“a young man passed by, wearing | roses and myrtle of the moon.” ~ Federico Garcia Lorca, from “Arbolé, Arbolé . . .”

Friday Leftovers

Corey picked the most amazing rose from our backyard bush. I planted this bush many, many years ago, and it still offers up the most beautiful blooms every year. It’s called a Peace Rose. Here are a few select shots:

Lotus Rose Rose 1 Rose Film Grain Rose film grain crop

Music by Lianne La Havas, featuring Willy Mason, “No Room For Doubt”

                   

a woman had placed

after jorge luis borges

a yellow rose
in a hotel glass
the man had kissed her
on the neck
had kissed her
on the mouth

but these kisses belonged to yesterday
there would be no moment
of revernalization

yellow roses came from china
open in may before our hybrids
unfold pink rugosities and baroque scent
expose dusty fissured yellow pearls

~ Anne Blonstein

“Behind all this, some great happiness is waiting.” ~ Yehuda Amichai, from “Seven Laments for the War-Dead” (trans. Chana Bloch)

New York Skyline at Sunset
by Corey Fickel (June 2012)*

                   

“-What do you do all day?

-I stand myself.” ~ Émile Cioran, from About the inconvenience of being born

Monday evening. Sunny, hot, and humid.

Clear Blue Waters off Island of Ascension
by Corey Fickel (2012)

The above quote is particularly apt at the moment as I’m having quite a hard time standing myself—for various reasons. Just one of those things.

It seems that I am not going to find the time to write a proper post unless I just make the time. Since Corey arrived home last Tuesday, I have been absorbed, in what exactly I couldn’t tell you. I mean, other than the vast relief and happiness in having him home safe, I just seem to be flitting from one thing to another, unable to focus very well for more than an hour or two.

I’ve been quite hyper and in full OCD mode. I even found myself upset that Corey’s luggage was cluttering the dining room, so yesterday I condensed all of his things that he will be taking back to the ship and promptly announced that they need to go in the garage. Then I spent a couple of hours cleaning off the dining room table and polishing furniture. How can one person contain so many battling emotions simultaneously? I really don’t know: happy, stressed, wired, content . . . It’s all too much.

“The beauty of the world  . . . has two edges, one of laughter, one of anguish, cutting the heart asunder.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from A Room of One’s Own

The pool is officially open—at last. The dogs (well, not Alfie) are quite happy, as am I. It has been beastly hot the past week, and being able to get in the pool even for an hour is very refreshing. Brett’s new school schedule is during prime pool time, however, from 2:15 to 4:20. It’s just as well, I suppose. I can’t stay in too long, which means that I don’t end up with that sun-sapped feeling.

Looking Towards Antigua
by Corey Fickel (2012)

Eamonn came home from work yesterday with a doggie float. I didn’t even know they made such things. This one is damaged, so the store was just going to chuck it, so Eamonn brought it home. So far, though, neither Tillie nor Shakes seem to be interested in spending any time on it.

On Saturday after swimming, Corey and I gave the dogs baths outside with the hose. Actually, Corey wanted no part of it, but I convinced him to help me, especially when Alfie had one of his psychotic episodes and tried to bite off my hand.

Note to self: Never, ever own another high-strung terrier breed.

Anyway, I ordered K-9 Advantix for their fleas as the Frontline that I have used the past two months has done absolutely nothing to conquer the fleas, and the skin condition that Shakes has seems to get worse after I administer it, so I’m going back to Advantix. Hoping that will take care of the fleas and scratching.

“I have a faith in language.  . . . It’s the most flexible articulation of our experience and yet, finally, that experience is something that we cannot really articulate. We can look out and see the sunlight in those trees, but we can’t convey the full unique intimacy of that experience.” ~ W. S. Merwin, from The Paris Review, The Art of Poetry No. 38

I know that not all of you will be interested in The Paris Review interview segments that I’ve been posting in between, but I’m hoping that those of you who love words and writers might find them as enjoyable as I have. Personally, I always find it interesting to hear other writers (real writers) speak of their craft.

Shades of Blue, U.S. Virginia Islands
by Corey Fickel (2012)

I was saddened by the death of Nora Ephron, who I have always considered to be such a master of the English language, a modern-day Dorothy Parker (two women I adore). I have felt a kinship with her curmudgeonliness and the way that her work always has an edge to it but also has a quiet beauty to offset that edge.

For those of you who may not be aware, Ephron was married to Washington Post reporter Carl Bernstein (of Watergate fame). Their stormy marriage led to her novel “Heartburn,” which was turned into a movie directed by her friend Mike Nichols. The movie, starring Meryl Streep and Jack Nicholson, was a tour-de-force riposte about marriage and infidelity. (Ephron once famously said that the Bernstein character would “have sex with a venetian blind.”

“It is really hard to be lonely very long in a world of words. Even if you don’t have friends somewhere, you still have language, and it will find you and wrap its little syllables around you and suddenly there will be a story to live in.” ~ Naomi Shihab Nye, from I’ll Ask Three Times, Are You OK?

I have a confession: I always imagined myself to be an unknown Dorothy Parker. I mean, if I were going to be famous, and if I couldn’t be a torch singer, then I would want to be someone like Dorothy Parker: a woman who spoke her mind, even in the most polite of company.

