“You might be looking for reasons but there are no reasons.” ~ Nina LaCour, from Hold Still

Emil Nolde, Landschaft, Nordfriesland, 1920 (I have always found that the art of Nolde completely encompasses what I’m feeling, regardless of the emotion)

“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

Thursday, late afternoon, cloudy and humid, thunderstorms on the horizon, 85 degrees.

So . . . Thursday thoughts . . .

I’ve been pondering regret, all kinds of regret, and I decided that instead of just mulling over all of this in my head that I would try to get some of these thoughts down here. I have no idea as to just how successful I’ll be in doing this, as lately, each time I begin to type, all of the myriad of ideas racing through my head suddenly disappear, and I am left with nothing, no words, no well-constructed lines of thought and logic.

Simply nothing.

So perhaps rather than trying to write well-constructed sentences, I’ll just type the thoughts as they come, much like my dream post of a few days ago. So here goes, in no particular order or priority:

  • I regret that I was not more patient with my mother, that I was not more forthcoming with her, but it always seemed so hard, seemed as if she just wouldn’t understand, and honestly, I don’t know if she would have wanted to hear what I had to say. My mother was not one for warm and fuzzy, not one for hugs, not one for saying “I love you,” and I never really found out why. I had my theories, but no real confirmation.
  • I regret that I do not have regular contact with my dad’s last living sibling, my Uncle Ely in Florida. He’s old and sick, and I doubt that I’ll see him again while he still lives. It’s the last tie on that side.
  • I regret not going back to the hospital in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning to be with my dad; instead, I fell asleep, and he died alone.
“The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

More:

  • I really wish that we had painted this whole house before we moved in, but we had no electricity, and we were dealing with closing up things in Norfolk while simultaneously trying to set up things here. But I wonder if we’ll ever have this house straightened out.
  • I wish that I had been more proactive in taking care of the house on Benjamin. I hated that house for several reasons, but still, it was my home, and my children were raised there.
  • I really, really regret not applying to a low-residence MFA program when it would have made more sense. An MFA is considered a terminal degree, which means that having one allows you to apply to tenure track positions at colleges and universities. I’ve found one that I’d still love to attend, but that costs money. There is no money
  • I regret that I was never better with finances. I’ve reached an age that I was totally unprepared for, and my financial situation is no better than it was 20 years ago. How does that happen?
“I had buried too much too deeply inside me. And here I am, instead of there.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Then there are these:

  • I regret the break up of my first marriage, not because of the relationship, but because of what it did to my kids. I don’t know if Eamonn will ever forgive me for it, even though his father fell in love with another person less than two months after leaving.
  • I really regret letting certain friendships fall by the wayside when spouse #1 and I split, especially my very long friendship with Pat and the one I had with Becky from the museum. They were two incredible women. For a weird reason, there was a rift between spouse #1 and I, and our relationship with our closest friends, Pat and Winn, a rift I’ll never fully understand, and now I’ll never be able to see or talk to Pat again; I did not even know that she had died until almost a year later.
  • I regret feeling too tired to drive out to see Alan after work that afternoon. His sister said that he waited for me.  He died soon after.
  • I regret that I did not see Dallas one more time before he died. I don’t know that it would have been a good visit, but once someone dies, you always think of things that you wish you had said. It’s still weird for me, his death. There has been no service, no closure, just texts, messages, and rumors. I don’t know how to handle that.

“Droll thing life is—that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself—that comes too late—a crop of inextinguishable regrets.” ~ Joseph Conrad, from Heart of Darkness

  • I wish that I was in touch with more of my mom’s family. That everything with her family in Great Bridge ended so abruptly still pains me deeply. That I don’t know the status of her sister in Winston Salem shames me.
  • I am so embarrassed that I have not paid to have the dates put on my mom’s grave marker. It was something that I was going to get around to doing, but then never did. I just don’t understand how things like that happen, or rather, how I let things like that happen.
  • Sometimes I still regret not moving to New York and actually trying to make it in the theater. I know that I probably don’t have the guts to do such a thing, yet I also know that I do. Does that make sense?
  • I regret trying to teach Heart of Darkness to a bunch of freshmen at Tech.

“I am grateful for all those dark years, even though in retrospect they seem like a long, bitter prayer that was answered finally.” ~ Marilynne Robinson, from Gilead

And finally, a few more:

  • I regret accruing student debt for Brett that still looms out there, haunting me and him. College should not break people financially.
  • I regret everything bad that happened with Mari, still.
  • I regret the how the last two years played out.
  • I regret never having another child.

Ultimately, I regret far too many things to list here, far too many thing to try to enumerate in any kind of cogent way. People I have wronged. Relationships better left unpursued. Arguments. Words spoken and unspoken. Decisions made and those put off and then forgotten. Stupid things like something I left undone at Dillard’s, or a night that would have been better never happening, the wrong outfit at a wedding . . .

Who can live with such things and not go crazy? Is it any wonder that I never feel adequate or whole?  Any wonder that my entire sense of self is controlled by guilt? Such self-loathing. Such would-have, should-have recriminations. Such bullshit obsessing. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hate being like this.

Enough already.


Music by Angus Powell, “Monsters”


Wind in a Box

—after Lorca

I want to always sleep beneath a bright red blanket
of leaves. I want to never wear a coat of ice.
I want to learn to walk without blinking.

I want to outlive the turtle and the turtle’s father,
the stone. I want a mouth full of permissions

and a pink glistening bud. If the wildflower and ant hill
can return after sleeping each season, I want to walk
out of this house wearing nothing but wind.

I want to greet you, I want to wait for the bus with you
weighing less than a chill. I want to fight off the bolts

of gray lighting the alcoves and winding paths
of your hair. I want to fight off the damp nudgings
of snow. I want to fight off the wind.

I want to be the wind and I want to fight off the wind
with its sagging banner of isolation, its swinging

screen doors, its gilded boxes, and neatly folded pamphlets
of noise. I want to fight off the dull straight lines
of two by fours and endings, your disapprovals,

your doubts and regulations, your carbon copies.
If the locust can abandon its suit,

I want a brand new name. I want the pepper’s fury
and the salt’s tenderness. I want the virtue
of the evening rain, but not its gossip.

