“We forget we’re mostly water till the rain falls and every atom in our body starts to go home.” ~ Albert Huffstickler, from We Forget

Along Toutle Trail by Connie A Wandering Soul
Along Toutle Trail by Connie A Wandering Soul

“Dreams, like memories, are shores we row toward to escape the ever same tomorrow and their cruel futility. Days which cannot express themselves are grey and cold. Mute days whose untidy gestures tear us apart.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from The Book of Questions Volumes 2 and 3: The Book of Yukel Return to the Book, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

Wednesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and warmer, 80 degrees.

Corey left yesterday late afternoon. I didn’t sleep last night, so of course I had to be up by 7 this morning. I came back home and crashed and slept another five hours, much longer than I had intended, but obviously I needed it.

Of course, right before Corey left, my phone died, and when Corey took it to T-Mobile, he found out that the warranty expired on August 23. Of course it did. How could it possibly be any other way? So for the next seven or so days, no phone, which actually doesn’t bother me except that I cannot text Corey. So we’ve alerted everyone who might need to know that they should e-mail me if they need me. Of course, I could dig around and find one of those old-fashioned plug-in things . . . how quaint . . .

Light through the Fog by Donnie Nunley FCC
Light through the Fog by Donnie Nunley (FCC)

Last night I had intense dreams, dreams that went on and on. For example, in the last one I can remember, I am driving down this road that is icy, and I pass a truck, but when I pass the truck, somehow it puts me on another road, far from where I’m trying to be. I can no longer find the destination I knew was just ahead. Cut to my washroom, and I’m messing with a new washer and dryer, and nothing is working. I go in the kitchen, where we have company, and without thinking, I disrobe to put my clothes in the laundry basket. Then I realize that I’ve taken all of my clothes off in front of a relative stranger. I run to the garage. Then I’m in an arcade with Brett, Alexis, and a couple of other people. One of the exhibits is a polar bear. I can’t figure out how to get my phone to work to make a call, so I go outside to get a signal. They close the arcade, and half of us are locked outside, and the other half are inside, and I just know that Brett is going to panic.

These dreams exhaust me, but I know they’re from stress, and I’m so weary that I almost typed there from stress, one of my cardinal grammar sins……….

“Distant
the river flows along drunkenly, singing and weeping
prehistories of water, olden times.” ~ Cesar Vallejo, from “Autochthonous Tercet”

So this time last week Corey and I were doing something wonderful, and I’ve been hesitant to write about it just because of that whole jinx thing, but then I decided that it will either happen, or it won’t.

Adney Gap, Blue Ridge Mountains by Donnie Nunley FCC
Adney Gap, Blue Ridge Mountains by Donnie Nunley (FCC)

We drove to the western part of the state, past Roanoke and Christiansburg, to just outside Floyd to look at some property. It’s 66 acres in the mountains with a natural stream and a pond. There is an old house there, but if we were fortunate enough to get it, we would want to build on it and keep the old house. It’s everything I have ever dreamed of: land, mountains, sky, a running stream, so many possibilities. There is a barn with three stalls, an old milking shed that could be turned into a paddock for goats, fruit and nut trees galore. Butterflies abound in the meadows of thistle and wildflowers. There’s even an old spring house where the original owners kept their milk cold using mountain spring water.

We fell in love with it even though we tried not to. I know that my kids would love it and so would Corey’s family. His brothers could come and hunt, which I’m still trying to reconcile myself with; I mean, I could do with wild turkey and grouse, but deer, not so much. And I know that his mother would adore it. It could be my haven, the place I’ve always dreamed of being. And dare I say it, I’ve even been looking at plans for log cabins.

“The blood pumping of the heart, the severed valves, hurt, love. Your blood flows up into the distant mountains and down into the sea, chasm, the red delta, red river, fluid, brutal poetry of blood and broken.: ~ Carole Maso, from Beauty is Convulsive: The Passion of Frida Kahlo

The man is selling it because he just lives too far away for weekend visits. It’s been in his family for over 100 years. He says that his family is heartbroken that he’s selling it, and I can certainly understand that.

Stony Man Mountain, Virginia m01229 FCC
Stony Man Mountain, Virginia m01229 (FCC_

The problem is that in order to buy it we need to sell both houses, and even then we’d still need to take out a mortgage to build the house. It’s definitely doable, especially as my mom’s house is paid for, but not immediately doable, and he wants to sell now. The other thing is that home values still have not completely rebounded, and I’m uncertain as to how much we would get from mom’s house. We proposed several options but have no idea if he’ll go for any of them.

Part of me wishes that we had never gone, because then if we don’t get it, I won’t be heartbroken. But part of me is proud that we went because it means that we’re finally taking steps to make a major change in our lives. My kids all have lives of their own, and if they wanted to move with us, there’s plenty of room to do so. I have no problem in selling this house, but it needs work, and that’s hard with Corey’s schedule.

