“Time moves in one direction, memory in another.” ~ William Gibson

Lawren Harris Houses Group XXXIII
“Houses, Group XXXIII”
by Lawren Harris

                   

“It’s much easier to not know things sometimes. Things change and friends leave. And life doesn’t stop for anybody.” ~ Stephen Chbosky, from The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Tuesday afternoon, New Year’s Eve. Partly cloudy and cold, 46 degrees.

So here we are, at the end of another year. How strange, how very, very strange. A part of me is still somewhere around 2005, and another part is in 1996. No particular reason. Those weren’t landmark years in any fashion, but still points in time, points in which I rested. But 2014?

Lawren Harris Little House oil on paperboard 1911
“Little House” (1911, oil on paperboard)
by Lawren Harris

That’s a very strange year, for some reason. I still have such vivid memories of the turning hour between 1999 and 2000, how we had to have one person stay at work to make sure the systems didn’t collapse at 12:01; I never thought they would, never held much stock in that whole end of days scenario. But that was fourteen years ago.

How very strange.

I spent New Year’s Eve of 1999 on a boat with friends and a person who wanted to be more than friends, and the entire situation was more than a bit surreal. I think that was the last end of the year celebration I attended. Corey and I have always preferred a quiet evening at home together rather than risking the roads and the drunks. But I’m fairly certain this is might be one of only two New Year’s Eve nights that I have been away from Corey.

How very strange.

“It’s a lot easier to say when something ended rather than when it began. Most of us can recognize the end from a mile away, but the beginning always slips up on us, lulling us into thinking what we’re living through is yet another moment, in yet another day.” ~ Steve Yarbrough, from Safe from the Neighbors

We are still in limbo as to when exactly Corey will be home. At first it was going to be on January 2, then January 5, then January 2 again, now? Maybe January 20? That’s if they decide to keep him on this particular ship a bit longer and then to throw him into some more training. I’m really hoping that it’s not this particular scenario, but something tells me that it will be. And after all, it’s not exactly as if he can say no, is it?

Lawren Harris Red House, Winter 1925
“Red House, Winter” (1925)
by Lawren Harris

First hitch with a new company, you do whatever you have to do to make it work. I understand that, but understanding and liking are miles apart. And I’m wondering if it’s going to work out that Corey never even sees this year’s Christmas tree. The other time he wasn’t home for Christmas day, he was home a few days later, which made it much easier. This?

Not so much.

So . . . here we are. Getting ready to count down the minutes until this year is over and next year begins.

I know. I cannot continue to remark on the strangeness for the entire blog, so I will make an honest attempt to stop.

“You swallowed everything, like distance.
Like the sea, like time. ~ Pablo Neruda, from “A Song of Despair”

Anyway, I should know more about Corey’s schedule later today, and I’ll have le bébé by this evening, so my part plans are firm. How about yours?

I’m also hoping that Bailey’s stomach starts to feel better as she has been making the whole house stink. I’m pretty sure her stomach problems have arisen from trying to eat one of the puppy toys that I bought for the dogs’ Christmas. Tillie had loved a ball that Jake had (Jake being Corey’s parents’ dog), and I found one while shopping that I thought would be pretty dog-proof as far as chewing.

Not so much. I started to see little pink pieces of rubber around the house a few days ago. I finally found what was left of the ball and threw it in the garbage, but not before Bailey deposited several nasty leavings of her dinner around the house, one, unfortunately, on the bed.

Lawren Harris Houses, Winter, City Painting V 1920
“Winter, City Painting V” (1920, oil)
by Lawren Harris

Yep. Pretty gross. Anyway, she never seemed sick, except for the gas and occasional vomiting, as she was as playful as ever. I suppose I’ll just have to remember that not every dog has a Labrador’s constitution. I still remember reading about a Lab who ate locks, as in locks from lockers. When her owners finally found out, she had eaten about five of them and had to have an operation. Labs will eat anything . . .

By the way, when I chose the quote for this section, I honestly did not have that little story in mind.

“Everything has started in such sharp detail, each aspect pronounced and clear. Obviously, endings were different. Harder to see, full of shapes that could be one thing or another, with all the things that you were once so sure of suddenly not familiar, if they were even recognizable at all.” ~  Sarah Dessen, from The Moon and More

As I said, later this afternoon I will have Olivia, which is a very good thing, something to take my mind off everything else. She’s such a funny little person, already saying so many words, already expressing so many facets of a personality in flux. One of her presents from us this year was this wild-looking stuffed monkey, and she loves it. She makes monkey sounds, too.