I want the moon’s intuition, but not its questions.
I want the malice of nothing on earth. I want to enter

every room in a strange electrified city
and find you there. I want your lips around the bell of flesh

at the bottom of my ear. I want to be the mirror,
but not the nightstand. I do not want to be the light switch.
I do not want to be the yellow photograph

or book of poems. When I leave this body, Woman,
I want to be pure flame. I want to be your song.

~ Terrance Hayes (found on Poetry Foundation)

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“The loveliest things in life are but shadows; they come and go, and change and fade away . . .” ~ Charles Dickens, from Martin Chuzzlewit

Kayama Matazo A Thousand Cranes 1970 color on silk, pair of six-folded screens
“A Thousand Cranes” (1970, color on silk, pair of six folded screens) by Kayama Matazo

                   

“I heard the steady sound of rain
and the soft lapping of water, and did not know
whether it was grief or joy or something other
that surged against my heart
and held me listening there so long and late.” ~ Peter Everwine, from “Rain”

Monday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 37 degrees.

Well, it’s been another long stretch between posts. As you can probably understand (or perhaps not), I haven’t had the wherewithal to write. I sit down here at my computer, and then I do one of three things: look online for books or makeup or whatever; take care of more of my mother’s affairs; play spider solitaire.

Kayama Matazo Moon 1983
“Moon” (1983) by Kayama Matazo

This morning when I awoke, I seriously thought of just staying in bed, never leaving, but my back hurt, and I needed to stretch, and besides, coffee . . .

My emotions go up and down and up and down, they swoop and swirl like the starlings’ murmurings, but without the natural beauty. I would like to be a bird, to float on the air, to move like that, to concentrate only on the concerns of eating, moving, and surviving, which, I suppose, is what life is, after all.

Sometimes, I sit in the bath at night with nothing but the candlelight, and I cry, sometimes softly, sometimes loudly, but I try to reserve the loud crying for times during which I am alone as I know that it gets to Brett and Corey. Sometimes, though, I just sit there, forget where I am or what I’m doing. I will tell you something truthfully: I did not anticipate how very much my mother’s death would affect me. I only have one message on my voice mail from her, and it’s the one in which she apologizes for forgetting my birthday. Do not ask how many times I have tortured myself listening to it.

“When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost—the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed.” ~ David Levithan, from Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Yesterday I went to one of those jewelry parties at my cousin’s house. It was nice to be invited, but I felt clumsy in my skin. All of these women, having easy conversations, laughing, smiling, sharing stories. I sat next to my aunt, and when she wasn’t there, I buried myself in catalogs, pretending to peruse the items.

I do not do socialization with strangers well.

Kayama Matazo Waves in Spring and Autumn 1966
“Waves in Spring and Autumn” (1966) by Kayama Matazo

I forced myself to stay for two hours, getting up, looking, nibbling, and when I thought I had been polite, I ordered the jewelry that I could not afford, thanked my hostess, and left.

Don’t get me wrong, I was so excited to receive the invitation. I sent my RSVP back immediately, and I tried to convince Alexis to go with me (she didn’t). I don’t know what I expected of myself, but I was unprepared for how unprepared I was. As you know, I do not leave the house much unless circumstances force me to, or someone in my family needs something. Perhaps I have forgotten how to socialize. People who knew me years ago would be astonished at the change. When I was much younger, I always had a circle about me; I could be lively, engaging even.

But now . . . I just don’t know, and the not knowing makes me want to hide even more.

“And I still don’t know if I’m a falcon,
a storm, or an unfinished song.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Ich lebe mein Leben in waschsenden Ringen (I live my life in widening circles)”

I have to admit, my unintentional leave of absence from this blog and from tumblr has helped in some ways. I do not remember the last time I went through my tumblr dashboard. I miss some parts of it—finding new artists, new quotes, new poems—but I am relieved from the sense of obligation that I imposed upon myself, that if I missed a few days, I would not stop until I had caught up, going back for days to see what I had missed.

Kayama Matazo Moon 1978 color on paper
“Moon” (1978, color on paper) by Kayama Matazo

As far as being here, though, that was something else. I just didn’t know what to say, and so I said . . .

nothing . . .

An old family friend called me on my mother’s birthday, but I wasn’t answering the phone that day. She left a lovely message, told me she was thinking about me, about my mom, that she loved me. I haven’t returned the call, probably won’t. Not because I don’t appreciate the words, but more that I just don’t think that I have words of my own.

The plan was to have a family dinner on Sunday the 16th, celebrate Eamonn’s birthday, and distribute some of mom’s ashes at both cemeteries (dad’s and Caitlin’s). The plan fell apart. Eamonn was too hungover. We had pizza with Lex, Mike, and Brett, and then on Monday, I made homemade spaghetti for Eamonn per his request. And then the weather got nasty again, and we decided just to postpone the ashes.

They are still in the trunk of my car. And I know that it might seem that that’s a horrible place for them, but I find it comforting, somehow. It’s my mother’s car, and she’s still in it.

Too weird?

“Write with blood, and you will find that blood is spirit.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Thus Spoke Zarathustra

This week I have doctors’ appointments, and I need to finish wrangling with more of my mother’s affairs, the federal government and GEICO—both of which make me nauseous just to think about. Last week I set up a new insurance policy on her house, and this past weekend Brett spent the weekend in the house. We moved Earl Grey the cat to Alexis’s house, and he seems to have adapted well, so now the house is quiet when we walk in.

Kayama Matazo Flowers 1978 color on paper
“Flowers” (1978, color on paper) by Kayama Matazo

My mother’s house was never quiet. She could not abide silence, which is why at any given time of the night or day you would find the television blaring. But now? Nothing. That is another strange part.

I don’t know. Telephone calls, messages, policies, whatever. Today, I just cannot do it. I just cannot muster what it takes to head once more into the fray, yet I cannot help but feel guilty that I am not taking care of these things. My mother was such a stickler for paying everyone on time, early, never ever late, but I’ve run out of money. I’ve paid everything except for a couple of small things, but it’s the doing that is getting to me. The actual act of doing something.

Pardon me, please. I seem to be saying a whole lot of nothing.

“but I have the kind of patience
born of indifference and hate.

Maybe the river and I share this.” ~ Michael McGriff, from “Catfish”

The other morning when Tillie had awakened me around 4 a.m. to go out, I stood at the door and listened to the birds’ morning songs. I heard a new sound that I have never heard before. I stood there for a while and listened, and then I thought that I should probably record the sound so that I could find out what it was. I finally found my phone, went to the door, and the sound stopped.

