“It is the useless things that make life worth living and that make life dangerous too: wine, love, art, beauty. Without them life is safe, but not worth bothering with.” ~ Stephen Fry, from Moab Is My Washpot

) wv-fall-foliage-mountain-sunrise
Fall Foliage: Mountain Sunrise, West Virginia (Wikimedia Common)

“There is a time in life when you expect the world to be always full of new things. And then comes a day when you realize that is not how it will be at all. You see that life will become a thing made of holes. Absences. Losses. Things that were there and are no longer. And you realize, too, that you have to grow around and between the gaps, though you can put your hand out to where things were and feel that tense, shining dullness of the space where the memories are.” ~ Helen MacDonald, from H is for Hawk

Thursday evening. Partly cloudy, a bit unseasonably warm, and very windy, 67 degrees.

Hello. Very, very long time, no write. I hadn’t realized exactly just how long it had been until I looked at the date of my last real post, you know, one with more than someone else’s words — three and a half years almost. If you’ve stayed with me, I thank you. If you’ve dropped by a time or two, I do so appreciate it. If you’ve despaired of me ever writing another original word, well, that makes several of us.

Mount_Sterling,_North_Carolina_Fall_Foliage
Fall Foliage: Mount Sterling, NC, by Jrmichae (Wikimedia Commons)

So . . . onward, as it were.

Greetings from the mountains of Virginia. The last time we visited, I was still living on the east coast of Virginia. This past summer, after many aborted starts and stops, we (my husband and 2 dogs and 1 cat (relatively new addition)) brought the final truckload to our acres of tree covered land in a small town in southwest Virginia.

Life changes even as we do . . .

I needed my mistakes
in their own order
to get me here ~ W.S. Merwin, from “Wild Oats”

To the matter at hand: Where have I been, and perhaps more importantly, why?

The first is much easier: I have been nowhere. I have been sitting. I have been stewing. I have been composing in my head and putting nothing down permanently. I have been contemplating, and I have been questioning. Between there have been many tears, recriminations, regrets, harsh words, and unbelievable support. And the end result is a whole lot of nothing and a whole lot of . . . well, I’m not exactly sure.

San_Bernardino_Mountains,_Big_Bear,_CA_(5808766463)
San Bernadino Mountains, Big Bear, CA, by inkknife_2000 (Wikimedia Commons)

But as far as my writing, my composing, my creating? Nothing. Not. a. thing.

I never intended to be away this long. It was a dry spell, one that I thought I would conquer as I had before, be away for a few weeks, and then I would return. But weeks turned into months, which morphed into a year, and then another year, until I was embarrassed by the delay. Mortified by the failed declarations of return. And ultimately, I feared that I really had nothing to say nothingtosay nothingtosayyyyyyyyy . . .

So there was the writer’s block, the epic writer’s block, and then there was the election (far too many words for this), and then there was the depression, and then there was . . . well . . . I’ll have to think about that part a bit more.

“Alas, the vices of man, as horrifying as they are presumed to be, contain proof (if only in their infinite expansiveness!) of his bent for the infinite.” ~ Charles Baudelaire, from Artificial Paradises

Fall Foliage in Laurel Mountains
Fall Foliage in Laurel Mountains by Ron Shawley (Wikimedia Commons)

I imagine that I will delve into things much more as I go here. After all, I’m still getting my feet wet here. I need to update my site, get rid of all of the broken links, create a new header, find a new theme, decide if I want to pay to get rid of the WordPress ads . . . Also, I have to say that the whole idea of social media (which I suppose is the category into which blogs still fall) stymies me. I mean, it’s so divisive, so full of venom and vicissitude. The discourse is more often than not, well, coarse. I just don’t understand.

From what I’ve observed in visiting other sites and places, people are not very kind on social media. In fact, this modern form of connecting and communicating seems inhabited by many people who like nothing better than to incite and accuse. It’s not for those who bruise easily, and quite honestly, I don’t know if I currently fall into that category.

“The virtue of angels is that they cannot deteriorate; their flaw is that they cannot improve. Man’s flaw is that he can deteriorate, and his virtue is that he can improve.” ~ The Talmud

I’ve had to look back at previous posts just to try to remember how I used to do things, which doesn’t mean that that’s how I’m going to continue to do things. I still hope to incorporate other’s quotes, selections of images that are free of copyright or for which I have obtained permission, music maybe, but I also hope to do more of my own photography, show some of what I’m looking at these days.

So much to do, so much time in which to do it. That’s a bit different, isn’t it?

