“There are some things one remembers even though they may never have happened.” ~ Harold Pinter

Lion at Nelson's Column, Trafalgar Square, London
Somewhere in a box there is a picture of me on one of these lions.

                   

“And in the heart, born single as a kiss,
Broods the sad other—learner, yearner, dier—
That knows, uncomforted, its one desire
Was not for this.” ~ Rhina P. Espaillat, from “Falling”

Saturday early evening. Partly cloudy and warmer, high 80’s. Thunderstorms predicted for tonight and tomorrow.

Very tired today. Spent about eight hours yesterday roaming around with Alexis, trying to find her comfortable shorts and sandals. Bought a couple of skirts for myself to wear to her showers. Also bought the invitations and decorations for her shower. So it was a very productive but tiring day. I made the mistake of drinking too much caffeine while we were out, and I definitely felt the difference in my body.

Double Decker Bus at Piccadilly Square, London

Both Eamonn and Brett came to me today separately to say that they missed Corey. I’m missing him as well. Maybe there is something in the air. I would hate to think how it would feel if he were really going to be gone for 90 days. There was a specific reason why I never dated anyone in the Navy as I knew that I would not be good on long deployments, six months at a time. That has to really wear on a relationship.

Anyway, the house is empty at the moment. Brett went out with Em, and Eamonn went to some cookout with his friends. Just the dogs and me, and Tillie is content now as I took her out to play before sitting down to write; otherwise she wouldn’t leave me alone.

“There either is or is not, that’s the way things are. The colour of the day. The way it felt to be a child. The saltwater on your sunburnt legs. Sometimes the water is yellow, sometimes it’s red. But what colour it may be in memory, depends on the day. I’m not going to tell you the story the way it happened. I’m going to tell it the way I remember it.” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

So I’ve been thinking about memories, specifically my earliest memories, real memories, not the imagined memories from hearing people talk about events in your childhood. Of course I have the general, vague memories: going to Ravenscourt Park with my dad and our poodle, Sooty. Walking through Ravenscourt Park with my mom to the tube station. Going to the shops with my mom in Shepherd’s Bush and Hammersmith, and to Mr. Higgin’s shop on Goldhawk Road. But my first true memories come from about the age of four:

  • We are living in London in the first house. We live on the second floor. I have not begun school, so I am at home with my mother. There is a large window in the kitchen, and it is covered with steam as she is cooking. I draw what I think are words and letters on the window. I ask my mother what I have written, and she says, “home.”
  • Same house: It is Christmas Eve. My mother has put up a fake silver tree. I have begged to stay up late. There are footsteps outside the door. My mother tells me that it’s Santa and that he won’t come in if I’m still awake. I crawl under the heavy front door that has glass as its top half, and run to my bedroom.
  • We have moved to our apartment off Goldhawk Road. I fall off the living room couch and sprain my arm. That night I develop a fever and have nightmares about rolling hills of different colors and a giant striding the hills. I have this nightmare frequently when I’m sick.

    Stamford Court, Goldhawk Road, London W6
    We lived on the right side, first floor in the corner; our windows faced the parking lot
  • A little older. We are living in London. I go to spend a week with my parents’ friends who live outside the city. I realize later that I have been sent away so that my parents can sort out yet another indiscretion of my father’s. While staying with these people a local boy is stung by a wasp. This is a very significant event, but I am not sure why.
  • Same age, same visit: The friends and neighbors take several of the children to a neighborhood pool. I do not have a bathing suit. At first I want to swim in my dress. They convince me to swim in my underwear. I am unashamed in that way that only the most innocent of children can be.
  • Still 5. My mother’s brother Danny dies, and she is very upset. She tells me not to tell anyone, so I tell my friends who live in the apartment two floors above us.
  • Five or six. I am participating in a Dances of Asia program along with some Phillipine Embassy children. There are older girls and boys, and I am left alone with the older boys in a room. One of the boys finds a girdle and holds it up. All of the boys laugh. I run from the room and promptly tell on them.
  • Still in London, five or six. I am auditioning for the school chorus in front of the headmistriss of flora Gardens School. I do not use my usual singing voice but yell all of the words very loudly because I want her to hear me. She smiles and tells me that not everything need be loud. I am not given a place in the chorus.

“Memory is the library of the mind.” ~ Francis Fauvel-Gourand

More childhood memories:

  • I must be about five or six as I am in school. My mother puts the front part of my hair up in a rubber band, but she does not take it down every day. I cry from the pain when she finally removes the rubber band that has become tangled in my hair.
  • Same age: my mother and I travel back to the U.S. for her friend’s funeral. I learn the significance of this much later. While we are in the U.S> it is Halloween. My mother buys me a plastic mask to wear. It scares me, but I say nothing because I want to go out with the other children.

    A Typical London Taxi
    Riding in one of these was a treat as we usually took the tube or a bus.
  • About six. Summer. We travel to France on the ferry that crosses the English Channel. Then we drive through France, and Spain. We arrive in Morocco where good friends of my parents live in a metal Quonset hut on a military base.
  • In Morocco, I eat watermelon for the first time that I remember.  An Am-ah in long black robes takes me to the market. I ride on the back of a motorcycle and see camels.
  • Same trip: We drive somewhere in the country, and I need to use the bathroom. There is a hut by the side of the road. Inside are two holes with smooth stones on either side of the openings. I refuse to go to the bathroom.
  • In Spain, we stay at a hotel called the White Horse. There is a strip of paper across the toilet, and I decide that I will use this bathroom.

