“We are unusual and tragic and alive.” ~ Dave Eggers, from A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius

Cy Twombly Untitled 1990 acrylic
Untitled (1990, acrylic on unknown medium)
by Cy Twombly

                   

“Sometimes she seemed like a woman without skin. She felt everything so intensely, had so little capacity to filter out pain that everyday events often seemed unbearable to her . . . Her eyes were astoundingly blue and astoundingly sharp. Nothing escaped her. She saw everything, and since most of what there is to see in the world is painful, she often lived in pain.” ~ Erica Jong, from Remembering Anne Sexton

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and hot, 89 degrees.

So, long time, no real post. In the meantime, it went from early spring to blazing hot early summer temperatures. I guess this post is going to be a mostly good news/bad news kind of thing as so much has happened in the last week or so.

Cy Twombly Iris 1990
“Iris” (1990)
by Cy Twombly

The bad news is that last Friday my mother went to the ER because she was having bad stomach pain. Turns out she has growths inside her colon and a mass on her kidneys. Please understand my frustration in that my mother has cancelled two appointments to have a colonoscopy and to go to a liver specialist. She complains, gets appointments, feels better, cancels appointments.

I did my best not to freak over the words “mass on her kidneys.” I made her promise to call her PCP’s office to get an appointment as soon as possible and not to be put off for a month or two.

Today she saw her PCP who says that once she finishes the course of antibiotics the ER doc put her on for the diverticulitis that was causing some of the pain, then they will have to do a colonoscopy. And he’s going to find out who he should send her to for the mass on her kidneys. So I guess we are now in wait mode.

Great…………………..

“Afraid of decision, I buried my finer feelings in the depths of my heart and they died there.” ~ Mikhail Lermontov, from A Hero of Our Time

Also last week Mike closed on the house on Friday morning. They began moving on Friday afternoon. I took Olivia for Friday and Saturday nights, and it turned into Sunday night also. Their house is smaller than ours with three bedrooms and one bath but no dining room, but the hardwood floors have been refinished, and they look beautiful. The kitchen cabinets look like the originals, and they, too, have been refinished. There is a small detached garage, which is also nice.

Cy Twombly Wilder Shores of Love 1985, oil-based house paint, paint stick, coloured pencil and lead pencil on wooden panel
“Wilder Shores of Love” (1985, oil-based house paint, paint stick, coloured pencil and lead pencil on wooden panel)
by Cy Twombly

The good news is that I got to spend lots of time with Olivia. The bad news is that I was completely stressed about my mother. Then I was completely stressed by the move. And by Monday, Olivia was really out of sorts because she’s not used to being away from her parents. She’s also teething, so between the two, there was more crying and fussing than usual as she is a really happy baby, happier than any of mine ever were. It’s distressing when she gets distressed. I’ve forgotten a lot of baby interpretation.

Other good news is that my mother gave Mike and Lex a queen mattress and bed, both of which are in great shape with the mattress set looking almost new; the bad news is that my mother felt that I was the only one who could take down the old bed. Why she thought this I will never know. The bad news is that I took down the old bed while my mother complained that I would hurt my back. The good news is that I only hit my head once on the old iron bed . . .

Then, of course, there was the new bed to be put together. The bad news is that I ended up putting together this bed by myself. The worse news is that I also ended up putting the mattress and box springs onto this new bed frame by myself. I have no real idea as to how I managed to do this.

The worst news is that I was unable to move the following morning, which was not at all unexpected or surprising.

“It’s like this . . . All your life you’re yellow. Then one day you brush up against something blue, the barest touch, and voila, the rest of your life you’re green.” ~ Tess Callahan

The good news is that I had another appointment with my new pain management group, and I really like them. We are finessing my dosages on the new drugs, and I have an appointment scheduled for my Botox injections next Monday, the same day that Corey is due in port—which is good news and bad news all together.

Cy Twombly Note III 2005-7 acrylic on wood panel
“Note III” (2005-7, acrylic on wood panel)
bu Cy Twombly

In between all of this stuff I’ve had to deal with eldest son’s shenanigans. He’s watching his dad’s house for the week while the ex is in Aruba at his time share. Such a hard life. I had asked both sons if they could help Mike with the moving. Eldest son got all bent out of shape assuming I was only asking him. Brett helped me with the moving of the old mattress and box springs to the new house and moving the very old mattress and box springs from the apartment for disposal. He (Brett) was planning to help me with the assembly of new bed Sunday night, but I was just too exhausted.