Fall-foliage-changing-mountains_-_Virginia_-_ForestWander
Fall Foliage: Virginia Mountains, by Forest Wander (Wikimedia Commons)

I must admit to conflicting feelings: trepidation and excitement. Trepidation — do I really want to do this again? What will it mean? How will it go? Will people still find my words interesting? Is it too late to come back?

Excitement — This feels quite natural. I think that I actually have things to say again. I want this platform, this freedom, this exhilaration that comes from the risk of putting myself out there.

Ultimately, only you can tell me, and I don’t even know if you’re still out there. Let me know, won’t you?

More later. Promise. Peace.

Music by Lady Gaga, “I’ll Never Love Again” (love, love, love this song)

 

“To handle a language skillfully is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.” ~ Charles Baudelaire

I really need to read more Baudelaire . . .

Spleen

I have more memories than if I’d lived a thousand years.

A heavy chest of drawers cluttered with balance-sheets,
Processes, love-letters, verses, ballads,
And heavy locks of hair enveloped in receipts,
Hides fewer secrets than my gloomy brain.
It is a pyramid, a vast burial vault
Which contains more corpses than potter’s field.
— I am a cemetery abhorred by the moon,
In which long worms crawl like remorse
And constantly harass my dearest dead.
I am an old boudoir full of withered roses,
Where lies a whole litter of old-fashioned dresses,
Where the plaintive pastels and the pale Bouchers,
Alone, breathe in the fragrance from an opened phial.

Nothing is so long as those limping days,
When under the heavy flakes of snowy years
Ennui, the fruit of dismal apathy,
Becomes as large as immortality.
— Henceforth you are no more, O living matter!
Than a block of granite surrounded by vague terrors,
Dozing in the depths of a hazy Sahara
An old sphinx ignored by a heedless world,
Omitted from the map, whose savage nature
Sings only in the rays of a setting sun.

~ Charles Baudelaire, trans. William Aggeler

Music by MS MR, “Hurricane”

“There are times when a feeling of expectancy comes to me, as if something is there, beneath the surface of my understanding, waiting for me to grasp it. It is the same tantalising sensation when you almost remember a name, but don’t quite reach it.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from The Journals of Sylvia Plath

Eilif Amundsen In the Window nd oil on canvas
“In the Window” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Eilif Amundsen

                   

“I am a collection of dismantled almosts.” ~ Anne Sexton, from Anne Sexton: A Self-Portrait in Letters

Thursday afternoon. Rainy and much cooler, 77 degrees.

So . . . ten days since last real post . . .

Eilif Amundsen House in the Park 1994 oil on canvas
“House in the Park” (1994, oil on canvas)
by Eilif Amundsen

So many reasons why, but better just to move on. First, status report on the bathroom renovation:

  • Tub has been installed. This after Corey had to take back the first two tubs to Home Depot (missing parts, cracked rim).
  • Almost all wood work has been done: joists, studs, ledgers; only need to frame the niches.
  • Toilet has been installed. Had to take back the first one because of a crack. Nothing is ever easy.
  • Sub floor is down as well as additional piece of wood to bring floor level with tub
  • Most of the plumbing is in place.
  • Wiring for tub is done; luckily, we had one breaker that only had a ceiling fan on it, which never made any sense to me.

What’s next?

  • Installing Hardiebacker board on floor and walls
  • Laying Ditra (waterproofing membrane)
  • Installing glass block window
  • Patching ceiling and painting (primer and paint)
  • Sanding door and painting
  • Installing vanity, cabinet, light fixture, ventilation fan
  • Tiling . . .

I’m sure I’ve forgotten things in both categories, but it’s nice to spell it all out. I’m itching to start the tiling, but can I just take a moment to say hooray for indoor plumbing?

“When you have nothing to say,
the sadness of things
speaks for you.” ~ Ruth Stone, from “Interim”

I’m still in one of those writing funks, the kind in which finding words is such a chore, rather than being a pleasurable experience. It’s hard for me, especially since most of the time words are my boon companion, my constant in a sea of change. Anyway, I decided I’d just do a random thoughts post and see where that takes me. Here goes . . .

  • I did one of those random tumblr surveys (McPoverty Calculator) about how much more I would be willing to pay for a Big Mac to help fast food workers make more money. I put in the highest amount, which was a whopping $.22. Based on their calculator, workers would make $15.23 per hour, or $31,671.83 per year as a result of this increase.