Churning Blue Waters, Shoreline, Island of Ascension
by Corey Fickel (2012)

Parker was a columnist, critic, poet, writer, and essayist, but she was best known for her acerbic wit. I mean, the alcoholism I could do without, obviously, but man, she didn’t pull any punches, and she was outspoken about those causes in which she was heavily invested, such as civil rights and civil liberties. Like myself, she was staunchly left-wing and did not suffer fools gladly.

Ephron was of the same ilk, and her recent passing leaves a gaping hole in that class of female writers who really did do it all.

Ah, well.

“I am not alone. Whatever else there was or is, writing is with me.” ~ Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water

Let’s see, what else?

Wild Goats on Hillside, Antigua
by Corey Fickel (2012)

Brett got an A in his first section of pre-Calculus. Eamonn is applying for the apprenticeship school at the shipyard. Corey is enjoying yard work, in spite of the heat, and Alexis is very heavy with child.

The heat is getting to her, and she is already visibly dropping. I predict a delivery date of July 8th. She and Mike have everything just about ready in the apartment. I’ve ordered a new mattress for the cradle as the old one is quite thin and torn in a few places. I couldn’t find any mattresses in any local stores, at least none that I could afford, but I found a nice two-inch one on Amazon, and I ordered some cradle sheets. My mother bought a car seat for me to have in my car (I’m just letting her do whatever makes her (my mother) happy at this point, and she was determined to buy it).

I’m having work done on the Rodeo this coming week so that it will be a safe vehicle for transporting mother and child if necessary. I have to admit that I am quite excited and like Lex, more than ready for baby (Olivia, we think) to be here.

Well, I didn’t do so bad for a quick post, did I?

More later (but sooner, I hope). Peace.

*All images are from Corey’s recent hitch. Enjoy.

Music by Peter Bradley, “Heart of a Girl”

                   

Work, Sometimes

I was sad all day, and why not. There I was, books piled
on both sides of the table, paper stacked up, words
falling off my tongue.

The robins had been a long time singing, and now it
was beginning to rain.

What are we sure of? Happiness isn’t a town on a map,
or an early arrival, or a job well done, but good work
ongoing. Which is not likely to be the trifling around
with a poem.

Then it began raining hard, and the flowers in the yard
were full of lively fragrance.

You have had days like this, no doubt. And wasn’t it
wonderful, finally, to leave the room? Ah, what a
moment!

As for myself, I swung the door open. And there was
the wordless, singing world. And I ran for my life.

~ Mary Oliver

“Could it be, that this was life? — startling, unexpected, unknown?” ~ Virginia Woolf, from To The Lighthouse

“Stillleben mit Spiegel und Feuerlilien (Still Life with Mirror and Tiger Lilies),” by Max beckmann (1950)*

“Around me the trees stir in their leaves
and call out, “Stay awhile.”
The light flows from their branches.” ~ Mary Oliver, from “When I Am Among Trees

Thursday afternoon. Sunny and mild. Night thunderstorms moved out the heat and humidity.

Woke up early this morning with massive migraine, nausea, extreme light sensitivity, but the weather is beautiful . . .

Corey is scheduled to leave port on Saturday. He plans to stay on for the full run, which may take him to Antigua (obvious envy) and a few other islands, as well as Brazil. I am simply overcome with jealousy. If he does the full run, he’ll be getting back just in time for le bébé, which will be nice.

“Rote Tulpen und Feuerlilien (Red Tulips and Tiger Lily),” by Max Beckmann (1935)

It has been to nice to have him home even though he has to work during the day. Brett made homemade pizza for dinner last night as he wanted to cook for Corey, which was sweet. Both boys are glad to have him home, as are the pups. I think that everyone will be massively sad when he has to go again, but I’m so glad that they made port here first.

He is liking his job very much, and his co-workers all seem to like him. He said that he is bothered by things on the boat less than some guys, probably because he is used to working for a dysfunctional shipping company. But he assures me that the ship is safe, which is my primary concern. He took some pictures off the coast of Dover and also got some nice shots of Klaipeda, the town in Lithuania that he visited while in port there. I hope to post some of the pictures soon, but I cannot open Photoshop on this computer or it will freeze indefinitely. I know that some of you can relate.

“We are faithful
only to the imagination. What the
imagination
seizes
as beauty must be truth.  What holds you
to what you see of me is
that grasp alone.” ~ Denise Levertov, from “Everything That Acts Is Actual”

So, shall I share with you a funny story?

I read somewhere, don’t remember, that turmeric was a natural astringent, and this actress said that she mixes a small amount of it in with her moisturizer to get a natural glow. So I thought, why not?

“Stilleben mit Orchideen und grüner Schale (Still Life with Orchids and Green Bowl),” by Max Beckmann (1943)

Yellow. The color of curry yellow. I had to laugh out loud when I looked in the mirror. I might have had a very bad case of jaundice. It took three scrubbings to get all of the yellow off—no lie, and in between washings, I wiped my face with a paper towel that turned . . . yellow.

Who are these people who can get a nice healthy glow with turmeric? They must have no yellow tint in their melanin, that’s certain.

