“But I write badly. The part of my brain in charge of writing ability refuses to work.” ~ Anton Chekhov, “A Boring Story”

Writer Carson McCullers, by Leonard McCombe

“My memory has weakened, my thoughts lack consistency, and each time I set them down on paper it seems to me that I’ve lost the intuition of their organic connection . . . And, remarkably, the simpler the writing, the more excruciating is the strain.” ~ Anton Chekhov, from “A Boring Story”

Sunday evening, ice and snow, and very cold, 17 degrees.

Well, sleep eluded me again last night until after 3 a.m., which, relatively speaking, is not bad for me. There have been times when I’ve been in the midst of an insomnia bout, I’ve watched the sun rise and still couldn’t close my eyes. And yet again, I awoke with a migraine. Nevertheless, I’m going to make a true effort to write today. No promises that I’ll have anything interesting to say.

Eudora Welty Autographing a Book in 1984, by Terry James

Last night the wind whipped around the house with a sound resembling a freight train. I worried about the horses as they still don’t have a shelter. Corey assures me that as long as they have enough hay that they will be able to produce sufficient body heat. They still manage to get out of the pasture each night, and the ringleader, Napoleon, leads them to the front porch.

He’s a beautiful horse, but he’s already spoiled. When he hears me at the front door calling the dogs, he lumbers over and waits for me to give him treats, and often when I do, he comes all of the way to the door after I go inside as if he wants to come inside. Yesterday, both he and the mare Sassy stood at the side window looking in at us as if to let us know, in case we had forgotten, that they were out there.

I no longer wonder if it’s possible to spoil a horse.

“One morning you wash your face,
look into the mirror,
find the water has eroded your features,
worn them smooth as a rock in a brook.” ~ Daniela Gioseffi, from “Some Slippery Afternoon”

So my current problem with words? Probably a myriad of reasons. I still haven’t gotten my other mood stabilizing medication because there’s presumably a shortage, at least that’s what the pharmacy says, and of course, the ongoing lack of my pain maintenance medications doesn’t help things. Added to that the current state of my back is horrendous—it hasn’t hurt this much in years.

Dorothy Parker at Work at Her Typewriter in 1941

I know. I know. Nothing new, but between the ongoing winter depression and the recurrent pain, it’s hard to string thoughts together coherently. The physical always affects the mental, and vice versa.

And so I sit down at my little workspace (because my desk still isn’t set up), and I open YouTube and start playing news stories or true crime stories to run in the background, and then I open up a new screen for a draft, and I stare . . . that, or I work on putting quotes together for future drafts, or I spend some time on tumblr looking for more quotes or images for future posts, and then . . . after wasting more time, I go back to the draft screen, and nothing.

“. . . I hope to learn from you how things really are, why it is that around me things sink away like fallen snow, whereas for other people even a little liqueur glass stands on the table steady as a statue.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Description of a Struggle”

The house still isn’t completely organized or painted, mostly because Corey has so much to do with all of the outside things that need to be handled, that or he ends up unwillingly wasting entire days with Dallas who always proposes projects and then never gets around to them.

Vita Sackville-West in Her Tower Study at Sissinghurst in 1939

The truth of the matter is that Dallas has a drinking problem, one that seems to be getting worse. I don’t like to be around drunks. I’ve had too much experience with drinking problems, and it really gets to me. I mean Dallas has a good heart and good intentions, but as Corey says, Dallas just cannot stay on task; his mind flits from one thing to another, and as a result, little gets done.

I don’t regret that Dallas entered our lives; the relationship is definitely beneficial on both sides: he’s a lonely man who doesn’t appear to have much of a relationship with either of his children, and I have to wonder if that is because of his drinking. But I do feel sorry for him, and I do really try to be patient with him unless he shows up three sheets to the wind. I know that Corey, too, gets frustrated, but there’s little he can do besides try to keep Dallas focused. Still, the ongoing state of the inside of the house is really starting to get to me; I wish so much that I could do some of this stuff myself.

If wishes were fishes . . .

“The place of language is the place between me
and the world of presences I have lost” ~ Marie Ponsot, from “Imagining Starry”
Writer Clarice Lispector at Home in Rio de Janeiro, ca. 1973

I’m trying very hard, even it doesn’t seem like it, trying not to let things get to me, trying not to think about how my children are far away and out of touch, trying not to think about how there’s always so much to do, trying not to worry too much about Dallas and things that are out of my hands, trying to enjoy once again the act of writing these words . . .

