Banned Books Week Banner by DML East Branch
“Because we cannot fly we are condemned to do things that do not agree with us. Because we have no wings we are pushed into struggles and abominations which we did not seek, and then, after that, the years go by, the mountains are leveled, the valleys rise, the rivers are blocked by the sand and the cliffs fall into the sea.” ~ Louis de Bernières, from Birds Without Wings
Saturday afternoon. Cool and cloudy, low 60’s. Smells like fall.
Now Corey is sick. Whatever it is, it has pretty much made the rounds in the house. Brett and Corey seem to have gotten the worse of it—the body aches, the hurting chest.
Another bad night with very strange dreams, something about being a participant in “Project Runway,” even though I don’t sew, taking care of someone else’s baby, but with not enough diapers, and a massive asthma attack in my dream that turned into a real attack and had me fumbling for my inhaler in a half-sleep state. It’s always disconcerting when something happens in a dream that carries over into real life, for me, it’s almost always a headache that starts in a dream and then wakes me because of the pain. Very rarely is it my asthma.
Even though everyone is home today except for Eamonn, the house is very quiet. Since I began this post, the clouds have passed, and the sky is blue with just a few clouds. You see, I took a break between paragraphs to go wash the dishes, so enough time has passed for the weather to change. Still lovely and cool, though.
“Every journey is played out between standstill and flight.” ~ Claudio Magris, Danube: A Sentimental Journey from the Source to the Black Sea
Etta James is singing “At Last” in the background. Such a wonderful song. Such a strong, sultry voice. Love those old torch songs.
It still slays me to think that the women of color of that era had to go in the back door and could not even frequent the nightclubs in which they performed. I suppose that it was okay to listen to them just as long as they weren’t treated like real human beings.
Supposed civilized societies . . .
Tonight is the season finale of “Doctor Who,” series 6. Supposedly, we are going to have answers to questions that were raised in “The Impossible Astronaut” episode. Right. Moffat never explains everything; something is always held back.
I’m still trying to cope with the concept that no new Who episodes, save for the Christmas special, will be aired for a year. That’s just not right, to draw in people, get their undying devotion, and then leave them hanging for a year. Who does that?
Steven Moffat, that’s who.
Yes, I know. My Whovian obsession is quirky, but it brings me pleasure, so in the grand scheme of things, it’s important, at least for now.
“We do not find our own center; it finds us. Our own mind will not be able to figure it out.” ~ Richard Rohr, from “Everything Belongs”
So I’ve been thinking about things, you know, little things. Like life.
- Wall Street.
- Body image.
- Peanut butter.
Strange list, no? Bear with me as I attempt to elucidate . . .
Life, death, money: The relative from whom we borrowed the money for the mortgage is the son of someone I called uncle my whole life. This man was a very important fixture in my life, and he died one year after my father. I still dream of him, that’s what a fixture he and his family have been in my life. When I was young, I babysat his five children during the summer. I attended almost all of his children’s weddings, and have been to baby showers for their children.
Children, parents: This week, Ann packed up her mother’s home because her father is putting it on the market. We had to pick up the crib and cradle that I’ve had in storage in her attic for years. I’ve saved the crib all of these years for Alexis. When I told her that we had to move the crib and asked her if it could go into her storage unit, she informed me quite matter-of-factly that she did not want the crib. You could have knocked me over as I was so astounded by her complete disinterest.
Wall Street, liars: I read an interesting comment directed to the protestors in New York. It suggested that they all wear polo shirts and khakis when they protest, and you know, that makes complete sense. If the protestors look like young Republicans, then the country will be horrified that they are being sprayed in the face with pepper spray. As long as these protestors look like throw-back hippies, no one cares what happens to them. Witness the complete lack of coverage by the mainstream media. Polo shirts + khakis = pseudo respectability. Unfortunately, true.
Republicans, Democrats: I also read a blip that said during one of his recent speeches, President Obama referenced the Bible story about Meshach, Shadrach, and Abednego, the devout guys who were supposed to be burned alive but who survived because Jesus was with them in the fire. I love this particular story mostly because I love the names of the men, very cool names. But what is interesting is that Obama frequently makes biblical references in his speeches, but he’s still referred to as a heathen, called a Muslim as if it’s a horrendous thing. He cannot win. Whatever.
