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