“In the falling quiet there was no sky or earth, only snow lifting in the wind, frosting the window glass, chilling the rooms, deadening and hushing the city.” ~ Truman Capote, from “Miriam”

View of the farm from the back deck
“Boughs of trees adorned with thick pillows,
so fluffy someone must have plumped them up;
the ground a series of humps and mounds,
beneath which slinking underbrush or outcrops of rock lay hidden;” ~ Thomas Mann, from The Magic Mountain

 Sunday afternoon, cloudy and cold, 32 degrees, more snow forecast.

View of the pasture from the front of the house

It began snowing during the night and continued into early afternoon. I estimate about five or six inches on the ground, and the weather is predicting more to come. I am mesmerized by how everything here looks. It is more beautiful than I could have ever imagined.

In scouring the internet in search of appropriate quotes and a poem for today, I was dismayed to find only the most well known of quotes and poems, you know, Christine Rossetti’s “In the Deep Midwinter,” which I love, but I’ve used before, I’m certain. And I do try very hard not to repeat the poems or songs that I include; although, it’s a bit harder with quotes.

But I thought of Galway Kinnell, one of my favorite poets, and I reasoned that he had to have a poem that fit the mood of this post. I was not wrong, but the poem, which is about his wife, is a bit melancholy, I’ll admit, just so you know.

“Is it snowing where you are? All the world that I see from my tower is draped in white and the flakes are coming down as big as pop-corns. It’s late afternoon – the sun is just setting (a cold yellow colour) behind some colder violet hills, and I am up in my window seat using the last light to write to you.” ~ Jean Webster, from Daddy-Long-Legs

Corey has driven to Dallas’s house to pick up some hay for the horses; although they seem to be grazing just fine beneath the snow. Napoleon and Sassy continue to break out of the pasture, and have taken to coming onto the front porch to get my attention. While Corey wonders how we always manage to have animals with so much personality, I smile inwardly. It does not surprise me at all that the horses have already developed distinct personalities. It just take a little conversation, a little attention, a little love.

Tillie in the snow in her very big coat

Animals are not dumb. People are.

I put the coats on the dogs before they ventured out again. Tillie loved hers, Bailey not so much. Though it looks as if I’m going to have to switch them—the coats, not the dogs. Originally I had bought a bigger coat for Tillie, but hers is too big, and Bailey’s is, well, a bit snug; she was not amused when I told her that she had gotten bigger.

Anyway, while the dogs are enjoying the snow, and the horses seem a bit indifferent, the cats are having none of it. Ash took a quick peek out the front door and immediately turned around and plopped himself back down in front of the wood stove, as if to say, “You must be joking.” Cleo, the other cat, rarely stirs from sleeping 23 hours a day unless it’s to eat or to peer out the back door as if to reassure herself that she is no longer living outside.

Speaking of the wood stove, we really need to buy a bellows for it. It’s not that large, but it puts out a lot of heat once the fire gets going, that being the operational phrase—gets going, as in it takes a lot for that to happen. Corey ends up frustrated daily by the lack of cooperation that he gets from the stove/fire.

“All Heaven and Earth
Flowered white obliterate…
Snow…unceasing snow” ~ Hashin (only known haiku)

When I awoke very early this morning, the flakes that were falling were big drops of fluff, bigger than I’ve seen in quite a while. I had to stop myself from waking Corey so that he could see, as I didn’t think that he’d appreciate it.

View of outbuildings from the kitchen window

Once we finally stirred ourselves hours later, it was still snowing. I noticed that it was almost impossible to make out the top of the ridge as everything was snow covered, and the sky was white, so it appeared as one long white gradient. Sometimes, it’s nice to see the world a little blurry as I do without my glasses and truthfully, sometimes with them; but I do enjoy seeing the lines blurred between nature’s boundaries, earth to sky.

Unfortunately, I know that I need to get my eyes checked again before ordering new glasses. The last time that I was at the eye doctor in Norfolk, she had said that my vision will continue to deteriorate because of the cataracts but that the cataracts weren’t yet bad enough to operate.