“A word is not the same with one writer as with another. One tears it from his guts. The other pulls it out of his overcoat pocket.” ~ Charles Péguy
Blogs, writing: I also read an article that said that tumblr is one of the fastest-growing social mediums because of what it does: it allows users to present stream of consciousness postings, as opposed to long posts (as in WordPress), or keep track of friends (as in Facebook), or limits the number of characters (as in Twitter). Apparently, tumblr’s retention rate—that is the number of people who sign up and then actually actively use the site—is higher than any of the other sites. I can understand this, but it made me wonder if the whole idea of blogs is becoming passé, and if this is true, what does that mean for me?
Books, reading: Then there was the quote that said something along the lines that failed writers make the best publishers because they recognize good writing. It made me pause. Is that why I got a degree in publishing, because I consider myself to be a failed writer? Probably.
Peanut butter, body image, aging: I’ve been craving peanut butter a lot lately. I have no idea why. I know that the protein is good for me, but the fat is bad for me. And yesterday in the car, somehow Brett and Em started talking about plastic surgery and how it looks terrible, and I thought about how I declared years ago that I would never get plastic surgery, and I still would never get a face lift because the results are just weird, but I would have my neck and arms tightened, and I would love to melt the fat in my belly. And none of this is ever going to happen because it’s a waste of money.
“There is a pain so utter
It swallows Being up.
Then covers the abyss with trance,
So memory can step
Around, across, upon it.” ~ Emily Dickinson
Physicians, alchemy: Thursday, I received a telephone call from the neurologist’s office; it was the nurse that I’ve been going back and forth on regarding getting botox shots for my migraines. She told me this time that she’s having a hard time getting approval for the shots because there is nothing in my file about having migraines that last longer than four hours or for 15 days out of the month. I got pissed. I told her that that was the whole reason that I was seeing a neurologist as my pain management doctor for my migraines, who I had been seeing since 2003, could no longer do anything to help with my headaches, and he was the one who sent me to them. I also reminded her that during my first visit, I signed a release form for the neurologist’s office to get my files from the pain management people.
She was a real bitch and incredibly snotty. I don’t know why this woman is fighting me. I’ve never even met her. She said something along the lines of, “so you are refusing to come in and see Dr. R.” I said, no, I’m not refusing to do that, but Dr. R is the one who told me that she couldn’t do anything for me and told me to see her partner for the shots, so what is the point. Then she called me back and said that Dr. R wanted to know if I’ve ever had a migraine that has lasted longer than four hours. I said, “I’ve had a migraine that lasted for three weeks.” She said, and this is verbatim, “So that’s a yes?”
Did I have a mouthful of marbles when I was talking? If a migraine lasts for three weeks, isn’t that indicative that it lasted longer than four hours? In the middle ages, medical treatment was sometimes handled by alchemists, those people who claimed that they could change the chemical properties of things, such as lead into gold. My feeling is that at this point, I would be better served by an alchemist.
My life is Dr. Seuss book.
“It is inner luxury, of golden figures
that breathe like mountains do
and whose skin is made dusky by stars.” ~ Joanne Kyger, from “September”
So that’s what I’ve been thinking about, what this mind of mine has been pondering.
Of course, there are many other things, like the fact that my dogs think that peanut butter is doggie crack, or that I really, really wish that I could take a long, hot bath, but the hole in my bathtub makes that impossible.
As soon as the temperature outside dips into the 60’s, my spirit is ready for hot baths. Ah well. At least there is running water, which is more than what a majority of the world’s population has access to, right?
Oh. One last thing.
Censorship: In honor of the last day of Banned Books Week, I’ll close with the following passage by Aldous Huxley, an author whose novel Brave New World (1932) is perpetually selected to be banned by those who cannot abide thinking that goes beyond what their tiny little minds comprehend:
“It’s dark because you are trying too hard. Lightly child, lightly. Learn to do everything lightly. Yes, feel lightly even though you’re feeling deeply. Just lightly let things happen and lightly cope with them . . . Lightly, lightly . . . When it comes to dying even. Nothing ponderous, or portentous, or emphatic. No rhetoric, no tremolos, no self conscious persona putting on its celebrated imitation of Christ or Little Nell. And of course, no theology, no metaphysics. Just the fact of dying and the fact of the clear light. So throw away your baggage and go forward. There are quicksands all about you, sucking at your feet, trying to suck you down into fear and self-pity and despair. That’s why you must walk so lightly. Lightly my darling, on tiptoes and no luggage, not even a sponge bag, completely unencumbered.”
~ Aldous Huxley, Island
Music by the Eagles, “Wasted Time”
You Can’t Have It All
But you can have the fig tree and its fat leaves like clown hands
gloved with green. You can have the touch of a single eleven-year-old finger
on your cheek, waking you at one a.m. to say the hamster is back.
