“Some struggles are so solitary that they drown in words.” ~ Martha Manning, from Undercurrents: A Therapist’s Reckoning with Depression

Trawsfynydd reservoir, Snowdonia, Gwynedd, Wales, UK, by Welsh Photographs (FCC)

“my dry spell
the thing I don’t talk about with anyone.
My desperation: first of many. Hollow, or
hollowed, depending on where you stand;” ~ Jesse Rice-Evans, from “The Self as Liminal, Endless”

Sunday afternoon, overcast and cold, 43 degrees.

I’ve spent the past few days trying to figure out why I cannot put words down here. It’s disconcerting and weird. But I have landed on one possible reason: I set myself up.

Aberdyfi, Snowdonia, Gwynedd, Wales, UK, by Welsh Photographs (FCC)

What?

Yes. Exactly that. Let me explain: I find these beautiful passages in my meanderings around the ether, mostly on tumblr. I group them by themes, creating drafts for possible future posts, and then I sit down to write, and nothing that I think I can say seems to be worthy of the words of others. Actually, I think that probably the reason for many instances of writer’s block for me, and possibly others—the writer doesn’t feel worthy, doesn’t feel as if she has anything new to say, so what’s the point.

It’s a twisted kind of self-fulfilling prophecy: my words aren’t good enough so I cannot produce the words. The irony is that half of today’s quotes are not from a previously created draft, but from my most recent tumblr visit. I only have about 120 drafts to work through.

“I don’t think any of us can speak frankly about pain until we are no longer enduring it.” ~ Arthur Golden, from Memoirs of a Geisha

Speaking of beautiful words, Golden’s novel about a geisha is one of the best written novels that I’ve ever read. Unfortunately, I fear that my copy ended up in one of those tubs in storage that we lost. The loss of most of my library still pains me. Some of you may view a collection of books as needless, nothing but something to take up space, but books have always, always been my salvation.

Glencoe, Highlands, Scotland, UK,by Welsh Photographs (FCC)

I began reading at a very young age, and as an only child, books became my boon companion. Once I started working as a teen, I began to collect hardback books with the money that I earned. That’s how long I’ve been at it. And I had some truly incredible editions, things that have gone out of print. I remember that I had a two-book, oversized collection of all the works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; I love Sherlock Holmes. But now that set, as well as most of the rest of my collection are gone.

I didn’t just put my books in storage bins and forget them. I can say fairly certainly that I’ve read at least 80 percent of my books more than one time. My dream in the old house was always to have built-in bookcases in the living room. That never happened, and now this small house does not have the space for a wall of bookcases, which I suppose it just as well as I no longer own almost a thousand volumes of fiction, poetry, history, and biographies.

“Here is the river, and here is the box, and here are
the monsters we put in the box to test our strength
against.” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”

My big plans to clean the house have not materialized. You see, Corey left on Friday for Ohio for a visit with his family, which means that I am alone here with the animals. The being alone part is not problematic, as I’ve stated numerous times. The sticking point is that I’m still sick. The cough awakens me in the middle of the night, and my body is just depleted.

So here I sit in the midst off muddy paw prints on the wood floors; add to that the shredded tissues that the pups have dragged out of the waste baskets, and you are left with quite a mess, one that I find quite oppressive. I suppose it’s all just coalescing and pressing down on me, making me feel as if everything is just too much.

Llynnau Mymbyr looking to the Snowdon horseshoe, Snowdonia, Gwynedd, Wales, UK, by Welsh Photographs (FCC)

And then, mere minutes after Corey made his way down the driveway, the toilet clogged, and for some reason, the good plunger that I had at the old house is missing, and the only thing I have to work with is some bizarre design of a plunger that requires me to use my non-existent upper body strength in order to create the adequate suction. Aren’t you glad I shared that with you?

And then . . . I got in the car with Bailey to take her for a short drive to the mailbox only to find that my vehicle is dead and probably needs a new battery. Corey took Tilly with him to give her a special treat (she loves to travel with him), so I’m trying to give Bailey extra attention as she was quite pissed when they left, but the new bag of dog chew is probably in the mailbox, which I cannot get to without hiking a few miles.

Under better circumstances, the mileage would not matter, but as I begin to cough and wheeze moving from the kitchen to the bedroom, it doesn’t bode well for a hike down the mud in the cold.

“She was . . . flame-like and fierily sad. I think she did not know she was sad. But her heart was eaten by some impotence in her life.” ~ D. H. Lawrence, from Twilight in Italy: The Lemon Gardens

Among the positives (because, yes, there are definitely still positives), we’ve finally had some clear nights again, and the night sky is breathtaking. One night as I stood on the porch just admiring the view, the stars seemed to be hanging just above the ridge. One day I’m going to get a good telescope. Brett had one when he was younger, but it wasn’t very good, and you couldn’t really see much from the yard of the old house because of all of the light pollution.