A classic catch-22. Aging is fun.

What will also be fun is trying to find an eye surgeon around here that I trust to do the work on both eyes, and with my ill luck in finding just a regular doctor, I’m seriously considering going back to Norfolk at the beginning of the year to get my eyes checked out and to make an appointment for the operation.

“The crisp path through the field in this December snow, in the deep dark, where we trod the buried grass like ghosts on dry toast.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from Quite Early One Morning: Stories

I’m torn between putting on layers of clothes and venturing outside for real, as in past the porches, or taking a nap, or taking a hot bath. For now, I’ll just sit here and write until something changes, I suppose.

A view of the ridge from the front of the house

Last night I had a very strange dream in which there was a lot of movement between two houses, people going back and forth. What is strange about this dream is that the night before, I dreamed that an old friend was supposed to come to dinner, but I had forgotten to tell him that I had moved, so he went to the old house and then had to drive to the new one. It doesn’t take a dream interpretation book to understand the underlying contexts; still, it’s a bit unnerving in that the people who populate these particular dreams are ones I have not seen in many years.

A few nights ago, when I could not sleep, I wrote a poem, something very unlike most of my other poems. It was a take from a news article that I wrote a lifetime ago about the nightlife in Norfolk. For that particular story, I girded myself with an assortment of my male friends, and for several nights ventured into various seedy after-hours establishments around the city, one of which was a strip bar outside Gate 1 of what used to be the Amphibious Base. I use the term strip loosely as Norfolk outlawed stripping years ago, so the women wore bathing suits and/or shorts.

Anyway, the poem that I wrote was about that bar. Again, something from years ago. I truly haven’t the faintest idea why that experience would pop into my head at 2 a.m. or why I would suddenly be possessed to write a poem about it, but it did, and I was.

Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

“In your hands winter
is a book with cloud pages
that snow pearls of love.” ~ Aberjhani,from “Angel of Earth Days and Seasons”

So I suppose the last thing on my mind is this preoccupation we now have with trigger warnings. I mean, I just watched the video for “Drunk Girl,” by Chris Janson, and there was actually a warning about the video’s contents. I just don’t understand.

Looking through the trees straight through to infinity

Look, I absolutely do understand that people have terrible experiences that can come roaring back out of the past without any warning, triggered by an image or a song or whatever. I know that only too well as it happens to me. But country songs are all about love and hurt and heartbreak and the wrong man and the wrong woman and life and . . . And now we have to put warnings on videos that contain no nudity, no violence, nothing of the sort, only an implied abusive relationship?

I read a story in the news a few days ago about how today’s youth wants to be sheltered from so many things, and it isn’t good for them. Okay, so I just used the phrase “today’s youth,” which is really, really weird. Next, I’ll be yelling for people to get off my lawn. But I digress . . .

I suppose it’s a combination of helicopter parenting and that derogatory term of snowflakes to describe young people. But if a person is never exposed to anything that might, just might, maybe, possibly be a bit negative, then how on earth is that individual ever going to grow? Going to develop that invisible exoskeleton with which we armor ourselves in order to deal with life?

We’ve gone from the horrors of forcing children to work 18 hours a day for mere pennies to shielding them from commercials that might have a scary message. I am completely befuddled, but then, that’s not exactly a new thing.

Okay. Time for a hot cup of tea and a bath. All of the images are mine.

More later. Peace.


Music by David Lanz, “Whiter Shade of Pale” (bet you thought it was going to be “Drunk Girl”). I cannot tell you how many times I listened to David Lanz’s CD Cristofori’s Dream while driving through the cemetery on cold winter days.


Two Seasons

I

The stars were wild that summer evening
As on the low lake shore stood you and I
And every time I caught your flashing eye
Or heard your voice discourse on anything
It seemed a star went burning down the sky.

