“Goodnight, Irene, goodnight, Irene. I’ll see you in my dreams . . .” ~ American Folk Song (1932)
Sunday afternoon, post Irene. Sunny and hot.
We were very, very fortunate. Irene blew through here and left downed trees and power lines, crushed cars, upended swimming pools, downed fences and sheds, street flooding, and loss of power for over 800,000 homes.
Even though we live mere feet from an inlet, we did not have any flooding. We lost power for about six hours, with intermediate flickers for a minute or two. We have power, water, and minimal tree damage. Our biggest loss was a picnic table that my former father-in-law built for us in 1988. I count us very, very lucky. No one in the family suffered any major damage, and as far as I know, none of our family friends or acquaintances suffered losses.
Here are some images of the area and the devastation in the wake of the storm (pulled from the wavy.com site) :
“Many a time have I merely closed my eyes at the end of yet another troublesome day and soaked my bruised psyche in wild water, rivers remembered and rivers imagined. Rivers course through my dreams, rivers cold and fast, rivers well-known and rivers nameless, rivers that seem like ribbons of blue water twisting through wide valleys, narrow rivers folded in layers of darkening shadows, rivers that have eroded down deep into the mountain’s belly, sculpted the land, peeled back the planet’s history exposing the texture of time itself.” ~ Harry Middleton
Sounds of soft rain outside the window, punctuated occasionally by quiet birdsong. Much cooler temperatures. The perfect day to read a book . . . or perhaps not.
I have been thinking about water—rivers, lakes, oceans. I was reading Janson’s blog today, and he was talking about his affinity for the Atlantic Ocean, how it is so much a part of him. I can relate to that. The Atlantic is my ocean. I have lived on both sides of it. I have seen its brown-green hues to the north and its amazing blues to the south. I have swum in it, floated in it, dived beneath its waves, and traversed it in different crafts.
I have sat on the shoreline and let the waves roll over my feet, tickled by the froth of receding water. I have watched fiddler crabs scurry away from the waves, and open-beaked pelicans dip below its surface to catch food.
No matter where I go, I always feel that I am home when I exit the Hampton Tunnel and see the Chesapeake Bay spreading out before me. No other air smells like sea air; no other air feels like the salt-infused spray of sea air.
“Rivers are magnets for the imagination, for conscious pondering and subconscious dreams, thrills, fears. People stare into the moving water, captivated, as they are when gazing into a fire. What is it that draws and holds us? The rivers’ reflections of our lives and experiences are endless.” ~ Tim Palmer
It is no coincidence that when I choose to go somewhere for vacation, it is almost always to a destination that is near water. Even in the foothills of Virginia, I can get the two things I love to see the most: water and mountains. Peaks of Otter in Bedford, Virginia overlooks Abbott Lake. This mountain retreat is located along the Blue Ridge Parkway. Guests can sit on their porches at sunset and look out on the beauty of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
When we go to Skyline Drive, I love most those paths that lead to water, like Dark Hollow Falls, a small natural waterfall. Chincoteague is an island on the Eastern Shore of Virginia where Corey and I have spent a few long weekends. A short drive to the south is the Outer Banks, a favorite day-trip to see the dunes of Kitty Hawk where hang gliders try their skills.
I know that I get my love of the water from my father, whose hometown in the Philippines bordered on a powerful river. My mother is terrified of the water and cannot abide boats. Yet one more way in which they were opposites.
My father taught me to swim in the Chesapeake Bay. My mother would always worry that I would fall into a sinkhole and drown, which actually does happen.
But it’s more than just bodies of water. I love rainstorms, thunderstorms. One of my favorite memories of my father was sitting on my parents’ back porch with my dad, both of us silent, just watching the lightning and listening to the rain and thunder. There is something mystical and magical about water. It holds the power to create and the power to destroy. It nurtures, and it kills.
“But I also know that in places, the river still runs deep, and though I’ve floated it in these places, it hasn’t revealed itself in such obvious ways. I know that it might be months—years, even—before I understand what it has to teach me. I still need to give myself over to the flow and pattern and rhythm of it to learn its lessons and hear its messages. The river is inside me now, I know, and I need only wait and see where the current takes me, and what lies beneath it.” ~ Jeff Wallach
I know that I’ve mentioned diving naked into a deep pool of mountain water while hiking on St. Mary’s trail near Steele’s Tavern, Virginia. It was probably one of the most sensuous moments of my life—sensuous, not sensual. All of my senses were heightened: the feel of the cool, clear water on my skin, the way that mountain water has a smell like no other water. It was like being bathed in the water of life. I mean, who knows how old that body of water actually is, when it was formed.
