“But I write badly. The part of my brain in charge of writing ability refuses to work.” ~ Anton Chekhov, “A Boring Story”

Writer Carson McCullers, by Leonard McCombe

“My memory has weakened, my thoughts lack consistency, and each time I set them down on paper it seems to me that I’ve lost the intuition of their organic connection . . . And, remarkably, the simpler the writing, the more excruciating is the strain.” ~ Anton Chekhov, from “A Boring Story”

Sunday evening, ice and snow, and very cold, 17 degrees.

Well, sleep eluded me again last night until after 3 a.m., which, relatively speaking, is not bad for me. There have been times when I’ve been in the midst of an insomnia bout, I’ve watched the sun rise and still couldn’t close my eyes. And yet again, I awoke with a migraine. Nevertheless, I’m going to make a true effort to write today. No promises that I’ll have anything interesting to say.

Eudora Welty Autographing a Book in 1984, by Terry James

Last night the wind whipped around the house with a sound resembling a freight train. I worried about the horses as they still don’t have a shelter. Corey assures me that as long as they have enough hay that they will be able to produce sufficient body heat. They still manage to get out of the pasture each night, and the ringleader, Napoleon, leads them to the front porch.

He’s a beautiful horse, but he’s already spoiled. When he hears me at the front door calling the dogs, he lumbers over and waits for me to give him treats, and often when I do, he comes all of the way to the door after I go inside as if he wants to come inside. Yesterday, both he and the mare Sassy stood at the side window looking in at us as if to let us know, in case we had forgotten, that they were out there.

I no longer wonder if it’s possible to spoil a horse.

“One morning you wash your face,
look into the mirror,
find the water has eroded your features,
worn them smooth as a rock in a brook.” ~ Daniela Gioseffi, from “Some Slippery Afternoon”

So my current problem with words? Probably a myriad of reasons. I still haven’t gotten my other mood stabilizing medication because there’s presumably a shortage, at least that’s what the pharmacy says, and of course, the ongoing lack of my pain maintenance medications doesn’t help things. Added to that the current state of my back is horrendous—it hasn’t hurt this much in years.

Dorothy Parker at Work at Her Typewriter in 1941

I know. I know. Nothing new, but between the ongoing winter depression and the recurrent pain, it’s hard to string thoughts together coherently. The physical always affects the mental, and vice versa.

And so I sit down at my little workspace (because my desk still isn’t set up), and I open YouTube and start playing news stories or true crime stories to run in the background, and then I open up a new screen for a draft, and I stare . . . that, or I work on putting quotes together for future drafts, or I spend some time on tumblr looking for more quotes or images for future posts, and then . . . after wasting more time, I go back to the draft screen, and nothing.

“. . . I hope to learn from you how things really are, why it is that around me things sink away like fallen snow, whereas for other people even a little liqueur glass stands on the table steady as a statue.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Description of a Struggle”

The house still isn’t completely organized or painted, mostly because Corey has so much to do with all of the outside things that need to be handled, that or he ends up unwillingly wasting entire days with Dallas who always proposes projects and then never gets around to them.

Vita Sackville-West in Her Tower Study at Sissinghurst in 1939

The truth of the matter is that Dallas has a drinking problem, one that seems to be getting worse. I don’t like to be around drunks. I’ve had too much experience with drinking problems, and it really gets to me. I mean Dallas has a good heart and good intentions, but as Corey says, Dallas just cannot stay on task; his mind flits from one thing to another, and as a result, little gets done.

I don’t regret that Dallas entered our lives; the relationship is definitely beneficial on both sides: he’s a lonely man who doesn’t appear to have much of a relationship with either of his children, and I have to wonder if that is because of his drinking. But I do feel sorry for him, and I do really try to be patient with him unless he shows up three sheets to the wind. I know that Corey, too, gets frustrated, but there’s little he can do besides try to keep Dallas focused. Still, the ongoing state of the inside of the house is really starting to get to me; I wish so much that I could do some of this stuff myself.

If wishes were fishes . . .

“The place of language is the place between me
and the world of presences I have lost” ~ Marie Ponsot, from “Imagining Starry”
Writer Clarice Lispector at Home in Rio de Janeiro, ca. 1973

I’m trying very hard, even it doesn’t seem like it, trying not to let things get to me, trying not to think about how my children are far away and out of touch, trying not to think about how there’s always so much to do, trying not to worry too much about Dallas and things that are out of my hands, trying to enjoy once again the act of writing these words . . .

. . . trying hard to be present in my life, which is so much harder than it might seem . . .

. . . trying hard to be thankful for what is here and not devastated by what is not . . .

. . . but no matter how hard I try, I just seem to find myself treading water, and I despise this more than I can say.

“I just can’t live an ordinary life, I can’t pass the time. I can’t organise myself, I don’t have ordinary motives anymore. I can’t even manage my body, when I go to bed I don’t know where to put my arms.“ ~ Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight

And I wonder if I have ever truly been present in my life, wholly present. I have this memory of my first husband asking me early in our relationship why I always worried about the future, always worried about what might or might not happen. I had no answer then, and I have no answer now.

Writer Zora Neale Hurston in 1955

I wonder if part of it is being an only child who always felt that I needed to be the mediator for my parents’ disjointed relationship. If I always worried so much about what might happen between them that I just got in the habit of always worrying about what might happen and never figured out how to just be present in today.