Oh well, so much for natural . . . It really is a shame, though. I used to hate the color yellow, probably because of my skin, but now I love it, but I simply cannot wear it anywhere near my face. I mean, I could wear yellow in a skirt, but a yellow blouse? No, nope, never. I turn this wonderful shade of squash. Totally unflattering.

“ . . . there’s this vast dangerous garden, waiting out there, undiscovered, unexplored.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, “At the Bay

“Stilleben mit Tulpen und Ausblick aufs Meer (Still Life with Tulips and Sea View),” by Max Beckmann (1938)

Let’s see, what else is noteworthy? Oh, another somewhat funny story: Yesterday, I drove Eamonn to his eye doctor’s appointment. On the way home, he wanted to stop by 7/11. As he came out, he opened the Rodeo door right into his head, creating an instant bump. That’s not the funny part.

He got in the car and said, “Pull out fast. I’m so embarrassed.”

I told him to put his cold drink on his forehead to keep it from swelling. He was so concerned with how it would look that he decided that he would tell anyone who asked that . . . and this is the outrageous part . . . I accidentally hit him in the head with the door. Oh yes, Eamonn, that’s so much better than admitting that you accidentally hit yourself in the forehead. Make me out to be the abuser. And you know what? He actually did it. He told his girlfriend that I gave him the bump. Love it.

My children (probably not cool to refer to them that way as they are all adults . . . yeah, right)—always good for a chuckle.

“The sea lies in its bed wet and naked
in the dark. Half a moon glimmers on it
as though someone had come through
a door with the light behind.” ~ Jack Gilbert, from “Adults” 

“Still Life with Flowers,” by Max Beckmann (1927)

Speaking of adulthood, I remember when I got out of graduate school (the first time) and started my first real job. I was so adamant that I not be referred to as a girl, mostly because of my traditional feminist sensibilities which point out that calling a grown woman a girl is akin to calling a grown man a boy, and no man wants to be called a boy, but everyone refers to younger women as a girl. Does that make sense?

Anyway, I worked for a government contractor with a bunch of retired military guys, and I was always trying to enlighten them. When I look back on that now I have to chuckle to myself. But you know what, they actually stopped using the word girl. I think that I kind of intimidated them. Well, actually, I know that I intimidated them as I found that out later from this 6’7″ former Navy Captain.

I just find the whole thing so humorous now, but it was deadly serious to me then. We so want to be considered mature adults when we are in our 20’s. It’s more of that foresight versus hindsight thing. If only we had the hindsight of our 40’s while still in our 20’s. I really think that argument can be made for living life backwards, starting it with the knowledge we glean from experience and age, but I suppose that would defeat the purpose of all of that angst we suffer in our youth.

“The invisibility and intangibility of that which moves us remained an unfathomable mystery . . .” ~ W.G. Sebald, The Rings of Saturn

So tomorrow night is date night for Corey and Me, to celebrate our anniversary, for which he will not be here. We’re going to eat sushi and go to a movie, our usual date. I had a hankering to go sing karaoke, but he would rather go to a movie, which is fine as I just want to have an evening out with him.

“Stilleben mit Mimosen (Still Life with Mimosa),” by Max Beckmann (1938-39)

I’ve been mulling over going to karaoke by myself like I used to. I would go early in the evening, before all of the drunks, and sit by myself, write in my journal, and sing a few songs. I was usually home by 9. Alexis used to tell me that going out on a Friday night did not mean being home by 9, but I was fine with it. So I’ve thought that I might try that again, just to try to get my voice back into shape, not that I have people banging my door for a singing contract or anything like that, but I have noticed that when I do sing along in the car, I sound, shall we way, icky.

I watched an episode of RHofOC, and Gretchen did a sting with the Pussycat Dolls in Las Vegas in which she was supposed to sing “Fever.” I say supposed to because I’m not really sure what in the hell she sang, but it did not resemble “Fever.” Poor, poor Peggy Lee was doing somersaults in her grave, I’m sure. Now “Fever” is a song that I can/used to sing as it’s the perfect key for my voice. Unfortunately, if I were to attempt it now, I would probably sound like Gretchen, which is just depressing.

I really don’t know why I still watch that show as it’s not even entertaining any more, too predictable. It’s the only one of the franchise that I still watch, but I will admit to “Bethenny Ever After,” as Bethenny is my twin sister (I wish). I mean she says exactly what’s on her mind, consequences be damned, and her poor spouse appears to be more befuddled than anything by her attitude. It’s very early in their marriage, so they’re just getting used to each other and the idea of being married, and it kind of reminds me of Corey and me in the early days, except that we’re not worth over $100 million. Just that tiny difference.

“No, my soul is not asleep.
It is awake, wide awake.
It neither sleeps nor dreams, but watches,
its eyes wide open
far off things, and listens
at the shores of the great silence.” ~ Antonio Machado

Speaking of this POS computer—which I was a couple of sections ago (keep up)—yesterday I designed the content for Alexis’s baby shower invitation. Granted there isn’t a low of content, just the who, what, when stuff, but you would think that I was trying to get this computer to insert graphics into a 300-page manuscript.