“Scars have the strange power to remind us that our past is real.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, from All the Pretty Horses

I’m older now, but we’re still in London:

  • I’m in the hospital to have my tonsils removed. The nurse comes to give me a shot, and I throw a tantrum. Orderlies hold me down.
  • After the operation they put me in an oxygen tent. I pull the sheet over my head because it is cooler beneath the covers. My mother walks in and sees the sheet over my head and screams.
  • One day while walking to school, my friends and I see a purse behind the bushes that line the side of the hospital fence, a huge black metal fence that runs the length of the street. This may be the nurses home. We wonder how a purse got behind the bushes. Years later I remember this and think that the purse must have belonged to a nurse who was attacked. I create an entire story in my head about this unknown woman.

    Ravenscourt Park
    We walked through the park to get to school. There used to be lots of arched recesses.
  • One day while walking home from school I fall on the road right outside the entrance to the park. A piece of gravel embeds itself on my left palm. I still have a very tiny spot on that palm where the gravel was.
  • We are in school having a maths lesson. The teacher writes a problem on the blackboard and asks the smartest boy in class how many numbers he can work with at one time. He says all of them. She says no, that we can only work with two numbers at a time, do one thing at a time. I spend the rest of my life trying to prove her wrong.
  • My mother cuts off all of my hair so that it will be in the same style s a singer she likes. I hate it short and feel like I look like a boy.

“The words with which a child’s heart is poisoned, through malice or through ignorance, remain branded in his memory, and sooner or later, they burn his soul.” ~ Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind

These memories are mine, perhaps not recalled perfectly, but as close to real as I have stored them. For example, I know that I saw the guards at Buckingham palace on several occasions, but I do not actually remember this. Most of these things I have not told my mother, so she has not recounted them at the dinner table in that embarrassing way that she does, like the things that I did as a baby. I never told her about the girdle incidence, or the black purse behind the bushes. She does not know that I was afraid of the mask with the thin strap of elastic that got caught in my hair. I never told anyone about my dreams of colored rolling hills and giants.

Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace, London

Nor does my mother realize that I remember the Indian woman in the sari who came to our apartment door right after I got back from spending the week in the country, that my mother closed the door and began screaming at my father. I remember that, just as I remember being taken from the room.

Why does it matter where these memories come from? I don’t know, I only know that it matters to me. These are my truths, and they have not come to me from someone else’s filter. There is one thing that I can tell you for certain: I was a happy child most of the time until I went away for that trip in the country. After that, I did not trust that my parents would not send me away again. After that, I was unsure of everything.

All images feature places or things in London that remain firmly ensconced in my memory. I cannot tell you how exciting it was to find pictures of some of these places on the Internet.

More later. Peace.

Music by Josh Ritter, “Change of Time”

                   

The solitude of an apricot

Away from leaf touch, from twig.
Away from the markings and evidence
of others. Beyond the shale night
filling with rain. Beyond the sleepy
origin of sadness. Back, back into
the ingrown room. The place where
everything loved is placed, assembled
for memory. The delicate hold
and tender rearrangement of what is missing,
like certain words, a color reflected off
water a few years back. Apricots and
what burns. It has obtained what it is.
Sweet with a stone. Sweet with the
concession of a few statements,
a few lives it will touch without bruising.

~ Carl Adamshick

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“Men must live and create. Live to the point of tears.” ~ Albert Camus

Hadrian’s Wall (from northumbria-byways.com)

                   

“I have walked much to the sea, not knowing what I seek.” ~ Loren Eiseley, “The Inner Galaxy,” from The Unexpected Universe

Friday early evening. Partly cloudy and mild, low 60’s.

Hadrian's Wall, Northumbria, by Diego's sideburns (FCC)

Still not feeling great. I suppose that I’ll have to go back to the doctor next week. I keep putting it off in the hopes that this blasted cough will finally subside, but instead, it seems to be getting worse again. So tired of coughing and coughing.

It looks as if Corey is on track to leave sometime soon after the New Year. I have very mixed feelings about all of this, as I’ve said, but in the past few days, the reality has really begun to settle into the forefront of my consciousness, and I’m not liking the reality. There’s nothing to be done, of course. This is the way that it has to be, at least for the next three months.

He’s both excited and apprehensive—I’m not sure which feeling is dominant, probably a vacillation between the two.

His current boss gave him a stellar recommendation, saying that he was the hardest worker that he had and that he wished that he had a whole crew of Coreys. High praise indeed.

Anyway, he’s gotten out his big suitcase, and has begun the search for his flannel lined work pants and such. So there’s no more denying that it’s happening, no matter how much I try to move it to the background.

“You forget what you want to remember and you remember what you want to forget.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Last night I had a very strange dream in which I was going to some kind of holiday party with my friend Jammi, who lives in Texas. I had this really beautiful outfit and access to antique jewelry and accessories, but the outfit was quite tiresome to put on as it had closures in odd places and a long scarf, and each time I went out of the room, Jammi would change into another dress. It was most strange. And then the person who was lending me the jewelry said, “Don’t forget the choice of weapons.” Someone opened a cabinet, and there were things like small daggers and such, and they gave me a ring that had an antidote in case someone drugged my drink.

Hadrian's Wall by Stuandsam (FCC)

How very strange.

In the middle of all of this, my mother reminded me that I owed her $86 (where did this number come from?), and she wanted payment before I left the house. To pay her I gave her a necklace that still bore the original price tag ($80), and a pair of earrings. She seemed satisfied. The necklace was turquoise and very unattractive . . .

