“Every horizon, upon being reached, reveals another beckoning in the distance. Always, I am on the threshold.” ~ W. Eugene Smith

A perigee moon rises above the Almudena Cathedral (Pedro Armestre/AFP/Getty Images)

                            

“It shocks me how I wish for . . . what is lost and cannot come back.” ~ Sue Monk Kidd, Traveling with Pomegranates: A Mother-Daughter Story

Sunday afternoon. Cold and cloudy. Below normal temperatures.

Super Moon in Pembroke, NY by jimsanders52

I finished the taxes; we owe for state, but we’ll be getting a federal return, which will immediately go towards getting a new back door. Now I need to do the FAFSA’s for Eamonn and Brett; of course, I am past deadline. I had such good intentions about getting those done in a timely way, but my health hasn’t been cooperating for a few months now.

I had wanted to post yesterday so badly, but just sitting here for an extended period was too painful. At such times, I long for my old laptop, the one that crashed and burned when I finished grad school. Maybe one day, but too many other pressing things for now.

Yesterday was Caitlin’s birthday. I didn’t even make it to the cemetery, didn’t make it out of sweats, actually. I have bought new flowers, spring colors.

 Were she still alive, she would be 23. It pains me to think of what kind of young woman she might have been. Would she have gone to college? Would she have been as driven as I was at that age? What would she have looked like; who in the family would she have resembled with her dark hair and almond eyes?

These are the things that I contemplate as each year takes me farther and farther from that painful point in my history. Yes, I know. Such extended grief is not normal, but it has been a part of me for so long that I would not know how to live without it. Truth be told, I have no desire to live without it. I mean, I am no longer consumed by my grief, but it remains with me like an old sweater that I notice occasionally when I open the drawer, and sometimes, I am so chilled to the bone that I must take out this well-worn sweater and put it on. I believe that this is a comfortable place in which to reside. It may not work for someone else, but it works for me.

“Grace is what matters in anything, especially life; especially growth, tragedy, pain, love, death. About people, that’s what matters. That’s a quality I admire quite greatly. It keeps you from reaching for the gun too quickly, keeps you from destroying things too foolishly. It keeps you alive and it keeps you open for more understanding.” ~ Jeff Buckley 

Super Moon behind St Michaels Tower on Glastonbury Tor Hill (Ben Birchall/PA/AP)

We do have good news in our house, though. Corey got a call from Precon, one of the two companies that he had been counting on. This was his second choice, but it’s still good. He starts work on Monday as a deck hand, working locally, daily.

I told him that I think that it’s actually good that he got this job first as it will allow him to readjust to being back on a boat, get his sea legs, if you will. The pay is just a bit more than his maritime security job, but he will definitely be working 40 hours a week, with probably overtime. So we can count on a regular base pay each week, something we haven’t had for three years.

It’s also good that he doesn’t have to travel as the truck is not yet working. Ford still has not come through with their buyout of the Windstar. They have paid so much more in rental fees than they owe us for the recall, but we have no control over the situation. As long as they are providing Corey with a vehicle, we are good.

Anyway, I know that Corey is quite anxious about going back on a boat. I have assured him that it will all come back to him once he is in the midst of things. Then, if and when the second company calls, he’ll be ready. Since company-hopping is pretty much standard in the industry, he shouldn’t feel any qualms about taking the much better-paying position should it be offered to him.

“The past is never dead. It’s not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity. Haunted by wrong turns and roads not taken, we pursue images perceived as new but whose providence dates to the dim dramas of childhood, which are themselves but ripples of consequence echoing down the generations. The quotidian demands of life distract from this resonance of events, but some of us feel it always.” ~ William Faulkner, Requiem for a Nun

Super moon over Prague by Benjine

I know that Corey is also carrying around a sense of loss these days. He has been thinking quite seriously about taking guitar lessons. It’s something that he has wanted to do ever since I met him, take guitar, piano, and/or voice lessons. He has a wonderful voice, and he wants to improve his range, just for personal satisfaction, which I think it lovely. He had wanted me to teach him how to play the piano, but I had to disappoint him because I know that I would not be a good teacher to someone with whom I have a personal relationship. My standards are incredibly high, and my patience is incredibly bad.