    Eilif Amundsen Danish Still Life, Window 2000 oil on canvas
    “Still Life, Window” (2000, oil on canvas)
    by Eilif Amundsen
  • Isn’t bettering someone’s life worth $.22, especially since what you are paying for is so bad for your body?
  • I don’t understand our society: We let people kill other people based on some kind of weird social indicator that points to our possessions being more valuable than people’s lives (like the law in Texas that allows you to shoot anyone who trespasses on your property that you deem could do you harm).
  • We are supposed to be a great country, yet one in almost four children live in poverty. Tell me, what is great about that? Dites moi . . .
  • Did you know that the most recent data show that over 16 million children are living in food insecure households (tenuous access to food)?
  • Contrary to what the Koch brothers contend, raising the minimum wage would benefit the nation as a whole because more people would be able to live without subsistence. That’s a good thing, right?

“Nevertheless, I can tell you that you will awake someday to find that your life has rushed by at a speed at once impossible and cruel. The most intense moments will seem to have occurred only yesterday and nothing will have erased the pain and pleasure, the impossible intensity of love and its dog-leaping happiness, the bleak blackness of passions unrequited, or unexpressed, or unresolved.” ~ Meg Rosoff, from What I Was

Okay, so I went off on a bit of a political rant, but it can’t be helped. Blame it on the Big Mac . . .

  • Bailey the Puppy has adjusted very well to life here. Only a few accidents here and there, mostly if it rains. I tried taking her out with an umbrella, but she was too afraid of the huge golf umbrella and ran inside, leaving me standing in the wet grass.

    Eilif Amundsen Atelier Mirror 1985 oil on canvas
    “Atelier Mirror” (1985, oil on canvas)
    by Eilif Amundsen
  • Tillie is loving have a puppy to play with. I’m so glad this worked out well.
  • In between renovations, Corey has been taking some amazing photographs. I’ll post soon.
  • I feel terrible that I haven’t spent any time with my niece Hannah, but in between renovations and battling bubbly face, it hasn’t worked out. I’m hoping to see her this Saturday.
  • Brett officially changed his major from physics to English. I’m secretly delighted. Okay, maybe not so secret.
  • I finally gave in and expanded my LinkedIn profile. It’s not social like Facebook, so I think that I can deal with it.
  • Have I mentioned how glad I am to have indoor plumbing? I did? Well, it can’t be stated enough.

“Reality is yours, and your spirit is your own.
Stand here, or anywhere, long enough, and you will learn that.
It’s not the stream or the bridge; it’s where I stand
At a precise spot of nowhere and timelessness
Within myself, a door I can go through and be invisible” ~ Douglas Dunn, from “Just Standing There”

Let’s see . . . what else is going on in my mind or otherwise . . .

  • So I saw my new pain doctor on Monday and got a shot in my knee, so painful, and a series of shots in my right hand and wrist.

    Eilif Amundsen Green Backlight 1977
    “Green Backlight” (1977, unknown media)
    by Eilif Amundsen
  • Apparently, the x-rays I had done last week show arthritis in both of my knees. Lovely . . .
  • Of course because I just saw my doctor, I am now on day two of this particular migraine.
  • Speaking of my knees, can’t wait until I get to tile the bathroom floor, he, he, he.
  • The doctor was not amused when I told him that I was thinking of holding off on the wrist shots because I was getting ready to do a tiling project. His comment? “You should hired someone.” My response? “Are you paying?” (at least that was the response in my head)
  • I dropped by Lex’s apres le docteur so that I could see Olivia. If I waited for Alexis to come by, the baby might be in preschool . . .
  • That last comment was snarky, wasn’t it? Well . . . is it still snarky if it’s true?
  • I’m a little perturbed at her for various reasons, but I’ll get over it.
  • Olivia has more teeth coming in. I’ll be glad when we’re finished with the renovation, mostly because I’ll be able to have the baby over again . . . well, there’s that, plus the new bathroom and jetted tub and no holes anywhere.

“I am an old boudoir full of withered roses.” ~ Charles Baudelaire, from “Spleen”

I really love this quote

  • I haven’t read much Baudelaire (any?)
  • Another pitfall of this funk—haven’t been able to read either.
Eilif Amundsen Chair, Table, Window, oil on canvas
“Chair, Table, Window” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Eilif Amundsen
  • Because of the renovation, I’ve been doing most of the cooking, which reminds me that I hate to cook. I used to love it, but not so much any more.
  • Last night I made Mongolian Beef, which I’ve been thinking about cooking for a while. I don’t think that I like it any more.
  • I finally made Chicken Pad Thai for Corey. That was a hit.
  • Oh, did I mention that our refrigerator is broken? Probably not because I’m in denial, although why I couldn’t tell you. I mean, it’s so just our luck that our refrigerator would stop working now that we’re making real progress in the bathroom. Can’t be 100 per cent operational in this household.
  • I still contend that one of those crazy bitches I used to work with put a curse on me, but don’t ask me which one . . .
  • Speaking of which, last night I had a department store dream again. I was in the dog house for something, which is pretty close to the reality that of that period of my life.
  • My back is killing me. I think I’ll stop for now and go have some puppy time.
  • I do want to mention, though, that I think this random post helped. I’m been feeling progressively more comfortable with the words with each bullet.