One of her Baby Einstein books has lots of animals in it, and when I read it to her, I make all of the animal sounds, except for a ladybug. What kind of sound does a ladybug make?

When I think about anyone hurting her, it makes me crazy. It was the same with my children. The very idea that anyone might ever harm them filled me with such a blind rage. But they’re out there. Not just the pervs, the ones everyone fears, but the people who believe in beating a young child, beating a baby, as if inflicting pain will stop the crying, as if repeated strikes will somehow bend a child to conform.

Lawren Harris, Pine Tree and Red House, Winter, City Painting II 1924
“Pine Tree and Red House, Winter, City Painting II” (1924)
by Lawren Harris

That has always just blown my mind—those ignoramuses out their who believe that shaking a baby or beating a toddler is okay, is the way to handle a situation. Where does that mindset come from? I have a vague memory of the police being in the parents’ waiting room at the hospital where Caitlin was a patient, there to question some parents about how their child came to be hurt. I remember feeling that blind rage again—all of the parents who were there just begging for their childrens’ lives, and these two had thrown theirs away.

Sorry, really didn’t mean to go there. I’ll try to regroup.

“Everything comes to an end. A good bottle of wine, a summer’s day, a long-running sitcom, one’s life, and eventually our species. The question for many of us is not that everything will come to an end but when. And can we do anything vaguely useful until it does?” ~ Jasper Fforde, from The Woman Who Died a Lot

And now for something completely different . . . here’s a bit of history for you:

The earliest recorded festivities in honor of a new year’s arrival date back some 4,000 years to ancient Babylon. For the Babylonians, the first new moon following the vernal equinox—the day in late March with an equal amount of sunlight and darkness—heralded the start of a new year. They marked the occasion with a massive religious festival called Akitu (derived from the Sumerian word for barley, which was cut in the spring) that involved a different ritual on each of its 11 days.

Supposedly, the first time the new year was celebrated on January 1st was “in Rome in 153 B.C. (In fact, the month of January did not even exist until around 700 B.C., when the second king of Rome, Numa Pontilius, added the months of January and February.)” But it was in 46 B.C.E. that Julius Caesar who made January 1st the official start of a new year with the introduction of the Julian calendar, which was solar based:

Lawren Harris Toronto Houses 1919
“Toronto Houses” (c1919, oil on beaverboard)
by Lawren Harris

Janus was the Roman god of doors and gates, and had two faces, one looking forward and one back.  Caesar felt that the month named after this god (“January”) would be the appropriate “door” to the year . . . In later years, Roman pagans observed the New Year by engaging in drunken orgies—a ritual they believed constituted a personal re-enacting of the chaotic world that existed before the cosmos was ordered by the gods.

During the Middle Ages, this practice was abolished because of its pagan roots and did not return until 1582, when the Gregorian calendar reform restored January 1 as new year’s day.

So how was that for a complete 180? Whiplash?

I hope you have a lovely safe evening, and best wishes for the coming year.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Canadian artist Lawren Harris (1885 – 1970), a key figure in the Group of Seven. I don’t know which I like better, his houses with the splashes of red, or his lakes, with various shades of blue.

Music by Gregory Alan Isakov, “That Moon Song”

                   