That’s definitely not an issue here. Once we turn off the outside lights when we go to bed, the darkness is so complete that you literally cannot see the top of the driveway. It bothered me when we first got here, but now, it’s fine . . . most of the time.

Pont Minllyn, Dinas Mawddwy, Snowdonia, Gwynedd, Wales, UK, by Welsh Photographs (FCC)

When I woke up coughing around dawn, I looked out the window that faces the front of the house, and I thought I saw a truck parked in front of the house, not Corey’s pickup, but more like a box truck. Then I put on my glasses and realized that it was actually just a square of pitch black between the porch posts. It was weird.

Of course, if there were anyone or anything out there, the dogs would be spastic, especially Maddy, who still barks at the horses as if they only just appeared in the pasture. I really wish that I had taken her from Dallas sooner because she is a bugger to train; even a simple command like “sit” seems to just fly over her head. I won’t even get into Dallas’s beliefs about training dogs except to say that it’s pretty much non-existent except for making them bark like crazy . . .

Meh.

“One winter I lived north, alone
and effortless, dreaming myself
into the past. Perhaps, I thought,
words could replenish privacy.” ~ Jennifer Chang, from “The World”

I am making an effort not to spend hours on tumblr as I used to when it first came around. My logic is that I need to put the effort here, not there. It is a rather addicting site, though. I mean, there’s so much there. Predictably, I follow people who post quotes from poems and other literature, as well as photography, art, and some architecture, but there are sites that are nothing but memes, or comics, or old firearms, or artistic porn (well, maybe not any more since tumbler instituted puritanical restrictions), etc. ad nauseam

I find it to be quite a good source to jump-start my thought processes, and after perusing my dashboard, which is where the posts appear, my brain seems to be more primed to do something, anything; unfortunately, for the past two (four?) days, that something has been nothing more than playing spider solitaire.

Pont Cwm Yr Afon stone bridge over the Afon Artro, Cwm Bychan, Snowdonia, Gwynedd, Wales, UK, by Welsh Photographs (FCC)

This morning, I deliberately did not open tumblr or spider solitaire; it’s just too easy, and I’m tired of doing easy. Well, I’m tired—that part is true. Seriously, though, I’m fed up with doing nothing. I’m so ready for warmer weather so that I can work on the kitchen cabinets and all of the other projects that have been set aside for winter. But I’m also fed up with myself, fed up with being sick (I really hate to be so sick that I’m incapacitated), fed up with doing nothing.

I keep remembering how I used to clean the entire house, top to bottom, every Saturday morning of my life from the time I was about 10. I enjoyed it—truly. It was the whole thing of being able to get immediate tangible results that I could see as soon as I had finished.

Tangible results aren’t as apparent when you write for yourself, at least not when it feels forced, but you see, I have to take my own advice, the advice that I used to give my students: If you can think of nothing to say, write “I can think of nothing to say, repeatedly, until you do think of nothing to say.” It was an exercise that I started every writing class that I taught, and it almost always produced results.

Okay, so I haven’t written that phrase over and over, but I’m trying to apply the principle: just writing whatever pops into my head in the hopes that I might actually create something more than fodder.

So maybe not so much today, as in more than fodder, but hey, I tried, which is more than I can say about the last few weeks. Anyway, that’s the latest.

More later, in the hopes that the words will flow better. Peace.


Music by Shells, “Jagwar” (discovered this on The Magicians, my current favorite show)

 


a selection from “Snow and Dirty Rain”

If this isn’t a kingdom then I don’t know what is.
So how would you catalog it? Dawn in the fields?
Snow and dirty rain? Light brought in in buckets?
I was trying to describe the kingdom, but the letters
kept smudging as I wrote them: the hunter’s heart,
the hunter’s mouth, the trees and the trees and the
space between the trees, swimming in gold. The words
frozen. The creatures frozen. The plum sauce
leaking out of the bag. Explaining will get us nowhere.
I was away, I don’t know where, lying on the floor,
pretending I was dead. I wanted to hurt you
but the victory is that I could not stomach it. We have
swallowed him up, they said. It’s beautiful. It really is.
I had a dream about you. We were in the gold room
where everyone finally gets what they want.
You said Tell me about your books, your visions made
of flesh and light and I said This is the Moon. This is
the Sun. Let me name the stars for you. Let me take you
there. The splash of my tongue melting you like a sugar
cube… We were in the gold room where everyone
finally gets what they want, so I said What do you
want, sweetheart? and you said Kiss me. Here I am
leaving you clues. I am singing now while Rome
burns. We are all just trying to be holy. My applejack,
my silent night, just mash your lips against me.
We are all going forward. None of us are going back.

~ Richard Siken (full poem found here)

 

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“Nothing human is finally calculable; even to ourselves we are strange.” ~ Gore Vidal, from Julian

Filippo De Pisis  1933 Paesaggio con passero e casolare
“Paesaggio con passero e casolare” (1933, oil on canvas)
by Filippo de Pisis

 


 “I have dreamed much and done very little.” ~ Gustave Flaubert

Tuesday night. Partly cloudy, 58 degrees.

