“I’m a ghost that everyone can see;” ~ Franz Wright, from “Empty Stage”


“Tired, tired with nothing, tired with everything, tired with the world’s weight he had never chosen to bear.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Beautiful and Damned

 Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Still incredibly hot and humid, 91 degrees.

I’m going to try to do this again. No distractions. With any luck, I’ll get past the first few sentences.

This is my immediate problem: my children. As you know, I have three grown children, but their stages of grown do not match their calendar status of grown. My eldest child, my daughter, will be having one of those major milestone birthdays on the 7th of this month, but the reality is that I think she is probably the youngest of my children. And for the moment, I choose to focus on my eldest/youngest child.

Max Beckmann Beach Landscape 1904 oil on cardboard
“Beach Landscape” (1904, oil on cardboard)
by Max Beckmann

To be fair, Alexis has gone through a lot in her short life, and the loss of her sister, something her brothers do not share as an immediate memory, affected her greatly. Alexis has never been full of self-confidence; in fact, the exact opposite is true: If one person could be so completely uncertain of her selfhood, I would have to say that it is my daughter. Please understand, I’m not criticizing, only commenting; after all, I, too, am very insecure about certain aspects of my self.

I don’t know how much of my daughter’s problems are a result of nurturing, but I do know that I have been the primary nurturer in her life, which is why I probably have a tendency to blame myself for so many of her woes. But at what point do I draw the line and acknowledge that she has very real problems that are completely separate from my relationship with my daughter?

You see, while I love my daughter beyond words, I am not entirely sure that I like certain key aspects of her personality. Does that make sense?

“there is something else that drives us, some
rage or hunger, some absence smoldering
like a childhood fever vaguely remembered
or half-perceived, some unprotected desire,
greed that is both wound and knife,
a failed grief, a lost radiance.” ~ Edward Hirsch, from “Mergers and Acquisitions”

Again, let me say that I probably should not be writing this, but I need to work through some of this tonight as it is pressing on me much too acutely, and I know that I will have no peace unless I do something. I had to cancel my therapy appointment this week because of the chest cold that I have. Too much talking makes me cough, and coughing is, well, painful. Hence, the writing my way through . . .

I so wish that I had the ability to make things right for my children all of the time, but then again, don’t most parents? But I don’t have this ability, and talking to Alexis is futile, at best, and an invitation to a verbal fray, at worst. My daughter, like my sons, unfortunately inherited the family predisposition to clinical depression and anxiety. We all suffer in our own various ways, to lesser and greater extents, depending upon, well upon a lot of things. But Alexis is alone in one thing: she sleeps far too much for any human being. She can go to bed on Friday night and not wake fully until Monday morning.

(c) DACS/Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Summer Sea” (1961, oil on paperboard)
by Joan Eardley

When she was a teenager, she would sleep forever, but I really didn’t worry about it because I did the same thing as a teenager. However, she is an adult with her own child, and this sleeping sickness, for lack of a better term, has not abated. Corey and I have had several conversations in which we have tossed about this problem, mostly in relation to Olivia, as in, does my daughter’s sleeping sickness impede/impair her ability to care for her own daughter?

I can’t tell you how guilty I feel just for giving this concern words, but there. It’s been said. Now what?

I mean, this is more than my concern that she has absolutely no ambition, that she doesn’t seem to have any sort of life goals, which granted, is a real concern. But this particular issue has such larger implications as it affects everyone.

“I sat in the dark and thought: There’s no big apocalypse. Just an endless procession of little ones.” ~ Neil Gaiman, from Signal to Noise

I’m so conflicted.

If you were to ask me if my daughter is a good mother, I wouldn’t hesitate to say, “Yes. Absolutely.”

Copyright York Museums Trust / Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“The Wave” (1898)
by Roderick O’Conor

But then, I must pause. Does she love her daughter? Without question. Does she want what is best for her daughter? Again, yes.

But what makes a good mother? Love, concern, respect, patience, empathy, sympathy . . . cobbled together with a willingness to teach, to share, to laugh, to cry . . . Like it or not, motherhood is an endless procession of decisions, and if we are lucky, most of them are right, and if we are smart, we learn from the wrong ones, but first, we must be able to identify the wrong ones.

Look, being a mother is a thankless job. Your children resent you a lot of the time. They don’t like you some of the time. They wish you would be quiet a lot of the time. They appreciate you only some of the time, and to them, you are never a person with feelings and wants and needs. And no one can teach you how to be a mother; it’s purely on-the-job training, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get good advice along the way, and if you’re smart, you’ll realize which advice is good and which is bad.

So what’s my point?

Damned if I know . . .