Ideally, we need a home equity loan to do the work needed here, and the small work needed in Mom’s house, but we’re not positioned for that at the moment.

“And in the trembling blue-green of the sky
A moon, worn as if it had been a shell
Washed by time’s waters as they rose and fell
About the stars and broke in days and years.” ~ William Butler Yeats, from “Adam’s Curse”

We’ve been working on repairing our credit after those fateful three years of want and need, but it’s hard. It’s especially hard in retrospect because before the big crash nationally and on the home front, we were making real progress financially. But I cannot keep dwelling on that; if I do, it really sends me spiraling.

Coming home from the trip we were so full of possibilities, but we kept telling each other not to get ahead of ourselves. It’s hard, though. That land is everything I have ever dreamed of. It’s not so far that making trips back here would be arduous, and it puts Corey much closer to his family.

Shenandoah Appalachian Trail by wanderingYew2 fcc
Shenandoah Appalachian Trail by wanderingYew2 (FCC)

The seller took us on a nice hike up some trails, but not all the way to the top of the ridge, which is the furthermost point of the land. There is so much variety in the trees on the land, and the stream runs down from the top of the mountain, providing the property with this crystal clear stream water. There is fish in the pond with so much room to make the pond larger and deeper. And yes, there are bears, but you know, that didn’t bother me in the least. I mean, that’s part of living in a place like that. And just think of the possibilities: I could get a few more dogs, some goats, maybe a couple of horses. The neighbor’s cattle graze on part of the land because of a deal he has with the owner, and that would be fine if we could get milk.

I’m running away with myself. Writing about it now makes me so melancholy, partially because I want it to happen now, and partially because it may not happen at all, and of course, there is other land for sale, but this? This is perfect, this is my dream come true, this is my heaven on earth.

“Between memory and reality there are awkward discrepancies, producing a solemn but subtle agitation, an intense but as yet indefinable struggle.” ~ Eileen Chang, from Written on Water

 Want to know something outlandish? Neither Corey nor I took any pictures. We were so enthralled with seeing everything, we never even thought about capturing what we were seeing. Luckily, I only have to close my eyes, and I can still see everything clearly. The song that I’ve chosen for this post could have been filmed on that property, seriously.

Star Trails on Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 188 by krishna_kumar_1 FCC
Star Trails on Blue Ridge Parkway, Milepost 188 by krishna_kumar_1 (FCC)

One of the reasons I chose yesterday’s images was because they reminded me of where we were a week ago (but the house is not at all dilapidated). Still, I wish that we had thought to take pictures so that we would have those at least if everything falls through.

I hope that I have not set myself up for heartbreak with all of this, something I am prone to do. But if this happens? It would be more than amazing. We would both have what we want. I would have the mountain home with the running stream that I have always, always dreamed of, since I was a young teen, thinking about what I wanted in life. Perhaps even that log cabin. Corey would have a beautiful location while still being close enough to Olivia and even closer to his family. We wouldn’t have to move across the country or abroad. Perfection. Too perfect?

My soul absolutely aches at the moment, both in joy and pain. What if . . . if only . . .

More later. Peace.

The image by Connie – A Wandering Soul looks almost exactly like parts of the stream on the property.

Music by Midlake, “Rulers Ruling all Things”

                   

 August

Just when you’d begun to feel
You could rely on the summer,
That each morning would deliver
The same mourning dove singing
From his station on the phone pole,
The same smell of bacon frying
Somewhere in the neighborhood,
The same sun burning off
The coastal fog by noon,
When you could reward yourself
For a good morning’s work
With lunch at the same little seaside cafe
With its shaded deck and iced tea,
The day’s routine finally down
Like an old song with minor variations,
There comes that morning when the light
Tilts ever so slightly on its track,
A cool gust out of nowhere
Whirlwinds a litter of dead grass
Across the sidewalk, the swimsuits
Are piled on the sale table,
And the back of your hand,
Which you thought you knew,
Has begun to look like an old leaf.
Or the back of someone else’s hand.

~ George Bilgere

                   

How to Regain Your Soul

Come down Canyon Creek trail on a summer afternoon
that one place where the valley floor opens out. You will see
the white butterflies. Because of the way shadows
come off those vertical rocks in the west, there are
shafts of sunlight hitting the river and a deep
long purple gorge straight ahead. Put down your pack.

Above, air sighs the pines. It was this way
when Rome was clanging, when Troy was being built,
when campfires lighted caves. The white butterflies dance
by the thousands in the still sunshine. Suddenly, anything
could happen to you. Your soul pulls toward the canyon
and then shines back through the white wings to be you
again.