While I’m stripped down to my t-shirt working with piles of washers, screws, and Allen wrenches, eldest son sticks his head in the door to see what’s going on then leaves. No assistance offered or given. Who is this child? Why does none of my DNA rear its head when needed? How does this even work? I mean, everything is score-keeping for him, as in “I helped them move on Saturday, and Brett didn’t do anything, so it’s his turn, even though I’m here, and he’s not because he’s at school.”

The logic, or complete lack of it, mystifies and stymies me. So I guess that’s bad news, eh?

“Writing, painting, singing — it cannot stop everything. Cannot halt death in its tracks. But perhaps it can make the pause between death’s footsteps sound and look and feel beautiful, can make the space of waiting a place where you can linger without as much fear. For we are all walking each other to our deaths, and the journey there between footsteps makes up our lives.” ~ Ally Condie, from  Reached

Monday night after the exercise in power-lifting a queen-sized mattress, I came home and consumed mass quantities of junk food: cheese puffs, kettle corn, a beer, some chocolate, and pretty much anything else I could shove into my mouth without the benefit of cooking. Yesterday I felt a need to scrape my tongue and cleanse my body, so I stuck to yogurt and fresh fruit.

Cy Twombly Hero and Leandro 1984 (A painting in Four Parts) Part I, 1984, oil, house paint, paint stick on canvas
“Hero and Leandro (A painting in Four Parts) Part I” (1984, oil, house paint, paint stick on canvas)
by Cy Twombly

Add to this entire bad news Monday is that I was just too exhausted to go to a poetry reading that Brett had told me about. It was open mic, and I was actually thinking of reading something, which I haven’t done in years, a reading, that is. Apparently this place has open mic night every Monday, so I’m going to try very hard to get my lazy ass there soon.

Oh, and also on the eldest son bad news-related front: He called at something like 8 in the morning to tell me that the phones had been turned off, which made no sense to me as I paid the bill last Friday. I was in an exhaustion stupor and really don’t remember what I said to him other than I would take care of it, ya da ya da ya da. Boy, if he wants something, it needs to be pronto, as in this very second, or his world is going to collapse. Must be nice to have a world in which everything runs on your schedule. I wouldn’t know about that.

Anyway, every time I sat down here to write, I just kind of zoned out because I couldn’t figure out what I wanted to say. Did I want to gripe about X? Did I want to cry about Y? Better not to do anything, that is until I finally lost it and sent Corey an e-mail in which I lambasted the state of affairs on the home front, which actually made me feel better.

Today, I’m still pretty puny physically, but not in as much pain. Mostly just feeling weak, but after finishing my latest Kathy Reichs’ novel, I thought I might be able to tap out some cogent words and phrases, and so far, it seems to be working.

“There are some people who could hear you speak a thousand words, and still not understand you. And there are others who will understand—without you even speaking a word.” ~ Yasmin Mogahed

The stress and exhaustion have led to some very weird dreams. In one, my ex was trying to kill me with a butcher knife. This was while I was part of some kind of spy group that was on a mission. In this dream I stabbed someone else. Don’t like stabbing dreams. Last night I dreamed I was in a museum, and I ran into the artist whose work was being exhibited. At first I didn’t realize he was the artist, and I was going on and on about how much I loved the works, and then when I realized that he had created them, I was so embarrassed.

Cy Twombly Untitled Part VIII (a painting in 9 parts) 1988, acrylic on wood panel
“Untitled Part VIII (a painting in 9 parts)” (1988, acrylic on wood panel)
by Cy Twombly

He was cool though and handed me one of two ferret like animals that he was carrying. He asked me if I had done any art research, and I told him that I had. He offered me a ferret; I told him my dogs would say no. He was signing autographs. I got something autographed but then I had to leave because my shopping cart was missing, and it had a bunch of family antiques in it, and I had left my kids on bleachers watching a movie. Do not ask me how the two are related as I have no idea.