I looked into your heart that dying summer
And found your silent woman’s heart grown wild
Whereupon you turned to me and smiled
Saying you felt afraid but that you were
Weary of being mute and undefiled

II

I spoke to you that last winter morning
Watching the wind smoke snow across the ice
Told of how the beauty of your spirit, flesh,
And smile had made day break at night and spring
Burst beauty in the wasting winter’s place.

You did not answer when I spoke, but stood
As if that wistful part of you, your sorrow,
Were blown about in fitful winds below;
Your eyes replied your worn heart wished it could
Again be white and silent as the snow.

~ Galway Kinnell

“I began my life as I shall no doubt end it: amidst books.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from The Words: The Autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre

Reading Bingo Card
Reading Bingo Card
Challenge: Post your results in the comments section, if you like.

How Well Do You Know The Opening Lines Of Famous Books?

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and warmer, 50 degrees.

Yesterday for a while it felt like this migraine was finally going away completely . . . then I woke up this morning, and . . . you guessed it . . . headache BACK!

Another short one just to let you know that I’m still alive. I found this quiz on BuzzFeed, and I’m hoping the book lovers out there will enjoy it as much as I did. Try to ignore the misspelling of Anna Karenina and the fact that they have put the book titles in quotations instead of italics.

Here is a sample:

  • Emma, by Jane Austen
  • David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
  • Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Let me know how you did in the comments section.

                   

I am also including a bit from an essay by Dylan Thomas, called “Notes on the Art of Poetry.” Over the years, extracts from this essay have been melded into a poem of sorts, but I like it better in its original prose form (click here to read in its entirety). Thomas wrote the essay in 1951 in response to a query from a college student hoping to learn more about craft. Here is my selection:

. . . What I like to do is treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone or what-have-you, to hew, carve, mould, coil, polish and plane them into patterns, sequences, sculptures, fugues of sound expressing some lyrical impulse, some spiritual doubt or conviction, some dimly-realised truth I must try to reach and realise.) . . . I read indiscriminately, and with my eyes hanging out. I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books, such sand-storms and ice-blasts of words, such slashing of humbug, and humbug too, such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, such and so many blinding bright lights breaking across the just-awaking wits and splashing all over the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which was alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity of light.

. . . All that matters about poetry is the enjoyment of it, however tragic it may be. All that matters is the eternal movement behind it, the vast undercurrent of human grief, folly, pretension, exaltation, or ignorance, however unlofty the intention of the poem.

. . . You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in.

More later. Peace.

                    

Music by Tom Odell, “Long Way Down”

 

 

 

 

“But suddenly you’re ripped into being alive. And life is pain, and life is suffering, and life is horror, but my god you’re alive and its spectacular.” ~ Joseph Campbell

Monet's "Water Lilies" at the MOMA (detail)

“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it’s our job to invent something better.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Choke

Saturday afternoon. Cloudy with dropping temperatures.

The headache is gone for now.

So earlier this afternoon was for cleaning. Corey gathered up clutter from outside and took it to the dump. Brett polished the furniture, and I swept the hardwood floors and cleaned off the dining room table. Eamonn is off at the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Ocean View, a continuation of his 21st birthday celebration. As I’m writing this, Corey is washing his truck; Tillie is helping. Need I tell you how happy he is to be doing this?

Anyway, I’ve done all that I can do for today, so it’s time to write. I’ve been thinking a lot about the word above—commuovere (pronounced kum-wo-ve-ray, with the emphasis on the first syllable). It’s Italian in origin, and while it has no direct English translation, the closest would be to touch, to affect, to stir, to move to tears.

What stirs me, touches me, moves me to tears? Wow. I’m not talking about grief or sadness; rather, it’s a matter of stirrings in the heart. Still, it’s a long and complicated list, but I thought that I would try to share some of the things in life that have moved me or do move me, so much so that I get misty-eyed.