There was a lot more to the dream, but those are the weirdest parts. There was another dream that involved some of our German relatives, a glass of half-finished milk, and mixed nuts. Make of that what you will.

“God, give us a long winter
and quiet music, and patient mouths,
and a little pride—before
our age ends.
Give us astonishment
and a flame, high, bright.” ~ Adam Zagajewski, from “A Flame”

I have a feeling that I’ve used this particular Zagajewski quote before, but that’s okay. It’s beautiful enough to be worth repeating.

I’m not entirely certain what it is about winter that I love. I mean, perhaps it’s the idea of winter that appeals to me. I love snow, the emptiness of a snowy path that has yet to bear footprints, human or otherwise. I love the starkness of the trees. But since I have never lived in a really cold region, one that is frigid and icy and has unmelted snow for extended periods, I’m not certain that I would like it so much if it were my reality.

Hadrian's Wall (bbc.co.uk gallery)

Does that make sense?

I mean, I love azure seas, so clear that what lies beneath is visible. I love white sand. But I don’t think that I’d like to live in very hot weather all year long. The heat would probably be much better for my bone pain, but I really don’t like to be hot. I like heat if I’m in the water. Then I can bear it. But I can remember being in heat that was so unbearable that it was hard to breathe. Perhaps it’s a memory from when I was in the Philippines. I don’t know.

Corey has no desire to live in a very cold climate, and I understand that because he spent a big chunk of time on a Coast Guard ice breaker in the Great Lakes—definitely cold, but I think that I do want to live in such a climate, that I do harbor this desire, and I will probably not be able to rid myself of this longing until I have experienced it. Just as I say that I would love to live in Ireland, but people tell me that it’s rainy more often than not . . . again, I don’t know. I only know what my dreams and desires are made of, what seems to me to be the perfect environs.

I know that when I was in my 20’s, and a friend of mine moved across country to live in Washington state, I was appalled. I mean, who would leave living by the ocean to live in a place that is misty and rainy? But now? Now the idea of living in Oregon or Washington state does not seem in the least farfetched.

“I carry from my mother’s womb
A fanatic heart.” ~ William Butler Yeats, from “Remorse For Intemperate Speech

Last night/this morning around 4 a.m. I caught the end of Tom and Viv on one of the movie channels. It’s a movie about T. S. Eliot and his long-suffering wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot. The marriage was not a happy one, and for the last decade of her life, Viv was committed to Northumberland House mental hospital. The movie stars Willem Dafoe and Miranda Richardson, and I’ve wanted to see it forever, but never think about it, so of course, it’s not scheduled to repeat anytime soon.

Hadrian's Wall at Sycamore Gap (featured in 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) by stevemonty (FCC)

The problem with finding out too much about the personal lives of writers that I love is that it’s hard to think of them in the same way after learning too much. I mean, Eliot was really horrible to Viv, but I love Eliot’s poems, as witnessed by my frequent use of quotes from his work, and I believe that he’s probably one of the first true poetic influences on my writing style, or rather, poetic style. Eliot uses a lot of internal rhyme with his vowel sounds, and is partial to alliteration, as am I.

And then of course, there’s my love affair with Yeats. After seeing a picture of him years ago, it only cemented my love for his work.

Don’t call me shallow. I loved his words before his face. In fact, Yeats penned my all-time favorite lines from a poem (from “When You Are Old”):

But one man loved the pilgrim soul in you,
And loved the sorrows of your changing face;

When I first read those lines in college, I longed to find someone who would love the pilgrim soul in me and the sorrows of my changing face . . . Years later, I did.

“What is the water in a lake? A blank page. The ripples are its wrinkles. And every one is a wound.” ~ Edmond Jabès, The Book of Questions II, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

Anyway, not really sure what took me off on that poetic tangent, probably indicative of the way that my mind if flitting from subject to subject without  any long pauses for any one thing in particular to take hold.

Hadrian's Wall: Housestead Fort Looking East (smithsonian.com)

Today’s post features images of Hadrian’s Wall. As a passing fancy, I thought that I would see how many different perspectives I could find of this ancient edifice.

For those of you who may not know, Hadrian’s Wall was built between 122 and 128 AD and remains one of the finest example of ancient Roman architecture in Britain. Built of stone and sod by Roman troops under the orders of Emperor Hadrian, the wall was approximately 15-feet high and 8 to 10-feet wide, and it extends approximately 73 miles (80 Roman miles) across open country. Forts were built at seven-mile intervals, and milecastles, or guard posts, were built at one-mile intervals. Two turrets were placed between pair of milecastles. A ditch fronted the wall, and in the three locations in which the wall crossed rivers, bridges were built.

Hadrian’s Wall was built to help keep the Picts of the north (Scotland) out. It stretches from the North Sea to the Irish Sea (from the Tyne to the Solway). The wall remained the northernmost boundary of the Roman Empire until the Romans abandoned Britain in the early 5th century (around 410 AD).

Hadrian's Wall from illuminatinghadrianswall.com

The Wall is now a World Heritage Site. You may have seen it featured in the movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (above), and a representation of the wall with garrisons in King Arthur, starring Clive Owen.

For your edification. As I said, I’m all over the place today.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sia, “I’m In Here”

                   

Fork with Two Tines Pushed Together

It’s fast and cool as running water, the way we forget

the names of friends with whom we talked and talked

the long drives up and down the coast.

I say I love and I love and I love. However, the window

will not close. However, the hawk searches

for its nest after a storm. However, the discarded

nail longs to hide its nakedness inside the tire.

