“How quietly we endure all that falls upon us.” ~ Khaled Hosseini, from A Thousand Splendid Suns

A view towards the far end of the pond

“Here I saw the truth of the horizon,
the way of coming and going in this life.
I never drifted up from my beginning:
I rose as inexorably as heat.” ~ Denis Johnson, from “The Confession of St. Jim-Ralph”

Monday afternoon, partly cloudy and absolutely lovely, 76 degrees.

Apologies. It’s been a few days since I wrote anything here. I’ve been distracted, more than usual. I began listening to a podcast, “A New Winter.” I began listening last week, and then became so absorbed that I binged right through the weekend. Unlike the true crime genre to which I’m partial, it’s a creepy dramatization, and I was hooked, all the way through 62 episodes. Yep. Sixty-62.

Red Bud in bloom

I know. Too much, right?

Anyway, I had a Two for Tuesday planned, and then on Wednesday, I had another one of those doctor’s appointments that didn’t happen because my appointment had been changed somehow, or I changed it somehow, thinking that I was actually changing my neurologist’s appointment. I honestly don’t know, but I got ready, put on real clothes, arrived on time, only to be told that my appointment was on June 5. From that point on my week was wrecked.

So here I am, trying to start over, get back into the rhythm of writing, creating, putting something out there. Anything. We’ll just have to see how this goes. I do have new pictures of the farm and the animals, at least.

“Most humans are never fully present in the now, because unconsciously they believe that the next moment must be more important than this one. But then you miss your whole life, which is never not now.” ~ Eckhart Tolle, from an interview with The Guardian (10 April 2009)

So I’m sitting outside at yet another makeshift work station, kind of hunched over, and my back is protesting mightily. But it doesn’t matter because the birds are serenading, and the sun is peeking through the clouds, and the air is clean, and there’s a light breeze making the Dogwood tree sway and the bamboo wind chimes clatter in a non-jarring way. The goats and the dogs are outside, as well, and Ruby, the female goat just came by to have her ears scratched; Max isn’t quite as loving, and his crooked jaw makes him look, well, a little goofy, but he’ll eventually come to have his ears scratched.

Not sure what this is, but it looks cool

I was sitting here a little while ago just listening to music and the birds and absolutely nothing else—no car horns, no sirens, no airplanes, no leaf blowers—nothing. Sometimes I forget to notice this nothingness, forget to appreciate what it took to achieve it. The last few years have been so freaking tumultuous, and sometimes it seemed like there was no end in sight, but there was, for the most part, perhaps not the ending that we had envisioned, but an ending of sorts, and now I’m here, sitting on property that is mine, and my nearest neighbors are far away.

No judgmental next-door neighbors peering over the fence, no city ordinances, no community rules. Of course, we also don’t have curbside recycling or trash pickup, and that is a definite loss, but in the grand scheme of things, I suppose we are still firmly on the plus side of the columns.

“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”

Corey needs to call the gas company to let them know that part of the driveway washed away with the most recent rain; they’re responsible for the upkeep of the drive since they have wells along the way—it’s a weird setup. But first he’s gone to Coeburn and Norton to pick up an ink cartridge for the printer so that I can send yet more forms to the IRS, trying to get us a waiver for Corey not having health insurance because, well, money.

Wildflowers growing all over the ridge

I mean, I’m completely for the Affordable Care Act, but I’ve never understood penalizing people for not having health insurance if they cannot afford to have health insurance, and the only way that those same people can get out of the penalty is if they ask for it and justify the lack. That doesn’t even make sense. I’m fairly certain that a majority of people would have health insurance if they could actually afford it. Not having it really, really sucks. There should have been a built-in opt-out function for those of us without the funds to afford the coverage instead of a built-in penalty that you can only get rid of once you’ve been granted a waiver.

Anyway, I need to print those and another form, and something else. Honestly, it’s been a few days since I first tried to print only to find out that we were out of ink, so now I’ve forgotten. I’ll have to go back and look at my notes. I make lots and lots of notes, and the fact that I still don’t have my desk set up means that my post-its are still in a box somewhere, as are my colored paper clips that I used to organize papers, and all of that other helpful stuff that I’ve come to depend on over the years. Truthfully, I’ve had a long-standing love-affair with office products; don’t ask me why. Alexis has the same penchant, as well as an unhealthy attachment to large, oversized bags and purses. I cannot imagine where she got any of that from.

I need my notes. I just can’t function without them. I know my mind too well. I have no problems with long-term memory, or memories of most important events, or things like song lyrics, but ask me what I had planned to do in a few hours, and, well . . . not so much . . .