. . . trying hard to be present in my life, which is so much harder than it might seem . . .

. . . trying hard to be thankful for what is here and not devastated by what is not . . .

. . . but no matter how hard I try, I just seem to find myself treading water, and I despise this more than I can say.

“I just can’t live an ordinary life, I can’t pass the time. I can’t organise myself, I don’t have ordinary motives anymore. I can’t even manage my body, when I go to bed I don’t know where to put my arms.“ ~ Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight

And I wonder if I have ever truly been present in my life, wholly present. I have this memory of my first husband asking me early in our relationship why I always worried about the future, always worried about what might or might not happen. I had no answer then, and I have no answer now.

Writer Zora Neale Hurston in 1955

I wonder if part of it is being an only child who always felt that I needed to be the mediator for my parents’ disjointed relationship. If I always worried so much about what might happen between them that I just got in the habit of always worrying about what might happen and never figured out how to just be present in today.

Or perhaps this inability comes from being a teenager and always wondering why I never felt as if I belonged. I had friends, a lot of friends. But still, there was always this feeling that these friendships were tenuous, dependent on my acting a certain way, a way that was acceptable, whatever that meant, and so I fretted and worried. No one ever made me feel this way. It was purely internal, and it went back years: In London I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my American accent and Filipino last name; In Norfolk, I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my British accent and Filipino last name.

I cannot tell you how frustrating it is. How can a person even begin to hope to be normal (whatever that is), hope to make her way through the days in any kind of pseudo normal fashion when everything is a question and the answers never seem to be available?

Anyway, more later. Peace.


Music by Coldplay, “O (Fly On),” extended version


With a Changing Key

With a changing key
you unlock the house where
the snow of what’s silenced drifts.
Just like the blood that bursts from
your eye or mouth or ear,
so your key changes.

Changing your key changes the word
that may drift with the flakes.
Just like the wind that rebuffs you,
packed round your word is the snow.

~ Paul Celan (Trans. Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh)

“I now know what I want: I want to remain standing still in the sea.” ~ Clarice Lispector, from An Apprenticeship

Igor Grabar Winter Rooks Nest 1904
“White Winter, Rooks’ Nest” (1904, oil on canvas)
by Igor Grabar

                   

“I fear this silence,
this inarticulate life.” ~ Adrienne Rich, from Twenty-One Love Poems

Friday morning. Sunny and very, very cold, 17 degrees.

Well, I had a Friday leftovers post ready to go, but I’ve decided that I’m going to try to do a real post today, you know, one with my actual words and thoughts and not a reblog of someone else’s stuff. I’ve had my first cup of coffee; I have my heat wrap around my neck, the one filled with flax that goes in the microwave; it’s comforting. I’m ready . . . I think.

Izsák Perlmutter  Snowy Trees in the Garden
“Snowy Trees in the Garden” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Izsák Perlmutter

So yesterday was my birthday, and it was as unspectacular as I had thought it would be. My mother did not call to wish me Happy Birthday; she regularly forgets my birthday, which, if you think about it, is quite a statement about our relationship. She will say that she doesn’t remember anything, but she’s been forgetting this day for at least a decade, so . . .

It doesn’t bother me so much now, but it used to really get to me. Lex and Brett both got me early, and Corey texted. I heard from Eamonn in the evening, and then Corey called to see how it went. He knows of my love/hate relationship with my birthdays, how I tend to get depressed, or if I’m already down, to spiral downwards even more. I actually didn’t spiral this year, but I think it’s because I’m in denial and on hold until Corey returns. I mean, Christmas, New Year’s, and now my birthday—all have passed with me being without my life partner, and it’s weird.

“I so often feel that I’m barely here, that to feel weight is to be reminded of my own existence.” ~ Hannah Kent, from Burial Rites

Tillie is better. I’ve only had to give her the sedating cough medicine a few times. I can tell that she’s feeling much better because she and Bailey are having their daily play fights and romps around the yard. It’s wonderful to see her with her regular bright eyes.

Janos Tornyai Winter Landsape with Violet Lights
“Landscape with Violet Lights” (c1934)
by Janos Tornyai

I am on day five of this particular migraine. I don’t even know why I try any more. Nothing works. The Botox obviously isn’t working, or perhaps, is only working some. Admittedly, the pain is not quite as acute, but the duration is hanging in there; no one-day headaches for me. I am nothing if not prolific (in all of the wrong ways). I put a call in to the pain management center, waiting to see is they have any ideas.