Or perhaps this inability comes from being a teenager and always wondering why I never felt as if I belonged. I had friends, a lot of friends. But still, there was always this feeling that these friendships were tenuous, dependent on my acting a certain way, a way that was acceptable, whatever that meant, and so I fretted and worried. No one ever made me feel this way. It was purely internal, and it went back years: In London I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my American accent and Filipino last name; In Norfolk, I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my British accent and Filipino last name.

I cannot tell you how frustrating it is. How can a person even begin to hope to be normal (whatever that is), hope to make her way through the days in any kind of pseudo normal fashion when everything is a question and the answers never seem to be available?

Anyway, more later. Peace.


Music by Coldplay, “O (Fly On),” extended version


With a Changing Key

With a changing key
you unlock the house where
the snow of what’s silenced drifts.
Just like the blood that bursts from
your eye or mouth or ear,
so your key changes.

Changing your key changes the word
that may drift with the flakes.
Just like the wind that rebuffs you,
packed round your word is the snow.

~ Paul Celan (Trans. Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh)

Advertisements

“The people dreamed and fought and slept as much as ever. And by habit they shortened their thoughts so that they would not wander out into the darkness beyond tomorrow.” ~ Carson McCullers, from The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

Charles Camoin Window overlooking the Port of Saint-Tropez - the Artist's Studio 1963
“Window overlooking the Port of Saint-Tropez, the Artist’s Studio (1963, oil on canvas)
by Charles Camoin

I always use what remains of my dreams of the night before.” ~ Eugene Ionesco

I’ve noticed something: when I’m away from home, I do not have the vivid dreams that I have here. I have no idea as to why that is. Perhaps it’s because whenever I’m away, I never quite settle, so my mind cannot drift the way that it does here. Anyway, I had a really wild one last night.

First, I dreamed I went to a tattoo parlor to get three tattoos: Two very small ones: an eternity symbol and an anchor, both on my wrists. Then I wanted a large tattoo of a swallow on my left shoulder. I talked to some people when I went in, and the friends who were with me were called back, but I kept waiting and waiting, and no one came to help me. Finally, I wandered into the back and shouted, “Is anyone going to give me my tattoos?” Two guys came up to me and said that they would do my tattoos.

Andre Derain Effect of Sun on the Water, London 1906 oil on canvas
“Effect of the Sun on the Water, London” (1906, oil on canvas)
by André Derain

I wanted plain black ink tattoos, but the artist who was going to do the swallow said that it would look better as a white tattoo. I didn’t want a white tattoo. Then we walked to another part of the parlor that was actually outside. As I was walking, I said, “Wow, that’s a great view.” The guy said, “what view?” I said, “the water, you can see the water.” He wasn’t impressed. The other guy said that he thought that the compass that I wanted (the anchor had switched to a compass) would look better on the nape of my neck. I said that I didn’t want a tattoo there. No one seemed to be listening to what I wanted.

Then the dream shifted to me being at my parents home, and I was reading the Sunday paper. I was so depressed because the paper was so small; all of the sections were folded into just one section. The death of the daily newspaper really bothered me.

Anyway, that’s about it for today. Just a note about the song: In my younger days, I did a Rickie Lee Jones thing, with the hat and the leather coat. Then the other day, this song popped up. Serendipity.

Music by Rickie Lee Jones, “Bonfires”

                   

In Memoriam

In the early afternoon my mother
was doing the dishes. I climbed
onto the kitchen table, I suppose
to play, and fell asleep there.
I was drowsy and awake, though,
as she lifted me up, carried me
on her arms into the living room,
and placed me on the davenport,
but I pretended to be asleep
the whole time, enjoying the luxury—
was too big for such a privilege
and just old enough to form
my only memory of her carrying me.
She’s still moving me to a softer place.

~ Leo Dangel

“Fact: Love does not come in a card. Love does not come in a basket.” ~ R.I.D. from Red Blood, Black Ink

Carson McCullers Ballad of the Sad Cafe

                   

Reblogged from inkskinned

Fact: Saint Valentine refused to renounce his faith and on the 14th day of February was beaten to death with clubs and beheaded. Over his bones, Hallmark has made a fortune in stale chocolates and constant reminders that if you are single on this day, you’ll be single forever.Fact: The word holiday stems from the term “holy day,” meaning a day of religious reverence. It turns out you can build an entire empire on sacred grounds, structures of cards and dying flowers. It turns out you can sell love in a package. I know this because one of my exes once opened her mouth and let the wasps fall out, a whole hoard of grievances about how a small handmade card wasn’t proof enough of how I felt – I wanted to explain that my love is not a roller coaster that climbs to the top on the fourteenth of the month, that I love steady and hard – but instead I sat with my head in my hands and a bottle of vodka by my side and apologized for ruining a day that was made up by a company.

It’s just that I find love in better places than in balloons and teddy bears. I find love in better places than romance movies. I find love, and maybe that’s what’s wrong with me: I don’t need a wedding ring to know that I’m happy.

I find love in the girl with hair like the sunset, always changing with the weather, a girl that picks up her soul and shares it with me no matter how many times I hurt her, I find love in her calm voice and her constant assurances that one day I will be better, I find love in her loyalty and friendship and honesty, I find love in her writing, I find love in our four-hour phone conversations that are only cut short because my battery is always dying, I find love.

I find love in a boy who is no longer with us but still brings a smile to my lips when I think of him, I find love in how his family still talks to me, how his sister is basically related to me, how once in a while she and I get drunk and cry a lot and feel better for it. I find love in healing, in getting over it. I find love in learning you can be hurt but still one day get better – that even if you’re not the same, you learn how to deal with being different.