“I think, that if I touched the earth,
It would crumble;
It is so sad and beautiful,
So tremulously like a dream.” ~ Dylan Thomas, from“ Clown in the Moon”

Believe it or not, I don’t cry often, at least not as often as I used to, but I am very sentimental, which is why I don’t watch many movies on the Lifetime channel because they always have very sad endings. But what genuinely moves me, touches that tender spot in my heart? Here is a partial list, starting with movies:

  • The death of a beloved character in a book or movie. Oh I cried when Dumbledore died, and the death scene for Boromir in The Fellowship of the Ring went straight to my heart.
  • It’s a Wonderful Life. Who can watch that movie and not be moved? George Bailey as everyman? Clarence the awkward angel? Slays me.
  • Wall-e. Okay, he’s a little robot, but he has such sad eyes, and he’s in love.
  • And speaking of Pixar, when Nemo’s mom dies in the beginning of Finding Nemo? Why do the moms always die in Disney and Pixar movies?
  • That scene in The Lion King when Mufasa, the daddy lion dies. Omigawd. Even though I love Jeremy Irons as Scar, I hated him at that moment. Yes, it was animated. What’s your point?

    The English Patient
  • I cannot tell you how many times I’ve watched Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, but when he does the St. Crispin’s Day speech, I literally get chills and tear up. I want to join the fray for England. Take me, take me!
  • Yes, Dead Poets’ Society was overly sentimental, but that didn’t stop me from liking it, so when Neil stands before the open window, I feel complete dread, but when the guys stand on their desks in the final scene? Oh yeah, I’m weeping. Every. Single. Time.
  • And then there is The English Patient. Almásy rubbing saffron across Katharine’s dead lips. Katharine’s final journal entry in the Cave of the Swimmers. Hana’s final injection of morphing into Almásy. What doesn’t make me cry in this movie.

“Certain twisted monsters
always bar the path — but that’s when
you get going best, glad to be lost,
learning how real it is
here on earth, again and again.” ~ William Stafford, from “Cutting Loose”

I remember when I was a child there was this commercial with a supposed Native American man paddling in a canoe amidst pollution. The camera zoomed in on his face to show a single tear. That commercial made me cry, as did the Miller (?) beer Christmas commercial that showed a couple in a sled traveling through the snow with “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” playing in the background, no words. I cried. So here are some of the epic moments in television show that have tugged at my heartstrings:

  • When Mark finally succumbed to his brain tumor on “ER.” Agony. Another devastating ER episode was “Love’s Labours Lost,” in which Dr. Green tried to deliver a baby, ultimately losing the mother. Oh, how I cried.
  • When Bobby Simone dies in “NYPD Blue.”
  • When Radar comes into the operating room to tell everyone that Colonel Henry Blake’s plane went down.
  • On “Criminal Minds,” the “Riding the Lightning” episode in which Sarah Jean Dawes, who is an innocent woman, goes to her death in prison to protect the son that she gave up years before. Gideon’s complete helplessness rips my heart into pieces.

    From Dr. Who Episode "Vincent and the Doctor"
  • Two “Dr. Who” episodes in particular: “The End of Time,” in which David Tennant (10) says, “I don’t want to go.” His face in that scene is so sad. And the other one is “Vincent and the Doctor.” In one scene Vincent, the doctor, and Amy lie beneath the night sky as Vincent explains the stars as he sees them. In the final scene, Mr. Black (played by Bill Nighy) tells the doctor that Van Gogh was “the greatest painter of them all” and “one of the greatest men who ever lived,” while a stunned Van Gogh looks on in tears. Yep. That one is always good for a cry.
  • The ultimate crying fest came in the “M*A*S*H” episode, “Goodbye, Farewell, Amen” when Charles learns that the Chinese musicians that he had been teaching were killed. At that moment, I felt the absolute futility of war as only a civilian can.