~ William Stafford

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“How do we forgive ourselves for all of the things we did not become?” ~ David ‘Doc’ Luben, from “14 Lines from Love Letters or Suicide Notes”

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September 8-14 is Suicide Prevention Week

“You were said to have died of suffering. […] You died because you searched for happiness at the risk of finding the void.” ~ Édouard Levé, from Suicide

  stigma_2

Monday afternoon. Stormy and cool, 74 degrees.

I’ve been holding on to the center of this post in anticipation of this week. You see, this post began as a reflection on Robin Williams, but after doing some pondering, I decided that the subject matter was so much bigger than one person. To that end, I have included lots of links that I hope may be useful to anyone just wishing to learn more, anyone looking to help a friend or family member, or anyone feeling a bit lost.

If the information I have gathered here helps even one person, then the entire reason for this blog and some of what I try to do here will have been validated.

This week is Suicide Prevention Week, and September is Suicide Prevention Month for the military. You might be surprised at the statistics related to suicide. Follow this link for a detailed list of suicide facts. Go here to learn more about military suicides, or call the Veterans’ Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255, option 1.

Suicide Oncoming2

If you think someone you know may be suicidal, here are some key warning signs from AAS (American Association of Suicidology):

How do you remember the Warning Signs of Suicide?
Here’s an easy-to-remember mnemonic:

IS PATH WARM?

 I  Ideation
Substance Abuse

Purposelessness
Anxiety
Trapped
Hopelessness

Withdrawal
Anger
Recklessness
Mood Changes

A person in acute risk for suicidal behavior most often will show:

Warning Signs of Acute Risk:
Threatening to hurt or kill him or herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself; and or,
Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills, or other means; and/or,
Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary.

These might be remembered as expressed or communicated ideation.  If observed, seek help as soon as possible by contacting a mental health professional or calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255) for a referral.

Additional Warning Signs:

  • Increased substance (alcohol or drug) use
  • No reason for living; no sense of purpose in life
  • Anxiety, agitation, unable to sleep or sleeping all of the time
  • Feeling trapped – like there’s no way out
  • Hopelessness
  • Withdrawal from friends, family and society
  • Rage, uncontrolled anger, seeking revenge
  • Acting reckless or engaging in risky activities, seemingly without thinking
  • Dramatic mood changes

If you are looking for a crisis center near you, click on this link.

Suicide StickFigures5

Here are a few key facts to ponder:

  • According to the New York Times, suicide rates among middle-aged Americans have risen sharply in the past decade, prompting concern that a generation of baby boomers who have faced years of economic worry and easy access to prescription painkillers may be particularly vulnerable to self-inflicted harm.
  • The Center for Disease Control reports that U.S. suicide deaths now outnumber deaths by automobile accident, the rate has jumped almost 20 percent in the last decade The suicide rate among Americans 45 to 64 has jumped more than 30 percent in the last decade.
  • One person dies by suicide every 40 seconds around the world, the World Health Organization says in a new report that finds few countries have specific policies focused on preventing suicide.
  • According to SAVE (Suicide Awareness Voices in Education), there are twice as many deaths due to suicide than HIV/AIDS.
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide, but there are three female suicide attempts for each male attempt. (AAS)
  • Each year, 1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 die by suicide.(SAVE)
  • Last year, 185 active-duty Army soldiers died by suicide, surpassing the 176 soldiers killed in battle in Afghanistan that year. The Army’s annual death toll from suicide has more than tripled since 2001, when 52 active-duty soldiers took their own lives. (Huffington Post)
fenway

“And the whole landscape seems littered
with fallen dreams.” ~ Richard Jackson, from “Possibility”

A few weeks ago, I encountered an emotional body slam the likes of which I had not experienced in quite a while when I heard of Robin Williams’s suicide, and while it may seem a bit strange that I was so affected by the suicide of someone I had never met, you have to understand that I grew up with Robin Williams, first as the alien Mork, and then later with all of his various movie incarnations and one-man shows.

To me, the comic/actor’s frenetic energy belied his incredible wit and intellect. Williams could improvise instantly on any given topic thrown at him by the audience. In the Disney movie Aladdin, Williams first improvised his lines, and then his character was animated. His performance in Bird Cage with Nathan Lane makes it one of the few comedies that I will rewatch. Williams was a throwback to the very physical comedians of the 40’s and 50’s.

Robin Williams in Las Vegas
Robin Williams in Las Vegas (Reuters)

Of course, like any actor, Williams had his hits and his misses, but even in his misses there were moments of pure genius.  It’s as if no one project could contain him, his persona always bigger than the vehicle. But I loved his turns in dramas as much as I loved his comedies. It was his face, his ability to move his face in improbable ways, and his deeply sad blue eyes. Like many people, if I had not already read of his depressive episodes, I never would have associated the man with suicide.