You can have the purr of the cat and the soulful look
of the black dog, the look that says, If I could I would bite
every sorrow until it fled, and when it is August,
you can have it August and abundantly so. You can have love,
though often it will be mysterious, like the white foam
that bubbles up at the top of the bean pot over the red kidneys
until you realize foam’s twin is blood.
You can have the skin at the center between a man’s legs,
so solid, so doll-like. You can have the life of the mind,
glowing occasionally in priestly vestments, never admitting pettiness,
never stooping to bribe the sullen guard who’ll tell you
all roads narrow at the border.
You can speak a foreign language, sometimes,
and it can mean something. You can visit the marker on the grave
where your father wept openly. You can’t bring back the dead,
but you can have the words forgive and forget hold hands
as if they meant to spend a lifetime together. And you can be grateful
for makeup, the way it kisses your face, half spice, half amnesia, grateful
for Mozart, his many notes racing one another towards joy, for towels
sucking up the drops on your clean skin, and for deeper thirsts,
for passion fruit, for saliva. You can have the dream,
the dream of Egypt, the horses of Egypt and you riding in the hot sand.
You can have your grandfather sitting on the side of your bed,
at least for a while, you can have clouds and letters, the leaping
of distances, and Indian food with yellow sauce like sunrise.
You can’t count on grace to pick you out of a crowd
but here is your friend to teach you how to high jump,
how to throw yourself over the bar, backwards,
until you learn about love, about sweet surrender,
and here are periwinkles, buses that kneel, farms in the mind
as real as Africa. And when adulthood fails you,
you can still summon the memory of the black swan on the pond
of your childhood, the rye bread with peanut butter and bananas
your grandmother gave you while the rest of the family slept.
There is the voice you can still summon at will, like your mother’s,
it will always whisper, you can’t have it all,
but there is this.
~ Barbara Ras
Lightning Strikes the Eiffel Tower (thesun.co.uk)
“I would up heart, were it not like lead. But my whole clock’s run down; my heart the all-controlling weight, I have no key to lift again.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Friday early evening. Sunny, not too hot, humid.
I have not yet adjusted my sleeping patterns to coincide with Brett and Em’s morning classes on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, which means that I take them to school and then come home and go back to sleep. Ideally, I would be falling asleep earlier than 3 a.m. so that waking at 9 wouldn’t be a problem.
We all know how ideally works for me—it doesn’t. Hence, the interrupted sleep patterns and headaches upon waking. Sometimes I wonder how I ever arose at 5 a.m. and did a full workout before going to work. Talk about ambitious. My workout today consisted of cleaning the bathroom and doing a bit of laundry. Whee, feel the burn.
Speaking of which, the wrist is still aching, but my mom is better today. She called her doctor’s office to tell them what’s going on, and they can’t see her until September 6; they told her to go to the ER if the stumbling happens again, which is what I had said to her. She does sound better today, and she ate something healthy, so there’s that.
Last night I had strange dreams about talking penguins and a pike fish that was trying to bite off my arm. The oldest penguin’s name was Bart. Very strange but interesting at the same time. The penguins were quite delightful; the pike was not. It had long needle-like teeth like Prisoner Zero on Doctor Who. I don’t even try to interpret such dreams any more as what could they possibly mean . . .
“Somewhere we know that without silence words lose their meaning, that without listening speaking no longer heals, that without distance closeness cannot cure.” ~ Henri J.M. Nouwen
Wednesday evening. Hot, humid, and pending storms.
Well, you might say that I took a few days off since writing the last section. Understatement . . .
The wrist was way painful; my mom was way needy, and access to the computer was way limited. Okay. So I just wasn’t up to writing. Whatever.
Yesterday I had two much-postponed doctor’s appointments with the pain management doctor and my therapist: eighteen trigger shots later, from my ears to my butt, and one cortisone shot in the wrist. In between appointments, I worked on the also postponed paper work, then, on to Dr. K. to discuss my life for 45 minutes.
Unlike what I expected, I was very restrained. I think that I’m still in postponement mode. In fact, I know that I am. When I told Dr. K. that I was holding off on my grieving, she looked me dead in the eye and said that if anyone could do that, I could. I spent several hours today cleaning floors throughout the house, something that my back and my wrist are thanking me for at this moment. Actually, I’m supposed to be looking through the family photos for pictures of Grandma with the kids.
