“The loveliest things in life are but shadows; they come and go, and change and fade away . . .” ~ Charles Dickens, from Martin Chuzzlewit

Kayama Matazo A Thousand Cranes 1970 color on silk, pair of six-folded screens
“A Thousand Cranes” (1970, color on silk, pair of six folded screens) by Kayama Matazo

                   

“I heard the steady sound of rain
and the soft lapping of water, and did not know
whether it was grief or joy or something other
that surged against my heart
and held me listening there so long and late.” ~ Peter Everwine, from “Rain”

Monday afternoon. Sunny and cold, 37 degrees.

Well, it’s been another long stretch between posts. As you can probably understand (or perhaps not), I haven’t had the wherewithal to write. I sit down here at my computer, and then I do one of three things: look online for books or makeup or whatever; take care of more of my mother’s affairs; play spider solitaire.

Kayama Matazo Moon 1983
“Moon” (1983) by Kayama Matazo

This morning when I awoke, I seriously thought of just staying in bed, never leaving, but my back hurt, and I needed to stretch, and besides, coffee . . .

My emotions go up and down and up and down, they swoop and swirl like the starlings’ murmurings, but without the natural beauty. I would like to be a bird, to float on the air, to move like that, to concentrate only on the concerns of eating, moving, and surviving, which, I suppose, is what life is, after all.

Sometimes, I sit in the bath at night with nothing but the candlelight, and I cry, sometimes softly, sometimes loudly, but I try to reserve the loud crying for times during which I am alone as I know that it gets to Brett and Corey. Sometimes, though, I just sit there, forget where I am or what I’m doing. I will tell you something truthfully: I did not anticipate how very much my mother’s death would affect me. I only have one message on my voice mail from her, and it’s the one in which she apologizes for forgetting my birthday. Do not ask how many times I have tortured myself listening to it.

“When things break, it’s not the actual breaking that prevents them from getting back together again. It’s because a little piece gets lost—the two remaining ends couldn’t fit together even if they wanted to. The whole shape has changed.” ~ David Levithan, from Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Yesterday I went to one of those jewelry parties at my cousin’s house. It was nice to be invited, but I felt clumsy in my skin. All of these women, having easy conversations, laughing, smiling, sharing stories. I sat next to my aunt, and when she wasn’t there, I buried myself in catalogs, pretending to peruse the items.

I do not do socialization with strangers well.

Kayama Matazo Waves in Spring and Autumn 1966
“Waves in Spring and Autumn” (1966) by Kayama Matazo

I forced myself to stay for two hours, getting up, looking, nibbling, and when I thought I had been polite, I ordered the jewelry that I could not afford, thanked my hostess, and left.

Don’t get me wrong, I was so excited to receive the invitation. I sent my RSVP back immediately, and I tried to convince Alexis to go with me (she didn’t). I don’t know what I expected of myself, but I was unprepared for how unprepared I was. As you know, I do not leave the house much unless circumstances force me to, or someone in my family needs something. Perhaps I have forgotten how to socialize. People who knew me years ago would be astonished at the change. When I was much younger, I always had a circle about me; I could be lively, engaging even.

But now . . . I just don’t know, and the not knowing makes me want to hide even more.

“And I still don’t know if I’m a falcon,
a storm, or an unfinished song.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “Ich lebe mein Leben in waschsenden Ringen (I live my life in widening circles)”

I have to admit, my unintentional leave of absence from this blog and from tumblr has helped in some ways. I do not remember the last time I went through my tumblr dashboard. I miss some parts of it—finding new artists, new quotes, new poems—but I am relieved from the sense of obligation that I imposed upon myself, that if I missed a few days, I would not stop until I had caught up, going back for days to see what I had missed.

Kayama Matazo Moon 1978 color on paper
“Moon” (1978, color on paper) by Kayama Matazo

As far as being here, though, that was something else. I just didn’t know what to say, and so I said . . .

nothing . . .

An old family friend called me on my mother’s birthday, but I wasn’t answering the phone that day. She left a lovely message, told me she was thinking about me, about my mom, that she loved me. I haven’t returned the call, probably won’t. Not because I don’t appreciate the words, but more that I just don’t think that I have words of my own.