So Corey found a woman in Suffolk who teaches music with whom he made an appointment several weeks ago. We’re going Tuesday night to meet her before making any commitments.

What has Corey so disappointed is that his father had a 1960 Gibson Les Paul electric guitar that his father gave to him when he was a teenager. I have heard about this guitar for years; Corey has spoken of it in such loving terms, has told me the family history of how it was passed around, of how his older brother tried to sell it for $50 to make a quick buck. A few years ago, both of Corey’s brothers tried to convince his father to sell the guitar on E-Bay. Corey talked his father out of it—or so he thought.

Turns out, his dad sold the guitar three years ago to someone to use for parts. Seriously, I thought that Corey was going to cry. That guitar was the one thing that he has always talked about wanting to keep in the family, and I know that he was working up the nerve to ask his dad if he could have the guitar to take lessons. To find out that the guitar is gone, that it’s been gone for years, was such a blow.

He’s been heartbroken, and to tell him that we’ll find him a vintage guitar sometime in the future doesn’t quite ease the sting. It won’t be his father’s guitar. It won’t be the one his grandfather bought.

I really do understand because my mother is always threatening to sell things in her house that I cherish. My mother has never been the sentimental type, as I’ve said before, but some of those things are part of my history, just as this guitar was part of Corey’s history.

We are all products of the soil from which we were grown. Sometimes that soil is rich and nourishing; sometimes it is fallow. Sometimes it’s better to leave that soil behind, and sometimes we want to take some of that soil with us when we put down new roots. What happens when that choice is taken from us?

“Who am I, in fact, as I sit here at this table, but my own past?” ~ Katherine Mansfield

Supermoon over Upper Makefield, Pennsylvania by Mark Setash

Ah well, onto other things. I went to see my other mother-in-law at the rehab center this past week. It was terrible. She would only open her eyes once in a while; she mumbled; she couldn’t feed herself. All of these things have happened in just the last week.

I didn’t go see her on her birthday because my ex was going to be there for the family get together, but Ann, my sister-in-law told me that she was jolly and singing the Montana state song. That was on St. Patrick’s Day. Two days later, she was completely changed.

In between the mumbling, she would say something audible, and at one point, she said, quite clearly, “I’m at the end of my rope.”

I did not allow myself to cry while I was there. She didn’t need to see my tears. And as heartless as it sounds, I sort of understand why people stop going to see family members when they are in those places: It’s damn depressing. But then I think about the individual who is there, in and out of moments of lucidity, and they must wonder why they are there; they must wonder where their family is.

I’ve decided that I’m going to try to go at least a few times a week and read to her. She used to love to read, and we used to exchange books. Since Corey will be gone throughout the day with his new schedule, I’m thinking that I can drop off Brett at school and then just go the few miles down Hampton Boulevard and stop in and read for a bit.

I don’t know if it will help, but it certainly can do no harm. I know that her decline is really getting to my own mother who is only one year younger, but my mom won’t say anything.  But I can tell you this, after seeing this vital woman being reduced to a shell of herself, I vow that there is no way that I will go through the same thing. I don’t want my family to see it, and I don’t want to be trapped inside my own mind.

Perhaps you may think this a cowardly decision, but I do not. Sometimes, it’s better not to overstay. But don’t listen to me. I’m a tumble of emotions at the moment, and I know it. I think that I’ll stop now.

More later. Peace.

(All pictures are from the super perigree moon on March 19. This perigree or supermoon is visible when the moon’s orbit position is at its closest point to Earth during a full moon phase. The perigree moon, which occurs approximately every 18 years, appears 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter. Unfortunately, it was not clear here, but people all over the world got some wonderful pictures.)