I find love in a lady who can speak fluent spanish better than I can as a native speaker, I find love in how she holds herself together, I find love in how we have both stared into the darkness and neither of us will let the other one flinch, I find love in her hands, soft and stained with ink, I find love in her dreams that inspire me to find freedom, I find love in how she skins her knees but always stands back up again, I find love in how she opens her ribs for anyone who wants in because she is naturally trusting, I find love in how it doesn’t matter how many times other people will scar her, she always still opens her heart.

I find love in a boy who is all that I love and if he doesn’t know how I feel, I haven’t done my job well enough.

I find love in one of my oldest friends, a girl with blue eyes and brown hair and who carries the sun in the palm of her hands. I find love in how she knows I’m bad at connecting and still finds ways to bring me back home again. I find love in her endless cheer and incredible mind, I find love in how dance is really more of her language than it is of mine but at parties the two of us start doing combinations, I find love in her laughter that follows her like a train, how she finds light in the smallest things, I find love in her acceptance of working to make this society change. I find love.

Fact: Love does not come in a card. Love does not come in a basket. The harder you look, the more you will glance over it. Love is just a chemical imbalance, love is formulated as 5 + (-sqrt(1-x^2-(y-abs(x))^2))*cos(30*((1-x^2-(y-abs(x))^2))), x is from -1 to 1, y is from -1 to 1.5, z is from 1 to 6.

Fact: Somebody loves you. You are enough.

                   

Music by Elvis Costello, “Alison”

“I am interested in impossible embodiments. I wish to write; I wish to write about certain things that cannot be held. I want to create a sea of freely-flowing words of no definite form and shape waves of fluent exactness.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from Passionate Apprentice: The Early Journals, 1897-1909

                   

first-of-the-light-peter-wileman-proi02-w640h480
“First of the Light” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

“I live my own life and nurse my own wounds. It’s not the best way to live. But it’s the way I am.” ~ Jeffrey Eugenides, from Middlesex

Early Wednesday evening. Cloudy, 56 degrees.

Last night I had a cousin dream again. At first, we were in a high school, and we heard shooting, so two of us hid in a classroom beneath a science fair project. I thought it was a stupid place to hide. The gunman came into the room and just stood there. I tried not to breathe.

Peter Wileman Dawn over the Estuary 24 x 30 oil on canvas main
“Dawn over the Estuary” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

Then somehow we got away, and then we were on a ship, and the ship was constructed so that all of the decks opened onto the middle of the ship, which was a swimming pool, and I thought about jumping from the third deck down into the pool but then decided against it, especially after these figures in white robes began to round up all of the people in the pool. The robed people didn’t have faces. Then it was time to eat, but there wasn’t any food except for pears.

Then the scene changed and Corey and I were on some wildlife preserve on an island, and we had no idea how big the preserve was, and we were walking on these trails, and suddenly I was attacked by a giant frog that was the size of a small dog, and Corey was running from frogs and foxes. I finally found a map of the island and realized that we were never going to find our way back.

Make of it what you will, I only know that too much was going on, and I was so tired afterwards.

“I’m writing against my own blankness, to record
this life that I’m living mostly lonely
or hopeful.” ~ Nate Pritts, from “All Those Sweet Things”

I’ve had a hard time focusing lately. When I sit down to write, nothing comes. I’m thinking about a million different things: the situation in Steubenville, Ohio, the prevalence of rape culture throughout the world, whether or not what I write here is writing, the idea of privacy in a world filled with technological gadgets that wash away any veneer of privacy to which we might aspire, and how I’m so tired that there actually exists a school of thought that the concept of feminism is just another word for lesbianism.

Peter Wileman Red Horizon
“Red Horizon” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

Can you understand why I cannot focus? I have so very much to say, so many thoughts bouncing around in my head, but I am as yet unable to focus enough to write intelligently about any of it. Not to mention the whole thing about me having to take care of the bills and make the telephone calls and straighten out why my health insurance was cancelled once again and how that affected my upcoming doctor’s appointments and my medication refills . . . in other words—blech, double blech.

I did get a bit of a boost when I read selected sections of Ann Lamott’s Bird by Bird. Reading these published writers when they talk about how they write always affects me in two ways: At first I am excited, and then I’m depressed, first because what they have to say makes so much sense, then the downside of realizing that the perch from which they speak is one share by that group of writers of which I hold no membership—the published writer who is selling his/her work.

“Over time, the ghosts of things that happened start to turn distant;  once they’ve cut you a couple of million times, their edges blunt on your scar tissue, they wear thin.  The ones that slice like razors forever are the ghosts of things that never got the chance to happen.” ~ Tana French, from Broken Harbor

I also fear that one of my new medications is messing with my head as well as my body. Since I don’t know a lot about Verelan, I looked it up, and of course, I have a host of the side effects, but mostly the ones dealing with stomach upset and pain.

peter-wileman-blue-horizon
“Blue Horizon” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

Have I mentioned lately how very much I hate medications, doctors, medical tests, the medical industry in general, the medical treatment we receive, ya da ya da ya da? My neighbor’s elderly mother fell a few weeks ago and hit her head. She suffered from dementia. When when she got to the hospital, she must have told them she didn’t have insurance. She did. But the hospital was quick to do a CT scan and then send her home. Her son did not think she should be sent home. Then he noticed that her  discharge papers said self-pay. He called to straighten out the insurance problem. Meanwhile, she got very sick at home, wouldn’t eat, and ended up having a fatal stroke.