Water is timeless, which is what is meant by the saying that you can never step into the exact same body of water in the same way because the water has moved, shifted, traveled, and so have you. Neither is the same as at the first meeting. Still, water never seems to forget those who are at home in it. Slipping into a pool of water is completely natural to me; for me, there is nothing to fear.
The human body is between 55 to 78 percent water. Almost 71 percent of the earth is covered by water. The human brain is 70 percent water, and the lungs are almost 90 percent water.
Water of life. Water is life. The two are inextricably intertwined.
“No, life cannot be understood flat on a page. It has to be lived; a person has to get out of his head, has to fall in love, has to memorize poems, has to jump off bridges into rivers, has to stand in an empty desert and whisper sonnets under his breath . . .We get one story, you and I, and one story alone.” ~ Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts
Water has been the source of inspiration for writers, painters, and poets since time began. Claude Monet devoted years of his life to the water and water lilies surrounding his home in Giverny. His water lilies paintings ranged from small to room-sized. The hues and shading in this series are so deep and luminous that it is not hard to imagine seeing what Monet saw.
Water is infused into every part of our lives: songs (“Cry Me a River”), books (Peace Like a River), poems (“At Blackwater Pond”), movies (Titanic). One of the books that I used to teach in my literature classes was Kate Chopin’s The Awakening. It’s a lovely little book about one woman, Edna Pontellier, and her gradual awakening to life and its possibilities. Throughout the book, Edna undergoes a series of encounters with water that leave her both enervated and rejuvenated. Water and Edna’s relationship to it is the primary liet motif of the novel.
In one of my favorite movies and books, Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, the two main characters are destroyed by their all-consuming love. Katherine dies in the desert, but in the last lines that she writes, Katherine speaks of life and death in terms of the senses: “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.”
That description has stayed with me for years. The people who have come into and left our lives throughout the years are like rivers of wisdom, each of them teaching us something, not necessarily something we wanted to learn or to face, but some piece of knowledge nevertheless. We swim through the waters of our own experiences, each day, each month, each year, moving with the flow of time, not smoothly but like water over rocks. A force that cannot be stopped.
“I am one of the searchers . . . We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know—unless it be to share our laughter.” ~ James Kavanaugh
Sailing on the Chesapeake Bay
In my life, I have walked beside many waters, tasted the brine and the sweetness. I have sailed atop the water in small 16-foot sailboats and aboard huge ships. I have dived in fearlessly, and I have stood back, content to watch the ebb and flow of the water in its endless movement. I have decided that when I die, I want to be cremated and to have half of my ashes spread on the Atlantic Ocean, and the other half spread on the foothills of Virginia, the places I have loved the most.
I do not desire to be planted in the earth, to take up space in some container. I wish to return to the soul of the earth, to the very hollow of existence, to become part of the ever-changing beauty, the evolving mysteries, theeternal rhythm that is the essence of nature, this life, this world.
More later. Peace.
Music by Great Lake Swimmers, “Mariner’s Song”
At Blackwater Pond
At Blackwater Pond the tossed waters have settled
after a night of rain.
I dip my cupped hands. I drink
a long time. It tastes
like stone, leaves, fire. It falls cold
into my body, waking the bones. I hear them
deep inside me, whispering
oh what is that beautiful thing
that just happened?
“What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.” ~ Crowfoot’s last words, 1890
A heartfelt welcome to my new readers. In the last few days, I have had another spurt of comments from new readers, which is always wonderful. I love to receive comments of all kinds, so if you are just stopping by for the first time, please take a minute to let me know what you think.
Moving along . . . I’m not sure what possessed me, but I went into the bathroom a few hours ago and cut my hair. It feels better, not as heavy, but I messed up the front a bit. I have to say, though, that I’m not upset because my hair is growing so fast that within a month, it will probably be out of control again. I long for a really good haircut, actually a totally new style. Not short as I look horrible with short hair but something just below the shoulders. It really sucks not being able to pay for a good hair cut, but since I’m not really going anywhere that matters, I can’t justify the expense.