Belated Happy Birthday wishes to my father-in-law John. Hope it was happy!

More later. Peace.

All images are by Norwegian artist Eilif Amundsen (1930-2007).

Music by Sara Bareilles, “Breathe Again”

                   

Rembrandt’s Light

We’re crossing Depression Era bridges
and she is becoming more beautiful,
driving with both hands on the wheel
as we head inland: away from saltwater eddies
where every few months an empty row boat
falls victim to the current, recirculates
against the rocky shore for weeks
before splintering its wooden hull
on the land’s dull and uncompromising teeth.
Rembrandt’s light always came from the left.
He painted and hoped the canvas would keep
his shadows, the eye drawn to where the flesh
was softest and the most tired: just beneath
the eyes where we keep our hurt and our joy,
where we seldom touch for how easily
the thin skin can bruise. Evergreens
invite us to agree on beauty. The fenced-off pier
begs for passengers. She says the light
is bleeding from the clouds. The pavement,
the undersides of leaves: every darkness shining.

~ Luke Johnson

“The soil in which the meditative mind can begin is the soil of everyday life, the strife, the pain, and the fleeting joy. It must begin there, and bring order, and from there move endlessly.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Big Ben Variations: Big Ben and Westminster by Problemkind (FCC)

                   

“I dedicate these words to the things in life I do not understand, to each thing passing away before my eyes. I dedicate these words to the impossibility of finding a word equal to the silence inside me . . .” ~ Paul Auster from Disappearances – Selected Poems

Monday afternoon. Showers and warm temperatures that are slowly dropping.

Today would have been my dad’s 83rd birthday.

Big Ben Variations: Christmas Eve at 11 p.m. by ktylerconk (FCC)

Last night was a bad one. Didn’t get to sleep until around 5:30 a.m., and then awake again at 8:30, 9:30, 10:30 . . . up for a bit, back to sleep at 12 and then Tillie woke me up, so I just said to hell with it and stayed up.

Tillie has an upset stomach and has thrown up several times in the last 24 hours. I just tried to hide a tums in peanut butter (which is her doggie crack), but she wasn’t having it.

Anyway, I whiled away the wee hours by watching a couple of movies and then visiting blogs on my blogroll. A couple of blog friends participated in this year’s nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), which is in November. Participants are supposed to write every day from November 1st to the 30th, with a goal of 50,000 words of a new novel. The event has grown so much that last year 200,000 people participated.

I’ve heard mixed reviews from participants. One person said that while he was happy about his accomplishment, the writing that he produced was so rough that he felt that he spent more time revising than he normally did. I’ve thought about it, and actually wanted to try it this year, but not having my own computer makes it pretty much impossible. So maybe next year.

“I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy” ~ Charles Baudelaire

So while I was lying there, eyes open and brain racing, I began to think about myself as a person, I mean, as in what kind of person I would say that I am. Here is what I deduced:

Big Ben Variations: At Moonrise by smaedli (FCC)
  • I am the kind of person who always puts something into a Salvation Army kettle during the holidays, even if it’s just a quarter
  • The kind of person who would exist on just dessert if my blood sugar allowed it
  • The kind of person who will not change my position in bed if it means waking up the dogs
  • The kind of person who wakes up when one of my dogs is having a nightmare and then rubs his or her back gently until it passes
  • The kind of person who thinks often of doing daring things, like riding in a glider, but never seems to get around to doing them.

There’s more of course. I’m the kind of person who

  • Really dislikes sitcoms, with the exception of Cheers, Friends, and M*A*S*H
  • The kind of person who sings in the shower
  • The kind of person who sleeps with one leg on top of the covers
  • The kind of person who has both kept and returned too much change, depending on how broke I was
  • The kind of person who likes big, oversized towels that smell of fabric softener

“Remember your name. Do not lose hope—what you seek will be found. Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn. Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Why all this introspection? Insomnia does weird things to my mind. But to be honest, it’s more that I sometimes stop and try to figure out exactly what I am, as much as who I am. Does that make sense?

Big Ben Variations: At Night by indywriter (FCC)

So to continue . . .

  • I’m the kind of person who prefers a thunderstorm to just rain
  • The kind of person who spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about death
  • The kind of person who has never had any desire to do any kind of hard illegal substance, but I did inhale way back in the day
  • The kind of person who will stop to try to rescue an animal from traffic
  • The kind of person who truly loves to walk in the rain

Other things? Well . . .