“The future was a dark corridor, and at the far end the door was bolted.” ~ Gustave Flaubert, from Madame Bovary

I’m curious, actually. Does anyone even read these quotes? Does anyone out there find them as fascinating as I do? I mean, I spend a lot of time looking for my quotes, and then I spend an inexorable amount of time planning posts thematically, taking into consideration the kinds of posts that I tend to write the most, or thinking about something that I think that I might want to tackle in the future.

Tink and Ash snuggling

I’m asking because my tumblr meanderings, when I do them, are mostly in search of quotes, new poems and poets, and images. I’m not much for the other kinds of posts, but I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should post the quotes there and leave them out of my posts.

The problem, for me, as I see it, is that I’ve been using this format since almost the beginning: five quotes, a header quote, six images, a poem, and a song. It’s worked, or at least, it works for me—most of the time. The quotes are my springboard, as it were, a way to tap into my muse and see what comes out.

Who knows, really? Certainly not I.

“It had occurred to me that all human beings are divided
into those who wish to move forward
and those who wish to go back.” ~ Louise Glück, from “Faithful and Virtuous Night”

I’m thinking that the only thing that would make being outside today better would be if we had a hammock set up. I really miss my hammock. I’ve always had a hammock, ever since I was first married to my ex. When I was living with my parents. they had this hammock thing that fit on a metal frame, but it was canvas. I used to spend a lot of time on that in the backyard, reading in the sun. I had actually forgotten about that.

I actually have a brand new cheap hammock that came in one of my subscription boxes; I doubt that it’s terribly comfortable, but I wouldn’t know because there isn’t anywhere here to attach it. We have a lot of trees, but they are either too close together, like the apple trees, or too far apart. Ideally, I’d love to get on of those frames from Costco and the big, double rope hammock. Ah yes, that would be the ticket.

Sine I first began this post, the sun has become obscured by more clouds, and the wind has picked up. I think that I’ll stay out here for a little longer and then go inside and try to do a bit of cleaning. I still haven’t figured out where all of the dust comes from that settles in the house so quickly. We don’t have the furnace running, no ceiling fans on, so where does all of the dust come from? I’m reminded of the importance of dust in Philip Pullman’s series His Dark Materials, but unfortunately, my dust isn’t magical. It’s been years since I read that, and I still haven’t gotten a copy of La Belle Sauvage, the first book in the follow-up trilogy even though it was published in 2017. It on my to-read list, which probably has about 200 things on it.

So much to do, so much to do . . . Books to read, cabinets to sand and paint, rooms to paint and unpack . . . And then there’s my car, which needs work, a barn that needs to be built . . . Ugh, enough for now.

More later. Peace.


Music by The Civil Wars, “Dust to Dust” (acoustic)


To Drink

I want to gather your darkness
in my hands, to cup it like water
and drink.
I want this in the same way
as I want to touch your cheek—
it is the same—
the way a moth will come
to the bedroom window in late September,
beating and beating its wings against the cold glass,
the way a horse will lower
his long head to water, and drink,
and pause to lift his head and look,
and drink again,
taking everything in with the water,
everything.

~ Jane Hirshfield

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“And who would want to descend to the bottom | of a silence greater than the ocean?” ~ Francisca Aguirre, from “From Without”

Waves at Dawn by jemasmith FCC
Waves at Dawn by jemasmith (FCC)

                   

“Did I believe that I had a clear mind?
It was like the water of a river
flowing shallow over the ice. And now
that the rising water has broken
the ice, I see what I thought
was the light is part of the darkness.” ~ Wendell Berry, from “Breaking”

Sunday afternoon. Much warmer, 50 degrees.

I have no idea how far I will get with this post, but I feel a need to at least try.

The last five days have run together into a very strange loop, one from which I fear I may never emerge. Last Tuesday morning (January 28), my mother called me at 6 a.m. in a panic; she had gone out to the garage fridge to get some milk, and she heard water running. It turns out the faucet on the back porch was leaking, not a flood, but not a drip. I told her I would be over in ten minutes.

Castle Dunure Waves by overgraeme fcc
Castle Dunure Waves by overgraeme (FCC)

Now first, the really odd thing: I was wide awake. I had awakened at 5:30 and was fully alert. This is not a normal state of being for me. Anyway, I drove over to her house and tried to shut off the valve but couldn’t. As I was working, my mother was standing there rubbing her chest with her fist, which is something that she does when she is stressed.

I made her a cup of chamomile tea and sat her down on the couch while I looked up the number for a plumbing company that we had both used. I left her sitting on her couch watching television and sipping her tea.