Music by Jonathan Czerwik,  “Tears and Laughter”

                   

Resurrection

Poetry slips into dreams
like a diver into a lake.
Poetry, braver than anyone,
slips in and sinks
like lead
through a lake infinite as Loch Ness
or tragic and turbid as Lake Balatón.
Consider it from below:
a diver
innocent
covered in feathers
of will.
Poetry slips into dreams
like a diver who’s dead
in the eyes of God.

~ Roberto Bolaño, from The Romantic Dogs, trans. Laura Healy

“Let the world know you as you are, not as you think you should be, because sooner or later, if you are posing, you will forget the pose, and then where are you?” ~ Fanny Brice

“Benjamin’s House,” by Andrew Wyeth (1955)

“A bit of advice given to a young Native American at the time of his initiation: ‘As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It is not as wide as you think.'” ~ Joseph Campbell

I’m in the mood for sparse, hence, the Andrew Wyeth images. My favorite is the last one: “Renfield.”

"Wind from the Sea," by Andrew Wyeth (1947)

Lovely visit to the pain management group yesterday. Trigger point injections from my neck to my bum. I saw one of the new Physician’s Assistants that joined the group last November. He seemed a bit nervous about giving me the injections until he realized that I wasn’t squeamish. After that, he proceeded to inject everything in sight (slight overstatement). Anyway, I felt like a pin cushion, came home and had to lie down on the heating pad.

A bit better today, but very sore. I told Corey that I’m not certain about this new guy, and Corey reminded me that he hasn’t been giving trigger point injections for years like my other doctors. Good point. Guess I’ll have to wait and see.

Brett used my computer last night to write something about Kafka’s “Metamorphosis” for school. Personally, I have never been that big of a Kafka fan. Just not my cup of tea, so to speak. A story about a man becoming a giant cockroach gives me the willies. I know. It’s about alienation, distance, loneliness. A masterpiece reflecting the identity of self in society . . . Ya da ya da ya da. He’s still a cockroach.

“In reading, a lonely quiet concert is given to our minds; all our mental faculties will be present in this symphonic exaltation.” ~ Stéphane Mallarmé

"West Window," by Andrew Wyeth

Once the omnipresent head pressure of the last few weeks began to lessen, I was finally able to read the last three Harry Potter books in quick order. I had forgotten how much I really love the last book. Then I thought about all of the e-mails I get from my Goodreads contacts in which they list what they have read lately, and it made me pause. I haven’t really read anything new in a while. I’ve been rereading old favorites. I suppose there’s nothing really wrong with rereading, as it is something that I have always done, revisiting favorites once a year or so, but sometimes I feel as if I am not making any forward motion in my reading.

What I mean is that I feel a general lack in my background as far as world literature is concerned. I am hard-pressed when it comes to naming new authors from around the world, those who are considered to be contributing to the literary canon, as it were. And when I feel like this, I miss Mari, and teaching, and the department. Being surrounded by colleagues, attending lectures, reading journal articles, going to literary festivals—these things serve as a constant stimulus and impetus; the desire to remain current stays at the forefront at all times.

I miss that. But then, I miss many things, as you are probably weary of hearing me lament. Most probably, I miss the idea of working, the positive aspects of being amidst a job that stimulates the brain. When I get like this, though, I remind myself of the less than positive aspects: the backstabbing, the politics, the endless time-consuming meetings about nothing at all. These things I do not miss.

“When you cease to make a contribution, you begin to die.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

"Monday Morning," by Andrew Wyeth (1955)

Corey and I talk about the possibility of my returning to work full time. The idea of doing so appeals to me greatly, but would my body allow it? And working at home would serve no purpose other than to bring in income, which I am doing (to some extent). It would not allow me to get out of the house, be in different surroundings for several hours a day. It’s all so vexing, having no clear answers.