The plan was to have a family dinner on Sunday the 16th, celebrate Eamonn’s birthday, and distribute some of mom’s ashes at both cemeteries (dad’s and Caitlin’s). The plan fell apart. Eamonn was too hungover. We had pizza with Lex, Mike, and Brett, and then on Monday, I made homemade spaghetti for Eamonn per his request. And then the weather got nasty again, and we decided just to postpone the ashes.

They are still in the trunk of my car. And I know that it might seem that that’s a horrible place for them, but I find it comforting, somehow. It’s my mother’s car, and she’s still in it.

Too weird?

“Write with blood, and you will find that blood is spirit.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Thus Spoke Zarathustra

This week I have doctors’ appointments, and I need to finish wrangling with more of my mother’s affairs, the federal government and GEICO—both of which make me nauseous just to think about. Last week I set up a new insurance policy on her house, and this past weekend Brett spent the weekend in the house. We moved Earl Grey the cat to Alexis’s house, and he seems to have adapted well, so now the house is quiet when we walk in.

Kayama Matazo Flowers 1978 color on paper
“Flowers” (1978, color on paper) by Kayama Matazo

My mother’s house was never quiet. She could not abide silence, which is why at any given time of the night or day you would find the television blaring. But now? Nothing. That is another strange part.

I don’t know. Telephone calls, messages, policies, whatever. Today, I just cannot do it. I just cannot muster what it takes to head once more into the fray, yet I cannot help but feel guilty that I am not taking care of these things. My mother was such a stickler for paying everyone on time, early, never ever late, but I’ve run out of money. I’ve paid everything except for a couple of small things, but it’s the doing that is getting to me. The actual act of doing something.

Pardon me, please. I seem to be saying a whole lot of nothing.

“but I have the kind of patience
born of indifference and hate.

Maybe the river and I share this.” ~ Michael McGriff, from “Catfish”

The other morning when Tillie had awakened me around 4 a.m. to go out, I stood at the door and listened to the birds’ morning songs. I heard a new sound that I have never heard before. I stood there for a while and listened, and then I thought that I should probably record the sound so that I could find out what it was. I finally found my phone, went to the door, and the sound stopped.

Kayama Matazo Going to see cherry blossoms at night 1982
“Going to See Cherry Blossoms at Night” (1982) by Kayama Matazo

I don’t remember what it was, or why I was so enchanted by it. I had thought that it might be a bat, but I listened to some bat sounds online, and that doesn’t seem to be it. I know that we get bats in this area, but I’ve never seen one.

Anyway, I had forgotten how much I love the predawn bird song, something I used to love to listen to when my insomnia was in high gear. There is something beautiful about that hour, when the sounds of cars and trucks are almost non existent, the noise of people is tempered, and only the birds and night creatures hold sway.

The house is dark and still. Everyone else is deep in sleep. Just the dogs, me, and the birds. For that brief spell, it is almost perfect.

The only thing missing is the sound of water.

More later. Peace.

All images by Japanese artist Kayama Matazo (1927-2004)

Music by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera, “Say Something”

                   

The Piano Chord Most Adjacent to the Inexpressible

The piano chord most adjacent to the inexpressible is the
one that dissolves into flocks of flying birds

The tree as it moves through the breeze most
adjacent to conducting the sonorous
filaments of the air stands as tall as a
doorman to an entranceway to the eternal mysteries

The desert most adjacent to spiritual enlightenment is the
one whose dunes yesterday don’t resemble its
dunes today and whose dunes today
have slopes and dips totally ocean-like and unlike any of its
dunes tomorrow

The rain is finally falling after a month of drought
little earth-lips opening to drink in each drop
and the song each water-drinking element sings
resembles the chorus of an ancient opera sung among
cataclysmic rocks above tumultuous seas

There are no people in this poem
they are either asleep or haven’t been born yet
but the sound in the landscape most adjacent to the
deep heartfelt human voice
is the night-cricket seeming to long for a mate wherever
it may happen to hear its lament repeated
incessantly but melodiously through the dark