The MRI was not done on her until the second time she was taken in, and by then, it was really too late. She was 95. I would see her out in her yard pulling weeds. She talked to anyone who would listen. When her son tried to tell the hospital people that his mother was definitely not acting normally, they told him that they found no problems with the CT scan and insisted on discharging her.

I suppose I am lucky. I am still cogent and ornery enough that I insist on knowing what’s going on with my treatment. I won’t be ignored. But the stress of fighting for inherent rights as a patient certainly does not add to overall well-being.

“It is this backward motion toward the source,
Against the stream, that most we see ourselves in,
The tribute of the current to the source.
It is from this in nature we are from.
It is most us.” ~ Robert Frost, from “West Running Brook”

And then there are the raccoons. I know that I’ve mentioned them before, how Corey thought they were cute. Well . . . they are not huge, and they are doing terribly non-cute things like eating bags of dry dog food and opening the tubs in which we store chips and bread. Not cute, definitely not cute. These things are so fat that it sounds as if they are going to come crashing through the ceiling. Something has to be done. I have a solution but not the means by which to implement it.

eveningfallsovertheestuary24x30oiloncanvas_01-w640h480
“Evening Falls over the Estuary” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

And then there is the dry rot. I know in my heart of hearts we have dry rot forming beneath our bathroom because of the leaky tub. Corey doesn’t like to go beneath the house, and I don’t blame him, but if we don’t do some shoring up soon, one day I’m going to be in the shower and the whole bathtub is going to fall through the floor. Of course I will be the one in the tub when it happens because that is my own personal Murphy’s Law at work.

I know. I know. Bitch, bitch, bitch, but really, my head feels as if it’s going to explode from all of the worrying that I’m doing over these things—large and small. Add to this, of course, my ongoing worries about eldest son and his total and complete lack of direction in life as well as his significant drinking, my worries about youngest son and what he’s going to do with his life, worries about daughter and her continued withdrawal, worries about my mother who seems to be in the initial throes of Alzheimer’s.

It’s too much, I tell you. Too much.

“I am the shore and the ocean, awaiting myself on both sides.” ~ Dejan Stojanovic, from The Shape

And at times such as these I think longingly of that other generation of writers, the ones who subsisted on booze and cigarettes, the ones who never seemed to care how much or how little money they had, and still they pressed on, putting their words down on paper, sending them out, getting published, being read. I think of Carson McCullers and her penchant for drinking bourbon for breakfast, and a wee small part of me wishes that I could live with such abandon, but of course, I cannot because, well because that’s just not a healthy way to live, and I know that I couldn’t do that to myself.

violet-horizon-by-peter-wileman-165479
“Violet Horizon” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Peter Wileman

Two weird memories came to me in the car on the way home from taking Brett to campus today (will he ever learn to drive???). I heard the song “Closing Time,” which I heard for the first time many years ago when I was on a blind date with a firefighter. A teacher with whom I taught at the public school was married to a firefighter, and he had a friend who was looking for someone to date. Natch, a blind date was arranged. He was a very nice man, soft-spoken, attractive, and I felt absolutely no attraction to him whatsoever. I couldn’t wait for the night to be over, and I didn’t give him my telephone number. Of course, my automatic guilt mechanism kicked in and I wondered if I should have given him a chance, but I held firm.

The second memory came immediately after when the song “Come My Lady” came on the radio, and it was one of the first songs to which Corey and I danced, and he has always called me his butterfly. If I had gone on a second date with the firefighter, would I have ever made it to the point at which another man would call me his butterfly? Thankfully, I don’t really have to worry about that one.

More later. Peace.

All images by British painter Peter Wileman, President of the Royal Institute of Oil Pointers.

Music by Erin McCarley, “What I Needed”

                   

Words

Be careful of words,
even the miraculous ones.
For the miraculous we do our best,
sometimes they swarm like insects
and leave not a sting but a kiss.
They can be as good as fingers.
They can be as trusty as the rock
you stick your bottom on.
But they can be both daisies and bruises.Yet I am in love with words.
They are doves falling out of the ceiling.
They are six holy oranges sitting in my lap.
They are the trees, the legs of summer,
and the sun, its passionate face.

Yet often they fail me.
I have so much I want to say,
so many stories, images, proverbs, etc.
But the words aren’t good enough,
the wrong ones kiss me.
Sometimes I fly like an eagle
but with the wings of a wren.

But I try to take care
and be gentle to them.
Words and eggs must be handled with care.
Once broken they are impossible
things to repair.

~ Anne Sexton

When you consider things like the stars, our affairs don’t seem to matter very much, do they?” ~ Virginia Woolf

“Lake George, Autumn” (nd)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

                   

“The human heart is a lonely hunter—but the search for us southerners is more anguished . . .” ~ Carson McCullers

Monday afternoon. Overcast and humid, Temperatures creeping back to the 80’s.

Have I ever mentioned how very much I love the author Carson McCullers, so much so that I have always held Carson in reserve as a girl child’s name, not that I ever got to use it. I used to teach Heart is a Lonely Hunter to my American literature classes. It’s a stunning book, so well written and so tragic. The 1968 movie starred Alan Arkin as Singer, a deaf-mute, and a very young Sondra Locke as the teenage girl Mick. The movie is a wonderful adaptation of McCullers’s book, and I would show it to my class after we finished the novel. It’s one of those movies that holds up after time, mostly because of Arkin’s portrayal of Singer.