Anyway, Corey did speak with his contact at Vane Brothers, who told him that delivery of the new boat has been put back because of the bad weather. No surprise there. He did tell Corey that he would make a note that Corey has stayed in touch and continued to express interest in working for the company. I suppose that’s the best that can be expected. Yet another shipping company to which Corey applied has said that they are not hiring anyone new at the moment, even though their website listed open positions. Such a depressing mantra.

We are coming to the end of February, and Corey’s current unemployment extension is about to end. I know that another bill for yet another unemployment extension is before Congress, but who knows if it will be approved. God know that it should be considering that over 10 percent of the population is unemployed. We can only wait and hope and in the meantime, keep sending in applications.

“Passion is a positive obsession. Obsession is a negative passion.” ~ Paul Carvel

My Australian friend Maureen of White Orchid mentioned something in a recent post to which I can really relate: Apparently, the reality show “Little Miss Perfect” airs in Australia, and Maureen and her daughter watched an episode. For those of you who do not know to what I am referring, “Little Miss Perfect” is a show about child pageant contestants and their mothers . . . No, I’m not kidding.

"Renfield," by Andrew Wyeth (1999)

Apparently someone thought that this form of child abuse would make for good television. Child abuse? What would you call it? These little girls are made up to look like little beauty contestants, complete with fake eyelashes, make-up, costumes, the works. They have mothers who give them nothing but candy before the pageants so that they’ll be full of energy. This is good parenting?

Okay. I know that there are some people out there who love pageants, love the whole idea of the pageant circuit, participated in it, thought that it was the best thing since Barbie got longer hair. Whatever. You are entitled to your opinion. If you did it and you loved it. Great for you.

I’m looking at it from a totally different perspective: that of a sane person (relatively). These little girls are being indoctrinated into that whole concept that their entire self-worth is tied to their looks, to their ability to charm, to their willingness to please. Does no one else see anything wrong with this? We’ve raised generations of young women who regularly abuse their bodies in attempts to conform to airbrushed magazine images. We have agents who tell size 4 models that they are too fat (just read that one in the news). We have young women who are getting Botox before they are 25.

The need to fit in, to conform, to wear the right clothes, to carry the right purse, to be like everyone else—that need is as ancient as the concept of societies. But there is something very, very wrong with a society that condones taking five-year-old girls and plastering eye shadow on them and sending them out on a stage to compete with other five-year-olds for crowns and trophies rewarding them for being cute.

Let me pause here. No, I do not believe that every child should be given a trophy simply for showing up to school. No, I am not against healthy competition. Yes, I believe that innate talents should be honed and fostered. Yes, there will always be someone who is the valedictorian, and rightly so. But must we start at such a young, impressionable age at teaching our little girls that beauty is the answer to all of their problems?

Just consider the title of the show: “Little Miss Perfect.” What is perfection? The right dress? The best walk? The most winning smile? Are these young girls not being indoctrinated to grow up into young women who strive to fit into a size 2? Who will turn to plastic surgery to take out an imagined imperfection in a nose? And perhaps most importantly, are they being given the tools to face the real world? What will they do when their beauty does not open every door? How will they cope when they get their first stretch mark?

Yes, I know that I’ve said it before, but as I commented to Maureen, this concept of instilling unrealistic expectations at a very young age makes me want to throttle someone. I am reminded of the woman in Texas who put a hit out on the mother of her daughter’s cheerleading rival. True story (click here for info). I am also reminded of the mother of a girl who went to my former high school. This mother called me after cheering tryouts at which I had judged to drill me about why her daughter had not been chosen. All I could think of was how she had gotten my phone number?

Who are these people? Where does that kind of obsessive behavior originate? It has to begin somewhere. “Little Miss Perfect” my ass.

More later. Peace.

Red House Painters, “Have You Forgotten?”