In this dream I have been placed on my back in a solution that is slowly killing me. As the minutes pass, I keep thinking that I can’t die because that wouldn’t make sense. There is a woman who is pure evil, and apparently, she’s the one ordering people to be put into this solution. As I feel myself dying, I start to give away my jewelry, holding a piece out and declaring that it is for x, and another and another, until I have no jewelry left on my body. I know that someone is going to save me, but I don’t know how I have this knowledge.

Filippo De Pisis Natura Morta Marina con Ali di Gabbiano 1929 oil on canvas
“Natura morta marina con Ali di Baggiano” (1929, oil on canvas)
by Filippo de Pisis

Is it any wonder I walk through my days as if lost?

I did manage to get out of the house today and vote. Made Brett go with me. Too many people don’t place enough importance on mid-terms. Eamonn went fishing instead. At least Corey did an absentee ballot before he went back.

Skipping Two for Tuesday again today. You might not believe it, but putting together that kind of post takes thought, more thought than I am capable of at the moment. So some randomness instead:

  • Just three days after Halloween, and people in my neighborhood are putting up Christmas decorations.
  • Would it be okay to shoot these decorations with a paint gun?
  • I do not own a paint gun, for the record, but the thought of doing something radical is oddly comforting.
  • Days before Halloween, stores were already stocking Christmas decorations . . . I just can’t, just can’t even . . .

“I wanted the moments of my life to follow and order themselves like those of a life remembered. You might as well try and catch time by the tail.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from Nausea

Filippo de Pisis La Felana 1945
“La Felana” (1945)
by Filippo de Pisis
  • My mother collected clowns—figurines, dolls, pictures
  • I am terrified of clowns, so are all of my children
  • I used to absolutely hate the color yellow, so much so that I would protest if the graphic designer chose a Pantone shade of yellow for a design.
  • I now love yellow and all of its various hues.
  • I cannot explain any of the above.
  • White noise (noise that is so constant that you forget that it’s there) that fills my days: the cooling fan of my CPU overworking itself, the very loud window unit air conditioners throughout the house
  • The kind of white noise I would prefer: running water, bird songs

“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” ~ D.H. Lawrence, from Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Filippo de Pisis Natura morta con calamaio 1951 oil on masonite board
“Natura morta con calamaio” (1951, oil on masonite board)
by Filippo de Pisis
  • I have never gotten my paper degree from GWU for my publishing master’s. I think I owe them $50.
  • Throughout most of my adulthood, I have had a very hard time with mail, as in opening it when I get it. It bothers me a great deal, and I have no idea as to why.
  • I have so much paperwork that I need to do, but again, this is something that I put off and put off until I cannot possibly put it off any longer.
  • I have an abiding antipathy towards paperwork, i.e., completing forms, responding to requests for information, filing, etc.
  • The above is a direct result of years and years of having to fill out medical paperwork, going all the way back to Caitlin

“Give me a report on the condition of my soul.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “Anna Who Was Mad”

Filippo de Pisis Foglia nella tempesta 1940 oil on canvas
“Foglia nella tempesta” (1940, oil on canvas)
by Filippo de Pisis
  • I need (no, really) a new purse.
  • I am lousy at small talk.
  • I have always been a bag lady. I asked for and got my first leather briefcase when I was five. True story.
  • Alexis, and now Olivia are both bag ladies. One of Olivia’s favorite things to do is to go through my purse, take everything out, and put it into one of her bags.
  • This is not taught behavior. Is there a gene for an affinity for purses and carryalls?

All images are by Italian painter and poet, Filippo de Pisis (11 May 1896 – 2 April 1956). Something in these somber images calls to me.

Music by Beth Hart, “Sister Heroine”

                   

Death Comes to Me Again, a Girl

Death comes to me again, a girl
in a cotton slip, barefoot, giggling.
It’s not so terrible she tells me,
not like you think, all darkness
and silence. There are windchimes
and the smell of lemons, some days
it rains, but more often the air is dry
and sweet. I sit beneath the staircase
built from hair and bone and listen
to the voices of the living. I like it,
she says, shaking the dust from her hair,
especially when they fight, and when they sing.

~ Dorianne Laux

“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” ~ D.H. Lawrence, from Lady Chatterley’s Lover


“Lift up your dark heart and sing a song about
how time drifts past you like the gentlest, almost
imperceptible breeze.” ~ Jim Harrison from “Cold Poem”

Wednesday night, late. Cooler temps.

Woke up with my left wrist and hand completely numb. Waited most of the day for it to get better. The most I got was tingling. So no real post today.

Anyway, I think the Campbell quote is particularly apt for this point of my life, don’t you?

More later. Peace.