Somewhere in Cleveland or Tempe, a pillow

still smells like M_____’s hair.

In a bus station, a child is staring

at L____’s rabbit tattoo. I’ve bartered everything

to keep from doing my soul’s paperwork.

Here is a partial list of artifacts:

mirror, belt, half-finished 1040 form (married, filing jointly), mateless walkie-talkie, two blonde eyelashes, set of acrylic paints with all the red and yellow used up, buck knife, dog collar, camping tent (sleeps two), slivers of cut-up credit cards, ashtray in the shape of a naked woman, pen with teeth marks, bottom half of two-piece bathing suit, pill bottles containing unfinished courses of antibiotics, bank statements with the account number blacked out, maps of London, maps of Dubuque, sweatshirts with the mascots of colleges I didn’t attend, flash cards for Spanish verbs (querer, perder, olvidar), Canadian pocket change, fork with two tines pushed together.

Forgetfulness means to be full

of forgetting, like a glass

overflowing with cool water, though I’d always

thought of it as the empty pocket

where the hand finds

nothing: no keys, no ticket, no change.

One night, riding the train home from the city,

will I see a familiar face across from me? How many times

will I ask Is it you? before I realize

it’s my own reflection in the window?

~ Nick Lantz

“How mysterious this life was, how deep and muddy its waters ran, yet how clear and noble what emerged from them.” ~ Herman Hesse, from Narcissus and Goldmund

Antennae Galaxies (NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team)*

                   

“The things that existed were so immense and so desolate. She continued to be conscious of these vast masses of substance for a long stretch of time, the clock still ticking in the midst of the universal silence.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out

Friday afternoon. Beautiful blue skies and cool. Autumn temperatures.

Pain scale: Head 6, back 8.

So I had my first migraine since the Botox shots, and I have to say that if this is the results, then it’s well worth having someone stick a needle in my face. I took a Relpax when it hit, and within a few hours, I was already feeling better. About six hours later, I was a bit weak, but no more migraine. It’s been so long since once onset med did the trick that I just didn’t even know how to react.

Tadpole Galaxy (Arp188): Tidal Tail (NASA)

The headache I’m currently dealing with isn’t a migraine, more of a stress/sinus combo, so I’m trying to take just ibuprofen for these types to see if that will do the trick. It would be wonderful to be able to give up at least one pain medication. Just have to wait and see.

As for the back pain, well, nothing new there. Omnipresent, just manageable on some days, and then on days such as today, almost debilitating, as in turning over in bed is painful. As in trying to do one of those wake-up body stretches, arms above the head kind of thing is impossible. Consequently, I was unable do drive the kids to school this morning, and Corey had to do it. I know that sometimes he thinks that I just don’t want to get out of bed, but as I had been awake since 7, that wasn’t the case this morning.

I dreamed of candles within rocks, natural candles formed by pouring the wax into the hollows of rocks, and a quilt. I was making a quilt for my mother, and somehow I knew how to do this even though I do not sew, and I was looking for the perfect centerpiece for the quilt, something with eyelets, but the fabric store was closing. And somehow I had to include grosgrain ribbon on the quilt. It was an assignment for some class, and I wasn’t in the least disturbed by the incongruity of it all.

“In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.” ~ Cormac McCarthy

I have realized why some parts of Europe like Ireland and Wales seem to call to me: It is the commingling of the ancient with the now, being able to live in a country that is thousands of years old, that has structures that have weathered centuries, sometimes millenia, to live near these, to feel the history even as life progresses ever onwards into the future. That is what I want because that is what I feel inside—that I am a mix of the old and the new, the ancient and the present. I have always felt that I was this way. I have no explanation for it.

Messier Galaxy (M81) Hubble and Spitzer Composite Image (NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESA Harvard-Smithsonian)

Corey and I watched Valhalla Rising, a movie with little dialogue and a lot of mist. I alit on this movie in the middle of the night mostly because it starred Mads Mikkelsen, who played Tristram in King Arthur, which is enough for me but not quite enough for this movie. It is set at some point in the Dark Ages of Europe, and the plot, what little plot there was, involves a warrior who had been held captive but gains his freedom only to go on a journey into a hellish unknown. I only mention this for two reasons: Don’t watch it unless you need a soporific; conversely, watch if you are interested in a lot of landscape.

The weather is harsh, the mountains forbidding, and the conditions, unforgiving. But I still found something hauntingly beautiful about the landscape, the wide open unpopulated spaces. The movie is not an action film, but I think that it’s supposed to be some kind of extended metaphor for about what awaits us in the unknown.

The movie’s title references Norse mythology, Valhalla being that great hall for the chosen dead. Odin, who rules Valhalla, chooses those warriors who will come to him after death. And perhaps the visions that One-eye (Mikkelsen’s character) has reference the Medieval literature, most of which includes visions of Valhalla, blood, and battle. Or perhaps I’m overthinking, which I have been known to do.

“Beauty consists of its own passing, just as we reach for it. It’s the ephemeral configuration of things in the moment, when you see both their beauty and their death . . . Does this mean that this is how we must live our lives? Constantly poised between beauty and death, between movement and its disappearance? Maybe that’s what being alive is all about: so we can track down those moments that are dying.” ~ Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog (tran. A. Anderson)

So today is 11/11/11. I’ve never paid much attention to these significant dates. I mean, I didn’t notice when it was 10/10/10 or 9/9/9, etc. But something about the 11 sequence is intriguing. Eleven has always been one of those numbers for me, like 3 and 7. Prime numbers. I don’t mean to imply that I’m deeply into numerology or anything like that, but there is a certain elegance in numbers, one that has always eluded my right-brained thinking.