Kayama Matazo Going to see cherry blossoms at night 1982
“Going to See Cherry Blossoms at Night” (1982) by Kayama Matazo

I don’t remember what it was, or why I was so enchanted by it. I had thought that it might be a bat, but I listened to some bat sounds online, and that doesn’t seem to be it. I know that we get bats in this area, but I’ve never seen one.

Anyway, I had forgotten how much I love the predawn bird song, something I used to love to listen to when my insomnia was in high gear. There is something beautiful about that hour, when the sounds of cars and trucks are almost non existent, the noise of people is tempered, and only the birds and night creatures hold sway.

The house is dark and still. Everyone else is deep in sleep. Just the dogs, me, and the birds. For that brief spell, it is almost perfect.

The only thing missing is the sound of water.

More later. Peace.

All images by Japanese artist Kayama Matazo (1927-2004)

Music by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, “Say Something”

                   

The Piano Chord Most Adjacent to the Inexpressible

The piano chord most adjacent to the inexpressible is the
one that dissolves into flocks of flying birds

The tree as it moves through the breeze most
adjacent to conducting the sonorous
filaments of the air stands as tall as a
doorman to an entranceway to the eternal mysteries

The desert most adjacent to spiritual enlightenment is the
one whose dunes yesterday don’t resemble its
dunes today and whose dunes today
have slopes and dips totally ocean-like and unlike any of its
dunes tomorrow

The rain is finally falling after a month of drought
little earth-lips opening to drink in each drop
and the song each water-drinking element sings
resembles the chorus of an ancient opera sung among
cataclysmic rocks above tumultuous seas

There are no people in this poem
they are either asleep or haven’t been born yet
but the sound in the landscape most adjacent to the
deep heartfelt human voice
is the night-cricket seeming to long for a mate wherever
it may happen to hear its lament repeated
incessantly but melodiously through the dark

So like us
in catastrophe or anti-catastrophe
calling out to space from our centrifugal loneliness
with a voice most adjacent to the
silent nuzzling feeler to feeler of ants meeting from
opposite directions
and lights beaming from north and south and brightly
blending somewhere over the
Arctic in a purple and scarlet shivering aurora borealis
whose ripples are most adjacent to the
music of the spheres hanging down into the
visible from the invisible heavens whose
radiant flowing draperies curving through the folding air
they are

~ Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

“He spoke of human solitude, about the intrinsic loneliness of a sophisticated mind, one that is capable of reason and poetry but which grasps at straws when it comes to understanding another, a mind aware of the impossibility of absolute understanding. The difficulty of having a mind that understands that it will always be misunderstood.” ~ Nicole Krauss, from Man Walks into a Room

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Frozen Lake Shore 1964 oil on canvas
“Frozen Lake Shore” (1964 oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

                   

“And you refuse to cry. Smart move, you hear a voice say quite distinctly. You might need those tears someday. And you have been telling yourself the same thing all your life.” ~ Franz Wright, from “The Lesson”

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy and cold, 41 degrees.

Two weeks. Two weeks since I’ve done more than played spider solitaire and shopped my way through grief via online shopping for makeup, nail polish, and books. I won’t apologize. It has worked for me before, and until yesterday, I had managed to hold in all but the smallest of tears.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Winter Landscape oil on canvas
“Winter Landscape” (nd, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

But yesterday was the killer. Alexis and I were doing more cleaning out at my mom’s house. I was going through mountains of paperwork, some from as far back as 2000, when I came across an advanced directive form that my mother had filled out at some point. It was undated, but it was a shock.

You see, I had told the doctors that my mom wanted a no code, a DNR, that she did not want to be kept alive on machines. Well on this form she had checked that she did want CPR. I have no idea when she filled out this form, and it didn’t quite jibe with what she had said to me, but still. Had I made the wrong decision? Did I do the wrong thing?

It was all too much, and I finally broke down, irrevocably, loudly, lost it, in front of my daughter and granddaughter, and I couldn’t stop it, as much as I tried. The ugly, snotty, loud keening.

What if I did the wrong thing? I will never know, and once again, I have been placed in the position of making THE decision for someone I love, and once again, I have no idea if I did the wrong thing at the wrong time.

It is quite literally tearing my heart into small pieces.

“I gave you sorrow to hang on your wall
Like a calendar in one color.” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “The Nails”

Last night I had a dream that I have during periods of great sadness and stress. My former high school/college Catholic boyfriend has come back, and I have to tell him that I do not love him any more, that I love Corey. And the pain that I see on his face just kills me because I know that I have caused it. Many more things happened, like a ship takeover, and people removing their skin, but his face is what haunts me. I haven’t seen this person since Caitlin’s funeral, but he represents a different period in my life, when I was a different person.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela  April oil on canvas 1966
“April” (1966, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

So I forced myself to stay in bed for hours, tried to sleep more, tried to sleep away the memory of the dream. It did not work.

So here I am finally, on the day that I had decided that I would try to come back to this forum, this place of confession and reflection, that I would try to resume my relationship with words and images in attempt to creep back into some kind of normalcy. Perhaps I chose the wrong day.

What I am about to tell you might better be left unsaid, or kept to myself. Who knows. I only know that these words must come out else I go back into that place of complete lost control, back into the moment of sheer terror at feeling too much.

For those of you who chose to subscribe in the past few weeks, if you do not really know what I do here, I apologize in advance.

“I live with regrets—the bittersweet loss of innocence—the red track of the moon upon the lake—the inability to return and do it again” ~ John Geddes, from A Familiar Rain

No one prepares you for how it will feel when you lose your second parent. Most people live with a kind of trepidation as their parents age or become ill, live with a sense of dread at how it will play out in those final days. But how many people tell you how to prepare for that second loss, for the moment you enter the classification of orphan?

Okay, I know. Not really an orphan in the true sense of it, but orphan, no parents, nevertheless.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Autumn Landscape oil on canvas 1957
“Autumn Landscape” (1957, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

Let me back up a few paces. I had the same two parents my entire life. Today that is a rarity of sorts. No divorce, no steps. None of that. And even though my parents’ marriage was troubled in so very many ways, they were my parents, my touchstone to family, and when I lost my father, I was cast adrift in a way that I cannot even begin to explain.