Why don’t I just rip my heart out now and throw it on the floor and stomp on it because that’s how it’s going to feel once I get in the midst of going through old photographs.
“September: it was the most beautiful of words, he’d always felt, evoking orange-flowers, swallows, and regret.” ~ Alexander Theroux
I told Dr. K that I don’t have any regrets with my m-in-law. Of course, that’s not true. I live filled to the brim with regrets, every moment of every day. I am a walking regret. Je regrette should be tattooed across my body somewhere. Jean Valjean (Les Miserables) has nothing on me when it comes to guilt and regret.
I wish that I had gone to the hospital while she was still conscious so that she could hear me say I love you one more time instead of my whispered words when she was slipping away. Of course, I wish that I had said I love you one more time to my father.
I wish that I had visited more in the past two years when she was still somewhat with us mentally, that I had sat down and had coffee, that I had asked her for recipes.
I wish that I had taken her to the symphony in the same way that she used to take me whenever there was a performance that she knew that I would appreciate. I saw Itzhak Perlman because of her. I saw one of Nureyev’s last performances because of her. What did I do for her?
How do we measure how much we have contributed to another person’s life? How do we know if we have done enough? How do we live with ourselves when we know that we have not done enough?
How do we know if we have really touched another person, that we have made an impact on them? Is it selfish to wish that you’ve made an impact?
So many questions and no real answers. It’s the Gordian knot all over again—it doesn’t matter from which direction you approach the problem, it’s seemingly unsolvable.
“… and between us every elegy, all the fallen
language that couldn’t hold its own
and wouldn’t give it back, had no flesh
except how long dust keeps our alphabets.” ~ Brian Teare, from “Eden Tiresias”
When I look in the mirror, I want to like the person that I see staring back at me. I have never been able to do that. I couldn’t really tell you why. Or actually, I probably have a thousand reasons why, but none seem to make sense to anyone but me.
At the end of my days, I don’t want to have lived like Bartleby the Scrivener, the man who preferred not to, so he never did. Literary criticism has all sorts of reasons as to why Bartleby did not, the most common being that it was his way of being a conscientious objector, his protest against the life that was being imposed upon him.
That’s not even close to what I’m talking about in this case. More precisely, I want to have participated, to have savored, to have tasted, to have dabbled, to have shared, to have given, to have touched, to have been touched, to have explored, to have dared, to have ventured, to have tried. Dammit, I want to have at least have tried.
Losing someone you love always leads to self-reflection, and that’s probably the only good part of losing someone you love. But as I sit here and bang on these keys, so many thoughts are churning through my brain, so many what-ifs, so many why-nots.
At the end of her days, my mother-in-law was not the person she had been. But the person she had been was strong and intelligent and generous with her time and talents. And to be perfectly honest, she would have hated the navel-gazing that I am currently embroiled in performing. She was not one to harbor deep regrets, at least, I don’t think that she was, but what in the hell do I even know about anything.
“However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.” ~ Stanley Kubrick
So, here is where I am at the moment: absolutely nowhere. My head is spinning; my back is aching, and my heart is breaking. I must tell you that this is not a good combination. I could chalk all of this up to not sleeping, but I know, and so do you too, probably, that it’s so much more.
If you are able to derive any sort of linear thought from this post, congratulations. That’s more than I could, and I apologize for that. Perhaps I should have chosen the path of restraint and not have written at all, but I feel as if I am on the brink of something, but I am not quite sure as to what that might be.
Perhaps it’s a poem. Perhaps, it’s just an idea for a post. I can only tell you that I sense something right beneath the surface of my consciousness, so close that I can almost glean a glimpse, but then it slips away. Is it the Silence (Dr. Who reference), lurking there in the corner of the mirror, just out of sight but close enough to control my actions?
Perhaps. Perhaps not. Perhaps I just have a build up of words that have had no outlet for days, and they are reaching critical mass. Perhaps it’s indigestion, but that would require eating an actual meal; wouldn’t it?
I have eaten, but I only taste dust, to be truthful. Perhaps tomorrow I shall dare to eat a peach and wear my trousers rolled, and then, and only then, I will be able to tap into whatever this is.
Until then, silence, and not the Dr. Who kind.
More later. Peace.
“I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables (original cast soundtrack)
The Three Oddest Words
When I pronounce the word Future,
the first syllable already belongs to
When I pronounce the word Silence,
I destroy it.
pronounce the word Nothing,
I make something no nonbeing can hold.
~ Wisława Szymborska