Music by Jon Black, “There Is A Love We Can Find”

                    

For the Children

The rising hills, the slopes,
of statistics
lie before us,
the steep climb
of everything, going up,
up, as we all
go down.

In the next century
or the one beyond that,
they say,
are valleys, pastures,
we can meet there in peace
if we make it.

To climb these coming crests
one word to you, to
you and your children:

stay together
learn the flowers
go light

~ Gary Snyder

“When I hear modern people complain of being lonely then I know what has happened. They have lost the cosmos.” ~ D. H. Lawrence, from Apocalypse

Subway Crowd at Times Square

The following appeared on my tumblr dash the other day, and while I do think that Lawrence is the author, I know that it is not from the poem entitled “People,” as the post suggested. However, I cannot find the proper title for this poem. I don’t know why this bothers me so much, but I don’t like to perpetuate a misattribution on these Interwebs. If anyone knows the source of this quote, please send me a link. Thanks.

“I like people quite well
at a little distance.
I like to see them passing and passing
and going on their way,
especially if I see their aloneness alive in them.
Yet I don’t want them to come near.
If they will only leave me alone
I can still have the illusion that there is room enough in the world.”

~ D. H. Lawrence

“As time goes on, you’ll understand. What lasts, lasts; what doesn’t, doesn’t. Time solves most things. And what time can’t solve, you have to solve yourself.” ~ Haruki Murakami

Ancient Foot Path, Suffolk, England, via coolpicture
                   

“Sometimes we can choose the paths we follow. Sometimes our choices are made for us. And sometimes we have no choice at all.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Beach Trail, British Columbia, Canada by Kerrythis (FCC)

Saturday evening. Cloudy, hot, and humid.

Well, it has not been the best anniversary weekend in that Corey and I haven’t really seen each other except in passing for the last two days. Yesterday, he was called into work at noon and got home at 7:15 this morning, only to have to go back at 3 this afternoon. He gets off at 11 tonight and has to be back at 7 this morning. All of this means that there has been nothing more than a few minutes in which to speak to one another, that, and he is really tired.

It’s not that we were planning to go out this weekend, but it would have been nice to at least see him . . .

I spent yesterday putting away clean laundry, which is always the worst part of doing laundry. I can hardly contain my excitement. Then I tried to stay awake until Corey got home because the time kept changing (he was waiting for the vessel to get underway), which meant that I was awake until 4 a.m.

I made the mistake of watching Discover ID’s Friday the 13th horror fest. Two serial killer specials later, and of course, bad dreams involving people who were actually creatures who scalped people and wore their hair. I do remember at one point in the dream I was screaming, “I can’t breathe.” I have no idea if I had put a pillow over my face or what, but it felt horrible.

So, no, we didn’t have a lovely romantic evening together on our anniversary.

“Month by month things are losing their hardness; even my body now lets the light through; my spine is soft like wax near the flame of the candle. I dream; I dream.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Waves

Garden Path, Giverny, Francy, by Everyday Joys

So, in other news . . . Still have not seen Alexis for Mother’s Day. She called last Sunday evening around 7:20 and said that she didn’t realize how late it was, and would I mind very much if she didn’t come over until tomorrow (Monday). I said no. That was the last time that I heard from her.

Ask me if I’m surprised. That would be a no. I know that something has to be done, but I don’t want to do it over the telephone. I just can’t let this situation continue, even though I honestly don’t know what the situation is. Does that make sense?

My s-in-law Ann found a good home for my m-in-law’s cat Ringo. He is a very sweet cat, and I wouldn’t have minded having him except that he is not used to being around dogs, and I think that Tillie might view him as another toy. Finding a home for the cat makes everything seem so final.

Ann and I had a conversation via text last night in which we both said—with very few words—that things are getting too hard to face, and they are. I hate this more than I can possibly express. I hate that she will never again sleep in her bed in her house, that she will never again hold her cat, that she will never again wander around her yard, pulling the stray weed here and there.

I hate, hate, hate this.

Not so surprisingly, I am finding myself overwhelmed, which has led to my decision to start seeing my old therapist again. I realized that I’m just carrying this heaviness around in my chest, and not really talking about it. And I cannot continue to use Corey as my sounding board for everything as he has just as much roiling around in his brain right now (still haven’t gotten word on if the contract is a go or not).

“For my part, I prefer my heart to be broken.
It is so lovely, dawn-kaleidoscopic within the crack.” ~ D. H. Lawrence, from “Pomegranate”

Fairy Tale Garden, Victoria, Australia, by Bennos Macedon

I had my first session this past week, and it was so comfortable. This is the same woman I saw after Caitlin died, when my relationship with Mari died, when my first marriage died. Talking to her is completely natural. I think that Corey was worried that I was going back into therapy because of him, which is not the case at all. I just realized that I seemed to be holding my breath all of the time.