“The Autumn View from the Balcony” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Konstantin Yuon

I once read a biography by Virginia Spencer Carr about Carson McCullers called The Lonely Hunter. Born Lula Carson, McCullers preferred her middle moniker and legally changed her name to Carson when she was 30. The biography by was an in-depth look at the life of the troubled writer, who suffered from alcoholism and had rheumatic fever at a young age, which led to a series of strokes. She died in 1967 at the age of 50 as a result of a brain hemorrhage. (I’ve included Charles Bukowski’s poem about the writer, can’t remember if I’ve posted it before, but it’s worth seeing again.)

A contemporary of Truman Capote, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams, McCullers is considered to be a prominent writer in Southern Gothic fiction. In fact, Williams once called her the greatest living writer of our country, if not the world. Her characters suffer from acute loneliness and a feeling of displacement.

Just writing this makes me want to reread the novel and the biography, but that would mean that I would have to find them first.

“We are hurt into beauty.
And you, up in the balcony, rising
to your feet, applauding fiercely, look
down at what your own hands are doing.” ~ Paul Hostovsky, from “The Violence of Violins

Wednesday morning. Cloudy and high 60’s.

I couldn’t finish this post on Monday. Too much happened.

“Hemlock Pool” (aka “Autumn”, 1894, oil on canvas)
by John Henry Twachtman

When I got home from Lex’s, I took Tillie the lab outside to play stick. About half an hour later, she started to have seizures, and this continued for over an hour. I really thought that I was going to lose her. Brett and I did all of the things that you are supposed to do: kept talking to her calmly, kept her cool, even offered her peanut butter, which I’m not sure why this is a thing to do, but apparently it is. I also gave her a sedative, which eventually calmed her.

The entire time, all I could think was that it would kill Corey if Tillie died while he was not at home, and I was overcome with such feelings of guilt.

It was such an ordeal, but we are very lucky that she came out of it okay with no apparent damage. I’ve never had to handle it when she’s had a really bad seizure, let alone multiple ones. I have to say, just for the record, I really, really hate this, all of it, everything. It’s all just too much. I feel spread so thin, and there doesn’t seem to be enough of me to go around for everyone.

Truthfully, I want to run and hide. I want to go back to being a hermit. I want to retreat to the days in which I never left the house. If you don’t leave, nothing can happen, right?

“We share all these disappointments of failing
autumn a thousand miles apart. This is where
autumn wind easily plunders courtyard trees,
but the sorrows of distance never scatter away.” ~ Po Chü-i

Corey is due in port sometime tomorrow. Still don’t know if he’s going to get off the ship or finish this hitch. So many different factors, not the least of which is money, but I hate that, hate that our fate is controlled by money. I long for the time in which we no longer owe everyone a piece of us, but I have to wonder if we will ever reach that point? Does anyone really? Another thing that I really hate is that so much of our debt is medical, my medical debt, which just leads me to hating the system, and on and on and one ad infinitum.

“By the Stream, Autumn” (1885, oil on canvas)
by Paul Gauguin

At the moment, the dogs are all napping peacefully. Outside it’s relatively quiet, and I’m sitting here trying to concentrate on writing, but a million different things are going through my mind: I need to call this person, and I need to make this payment, and I need to take a shower, and should I do a load of laundry, and yes, there are dirty dishes in the kitchen. Last night Brett walked into my bedroom and asked me why I was polishing the furniture at 9 o’clock in the evening. No good answer for that, really.

I have an appointment this afternoon with my prescribing psychiatrist. Is there a drug that acts like the waters of Lethe, inducing forgetfulness? Would that it were possible truly to cast one’s trouble on the winds. I have this sudden mental image of a wet newspaper being beaten about by the wind only to land on my face. Almost comical.

“This is the sadness of the sea—waves like words, all broken—a sameness of lifting and falling mood.” ~ William Carlos Williams, “The Descent of Winter”

I did not post any Kate Daniels poems yesterday. Perhaps I’ll get to it later in the week. Who knows . . .

I do want to thank the newest followers tho commented recently. It’s always nice to hear from new voices. I would promise that this blog isn’t always this depressing, but that might be a stretch. No, not always depressing, I suppose. Sometimes a bit off-kilter, sometimes politically far left of center, sometimes wacky. It depends upon the moon, the barometric pressure, the dogs, the kids, the color of the water in the pool, the number of spider webs . . .

“Autumn Sea VII” (nd)
by Emil Nolde

Anyway, so this morning I awoke from a hellacious nightmare, one that featured a home invasion scenario. In it, I was both brave and cowardly, in one scene confronting the invaders, and in another cowering against the wall beneath a sheet. At one point, the bad people were gathering up the individuals in the room across from mine, and I was saying goodbye, knowing what was in store for them. The graphic designer with whom I used to work at the museum was going to be taken, and I was telling her over and over again how sorry I was for everything.

Now this is the point to all of this: Why do I apologize for things over which I have no control even in my dreams? Where does this come from? I could no more control the behaviors of the villains than I can control the weather, but I felt the need to say that I was so sorry, as if I had somehow willed the situation.

I wonder if I do that in real life . . .   

“Lotuses have withered, they put up no umbrella to the rain;
one branch of chrysanthemum holds out against frost.
Good sights of all the year I’d have you remember,
but especially now, with citrons yellow and tangerines still green.” ~ Su Tung-p’o (trans. by Burton Watson)

Let’s see, what else?

When I was dusting last night, I rearranged my stack of books to read, and I don’t know when that stack got so big. I have, I believe, four books just by Ian Rankin from the Inspector Rebus series. I also have Kafka by the Shore, one that I’ve been wanting to read for a while but never remembered to order. The truth is that I just haven’t been reading much in the past few months.