Yet as we now know, on August 14, the funny man chose a final exit, one from which he would never return. And that isn’t funny at all.

Of course there was the morbid reporting, the details of the death, the rampant speculation, including some bizarre claim about the Illuminati. Nothing can hold the vultures at bay. Yet within all of this were a few nuggets worth notice: Williams was talking about future projects. His family was unaware of his suicidal thoughts.

And what this means is that Williams, in death, was much the same as any other person considering suicide: how much is hidden from everyone, how much is faked, how little is actually shared—until it’s too late. Although his unrestrained demeanor was on display for the public, we can never know of the great sadness he kept private.

And that is the very nature of suicide: its two opposing faces.

“Silence. Everything here is now clothed
in strict grief; and this passion,
like bad kerosene, barely burns.” ~ Cesar Vallejo, from “Plaster”

As I’ve said, I loved so many of the man’s projects, but I stayed away from his recent television show simply because the previews seemed a bit forced. I really don’t know what I mean when I say that, only that it just didn’t appeal to me. I loved him as the killer in Insomnia, and the creepy stalker in One Hour Photo, and as contrived as it was, his turn in Jack broke my heart. Unlike many, I loved the fantasy of What Dreams May Come, and he remains my favorite Peter Pan from Hook.

But I won’t hesitate to say that my favorite Robin Williams’ movie was Dead Poets’ Society

Years ago when I was teaching an American literature class, I used the movie Dead Poets’ Society to discuss place as it influences characters. I invited the students to view the movie in a different way, paying attention to the time period in which it was set, the cloistered effect of an all-boys’ elite boarding school, and the different roles of the three main characters (Keating, Neil, and Todd) and what made them outsiders.

As Keating in Dead Poets’ Society

I always thought that casting Robin Williams in this period drama was genius. The fact that he wasn’t completely restrained only added to his characterization as the prodigal student returned in the role of faculty member; his interjections of John Wayne impersonations only cemented the fact that Keating would never really belong at Welton Academy, no matter how much he tried.

And while some of my colleagues criticized the movie for being too simplistic and predictable, I found myself loving it for so many reasons—watching the moment Todd sounds his barbaric yawp, seeing the young Josh Charles as the lovestruck teen. And who can forget the final scene when the boys stand on their desks in an homage to their captain . . .

To this day I cannot watch DPS without weeping at the ending, at the loss of the artistic tortured Neil, at the forever changed idealistic Todd, and at the tempering of the inspirational Mr. Keating for the sake of the status quo. Williams’s Keating was the kind of teacher few of us ever encounter in real life, but the one whose classroom we all wish we had sat in, even if for only an hour or two.

But I would be remiss if I did not address the elephant in the room:  the irony of the plot is not lost on me now as I write this. The character Neil commits suicide rather than be forced into a role he cannot play, and everyone is left to pick up the pieces and go on. It is the coda that we do not see: Mr. Keating walking out the door knowing that a beautiful light has been extinguished forever.

R. I. P. Mr. Williams. We are all poorer for your passing.

If you’d like to find out how you can get in involved in the fight against suicide, please contact AAS’ Central Office at 202-237-2280, email us at info@suicidology.org, or reach out to us via Facebook or Twitter. If interested specifically in making a donation to further suicide prevention, or in the U OK? t-shirt campaign, click here.

Music by Richard Walters, “Infinity Street”


                   

Post Hoc

It happened because he looked a gift horse in the mouth.
It happened because he couldn’t get that monkey off his back.
It happened because she didn’t chew 22 times before swallowing.
What was she thinking, letting him walk home alone from the bus stop?
What was he thinking, standing up in the boat like that?
Once she signed those papers the die was cast.
She should have waited an hour before going in; everyone knows
salami and seawater don’t mix.
He should have checked his parachute a seventh time;
you can never be too careful.
Why didn’t she declare her true feelings?
Why didn’t she play hard to get? She could be out at some
nice restaurant right now instead of in church, praying
for the strength to let him go.
It all started with that tattoo.
It all started with her decision to order the chicken salad.
Why was he so picky?
Why wasn’t she more discriminating?
He should have read the writing on the wall; listened
to the still small voice, had a lick of sense. But how could he when he
was blinded by passion? Deaf to warnings? Really dumb?
Why, why, in God’s name, did he run with scissors?
If only they’d asked Jesus for help.
If only they’d asked their friends for help.
If only they’d ignored the advice of others and held fast
to their own convictions, they might all be here, now,
with us, instead of six feet under; instead of trying to adopt
that foreign baby, instead of warming that barstool
at the Road Not Taken Eatery and Lounge, wondering how it might all
have been different, if only they had done
the right thing.

~ Jennifer Maier