“Schwarze Iris (Black Irises),” by Max Beckmann (1928)

Fortunately, the invitations that I bought had a website on which I could download a template so that the measurements were exact, but I had wanted to use a special font, and boy was that a nightmare. I use the dafonts.comwebsite, which is a site of downloadable free fonts. The only problem is that some of the script fonts that look good on the site do not translate well into Microsoft. I would have used Adobe InDesign to create the invitation, but this computer does not recognize real programs . . .

Anyway, I asked Brett’s opinion on my font choice, and he was so helpful. His reply (which really, really reminded me of my dad): “It’s a font.” Why do I bother?

So I finished the design and printed a sample. I had chosen a custom color to match the border, but the printer decided that everything should print in Navy. Why??? This means that I need to buy new ink cartridges before attempting to print the invitations as I really don’t want to be in the middle of printing only to have half of them turn out faded, with indecipherable text. That would put me over the edge, definitely.

But I’m happy with the finished product. Now I just have to find those poet stamps that I read about (doubt if my post office will have them as that would be too easy).

My trials and tribulations. It could be worse. That’s all for now.

More later. Peace.

(*Images by Max Beckmann (February 12, 1884 – December 28, 1950), German, identified as Impressionist, but he did not like that categorization. These oil on canvas still lifes very different from his other work.)

Music by Kathryn Calder, “Arrow” (perfect song)


                   
Tuesday, June 4th, 1991

By the time I get myself out of bed, my wife has left
the house to take her botany final and the painter
has arrived in his van and is already painting
the columns of the front porch white and the decking gray.

It is early June, a breezy and sun-riddled Tuesday
that would quickly be forgotten were it not for my
writing these few things down as I sit here empty-headed
at the typewriter with a cup of coffee, light and sweet.

I feel like the secretary to the morning whose only
responsibility is to take down its bright, airy dictation
until it’s time to go to lunch with the other girls,
all of us ordering the cottage cheese with half a pear.

This is what stenographers do in courtrooms,
alert at their dark contraptions catching every word.
When there is a silence they sit still as I do, waiting
and listening, finger resting lightly on the keys.

This is what Samuel Pepys did too, jotting down in
private ciphers minor events that would have otherwise
slipped into the heavy, amnesiac waters of the Thames.
His vigilance paid off finally when London caught fire

as mine does when the painter comes in for coffee
and says how much he likes this slow, vocal rendition
of “You Don’t Know What Love Is” and I figure I will
make him a tape when he goes back to his brushes and pails.

Under the music I can hear the rush of cars and trucks
on the highway and every so often the new kitten, Felix,
hops into my lap and watches my fingers drumming out
a running record of this particular June Tuesday

as it unrolls before my eye, a long intricate carpet
that I am walking on slowly with my head bowed
knowing that it is leading me to the quiet shrine
of the afternoon and the melancholy candles of evening.

If I look up, I see out the window the white stars
of clematis climbing a ladder of strings, a woodpile,
a stack of faded bricks , a small green garden of herbs,
things you would expect to find outside a window,

all written down now and placed in the setting
of a stanza as unalterably as they are seated
in their chairs in the ontological rooms of the world.
Yes, this is the kind of job I could succeed in,

an unpaid but contented amanuensis whose hands
are two birds fluttering on the lettered keys,
whose eyes see sunlight splashing through the leaves,
and the bright pink asterisks of honeysuckle

and the piano at the other end of this room
with its small vase of faded flowers and its empty bench.
So convinced am I that I have found my vocation,
tomorrow I will begin my chronicling earlier, at dawn,

a time when hangmen and farmers are up and doing,
when men holding pistols stand in a field back to back.
It is the time the ancients imagined in robes, as Eos
or Aurora, who would leave her sleeping husband in bed,

not to take her botany final, but to pull the sun,
her brother, over the horizon’s brilliant rim,
her four-horse chariot aimed at the zenith of the sky.
But tomorrow, dawn will come the way I picture her,

barefoot and disheveled, standing outside my window
in one of the fragile cotton dresses of the poor.
She will look in at me with her thin arms extended,
offering a handful of birdsong and a small cup of light.

~ Billy Collins

(Aside: I need to get a collection of Billy Collins poems as I am really liking him.)

“She was the music heard faintly on the edge of sound.” ~ Raymond Chandler, The Raymond Chandler Papers: Selected Letters and Nonfiction 1909-1959

"Pretty as a Peacock" by DanaKai Bradford (QBI Microscopy 2008 competition): This is an image of the brain. Amazing.*

                  

“We are living, but can’t feel the land where we stay.” ~ Osip Mandelstam

Friday, early evening. Cloudy and relatively mild, low 50’s.

Well, I got to sleep at a relatively good time last night, for me that is—around 3:30 a.m. The night before, insomnia reared its ugly head again, and I watched 5 a.m. come and go. Went to make myself a cup of hot Ovaltine, only to find that there was none of the malted, only the chocolate malt, which just isn’t the same when you’re looking for a soothing cup of hot Ovaltine in the wee hours of the morning.

"Beauty in the Eye of the Beholder" by Nick Nacsa (volume rendering of bullwhip amacrine cell in chicken retina, QBI Microscopy 2008 competition): I would have called this Tree of Life

I ended up taking another Seroquel, which knocked me out finally, but made it well nigh impossible to wake up in the afternoon. I really hate that feeling, and even though I’m prescribed 75 mg of the Seroquel, I try to take only 50 mg as I feel better when I wake up with the lower dose.