Rose of Galaxies (Arp273) (NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team)

I’ve never had a deep affinity for math, except for geometry, which I love to this day, but the idea of trying to determine the next number in the sequence of pi does not fascinate me; just as I’m certain that people interested in calculating pi are not necessarily interested in words in the same way that I am. Nevertheless, I respect numbers, am intrigued by sequences, find the complexity of it all rather mysterious.

Take the Fibonacci sequence (1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, etc.), which intrigued me before Dan Brown employed it. I wrote a post about the Golden Mean a couple of years ago. What I find most fascinating about the Fibonacci sequence is its appearance in nature: the perfect blending of science and art, the means and the method. Am I rambling? Probably.

I suppose it boils down to this: The mysterious, the truly mysterious has an explanation on one level, but remains mysterious on the other level. Consider the sunflower . . . Fibonacci. An aloe plant . . . Fibonacci. An artichoke . . . Fibonacci. Larger? Spiral galaxies.

Yes, the mind is zooming today, from one thing to another, no apparent connections. The only link is the mystery.

“Suddenly I began to find a strange meaning in old fairy-tales. Woods, rivers, mountains, became living beings. Mysterious life filled the night. With new interests and new expectations I began to dream again of distant travels” ~ P. D. Ouspensky

Actually, these things of which I am speaking are not so unrelated. Consider, I made the mistake of assigning Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to a class of freshmen. Ah, the follies of youth. I was a graduate student at Virginia Tech at the time. Now, of course, I realize that very few 18-year-olds know anything of the darkness that can lie at the heart, know little to nothing of the journeys we make into the unknown with little to guide us besides some vague idea of a mission.

Messier Galaxy (M101) Composite Hubble Image (NASA and ESA)

Consider the artichoke heart: My friend Mari once wrote of how her father would steal the heart of the artichokes from his daughters, saying to them that they would not like the heart, when of course, the heart is the tastiest part. When eating a fresh artichoke, something I did not do until I was 18, we peel away the leaves, each one subsequently smaller than the previous, and we arrive at this heart, covered with a protective layer of fibers.

To get to the heart, we reveal a natural Fibonacci sequence, but how many of us are aware of that? And then the heart, it is covered, and if this is our first time, we know nothing of its substance, so we can be convinced that we won’t like it.

And One-eye, knowing nothing of the journey he makes with the Christian Vikings, arrives in a New World that is completely foreign to him, and at the heart of his journey is only more darkness. And Marlow, who journeys into the unknown of Africa, finds at the end a darkness that is almost unfathomable.

“Ishmael gave himself to the writing of it, and as he did so he understood this, too: that accident ruled every corner of the universe except the chambers of the human heart.” ~ David Guterson, Snow Falling on Cedars

Coiled Galaxy (NGC 1097) Spitzer (NASA JPL-Caltech)

We all make our own journeys near and far, figuratively and literally, and some of us arrive at something that is unknown yet sweet and delectable nonetheless, and some of us arrive only to find that we have not found that for which we thought we were searching, that we have found instead something quite different, something dark and forbidding.

And then some of us, never make the journey at all, remaining stagnant at the first 1 of the sequence, unable to build upon what came before, either from fear or ignorance, or a combination of both, and because of this, we are never able to finish the quilts that represent out lives even though we thought that we knew how.

Our personal histories guide us, but they do not necessarily define us. The smoke from the bridges that we have burned can leave us with the most bitter of tastes. But fire also cleanses and renews. And I am reminded of my favorite line from Michael Ondaatje: “The heart is an organ of fire.”

More later. Peace.

*All images are from the NASA Galleries found here.

Music by Brooke Waggoner (just discovered her), “Come Love, See My Hands”

                   

Usk

So we’ve moved out of the years.
I am finally back upstream
and, but for their holiday grins
on every bookcase, the boys
were never born, it was a dream.
Here is where my past begins

in a garret beside a bridge,
woken by birds pecking moss
from the dark. The river’s clear.
It will not turn to sludge
till it reaches you and the mess
of streets I hated, endured

only because you were there.
My windows are full of leaves.
There are mountains in my skylight.
Perhaps you would like it here.
It is the same river—it moves,
perhaps, towards the same light.

 ~ Paul Henry

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

                   

“Where you’ve nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Wednesday night. Day 9 of the headache from hell.

Reboot Universe

Bonne Année! Buon Anno! Happy New Year . . . five days late.

As I said above, I am now on day nine of this particular migraine, and quite frankly, it’s driving me to distraction. I had wanted to do my new year’s post, well, on new year’s day, but stabbing pain in one’s eye coupled with extreme light sensitivity make approaching the computer for more than a few minutes impossible. At the moment, I seem to be in a lull from the pain; I wouldn’t dare say that it’s over as that would just reignite the curse; nevertheless, I thought that I would write while I am able.

I have chicken cacciatore simmering on the stove, something that I haven’t made in years. The idea popped into my head, and since I had chicken in the freezer, I thought, ‘why not?’ I’m using boneless chicken breasts, but thighs are better as they give the dish more flavor. Some of you may know the dish as Hunter’s Chicken—same dish, different name. Essentially, it’s an Italian chicken stew with wine, onions, garlic, and preferably, fresh herbs and tomatoes. The only fresh herb that I have is Rosemary, but I made do. From the aromas wafting from the kitchen, I think that I may have just nailed it even though I couldn’t find my recipe and had to cobble together something from a few different recipes on the Internet.