Moth; or how I came to be with you again

— I remember when I touched my
sleeping mother’s hair, it sparked in
my hands and I thought she was
inhuman, but I was young, and only
years later would I understand she
was under the spell of an erotic
dream — I remember a white door
emboldened with a laurel wreath
leading into a basement where we
retreated frequently in the tornado
season — I remember how day after
day would pass while nothing
happened and how without mercy
time would gather weight, accrete a
green patina on the locket I chipped
with a long fingernail — I remember
the swaying firs made a whanging of
rusted girders I thought would
collapse — I remember sitting at my
desk before my most precious
things, sheets of graph paper,
diagrams, folders, waterlogged and
moulded charts, and then
unannounced he would come to me,
moving my hand automatically
across these pages — I remember
the gathering darkness of a thousand
incidents I never witnessed, and yet
bird by bird they separated
themselves into moments of bright
singularity — I remember that I
possess no real memory of my
mother and only know at all she even
existed by evidence of my own pale
skin and the double-helix twisted
under it into an X — I remember
blurry light, rain on an awning, and
then being lifted and placed into a red
wagon — I remember when the
earth was for me, for the last time in
its history, still elastic as cartilage,
had not fully solidified into the
obstacle of the known, the terrible,
stubborn thing called fact — I
remember it was the hibiscus winter,
because she said so — I remember
writing these words, but only barely,
but one after another stone-like in
their materiality they are undeniable
— I remember remembering a
dream, under a low ceiling of
illuminated clouds swirling in a
tarantella, I rode weeping along the
boulevard of an empty city newly in
ruins where each crumbling
museum was my hidden and
sumptuous destitution — I
remember someone informed me he
had once hanged himself from his
swing set, then the memory infected
me, became my own — I remember
a small, A-frame house, and
watching the hawthorn wasting in an
emollient sea wind —  I remember a
white door —  I remember it was the
hibiscus winter — I remember
thinking I had been comatose a
thousand years, though this is surely
false, and in my uncorroborated
absence the whole fungible world in
a moment of chemical agony had
changed in irreversible ways — I
remember how everything tasted
dark —  I remember things I’ve never
felt — a seagull feather brushing my
lips, a turquoise shell, my shoulders
festooned with flowers — I
remember thinking what was in my
mind was put there by others, by
books I read, by objects I looked at
but did not own — I remember
wondering if other memories
remained in the twilight regions of my
mind where my failed loves were
soil, and if soon someone would
enlighten me to things I had done
and then, years later, I would
remember them as real — I
remember tender hands covered in
snow — I remember the city, the
flames immanent as flowers,  patient
to burst forth — I remember my
favourite word once was —

~ Thomas Heise

 

“What matters is precisely this; the unspoken at the edge of the spoken.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 21 July 1912.

Winter on the Bank by Marius Rumpf fcc
Winter on the Bank
by Marius Rumpf (FCC)

                   

“Left utterly alone, there is nothing
The heart can invent to numb itself.” ~ Joe Bolton, from “Departure”

Friday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 47 degrees.

Home alone. Silence.

Well, long time, no write. I know. Unfortunately, it’s been a hellacious week, and today is the first day that I’ve had any time to myself, any time to sit here and muse, any time to try to stitch together some kind of linear thought.

I hope you enjoyed the Muppet Christmas carols. I had always planned to post them leading up to Christmas, but unfortunately, was never able to do the actual scheduling. Let me back up . . . On December 16 I took my mother to the ER because she was in a lot of pain. They ended up admitting her to the hospital with a severe case of diverticulitis. She was in until December 21. Consequently, my stress levels shot through the roof, and my computer time was nil.

Winter Tree by rkramer62 fcc
Winter Tree
by rkramer62 (FCC)

I was trying to take care of her cat, do Christmas shopping and decorating, visit my mother in the hospital and everything else. And of course when she was released, she was still weak and in need. It became one long litany of telephone calls. And in between, I lost my bank card, but didn’t find out until I was in line at Wal-Mart. Thankfully, some honest soul found it and turned it in, and no weird charges appeared. I was very lucky, but man, stress upon stress.

The last two weeks have just about done me in.

“For each person there is a sentence — a series of words — which has the power to destroy him . . . another sentence exists, another series of words, which will heal the person. If you’re lucky you will get the second; but you can be certain of getting the first: that is the way it works. On their own, without training, individuals know how to deal out the lethal sentence, but training is required to deal out the second.” ~ Philip K. Dick, from VALIS

Add to all of this the planned holiday dinner here at my house, and then pile on the fact that Corey is not home. Christmas morning was more than a bit surreal for me. The boys decided to open their big presents and then to save everything else for when Corey gets home, the same for Lex and Mike. I left it up to them, and that’s what they all decided to do, which is nice.

Merikosken Alakanava Finland by ptrktn FCC
Merikosken Alakanava, Finland
by ptrktn (FCC)

But truthfully, it just hasn’t felt anything like Christmas this year. I haven’t listened to any music. I haven’t read anything, and you may wonder what that has to do with Christmas, and the answer is nothing, but everything. For me, it’s a state of mind, and my state of mind was pure chaos, a restless sea.

I don’t even think that I can describe it adequately to make sense.

I mean, my mother is very sick, isn’t leaving the house to have dinner with the family, and Corey is thousands of miles away. To top it off, Corey tried to call me on Christmas day using the ship’s satellite phone, and I didn’t answer because I didn’t recognize the number, and I really didn’t want to talk to anyone because I was too busy feeling sorry for myself. He called four times in a row, but I didn’t answer. I talked to him that night when the ship got its wi-fi back and he was able to call on his phone.