“Lost — Yesterday, somewhere between sunrise and sunset, two golden hours, each set with sixty diamond minutes. No reward is offered, for they are gone forever.” ~ Horace Mann

 

 Dawn on Island View Beach, BC, by Brandon Godfrey

“If you had never been to the world and never known what dawn was, you couldn’t possibly imagine how the darkness breaks, how the mystery and color of a new day arrive.” ~ John O’Donohue*

Dawn as seen from an airplane over Greece

While the above sentiment is beautiful, greeting the dawn for six mornings in a row has just gotten old. I mean, I was thinking about it. If I worked the night shift, then my body clock might make sense, but as I am not working at all, this biological time-out has become overwhelmingly stale. 

This most recent episode began on Sunday after my birthday (great sushi for birthday dinner, by the way). I woke up on Sunday with a headache, so I spent most of the day lying on my back in the dark. Slept on and off. By Monday, headache had receded to pressure, but I felt exhausted. Or, let’s just say that I thought that I felt exhausted. Now I truly know what exhausted is: I feel as if I am one of those movie zombies, wandering about aimlessly looking for my next victim, but even that description doesn’t quite do this state justice. 

Last night, I took my bedtime meds early (around 10). Nothing, nada. Around 12:30 Corey came into check on me; I took Benadryl. Nothing nada. At 3:20 when Corey (Mr. Nightowl himself) came to bed, I took half a trazadone, since a whole pill normally puts me out and gives me a medicine hangover. Nothing, nada. Creeping towards 5 a.m. and still no sleep. Not even spurts of mini-sleep. Ab-so-lute-ly nothing. By this time I figured that it had been 9 hours or so since I had taken any muscle relaxers, so I chanced it, even though thoughts of putting myself into a pharmaceutical coma were lurking somewhere. 

At 6 a.m. I heard Brett’s alarm go off, but he didn’t get up. I was just starting to drift a bit when I squinted at the clock: 6:16 and still no movement from Brett. He had two exams today, so he had to go to school. I knocked on his door, and behold, he was not awake. I nudged Corey around 6:45 and told him that there was no way that I could drive even though I was awake since I was definitely under the influence of something. I finally fell asleep around 7:45 and slept until 11. Took two ativan and slept from 11:30 to 2:30. 

Those last three hours were the only uninterrupted, sound stretch of blissful sleep that I had. Every night since Sunday has been like this. 

“I’m sleeping while awake, standing by the window, leaning against it as against everything.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Snow at Dawn by Tracy Rosen

In between tossing and turning, I play computer games. I think about writing, but realize that if I begin a post, my mind won’t settle—it will only come to consciousness fully. I know, computer games aren’t the best idea either, but I try to find something mindless, like Bejeweled, just moving jewels around, but mindless games don’t seem to fix the problem either. 

I have noticed that the quality of my dreams when I do sleep is pretty wild: Something about a really ugly dress, a work dream thrown in there (work dreams have taken the place of algebra finals for my stress dreams), and then the other night, I had a full-blown action/adventure movie in which Corey and I were holed up in some seedy hotel, trying to find ammunition. Apparently, we were on some job that involved taking out someone, and we had run out of ammunition. 

I remember being quite enamored with my gun, which was a Walther PPK, à la James Bond. It had a weird siting mechanism, and the safety was on the back, not the side. Weird. I have never owned a gun and have never fired a handgun, but in this dream, my gun was my best friend. 

“Only mystery makes us live. Only mystery.” ~  Federico García Lorca

Spire of the Church of Tronville-en-Barrois at Dawn

Although, what is more strange is that when I am not sleeping, in those long stretches of painful wakefulness, I find myself doing very odd things like math equations. Trust me when I say that while I am good at math, I do not like it, so why is my mind in overdrive doing word problems? 

Do you ever compose in your sleep? I do, not as much as I would like, but it happens. I compose verse, which in my dream state sounds perfect, but I almost never wake myself to jot down what I have composed. I think that I do, but it’s just my body tricking me. However, on Monday, when I finally did fall asleep, I composed a piece of music, which is something that I have not done in many years. 