Why such excitement over a dinner? Well if you know me at all, you know that I don’t cook often any more, mostly because the standing for prep work really gets to my back, so when I am able to put together a meal, I add it to the victory column, a column that reads mostly empty.

(Aside: Have you ever fed a dog a spaghetti noodle? Too funny.)

Oh well. Small steps.

“Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.” ~ Louise Erdrich, “Advice to Myself”

Word Art

Corey is working tonight until 11. Yesterday he had to fly to D.C. for a medical transport. Luckily, he didn’t get snowed in like last time, and he was up and back within a day. I know that he’s tired—physically and mentally. Now that the holidays are over, he’s hoping that something will happen on the shipping front. It’s so hard not to place too much stock in what he has been told, not to pin our hopes on assertions and predictions by people who have not idea as to just how much they hold our future in their hands.

Yesterday Brett had his IB ceremony at Granby. Kind of strange since the graduates have finished one semester of college, but it has to be this way since the IB grades aren’t calculated until after graduation. IB diplomas and certificates are awarded to those who graduated from the program in the preceding academic year. It was a nice, short ceremony, fairly informal, and Brett was able to catch up with some people, which was nice for him.

He’s had a good Christmas break, seeing some friends, relaxing, and wreaking havoc on “Call of Duty.” Haven’t seen much of Eamonn since Christmas Day, and Alexis hasn’t been around since losing her car. I have no idea as to what she is going to do; every time I call her she’s asleep.

Not even going to go there . . . My mother does enough fretting over the situation for the both of us.

“All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.” Jalal al-Din Rumi

"Someday this pain will be useful to you"

Having really strange dreams of late. Only vague memories of people from my past, and of course, the ongoing work dreams in which I have returned to work, but in recent dreams, I keep getting fired from whatever job I’m doing.

I have a fairly good idea as to why my dreams are moving in this direction: Up until a few weeks ago, I had been feeling much better in the pain department. Then the migraine hit, and about five days ago, my back really began to act up again, so much so that I spent two straight days in bed. The retreat to my bed for consecutive days hasn’t happened in a few months, and I had forgotten how much I really, really detest it.

I mean, in trying to recapture somewhat of a normal (whatever that is) life, I am trying to do more, not overdo, just do. So when my body rebels, I take it quite personally: a betrayal, a direct assault on my sensibilities.

Let me explain: The two months during which I took care of my mother I had to shunt aside my own health concerns to focus on her needs. Admittedly, there were days in which I was exhausted—physically and emotionally—but I had no choice but to do what was necessary, and in so doing, I found that I felt more necessary, not just to my mother, but in this world as a whole. Then, when faced with the reality of my own physical limitations, I find that I highly resent it.

Does that make sense? Resent myself, or rather, my physicality?

“I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.” ~ Mary Oliver, from “Starlings in Winter”

Plato Word Art

I suppose that I still cling to the idea that one day I will be my old self again—the self who could work 12 hours a day, get by just fine on five hours of sleep, take yoga classes, clean my own house, wash my car, plant flowers—that person. It’s hard to settle for less when you know exactly what you used to be capable of accomplishing in your own.

I don’t want that person to be gone completely from this world as that is a reality that would sadden me and make me feel useless.

Another oh well . . .

So instead of resolutions for 2011 (since I never keep resolutions), I am going to list just a few things that I would like to see as being within the realm of possibility in my life at some time in the near future (in no particular order):

  • Visit the Humpback Mountain in western Virginia and trying to walk/hike the basic trail
  • Get back into yoga
  • Plant flowers this spring
  • Paint the living room
  • Treat myself to a good haircut and a massage
  • Contact a few people from the publishing program at GW just to catch up
  • See Mari again
  • Put new batteries in my watches that have died (I know, pitiful huh?)
  • Get away for a weekend with Corey, just the two of us, anywhere
  • Write a few poems
  • Watch less television
  • Take Tillie for walks around the neighborhood

I don’t see this as an impossible list, and I’m not even saying that I’ll do all of this in 2011, but damn. If I don’t put some ideas out there, then I’ll never focus. It’s not that I lack motivation, or at least I don’t think that’s what it is. I could be kidding myself. I mean, I had to really think to come up with 12 separate items.

This is by no means my bucket list. This is my memento vivere list, my reminder to myself to live, that I still live, that life is truly still mine for the taking. Perhaps it’s sad that I must remind myself of this, but at least I am self-aware enough to know that I need to be reminded.

Understand?

Headache is returning. Time to retreat.

More later. Peace.

Music by Greg Laswell, “And Then You”

“The seed of suffering in you may be strong, but don’t wait until you have no more suffering before allowing yourself to be happy.” ~ Thich Nhat Hanh

“Spring Rain,” by John Sloan (1912, oil on canvas)

“Between the wish and the thing the world lies waiting.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, All the Pretty Horses

Pink Peony with Drops from Night Rain (Wikimedia Commons)

I’m back. Had a brief hiatus while waiting for our Internet to be restored. Usual problem. Anyway, as a result, I am behind on posting as well as reading my favorite blogs, which I plan to do after writing this post. I did spend a bit of my time experimenting with making a couple of videos with Windows Movie Maker. Interesting. Now I just need to figure out how to grab clips from existing movies . . . 

My life is so full. 

Today is my mother’s birthday; tomorrow is Eamonn’s birthday, and tomorrow is my other mother-in-law’s birthday. Speaking of which, yesterday, my other mother-in-law dropped by the house. I was mortified, of course, because the house is in its usual disarray, but what can you do? My o-m-i-l has Parkinson’s Disease, so I was actually quite surprised that she drove over to our house. Surprised, and a bit scared. Her condition has been worsening, and I’m not sure that she should really be driving, but I truly understand how having driving privileges taken away is one of the last vestiges of independence. 