“I draw in a ragged breath, the kind you take when the pain is too deep to cry, when you can’t cry because all you are is pain, and if you let some of it out, you might cease to exist.” ~ Ally Condie, from Reached

I got back home and made myself a cup of tea and opened the book I was reading. Around 7:30 I was picking up the phone to call my mother to see when the plumbers were coming, but the phone rang first. My mother was on the other end, and she said that she thought that she was having a heart attack.  I will admit that I did not believe her because she has been saying that she’s dying for the last four or five months, but I told her to hang up, open her front door if she could, and I would call 911, which I did immediately.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) taking flight to avoid crashing waves
Great Egret Avoiding Waves by Mike Baird (FCC)

By the time I put some clothes back on, brushed my teeth, and raced back over to my mother’s house, which is only two miles away, the ambulance was gone, which I knew wasn’t a good sign. I went into her house briefly to make sure the cat hadn’t gotten out, and just as I was going to call 911 again to see where they had taken her, the phone rang again; it was the rescue squad. They were taking her to Leigh ER.

I got back in the car, turned on the emergency flashers, and tried to make record time. Let me pause here to say that people are genuinely assholes. Each time I tried to pass someone, another person would deliberately block me in. One guy in a van next to me even laughed. It is truly a good thing that I do not own a weapon.

Somewhere in between all of this my mother had called the water company, and they came out and shut off her water until we could get the faucet taken care of.

“And so does my life tremble,
and when I turn from the window
and from the sea’s grief, the room
fills with a dark
lushness and foliage nobody
will ever be plucked from,
and the feelings I have
must never be given speech.” ~ Denis Johnson, from “Now”

I got to the hospital and was sent back to the ER. The cardiologist told me that they were taking my mom to the cardiac catheter lab to see exactly what was going on. I was sent to another waiting room where I began to text everyone to let them know what was going on. Eamonn showed up, and we waited together for some word.

The cardiologist came out and said that they were setting up transport for my mother to the Heart Hospital in Norfolk. He was unable to do any angioplasty as she had too many arterial blockages. They inserted a balloon to try to relieve some of the pain. At this point, I was completely on autopilot, taking in information and disseminating it to everyone as clearly as possible.

Crash Down by Mooganic fcc
Crash Down by Mooganic (FCC)

I got back in the car, realized I had no gas, and went to Costco to get gas. Another pause here: This was the day that the massive winter storm was supposed to hit, and in this area, any talk of snow immediately sends everyone into a panic, so I waited fifteen minutes to get gas, then drove to the Heart Hospital only to find that my mother still hadn’t arrived.

Another waiting room, another wait. Luckily, they had a canteen where I could get coffee that looked like it was pure bitterness, or use the hot water dispenser to make tea. I chose the latter, found an empty computer, and played spider solitaire.

“Melancholy, being a kind of vacatio, separation of soul from body, bestowed the gift of clairvoyance and premonition. In the classifications of the Middle Ages, melancholy was included among the seven forms of vacatio, along with sleep, fainting, and solitude.” ~ Ioan P. Couliano, from Eros and Magic in the Renaissance

At some point during all of this I was finally able to talk to Corey, who then had the decision to make as to whether or not to cancel his training and come home early. We put that decision on hold until we knew more about the situation.

I spent the day in the hospital room with my mother, who was obviously exhausted, waiting for one of the heart surgeons to come and talk to us about options. Around 5, one of them showed up. He had an Eastern European accent, and I could tell that my mother didn’t understand him. He told us that mom was not a candidate for bypass surgery because the damage to her heart was too extensive; also, that she had an aneurysm sitting on top of her heart.

When he left, my mother was extremely upset. She wanted to talk to other surgeons because she was certain someone else would operate. In all, we spoke with three different surgeons, and they all said the same thing: she would not survive the surgery—mitigating factors included her age, how very damaged her heart was, and the location of the aneurysm.

Fitzgerald Marine Reserve by donjd2 fcc
Fitzgerald Marine Reserve by donjd2 (FCC)

That evening, Alexis, Brett, and Olivia came to visit, and that really made my mom’s day. She told everyone within hearing distance that her great-granddaughter danced, and Olivia obliged. Brett rode home with me, and we stopped by my mother’s house on the way to take care of the cat. Another aside: I locked the keys in the car, which contained my phone, my purse, and the fast food we had gotten at Wendy’s.

Brett has no spare key to his Honda. Two hours later roadside service finally arrived to unlock the car. I decided to drive my mother’s Honda home because it was higher than Brett’s old one. Turns out it drives really, really well on snow and ice.

What else could possibly go wrong? I should not have asked. By the time I got home that night I was emotionally and physically spent. I fell asleep with the television on.

“Because we are not the owners of anything,
not even of our own pain
at which we have looked with awe so many times.
……….