Obviously when I found out what had happened, I felt like a jerk.

“We humans, however,
understand the backward grace
of flight and fall, and also
understand the pity
of not knowing, and also
the pity of knowing.” ~ Leonard Nathan, “That the Unexamined Life Is Not Worth Living”

There are things that I used to do to get into the mindset for the holidays. I have about ten Christmas CDs, and I would impose my music on anyone who was near, play it in the car, play it at home, sing along loudly. And then I would watch two movies: A Wonderful Life (in black and white), and Scrooge, the musical with Albert Finney. I would usually put these on while I wrapped presents.

None of that this year. I simply forgot. It’s as if my mind said to itself, “Hmm, Christmas . . . blank.”

Winter by askidenzsetzer fcc
Winter
by askidenzsetzer (FCC)

I finished addressing the cards on Christmas Eve, but this year I didn’t include any letters to anyone. I never send out those family holiday bulletins, but I usually take the time to add letters to a few special people. Not this year.

I tell you, it’s like I’m in some kind of vacuum. Outside everyone is carrying on with life, and I’m in here, on pause. It’s been like this since Thanksgiving, and unfortunately, I don’t feel as if my kids have been able to fill the void. It’s small things, like when I was going on seven hours in the ER, and I asked if anyone could spell me, maybe bring me Starbucks. Nothing. What gives with that?

“We are masters of unsaid words, but slaves of those we let slip out.” ~ Winston Churchill

I know. They have their own lives, their own priorities. It’s just a bit hard to realize that at the moment, I’m no one’s priority. It’s making me reflect a lot on life, as in people who live alone, how they do it, how they survive. I want my children to have their own lives, want them to set out into the world, to explore, want them to be unafraid to try new ventures.

Tree Portrait by nrcphotos fcc
Tree Portrait
by nrcphotos (FCC)

Yet if I am honest, I am also sad at being left behind. They no longer need me; I am no longer the touchstone that grounds them, that keeps them safe from harm. Yet I know that will be my role until I take my last breath.

This is hard to elucidate. I can’t quite get a handle on it, this ephemeral state in which I find myself. I don’t know how to define it.

And of course, I feel like a selfish wench because I’m full of self-pity, and there are so many people out there who are alone all of the time. There are so many people with real problems, real life-altering problems, and here I am, having another pity party. I don’t know if I’m more upset at the fact that I’m upset or that I’m alone.

Beh.

“There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open
to the place inside us
which is unbreakable and whole,
while learning to sing.” ~ Rashani Rea, from The Power of a Broken-Open Heart

Last night, as I lay in bed trying to decide whether or not to fall asleep with the television on, I thought of my mother who has been alone for so many years. I wonder if she ever fears going to sleep alone at night as I was feeling that moment, and then at the same time I was amazed by the contradiction that is me. I love the silence, love the quiet, but fear the stillness.

And I wonder when I began to be afraid to be still. Is it something that has happened gradually, or have I always been this way? And I really don’t know the answer, so unsure am I of my own personality.

Winter Tree by Ano Lobb at sign healthyrx fcc
Winter Tree
by Ano Lobb@healthyrx (FCC)

Alone in the dark, my mind races, and perhaps that is what I fear: where my mind will take me in the dark silence. And when I awoke from an intense, frenetic dream of my father, I knew that that was precisely what I had been afraid of—going there again.

The days until Corey is home again are less than ten. Surely I can hold it together until then. This is what I think as I sit here now in the afternoon sun, a cup of hot Irish Breakfast tea in a mug before me. I can do this.

Until night comes again.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson, “Winter Song”

                   

two short ones . . .

On Missing Them

People always say that it hurts at night
and apparently screaming into your pillow at 3am
is the romantic equivalent of being heartbroken.
But sometimes
it’s 9am on a tuesday morning
and you’re standing at the kitchen bench waiting for the toast to pop up
And the smell of dusty sunlight and earl gray tea makes you miss them so much
you don’t know what to do with your hands.

~ Rosie Scanlan

**********

Passing

Sometimes you called on those
you’d never know
to come with you in place
of those you loved,
and talked to them
and touched them
and let them close purely
for sadness, for sadness
you’d hold them,
and you’d let them go.