She realizes that she is getting worse, and it really consumes and frustrates her when she is talking and forgets in the middle of a sentence. Parkinson’s is a relentless, unsympathetic condition that gradually eats away the brain. I have known one other person who had it. For those of you who don’t believe in stem cell research, I give you brain tumors and Parkinson’s—two medical conditions that definitely benefit from such research. 

The weather here has been chilly and rainy the last few days, but it is supposed to get warmer towards the end of the week. Spring would be nice. It usually arrives in this area suddenly, and lasts less than a month before becoming hot and humid. 

“Each moment that I wait feels like a year, an eternity. Each moment is as slow and transparent as glass. Through each moment I can see infinite moments lined up, waiting.” ~ Audrey Niffenegger, The  Time Traveler’s Wife

Rain on Silene Flower (Wikimedia Commons)

In other news: Brett’s two gerbils, Ben and Jerry, both died within one week of each other. They were brothers, and Brett had them for more than three years. Of course he is saddened by the loss, as am I. They were actually pretty adorable. Fortunately, both Corey and I were around when Brett discovered Jerry, and then later, Ben. I know that made it a bit easier for him as opposed to finding out by himself. 

On Saturday, Brett took his SATs (college board examination). It’s late in the year to be taking them, but he really wasn’t sure what he was going to do this fall. Now he is thinking that he wants to go to Old Dominion for a year. With any luck, he’ll get credit for some of the freshman classes that he has taken in high school, which will save us some money. No point in asking the ex if he plans to help pay for college as he wouldn’t even cough up half of the co-pay for Brett’s medicine. Such a loser. Such a disappointment. 

Alexis had her appointment with the neurologist last Thursday, who confirmed that her seizure was a grand mal seizure, also known as a tonic-clonic seizure. This kind of seizure features a loss of consciousness and violent muscle contractions. Since Alexis has been on a medication that also functions as an anti-seizure medicine, the neurologist thinks that perhaps she may have had seizures before that were prevented by the medication but that this one was particularly bad. She is scheduled for an EEG on Thursday, and an MRI soon. 

The neurologist says that after seeing the results of those two tests he will have a much better idea as to whether or not she has developed epilepsy, which usually presents between the ages of 17 and 21 when not caused by an injury. That I know of, there is no history of epilepsy in our family, but the doctor says that it is not always genetic. I had a cousin on my mother’s side who had epilepsy, but it developed after she was in a serious car accident and suffered a head injury. Other than that, I know of no one else in the family on either side, but then again, I do not know everyone on my father’s side in the Philippines. 

The neurologist also said that he thinks it unlikely that her Wellbutrin caused the seizure since she has been on it for more than four years. All of this is worrisome, but I had a feeling that it wasn’t her medication. Now it’s more waiting until after the tests for some definitive news. 

Corey still hasn’t heard from the port security firm, which is so disappointing. They had told him that they hoped to make a decision by mid week last week. He plans to calls them tomorrow. More waiting. 

“I’m killing time while I wait for life to shower me with meaning and happiness.” ~ Bill Watterson

Last night I had a very strange dream in which it was Fashion Week, but it was here and not in New York. Bizarre. Equally bizarre was the portion of the dream in which I was on the run from someone and wanted to change my appearance, so I went into a hair salon and asked a woman to cut and dye my hair. She recommended a color, which I agreed to, but then she said that my hair would be several different colors, including bleached blonde, and the colors wouldn’t be blended but in horizontal stripes. I told the woman that I really didn’t want striped hair, especially not blonde. She told me that that was what I had agreed to, so she was going to do it. 

Very weird.

Other than that, the long wait continues: the wait for decisions, decisions about jobs, decisions about funds, decisions about school; the wait for warmer weather and spring blossoms; the wait for better sleep and less anxiety; the wait for things to fall into place, or not. I spend so much time waiting, that I am forgetting to live, forgetting to experience, forgetting sometimes, even to breathe deeply. The wait is interminable. The interminable is vexing. 

I am reminded of Samuel Beckett’s “Waiting for Godot”—the wait for what, exactly? The unknown continuing to rule the minutes, the hours, the days . . . until, what? It is March 15, the ides of March. One quarter of the year has passed. The changes I predicted are no nearer now than they were last December. Corey and I were watching something last night, and the ending was too perfect. And I suddenly said, this had better not be a dream, and sure enough, it was a dream, and when the man dreaming awoke, he was still in the same place, still facing the same uncertainties, still pining for change. 

This had better not be a dream. 

More later. Peace. 

                                                                                                                                  

So here is my first YouTube video, Jann Arden and Jackson Browne singing “Unloved.” Most of the images are mine. Hope you like it. 

“There is no later. This is later.” ~ Cormac McCarthy

 

 Old Red Barn (December 2009) by L. Liwag©

“No one saves us but ourselves. No one can and no one may. We ourselves must walk the path.” ~ Buddha

Not going to write about Haiti tonight. It’s too emotional, and three posts in a row are enough, for now. Like my friend Maureen at White Orchid, my mind has been on the past lately, although I am not certain as to why. Well, the genesis began with a contact on Facebook from a person with whom I used to work at the Museum. From there, though, my mind has been traveling down different paths, and I have been dreaming of different people, so I thought that I would make tonight’s post about some of those people, not all of whom I would like to see again.  