So like us
in catastrophe or anti-catastrophe
calling out to space from our centrifugal loneliness
with a voice most adjacent to the
silent nuzzling feeler to feeler of ants meeting from
opposite directions
and lights beaming from north and south and brightly
blending somewhere over the
Arctic in a purple and scarlet shivering aurora borealis
whose ripples are most adjacent to the
music of the spheres hanging down into the
visible from the invisible heavens whose
radiant flowing draperies curving through the folding air
they are

~ Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

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“He loved the craggy ruins bound together by ivy, those dark halls, and any appearance of death and destruction. Having fallen so far from so high a position, he loved anything that had also fallen from a great height.” ~ Gustave Flaubert

Eilean Donan Castle at Sunsetby Paul Stevenson (FCC)
Eilean Donan Castle at Sunset
by Paul Stevenson (FCC)

“From the grey sky that lowered over the city outside a few isolated snowflakes were floating down, and disappeared into the dark chasms of the yards behind the buildings. I thought of the onset of winter in the mountains, the complete absence of sound, and my childhood wish for everything to be snowed over, the whole village and the valley all the way to the mountain peaks, and how I used to imagine what it would be like when we thawed out again and emerged from the ice in spring.” ~ W.G. Sebald,  from Austerlitz

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and not as cold, 48 degrees.

Yesnaby Castle, Orkney Islands, Scotland by Paul Stephenson FCC
Yesnaby Castle (rock stack), Orkney Islands, Scotland
by Paul Stephenson (FCC)

So the snow is melting quickly now. Not nearly enough accumulation to play in the snow with Tillie the Lab. She did some plowing in the backyard with Corey.

I just wanted to pause here to say thank you to all of my new followers and also thanks for the recent e-mails. It is always nice to hear from new people, to get feedback on what I’m doing here. Completely understandable if you would rather not comment on the post and prefer e-mail. I’ll take it however I can get it.

Apparently I missed National Reading Day, which was on the 23rd of this month, my birthday. I don’t think it gets as much press as Banned Books Week, but NRD is a good idea aimed at encouraging younger children to read, specifically Pre-K through third grade. It always makes me a bit sad to realize that most young children do not have books in their homes, that they don’t have ready access to stories. As an only child, I taught myself to read while I was quite young, and reading became one of my favorite ways to pass time. Alexis learned how to fill out a blank check while she was in middle school because I would send her to the reading fair with a blank check and a budget. Math and reading together.

“This is the solstice, the still point
of the sun, its cusp and midnight,
the year’s threshold
and unlocking, where the past
lets go of and becomes the future;
the place of caught breath, the door
of a vanished house left ajar.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Shapechangers in Winter”

Yesterday I read one of the books that ordered for my birthday: The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green. First let me say that this whole classification of Young Adult novels stymies me. What exactly is a young adult novel? I mean, when I was a young adult I was reading Fitzgerald, Shakespeare, Tolkien and Whitman. My children were reading the Harry Potter series in grade school. I find the classification a bit insulting, as if young adults are only concerned with relationships and feelings, and only young adults are concerned with relationships and feelings.

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland by Isaxen FCC
Dunnattor Castle, Scotland
by Isaxen (FCC)

That aside, I loved the book. I finished it in just a few hours (is that what makes it young adult?), and when I was done, the only word that came to mind was luminous. I immediately thought of passing it along to my sons, both of whom would be able to appreciate it, perhaps in different ways.

If you haven’t read it—and I think that I’m probably in a minority here in discovering Green this late—it’s a story about kids with cancer. Sounds horrible, right? Wrong. While there are sad moments, the narration and dialogue are anything but depressing. I think the main reason that I found the book so engaging is the overall tone, which is this side of sarcastic and a little pretentious without being precious. I understood these characters, what made them tick, and I even appreciated the lesser characters.

I fear I may be describing all of this none too well. Anyway, loved it and am thinking about getting Green’s Looking for Alaska when the next opportunity arises.

“I’ll walk forever with stories inside me that the people I love the most can never hear.” ~ Michelle Hodkin

Speaking of books, Corey and I recently made a trip to our favorite Barnes and Noble, and boy was it disappointing. I had deliberately not ventured into a book store for a while as I was afraid of what I might find. My fears were realized: More electronics and games than books.