I mean, I feel as if sometimes I forget to breathe because I am so tightly wound over this situation or that situation. I find myself sometimes having to remind myself to uncoil my shoulders, to unclench my jaw, to take a deep breath. And after three years plus of waiting for things to get better, I realize that I have no idea as to when things will get better, and I just can’t keep waiting, can’t keep postponing whatever it is I’m postponing.

I know that I have so many unresolved issues that need to be faced: going back to work/not being able to go back to work, my relationship with my daughter, my relationship with my mother, watching my m-in-law die, the sadness I still feel over never being able to have a child with Corey, just to mention a few things here and there. And then of course, there’s all of the everyday bullshit: having no money, having a house in suspended animation as far as remodeling, never knowing from one day to the next what bills will show up in the mail. Oh, and let’s throw in the fact that some part of my body hurts all of the time, constantly, unrelentingly.

It’s all just so much. At least, that’s how it feels.

“I began to long, as I had before, for some special smell,  some special music that would fill me, lift me up and carry me away, float me off the rocks of my body and sweep me into some wideness, some vast expanse of  blue-grey nothingness.” ~ Denton Welch, A Voice Through a Cloud

Steps and Flowers

I remember the expression that appeared the most on my dad’s face was a furrowed brow, as if he was pondering the very meaning of existence. Who knows. He might have been thinking about the weeds in the vegetable garden. The expression was the same. As a result, he had a vertical furrow on his forehead next to his eyebrow.

Because of my good genes, I have been spared wrinkles, but I have the furrow. It’s right there in the same spot as my father’s furrow, and I wonder if this is how the world sees me most of the time. Of course, I would have to leave the house for the world to see me literally, and I just don’t do that much. I mentioned that to my therapist, and she got that questioning look on her face. But you know, I really am not that chuffed about it.

I’ve written about my tendency towards being a hermit before, albeit slightly exaggerated, or perhaps not. I think that I deal with people better when I’m not actually around them. It’s a good thing I wasn’t a woman in the 50’s when being a good neighbor was right up there with being a good housewife. That whole idea of belonging to clubs—garden clubs, bridge clubs, women’s circles—yuck. I mean, I can be perfectly sociable, and when I was younger, I was a freaking social butterfly, sort of. I mean, I enjoyed going places with groups of people, belonged to clubs, did lunch like it was an occasion. That whole thing.

But now, forced sociability for me is akin to spending Saturday in Wal Mart: after a few minutes, I think I’m going to break out in hives.

“We went down into the silent garden. Dawn is the time when nothing breathes, the hour of silence. Everything is transfixed, only the light moves.” ~ Leonora Carrington

The Garden Path

So I thought that maybe I’d close with a few new revelations (don’t ask me why):

  • I really enjoy arranging flowers, and this is something I think I could have done as a profession. I think that I have a good eye for color and texture combinations.
  • If I knew more about chemistry, I would try to come up with my own peony scent. Apparently, extracting oil from peonies is very hard, which is why there are very few wearable scents that are true peony; most have a rose or bergamot base.
  • I would love to have one of those old wooden potting sheds as my private studio. I would put in a cushiony chair in for reading, a big wooden table on which to put the computer as well as to play with the images and papers that I collect, and a free-standing fireplace.
  • With each passing year, I understand better and better my dad’s love for the sea and his desire to see the world.
  • I have poems running through my head again. After years of not writing poems, I find myself putting together phrases at odd times. However, I still don’t write them down.
  • I love dawn and sunset better than the day or the night. My internal clock is attuned to these times.
  • I am afraid of my 56th birthday. I once had a premonition that I would die when I was 56.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mumford and Sons, “After the Storm”

                   

Man in Stream

You stand in the brook, mud smearing
your forearms, a bloodied mosquito on your brow,
your yellow T-shirt dampened to your chest
as the current flees between your legs,
amber, verdigris, unraveling
today’s story, last night’s travail . . .

You stare at the father beaver, eye to eye,
but he outstares you—you who trespass in his world,
who have, however unwilling, yanked out his fort,
stick by tooth-gnarled, mud-clabbered stick,
though you whistle vespers to the wood thrush
and trace flame-flicker in the grain of yellow birch.

Death outpaces us. Upended roots
of fallen trees still cling to moss-furred granite.
Lichen smolders on wood-rot, fungus trails in wisps.
I wanted a day with cracks, to let the godlight in.
The forest is always a nocturne, but it gleams,
the birch tree tosses its change from palm to palm,

and we who unmake are ourselves unmade
if we know, if only we know
how to give ourselves in this untendered light.

~ Rosanna Warren

“She’s got the whole dark forest living inside of her.” ~ Tom Waits

 

Ruins of 19th Century Manor House by alterallensteiner (flckr creative commons)
                   

“Life is either a dream or a frenzy, inside an enclosure.” ~ D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Thursday evening. Rapidly dropping temperatures after a lovely high of 70 degrees.

Hidden Abandoned House

First let me say that there will be no ranting tonight. Just thought I should let you know right upfront since the past two days have been pretty vitriolic, even for me.

