“There are no rules of architecture for a castle in the clouds.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

Bamburgh Castle in the Clouds (Pixdaus)

                   

“You are standing in the sky. When we think of the sky, we tend to look up, but the sky actually begins at the earth. We walk through it, yell into it . . .We breathe it deep within us. With every breath, we inhale millions of molecules of sky, heat them briefly, and then exhale them back into the world.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Where the Sea Meets the Sky, by Tristan Campbell (Pixdaus)

When we are children, we have such dreams, dreams of who we’ll be, where we’ll go, who we’ll meet, things we will accomplish. We see possibilities everywhere, and it doesn’t occur to us not to think these things.

I remember thinking that I could live in a castle, that I could live on a farm, that I could swing on a trapeze and fly through the air, that I could be president of the United States. I dreamed of being an actor, a singer, a writer. I read Island of the Blue Dolphins and dreamed of living on an island and fending for myself in much the same way as the book’s main character. I read fables and tales of imaginary places and wondered what it would be like to live in such ethereal places.

And then I remember the first time an adult quashed my dreams: I wrote a poem in the 7th grade, and the teacher—a humorless man with dandruff on his shoulders—told me quite frankly that it wasn’t a poem because it did not rhyme and because it didn’t have the correct rhythm, which he proceeded to recite for me: da duh da duh da duh da duh. I looked at him in horror and walked away. I dropped the poem in the wastebasket on my way out the classroom.

Adults forget how to dream, and they very often forget that children still possess that ability.

“Her father’s well-remembered voice came to save her. ‘When you’re sad, my Little Star, go out of doors. It’s always better underneath the open sky.’” ~ Eva Ibbotson, The Countess Below the Stairs

Night Sky (Pixdaus)

Do I still dream?

I e-mailed a former colleague today and made the statement that I’m still trying to figure out what I’ll be when I grow up; there is more than a gram of truth in those words.

Let me back up: I know that the month of November leaves me completely spent emotionally. Even though this year was not terrible, it still affected me in ways that I am only now acknowledging. So I write this post full of pent-up emotions and unfulfilled dreams. I write with a sense of pain that lies always just beneath the surface. At least I am aware of this much.

At one point in my life I thought that I truly had all of the answers. How utterly laughable. I was in my mid-20’s and full of a sense of power and accomplishment that I had neither earned nor deserved. This reality did not keep me from acting as though the world was mine for the taking. I had but to reach out and my just rewards would come to me.

Ah youth. Folly and hubris rule unabated. Unabated, that is, until someone older and perhaps wiser steps in and crushes those dreams.

Is life just one long sequence of dreams followed by crushing realities? Do we ever reach a point at which the cycle stops? Does it take the relinquishing of dreams for this to happen? If so, then I refuse.

“Throw away the light, the definitions, and say what you see in the dark.” ~ Wallace Stevens

Gulls in the Night Sky (Pixdaus)

What do I dream? I dream of lazy afternoons, floating above the earth in a large hammock, a book on my chest, the sun in my eyes. I dream of hiking the Virginia foothills again, no thoughts of pain keeping me from the adventure. I dream of finally seeing the Grand Canyon and walking among the verdant hills of Ireland.

I dream.

I dream of writing the ultimate sentence, the one that makes me pause and say to myself, ‘Damn. That’s good.’ I dream of sitting in a darkened theater and listening to Puccini. And I dream of the day when I can think of those in my life who are no longer here and not feel as if my soul has been cleaved.

Thick cream-colored linen writing paper, hot mugs of strong sweet tea, wines heady with perfect blends of fruit and smoke, and rows upon rows of books. Reading lines of verse that make me wish that they were mine and listening to music that makes me teary-eyed. Walking through Central Park in the fall and smelling fresh cardamom and cinnamon in the markets of some far-away country.

Traveling by rail from Istanbul to anywhere. Seeing the earth below me from a hot air balloon. An afternoon spent on a beach fronting blue waters clear enough to see the bottom. Lying in a clearing at night beneath the open sky, gazing up at stars unobscured by city lights.

“I am the one who splits in the night.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre

Night Lightning Cleaves the Sky (Pixdaus)

What will I be?

I am old enough to remember “Que Sera,” to remember thinking to myself that it was a song of promises. I am also old enough to know all that I do not know, will never know.

These things I know: I will always be a product of the soil that nurtured me, which means that I will always be part of two worlds. I will be my father’s daughter, the good girl, the girl who could do anything, and I will be my mother’s daughter, the girl who was always reminded of imperfections, the girl who never knew how to do enough.

I have opened my heart to those who have trampled it and tossed it by the wayside carelessly. I have given my heart to those who have cherished it and held onto it with great care. I have learned to love again and again, and continue to be astounded at all that there is to learn about love—still.