I’m an only child. Sorry. I was an only child. The loss of my father wounded me, tore at me, left me feeling not only sad, but scared. Now I had to take care of my mother, and I knew that I would never be able to do it in the way that she needed, and honestly, I failed her in so many ways. But back to the original point: When you lose that second parent, and you are an only child, there is no one else left to tell embarrassing stories about you at family dinners. There is no one else to remind you of things that happened in your childhood. There is no one else left to brag about you, about the things that you did, about how you participated in the Dances of Asia as a young child before the Queen Mother (found the original program in her closet), about how you wrote for the Norfolk Compass (found an old copy also in her closet) or did that thing or whatever.

There is no one else.

“Tighter and tighter, the beautiful snow
holds the land in its fierce embrace.
It is like death, but it is not death; lovelier.
Cold, inconvenienced, late, what will you do now
with the gift of your left life?” ~ Carol Ann Duffy, from “Snow”

What I found out after my mother died is that she talked about me all of the time, said wonderful things about me to neighbors, friends, whoever would listen. I had done this and this and that.

And I know that I have complained, lamented that she did not share this sense of pride with me, that I had it come to me second hand, but does that diminish it? I cannot tell you as I honestly do not know.

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Snow-covered Telephone Wires oil on canvas 1960
“Snow-covered Telephone Wire” (1960, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

I can only tell you that after my father died, my mother become my albatross, which is a terrible thing to say, but I am trying to be honest here. Listen, this is the woman who said to me on the phone one time that she wouldn’t help me any more if I was dying. I am not making that up. She really said that to me. This is the woman who would get mad at me or one of us and would stop calling for months. The longest time was four months. I waited to see how long it would be.

When I was in a bind and I went to my cousin for help, I begged him not to tell my mother. He couldn’t understand why I was so afraid. I realize now that he never saw the woman that I knew, the one who could be absolutely unforgiving. He knew the funny woman, the one who was sweet and caring, and I’m not saying that she wasn’t, just not so much with me. I’m only saying that if she knew I had borrowed money from someone because I was in a complete bind, she never would have forgiven me, one for doing it in the first place, and two, for embarrassing her.

“The disturbed mind and affections, like the tossed sea, seldom calm without an intervening time of confusion and trouble.” ~ Charles Dickens on grief and how to heal a mourning heart in a letter to his younger sister

My mother reminded me frequently that my credit was shot, that I had run up a bunch of debt after Caitlin died and shopped my way through my loss for three years. She never forgot, and she never forgave. She said to me more than once that she just knew that the bank had closed my account (they hadn’t), that the city was coming after me (they weren’t). She really believed these things of me.

Einer Reuter H Ahtela no title oil on canvas 1946
No Title (1946, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

But this is also the same woman who would drive up in my driveway, honk the horn three times, and give me bags of Russell Stover candy eggs for Easter, or bags of Riesen because she had bought too many, or pork chops. Whatever . . . The same woman who used to take me to lunch when the boys were young and I worked at ODU and had a schedule that allowed me to go to lunch with my family. The same woman who bought me a purple Coach purse.

My mother loved through her gifts. It is a trait that she passed on to me, but I told myself early that I would always say I love you to my children, to my spouse, frequently, and without hesitation. That a gift was good, but a hug was better.

I don’t know if my mother’s inability to hug and to say “I love” you stemmed from her childhood, from days of not having a mother, from the times when her father drank away the family money. I don’t know. She never told me, and I never asked. It’s not the kind of thing that we could talk about.

“But to write is to dignify memory
[…] revives the unremembered” ~ Allan Peterson, from “Footnotes”

Let me pause here. People in general loved my mother. The guy at the Honda dealer who sold her her car told me that she used to call just to talk to him, and the woman in the finance office said that my mother was “so sweet.” Relative strangers loved her.

I suppose I reached a point at sometime in my life at which I no longer expected hugs or declarations of love, but that does not mean that there was not a hole there. She was better with my kids. Sometimes when they said, “I love you Oma,” she would say it back. Sometimes.

Einer Reuter paren H Ahtela The River Freezes oil on canvas
“The River Freezes” (nd, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

As I’ve been working on her house several neighbors have stopped by to tell me how sad they are at her death, to tell me how wonderful she was, how she would do anything for them. I know that they are not just saying this to make me feel better.

Do I sound heartless or just petty? I don’t know. Perhaps I am both. Perhaps I am neither.

In the last few years I knew that my mother’s mind was declining, that she couldn’t remember names of things, that she was becoming more confused, and Corey and I had had the discussion more than once about what we were going to do. My mother would have hated being in any kind of assisted living. About five years ago, maybe a few more, I had an ongoing conversation with her in which I mentioned that I thought it would be a good idea for us to sell both of our houses and to buy one with room enough for all of us.

I was willing, but I don’t think that she trusted me enough to try, so it never came to naught.

“What did Time smell like? Like dust and clocks and people. And if you wondered what Time sounded like, it sounded like water running in a dark cave and voices crying and dirt dropping down upon hollow box lids, and rain. And, going further, what did Time look like? Time looked like snow dropping silently into a black room or it looked like a silent film in an ancient theater, one hundred billion faces falling like those New Year balloons, down and down into nothing.” ~ Ray Bradbury, from The Martian Chronicles

As I was going through the papers, I would come across things on which she had written notes to me, things like “Call them as soon as I die to let them know so that they don’t send a check.” That stops you short, I have to say. I came across a note in which she wrote just her name and her telephone number. Was it to remind her? I came across a card she had written to someone saying something along the lines of “I don’t know you. Don’t send me anything like this again.”

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Wintry Source 1962 oil on canvas
“Wintry Source” (1962, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

In the last couple of years my mother, who had been in an ongoing feud with her last living sister, would say that Hilda was hateful, that she was mean. And then my mom would declare that she (my mother) was nothing like that.

I don’t know if my mom remembered that she had told me she wouldn’t help me if I was dying or if she conveniently forgot it. I know that for a while I conveniently forgot it because it was just easier. I was her only child, and like it or not, I had to be the one to take care of things.

So now I’m doing that in the best way I know how, and I have to tell you that at the end of each day for the past four weeks, I have closed my eyes with a sense of failure looming large. I should have . . . I didn’t . . . I wasn’t . . .