Last night, though, for the first time in quite a while, back pain woke me, which is not good. I mean, the back pain is omnipresent, so for it to be bad enough to wake me from sleeping really disheartens me. And today the headache continues, just enough pain to be annoying and cause squinting, but not full-blown migraine pain, which is why I happened upon the images in today’s post. I do have lots of floating spots today, which is never a good sign. waits and see, I suppose.

Anyway, Corey is scheduled to leave on Monday some time; we’re just waiting for the finalized travel arrangements. I wonder if he knows that eastern Europe is under a major cold snap . . . haven’t had the heart to mention it yet.

“Time isn’t an orderly stream. Time isn’t a placid lake recording each of our ripples. Time is viscous. Time is a massive flow. It is a self-healing substance, which is to say, almost everything will be lost.” ~ Charles YuHow to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe 

So in the next three days, we have all of that last-minute planning to take care of, as in which bills get paid automatically, and which bills I need to handle, all of that stuff that I’ve been staying away from in recent years. We also plan to have a sit down with the sons to make it clear what is expected of them while Corey is gone. I find that it works better if the two of us speak to the two of them at the same time as it makes the gravity of the words sink in a bit better.

"Guideposts" by T Fotherbill (QBI Microscopy 2011 Competition)

I’m making it a point not to let my trepidation come to the surface as Corey does not need to be worrying about how well I’m handling things. He needs to be focused on what’s coming up, on how his days are going to change in a major way. At least he’ll have his laptop, and he’s been investigating the rates of international Internet access. He’ll be fine with his regular access once the ship gets to Cape Canaveral, but Lithuania is a different matter.

His other big problem is fitting everything into one suitcase. The company said that they’ll reimburse him if he has to take more than one suitcase, but it would just be easier if he only has one to check and one to carry on.

I don’t even want to think about all of the other little things that are looming out there as it will become all too apparent much too soon.

“We try to use the talents we do have to express our deep feelings, to show our appreciation of all the contributions that came before us, and to add something to that flow. That’s what has driven me.” ~ Walter Isaacson, from Steve Jobs

My new mother board (one word or two? differs depending upon site) arrived by Fed Ex yesterday morning. Exciting. Of course, I now have to wait to have it installed, but I’m creeping closer and closer to having my computer back in working order, which will make both Eamonn and me very happy—Eamonn because I will no longer be in his room at all hours trying to work, and I, of course, because I will again have my own writing spot, small though it may be. Regardless, it will be mind, and I will be most happy to have it back.

"Activity at the Midline" by Amberl Dawson (QBI Microscopy 2008 Competition): This one and the next remind me of Georgia O'Keeffe's "Red Canna"

I even did a bit of perusing about upcoming deadlines for literary contests. Perhaps if I get off my butt and begin to put some things together, I might be able to submit something this year. No promises, but a worthy goal, n’est ce-pas?

When I was cleaning out some of my office supply clutter and going through boxes of miscellaneous stuff, I came across a scrap of paper in which I had written the opening to a book—only about ten lines, but I was surprised—it was actually not bad. Once in a while I do surprise myself when I come across something that I’ve written that I’ve completely put out of my mind. Not often, but sometimes. It’s like finding treasure.

I used to keep a file of writing ideas, all scribbled on various scraps of paper. The file is still somewhere around here, I think. I doubt if I would find many of them inspiring, but the book intro was an interesting take.

“We are torn between nostalgia for the familiar and an urge for the foreign and strange. As often as not, we are homesick most for the places we have never known.” ~ Carson McCullers

For some reason I have it in my mind that I need an IBM Selectric to actually (split infinitive, I know) begin work on my novel. Something about the rat-a-tat of the typewriter keys seems so much more substantial than the clacking of a keyboard. Yes, it’s much easier to type on a keyboard than a typewriter, but I hold a deep fondness for the Selectric.

"Meeting in the Middle" by Amberl Dawson (QBI Microscopy 2008 Competition)

When I began at the newspaper in the advertising typing pool, I worked on a Selectric. Those were the old days in which copy had to be coded as it was typed, and believe it or not, coding a retail ad, such as one for a grocery store, could take hours, but I became quite adept at it, and actually chose the longer ads to do as I found them more interesting than short ads.

Anyway, when I moved into the newsroom, I used to take dictation over the phone from reporters calling in from the field, and I used, you guessed it, a Selectric. When I applied for my technical editing position with the government contractor, I had to take a typing test, and it was on a Selectric. At that time, on that machine, I typed 126 words a minute.

So you see, the Selectric is in my blood. I associate it with production, with quantifiable results. That must be why I so want to have one on which to pound out my manuscript. I’ve seen a couple on E-Bay, but I could hardly justify purchasing one when the back door is being held together with plywood and a prayer.

Some day . . .