So sad really.

Duntulm Castle overlooking the Minch, Scotland by Brian Zinnel CC
Duntulm Castle overlooking the Minch, Scotland
by Brian Zinnel

I perused the poetry section, which was a mere five shelves. No poetry by anyone other than the expected: T. S. Eliot, Maya Angelou, and other mainstream names. Then I went to the true crime section, which used to be one of my favorite sections—for obvious reasons—and was again disappointed. No new titles, only paperbacks of the same authors. Even the bargain books section was sorely lacking.

I used to find such great enjoyment in spending $25 and leaving with five or six books, all titles that I had been wanting to read. Not any more. I know that the store’s inventory is a reflection of both the death of book publishing and the move towards e-readers, but it was jolting nonetheless. At least I can still find the titles in which I’m interested online, but it’s not the same.

“There is a life which
if I could have it
I would have chosen for myself from the beginning” ~ Franz Wright, from “The Poem”

At least while we were there I was able to pick up my Valentine’s Day cards for everyone. Oh, and speaking of cards, I got a birthday card from Corey’s parents, which was lovely, especially since my own mother has once again forgotten my birthday. She remembers about every birthday in four. I have come not to expect her to remember.

Saltcoats Castle, Lothian, Scotland by DecoByDesign FCC
Saltcoats Castle, Lothian, Scotland
by DecoByDesign (FCC)

Tonight for my belated birthday celebration we are taking the sons with us to see The Hobbit. Brett has already seen it but wants to see it again. Eamonn has yet to see it. We thought it would be nice for the four of us to go to a movie together, something we haven’t done in years, mostly because Eamonn always goes to movies with his girlfriends, but he is sans girlfriend at the moment.

There’s a local theater chain called Cinema Cafe, which is exactly what it sounds like. It’s table seating, and you can order food. We used to take the whole family when everyone was younger because the tickets are cheaper, and it makes for a nice night out with everyone. Corey and I went there several months ago to see Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus, both of which were quite enjoyable.

“You can learn a lot about people from the stories they tell, but you can also know them from the way they sing along, whether they like the windows up or down, if they live by the map or by the world, if they feel the pull of the ocean.” ~ David Levithan, from Every Day

So let’s see . . . what else?

Seem to be getting congested again, no idea as to why, though. The leftover pneumonia cough, which hadn’t completely disappeared, is also deepening. All of this is happening because I’m still having problems with my health insurance. Over the phone when I check things with the automated system the computer voice confirms that my account is up to date; however, when I go online, it still says that my coverage ended in October. The main problem is that because of this ongoing snafu, I cannot get my medication refills. The medication has nothing to do with my congestion except that I know that not being on all my meds weakens my system overall.

Waterfall at Kilt Rock, Scotland CC
Waterfall at Kilt Rock, Scotland
(photographer unknown; cc)

Hate this.

Other than that, temperatures by mid-week are supposed to be in the 60’s, because they were just in the 20’s, and these temperature shifts wreak havoc on my sinuses. I think that I could do winter fairly well if it were more consistent, not this abrupt cold/warm/freezing/snow/warm/rain that is inherent in this area.

Anyway, I’m hoping to give the dogs baths on the warmer days and maybe—dare I say—go for a walk?

More later. Peace.

(All images of Scotland are licensed under creative commons. Felt like a highland/old ruins kind of day.)

Music by A Boy and His Kite, “Cover Your Tracks”

                   

Late Echo

Alone with our madness and favorite flower
We see that there really is nothing left to write about.
Or rather, it is necessary to write about the same old things
In the same way, repeating the same things over and over
For love to continue and be gradually different.

Beehives and ants have to be re-examined eternally
And the color of the day put in
Hundreds of times and varied from summer to winter
For it to get slowed down to the pace of an authentic
Saraband and huddle there, alive and resting.

Only then can the chronic inattention
Of our lives drape itself around us, conciliatory
And with one eye on those long tan plush shadows
That speak so deeply into our unprepared knowledge
Of ourselves, the talking engines of our day.

~ John Ashbery