I don’t know how much of a post this will be. I’m not sleeping again. Yesterday, I finally fell asleep at 7:30 in the morning, and then last night, I fell asleep around 5:30 in the morning. Corey was working 11 to 7 last night, which is a bit unnerving because once I finally fall asleep, I’m alone in bed, but if I wake up in between, which I inevitably do, he’s in bed next to me. You can imagine how that might be a little unsettling.
“I found a journal in the coffee shop that said, ‘write something and leave me behind’; the open page read: ‘If you want to experience time travel, look into the face of the night because the stars illuminate the past—breathe in their stories.’” ~ C. Troise
I’m not sure where I found the above quote, but I love it because it’s the kind of thing that I would do if I were going to coffee shops on a regular basis. One of my favorite places to write in my journal is the Starbucks on Shore Drive, which runs parallel to the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. This Starbucks, which has a deck, faces the water, making it the perfect spot to sit in the spring sunshine, sip coffee, and write or read.
One time when I was hiking and camping with some friends, we came across a small shack on a trail. Inside was a hiker’s journal containing comments from people from all over the world, people who had stopped for a moment in their journey to add a few thoughts, read some of the entries. It was like finding a little treasure in the most unexpected place.
I haven’t written in a journal in ages. I mean, with this blog, there really isn’t a need for my journal. However, once Corey goes back to sea (here’s hoping), we plan to begin keeping journals again. The idea is that I write in mine while he’s away, and he writes in his, and then we exchange them when he gets home. We have filled two journals in this way, and we were in the middle of two others, but we decided that since we’ll be starting a new chapter of our lives when he finally gets a boat, that we are going to start new journals instead of picking up where we stopped.
If you have never kept a journal, you might want to think about doing so. I used to make my literature students keep reading journals, which I know was not a small assignment. However, that being said, if they worked on their journals in the way that they were supposed to, then they would have no problems with tests and the final exam. I’ve never believed in teaching literature in a vacuum, just standing in front of a room full of people and lecturing to them about what something means. Meaning is subjective, depending upon numerous factors, and anyone who tries to tell you that X poem means exactly Y is full of baloney.
“When you are older you will know that life is a long lesson in humility.” ~ J. M. Barrie
Yoshino Flowering Cherry, Forest Lawn, Norfolk, L. Liwag
Tonight is my reality show night—the finale of Project Runway, another episode of cat fights on RHNY. Speaking of which, I was reading my online news sources today, and somehow I ended up on a page about the newest housewife on RHNY. I honestly don’t know how I landed on this page, and I cannot remember the name of this latest entry into the supposedly real world, but one thing that I do remember is that when I first saw her, I did a double take because she looks so much like someone I was friends with years ago.
Same thin nose and thin lips, same color hair (although it was a natural color for my friend), even the same body shape. This was another one of my friends who dated my ex and who he left by the wayside. We remained friends for many years, even though she left the area. And then something happened when she was in town for a reunion, and we haven’t spoken to each other since. One of those things that you don’t really know the reason for but you aren’t concerned enough to actually do something about. Too much time had passed between us, and we really didn’t have much to say to one another.
Anyway, so I had a bit of deja vu when watching last week’s episode, and it made me stop in my thoughts and wonder whatever happened to her, if she finally found the person she was looking for, if she finished the degree she finally pursued. I have a vague memory of someone telling me that she had cancer, but I might have dreamed it. I have that problem with confusing dreams with memories.
Speaking of dreams, the other night I had a right strange dream in which I was trying to find a job for a realtor I knew, and I took her to my old boss, but he was in a new building, and didn’t really want to talk to me. Last night, I dreamed that I was in a hotel for some kind of conference, and I ended up going into the kitchen to find lemon slices and cinnamon sticks as garnishes for some wine bar. You see? I cannot even relax and have fun in my dreams; instead of drinking wine and wearing beautiful gowns with the rest of the people in my dream, I go searching for lemon wedges. That must be significant somehow.
That’s all for now. More later. Peace.
“Let Her Cry,” a classic from Hootie and the Blowfish