Today I finally set up my Avon representative e-site. I thought that I would give this a whirl just to see if I can make a bit of money from it. Who knows. If anyone is interested in checking it out, click here.  I did send an e-mail to a few people in my mailbox, but it was automatically generated, so I have no idea what it said . . .

So at the moment, I’m listening to some tunes and munching on saltines. I saw my PCP on Tuesday, and most of my blood work was fine. Only problem was that for some reason, the lab didn’t do my lipid profile or my thyroid, which meant that I had to fast again and go back on Wednesday. Those are probably the two most important tests for me: my triglycerides and my thyroid.  One troubling thing: I seem to have adult onset diabetes (just barely). The reality is that if I start exercising again and cut down on the carbs (no rice?), I should be fine without any additional medication, which suits me just fine.

Tomorrow is the eye doctor. I don’t think that I’ve looked forward to an eye appointment so eagerly since my very first appointment which I had when I was 12. I had put off telling my mother that I thought that I needed glasses until I could no longer see the blackboard. For a while, I borrowed Kim Reese’s glasses (funny, the things you remember). I was so eager to have glasses so that I could see things clearly again, but getting used to glasses was hard as I didn’t wear them all of the time; hence, I lost my first pair fairly quickly.

The reason I didn’t wear my glasses all of the time? Because of something my mother said to me (and yes, you will probably be horrified): “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” What the hell? And you people wonder why I have such low self-esteem. That was fairly typical for the kinds of things my mother said to me, and at the time, it was a pretty stupid thing to say as I wasn’t even really interested in boys yet.

Whatever.

“With the daggers I
pilfered from an angel
I build my dwelling.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from “Slumber Inn”

Abandoned Building by Scallop Holden

(Just an aside: If you’ve never heard Eva Cassidy’s version of Sting’s “Fields of Gold,” you should give it a listen. Beautiful.)

Isn’t the above just a bone-jolting quote? “Daggers I pilfered from an angel”—wow. I mean, just think about it, someone writing about stealing daggers from an angel, the juxtaposition of the hard g-sound in daggers with the fluidity of pilfered and dwelling. Bold. Beautiful. Mystical. I love it.

I have come to Edmond Jabès late in life, but at least I have finally found him. Jabès was born an Egyptian Jew but was forced to relocate to France during the Suez Crisis in 1956, where he become one of the most famous post-war French poets. I haven’t read any of his books yet, but as is often the case in life, I keep running across quotes from his work in the strangest places, and the more I read, the more that I want to read.  I suppose that I shall begin with The Book of Questions, Vol. I.

Paul Aster in the New York Review of Books said this about the book: “Neither novel nor poem, neither essay nor play, The Book of Questions is a combination of all these forms, a mosaic of fragments, aphorisms, dialogues, songs, and commentaries that endlessly move around the central question of the book: how to speak what cannot be spoken.” I find the description very appealing, that Jabès’ work is an amalgamation of writing forms.

“I have followed a book in its persistence, a book which is the story of a thousand stories as night and day are the prow of a thousand poems. I have followed it where day succeeds the night and night the day, where the seasons are four times two hundred and fifty seasons” ~ The Book of Questions, p. 325

“Mystery is truth’s dancing partner.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Abandoned Building Alcove

My tumblr dash continues to be a sustaining source of inspiration for me. I find that I open it each day with an emotion akin to giddiness (truthfully, I just don’t do giddy) at what new, beautiful things I will see and read there. The dash is where I first saw words by Jabès, where each day I see incredible photographs of abandoned castles, old writing desks, empty performance houses.

I’m not sure where my love of abandoned buildings comes from. I’ve only been in a few, but I love to see pictures of them. I’m certain that if I were younger and still able to do such things, I would be one of those urban adventurers who seeks out abandoned buildings, the ruins of castles and manor opens, old opera houses, empty hospitals that still house rusty gurneys in hollow exam rooms. I think that such places are filled with a singular mystery and beauty because they are abandoned. And once so, they assume a presence of their own.

The emptiness allows the imagination to run free: What kind of soprano stood in the middle of that stage? Was she wearing a red velvet dress? Who sat in this alcove and looked out the lake and the gazebo and the trees? How many people climbed this staircase? Why did they leave just the shell of a grand piano here and nothing else?

These are the kinds of things that I ponder if I just let my mind wander, and it only stokes within me more of a desire to visit these places, to walk through the crumbling entrance to an abandoned manor. It’s like Harry Potter returning to Sirius Black’s family home and looking beneath the dusty bed, finding part of a letter written in his mother’s handwriting. Those forgotten pieces of the past that most people see as trash and junk—what secrets do they hold?