“but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply;
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay, from “What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why”

I know what I’m doing. I am aware of the pain I am causing myself. It’s how I operate. I run full steam on a full load of guilt. It began with Caitlin, continued with my father, and now it is here with my mother.

Honestly, I spend so much time these days trying not to let myself think, which is how I come to be spending hours playing spider solitaire and looking for the perfect dark circle concealer. At least I don’t have to leave the house except to feed the cat.

Einar Reuter Pine in Winter Haze oil on canvas 1961
“Pine in Winter Haze” (1961, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

But in those moments in which I allow my heart free reign, I feel more than a bit lost, as in what do I do now? It still hasn’t quite hit me, that my mother is really and truly gone. The other day I was in Wal Mart and I came upon the Rusell Stover Easter candy display, and I stopped short. You have to understand that this was a ritual with my mother, the bags of Easter candy, the coconut chocolate birds’ nests. And there was no one to do that this year, so I grabbed every nest they had and put them in my cart.

And then I turned around and saw the displays for St. Patrick’s Day cards, and for a minute I was brought up short again: My other mother-in-law’s birthday was St. Patrick’s Day, and my mother’s was March 15, and for just a fleeting second I thought about buying birthday cards, and then I had to try not to break down in the card aisle in the middle of Wal Mart.

“I tore a sheet of paper out of a notebook, found a pencil, and decided that this, too, would be a day not to remember.” ~ Laurie Halse Anderson, from The Impossible Knife of Memory

For me, my mother was bags of chocolate Riesen, leftover Chinese food, pancit that she used to make better than anyone I knew, reruns of “Bonanza” on the television, enough of an addiction to QVC that she had a line of credit with them, continual complaints about a water bill that was less than half of my normal one, forgotten birthdays (the calendar in her hall has my birthday circled and the word “Oops” written on it; I haven’t taken that down yet), her firm belief that her cat would only eat certain kinds of food, her love of her yard  . . .

Einar Reuter paren H Ahtela Light on the Northern Hills 1960 oil on canvas
“Light on the Northern Hills” (1960, oil on canvas)
by H. Ahtela (Einar Reuter)

And yet she was also this short woman who seemed to get smaller each time I saw her. She was visibly fading, and there was not a damn thing that I could do about it.

I have to say, for the record, this really, really sucks.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, thanks. The words came so fast, and truthfully, I could probably write another thousand without pausing, but it’s getting late in the afternoon, and I have to drive to my mother’s house to take care of her cat, yet another thing that is breaking my heart each day that I close the door and hear his pitiful meows.

All images are by Finnish artist H. Ahtela (also known as Einar Reuter) 1881-1968.

Music by Joe Cocker, “Heart Full of Rain”


Cathedral

The ugliest thing in the world
is the truth.

Who doesn’t want to die
like May rain over the lilacs,
like wild carrots in a ditch?

Only fanatics don’t know
that they know this.

I fly through the January night,
low over a snow-covered Europe,
cathedral after cathedral
casting its light out onto the snow:

Never have I seen
never so clearly.

~ Henrik Nordbrandt, trans. Patrick Phillips

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” ~ Charles Dickens

LG office passes out groceries with Second Har...

10 Things Food Banks Need But Won’t Ask For

Some items are in high demand at the food bank and you may not realize it. Because they aren’t essentials, the staff doesn’t publicly ask for them. A survey asked volunteers what items people would be most appreciative of and we’ve listed the top 10 below. If you’re looking for an easy way to help out, pick some of these up while shopping and drop them off at one of our area food banks.

1. Spices.

Think about it. People who rely on the food bank eat a lot of canned food, rice, oatmeal, white bread, etc. They love spices. Seasoned salt, cayenne pepper, chili powder, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, oregano, basil and so on.

2. Feminine Products.

Can you imagine being worried about affording these? Pads, tampons, panty liners, etc. Recommended: Buy in bulk at Costco for donating.

3. Chocolate.

People don’t need it, but think about being in their shoes and how nice it would be to be given a chocolate bar or brownie mix along with your essentials.

US Navy 030522-N-1711I-002 A Sailor sorts out ...

4. Toiletries.

Grocery stores are great about donating surplus or unsold food, but they have no reason to donate toilet paper, tooth paste, soap, deodorant, shampoo, etc. Food stamps often don’t cover these.

5. Canned meats and jerky.

This isn’t true of all food banks, but some struggle to give users enough protein.

6. Crackers and tortillas.

They don’t spoil and everybody likes them.

7. Baby toiletries.

Diapers, baby wipes, baby formula, baby shampoo, baby soap, baby food, bottles, etc.

8. Soup packets.

Sometimes you look at rice, beans, instant potatoes, and cans of vegetable and think, “What do I make with this?” Hearty soup is a complete meal.

9. Socks.

From a former homeless person: “Socks mean the world to you. They keep you warm, make you feel like you have something new, and just comfort you.”

10. Canned fruit other than pineapple.

Food banks get a lot of pineapple donated. Their clients love it when other kinds of fruit are available.

[SOURCE]

And remember! Food banks love cash donations because it allows them to buy whatever they need!

If you don’t know where your local food bank is, you can go here: Feeding America.

Also, many local churches have food pantries. You can find one in your area by going here: Food Pantries.

**********

From someone who has used a food bank:

As a sometimes food pantry user myself and with friends who rely on them to varying degrees – I want to specifically stress some of these:

 – non-food items like tp and feminine products and baby needs are SO incredibly important because 1) they are rarely donated, 2) people who have food stamps can often afford their food staples but might still need help with toiletries and cleaning items, and 3) folks who are homeless especially need that kinda stuff!

 – treats! Like, yes of course, if I am in need I am appreciative of canned goods and rice and pasta and stuff. That’s great for putting together healthy meals. But everyone needs a treat once in awhile – so when there is candy or chips or a nice expensive brand of organic something or other available at the pantry – it is just so incredibly exciting.

It can be a humiliating experience to visit a pantry, and it can make you feel very much less than. So to get a treat of some sort just really really makes a difference. And believe me – there are enough loaves of bread, cans of fruit, and dried beans to go around at these places. You won’t be starving someone by donating some microwave popcorn or chocolate chips now and again. I promise!