~ Daniel Halpern

Post Christmas: A Long Winter’s Nap

I’m a big believer in the long winter’s nap, and today I really, really needed one. I chanced upon some beautiful illustrations by Jessie Willcox Smith for the Night Before Christmas story, something I have read to all of my children countless times.

Long Winter's Nap Jessie Willcox Smith
“Long Winter’s Nap”
by Jessie Willcox Smith
(an illustration from “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (or The Night before Christmas)

A Visit from St. Nicholas
By Clement Clarke Moore

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Source: The Random House Book of Poetry for Children (Random House Inc., 1983)

Two of my most favorite songs . . .

Last day of Muppet Christmas Carols. I had wanted to include the “Peace Carol,” but couldn’t find any version that didn’t sound as if it was coming from a wind tunnel . . .

Where the River Meets the Sea

**********

Silent Night

If it’s Friday, it means leftovers . . .

“I like my coffee how I like myself: Dark, bitter, and too hot for you.”

The Three Wise Guys:

So where do my dreams go?

Please dont flush

Ear worm courtesy of George Takei’s tumblr:

A very touching tribute to Jon Oliver’s tenure on “The Daily Show”

http://www.hulu.com/watch/574954#i1,p0,d1#i1,p0,d1

“And a softness came from the starlight and filled me full to the bone.” ~ W.B. Yeats

Frost Flower on Gateby crestedcrazy (FCC)
Frost Flower on Gate
by crestedcrazy (FCC)

                   

“Our memory fragments don’t have any coherence until they’re imagined in words. Time is a property of language, of syntax, and tense.” ~ Siri Hustvedt, from The Sorrows of an American

Thursday afternoon. Sunny and chilly, 49 degrees.

Frost Flower by Lotus Carroll FCC
Frost Flower
by Lotus Carroll (FCC)

Well, I hope that everyone who celebrates it had a very Merry Christmas. Two days past, now we are in the time of reconciliation: the frenetic preparation back to the days of normalcy, whatever those may have been; the momentary love of everything back to the cynicism of everyday life; the intimate closeness of family back to the separation of time and space.

Okay, so perhaps not as glum as all that, but you know what I mean. The days leading up to the big day are filled with hurrying to and fro, trying to remember all of the little details, the anticipation and anxiety over whether or not everything will come together at the last hour. Or at least that’s how it is in my house. No matter how prepared I think I am in the days before, I always find myself doing last minute errands for the fresh lemon or the candy canes or the tissue paper or whatever.

Frost Flower close up by Marklnspex FCC
Frost Flower Close-up
by Marklnspex (FCC)

I have to say, though, that this year’s celebration was very nice. My mother didn’t insult anyone overtly or accidentally, which tends to make things run much smoother. Dinner came off without a hitch, except for the overcooked broccoli, which would have been fine had we eaten on time (I know better, I really do). And everyone seemed to genuinely like his or her presents.

Of course there was the added bonus of Olivia’s first Christmas, which just changed everything in ways hard to pinpoint.

“It was the time between the lights when colours undergo their intensification and purples and golds burn in windowpanes like the beat of an excitable heart; when for some reason the beauty of the world is revealed and yet soon to perish, has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Frost Flower 9 Frostweed by cotinis FCC
Frost Flower on Frostweed
by cotinis (FCC)

As I had mentioned, Lex, Mike, and Olivia had gone to see Mike’s family for the holidays, and I didn’t expect them back until the day after. Turns out they came home early and surprised me on Christmas night, which was truly a wonderful surprise. I hadn’t realized how down I had actually been at the prospect of not having Lex or the baby with us, so when they came through the door, it was the perfect addition to what had already been a good day.

Apparently, I was the only one who did not know that they had come back early. The boys had seen them earlier in the day at that side of the family’s celebration, and they kept the secret, just as last year they kept the secret about Lex being pregnant. My sons really know how to keep a secret, which I find surprising for some reason. But Corey also knew—accidentally—apparently when he finished wrapping at 4 in the morning, he went to Walgreen’s for some stocking stuffers and ran into Alexis in the card aisle. At four in the morning?! My family is certainly strange, but hey, already knew that.

So Olivia arrived in her shiny Christmas dress that Mike had bought for her, and she had a great time grabbing at tissue paper and laughing. Yes, she laughs now. Fun stuff.