“Life must be back there. You hid it
So no one would find it
And now you can’t remember where.” ~ John Ashbery, from “Vaucanson”

You know shaken baby syndrome? Well obviously that’s something that must never be done, but what about shaken adult child syndrome? Is it acceptable to want to grasp said child by the shoulders and shake him/her until the eyes come into focus and you think that perhaps some semblance of sense has entered said child’s brain?

William Henry Johnson Untitled c1930-35
Untitled Seascape (c1930-35)
by William Henry Johnson

I know that I’m making light, but trust me, I am so close to tears much of the time that to laugh would be nothing short of achieving a state of grace.

But back to the problem. Did you know that there is an actual illness called Sleeping Beauty Syndrome? It’s actually called Klein-Levin Syndrome:

Klein-Levin Syndrome (KLS) is a rare and complex neurological disorder characterized by recurring periods of excessive amounts of sleep, altered behavior, and a reduced understanding of the world. The disorder strikes adolescents primarily but can occur in younger children and adults. At the onset of an episode the patient becomes progressively drowsy and sleeps for most of the day and night (hypersomnolence), sometimes waking only to eat or go to the bathroom. Each episode lasts days, weeks or months during which time all normal daily activities stop. Individuals are not able to care for themselves or attend school and work. In between episodes, those with KLS appear to be in perfect health with no evidence of behavioral or physical dysfunction. KLS episodes may continue for 10 years or more. KLS is sometimes referred to in the media as “Sleeping Beauty” syndrome.

Seriously, I think my daughter has this. Some people think that Alexis is just lazy. I honestly don’t think that’s it. If I did, I would say so. Laziness can be fixed; well, at least, I think it can be fixed. Alexis is too OCD to be lazy. I just don’t know if she has any control over these sleep episodes. And the brutal reality is that it’s gotten to the point that it is having a serious impact on every single relationship she has.

“But now I have come to believe that the whole world is an enigma, a harmless enigma that is made terrible by our own mad attempt to interpret it as though it had an underlying truth.” ~ Umberto Eco, from Foucault’s Pendulum

So what to do, what to do? I can do nothing. Not yet. And even if the time were right for me to do something, I have absolutely no idea as to what course of action I should take, if any.

Wassily Kandinsky Stormy Day 1906
“Stormy Day” (1906)
by Wassily Kandinsky

Familial relationships are so damned draining. Awash in a sea of eggshells, and trying to find just the right way to cross without breaking anything, without breaking any . . . one.

You know when you are young, in your early 20’s, and you think about life, think about the future as I always did, I would bet that most of the realities of later life never enter the realm of possibility. I mean, how could they, really? Real life is so far from what you think will happen to you when you’re young and trying to decide whether or not to drop a huge chunk of change on some toy or the other. Real life is so filled with pitfalls and trenches so deep that few of us would ever contemplate that such horrible things might actually happen.

Nothing in my 20’s prepared me for real life, even though I was so certain at the time that I had all of the answers. I was so sure of my certainty then. It takes being slapped in the face by fate to make you realize just how little you actually know.

So here I am, finally able to admit how little I know and knowing how little I am able to effect any kind of meaningful change in the lives of my children. Is it any wonder I walk around in a constant state of pain-filled angst?

Probably shouldn’t have written any of this . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by I Will, I Swear, “Long Days”


                   

Mind

The slow overture of rain,
each drop breaking
without breaking into
the next, describes
the unrelenting, syncopated
mind. Not unlike
the hummingbirds
imagining their wings
to be their heart, and swallows
believing the horizon
to be a line they lift
and drop. What is it
they cast for? The poplars,
advancing or retreating,
lose their stature
equally, and yet stand firm,
making arrangements
in order to become
imaginary. The city
draws the mind in streets,
and streets compel it
from their intersections
where a little
belongs to no one. It is
what is driven through
all stationary portions
of the world, gravity’s
stake in things, the leaves,
pressed against the dank
window of November
soil, remain unwelcome
till transformed, parts
of a puzzle unsolvable
till the edges give a bit
and soften. See how
then the picture becomes clear,
the mind entering the ground
more easily in pieces,
and all the richer for it.

~ Jorie Graham

 

 

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“I will vanish in the morning light; I was only an invention of darkness.” ~ Angela Carter, from “The Lady of the House of Love”

411211-12
Winter Landscape (no title, no date)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

                    

“Does not everything depend on our interpretation of the silence around us?” ~ Lawrence Durrell, from Justine

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy, and much warmer, 62 degrees.

I have been so cold for days now; thankfully the temperatures today are milder, but a cold front is expected to move through the area soon.

Stepan Kolesnikoff title unknown winter landscape
Winter Landscape, title and date unknown
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

Let’s see, things have been taxing. On Friday, I was driving to my much-needed doctor’s appointment with the pain management group when the Rodeo overheated. I drove just a little bit more after the gauge shot up, and I was in the turn lane to get off the main boulevard when the car just died. I added water/coolant to the overflow and put the hood up. Of course it was the coldest day of winter so far, absolutely frigid temps. I’m glad that I rethought my outerwear when leaving the house and exchanged a long sweater for a wool coat and gloves. The only smart thing I did that day.