So, I’ve been weepy this month, actually since New Year’s eve. It doesn’t take much to make the tears begin to pool. I hate being weepy. So far, I’ve cried at an Apple commercial (the one in which the kid surprises his family by actually being aware of them); I cried at a YouTube video (the one about the guy who gets out of prison only to rob a bank of $1 so that he can go back in). And I cried at last week’s episode of “Bones,” in which one of the characters finds out he has bone cancer.

I have to say, 2014 is starting off with a bang.

“I have travelled so far to remember
Nothing of my former life, though perhaps that is
Truly best. I’ve left everything I’ve ever known

To come here, to stand in the shape of your shadow.” ~ David St. John, from “XVI. A Traveller”

I just went to refill my coffee cup, and while I was standing at the counter, a gust of frigid air caught me around the ankles; it came from the sink cabinet. This house is so drafty, and it’s so damnably cold. The dusting of snow we had a few days ago is mostly ice. The least it could do if it’s going to be this cold is to snow more than half an inch. Oh well. I think I’ll switch to some random thoughts at this point.

Boris Izrailovich Anisfeld Melting Snow, Petrograd, 1917 oil on canvas
“Melting Snow, Petrograd” (1917, oil on canvas)
by Boris Izrailovich Anisfeld

Here goes . . . Things I have realized:

  • If the color slate blue is anywhere in an image, I will immediately be drawn to it; more so if yellow is also present. This is odd considering I used to have a real antipathy towards the color yellow. Now? No longer.
  • Part of me wishes that I worked in an art museum now that I have developed a much broader appreciation of art, well beyond my novice love of the Impressionists. It would be so lovely to roam the galleries unimpeded by ropes and stanchions that keep visitors at a safe distance.
  • My appreciation of duck tape only grows with age, she said, apropos of nothing . . .
  • I’m not agoraphobic, but I don’t much like leaving the house. What’s the term for that? Lazy?
  • I think that I’ve finally resigned myself to the fact that I will not be getting my doctorate; what program is going to admit someone my age when they have the pick of 20-somethings?
  • This does not mean that I will ever stop wishing that I had gotten my Phd. I will always wish that.

“It is awful to want to go away and to want to go nowhere.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from The Unabridged Journals

Things I want to say but never will:

  • To my ex: You are a cold, selfish shell of the man I once knew. I never thought you would absent yourself from your children’s lives as deeply as you have. You are not worthy of their love or respect.

    Georgia O'Keeffe Winter Trees, Abiquiu, I, 1950 oil on canvas
    “Winter Trees, Abiquiu, I” (1950, oil on canvas)
    by Georgia O’Keeffe
  • To my s-in-law (here): Your mother and I had a really great friendship; she told me once that she liked me better than the son I was married to, so for god’s sake, stop.
  • To my mother: You will never know how many ways you have crushed my spirit and wounded me to the core. You have made me insecure about every aspect of my life.
  • To the boss who continues to plague my dreams: You are a stupid man for not realizing how you were being played and manipulated by the redhead.
  • To the man I spent too much time with simply because I was lonely: I know that you beat your wife. I’m so glad that I did not have anything more than a superficial relationship with you.

   “I thought

of you—              your obvious loveliness,         your obliviousness

to lost things.” ~ Sally Delehant, from “It’s Always Something”

Things I still don’t know:

Gabriele Munter Paysage d'hiver 1933 huile sur bois
“Paysage d’hiver” (1933, oil on wood)
by Gabriele Munter
  • How to make fondant for a cake.
  • How to apply false eyelashes (in what situation would this be necessary?).
  • How to find a literary agent.
  • How to motivate my children to move beyond where they are now.
  • How to motivate myself to do something . . . anything . . .
  • How to make Crème fraîche.
  • How to have my picture taken.
  • How to take a photograph of running water and get that blanket effect.
  • How to lay brick.
  • How to let things go.
  • How to love myself.

“I want something else. I’m not even sure what to call it anymore except I know it feels roomy and it’s drenched in sunlight and it’s weightless . . .” ~ Mark Z. Danielewki, from House of Leaves

Things I still haven’t done:

  • Gone to Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand, or Australia.
  • Visited the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, or the Pyramids of Giza.
  • Read Dante’s Divine Comedy, or Homer’s Iliad/Odyssey.
  • Found a literary agent.