For various reasons, I will not identify these individuals by name.  

“You never really know your friends from your enemies until the ice breaks.” ~ Eskimo Proverb

Frozen Stepping Stones by L Liwag©

First there was the gay man who I used to love. I knew that he was gay, but that did not stop me from loving him, from thinking that we could be together in one of those strange but true platonic relationships based on friendship and mutual respect. When I first met him, I thought that he was funny, talented, and kind. It was only later that I realized that yes, he was funny when he was high. He was talented at making people believe that he was what he was not, and he had a vicious cruel streak that spared no one.  

Why would I spend time with someone like that? I asked my therapist the same thing. She said, and I agree, that my marriage to my ex was so strained by the point at which this man entered my life that I was starved for attention, and my gay friend certainly gave me that. He took me to dinner, bought me things, even gave me a job when I needed one. But what I did not realize then but realize now was that there was a cost for everything.  

Yes, my marriage was already in trouble when I met this person. My ex and I were spending more and more time apart and with our separate groups of friends, but I know that spending time with this person did not help an already-strained situation. In the end, I finally broke with this person when he revealed his nasty true self by involving my mother in a situation over which I had no control.  

When Corey and I got married, I wanted to use my friend as my caterer. I gave him a $1,000 cash deposit. Our wedding was small, and we wanted to keep it intimate, so the catering was pretty straightforward. One thing that I did not count on was that when Corey and I went away for our honeymoon, my employer’s payroll company direct-deposited my check into my savings account. As a result, the checks that I wrote to the caterer, florist, and someone else (cannot remember who), all bounced.  

This was not my fault. I had no way of knowing that my money had been deposited into my savings account as I was out of the country. When we returned from our honeymoon, I walked into a firestorm. This person, my supposed friend and one-time companion, had been calling my mother, telling her horrible things about me. The worst part was that she believed him (of course). I haven’t seen him since my wedding, and as far as I’m concerned, hell can have a raging ice storm before I would give him the time of day.  

Is that gracious of me? No. But I have a long memory, and some things should not be forgiven.  

“It takes your enemy and your friend, working together to hurt you to the heart; the one to slander you and the other to get the news to you” ~ Benjamin Franklin

Winter Stilllife by L. Liwag©

Then there was the friend who was a friend but then she wasn’t. I know that most of you have had this kind of person in your life. To be honest, I have found that when it comes to other women, in most cases my relationships tend to be more complicated than say my friendships with men, and this particular relationship was incredibly complicated. This female friend and I grew very close from working together on so many projects. We spent time together outside of the office, and she became very involved in my life.  

But it was a taxing relationship. To her credit, she was going through a bump in her life, learning more about herself and her own marriage, but it caused her to be needy, and I tried to help fill that need. Let me pause here to say that this is precisely how I get into trouble in almost all of my female friendships: by trying to be there for them to the point that I begin to lose myself or to have my judgment clouded.  

Anyway, the thing was that she talked about me to other people, and I knew this. She also never hesitated to let me know what other people were saying about me. It bothered me, of course, but my response was passive aggressive: Do nothing but be hard to get along with. Another thing about this person was that she was extremely judgmental and did not hold back with her pronouncements. Granted, I was pretty judgmental myself back then, so that part of our personalities probably meshed well.  

Our relationship didn’t exactly die; it frittered away. We stopped working together on projects, and what had brought us together no longer served as an adhesive. My relief at not having her in my life is a sad reflection on my own state of mind at the time. Instead of working on the relationship, I just let it go. When I think back on my state of mind at the time, it was precarious at best. It was just before I made the final decision to end my first marriage, a long, painful process that had only one possible outcome. The truth is that it was just too hard to be around some of the people from my past. What that says about me I don’t know.  

“The greatest good you can do for another is not just share your riches, but to reveal to him, his own.” ~ Benjamin Disraeli

Bird Feeder in the Snow by L. Liwag©

And then there is another woman from the same time period with whom I became friends. What I remember the most about this woman was her grace. She was (probably still is) intelligent, articulate, and calm. Oh, she could get riled, but in the face of some pretty nasty situations, she always held her own.  

What I remember most about our relationship is that she truly nurtured me, and we respected one another. She told me that I was talented, and she gave me a forum in which to express my talents. People like that drop into our lives seldom, but how they affect our lives stays forever.  

As with most people, we drifted apart more from circumstance than anything else. Our jobs took us into different places, and she moved out of the area. I have since learned that during the time that we have been apart she has been very productive. I wouldn’t expect anything less from her.  

“Lots of people want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limo breaks down.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

I’m not exactly sure what made me make that little trip through the past. I believe that it was Lee Iacocca who said that when you die, if you have five good friends, you’ve had a good life (or something similar).  I agree.  

People come and go throughout our lives. Some things are constant, and some people are constant. Some friendships last a year, while others last a lifetime. The length of the friendship does not determine the quality. What makes the friendship valuable, worth the time that you have invested, is if when you think of that friend, a smile crosses your lips and your heart feels a sense of peace. Otherwise, what was the point? I only know that “in my life, I’ve loved them all.”  

More later. Peace.  

(More pictures from our December trip to Ohio in the blizzard)  

The incomparable, divine Bette Midler singing “In My Life”  

   

  

   

                                                                                                                                   

Lyrics to Lennon & McCarthy’s “In My Life”  

There are places I’ll remember
All my life, though some have changed
Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places had their moments
With lovers and friends, I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life, I’ve loved them all
  

But of all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these memories lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I’ll love you more  

Though I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life, I’ll love you more