Would you believe that even with the hood up and the emergency flashers on, people still beeped their horns at me? People are completely stupid sometimes. And the only person who offered to help was a woman, and I politely thanked her, but truthfully, I needed someone to give me a push off the boulevard. Finally a cop showed up, and he pushed me off and into a parking lot, but I had to get out and help him push it into a space so that it wouldn’t roll backwards. Not the best thing for my back, undoubtedly. And of course while I was sitting there I became overwhelmed and texted Corey; I’m sure I worried him by asking him to call me asap.

Add to this that Corey’s check was supposed to show up in the mail on Friday, and it didn’t, so I have a broken vehicle and no money.

Perfect.

“Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
. . . Here is unfenced existence;
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.” ~ Philip Larkin, from “Here”

My doctor’s office was very understanding, though. I had called when the car stopped and told them that I was only a few minutes away. They said they would hold the appointment, but then when it was obvious that I wasn’t moving, they offered me a slot on Monday. I suppose I’ll have to drive Brett’s car on Monday, you know, the Honda that he still hasn’t registered. It’s legal to switch plates temporarily in Virginia in situations like this, though.

Stepan Kolesnikoff title unknown
Winter Landscape, title and date unknown
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

The other wonderful news I got this week was that Corey will indeed not be home until after the 16th of January. Because he has the necessary license, they are keeping him on the ship until it gets back in port in Louisiana, and they are not leaving Nicaragua until January 10th because of some port inspection. Further, they are talking about putting him in for his remaining training immediately after he gets back in port, so he may not be home until right before my birthday on the 23rd.

I have to tell you that this was most unwelcome news. I found this out on New Year’s Eve, of all times, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for myself. I had been alone in the house for days as Brett was out and about, and then I was hit with this. I had never felt so all alone as I did that night, even though I had Olivia with me.

“There is a loneliness that can be rocked. Arms crossed, knees drawn up; holding, holding on, this motion, unlike a ship’s, smooths and contains the rocker. It’s an inside kind—wrapped tight like skin. Then there is a loneliness that roams. No rocking can hold it down. It is alive, on its own. A dry and spreading thing that makes the sound of one’s own feet going seem to come from a far-off place.” ~ Toni Morrison, from Beloved

I mean, I know that Corey isn’t happy about the change, but we really don’t have a choice in this. The company needs him for this, and he isn’t exactly in a position to say no. We both know that it’s necessary, but that doesn’t mean that we like it. He sent me a text later to try to cheer me up, and for his sake, I am trying very hard not to be transparent about my sadness.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Winter gouache on cardboard
“Winter” (nd, gouache on cardboard)
by Stepan Kolesnikof

I will admit though that I was brought to tears after hanging up the phone. Here I was on New Year’s Eve, just me, the dogs, and a sleeping baby. Outside, all kinds of celebrations were going on, and people were setting off fireworks in the park. It wasn’t that I wanted to be out in the midst of the celebrations, but more that the celebrations were just a painful reminder of my solitude. The noise made the dogs restless, which only added to my own feelings of restlessness and loneliness.

I am glad that I had Olivia for the night, though, as she provided a much-needed distraction from my pity party. On New Year’s day I made her a breakfast of scrambled eggs and toast as she is exploring finger foods, and tried to find comfort in her smile, which is not hard to do.

“If you want to become more than a shadow
Among shadows, you must carry back the memory
Of your father disintegrating in your arms,You must bring words that will console others,
You must believe in stairs leading upward
To summer’s resplendent, celestial blues.” ~ Edward Hirsch, from “Sortes Virgilianae (The Fortuneteller’s Words to the Poet)”

So there’s Corey, and there is the Rodeo, and then there is my mother. My mom has a doctor’s appointment tomorrow morning as a follow-up to her hospitalization. It’s a check-up, and they aren’t doing any procedures, but she had wanted me to take here, which wasn’t a problem until my rescheduled appointment also fell on Monday late morning.

I had called Alexis to see if she might be able to take mom to the appointment so that I could go to mine, but Alexis didn’t seem that willing to help. I know that she’s kind of caught as she has no drivable car at the moment (runs in the family), but she could take my mother’s car. Anyway, I told my mom that one of use would take her to the doctor.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Derevya aka Trees
“Derevya” (Trees, nd)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

Now get this—I had told mom about my vehicle and about my rescheduled appointment, and she had no issue with me taking her and then rushing to get to my appointment, but when I mentioned bringing Alexis into the mix, suddenly my mother is fine in going to the appointment on her own so as not to inconvenience Alexis.

