ill upon those we’ve watched who have cut others without a backward glance. We may wish we could enfold in grace those whose cuts are freshest and still bleed.

I have no answers to this conundrum. Perhaps the balm for these wounds comes in recognizing that they exist at all and then trying to leave the scars to heal. Perhaps not.

The unkindest cuts: why do you talk funny/your eyes look funny/chink/flip/who does she think she is/you’re not some princess/just think happy thoughts/why can’t you be happy like other people/it’s a brain tumor/you like to be unhappy/she taught me how to love/fuck you/it’s just not working out/I don’t understand what the big deal is/I didn’t lie I just didn’t tell you/you’re crazy/it was just something to do/I’ve never done it before/you are so uptight/it’s a tumor in the pancreas/about six months/don’t tell me that again/it’s always the same story with you/are you gaining weight again/I wouldn’t give you anything if you were dying/what’s going on with your chins/you have a tumor on your ovary/do we have to play with her/I only thought about doing it one other time/you are a lying bitch/she’s pretty in a different way/I told her I would tell you when you were old enough/you aren’t being a mother to your daughter/you look fat in that/what on earth are you wearing/I just want to die/don’t you want to know what’s on these disks/I’m not close to my mother/you are such a bitch/just do the paperwork/are you ever going to do anything with your life/your daddy would be so disappointed in you/I’m so glad that your father didn’t live to see this/I hate you/why don’t you look like everybody else . . .

More later. Peace.