“Let me be to my sad self hereafter kind.” ~ Peter Pouncey, from Rules for Old Men Waiting: A Novel

Rain Drop by kicksave 2930 FCC
Rain Drop by kicksave2930 (FCC)

                   

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

Today was Jennifer’s Memorial Service. I did not attend, choosing instead to watch Olivia for Alexis.

Oddly enough, the funeral home at which the service was held broadcast the service live over the Internet. I had never heard of such a thing (a funeral?), but I watched. The sound was crappy, but I was able to make out most of what was said, and then, right as the minister was closing, he asked if anyone else had something to say, and Alexis stepped forward.

You have no idea how hard that was for her. She has always been terrified of speaking in front of crowds. When she was about seven, she gave up ballet after only a few lessons because she found out that she would have to perform in front of people. But this time she put her discomfort aside, and she spoke lovingly of her friend.

I was so proud of her. In fact, because of my daughter’s courage, I was able to leave the service (well, actually, my monitor), and to feel okay—not weepy, not bereft, not even a little depressed. I hadn’t attended the service mostly because I felt it would be inappropriate for me to be so emotional as my ties to Jennifer were second hand. If it makes any sense, I didn’t want it to feel as if I were appropriating what should have been a moment for Jennifer’s family and friends.

So when it was over, I played with Olivia. She is a balm to anything that aches within me.

More later, Peace.

Music by Alexi Murdoch, “Wait”

                   

Droplets

Even when the rain falls relatively hard,
only one leaf at a time of the little tree
you planted on the balcony last year,
then another leaf at its time, and one more,
is set trembling by the constant droplets,

but the rain, the clouds flocked over the city,
you at the piano inside, your hesitant music
mingling with the din of the downpour,
the gush of rivulets loosed from the eaves,
the iron railings and flowing gutters,

all of it fuses in me with such intensity
that I can’t help wondering why my longing
to live forever has so abated that it hardly
comes to me anymore, and never as it did,
as regret for what I might not live to live,

but rather as a layering of instants like this,
transient as the mist drawn from the rooftops,
yet emphatic as any note of the nocturne
you practice, and, the storm faltering, fading
into its own radiant passing, you practice again.

~ C. K. Williams

“There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.” ~ Harold Pinter

Lion at Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London
Somewhere in a box there is a picture of me on one of these lions.

                   

“And in the heart, born single as a kiss,
Broods the sad other—learner, yearner, dier—
That knows, uncomforted, its one desire
Was not for this.” ~ Rhina P. Espaillat, from “Falling”

Saturday early evening. Partly cloudy and warmer, high 80’s. Thunderstorms predicted for tonight and tomorrow.

Very tired today. Spent about eight hours yesterday roaming around with Alexis, trying to find her comfortable shorts and sandals. Bought a couple of skirts for myself to wear to her showers. Also bought the invitations and decorations for her shower. So it was a very productive but tiring day. I made the mistake of drinking too much caffeine while we were out, and I definitely felt the difference in my body.

Double Decker Bus at Piccadilly Square, London

Both Eamonn and Brett came to me today separately to say that they missed Corey. I’m missing him as well. Maybe there is something in the air. I would hate to think how it would feel if he were really going to be gone for 90 days. There was a specific reason why I never dated anyone in the Navy as I knew that I would not be good on long deployments, six months at a time. That has to really wear on a relationship.

Anyway, the house is empty at the moment. Brett went out with Em, and Eamonn went to some cookout with his friends. Just the dogs and me, and Tillie is content now as I took her out to play before sitting down to write; otherwise she wouldn’t leave me alone.

“There either is or is not, that’s the way things are. The colour of the day. The way it felt to be a child. The saltwater on your sunburnt legs. Sometimes the water is yellow, sometimes it’s red. But what colour it may be in memory, depends on the day. I’m not going to tell you the story the way it happened. I’m going to tell it the way I remember it.” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

So I’ve been thinking about memories, specifically my earliest memories, real memories, not the imagined memories from hearing people talk about events in your childhood. Of course I have the general, vague memories: going to Ravenscourt Park with my dad and our poodle, Sooty. Walking through Ravenscourt Park with my mom to the tube station. Going to the shops with my mom in Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith, and to Mr. Higgin’s shop on Goldhawk Road. But my first true memories come from about the age of four:

  • We are living in London in the first house. We live on the second floor. I have not begun school, so I am at home with my mother. There is a large window in the kitchen, and it is covered with steam as she is cooking. I draw what I think are words and letters on the window. I ask my mother what I have written, and she says, “home.”
  • Same house: It is Christmas Eve. My mother has put up a fake silver tree. I have begged to stay up late. There are footsteps outside the door. My mother tells me that it’s Santa and that he won’t come in if I’m still awake. I crawl under the heavy front door that has glass as its top half, and run to my bedroom.
  • We have moved to our apartment off Goldhawk Road. I fall off the living room couch and sprain my arm. That night I develop a fever and have nightmares about rolling hills of different colors and a giant striding the hills. I have this nightmare frequently when I’m sick.

    Stamford Court, Goldhawk Road, London W6
    We lived on the right side, first floor in the corner; our windows faced the parking lot
  • A little older. We are living in London. I go to spend a week with my parents’ friends who live outside the city. I realize later that I have been sent away so that my parents can sort out yet another indiscretion of my father’s. While staying with these people a local boy is stung by a wasp. This is a very significant event, but I am not sure why.
  • Same age, same visit: The friends and neighbors take several of the children to a neighborhood pool. I do not have a bathing suit. At first I want to swim in my dress. They convince me to swim in my underwear. I am unashamed in that way that only the most innocent of children can be.
  • Still 5. My mother’s brother Danny dies, and she is very upset. She tells me not to tell anyone, so I tell my friends who live in the apartment two floors above us.
  • Five or six. I am participating in a Dances of Asia program along with some Phillipine Embassy children. There are older girls and boys, and I am left alone with the older boys in a room. One of the boys finds a girdle and holds it up. All of the boys laugh. I run from the room and promptly tell on them.
  • Still in London, five or six. I am auditioning for the school chorus in front of the headmistriss of flora Gardens School. I do not use my usual singing voice but yell all of the words very loudly because I want her to hear me. She smiles and tells me that not everything need be loud. I am not given a place in the chorus.