I have bared my soul to strangers and friends, and I have found comfort in the arms of the unlikely. I have railed at injustices—real and perceived, and I have keened until I thought that my heart would break. I have laughed until I couldn’t breathe, and I have experienced bliss that left me breathless and weak.

A self-proclaimed curmudgeon, I am self-aware enough to know that at heart, I am a romantic. The complexity of all that is me still catches me unawares at times, as if this skin that I am in is new and untested, but that is hardly so.

“We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dream. Wandering by lone sea breakers, and sitting by desolate streams. World losers and world forsakers, for whom the pale moon gleams.” ~Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy

Walking to the Moon (Pixdaus)

What is the point in all of this? Damned if I know. I suppose that once in a while I find it imperative to gaze intently at my belly button to try to discern if some pattern exists, and quite predictably, one never does.

At night, as I seek the comfort of my bed, no great truths come to me. No epiphanies lurk on the periphery of my vision. At least, not usually, and I have become accustomed to that. If asked to identify the meaning of life, I would be just as hard-pressed as the next person. I know only that I still have much to know, that what I know I paid dearly to learn, and that there are things that I would quite willingly unknow if only I could.

I cheat destiny when I can because I know what an exacting master destiny can be. As the song says, “it’s only half past the point of no return.” I have enough fuel left in me to continue this journey, and with luck, I may one day reach the point at which I become what I am supposed to be.

Until then, “the time has come, my little friends, to talk of other things, of shoes and ships and sealing wax, and cabbages and kings” (Lewis Carroll).

More later. Peace.

Music by Pink, “Glitter in the Air”

                   

Glitter in the Air

Have you ever fed a lover with just your hands?
Closed your eyes and trusted, just trusted?
Have you ever thrown a fist full of glitter in the air?
Have you ever looked fear in the face and said, “I just don’t care”?

It’s only half past the point of no return
The tip of the iceberg
The sun before the burn
The thunder before the lightning
The breath before the phrase
Have you ever felt this way?

Have you ever hated yourself for staring at the phone?
You’re whole life waiting on the ring to prove you’re not alone
Have you ever been touched so gently you had to cry?
Have you ever invited a stranger to come inside?

It’s only half past the point of oblivion
The hourglass on the table
The walk before the run
The breath before the kiss
And the fear before the flames
Have you ever felt this way?

La La La La La La La La

There you are, sitting in the garden
Clutching my coffee,
Calling me sugar
You called me sugar

Have you ever wished for an endless night?
Lassoed the moon and the stars and pulled that rope tight?
Have you ever held your breath and asked yourself will it ever get better than tonight?
Tonight?

“I must learn to love the fool in me the one who feels too much, talks too much, takes too many chances, wins sometimes and loses often, lacks self-control, loves and hates, hurts and gets hurt, promises and breaks promises, laughs and cries” ~ Theodore Isaac Rubin

*Snow Bath by Corey Fickel

“All my life I have been on the brink of either a break down or a break through.” ~ Diane Ackerman

Saint Francis in the Snow

Our Internet has really been acting funky, which has made it hard to post. We have a wireless network in the house, and given that our house is not very big, there really shouldn’t be problems, but of course there are. My computer is farthest from the router, but that hasn’t seemed to make much of a difference until recently. The other computers in the house have Internet service, but I do not. It’s very frustrating, but we don’t really know why this is happening unless the router is going bad, which may be the case. I suspect the router because replacing it would cost money, and that’s how things work in this house. If it’s a simple, cheap fix, it doesn’t break; if it’s expensive, then it will break. 

Anyway, yesterday, I wasn’t even able to look at videos on YouTube, without my computer locking up, so I decided to abandon any hopes of posting. Today, things seems to be working fine, so I’ll take my chances. 

I think that I’ve decided to abandon Facebook. I don’t have much to report in the status bar, and my life isn’t so involved that I feel a need to update everyone on what isn’t happening. I think that Facebook can be fun for the people who participate in the games and polls, which I don’t. And it has been nice making contact with some people from my past, but after that initial contact, is there anything more to say? 

I think back to my old post on becoming a hermit, which I wrote sort of tongue in cheek, but I really think that a part of me is very much like a hermit: I don’t crave the company of lots of people, and the more time that I spend here in this little corner of my bedroom, the less I feel that I am connected to the outside world. I’m not bemoaning my fate, just making a statement. 

“I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unnerving ease. It begins in your mind, always . . .  ~ Yann Martel, Life of Pi

"I love this stuff . . ."

The port security company called Corey to schedule an interview, which is great. But now he is anxious, worrying about impressing them. I told him that it’s normal to be anxious given that he hasn’t really interviewed for a job in a long time, but he is convinced that he is not qualified. He finished his port security training with the Coast Guard but did not graduate because of his injury; therefore, he doesn’t have any certifications. I told him that he just needs to explain what happened, but he is tying himself up in knots over this. 

He does have the qualifications for this type of job. I just hope that he can make it through the interview. If he can do well in the interview, he has a good shot at the job. 