Am I being prickly because I find that bizarre? It’s okay if I rush around to take her and try to fit my appointment in, but not so much for my daughter?

Geez.

Of course I feel guilty because . . . whatever . . . guilt is my middle name.

“There is a language older by far and deeper than words. It is the language of bodies, of body on body, wind on snow, rain on trees, wave on stone. It is the language of dream, gesture, symbol, memory. We have forgotten this language. We do not even remember that it exists.” ~ Derrick Jensen, from A Language Older Than Words

Add to this that Corey has asked me to keep the tree up until he gets home. That’s not an issue because it is a fake tree. What is an issue is that my house is cluttered with Christmas decorations, and I’m starting to feel antsy, as in I need to get things back in order. I had Brett take down the outside lights, and I think that this week I’ll take down most of the decorations but leave the tree for him.

This Wednesday we’re going to go ahead and open most of the kids’ presents, rather than have them wait another three weeks. Brett says he doesn’t mind waiting, but I’m leaving it up to Eamonn and Alexis as to what they want to open now. Corey said to leave it up to the kids as to what they want to do. I know that Brett doesn’t feel like celebrating without Corey, and neither do I. Lex and Eamonn are different—not a criticism, just an observation.

Stepan Kolesnikoff Wolf in a Winter Landscape tempera on paper
“Wolf in a Winter Landscape” (nd, tempera on paper)
by Stepan Kolesnikoff

And have I mentioned the ongoing migraine?

So once again I find myself physically hurting and emotionally bereft. I know I wouldn’t have made it as a Navy wife, those six-month long cruises? Never. That’s why I never dated a sailor. It has to be hard on everyone in the family, but they get through, and so will I. I need to stop being so damned pitiful and try to pull myself together. Yep. Going to work on that. Meanwhile, I’ll order some more makeup.

Geez, Louise. Where did that saying come from, I wonder . . .

Oh well, I need to do some laundry and dishes and other exciting things, but I am going to try to read another book this evening, try to get back into my reading groove.

More later. Peace.

All images are by Russian artist Stepan Fedorovich Kolesnikoff (1879 — 1955), also known as Stepan Kolesnikov. It was hard to find titles and dates for most of the works I wanted to include. If you know of any, please pass along the information. Thanks.

Music by Wilco, “Far, Far Away”

                   

Drink

When I woke up this morning
the lark was full of tears.
White, bright hail was frying
on the grass.
Now up against the wire
the falcon wrecks the hen
and carries her gray heart
over the redwoods while the new
sun burns on the former rain.
Crossed by her shadow, my hand
cupped beneath the spigot,
I am drinking last year’s snow.
How bad it hurts
that the mountains ascend
to their ghost-deals white
with the wine of next summer.

~ Denis Johnson

“I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me—shapes and ideas so near to me—so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

Iron-Rich Creek Bed
by Michael Melford, National Geographic*

                   

“The ear can detect a whole apocalypse in the starry night of the human body.” ~ Jean Cocteau, from “Opium: The Illustrated Diary of His Cure”

Sunday, late afternoon. Stormy and cool, high 50’s.

Random thoughts:

  • I make telephone calls to strangers at 3 a.m. (line from unfinished poem).
  • In the shower I realized that I do not use the word sardonic enough. Great word.

    Yellow Birch, Adirondacks
    by Michael Melford, National Geographic
  • I am wearing socks with penguins on them.
  • One pitfall to cooler weather is that my bones ache, especially the bones in my back and the base of my neck.
  • Remembered line, possibly from another unfinished poem: I am not your faithless remembrance.
  • Tillie the Lab does not understand why we cannot play outside in the rain and mud.
  • Jif peanut butter is like crack cocaine for my dogs. They know when I unscrew the lid.
  • I ran out of hot water in the shower today, which is particularly ironic as I told myself that I was going to take the hottest shower possible to try to help my back. Figures.
  • I ache—literally and figuratively—to take a long hot bath that smells of lavender or verbena.
  • Why did I not know about the television show “Haven” on the Sci Fy channel?
  • There was another line that came to me in the shower, but I waited too long to put it down, and now it has escaped into the ether, probably forever.
  • I have realized that I use the pause comma quite a lot.

“I’ve stepped onto the front porch to see
the stars perforating the milky black clouds

and the moon staring coldly through the trees,
but this negative I’m carrying inside me.” ~ Edward Hirsch, from “More than Halfway”

Serious thoughts:

  • My dog Shakes is getting worse, but he still has an appetite. When he stops eating, I’ll know, and I hope that I won’t be alone.