  • I’m the kind of person who can be simultaneously easily distracted and firmly focused
  • The kind of person who hates to open mail (other than personal letters), and allows it to amass into a pile
  • The kind of person who doesn’t dare to play a role-playing game because I know that I would become hooked
  • The kind of person who never buys anything at full price
  • The kind of person who used to balance her checkbook to the penny

“. . . you must somehow begin from the other end, from the other shore, and not always be concerned with this shore or how to cross the river. You must take a plunge into the water, not knowing how to swim. And the beauty of meditation is that you never know where you are, where you are going, what the end is..” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Then there are the offbeat things, making me the kind of person who:

Big Ben Variations: At Twilight by Chris_J (FCC)
  • Does the head bob in the car when a head-banging song comes on the radio
  • The kind of person who fills bird feeders in the rain
  • The kind of person who would spend a week in a monastery, given the chance
  • The kind of person who used to paint a checkerboard pattern on the right thumb only
  • The kind of person who possesses an ERA Now button

And then there are these:

  • I’m the kind of person whose favorite electronic game is still “Goldeneye” for Nintendo 64
  • The kind of person who drinks three things at once if I’m out (which is not often any more): something hot (tea), something cold (ice water), and something alcoholic
  • The kind of person who hates to wait at a railroad crossing
  • The kind of person who can do math in my head (some math, that is)
  • The kind of person who can curse without moving my lips

Things that make you go hmm . . .

“Dreams and restless thoughts came flowing to him from the river, from the twinkling stars at night, from the sun’s melting rays. Dreams and a restlessness of the soul came to him.” ~ Hermann Hesse from Siddhartha

I suppose that in thinking about these things, I’m trying to ascertain what separates me from the madding crowd, but perhaps that is only wishful thinking. Am I far from the madding crowd, from the masses? I’ve always thought so.

Words used to describe me at various points in my life (in no particular order): quirky, freak, strange, curmudgeonly, bitch, sweet (?), drama queen, cherubic (that one really threw me off kilter), exotic, sexy, fat, scary, imposing, forbidding, critical, funny, sarcastic, cool, uptight, paranoid, prudish . . . even the n-word once.

Big Ben Variations: Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, and the River Thames at Night, by dimodi (FCC)

I remember for a while in junior high I was referred to as Chiquita (very original since it rhymed with my name . . . righty-o). Then there was the Leap Frog nickname. Whatever.

I’ve always believed that I didn’t fit in, that I wasn’t like the rest, the others, whoever they were, and admittedly, I’ve played up that aspect of myself, sometimes as a protective mechanism, as in, “I’m not like the popular girls, but that’s okay because I’m different.” And then sometimes being different has been a bane.

Different? The word brings to mind a line from “At the Ballet,” a song in A Chorus Line in which Bebe sings about being different:

“Diff’rent,” she said, “With a special something
And a very, very personal flair . . .

I never met anyone who was “diff’rent”
Who couldn’t figure that out.

I remember the first time I heard that song, and that section came on, and I thought to myself, “Yes. That’s me.”

But being different is a cloak, at least for me. It allows me to sit in judgment of other people, admittedly, something of which I am not terribly proud. I mean, when I’m out in public, I  look at people and think to myself, “I’m not as big as she is,” or “Is that what I look like?” Judging so as not to be judged? Who knows?

And finally,

  • I judge others harshly
  • I always wonder what people think of me
  • I talk back to people on the television
  • I get irritated when marquee signs have grammatical errors and misspellings
  • I frequently bore myself—now, for example.

Feeling a bit nostalgic; hence, the variations on Big Ben.

More later. Peace.

Music by O+S, “We Do What We Want to”

                   

Villanelle on a Line from Macbeth

Stay, imperfect speaker, tell me more.
I don’t want the house, I want its ruins,
cracked panes, grandfather clock, paper-like door.

I want the vines that engulfed exterior walls,
petrified forests of books and manuscripts,
dust-filled afternoons that opened like doors

Onto Hesse’s wind-silvered fields, onto myths
surging up out of the earth. I want the man to say,
“Stay, imperfect speaker, tell me more,”

as he did at the end of every long conversation,
saying “imperfect” and meaning “unfinished,”
saying it always as I moved toward the door,

as I say it now, again and over and again,
I want the words to rebuild the house in shambles:
stay, imperfect speaker, tell me more.

I know: if I went back, there would be nothing
or worse: a new house, pristine, immaculate,
even the vine-filled library gone. I left and shut the door.
Imperfect memory, please, stay, tell me more.

~ Michael Davis