Oh, another thing on the good news front: Brett introduced me to a wonderful new treat: Mochi ice cream. Mochi (Japanese) is a kind of sweet glutinous rice cake. Insert ice cream and serve frozen. Oh such good thrills. Only 80 calories a piece, about the size of a small cupcake and very refreshing. I’ve had mochi filled with red bean paste and with green tea ice cream. I’m loving the green tea flavor.

So, to sum up: New beds all around, new house looking good, major changes for everyone, new refreshing treat. Conversely, worrisome news regarding my mother’s health, troublesome attitude from eldest son, and I haven’t even touched on Lex’s disposition during all of this.

Is it too soon to say that I need a vacation, mostly from myself?

All images by American artist Cy Twombly, 1928-2011

Cy Twombly, Untitled (Peony Blossom Paintings), 2007, acrylic, wax crayon, penil on wood
“Untitled (Peony Blossom Paintings)” (2007, acrylic, wax crayon, pencil on wood”
by Cy Twombly

Music by Aidan Hawken and Carina Round, “Walking Blind”

                   

The Starry Night

That does not keep me from having a terrible need of—shall I say the word—religion. Then I go out at night to paint the stars. Vincent Van Gogh in a letter to his brother

The town does not exist
except where one black-haired tree slips
up like a drowned woman into the hot sky.
The town is silent. The night boils with eleven stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die.
It moves. They are all alive.
Even the moon bulges in its orange irons
to push children, like a god, from its eye.
The old unseen serpent swallows up the stars.
Oh starry starry night! This is how
I want to die:
into that rushing beast of the night,
sucked up by that great dragon, to split
from my life with no flag,
no belly,
no cry.

~ Anne Sexton

Advertisements

“August, you’re just an erotic hallucination” ~ Denis Johnson, from “Heat”

“Summer” (1896, oil)
by Alphonse Muncha

                    

“I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer.  My bank of wild grass is majestic and full of music.  It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips.” ~ Violette Leduc, from Mad in Pursuit

Mid August already. Here are two that I had originally planned for Tuesday, but hey, it was #1000, so they’re here on Wednesday (still with me?):

                   

Late August

This is the plum season, the nights
blue and distended, the moon
hazed, this is the season of peaches

with their lush lobed bulbs
that glow in the dusk, apples
that drop and rot
sweetly, their brown skins veined as glands

No more the shrill voices
that cried Need Need
from the cold pond, bladed
and urgent as new grass

Now it is the crickets
that say Ripe Ripe
slurred in the darkness, while the plums

dripping on the lawn outside
our window, burst
with a sound like thick syrup
muffled and slow

The air is still
warm, flesh moves over
flesh, there is no

hurry

~ Margaret Atwood

“Summer Madness” (nd)
by Cy Twombly

                   

“East of me, west of me, full summer.” ~ Charles Wright, from “After Reading Tu Fu, I Go Outside to the Dwarf Orchard

August Morning

It’s ripe, the melon
by our sink. Yellow,
bee-bitten, soft, it perfumes
the house too sweetly.
At five I wake, the air
mournful in its quiet.
My wife’s eyes swim calmly
under their lids, her mouth and jaw
relaxed, different.
What is happening in the silence
of this house? Curtains
hang heavily from their rods.
Ficus leaves tremble
at my footsteps. Yet
the colors outside are perfect–
orange geranium, blue lobelia.
I wander from room to room
like a man in a museum:
wife, children, books, flowers,
melon. Such still air. Soon
the mid-morning breeze will float in
like tepid water, then hot.
How do I start this day,
I who am unsure
of how my life has happened
or how to proceed
amid this warm and steady sweetness?

~ Albert Garcia

                   

Music by Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong, classic, “Summertime”

“The ‘ancient enmity between life and the great work.'” ~ R. M. Rilke

the-rose-by-cy-twombly-acrylic-on-plywood

“The Rose” by Cy Twombly (acrylic on plywood). Twombly has used phrases from Rilke’s poems on this series and a previous series of paintings.

“Build Your Life In Accordance With This Necessity” ~ Rilke

In 1903, Rainer Maria Rilke wrote 10 letters to a young man who was considering entering the German military. The young man, a poet, asked Rilke to criticize his poetry. Rilke’s correspondence lasted over five years. Upon Rilke’s death, the young man took the letters, omitted his own side of the correspondence, and published a valuable compilation of Rilke’s personal aethetics on poetry, the creative process, and life.