    Stream Reflection, South Africa
    by Maurits Van Wyk, Your Shot, National Geographic
  • In my dreams, I am visited by my father and my uncle, but not by Caitlin.
  • I worry that I am becoming obsessive in my love for Olivia.
  • In retrospect, I wish that my wedding bouquet had been a small spray of fresh lavender and herbs rather than the humongous white rose thing that I carried. That this still bothers me is problematic, for me only.
  • I feel Mari’s distance too keenly in October; her birthday was the 1st of the month; we did not speak.
  • Mari was the one person to whom I could say absolutely anything, or so I thought.
  • I miss friendship on a daily basis, comforting, like a mug of hot tea.
  • Am I too old now to still do the things that I long to do? When is it too late? When are we too old? When do we accept the halfway mark?

“hushed, hushed, the mountain
hidden deer, distant, calling
leaves falling, falling
I have no friend to see
and my heart grows cold” ~ Sugawara no Michizane, rewriting an anonymous Japanese tanka

Difficult thoughts:

  • The Eagles’ song “Wasted Time” hits too close to home.
  • I do not speak to my mother enough. I find it taxing, especially in this state of mind. Another check in the guilt column.

    Autumn Brook
    by Olegas Kurasovas, My Shot, National Geographic
  • I do not want to spend my entire life in this house in this city in this state, but I’m afraid that I may do so.
  • My life has become a series of milestones, good and bad, in other people’s lives, and that I have no control over this hangs heavy about my heart.
  • I am positive that when I spoke the the former chair of my department at the reading the other day, he had no idea as to who I was. I could see his eyes darting back and forth as if to try to grasp that thread, but it never came.
  • Am I the kind of person that is easily forgotten, and if so, why didn’t I know that before now?
  • I do not want to become bitter. I really, really do not want to become bitter, and I know that this is one reason that I do not spend more time with my mother.
  • I wonder sometime if anyone will leave stones at my grave, and then I remember that I want to be cremated.

“Tenderness does not choose its own uses.
It goes out to everything equally,
circling rabbit and hawk.
Look: in the iron bucket,
a single nail, a single ruby—
all the heavens and hells.
They rattle in the heart and make one sound.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, “Late Prayer”

Other thoughts:

  • I do not make these lists because I am lazy. That’s just how my mind works on some days—linear progression, one step at a time—and then in prose on other days.

    Leaves, Cascade Lake
    by Michael Melford, National Geographic
  • I learned to cook spaghetti when I was 14 from a recipe on a tomato sauce can. It’s gotten better since then.
  • I remember the name of the first boy on whom I had a crush, the name of the first boy I kissed, the name of my first love, but not their faces, well, except one, and he will forever be young and that summer color of milky coffee in my mind.
  • For a time I kept my journal on yellow legal pads. I have no idea what happened to them.
  • I have had an obsession with writing implements ever since I worked at the newspaper, a lifetime ago. I ordered the office supplies, and I kept a secret stash of pens in my bottom drawer.
  • Why did I remember that?
  • I once set out in the rain to walk to the cemetery from my house. I found a dog and brought him home. The other dogs were not amused.

“How invisibly
it changes color
in this world,
the flower
of the human heart.” ~ Ono no Komachi (trans. Jane Hirshfield)

Final thoughts:

  • The theme in today’s quotes happened quite by accident.

    Autumn Leaves, Japan
    by Michael Yamashita, National Geographic
  • On a show that I was watching on Discover ID, a woman was talking about how, when she learned that her sister had been murdered, how she felt her heart break. She said that she had heard this term many times, but never really knew that it was a physical thing. I knew exactly what she was talking about.
  • The human heart is such a powerful organ and such a tender vessel, a working muscle, yet the imagined seat of the soul. And in the middle of the night sometimes, I like to place my hand on Corey’s chest to feel the strong beats of his heart as he sleeps.
  • For some reason, I always think of two places when it rains: the mountains and London.
  • This is a very telling memory: Out of all of the songs in Mary Poppins, my favorite, even as a young girl, was “Feed the Birds.” It still makes me cry.
  • I’m thinking that I have no more thoughts.

More later. Peace.

*I probably spent more time looking for images than I did writing today. I just couldn’t pinpoint what I was trying to achieve with the images, went from paintings to black and white photography, finally landed on a combination of color and water, found everything on the National Geographic photography site.

Incredibly beautiful music by Martha Wainwright, “Prosperina” (her mother’s last song, can’t believe I’ve never heard of her)

                   

Tear It Down

We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of racoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within the body.

~ Jack Gilbert (Found this on Dragonfly’s Poetry & Prolixity)

“I can feel the limits of what humans are capable of—that a certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect. And personally I find that encouraging.” ~ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Gargoyle, Holy Trinity Church in Stratford upon Avon, UK, by lowfatbrains (FCC)

                   

“Only, there is a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being; the year, in turning, turns in on itself. Introspective weather, a sickroom hush.” ~ Angela Carter, from “The Erl-King”

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and cool, low 50’s.