“I am not what I am, I am what I do with my hands.” ~ Louise Bourgeois

Frost Flower 6
Frost Flower

Yesterday I spent the day packing up the silver and Christmas dishes and vintage Santa Claus Coke glasses that my mom has kept all these years. I had already done most of the cleanup Christmas night, so it wasn’t too much work. And then I did a whole lot of nothing, which I suppose is what I needed. I had thought about posting, but wasn’t really in the mood, so I didn’t.

Frost FLower 7 Ribbons by Slomoz FCC
Frost Flower Ribbons
by Slomoz FCC

Today I need to work on making Olivia’s Christmas stocking, something I had planned to do yesterday to have ready by the time they came back, but of course, now my schedule is all topsy turvy, so I’ll try to get started today.

Alfie is doing much better, and may be with us a while longer, which is nice. Corey had taken him to the vet this past weekend, which cost an amount that I shall not say as it is painful to think about, but they gave him antibiotics, and anti-nausea medicine, and he’s eating again, and back to growling at people when they disturb his naps, so he’s actually almost normal (for him). I’m so glad that I did not have to deal with losing another pet friend over the holidays as I don’t know how I would have handled that.

Tillie was apparently good this past year as Santa brought her several new stuffed babies to play with and terrorize. It was funny because anytime anyone opened any kind of stuffed animal, Tillie thought that it was for her. She’s been very busy, snooping in bags and such, and she found the spare toy that I hadn’t planned to give her until she had destroyed one of the others. I swear she is just like a small child.

The only sad part was not having Shakes on Christmas morning to sit between us as we opened presents. I missed that.

“All art is exorcism.” ~ Otto Dix

Frost Flower 3 cal tech
Frost Flower (caltech website)

Corey finally read my two novel beginning drafts, and I got some feedback from him. We both agree that my second story is better than my original plot, and I have promised myself that I will work on it in the coming months.

I did not receive any books or gift certificates for books this year, which is very unusual for me. Equally unusual is that I did not purchase any books for anyone except Olivia. I guess it was just that kind of year. I’ll just keep my list until my birthday or until I win the lottery . . . so I guess until my birthday.

Frost Flower 4 by Billy Joe Fudge, Columbia Magazine
Frost Flower
by Billy Joe Fudge, Columbia Magazine

Now that Christmas is over, we all need to get back to everyday life, which means that Corey needs to send out his job applications, and Brett needs to get his passport, and Eamonn needs to sign up for maritime school, and I? I need to try to get back into some kind of regular writing routine.

I’m still on the lookout for an IBM Selectric II, so if anyone knows of any place that is getting rid of one, like a church or school, keep me in mind. Ideally, it should be red, but hey, I think that I could use just about any color as long as it isn’t that weird turquoise blue that IBM used for some of them. I always thought that was a dreadful color for a typewriter. If you’ve ever used an old Selectric, you know exactly what I mean about how the keys feel beneath your fingers as you are flying across them. Well, I used to fly across them. I learned to type on one, and I did all of my timing tests on one. The last time I was timed (for a job interview) was soooo long ago, but I typed 127 words a minute with one mistake. Cool, huh?

“You see, in my view a writer is a writer not because she writes well and easily, because she has amazing talent, because everything she does is golden. In my view a writer is a writer because even when there is no hope, even when nothing you do shows any sign of promise, you keep writing anyway.” ~ Junot Díaz

Frost Flower5 Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association
Frost Flower
Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association

Anyway, so 2013 is but a few days away. The Mayans were wrong, and the “Dr. Who” Christmas special has aired and left Whovians with lots and lots of questions. We still need to see Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit and the remake of Les Miserables. Things to do in the coming weeks.

I have to admit that 2013 seems like a weird year to me. Don’t ask me why because I don’t really have a specific reason. I just don’t like the sound of it. I mean, 2012 didn’t flop about on the tongue in the way that 2013 does. I know. I dwell on the strangest things.

Frost Flower 2
Frost Flower

Last night, I had one of those dreams in which so many of my realities converge: I was at a large family wedding, but it was also a family reunion, and it was an odd mix of Filipinos and Americans, all of whom were acting as if it was strange to be in a room together, which I just couldn’t understand, and the dinner was salmon or steak, and I asked for salmon and was given just a hunk of salmon, nothing else, no potatoes, veggies, nothing, and then I ate someone else’s cheese, and some friends of mine from high school were there, and I was also in Ohio, but it was Pennsylvania, and I knew that across the highway was my grandmother’s house, but the plow was stuck in the mud, and it was snowing, so I took the wrong turn on the interstate, the same wrong turn that I frequently take in my dreams, and I’m going the wrong way, and I’m late for work.