“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” ~ Rumi 

Another weepy trigger for me is music, and this really depends upon my mood. Anything by Chopin really moves me. Apocalyptica’s “Nothing Else Matters” stops me in my tracks. When I’m crashing, certain pieces of music absolutely slay me, take Annie Lennox’s “Why,” for example. Before the bathtub developed rust holes, I would run myself a hot bath, light the candles, and set up my CD player in the bathroom. Then I would listen to the selected CD and weep until the water became too cold. Very cathartic, in an odd sort of way.

  • “I Hope You Dance,” be Lee Ann Womack. The first time I heard this song, which is about a mother and daughter, Alexis and I were going through a very rough patch. I think she was about 16 or 17.
  • Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” If you’ve never heard this, you are missing out on one of life’s true beautiful mysteries.
  • The swelling soundtrack from Legends of the Fall, which incorporates the same type of violin that was used in Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary. I firmly believe that incorporation of beautiful string sections is a deliberate attempt by composers to cut to the heart.
  • Okay, this is a combination of music and a scene in a movie: “Everything You Do” (not with words) in the scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves in which Marion is going across the water through the mist. Something about that scene just gives me chills. I know. I’m a sucker for soundtracks, especially by James Horner or Howard Shore, both of whom know how to use a string section for maximum effect.
  • I’m also a sucker for country love songs, especially when Corey isn’t home or if we’ve had an argument. A few that get to me are “Whiskey Lullabye” and “Please Remember Me” do me in, but Garth Brooks’s “The Dance” is one that I listen to to torture myself.
  • Speaking of country songs, “Christmas Shoes” by New Union is one of the saddest songs ever. It’s about a little boy who doesn’t have enough money to buy a pair of shoes for his mother who is in the hospital dying. Can you think of anything sadder to write a song about?
  • One more: the sax solo in Bruce Springsteen’s “Jungle Land.” It is so beautiful and epic that it never fails to make a chill run down my spine.

“One must look for one thing only, to find many.” ~ Cesare Pavese

There are other things, of course. Works of art, like seeing Monet’s massive “Water Lilies” for the first time at the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Images of animals that are hurt or sad kill me; I thought that if I saw that commercial for the SPCA with Sarah McLachlan one more time during the Christmas season, I was going to jump off a building. I mean some things are just too much. And then there are the words: passages, poetry, drama, memoirs—far too many to begin listing.

Homeless Man with His Best Friend

I was once in an Italian restaurant, and one of the servers sang “Nessum Dorma.” I cried into my Napoleon pastry. I used to drive through the cemetery with David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream” cranked all the way up on the tinny car stereo, weeping at the splendor and the sadness.

I suppose that for me, it’s the beauty behind it all, the beauty behind the music, the beauty behind the visual, the beauty behind the combination of colors and swirls, or sounds and echoes. Or perhaps, it’s knowing that for many of those who create the stunning and the sublime, a little piece of the person creating goes into the finished product. I think of Beethoven and Van Gogh, of Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf, how they all suffered for their art, how they poured that pain into everything that they created so that the world could have a measure of that beauty, how that breath-taking beauty was birthed from suffering and sorrow.

I don’t know. I say that I don’t cry that much any more, which is true, yet I still can be reduced to weeping when faced with the ineffable, especially in nature, whether it is a breathtaking sunset, or the color of leaves in the fall, or a night sky. Serendipitous instances of kindness and caring, love and tenderness where it seems there should be nothing but sorrow.  I am a walking contradiction, and life is both my passion and my poison.

More later. Peace.

Music by, who else, Apocalyptica, “Nothing Else Matters.” Turn it up.

                   

The Hollow Men V

Here we go round the prickly pear
Prickly pear prickly pear
Here we go round the prickly pear
At five o’clock in the morning.
Between the idea
And the reality
Between the motion
And the act
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
Between the conception
And the creation
Between the emotion
And the response
Falls the Shadow
Life is very long
Between the desire
And the spasm
Between the potency
And the existence
Between the essence
And the descent
Falls the Shadow
For Thine is the Kingdom
For Thine is
Life is
For Thine is the
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
T.S. Eliot, The Hollow Men V