    Camil Ressu Winter Day oil on cardboard nd
    “Winter Day” (nd, oil on cardboard)
    by Camil Ressu
  • Gotten past the first 30 pages of a draft without sabotaging myself and convincing myself that no one would want to read what I have written.
  • Seen the Northern Lights or the Grand Canyon.
  • Visited any of a number of stone circles in Britain.
  • Taken a photograph of a hummingbird.
  • Gotten another tattoo.
  • Gotten any work as a book indexer. I would be so good at this. How can I make this happen?
  • Flown in a glider (will never give up this particular dream), or ridden in a hot air balloon.
  • Lived in a house on a cliff by the sea . . .

I guess that’s enough for now.

More later. Peace.

All images today are obviously an homage to the freezing temperatures and my wish for a blanket of snow . . .

Music by Justine Bennett, “Carry Me”

                   

no help for that 

there is a place in the heart that
will never be filled

a space

and even during the
best moments
and
the greatest
times

we will know it

we will know it
more than
ever

there is a place in the heart that
will never be filled

and

we will wait
and
wait

in that
space.

~ Charles Bukowski

“Between me and life is a faint glass. No matter how sharply I see and understand life, I cannot touch it.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Dubrovnik Rooftops, Croatia
by will clayton (FCC)

                   

“I don’t have a word to say. Why don’t I just stay quiet, then? But if I don’t force myself to talk, silence will forever engulf me in waves. Word and form will be the plank on top of which I shall float over billows of silence.” ~ Clarice Lispector, from The Passion According to G.H. (trans. Ronald Sousa)

Saturday, early evening. Sunny and mild, high 60’s.

Another day of catch-up—laundry, writing, playing with the dogs. My back was hurting before I began. Woke up in pain. Hate that.

I completely forgot to watch the VP debate this past week, but apparently, Joe Biden did a good job. Just hoping Obama gets his groove back before this week’s re-match with Romney. But that’s not what this post is about. Not going to do political today. Just not up for it.

Falmouth Rooftops, UK
by Tim Green (FCC)

Shakes is hanging in. When he has his coughing spells, his whole body seems wracked. It’s terrible to watch. But he’s eating, and this morning, he enjoyed himself doing army crawl across the backyard (that’s when he lies on his belly and pulls himself about with his front legs only). It’s how he scratches his belly. Funny to watch, and he enjoys it.

I took Tillie the Lab outside for modified stick. Tried to keep her from getting over-exerted so that I don’t have to worry about seizures.

In the meantime, I’m sitting here with one of my heated neck wraps around my neck and shoulders, trying to burn the pain out. Not really. Just trying to use heat to make the muscles untense. So far, it’s not working.

This past week, I accidentally rear-ended someone at a read light. Not a big collision, small and stupid. Her truck was completely unharmed. The rodeo, on the other hand, decided to act up, and the lights went out. Turns out I had mashed the light relay against something. Easy enough to fix. Lights back on. I just felt really, really stupid. I wasn’t paying attention, noticed that the light had turned green, started to go before she did. Fortunately it wasn’t anything worse than that.

“All of the influences were lined up waiting for me. I was born, and there they were to form me, which is why I tell you more of them than of myself.”~ Saul Bellow, from The Adventures of Augie March

Yesterday I stopped into Marshall’s to see if they had any good clearance items. Made the mistake of taking a few things into the dressing room. I really, really hate it when I think that my body is smaller than it is. I see nothing but sausage in the mirror. Yes, it keeps me from buying anything, but boy does it do a number on my self-image. It was a whole lot of yuck, no way, and this is terrible. I think that I’ve been watching too much “Project Runway,” which makes me think that I can wear cool clothes.

Rooftops in France
by ifraud (FCC)

Not so much.

Actually, I could be content with myself if I lost 20 to 25 pounds. Don’t ask me how I’m going to go about that. I’ve already given up sugar (mostly). I’m staying away from chocolate (really, mostly), and I’m trying to eat small meals throughout the day. I know that I’m thinner than I was this time last year, but thinner is perhaps not the best word choice.

I don’t know. My body-image is so warped (thanks, Mom). I saw one of my cousins a few weeks ago, and she looks great. She has one of those naturally slender body frames, you know, the kind that normal women do not have. So the visit was bittersweet: great to see all of them, but left feeling like I’m fat and ugly and my mother dresses me funny. This is precisely why I don’t like to leave the house. Bumping up against these harsh realities is taxing.

“What is your life about, anyway? Nothing but a struggle to be someone. Nothing but a running from your own silence.” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi

I am in desperate need of a shower. Too much information?

When my kids were little, they had this saying, “Something’s sticking” to describe if their shoes didn’t feel quite right or if a label was bothering them. Well, something’s sticking in this shirt that I’m wearing. I think that I have it narrowed to the clear rubber/plastic thread they used. It’s poking me in the chest. Why, mass manufacturers of affordable garments, why? Again, too much information?