Being unemployed for so long has insidious effects, which are now coming to the front. Unemployment strips your confidence, makes you feel inadequate, and the longer the unemployment continues, the more you begin to believe that you are a failure, not worthy of consideration. Having had my own bout with unemployment, I truly understand what Corey is feeling, and unfortunately, all of the loving supportive words in the world cannot erase that overwhelming feeling of insecurity. 

Here’s hoping . . . 

“You can never have too much sky. You can fall asleep and wake up drunk on sky, and sky can keep you safe when you are sad. Here there is too much sadness and not enough sky. Butterflies too are few and so are flowers and most things that are beautiful. Still, we take what we can get and make the best of it.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House on Mango Street

Snow Buddha

I’m back to not sleeping. I have no idea what’s going on, and I’m at the point at which I don’t even try to ascertain reasons. Last night, for example, I fell asleep somewhere between 5:30 and 6 a.m. I got up at 7, 9:20, and 11 to let the dogs out. I don’t really think that they need to go out, but they get restless. I finally fell into a deep sleep after 11. 

This is so backwards. I did have a migraine for three days, so that probably contributed to things. Funnily enough, a representative from my long-term disability insurance called for an update a few days ago. I told her that absolutely nothing had changed. Still seeing the same doctors, still taking the same medicines . . . she asked about my days, as in what did I do. What could I tell her? I sit at the computer for a few hours, read, watch television. She wanted to know if I do any cleaning. I told her that I do some things but not others. 

Those periodic conversations really bring into focus how much my life has changed in the past two years, how I have gone from working a full day and then going to classes in Alexandria, how I have gone from cleaning my whole house to cleaning parts of my house, how I have gone from sleeping 6 hours to sleeping 10 hours. It is more depressing than I can begin to describe. 

I spend hours with ice packs on my head. I spend hours on the heating pad. I take my pills, and I look forward to small things: new episodes of NCIS, a good book, a movie, my favorite coffee. So while I have lost so much, I have also relearned the art of appreciating small things. I don’t exactly see it as a fair trade-off, but it is what it is for however long it stays this way. 

“And once the storm is over you won’t remember how you made it through, how you managed to survive. You won’t even be sure, in fact, whether the storm is really over. But one thing is certain. when you come out of the storm you won’t be the same person who walked in. That’s what this storm’s all about.” ~ Haruki Murakami

In the news: Ben Stein, commentator for CNN (why should anyone listen to the former Nixon speechwriter?) says that he knows why Republicans are not in favor of healthcare reform: “. . . The answer is much higher percentage of Republicans are taxpayers than Democrats and the Republicans are the people paying for it, and the Democrats are the people receiving it.” 

Surface of Frozen Pool (or Ben Stein's Brain)

Let me just pause here for a moment while I collect my breath . . . First, and probably most importantly, the IRS does not have a spot anywhere on its myriad of forms that asks taxpayers to indicate their political affiliation, if any, so how, pray tell, did Stein come up with that factoid? Second, and this is personal, we pay a boatload of taxes, always have. A January 2009 report by Forbes magazine stated the following: 

“The 400 highest-earning taxpayers in the U.S. reported a record $105 billion in total adjusted gross income in 2006, but they paid just $18 billion in tax, new Internal Revenue Service figures show. That works out to an average federal income tax bite of 17%—the lowest rate paid by the richest 400 during the 15-year period covered by the IRS statistics. The average federal tax bite on the top 400 was 30% in 1995 and 23% in 2002.” 

This report says nothing about political parties, just income levels. In my many years of paying taxes, I have never had a 17 percent rate. Never. Stick it Ben Stein, you blowhard. (Thank you Skyewriter for the heads up.) 

In other news, former Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis only received $32,171 in compensation for 2009. Poor Lewis. Oh wait. I forgot to mention: Lewis also received $73 million in accumulated compensation and retirement benefits, which brings his net to $73,032,171, approximately . . . 

Fannie Mae wants another $15.3 Billion, yes with a B, in aid. Okeedokee.  Let’s take these things and compare them to the fact that unemployment benefits for millions of people expire this weekend, but lone Republican Senator Jim Bunning of Kentucky is holding a temporary extension hostage over concerns about the deficit.  On Thursday, the House passed a bill temporarily extending the programs for a month until lawmakers can address the issues long-term. The Senate tried to follow suit, but the lone Republican Senator held out. 

Don’t get me wrong, I, too, have issues with the deficit. Perhaps we can ask Ken Lewis for a contribution, say $73 million or so? 

Enough financial news. It makes my eyes water and creates a sharp pain behind my right eye. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Imogen Heap, “The Moment I Said It” (heard it on “Criminal Minds,” which has a soundtrack almost as awesome as “NCIS.”) 

 

  

*Corey took all of the pictures featured the day after the snow storm we had here a few weeks ago.