Letters to a Young Poet, written in Rilke’s native German, has been translated several times over the years, and is a favorite of poets and writers, particularly because of its honest depiction of a solitary artist’s unedited thoughts on writing. The thing to keep in mind, though, is that each translation bears the mark of the translator. In essence we are not supposed to see the translator, but that is a very hard feat to achieve.

The passage I have included below comes from a 1999 translation by Stephen Mitchell.

I chose this passage because it addresses the questions that I have been asking myelf of late: Do I have what it takes to be a writer? In response to Rilke’s question of whether or not I must write, the answer is a definitive yes. I must. I don’t know what would happen if I were forbidden to write. If my computer were taken away from me, it would be a hardship because writing by hand is harder on my hands, but I don’t think that it would keep me from writing. Not after coming this far.

It would slow down my output. But now that I am this disciplined about writing every day—every day—something I never imagined I would be able to do, I cannot imagine going back to not doing this. It is as natural as breathing to me. But I wish that I had a Rilke to look at my work and say, “Yes. You must keep doing this. It is outside you as much as it is inside you.” And then I would know that I have a chance. That May Sarton wasn’t the only late bloomer.

Enjoy this selection (emphasis added mine) from Letter #1, written in Paris in 1903:

You ask whether your verses are any good. You ask me. You have asked others before this. You send them to magazines. You compare them with other poems, and you are upset when certain editors reject your work. Now (since you have said you want my advice) I beg you to stop doing that sort of thing. You are looking outside, and that is what you should most avoid right now. No one can advise or help you—no one. There is only one thing you should do. Go into yourself. Find out the reason that commands you to write; see whether it has spread its roots into the very depths of your heart; confess to yourself whether you would have to die if you were forbidden to write. This most of all: Ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: Must I write? Dig into yourself for a deep answer. And if this answer rings out in assent, if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple “I must,” then build your life in accordance with this necessity; your whole life, even into its humblest and most indifferent hour, must become a sign and witness to this impulse.

Then come close to Nature. Then, as if no one had ever tried before, try to say what you see and feel and love and lose. Don’t write love poems; avoid those forms that are too facile and ordinary: They are the hardest to work with, and it takes great, fully-ripened power to create something individual where good, even glorious, traditions exist in abundance. So rescue yourself from these general themes and write about what your everyday life offers you; describe your sorrows and desires, the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty—describe all these with heartfelt, silent, humble sincerity, and, when you express yourself, use the Things around you, the images from your dreams, and the objects that you remember. If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is not poverty and no poor, indifferent place.

And even if you found yourself in some prison, whose walls let in none of the world’s sounds—wouldn’t you still have your childhood, that jewel beyond all price, that treasure house of memories? Turn your attentions to it. Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past; your personality will grow stronger, your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight, where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance—And if out of this turning-within, out of this immersion in your own world, poems come, then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not. Nor will you try to interest magazines in these works: For you will see them as your dear natural possession, a piece of your life, a voice from it.

A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity. That is the only way one can judge it. So, dear Sir, I can’t give you any advice but this: To go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question whether you must create. Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it. Perhaps you will discover that you are called to be an artist. Then take the destiny upon yourself, and bear it, its burden and its greatness, without ever asking what reward might come from outside. For the creator must be a world for himself and must find everything in himself and in Nature, to whom his whole life is devoted.

But after this descent into yourself and into your solitude, perhaps you will have to renounce becoming a poet (if, as I have said, one feels one could live without writing, then one shouldn’t write at all). Nevertheless, even then, this self-searching that I ask of you will not have been for nothing. Your life will still find its own paths from there, and that they may be good, rich, and wide is what I wish for you, more than I can say.

What else can I tell you? It seems to me that everything has its proper emphasis; and finally I want to add just one more bit of advice: to keep growing, silently and earnestly, through your whole development; you couldn’t disturb it any more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to question that only your innermost feeling, in your quietest hour, can perhaps answer. ~ RMR

Perhaps tomorrow, my outlook will be more positive. More later. Peace.