“Memory is the library of the mind.” ~ Francis Fauvel-Gourand

More childhood memories:

  • I must be about five or six as I am in school. My mother puts the front part of my hair up in a rubber band, but she does not take it down every day. I cry from the pain when she finally removes the rubber band that has become tangled in my hair.
  • Same age: my mother and I travel back to the U.S. for her friend’s funeral. I learn the significance of this much later. While we are in the U.S> it is Halloween. My mother buys me a plastic mask to wear. It scares me, but I say nothing because I want to go out with the other children.

    A Typical London Taxi
    Riding in one of these was a treat as we usually took the tube or a bus.
  • About six. Summer. We travel to France on the ferry that crosses the English Channel. Then we drive through France, and Spain. We arrive in Morocco where good friends of my parents live in a metal Quonset hut on a military base.
  • In Morocco, I eat watermelon for the first time that I remember.  An Am-ah in long black robes takes me to the market. I ride on the back of a motorcycle and see camels.
  • Same trip: We drive somewhere in the country, and I need to use the bathroom. There is a hut by the side of the road. Inside are two holes with smooth stones on either side of the openings. I refuse to go to the bathroom.
  • In Spain, we stay at a hotel called the White Horse. There is a strip of paper across the toilet, and I decide that I will use this bathroom.

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, from All the Pretty Horses

I’m older now, but we’re still in London:

  • I’m in the hospital to have my tonsils removed. The nurse comes to give me a shot, and I throw a tantrum. Orderlies hold me down.
  • After the operation they put me in an oxygen tent. I pull the sheet over my head because it is cooler beneath the covers. My mother walks in and sees the sheet over my head and screams.
  • One day while walking to school, my friends and I see a purse behind the bushes that line the side of the hospital fence, a huge black metal fence that runs the length of the street. This may be the nurses home. We wonder how a purse got behind the bushes. Years later I remember this and think that the purse must have belonged to a nurse who was attacked. I create an entire story in my head about this unknown woman.

    Ravenscourt Park
    We walked through the park to get to school. There used to be lots of arched recesses.
  • One day while walking home from school I fall on the road right outside the entrance to the park. A piece of gravel embeds itself on my left palm. I still have a very tiny spot on that palm where the gravel was.
  • We are in school having a maths lesson. The teacher writes a problem on the blackboard and asks the smartest boy in class how many numbers he can work with at one time. He says all of them. She says no, that we can only work with two numbers at a time, do one thing at a time. I spend the rest of my life trying to prove her wrong.
  • My mother cuts off all of my hair so that it will be in the same style s a singer she likes. I hate it short and feel like I look like a boy.

“The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later, they burn his soul.” ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

These memories are mine, perhaps not recalled perfectly, but as close to real as I have stored them. For example, I know that I saw the guards at Buckingham palace on several occasions, but I do not actually remember this. Most of these things I have not told my mother, so she has not recounted them at the dinner table in that embarrassing way that she does, like the things that I did as a baby. I never told her about the girdle incidence, or the black purse behind the bushes. She does not know that I was afraid of the mask with the thin strap of elastic that got caught in my hair. I never told anyone about my dreams of colored rolling hills and giants.

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, London

Nor does my mother realize that I remember the Indian woman in the sari who came to our apartment door right after I got back from spending the week in the country, that my mother closed the door and began screaming at my father. I remember that, just as I remember being taken from the room.

Why does it matter where these memories come from? I don’t know, I only know that it matters to me. These are my truths, and they have not come to me from someone else’s filter. There is one thing that I can tell you for certain: I was a happy child most of the time until I went away for that trip in the country. After that, I did not trust that my parents would not send me away again. After that, I was unsure of everything.

All images feature places or things in London that remain firmly ensconced in my memory. I cannot tell you how exciting it was to find pictures of some of these places on the Internet.

More later. Peace.

Music by Josh Ritter, “Change of Time”

                   

The solitude of an apricot

Away from leaf touch, from twig.
Away from the markings and evidence
of others. Beyond the shale night
filling with rain. Beyond the sleepy
origin of sadness. Back, back into
the ingrown room. The place where
everything loved is placed, assembled
for memory. The delicate hold
and tender rearrangement of what is missing,
like certain words, a color reflected off
water a few years back. Apricots and
what burns. It has obtained what it is.
Sweet with a stone. Sweet with the
concession of a few statements,
a few lives it will touch without bruising.

~ Carl Adamshick

“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising.” ~ John Muir, John Muir: John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

Great Blue Heron in Morro Bay, CA by mikebaird (FCC)

                     

“An intense copper calm, like a universal yellow lotus, was more and more unfolding its noiseless, measureless leaves upon the sea.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Early Friday evening. Absolutely beautiful day, high 60’s, low humidity.

China Wu Chuan, by stfbfc (FCC)

Day five of this particular migraine, and today is the worst day so far. Sharp, stabbing pain on the top of my skull, like someone is trying to drive a screwdriver into my head.

In spite of the pain, I have been quite reflective today, probably because I had to drive Corey to work so that I would have the car to do school transport. He had a short shift just over the bridge at the dock off Shore Drive, so we passed Lake Whitehurst. The water was so still, like a mirror. Then, too, the Lafayette River looked like a slate grey plane when we drove over the Granby Street bridge.

In noticing this, I realized something about myself: I pay attention to things and not people. On any given day, I can tell you how the sky looked, what birds I heard, how still or turbulent the water was . . . but I would be hard-pressed to describe the people I passed. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about the woman standing at the bus stop right outside my car window as I waited for the light to turn green. I would not be able to describe the cyclist I passed who almost veered into traffic.

Is this a bad thing? Does this reflect negatively on what kind of person I am? Or does it just mean that I am more in tune with the natural world than with the world inhabited by people?

I really couldn’t tell you.

“The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” ~ Edward Gibbon

Morning in Saintes Maries de la Mer, Cote d'Azur, France, by Wolfgang Staudt (FCC, this image can be downloaded as wallpaper)

My affinity for water, though, is long-standing. And when I picked up Corey from the boatyard, a tug was pulling away from the dock. I turned to him and asked him in all seriousness if he doesn’t miss being on the water on days like this.

I know that if I had been born male, know this with every fiber of my being, I would have picked a job that took me onto the water. Why male, you might ask? Unfortunately, the water is still one of the last bastions that is not completely open to women. It takes more than strength of will to do battle with the water and survive. There must be physical strength. That is simply the way that it is.