I awoke with a headache.

More later. Peace.

Today’s post features images of frost flowers, a phenomenon of which I was totally unaware until coming across some pictures on my dashboard. Here is an explanation from the Texas Parks and Recreation site:

Frost flowers develop when air temperatures are freezing but the ground still is warm enough for the plant’s root system to be active. Plant juices flow from these roots up into the stem, where the cold air freezes them. As the moisture in the plant freezes, the ice crystals push out through the stem. They may emerge from a small slit to form thin ribbonlike strands or they may split open a whole section of the stem and push out in a thin, curling sheet. Sometimes several ribbons of ice push out to create a flowerlike petal effect. As long as the juices flow, air temperatures remain low, and the plant is shaded from the sun, these ice crystals continue to form.

Music by Counting Crows, “A Long December”

                   

Prayer

Over a dock railing, I watch the minnows, thousands, swirl
themselves, each a minuscule muscle, but also, without the
way to create current, making of their unison (turning, re-
infolding,
entering and exiting their own unison in unison) making of themselves a
visual current, one that cannot freight or sway by
minutest fractions the water’s downdrafts and upswirls, the
dockside cycles of finally-arriving boat-wakes, there where
they hit deeper resistance, water that seems to burst into
itself (it has those layers) a real current though mostly
invisible sending into the visible (minnows) arrowing
motion that forces change–
this is freedom. This is the force of faith. Nobody gets
what they want. Never again are you the same. The longing
is to be pure. What you get is to be changed. More and more by
each glistening minute, through which infinity threads itself,
also oblivion, of course, the aftershocks of something
at sea. Here, hands full of sand, letting it sift through
in the wind, I look in and say take this, this is
what I have saved, take this, hurry. And if I listen
now? Listen, I was not saying anything. It was only
something I did. I could not choose words. I am free to go.
I cannot of course come back. Not to this. Never.
It is a ghost posed on my lips. Here: never.

~ Jorie Graham

“He did not remember when everything began to remind him of something else.” ~ Tobias Wolff, from “Bullet in the Brain”

"Cloister Cemetery in the Snow (1817-19, oil on canvas)by Caspar David Friedrich
“Cloister Cemetery in the Snow” (1817-19, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich

“I never change, I simply become more myself.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates,  from Solstice

Wednesday late afternoon. Cloudy and cold, 40’s.

I spent a lot of time today editing photos that Corey downloaded from the camera, starting with last Christmas. Yes, I am remiss. I changed my header image and my gravatar. What do you think?

My thoughts are meandering, so I thought that I’d create an appropriate post. Here are rambling thoughts, just because I can:

  • I really like eggnog with bourbon. It’s such an appropriately winter drink. Just saying.
"Hut in Snow" (1827, oil on canvas)by Caspar David Friedrich
“Hut in Snow” (1827, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich
  • No one sends Christmas cards any more. To date, we have received a whopping two. That won’t stop me from sending them, though.
  • Corey thinks I’m silly for sending out cards after Christmas, but I contend that my cards bear good wishes for the coming year, which makes them pretty timeless. Anyway, I hope to get them out in the next few days.
  • I need to make Olivia’s Christmas stocking, but so far I am uninspired. Nothing is really striking me, so I think that I just need to go to the fabric store and meander.
  • I’m not really feeling this whole Christmas season yet, and it’s almost the middle of the month. Perhaps my vacation threw off my whole timing?
  • When Corey and I were on the bus that took us from the airport to the pier, we passed this expansive wetland, and this is what I thought: That would be a great place to hide a body. Does this make me stranger than I already think that I am?

“You, clamped in your Depths,
climb out of yourself
for ever.” ~ Paul Celan, from “Illegibility”

Things that wish were different:

  • I wish that I was as secure about my physical being as Corey is about his. He gladly poses for pictures and then actually allows people to see those pictures. I reluctantly pose for pictures, and then—if and only if I Photoshop them into an acceptable state—chances are great that no one will ever see them.
"Winter Landscape with Church" (1811, oil on canvas)Caspar David Friedrich
“Winter Landscape with Church” (1811, oil on canvas)
Caspar David Friedrich
  • I wish that I could live more in the present and future instead of so much in the past, but I realize that at this point in my life, I am unlikely to change.
  • I wish that my children did not inherit my insecurities and inanities. Alexis is way too OCD; Eamonn overcompensates because he is insecure; and Brett views the world through a cynical lens. All me.
  • I wish that I were better at maintaining friendships, but I realize that having been burned badly in my last significant friendship that I am very, very gun-shy.
  • I wish that I could go back and change my decision not to pursue my doctorate decades ago.
  • I wish that I knew what made my mother such a hard person. I mean, what happened to her? There had to be something. When I told her that my ex and Ann were flying to Germany for Patrick’s memorial service, she said, “Why?” As in, she really couldn’t fathom what the point was. I just don’t understand.

Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will, it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Things I genuinely don’t like about myself:

  • I don’t really think that I’m a good soul, you know, the kind of person who people will say, “She was a good person.”
Caspar David Friedrich, Graveyard under Snow 1826 oil on canvas
“Graveyard Under Snow” (1826, oil on canvas)
Caspar David Friedrich
  • I acknowledge that I’m an intellectual snob, and it’s not an exactly endearing quality, but at least I am aware that it’s true.
  • I have to force myself to make small-talk. Idle conversation is not my forte, but engross me in a political discussion or a discussion on the disparities in society, and I can talk forever.
  • I have one of those mouths that turns down at the corners. I realized this when I was about 14, and it has bothered me ever since. I mean, how can you go about with a cheerful disposition if your mouth cannot even physically reflect this?
  • When did I get thighs? I’ve never had thighs, but, well, there they are. Getting older is hard enough without gaining bodily sections that you never had. I used to like my legs, really like them as in not be ashamed to show them, but now? Geez.

“That’s why I speak
In a voice so soft it sounds like writing
Night writing. A structure of feeling
Broken by hand.” ~ Ben Lerner, from “Mean Free Path”

Things that creep into my thoughts in the middle of the night:

  • I am not middle aged. I am older than middle aged, unless I’m going to live much longer than anyone in my family. This is a brutal reality.
Caspar David Friedrich, Dolmen in the Snow oil on canvas
“Dolmen in the Snow” (1807, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich
  • It’s strange to realize that more of your life is past you than before you.
  • In the last 15 months, I have lost three people and one canine friend. And people wonder why I am so fixated on loss.
  • At this stage of my life, I am probably going to be dealing with the loss of more people from my life, and I wish with all of my heart that this were not so.
  • Maybe I really am too old to embark upon a whole new chapter. How does one know this? Who decides what is too old?
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote when he was just a child that he was going to be a writer and go on adventures. When I was just a child, I said that I was going to be a poet. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. Why didn’t I?

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” ~ Franz Kafka

Idle remnants:

  • The name of the book that I was going to write years ago was White Moon on Black Water: Writings on Loss and Resolution. I still think it’s a good title.
  • I really wish that I could be working in the publishing industry in some capacity.

    Caspar David Friedrich Tree of Crows, oil on canvas, ca 1822
    “Tree of Crows” (ca 1822, oil on canvas)
    Caspar David Friedrich
  • I really wish that I were working.
  • It’s hard for me to answer the question posed by strangers, “So, what do you do?” Do? Nothing?
  • I am of that generation that equates self-worth with careers. That old Puritan work ethic: Hard work brings success. Interestingly, though, I have never equated money with success, as in the more I made, the more successful I was. My goal was always that I like what I was doing, whatever it was.
  • Do you know that well before the scrapbooking fad I was making books for people, and these books were filled with pictures and poems and quotes that I thought suited the individual. My therapist asked me if this wouldn’t be a good business idea, and I told her that I didn’t really think so. That right there shows you how my mind does not work in a capitalist fashion. I could only see the books as creative outlets, not as a money-making venture. This is why I will never be rich.

(All images by Caspar David Friedrich, 19th century German Romantic painter)

Music by Efterklang (a recent discovery), “Natural Tune”

                   

Abyss

You’ve left a hole
the size of the sky
in the chair across the table

in the chasm of the closet
your shoes hold the shape
of every step we took

through the seven rooms
of a world with no language
but that of moving

on macadam and the miles
of velvet earth before rainfall
between rows of corn

and up the curving drive
until they landed beside
the bed a black hole

you disappeared through
as I look for a sign
of you slivered with stars

your body without borders
nowhere and everywhere
in the wind moving through trees

on its way down the hall
to the back of my neck
in the chill you still send through me

and so I slip into the deep
abyss of your shoes
standing where you were last

pointing in two directions
trusting the way forward
is also the way back

~ Wyatt Townley