“These are the moments which are not calculable, and cannot be assessed in words; they live on in the solution of memory, like wonderful creatures, unique of their own kind, dredged up from the floors of some unexplored ocean.” ~ Lawrence Durrell, Justine

With Corey’s new job we’ll have access to more funds, but it’s very important that we are careful and responsible. We still need to payback my family member for saving our butts last fall, not to mention repaying Corey’s family for helping out, and we want to try to repair our credit score, which was decimated in recent years, not just hurt, not just lowered, but totally and completely destroyed, like an atomic bomb went off on our records and took away everything that we had been building.

"Dangling Neurons" by D. Blackmore (QBI Microscopy 2010 Competition)

So while I may write about all of these things that I would like to have or see or do, I know that for now, it is much more important that we gain some financial ground. Then work on the dreams and desires, never forgotten, never abandoned, only postponed. Like Corey’s college career—I’m really hoping that in the time that he is home between hitches he’ll be able to get in a course or two. He’s waited so long that I don’t want him to just forget about it.

Corey just got his itinerary for Monday, so I suppose it’s all now official. It’s quite surreal to see the words “Scandinavian Airlines.” Under different circumstances, it might be exciting, but not so now. Norfolk to Dulles to Copenhagen . . .

It feels colder, but I think that that may just be my body reacting to emotions. The back is still quite achy even though I’ve taken my meds, and my head is getting tighter. The sky outside has become dark, and my eyes are actually full of spots, so I need to wrap up this post.

More later. Peace.

All images taken from the QBI Miscroscopy site, Queensland Brain Institute’s Advanced Microimaging and Analysis Facility

Music by Melody Gardot, blues, “Our Love is Easy”

Postcard

Lately, I am capable only of small things.

Is it enough
to feel the heart swimming?

Jim is fine. Our first
garden is thick with spinach
and white radish. Strangely,
it is summer

but also winter and fall.

In response to your asking:
I fill the hours
then lick them shut.

Today, not a single word,
but the birds quietly nodding
as if someone had suggested
moving on.

What is that perfect thing
some one who once believed in god said?

Please don’t misunderstand:
We still suffer, but we are happy.

~ Olena Kalytiak Davis, from And Her Soul Out of Nothing (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997)

                   

Georgia O’Keeffe image to which I was referring above:

"Red Canna," by Georgia O'Keeffe (1923)

“Follow your inner moonlight; don’t hide the madness.” ~ Allen Ginsberg

“Open Door on a Garden,” Konstantin Somov (oil on canvas) 

  

“My trouble is insomnia. If I had always slept properly, I’d never have written a line.” ~ Louis-Ferdinand Céline
"Door Open onto the Garden," Pierre Bonnard (oil on canvas)

 I’ve been spending quite a bit of time with Cal lately—chills, aches, and lethargy—so I have not written a word in a week. A very long time for me, especially when the Internet is actually on. 

Everytime that I start to think that maybe I could actually go back to work, my body gives me a wake-up call, as in, “Have you lost your mind?” This past week, temperatures around here reached record highs. Meanwhile, I was walking around with goose bumps on my arms. A couple of nights ago, I woke myself when my body was shaking, which made the bed jerk. It’s all quite disconcerting. 

And then, of course, there is the insomnia, which makes just getting through the day a chore. One night it was nigh on 6 a.m. before sleep came. Last night, I was so grateful to be sleepy by 3 a.m. What a strange life I lead. 

“Be daring, be different, be impractical, be anything that will assert integrity of purpose and imaginative vision against the play-it-safers, the creatures of the commonplace, the slaves of the ordinary.” ~ Cecil Beaton
"30 Regent Terrace," Francis Campbell Cadell (1934)

Corey had to work today from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., but it doesn’t really matter as we had no plans for mother’s day. Eamonn came by with flowers and a card. He can be such a sweetie when he wants to be. Alexis is supposed to come by later, so just a quiet day at home. 

Corey and I were married on mother’s day nine years ago. We didn’t really want to get married on a Sunday, but it was the only day that we could get the Women’s Club in Norfolk, which is an old Victorian home in the Ghent section of Norfolk. We were contemplating the Botanical Garden, but decided on the house so that we wouldn’t have to worry about the weather. I walked down the winding staircase in five-inch heels, and miraculously, I didn’t trip. 

But I digress . . . 

For the most part though, I have only had one request over the years when it concerns mother’s day: Please do not give me any appliances, as in a toaster or something of that sort. Just feels too domestic and traditional for my tastes. 

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place . . . I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” ~ Elliott Erwitt
"Rooms by the Sea," Edward Hopper (1950)

This past week was a busy one for Brett. He is taking is IB exams in all of his classes. The better he does on these exams, the better the chance he has of getting college credits for the courses, which will be wonderful. He submitted his art portfolio to the IB board, but that takes a couple of months for review before he hears anything. It was a combination of sketches and photographs. I was duly impressed with the quality of his work. He has two more exams this week, and then he is pretty much finished except for a few odds and ends, so he will have a nice break before graduation. 

For his final project in art, Brett is going to paint something on one of the doors in the art room. He hasn’t told me what he plans to paint, but I can’t wait to see it. 

Tomorrow, Corey and I need to go back to the financial aid departments at ODU and TCC to complete the paper work for both boys to get tuition adjustments, which (we hope) will increase their Pell Grants. At least there is one good thing about being poor. 