Zhouzheng Rooftops, China
by Praziquantel (FCC)

I do apologize, but obviously I am quite uninspired today. Perhaps I should really wait until nothing’s sticking, the back isn’t aching, and I’m not feeling slovenly. Truthfully, each time I got in the mindset to shower, one of my sons beat me to the bathroom—a major drawback to living in an older home with one bathroom. How did families survive in the 1950’s. They had an average of two children. Did those children not take ungodly long showers? Were those children trained not to hog the bathroom because someone else might be in need?

I fear that by the time I am finally able to get out of this paean to 1950s suburbia, I will no longer need to as my children will be out in the world on their own. Every time I ride into this neighborhood with its floral subdivision names so full of hope and promise I find myself thinking of “Leave it to Beaver,” with all of the neat houses in a row, everything in its place, impeccable yards and garages, and everyone in his or her assigned niche. It’s frighteningly stagnating.

“I see the mountains in the sky; the great clouds; and the moon; I have a great and astonishing sense of something there, which is “it”—it is not exactly beauty that I mean . . . A sense of my own strangeness, walking on the earth is there too: of the infinite oddity of the human position; with the moon up there and those mountain clouds. Who am I, what am I, and so on: these questions are always floating about in me.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated February 27, 1926

Seriously, though, were architects and planners of these ‘burbs so completely uninspired? Or were they secretly warped, laughing to themselves, as if to say, “This will keep people in line: row after row of cookie cutter houses with slight variations in window placement? Or was everyone just so glad to be in a post-war boom that any thought of creativity took a back seat to production values—developers churning out suburbia like baked bread because the masses couldn’t get enough of it.

Tallin Rooftops, Estonia
by samipaju (FCC)

Not much has changed, though. In fact, it may be worse. I swear that when I was the marketing director for a local realtor, I got so sick of seeing the same basic design for McMansions, maybe a different gable here, a double dormer there, but all the same.

But isn’t this how it is all over the world? People live in neighborhoods (interesting term, that) that are nothing more or less than mirror images with different door colors, whether the house is brick or tin or wood. We conform so easily, without thought, into these nice, neat niches, never questioning why.

Whoa. Getting a tad too philosophical there.

“A man’s truest self realizations might require him, above all, to learn to close his eyes: to let himself be taken unawares, to follow his dark angel, to risk his illegal instincts.” ~ Jean Cocteau

But think about it. Beneath the slate or concrete or thatch or mud or tile or shingles, haven’t we always tried to conform, most of us? When we lived in caves, how soon did the competitions for the best caves begin? Graduate to huts, how soon before the need arose to make this hut just like that hut, or to make this hut a tad bigger than that hut?

Uncastillo Rooftops, Spain
by lostajy (FCC)

The need to compete outweighing the need to conform? Row after row of black and white townhouses, and then bam, one with a red door. How long before the community association slaps the homeowners with a notice to comply?

We humans are so predictable. We want to fit in, but we want to stand out. We need to be accepted, but we ache to surpass. We search for meaning in a cesspool of sameness. Is it any wonder that nothing ever changes?

When we bought this house, it never occurred to us to look for something different. So conditioned have we been to seek what was available. Then, a decade or so later, the era of 2,000 square feet and above as standard made my little brick ranch obsolete. Then downsizing. The realization that so much square footage came encumbered with any number of unspoken needs. A whole generation of house poor people, now upside down in their grand suburbs, so similar to the one next door and the one three doors down from that.

I always wanted a log cabin on a plot of land with a natural lake, lots of trees, the smell of mountain air only faintly overtaken by an ocean breeze wafting in from near by.

Damn. I went and made it philosophical after all.

More later. Peace.

Music by Stuart Murdoch, “Another Saturday”

                  
Apple
I wake and remembered
nothing of what I was dreaming
The day grew light, then dark again —
In all its rich hours, what happened?
A few weeds pulled, a few cold flowers
carried inside for the vase.
A little reading. A little tidying and sweeping.
I had vowed to do nothing I did not wish
to do that day, and kept my promise.
Once, a certain hope came close
and then departed. Passed by me in its familiar
shawl, scented with iodine woodsmoke.
I did not speak to it, nor it to me.
Yet still the habit of warmth traveled
between us, like an apple shared by old friends —
One takes a bite, then the other.
They do this until it is gone.
~ Jane Hirshfield