I am a classically-trained pianist, which I may have mentioned. I was good, but not great, and I knew it. I just loved it, which is why I took lessons for so long, but knowing that I didn’t have that special whatever that would set me apart, I did not major in music in college. So when I realized in my dream that I had composed a piece of music, I felt overjoyed. Once I woke up, I managed to hum just a tiny bit of it, but that was all that was left to me in my conscious state. 

However, I interpret the way in which my mind has been working recently during my semi-awareness to mean that I might be embarking on another creative spurt, at least I hope so. I mean, math? Music? Of course, the two are closely related . . . perhaps my mind is making connections that I have yet to reach once I am alert, although describing myself as alert these days might be going too far. 

“I have a sense of something imminent coming closer. But then I lose it again, become ordinary and inadequate. I feel like someone who is trying to guess an object being described by music. The sound grows steadily louder; he thinks he is on the point of grasping it, and then the sound becomes weaker again and he has to look for another answer.” ~ from the diary of Kaethe Kollwitz

Sunrise on the Outer Banks of NC

Who knows what is really going on in my mind? Certainly not I. Of course, if I were to venture a theory, it would be that the stress of our lives is currently wreaking havoc with my body. Yes, there is the pain, but that is omnipresent. It is more the sense of my head being very full and tight, my ears ringing, and an inability to focus. 

Of course, it has now been exactly two years since Corey was laid off. His job with Vane Brothers, which his contact said should start at the beginning of this year, now has a tentative start date of mid-February. We haven’t given up hope because if he does actually manage to get a job with this company, it would be wonderful. They have a great reputation in the shipping industry, good benefits, and people who work for them seem to be satisfied, which is not commonplace in tugboating. 

I have learned that people who work on tugs jump from company to company, often returning to companies once, twice, even three times. I suppose it’s just one of those industries that is a bit incestuous: everyone knows everyone else; being part of the in network secures a job faster than qualifications, things like that. Anyway, I am really, really hoping that this comes through. We’ve been due for a change of luck for some time now, and I find that time has become somewhat unreliable as a result. 

By that I mean I look up, and it’s the end of January. I was just getting ready for Christmas. But at the same time, it’s been two very long years without a second regular income, and that seems interminable. It’s almost as if I am somnabulating through the days, getting nowhere, so my body cannot truly rest. 

 “If you could only keep quiet, clear of memories and expectations, you would be able to discern the beautiful pattern of events. It’s your restlessness that causes chaos.” ~ Nisargadatta Maharaj

Florida Dawn by Janson Jones

Oh listen to me, going on about a whole lot of weirdness. I can say, though, that my back feels better today after getting my caudal yesterday, even though I felt as if I was going to throw up on the procedure table. This nausea crap is really getting old, but as I told Corey, I’m sure that this, too, shall pass. 

I just have to hold on to the idea that next week or the week after, my body will begin to right itself, so to speak, and I will be able to concentrate more fully on the things that matter, like writing this blog, for example. This overwhelming sense of restlessness cannot last forever; can it? I mean, a person could really and truly go crazy without the ability to find focus. 

Ah well. For now, I will continue to exist between these states of tossing about in the bed covers, stumbling to the kitchen to get something to drink, sitting at my desk in front of this computer waiting for inspiration. I don’t think that I have killed my sleep like Macbeth did, but I do believe that something inside of me is churning about too much, hence the inability to sleep soundly. Exactly what that something is, I have no idea. But as Emerson said, “What you are comes to you.” 

I have to believe that given time, things will begin to shift course. The receding tide will remove all the detritus that life has scattered on the shore for the past two years, and dawn will again become something that I greet with a sense of hope instead of dread. 

More later. Peace. 

Music from the Dixie Chicks: “Landslide,” which seems wholly appropriate: getting older, children getting older, being brought down by a landslide . . . 

  

 

  

*Many thanks to Crashingly Beautiful for the quotes used in this post.