“Autumn Song” (1905, pastel on paper)
by Victor Borisov-Musatov

My free time (free?) is spent with Olivia, and then my leisure time (is there such a thing?) is spent cramming everything else into a day. I know that at some point I will need to wean myself from the habit of seeing le bébé almost every day, but I have become as dependent as Lex. Yesterday, I just spent time holding her, which really helped to calm me, especially after I got a call from the pain management center saying that they were cancelling my appointment for today because I hadn’t made a payment in a few months. I asked, without really expecting an answer, what I was supposed to do about my left hand. I hung up the phone and just wanted to cry.

Truly, I feel like I have a “kick me” sign on my back that is visible only to others. How pathetic. I do not like being a victim. If I were smart, I would wash this entire post as it is just one big roll in the self-pity pile. But I won’t do that because it goes against my belief that writing anything is better than writing nothing, which is not to say that it’s a particularly good mantra. And besides, I can’t go take a shower because eldest son just jumped in the shower before me, and there won’t be hot water or a while.

My life, so ordinary, so mundane, so tragicomical. Bee-zar. Truly.

More later. Peace.

All autumnal images found on Wiki Paintings.

Music by My Name is You, “Come Back”

                   

Carson McCullers

she died of alcoholism
wrapped in a blanket
on a deck chair
on an ocean
steamer.

all her books of
terrified loneliness

all her books about
the cruelty
of loveless love

were all that was left
of her

as the strolling vacationer
discovered her body

notified the captain

and she was quickly dispatched
to somewhere else
on the ship

as everything
continued just
as
she had written it

~ Charles Bukowski

“She was the music heard faintly on the edge of sound.” ~ Raymond Chandler, The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction 1909-1959

"Pretty as a Peacock" by DanaKai Bradford (QBI Microscopy 2008 competition): This is an image of the brain. Amazing.*

                  

“We are living, but can’t feel the land where we stay.” ~ Osip Mandelstam

Friday, early evening. Cloudy and relatively mild, low 50’s.

Well, I got to sleep at a relatively good time last night, for me that is—around 3:30 a.m. The night before, insomnia reared its ugly head again, and I watched 5 a.m. come and go. Went to make myself a cup of hot Ovaltine, only to find that there was none of the malted, only the chocolate malt, which just isn’t the same when you’re looking for a soothing cup of hot Ovaltine in the wee hours of the morning.

"Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder" by Nick Nacsa (volume rendering of bullwhip amacrine cell in chicken retina, QBI Microscopy 2008 competition): I would have called this Tree of Life

I ended up taking another Seroquel, which knocked me out finally, but made it well nigh impossible to wake up in the afternoon. I really hate that feeling, and even though I’m prescribed 75 mg of the Seroquel, I try to take only 50 mg as I feel better when I wake up with the lower dose.

Last night, though, for the first time in quite a while, back pain woke me, which is not good. I mean, the back pain is omnipresent, so for it to be bad enough to wake me from sleeping really disheartens me. And today the headache continues, just enough pain to be annoying and cause squinting, but not full-blown migraine pain, which is why I happened upon the images in today’s post. I do have lots of floating spots today, which is never a good sign. waits and see, I suppose.

Anyway, Corey is scheduled to leave on Monday some time; we’re just waiting for the finalized travel arrangements. I wonder if he knows that eastern Europe is under a major cold snap . . . haven’t had the heart to mention it yet.

“Time isn’t an orderly stream. Time isn’t a placid lake recording each of our ripples. Time is viscous. Time is a massive flow. It is a self-healing substance, which is to say, almost everything will be lost.” ~ Charles YuHow to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe 

So in the next three days, we have all of that last-minute planning to take care of, as in which bills get paid automatically, and which bills I need to handle, all of that stuff that I’ve been staying away from in recent years. We also plan to have a sit down with the sons to make it clear what is expected of them while Corey is gone. I find that it works better if the two of us speak to the two of them at the same time as it makes the gravity of the words sink in a bit better.

"Guideposts" by T Fotherbill (QBI Microscopy 2011 Competition)

I’m making it a point not to let my trepidation come to the surface as Corey does not need to be worrying about how well I’m handling things. He needs to be focused on what’s coming up, on how his days are going to change in a major way. At least he’ll have his laptop, and he’s been investigating the rates of international Internet access. He’ll be fine with his regular access once the ship gets to Cape Canaveral, but Lithuania is a different matter.

His other big problem is fitting everything into one suitcase. The company said that they’ll reimburse him if he has to take more than one suitcase, but it would just be easier if he only has one to check and one to carry on.

I don’t even want to think about all of the other little things that are looming out there as it will become all too apparent much too soon.

“We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.” ~ Walter Isaacson, from Steve Jobs

My new mother board (one word or two? differs depending upon site) arrived by Fed Ex yesterday morning. Exciting. Of course, I now have to wait to have it installed, but I’m creeping closer and closer to having my computer back in working order, which will make both Eamonn and me very happy—Eamonn because I will no longer be in his room at all hours trying to work, and I, of course, because I will again have my own writing spot, small though it may be. Regardless, it will be mind, and I will be most happy to have it back.

"Activity at the Midline" by Amberl Dawson (QBI Microscopy 2008 Competition): This one and the next remind me of Georgia O'Keeffe's "Red Canna"

I even did a bit of perusing about upcoming deadlines for literary contests. Perhaps if I get off my butt and begin to put some things together, I might be able to submit something this year. No promises, but a worthy goal, n’est ce-pas?