We are the owners of wishing everything: what sadness.
We are the owners of fear, dust, smoke, the wind. ~ Francisca Aguirre, from “The Owners”

The storm hit as we were leaving the hospital, and it did indeed snow for more than 12 hours. When I awoke, I called Mom, who was resting comfortably. I told her I would be there as soon as I could. That turned out to be hours later.

When I tried to back the car out of the driveway, I immediately got stuck. Brett did some digging, but it was really deep. I took Corey’s truck, which has two bald tires and no brakes and skated to the nearby Taylor’s to get a snow shovel and some salt. I skated back on the icy roads, and Brett got me unstuck. I made it to the hospital around four, and by that time, there were no doctors available for me to talk to. Mom said that they had told her she would be going home on the weekend. I left word that I really needed to speak to the doctors about her treatment plan, and I left around six.

Rehoboth Beach Waves by Clearly Ambiguous fcc
Rehoboth Beach Waves by Clearly Ambiguous (FCC)

It was a helluva of a day, but Mom seemed better. I mean, she felt well enough to criticize me over some minor things, so that was a good sign, and I was really starting to believe that this was yet another in a long line of her being really sick but then getting back to her old self. Part of me now thinks that she really did know that something inside was very wrong.

On Thursday, I met Mike over at Mom’s house because he was going to fix the faucet. He did that and shoveled her sidewalk and said that he would clear the driveway before she came home. Then Brett and I went to the hospital. When we arrived, Mom was wide awake and alert. She had gotten out of bed, and they had disconnected everything except for the oxygen cannula. Mom sniped at me about everything, and I could tell that she was getting antsy and wanted to come home. She was talking about just living her life, going to bingo, doing what she wanted to do.

I spoke with her cardiologist, who said that she would probably be released on Saturday. I spoke with the home health coordinator, and mom got mad over that as she didn’t want anyone coming into her home. She insisted that she took her medicine just as she was supposed to and didn’t need anyone’s help. When we left, she was talking the ear off a nurse. I felt more relaxed than I had in days. On the way home Alexis and I made plans to clean mom’s house on Friday so that she would stop worrying about it.

Thursday night Corey came home.

“I’ve become someone’s idea of me.
You can no longer read the wax seal of the sun.
The trees no longer mention anything about the wind.
I don’t see who could play me later on.
It turns out I am buried myself.
It turns out we are all buried alive
in the chamber of someone else’s heart.” ~ Richard Jackson, from “Antigone Today”

I should have known, but I didn’t, didn’t have a clue. It really did not cross my mind after Thursday’s visit that she wouldn’t be coming home. I mean, when she first went into the hospital, while she was till in CICU, I had that talk with the doctors, you know the one: to call a code or not to, a DNR order, morphine for comfort. That talk.

But by Thursday night I told Corey that I was almost sorry that I had asked him to come home because she was doing so well.

Pillar Rock and Big Waves at Sunset Morro Bay, CA 19 Jan 2010
Pillar Rock and Big Waves at Sunset Morro Bay, CA by Mike Baird (FCC)

I should have known. But I didn’t.

Friday morning at 9:15 a nurse from the hospital called. My mother had died.

They had taken in her breakfast tray. She was fine. Then a short time later alerts went off. She had just died. They think it might have been the aneurysm. She was gone and now I am left to pick up the pieces, to try to keep the family together, to find a home for her cat, to cull through over 46 years of stuff. I’m trying to plan an informal memorial service. She didn’t want to be buried, didn’t want a viewing, didn’t want a funeral, so she’s being cremated.

That last day, when we got to the hospital, I sat on her bed and looked at her, really looked at her. That saying, “looks just like she’s sleeping”? Bullshit. She didn’t look like she was sleeping. Then I did something odd: I opened her eyelids and looked into her eyes. They weren’t cloudy. It was the first time I had looked into my mother’s eyes in years and years and years. It was the closest the two of us had been physically since I don’t even remember when. I held her hand, touched her cheek, and apologized for not being who she wanted me to be.

And then I left.

Music by Rose Cousins, “Go First”

                   

The Oracle

You have gone once more to the seashore
and this time you have looked at the horizon
with a fugitive’s lust.
You have asked yourself with sadness
who in Ithaca would notice your absence:
the sea toward which you always look,
the heavens you never question,
the land that waits for you assuredly.
Your bonds are of an impassive nature.
Are you thinking of destroying them,
are you thinking of escaping by denying
that pathway your feet have made?
You feel it, you don’t think about it;
one cannot ponder devastation.
You look at the water with haste:
with tired haste.

You are like an oracle that does not believe in the future.

~ Francisca Aguirre

“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”