“Everything we see hides another thing, we always want to see what is hidden by what we see.” ~ René Magritte
"The Balcony Room," Adolph von Menzel (1845)

We watched a movie a few nights ago called “Haunting in Connecticut,” which is supposedly based on a true story. I hadn’t heard anything about the movie, but we were in the mood for something scary. Turns out, it’s pretty dark—dead bodies with words carved into them, some kind of ectoplasm and séances, lots of hallucinations. Of course, watching something like that before trying to go to sleep is probably not the best idea. 

Then last night, I was watching this program about women who kill. I think that I’ve seen it before. Anyway, three of the stories really got to me. Two of them involved young girls who got pregnant, hid their pregnancies from their families, then threw their babies in the trash. 

Anytime I read about something like this happening, it really upsets me in so many ways: That these girls felt that they could not go to their parents with the truth says a lot about the kind of pressure families put on their daughters. Like the article I just read that stated that most parents do not believe that their children are having sex; they believe that other people’s children are having sex, but not theirs. How utterly naive.  The kind of naiveté that causes people to be against birth control in favor of abstinence. 

Facts: Forty-six percent of all teens in the U.S. between 15 and 19 have had sex. A sexually active teen who does not use contraceptives has a 90 percent chance of becoming pregnant within a year. Eighty-two percent of teen pregnancies are unplanned; they account for about one-fifth of all unintended pregnancies annually. This is reality, folks. 

Sure abstinence is the goal. It’s just not the reality.  So these girls get pregnant but do not tell their families out of fear, out of shame, because they want to see the disappointment in their parents’ eyes, whatever the reason. The tragic part is that they choose to throw their babies away like trash in part because they have spent the last nine months convincing themselves that it isn’t real. 

“There is no explanation for evil. It must be looked upon as a necessary part of the order of the universe. To ignore it is childish, to bewail it senseless.” ~ William Somerset Maugham
"The Four Rooms," Vilhelm Hammershoi (1914, oil on canvas)

However, the story that still gets to me, that still rips my heart right from my chest is that of Susan Smith, the woman who drowned her two young sons, Michael and Alex. When the car was found, the two boys were still strapped into their car seats in the back seat of the car. Imagine for a moment what it must have felt like for those boys when the water began to come into the car, as they yelled for their mother, the woman who had to hear their screams. Imagine the fear and helplessness that had to overtake them as the minutes passed and the water kept rising. 

There is evil in this world. Of that, I have no doubts at all. Susan Smith killed her sons because she wanted to be free of them so that she could date the man who broke off their relationship, the man who said that he was not ready for children. So this mother, this monster decided that the best thing to do would be to kill her children and to blame it on an imaginary black man. 

In 1995, Smith was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. During her trial, she tried to use as a defense that her step-father had molested her and that she suffered from a lifetime of depression. Someone else’s fault. Of course. 

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” ~ Oscar Wilde
 Found on Wikimedia Commons (lost the title, sorry) 

Perhaps this was not the best issue to discuss on mother’s day. Or perhaps we need to be reminded that not all mothers are good and kind and loving. That some mothers care more about themselves than they do their children. That some mothers should never have had children. That some mothers, completely contrary to societal expectations, are filled with hate and resentment for the very children they bore. 

Fortunately, most mothers do not fall into the former category. Most mothers love their children with a fierce, protective love that no one can touch. 

I do not believe in perfection, but I do believe that some things and some people come very close to this ideal.  Motherhood, in its truest sense, is that continual strive to achieve perfection—saying the right words said at the right time, listening instead of lecturing, comforting with an embrace that bespeaks more than any words, accepting even when faced with a reality that is contrary to expectations. Motherhood is complex, tasking, and never easy. It is not for the weak hearted or the selfish. It is the only job in the world that expects you to know everything on day one. It is the only career that breeds anxiety and insecurity in continuous doses. 

When the door closes, and the child is on the other side, off to unknown places, it is the mother who remains behind and whispers to no one in particular, “It will be all right.” 

More later. Peace

Music by Jon McLaughlin, “We All Need Saving” 

“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries” ~ Theodore Isaac Rubin

*Snow Bath by Corey Fickel

“All my life I have been on the brink of either a break down or a break through.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Saint Francis in the Snow

Our Internet has really been acting funky, which has made it hard to post. We have a wireless network in the house, and given that our house is not very big, there really shouldn’t be problems, but of course there are. My computer is farthest from the router, but that hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference until recently. The other computers in the house have Internet service, but I do not. It’s very frustrating, but we don’t really know why this is happening unless the router is going bad, which may be the case. I suspect the router because replacing it would cost money, and that’s how things work in this house. If it’s a simple, cheap fix, it doesn’t break; if it’s expensive, then it will break. 

Anyway, yesterday, I wasn’t even able to look at videos on YouTube, without my computer locking up, so I decided to abandon any hopes of posting. Today, things seems to be working fine, so I’ll take my chances. 

I think that I’ve decided to abandon Facebook. I don’t have much to report in the status bar, and my life isn’t so involved that I feel a need to update everyone on what isn’t happening. I think that Facebook can be fun for the people who participate in the games and polls, which I don’t. And it has been nice making contact with some people from my past, but after that initial contact, is there anything more to say? 