When I was cleaning out some of my office supply clutter and going through boxes of miscellaneous stuff, I came across a scrap of paper in which I had written the opening to a book—only about ten lines, but I was surprised—it was actually not bad. Once in a while I do surprise myself when I come across something that I’ve written that I’ve completely put out of my mind. Not often, but sometimes. It’s like finding treasure.

I used to keep a file of writing ideas, all scribbled on various scraps of paper. The file is still somewhere around here, I think. I doubt if I would find many of them inspiring, but the book intro was an interesting take.

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” ~ Carson McCullers

For some reason I have it in my mind that I need an IBM Selectric to actually (split infinitive, I know) begin work on my novel. Something about the rat-a-tat of the typewriter keys seems so much more substantial than the clacking of a keyboard. Yes, it’s much easier to type on a keyboard than a typewriter, but I hold a deep fondness for the Selectric.

"Meeting in the Middle" by Amberl Dawson (QBI Microscopy 2008 Competition)

When I began at the newspaper in the advertising typing pool, I worked on a Selectric. Those were the old days in which copy had to be coded as it was typed, and believe it or not, coding a retail ad, such as one for a grocery store, could take hours, but I became quite adept at it, and actually chose the longer ads to do as I found them more interesting than short ads.

Anyway, when I moved into the newsroom, I used to take dictation over the phone from reporters calling in from the field, and I used, you guessed it, a Selectric. When I applied for my technical editing position with the government contractor, I had to take a typing test, and it was on a Selectric. At that time, on that machine, I typed 126 words a minute.

So you see, the Selectric is in my blood. I associate it with production, with quantifiable results. That must be why I so want to have one on which to pound out my manuscript. I’ve seen a couple on E-Bay, but I could hardly justify purchasing one when the back door is being held together with plywood and a prayer.

Some day . . .

“These are the moments which are not calculable, and cannot be assessed in words; they live on in the solution of memory, like wonderful creatures, unique of their own kind, dredged up from the floors of some unexplored ocean.” ~ Lawrence Durrell, Justine

With Corey’s new job we’ll have access to more funds, but it’s very important that we are careful and responsible. We still need to payback my family member for saving our butts last fall, not to mention repaying Corey’s family for helping out, and we want to try to repair our credit score, which was decimated in recent years, not just hurt, not just lowered, but totally and completely destroyed, like an atomic bomb went off on our records and took away everything that we had been building.

"Dangling Neurons" by D. Blackmore (QBI Microscopy 2010 Competition)

So while I may write about all of these things that I would like to have or see or do, I know that for now, it is much more important that we gain some financial ground. Then work on the dreams and desires, never forgotten, never abandoned, only postponed. Like Corey’s college career—I’m really hoping that in the time that he is home between hitches he’ll be able to get in a course or two. He’s waited so long that I don’t want him to just forget about it.

Corey just got his itinerary for Monday, so I suppose it’s all now official. It’s quite surreal to see the words “Scandinavian Airlines.” Under different circumstances, it might be exciting, but not so now. Norfolk to Dulles to Copenhagen . . .

It feels colder, but I think that that may just be my body reacting to emotions. The back is still quite achy even though I’ve taken my meds, and my head is getting tighter. The sky outside has become dark, and my eyes are actually full of spots, so I need to wrap up this post.

More later. Peace.

All images taken from the QBI Miscroscopy site, Queensland Brain Institute’s Advanced Microimaging and Analysis Facility

Music by Melody Gardot, blues, “Our Love is Easy”

Postcard

Lately, I am capable only of small things.

Is it enough
to feel the heart swimming?

Jim is fine. Our first
garden is thick with spinach
and white radish. Strangely,
it is summer

but also winter and fall.

In response to your asking:
I fill the hours
then lick them shut.

Today, not a single word,
but the birds quietly nodding
as if someone had suggested
moving on.

What is that perfect thing
some one who once believed in god said?

Please don’t misunderstand:
We still suffer, but we are happy.

~ Olena Kalytiak Davis, from And Her Soul Out of Nothing (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997)

                   

Georgia O’Keeffe image to which I was referring above:

"Red Canna," by Georgia O'Keeffe (1923)

“ . . . Our real fears are the sounds of footsteps walking in the corridors of our minds, and the anxieties, the phantom floatings, they create.” ~ Truman Capote

Cottage in Bowd, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

“But mostly they were lies I told; it wasn’t my fault, I couldn’t remember, because it was as though I’d been to one of those supernatural castles visited by characters in legends: once away, you do not remember, all that is left is the ghostly echo of haunting wonder.” ~ Truman Capote

Thursday afternoon. Cloudy and warm, mid 60’s.

Cottage, Hemingford Abbots by gillpenney (FCC)

I slept fourteen hours last night, with only a few interruptions. The house was very quiet and the dogs accommodating. I feel better for it. The choice was between doing the dishes, folding clothes or beginning a post. Not much of a choice really. So here I am.

Last night, the kids went with their father to their grandfather’s house. Corey picked up Brett from his night class and dropped him off there. I imagine that it was one of those uncomfortable gatherings in which people spoke about nothing of consequence as the reality was much too hard to acknowledge. My heart aches for the loss my children are feeling, and I feel strangely guilty that I don’t feel more.

I’m not sure if my heart is in protective mode, in denial, or completely closed off. I would truly hate to think that my distaste for the evil-step-m-in-law is clouding everything that I feel about this man. That would be too, too small-minded. I don’t want to be that kind of person. I just don’t know how to express this, so perhaps I shouldn’t even try.