But I really do understand why my father was always more comfortable at sea as opposed to being on dry land. I mean, I know that being gone for months at a time is a lonely prospect, but I like to think of what it might have been like to be on a NOAA exploration vessel, the things I would have seen, the experiences I might have had.

Truthfully, the only major I regret not pursuing in college is oceanography, which might seem weird for a woman who loves literature and writing, but imagine the tales I would have to tell if I had gone to sea.

It is not something that I would have undertaken lightly, though, as I have a healthy respect for the power that lies just beneath that mirror-like calm, how in an instant the blue can become white churning, relentless and angry.

“I restored to the tray’s slightly concave stainless steel,
That ever so slightly distorted mirror, its polished shine.
It reflected all of the sky, through which clouds reeled,
And I could confirm that space does not weigh more than time.” ~ Jacques Réda, from “The Letter Scale,” (trans. Andrew Shields)

Captain on the Bridge by Jens Lumm (FCC)

What still gives me hope—and yes, I am still capable of that—still grants me a sense that all is not lost is my ability to find beauty unexpectedly, when I happen upon a moment so perfect that I must pause and swallow and perhaps wipe away a tear.

Too sappy? But true.

I know that it’s the romantic sensibility in me that gives me this gift, and I am oh so grateful that all of my cynicism has not polluted this side of me. Because yes, I am cynical, snarky, and just plain curmudgeonly. I do not suffer fools at all, and I have very little tolerance for stupidity. But my soul can be quelled in a second when a chance encounter with the splendor that is nature reaches past my veneer of safety, the shell in which I encase myself most of the time so as to repel the ugly and the discouraging that seems to permeate this world.

Don’t bother to ask me if the glass is half empty or half full because I would wonder first about the glass itself, and I would probably prefer that it be empty so that it can refract the sunlight.

I am all too aware of my shortcomings, my deep plunges into the darker side of my soul, and my tendency to speak of too many regrets and too many what ifs, but not today. Today, in spite of the pain that has now taken up residence in my right temple, in spite of a series of telephone calls with some very nasty people, in spite of these things, I choose to reflect on the water, which is partially the theme behind today’s images (still blue water).

The water was the first thing that I noticed this morning, and it has stayed with me all day long and well into night. Actually, one of the best things about living in this area is the proliferation of bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, numerous rivers and lakes, inlets and gullies. The very things that makes this area so dangerous during a hurricane is the very thing that I most love.

“It says we all are beautiful at least once.
And, if you’d watch over me, we can be beautiful again.” ~ D. A. Powell, from “Boonies”

Lake Hawea, New Zealand, by Kiwi Flickr (FCC)

Do you notice what you notice? I mean, are you aware of what seeps into your brain without deliberation? I know that I am not and that I do not, not noticeably, but then images come back to me like my own personal slideshow. But as with most of the images that I post, very few people take residence in them.

I am always astonished when Corey points out something to me that was right in front of me that I never caught myself. He definitely notices people, what they are wearing, how they are standing or walking. Someone once told me that he was attracted to me because of how I carried myself, so full of confidence. Of course, that was years ago.

The comment surprised me, though, because I don’t think that before that moment I had ever paid any attention to how I carried myself, and certainly never considered that I reflected confidence. People used to say that they found me intimidating, which also surprises me as I do not try to be so. I just am as I am, as it were.

Maybe years ago, when I still considered myself a professional with a career, I did exude confidence, but it was not a purposeful decision on my part. I think that perhaps many of us exude things without ever realizing it, which makes me wonder if I now exude a sense of hesitancy . . .

“The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing, is the sweetest place to be. And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.” ~ Linda Hogan, The Woman Who Watches Over the World

Dawn Reflections by stachelig (FCC)

Speaking of which, Eamonn told me the other night that I was a housewife . . . how incredibly insulting. I’m not married to my house or any other house. Don’t bother to tell me that being a housewife is an honorable profession. Staying at home full time to raise a family is indeed an honorable profession, a choice, one that requires numerous skills. But no one who stay at home to work is a housewife; it’s just such an insulting term.

I know that years ago it was perfectly acceptable, even desirable to be considered a housewife, but things change, dear. I did not start working full time in my teens and pursue three degrees so that I could be told that I’m married to my house.

Let’s just say that I’m semi-retired, and leave it at that.

Of course, Corey does not understand why the term is derogatory, but that is because he’s never been a woman who was fighting to be taken seriously in the workplace. He has never been a woman who was underpaid simply because she had a spouse, and her job was considered a “hobby.” He has never been in a situation in which he was called “missy” in a meeting in which he was the only female in a room full of retired generals and colonels, and he happened to be in charge.

Corey is a male, which does not preclude him having faced discrimination. That is not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that because he is not female, and because he did not come of age during a time in which gender roles were being forever reshaped, he cannot possibly understand why the terminology is important. But sometimes, the word choice is everything.

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together . . .” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

Lake Crabtree, NC by justindoub (FCC)

Actually, word choice is everything, the end all and be all as it controls thought, perception, attitude, response, hierarchy, power (or the lack of it). In the telephone conversation that I mentioned earlier, a man who I’ve never met tried to run roughshod on me by taking a hostile tone and increasing the volume on his voice. It did not work, and I simply told him, calmly (believe it or not), that this thing was not going to happen.

People use words and language all of the time to try to gain the upper hand, to try to intimidate; just as they use words to woo and to soothe, to placate and to pacify. They use words to assault and to provoke, and they use words to insinuate themselves where they are not necessarily wanted. They use words to evoke hate and to express love, words to reflect sorrow and words to encompass joy.

I have used words to my advantage my entire life. I know the power of choosing exactly the right word, and I know the power in inserting carefully selected words in a timely manner. I have used words as weapons and as balm. I am not proud of the former, and I try to offer more of the latter. I have wielded words as if they could cut to the bone, and in doing so, I have usually accomplished the emotional equivalent of that act. But as with most things in my life, I now wield words as weapons far less than I employ them in empathy.

Why do I tell you this? Perhaps as a cautionary tale. I know, unfortunately, what a bitter taste is left in the mouth after making a meal of words thrown out carelessly. And I can tell you without hesitation that even as they rebound upon the speaker, most words only gain power with use.

This, I know all too well.

More later. Peace.

Music by Eluvium, “When I Live by the Garden and the Sea” (which is where I hope to be someday)

                   

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

~ William Stafford