I remember walking to school when we lived in London. Part of the route took us past the iron fence to an old hospital. One day, I noticed a woman’s black clutch purse shoved behind a bush. I thought about that purse for weeks: Who did it belong to? Who put it there? Why? I wanted to look inside that purse so badly that I almost became obsessed. I didn’t care about finding money; I wanted to see what the purse revealed about its owner. I still remember exactly what that purse looked like. I was six, seven at the most.

“When others asked the truth of me, I was convinced it was not the truth they wanted, but an illusion they could bear to live with.” ~ Anaïs Nin

Abandoned Building Blue Doors by kentfagerdotcom

Last night, in keeping with our newest addiction, Corey and I watched a particularly good episode of  “Dr. Who” called “Vincent and the Doctor.” It was the episode in which the doctor and Amy Pond went back in time to Provence to see Vincent van Gogh (played by Tony Curran, a great likeness for the self-portrait). I had already seen this episode, but Corey hadn’t, and I really wanted to see it again because it was poignant.

When the doctor and Amy encounter the artist, he is the subject of public ridicule, being thrown out of cafes for not paying his bills, his works of art seen as garish depictions in which no one is interested. The appearance of the charming doctor and his companion provide a nice distraction for van Gogh (as an American, I am so used to Gogh being pronounced as go, so it was unsettling to hear the British pronunciation rhyme with cough, as in goff), who happens to be seeing invisible monsters.

Turns out, the monster, a Krafayis, is just as real as the other things that torture the artist. In the ensuing battle with the monster, Vincent accidentally kills the Krafayis while defending himself. But as the doctor, who realizes that the creature is blind, comforts the dying creature, the visibly stricken Vincent comments that the creature was only afraid and frustrated, feelings with which the artist can empathize.

But the part of the episode that I really liked the best was when the doctor and Amy took Vincent into the future so that he could see his paintings hanging in the Musée d’Orsay  (I will go there one day) and to hear an art scholar (Dr. Black, played by the wonderful Bill Nighy) praise the artist by referring to him as “the greatest painter of them all” and “one of the greatest men who ever lived.” A stunned Vincent cries tears of joy and hugs and kisses the confused scholar.

The doctor and Amy had hoped that by affirming Vincent’s talent, that they might be able to keep him from the despair that drives him to take his own life a few months later. Of course, it doesn’t work. But during the episode, to hear the Vincent character speak about beauty and color so passionately is incredibly moving. I know: I’m a sap.

I have always loved van Gogh’s paintings, the vibrancy of the colors, his choices of subjects. But it has always been the brush strokes that have always fascinated me: they are almost ferocious, as if he couldn’t put the paint to the canvas fast enough or hard enough. What is must have taken out of him each time he created a canvas awash in color and a beauty that he saw, and how it must have devastated him that no one else saw it.

A tortured mind and a tortured soul who produced such immense beauty.

More later. Peace.

Music by Don McLean “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)”

                   

I Know My Soul

I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
And held it to the mirror of my eye,
To see it like a star against the sky,
A twitching body quivering in space,
A spark of passion shining on my face.
And I explored it to determine why
This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me of
sweet joy and grace.
And if the sign may not be fully read,
If I can comprehend but not control,
I need not gloom my days
with futile dread,
Because I see a part and not the whole.
Contemplating the strange, I’m comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.

~ Claude McKay

“I never know when I sit down, just what I am going to write. I make no plan; it just comes, and I don’t know where it comes from.” ~ D. H. Lawrence

“Double Image,” August Strindberg (1892, oil on canvas) 

 

“The paper I write on or you write on, every word we write, every cross and twirl of the pen, and the curious way we write what we think, yet very faintly . . . In them realities for you and me—in them poems for you and me . . . In them themes, hints, provokers.”  ~ Walt Whitman
"Wonderland" (1894, oil on canvas)

Rarely do I know what I am going to write when I sit down at this keyboard. I may have an idea generated from a dream or something that I have read in the news, but most of the time it’s more a matter of touching the keys and letting the words come out. No great creative genius is involved. Rather, it is more a matter of need: I need to write, to release, to ponder, to construe, to evoke. I need to do this as naturally as I need to breathe. 

That is my reality, and truthfully, it has always been this way. I have been writing about things since I was very young, before I even knew how to string letters together to form words. I would put pencil to whatever scraps of paper I could find in the house, and I would write. Of course what I wrote made no sense to anyone but me, but I knew what I was saying. And I had such a need to share my thoughts that I would take these scraps of paper and slip them under the doors of my parents’ neighbors in the large apartment house in which we resided in London. 

Some of the people knew that these notes were from me, but others were confused by the nonsensical missives that appeared under their doors with no regular schedule. The doorman in our building knew what I was doing, so he ever so kindly explained to the confused tenants that it was the little girl in apartment 13 who had been writing to them. 

Then when I went to school and learned how to form words, I wrote more. I wrote poems, letters, stories. But my dream at that time was not to become a writer. I wanted to be a hairdresser . . . 