Gargoyle, Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Tring, UK, by Today is a good day (FCC)

Well only a few days ago, it was 80 degrees, and then the temperature dropped 30 degrees, and snow fell on parts of the east coast. It seems the weather reflects my state of mind.

I had joked to Ann that we could walk on Friday unless it snowed . . . right. So far, our attempts to start a daily walking routine have been thwarted, but we’re going to try again this week, and with luck, perhaps we’ll have some results.

Gargoyle, Cathédrale Saint-Etienne de Meaux, France (WC)

I awoke on Friday with one of the most painful migraines I’ve had in a while. It was blinding, and any bodily movement meant stabbing pain. I did not move from the bed all day except for necessities. Then this morning when the dogs woke me early to go outside, I stepped out of bed and couldn’t straighten my body because of my back. I have to tell you that this switch off between my back and my head is not in the least amusing, and I could really live without it.

Yesterday, I had planned to post. I gathered my quotes and images, and then ran out of steam, which is unfortunate as I had the whole house to myself, and it was nice and quiet. I think that I overcompensated for Friday’s inertia by doing too much yesterday—laundry, the kitchen, various other small chores, and I found by 7:30 or so that I was too tired to do anything requiring my brain, so no post.

So I’m trying today, and we’ll just have to see how far I get. Unfortunately, I’ve been taking muscle relaxers since early morning because of my back, and while they do not ordinarily affect me, the leftover fatigue from the migraine coupled with the meds is definitely leaving me sluggish.

“Artifacts
Are the accounts we leave behind.
We leave them buried beneath what is buried” ~ Michele Wolf, from “Archaeology”

So I’ve been thinking about gargoyles. Don’t ask me why, perhaps because of Halloween, which is tomorrow. I’ve always been fascinated by these carvings, which can look like anything from the famous pensive statue atop Notre Dame to really hideous statues resembling something out of a nightmare.

Gargoyle Atop Notre Dame, Paris, by Lisa Kline 1 (FCC)

According to one site that I visited, the word gargoyle shares a common root with the word gargle, which comes from the French word gargouille, which means throat. Many people confuse gargoyle with grotesques, the difference being that a gargoyle is a water spout or drain pipe, and a grotesque is not. In a gargoyle, a trough is cut into the back of the carving, and the rainwater flows from the mouth.

Writer Russell Sturgis says that in medieval architecture, “the gargoyles, which had to be very numerous because of the many gutters which were carried on the tops of flying buttresses, and higher and lower walls, were often very decorative, consisting, as they did, of stone images of grotesque animals, and the like, or, in smaller buildings of iron or lead.” Supposedly, gargoyles can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, where such carvings depicted animals like eagles and lions, as well as mythological creatures.

While gargoyles and grotesques can appear to be quite ugly, something about them fascinates me. I love that these intricate carvings can be found all over the world, but the ones that I really like are the really old ones atop cathedrals. I like the juxtaposition of the grotesque with the holy. While the consensus is that the gargoyle was supposed to represent evil outside the church walls, I just cannot imagine the medieval sensibility, which believed in all sorts of evil spirits, not cringing each time it passed beneath one of these faces to enter a church.

“I will walk home alone with the deep alone, a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.” ~ Edward Hirsch

Gargoyles, St. Stephens, Vienna, by ccarlstead (FCC)

Anyway, Halloween around our house is usually just an excuse for me to eat more candy, but I’m really trying this year. I haven’t opened the bags of candy that I bought to pass out to the neighborhood kids. Of course, that’s the second batch of candy. The first batch of candy my mom brought over, and it included mini Almond Joy bars, which are a big weakness for me,and Reese’s peanut butter cups, which Corey loves. Love those, but they are so bad for me, between the chocolate and the coconut, bad for my head and bad for my cholesterol.

Not to worry, though. I polished those off weeks ago, which is why I had to buy more candy. I try to buy things that I’m not crazy about so that I don’t succumb to temptation, but it has to be stuff that someone in this house will eat in case we have leftovers, which we can never predict. Sometimes, we have lots and lots of kids and run out of candy, and sometimes we have fewer than ten, which means leftovers.

Gargoyle, Manchester Cathedral, UK, by Gordon Marino (FCC)

I do miss the days when the kids went trick or treating, helping them to pick out their costumes, doing their faces. Some years their costumes were extravagant, and some years, just a black cape and some fake blood.

I remember when I was a kid, and I would take a pillow case, and Cathy Weaver and I would have to come home at least once to empty our sacks before going out again for more. Of course those were different times. We went all over the neighborhood and to houses around the schools. We would hit at least ten different streets. Neighbors knew each other, and trick or treating went on for hours, or until you were exhausted. There were the stories about razor blades in apples, but really, who went to houses that gave out apples?