“Still, when all is said, somewhere one must belong: even the soaring falcon returns to its master’s wrist.” ~ Truman Capote, from Summer Crossing

Well the other big news is that Corey will be going to Lithuania next week . . . yes, you heard me: Lithuania. You know, that little country on the Baltic Sea?

Rustic Kitchen (photographer unknown)

Apparently, that’s where the ship is in the yard, and the company is putting on a minimal crew to move the ship from there to Cape Canaveral, where it will begin its new route. At first, we thought that he would be leaving this Saturday, but now the departure date has been extended a week.

This change in plans means that Corey will have to pack for both cold (very cold) weather and warm weather. He has mixed feelings about the whole thing. I mean, Lithuania? But at least we now have a clearer departure date, which means that we can all begin to acclimate ourselves to the idea of his leaving.

Truthfully, I know that it’s not going to really hit me until he is gone—the idea of him being gone for more than a few weeks is hard to wrap my brain around. I mean, everything changes, absolutely everything. I’m really hoping that my breathing is back to normal before he goes because Tillie the lab is going to need some daily exercise so that she doesn’t get lazy or out of shape. I plan to do morning walks with her, but breathing without wheezing is actually a necessity for such things.

“The wind is us—it gathers and remembers all our voices, then sends them talking and telling through the leaves and the fields.” ~ Truman Capote

Anyway . . .

Now that I’m beginning to actually feel better, feel as if I’m getting some energy back, I look around at all of the things that I need to do: I need to do everyone’s taxes, need to complete next year’s financial aid for Brett and Corey, need to deal with the pile of whatever in the corner of my room. It’s so easy to throw a shirt on a stool, but before you know it, the shirt has morphed into some kind of dark blob that has taken on a life of its own.

This bathroom here . . .

Thankfully, all of the Christmas decorations are packed away. I ended up doing most of that myself as I knew that I would. In moments like that, I almost agree with my mother’s declarations that decorating is a waste of time. I said almost . . .

Overall, the house needs a really good cleaning, and I haven’t felt up to it in weeks and weeks, so now everything is reaching critical mass, well at least in my eyes. I often wonder what happened to the woman who used to clean the entire house each Saturday—polishing the furniture, scrubbing the floors, vacuuming everything—where did she go? Perhaps she left in exhaustion. Of course, that woman got by on five or six hours of sleep a night, exercised each morning before work, and worked full time.

Yes, exhaustion . . .

But as I said, a change is indeed going to come to the abode, and everyone needs to get on board.

“So the days, the last days, blow about in a memory, hazy autumnal, all alike as leaves: until a day unlike any other I’ve lived.” ~ Truman Capote

I came across a Truman Capote quote on my tumblr dash, and thought to myself, “yes, it is indeed a Capote kind of day.” I have long admired his descriptive abilities. It’s as if his diminutive body was filled with nothing but words, words that he poured forth in huge bursts, and then when he ran out of words, he stopped living.

This view from my bedroom window . . .

He died quite young in 1984 at only 59, of liver cancer, a result of years of alcohol and drug abuse. I always think of Capote in terms of burning out rather than fading away.

I remember assigning “A Diamond Guitar,” a Capote short story in one of my American literature classes. What was interesting was how much some of the students really hated one of the characters. To accomplish such a thing among audiences is a good indication of how the characters were so well drawn, enough to give rise to hate and empathy. It was the same semester that I assigned Carson McCullers’s novel Heart is a Lonely Hunter. I saw/still see many parallels between McCullers and Capote, their writing, their tortured lives.

I do so miss teaching literature. It used to distress me to no end when one of the boys would come home from school and tell me that his English teacher said that X story meant Y and only Y. Teaching literature in a vacuum is unpardonable in my eyes . . .

“Did you ever, in that wonderland wilderness of adolescence ever, quite unexpectedly, see something, a dusk sky, a wild bird, a landscape, so exquisite terror touched you at the bone? And you are afraid, terribly afraid the smallest movement, a leaf, say, turning in the wind, will shatter all? That is, I think, the way love is, or should be: one lives in beautiful terror.” ~ Truman Capote

I know that you will probably think me quite mad, but in thinking about all of the things that I need to do around here in this house, my thoughts are drawn back to the kind of house I used to imagine I would be living in when I was young. I never imagined a brick ranch in the suburbs, and I have no desire to live in a cookie-cutter McMansion. I always thought that I would be living in a log cabin or a big open loft, or an old farmhouse. The idea of living in a rambling tree house is also quite appealing, the very hap-hazardous nature of such a structure.

This potting shed-cum-writing studio . . .

I envision white rooms that are not carpeted with wall-to-wall, but colorful rugs, lots of toss pillows, comfortable niches in which to curl up and read. The kitchen would be like a farmhouse, with an old solid wood table. The bathroom (or at least one of them) would have a claw-footed bathtub. The floors throughout would be wood planks, and the windows would open out not up.

Outside would be an huge herb garden—lavender, mint, verbena, rosemary, thyme, Russian sage—the smells from which would drift in through the open windows. There would be lots of trees, perhaps a small orchard, wildflowers and roses, climbing vines around the front door. Birds would be frequent visitors. As would butterflies and dragonflies.

Adirondack chairs on the back lawn. Within view, would be the sea.

My whitewashed country cottage by the sea. Some dreams never die.

More later. Peace.

Music by Peter Bradley Adams, “Wait for the Faithless”

                   

Before You Know What Kindness Really Is

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from The Words Under the Words