“O, how incomprehensible everything was, and actually sad, although it was also beautiful. One knew nothing. And sometimes it seemed that something never seen yet long desired was about to happen, that a veil would drop from it all; but then it passed, nothing happened, the riddle remained unsolved, the secret spell unbroken, and in the end one grew old and looked cunning . . . or wise . . . And still one knew nothing, perhaps, was still waiting and listening.” ~ Hermann Hesse, “Narcissus and Goldmund”
"Baby's First Cradle" (1901, oil on canvas)

In many ways, this blog is like those indecipherable scraps of paper: I know what I’m trying to say, but not everyone who reads my words can discern my meaning. That’s okay, though. The beauty of blogs is that readers can just close the window if they do not find the post interesting, or appealing, or if the subject matter is not something that coincides with their personal beliefs. 

I’m not trying to please anyone but myself. In the beginning of this blogging stuff, I was more self-censoring, not wanting to offend anyone who happened to be reading. I wrote in more general terms, putting less of myself into my posts. Over the months, though, that changed, as I had thought that it might. My persona began to creep into my posts more and more. My life, my family, all of it, became fodder. So much so that now my posts are a virtual doorway into my life. 

Is this a good thing? Perhaps not. Will I change it? Probably not. Do I regret this progression? A bit. 

“The swarm of words,
and little stories
are just to loosen you
from where you are stuck.” ~ Shitou Xiqian
"The Wave VII" (1901, oil on canvas)

When I first heard about blogs—personal online journals that are available to anyone and everyone—I must admit to being personally appalled. What kind of person puts his or her life online for the world to see? It just didn’t seem right to me, someone who had always hidden my journals from other people, seeing them as both highly personal and private. 

Then a few years later I decided to create a MySpace page. I played a bit with the internal blog aspect of the page, which made me realize that the whole social networking thing was really just a collective blog—people visiting each other’s sites, sharing opinions, leaving notes, posting pictures. Then I was given the assignment to create a web page for one of my publishing classes. The site could be about anything; there were no parameters. 

I decided to create a site on which people could create a community poem. I called it The Poem Makers. In concept, it was a pretty creative idea (or so I thought): I would write the first line of the poem, and then anyone who visited could add a line and/or comment on the poem in progress. As part of the site, I wanted to include a blog page on which participants could post ongoing commentary about the project, poetry, whatever. My search for a blog page led me to WordPress. 

Essentially the project was disastrous, mostly because I didn’t know enough HTML to create an interactive site, that and the fact that I knew relatively little about promoting a site.  I eventually abandoned the website, but I took that experience and decided to keep going with the blog. My first post was in February 2008, which means that I’ve been doing this for over two years. 

“Within all of us is a varying amount of space lint and star dust, the residue from our creation. Most are too busy to notice it, and it is stronger in some than others. It is strongest in those of us who fly and is responsible for an unconscious, subtle desire to slip into some wings and try for the elusive boundaries of our origin.” ~ K. O. Eckland, Footprints on Clouds
"Coastal Landscape" (1901, oil on canvas)

In that time I have gone from basic posts about nothing at all to posts that include images and music and cover a range of topics. I like how I have progressed. I know so much more now than I did when I began; in particular, I realize that bloggers tend to congregate in communities and that if you want other people to read and comment on your blog, then you need to read and comment on other people’s blogs—regularly. 

I have also noticed a change in my writing style: Whereas when I was writing for publication, I was much more sparse with my words, never using five words when three will do, always choosing the simpler word over the multisyllabic one. Now that I’m writing without an editor, I tend to be more verbose. I do edit myself, but anyone who writes knows the limitations of such a thing. I do go on and on, and it’s an indulgence that gives me pleasure. I also take more liberties with punctuation than before. Always a stickler for grammar, I am merciless with a red pen when it comes to editing or grading someone else’s work. Too bad I cannot admit to being as rigorous with my own. 

Oh well . . . 

“The process of writing has something infinite about it.  Even though it is interrupted each night, it is one single notation.” ~ Elias Canetti
"Aleja" (1903, oil on canvas)

I remember how excited I was when the number of hits that I had received went past 200. It was a time for great rejoicing. I am now well past 300,000 hits, but I still love to see who is visiting, what they are reading, how they got here. I don’t know that I’ll ever tire of paying attention to my statistics as they serve as my validation, for now. 

I suppose all of this boils down to a few simple facts: I have come to love the freedom of blogging. I sometimes resent feeling as if I have to post until I realize that no one is making me do so. I no longer feel as if blogs are an obscene violation of privacy spurred on by the blogger’s own need for exposure. I take pleasure in reading blogs that are written well, or are visually appealing, or are in line with my own sensitivities. 

For now, this whole thing is an open-ended experiment. Who knows where it will take me, but I’m going to enjoy the ride while I can. 

More later. Peace. 

All images are by Swedish novelist and playwright August Strindberg, who turned to painting during times of crisis in which he felt unable to write. 

Music from Bare Naked Ladies, “Call and Answer”