I remember after 9/11, the hospitals set up free x-rays of Halloween candy. Bizarre. We only took the kids to houses that we knew, so we never felt a need to have the treats undergo x-ray. Nothing has the innocence of years past. Nothing.

“It’s not humankind after all
nor is it culture
that limits us.
It is the vastness
we do not enter.
It is the stars
we do not let own us.” ~ Simon J. Ortiz from “Culture and the Universe”

Gargoyle, Arundel Cathedral, Sussex, UK, by howzey (FCC)

So other than those tidbits, not a whole lot going on. Corey is working at least four shifts a week, which is always good. And more and more, I’m really glad that I didn’t submit that application packages as my health in the past month has been a real roller coaster, with far more downs than ups.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, and my other m-in-law is on my mind a lot. This year’s holidays will be the first without her, and it’s going to be so hard. Even if we didn’t eat dinner with her, we always spent some time at her house, even if it was just to visit and have dessert. She loved to cook for her family in the old days when she could still cook. She would set the table with her best china and her silver and make enormous quantities of food.

Gargoyle, Château de Chenonçeau, France, by bolt of blue (FCC)

It’s going to be very strange. This losing parents thing really sucks, I have to say.

I don’t know if we are going to try to  make a trip to Ohio around Christmas. That’s always iffy and dependent upon so many things, but it’s nice to be there at the holidays, especially if it snows.

Anyway, I don’t know why I’m already thinking about the holidays; although, it’s probably because the stores have all of their Christmas stuff out already, and I’m seeing advertisements for holiday sales. So glad not to be in retail any more, even though there were parts that were definitely fun. I remember when I managed the home store, and we had a party for the associates to decorate the display trees one evening after work. Those are the good memories, admittedly, not that many.

Well, back is really hurting again, so time to go.

More later. Peace.

Music by Land of Talk, “Troubled”

                   

The Last Days of Summer Before the First Frost

Here at the wolf’s throat, at the egress of the howl,
all along the avenue of deer-blink and salmon-kick
where the spider lets its microphone down
into the cave of the blackberry bush—earth echo,
absence of the human voice—wait here
with a bee on your wrist and a fly on your cheek,
the tiny sun and tiny eclipse.
It is time to be grateful for the breath
of what you could crush without thought,
a moth, a child’s love, your own life.
There might never be another chance.
How did you find me, the astonished mother says
to her four-year-old boy who’d disappeared
in the crowds at the music festival.
I followed my heart, he shrugs,
so matter-of-fact you might not see
behind his words
(o hover and feed, but not too long)
the bee trails turning to ice as they’re flown.

~ Tim Bowling

“The hour with its face in its hands . . .” ~ Edward Hirsch

Heart Petals by L

Heart Petals by L. Liwag 

 

“You are the watcher; the mind is the watched. It is a beautiful mechanism, one of the most beautiful mechanisms that nature has given to you . . . Even while you are sleeping, it is sitting on your chest torturing you, giving you nightmares. All kind of relevant and irrelevant thoughts go on and on.” ~ Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh 

Very, very strange dreams last night: sharks, guns, school, cooked apples, and a house with many, many short levels and stairs. To top it off, I kept thinking that it was Monday.

Beneath the Surface by L Liwag
Beneath the Surface, by L. Liwag (2009)

Okay. The shark dream: I was swimming in a small inlet behind the neighborhood (doesn’t exist) with my two sons, who are younger in this dream. Something touches my leg. At first, I convince myself that it is probably just a fish. Then I realize that it is too long to be a fish. Then I realize that it is a shark. I yell to the boys to get to the ladders. The shark begins to swim after me, but not too aggressively. I begin to climb the short ladder, and the shark throws his front half on the dock, kind of like the great white in Jaws. I get out of the water, run to the adjacent ladder, and pull Brett up the rest of the way. Eamonn is dawdling because he doesn’t believe that it’s a shark, but he comes up the ladder.

Soon, I notice that there are four sharks in the water, and a female shark giving birth (very odd, that part). The neighborhood teenagers decide that it would be cool to go back in the water on floats and try to dodge the sharks. I yell at them and forbid Eamonn to get back in the water. I watch the sharks moving through the water and wonder where they came from . . .

Segue into dream about house. We are living in a new house. It has many unexplored rooms. I wake up and go downstairs because I hear voices. There is a group of people in the living room having a meeting. I ask them what they are doing there. They say that Ann (my s-i-l) said that they could hold their meeting there. I tell them that it’s Sunday morning and that they cannot have their meeting in my living room.

They leave, but other people appear, neighbors at first. House changes into open interior with many short levels, short staircases to different rooms. One female neighbor says, “We just have so much money. We really don’t know how to spend all of it.” Another woman whispers to me to ignore the woman talking. I have already decided that this is a neighbor that I can do without.