I think back to my old post on becoming a hermit, which I wrote sort of tongue in cheek, but I really think that a part of me is very much like a hermit: I don’t crave the company of lots of people, and the more time that I spend here in this little corner of my bedroom, the less I feel that I am connected to the outside world. I’m not bemoaning my fate, just making a statement. 

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always . . .  ~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi

"I love this stuff . . ."

The port security company called Corey to schedule an interview, which is great. But now he is anxious, worrying about impressing them. I told him that it’s normal to be anxious given that he hasn’t really interviewed for a job in a long time, but he is convinced that he is not qualified. He finished his port security training with the Coast Guard but did not graduate because of his injury; therefore, he doesn’t have any certifications. I told him that he just needs to explain what happened, but he is tying himself up in knots over this. 

He does have the qualifications for this type of job. I just hope that he can make it through the interview. If he can do well in the interview, he has a good shot at the job. 

Being unemployed for so long has insidious effects, which are now coming to the front. Unemployment strips your confidence, makes you feel inadequate, and the longer the unemployment continues, the more you begin to believe that you are a failure, not worthy of consideration. Having had my own bout with unemployment, I truly understand what Corey is feeling, and unfortunately, all of the loving supportive words in the world cannot erase that overwhelming feeling of insecurity. 

Here’s hoping . . . 

“You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Snow Buddha

I’m back to not sleeping. I have no idea what’s going on, and I’m at the point at which I don’t even try to ascertain reasons. Last night, for example, I fell asleep somewhere between 5:30 and 6 a.m. I got up at 7, 9:20, and 11 to let the dogs out. I don’t really think that they need to go out, but they get restless. I finally fell into a deep sleep after 11. 

This is so backwards. I did have a migraine for three days, so that probably contributed to things. Funnily enough, a representative from my long-term disability insurance called for an update a few days ago. I told her that absolutely nothing had changed. Still seeing the same doctors, still taking the same medicines . . . she asked about my days, as in what did I do. What could I tell her? I sit at the computer for a few hours, read, watch television. She wanted to know if I do any cleaning. I told her that I do some things but not others. 

Those periodic conversations really bring into focus how much my life has changed in the past two years, how I have gone from working a full day and then going to classes in Alexandria, how I have gone from cleaning my whole house to cleaning parts of my house, how I have gone from sleeping 6 hours to sleeping 10 hours. It is more depressing than I can begin to describe. 

I spend hours with ice packs on my head. I spend hours on the heating pad. I take my pills, and I look forward to small things: new episodes of NCIS, a good book, a movie, my favorite coffee. So while I have lost so much, I have also relearned the art of appreciating small things. I don’t exactly see it as a fair trade-off, but it is what it is for however long it stays this way. 

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. when you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami

In the news: Ben Stein, commentator for CNN (why should anyone listen to the former Nixon speechwriter?) says that he knows why Republicans are not in favor of healthcare reform: “. . . The answer is much higher percentage of Republicans are taxpayers than Democrats and the Republicans are the people paying for it, and the Democrats are the people receiving it.” 

Surface of Frozen Pool (or Ben Stein's Brain)

Let me just pause here for a moment while I collect my breath . . . First, and probably most importantly, the IRS does not have a spot anywhere on its myriad of forms that asks taxpayers to indicate their political affiliation, if any, so how, pray tell, did Stein come up with that factoid? Second, and this is personal, we pay a boatload of taxes, always have. A January 2009 report by Forbes magazine stated the following: 

“The 400 highest-earning taxpayers in the U.S. reported a record $105 billion in total adjusted gross income in 2006, but they paid just $18 billion in tax, new Internal Revenue Service figures show. That works out to an average federal income tax bite of 17%—the lowest rate paid by the richest 400 during the 15-year period covered by the IRS statistics. The average federal tax bite on the top 400 was 30% in 1995 and 23% in 2002.” 

This report says nothing about political parties, just income levels. In my many years of paying taxes, I have never had a 17 percent rate. Never. Stick it Ben Stein, you blowhard. (Thank you Skyewriter for the heads up.) 

In other news, former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis only received $32,171 in compensation for 2009. Poor Lewis. Oh wait. I forgot to mention: Lewis also received $73 million in accumulated compensation and retirement benefits, which brings his net to $73,032,171, approximately . . . 

Fannie Mae wants another $15.3 Billion, yes with a B, in aid. Okeedokee.  Let’s take these things and compare them to the fact that unemployment benefits for millions of people expire this weekend, but lone Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is holding a temporary extension hostage over concerns about the deficit.  On Thursday, the House passed a bill temporarily extending the programs for a month until lawmakers can address the issues long-term. The Senate tried to follow suit, but the lone Republican Senator held out. 

Don’t get me wrong, I, too, have issues with the deficit. Perhaps we can ask Ken Lewis for a contribution, say $73 million or so? 

Enough financial news. It makes my eyes water and creates a sharp pain behind my right eye. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Imogen Heap, “The Moment I Said It” (heard it on “Criminal Minds,” which has a soundtrack almost as awesome as “NCIS.”) 

 

  

*Corey took all of the pictures featured the day after the snow storm we had here a few weeks ago.

 

“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.