Then house begins to fill with people from my high school reunion. I recognize most of them but don’t remember their names. One guy starts to sing like Elvis. There are the usual cliques. I try to make my way through all of the people to say hello since this is my house, and I must be the host. I hear a lot of people commenting about how strange the house is. I declare that I like it, although I don’t know where the bathroom is.

“The eye sees a thing more cleary in dreams than the imagination awake” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

The eyes see in dreams

Dream Visions by L. Liwag

Segue into later dream: NCIS dream, and I am carrying a gun. I think to myself in the dream that I wish that it were a semi-automatic Glock (I’m not a big gun lover, so this is strange). When I finally get into a confrontation with the bad guy (who looks like Tele Savalas from Kojak), my gun jams, then it is out of ammunition. I think to myself that I must not be a very good agent because I let my gun run out of ammunition. I hide behind the car and press the alarm button . . .

Segue into school dream: My worst nightmare—I am teaching sixth grade again in a public school. But I tell myself that this time it will be okay because I have a plan. I see some of my former students. I ask about one of their sister’s. The girl tells me that her sister has 18 children . . .

Segue into my mother and Corey being in the kitchen of our current home. Corey has cooked apples to put in the toilet to help with the drainage. I don’t remember ever hearing about apples being good for pipes. I ask if they need to be peeled. Woke up with a song on my brain, but cannot for the life of me remember what it was now.

Boy, it was a busy night. I’m really exhausted from doing so much.

In between my last dreams, Corey took Brett over to his friend Gordon’s house. On his way home, the gas tank read 0 dte (destination to empty). I’m not sure how he made it home, but he did. Not sure what we are going to do for gas . . . little thing called money. Oh, I also dreamed that gas went up to $6.01 a gallon.

“Nightmare Begins Responsibility” ~ Michael S. Harper 

This is my life: nightmare to reality . . . reality as waking bad dream. I force myself to get out of bed, to try to do something, anything. Write. Remember words from Michael Harper’s “Nightmare Begins Responsibility”:

“………..
say nightmare, say it loud
panebreaking heartmadness:
nightmare begins responsibility.”

I’ll bet that you weren’t expecting that. The phrase “panebreaking heartmadness” has stayed with me ever since I first read this poem. I found it after Caitlin died and I was reading a lot of poets I had never read before. That’s the kind of phrase a poet would kill to create. It reverberates. It conjures. It chills to the bone. And it stays with the reader.

I realize that this post is all over the place, that it began as more of my crazy dreams, but what I didn’t mention was that at some point in one of the dreams, I thought that I would really like to live in this new house because it would be a great place to raise small children. It’s odd how the conscious mind intrudes upon dreams, insinuates itself into what is not real, or rather, not represented as real.

The other day, when I mentioned that my biggest personal regret was that I never got my doctorate in English, I failed to mention what I consider to be my biggest emotional regret: not having another child. So this thought creeps into my dreams quite frequently, and when I wake up, it is still there, haunting me, and no matter how much I try to move past it, the result is that it stays with me for days.

I know. I should be grateful for the children that I have, that they are healthy, safe, relatively happy. Believe me. I am. More than I can express. But I have always wanted to have one more child, and I know that for me personally, it has become a permanent hole in my heart. I think that most women who want a child have that hole. I know that I am more fortunate than most women who want a child because I have children, but that doesn’t make the desire any less tangible for me.

“Fate has led you through it. You do what you have to do.” ~ Sarah Maclachlan, “You Do What You Have To Do”

Blue Dreams by L Liwag 10-4-2009
Blue Dreams by L. Liwag (2009)

I’m writing these words, and I am wondering if I am going to publish them. I wonder if I am going to lay bare more of my soul. I sometimes think that I put too much of myself into this blog, too many hopes and dreams and failures. Allow myself to be seen by virtual strangers. I wonder about the wisdom of such an act. In so doing, do I ravage my spirit more, cause myself more harm?

I really have no answers to my own questions. Perhaps it is just one of those days in which my psyche feels fractured. Perhaps I should not blog on days such as these. But then, there would be no release, and without this release, I wonder if I might not go mad, or at least, a little more insane.

If only there were a pause button to life, one that you could press, put things on hold for just a bit, fast forward through the bad parts that you don’t have the stomach to confront. Kind of like the mute button that I always wish would work when someone is talking but I don’t want to hear what they have to say.  Oh well.

Today would be a good day to be on a sailboat, sun on my face, wind in my hair—a cleansing, if you will. Sail around to nowhere, just be in the moment grace has given you. I really should have bought that Tartan 27′ years ago.

“In the creeping moments before wakefulness” ~ L. Liwag

Maybe for now, I’ll just put it away, like the song that I woke up to:

“put it away and wait till tomorrow
put it away and take care of your heart
of your  heart” ~ from Earlimart, “It’s Okay to Think About Ending” (music from House)

More later. Peace.