“Bodies have their own light which they consume to live: they burn, they are not lit from outside.” ~ Egon Schiele

Fire in the Sky (NOAA Corps Collection)

                   

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.” ~ Vincent van Gogh

Sailboats at Sunset (Pixdaus)Sailboats at Sunset (Pixdaus)

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy, hot and very humid. 

The house is quiet. The dogs are all hiding in cool spots, so it’s just Brett and me. Corey had a medical transport today, which means a road trip to Dulles Airport and back, long day, but good hours for him.

Some welcome news for a change: After my, shall we say, less-than-friendly letter to the president of the Ford dealership, we have resolution at last. The dealer is going to honor the buy-back and try to recoup the money from Ford Motor Company, which will pull us out of the dispute. I mailed the letter on Monday and received a call from a vice president on Tuesday. We’re set to turn in the rental and pick up the check this coming Tuesday, so after seven months, resolution in two days.

Isn’t it amazing what carefully chosen words can do? My friend Mari once suggested that I go into business writing letters of complaint for people.

Another avenue unexplored . . .

No rental means we go back to one vehicle temporarily, but with the check from the dealer, we can finally get Corey’s truck fixed (transmission, transfer case, etc.). I know that he’ll be glad to have his truck working again; the only drawback is what it will cost to fill the truck with gas versus what we’ve been paying to fill these little economy-class cars from the rental company. Big difference there.

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” ~ Frederick Douglass

Sailboat at Sunset (Pixdaus)

Well, I had my lumbar puncture on Thursday, which brought on an instantaneous migraine and laid me low all day Friday and partially yesterday. Hence, no post. I did try to write last night, but my wrists and hands were still tingling. Don’t ask me why . . .

The procedure itself is uncomfortable, mostly because of the position in which I had to place my body. The only thing that I felt at the puncture site was some pressure. So glad that LPs have come a long way from the frightful spinal taps of the past. I cannot imagine having the puncture done without numbing medicine first. However, because the doctor had to go through scar tissue from my operation, it took a few tries before she was in, which produced a bonus sensation: a shooting pain from my back all the way down my right leg.

Nothing is ever easy or straightforward when it comes to my body and doctors.

It would be nice if she actually gets some kind of results from the tests, if only because it will help to explain some of the constant headaches. They are such a part of my life now that I only notice when I don’t have a headache.

“There is a place where time stands still . . . illuminated by only the most feeble red light, for light is diminished to almost nothing at the center of time, its vibrations slowed to echoes in vast canyons, its intensity reduced to the faint glow of fireflies.” ~ Alan Lightman

Sunset at Samurai Beach, NSW, Australia (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been thinking about people again, in the general sense. Remember I had mentioned people who are cheerful, who smile easily and how I am not one of those kinds of people? Well, what about those individuals in whom you can sense a burning, an internal fire?

These are the people who will not be bound by the shackles of an ordinary life. I’m not talking about the Donald Trumps of the world; those are the people who climb upon the backs of others to get what they want (no idea what made me think of Trump, who I truly despise). I’m talking about people like Beethoven, van Gogh, Emily Dickinson—the ones in whom the passion inside was so great that they just had to find a way to release it.

Beethoven composed, created great beauty that he could not hear. When his hearing began to fail, he did not stop composing; rather, he composed more fervently. The music that he heard inside was such a primal force that the composer put his ear to the floor to feel the vibrations. I don’t know that I believe that Beethoven was writing for the world. Instead, I think that he was writing to set himself free. Unless he made the notes real, they would haunt him.

Vincent van Gogh was mad and brilliant, and that combination brought forth yellow stars that are instantly recognizable throughout the world. The artist had so much to say, even if no one around him wanted to hear the words. Imagine what it must have felt like for van Gogh, alone with only his mind, never quite knowing what was real, and then transferring those emotions into vivid swirls in hues brilliant to behold. Imagine the force that drove van Gogh to paint himself over and over—his attempt to make himself real? Solid?

The reclusive Emily Dickinson alone, fragile, writing page after page of verse that the world would know nothing of until after her death. Dickinson dared to stray from the conventions of her time—no titles, extensive use of dashes, odd capitalization, short lines with internal rhyme— and wrote instead what her heart spoke to her. I wonder if she had any inkling of how much her writing would change the landscape of poetry.

“Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.” ~ Patti Smith

Caribbean Sunset by photon y (FCC)

I suppose what I am pondering is how each of these creative individuals possessed a spark that urged them onward, regardless of circumstances. Each burned within, consumed with passion and desire. Each garnered more attention after death than during life. Did each die thinking him or herself a failure?

How we judge ourselves is very telling indeed.

Burning desire. Creative passion. clichés? Perhaps, but that fire does exist, and it does not exist in everyone. This I know for certain. But is this internal fire a partner to madness, the madness that comes from wanting something so much that everything else is left by the wayside? What else but mad desire would have driven Michelangelo to lie on his back for four years to paint the Sistine Chapel?

To be clear, I know the difference between mad desire and psychotic desire: The first gives the world Michelangelo’s frescoes; the second gives the world Hitler’s death camps. Creative madness eats at the soul of the individual who harbors it; it does not harbor a desire to destroy those who look on. That is not to say that the person who gives rise to such passion does not take prisoners along the way. Just consider the siblings and spouses left behind to pick up the pieces. Ted Hughes was still trying to come to terms with Sylvia Plath in his last published work, in spite of his own poetic genius.

Perhaps what I am really contemplating is whether or not that spark still resides somewhere in my soul. Do I still possess the same passion for words that I once felt, or worse, did I never really feel it? No, I should not dissemble: I have felt it all my life—the it that separates those of us who are different, not of the mainstream. And I know the price that we pay, know how many will subsume the desire in order to fit in, to be like everyone else.

It’s like walking a tightrope backwards: a constant balancing act without any clear idea of where it’s all going. It’s as if we are constantly moving into the sunset, blinded by the fire in the sky, but unwilling to give up the quest beyond the horizon because to attain it, the elusive it, would mean peace at last, at least, that’s what we convince ourselves. As Henry James once said, “We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

Music by Right the Stars, “You Know the Way to Go”

                   

Flame

the breath               the trees               the bridge
the road                  the rain                the sheen
the breath              the line                  the skin
the vineyard          the fences             the leg
the water               the breath             the shift
the hair                  the wheels            the shoulder
the breath              the lane                the streak
the lining               the hour                the reasons
the name                the distance          the breath
the scent                the dogs                the blear
the lungs                the breath             the glove
the signal               the turn                  the need
the steps                the lights               the door
the mouth             the tongue             the eyes
the burn                the burned            the burning

~ C. D. Wright

“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” ~ Anne Sexton

  

   

“The very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope not admire it from a distance, but live right in it, under its roof.”~ Barbara Kingsolver, Animal Dreams
Barbara Kingsolver, author

 

Wow. Can I just tell you how good it felt to put up a  post yesterday? I know that I didn’t exactly reveal any great truths or ponder any of life’s deep mysteries; nevertheless, it felt good to write something. Since my computer died, I’ve been spending more time on tumblr, reblogging other people’s pictures and quotes, which is always nice as far as finding new things,  but just isn’t the same as moving some words around the page.  

So much has been happening on the political front, but I’m not in the mood to castigate Neanderthal thinking tonight. Instead, I thought that I might just write and see what comes to me—open the window, so to speak, to allow whatever thoughts are drifting by to coast inside and cogitate a bit.  

“You see, I am a poet, and not quite right in the head, darling. It’s only that.” ~ Edna St. Vincent Millay
Edna St. Vincent Millay, poet

 

I found out yesterday that Brett hasn’t been taking his medication, not for about five days. I am of mixed feelings about this. I mean, he seems to be doing okay, and perhaps without the steady stream of stress from school he really is feeling balanced at the moment. However, he starts college in less than a month and a half, and if that’s isn’t a stress inducer, I don’t know what is.  

I do understand his desire to be off medication, to be normal, as it were. I often think of being without medication (not pain medication, but the other kind). I know that as far as writing, creating, it is easier without medication than with. I know from  times past that the highs and lows, the keen sense of soaring when things are good, and the abysmal sense of falling when they are not—these undulating moods can be like a drug to the one who is being tossed about on the waves.  

Pain can be addictive. Pain can make the sufferer feel more alive. Pain separates the anguished from the even; the heady ride into the unknowing can be positively euphoric when compared to notions of normalcy. The years that I spent without medication, immersed in my grief and pain were some of my most prolific as far as churning out pages and pages of angst. But really, how much of it was good, was readable? How much of it would I put out there for public consumption? I do not think that I can answer that honestly, and certainly not without bias.  

“The most beautiful things are those that madness prompts and reason writes. ~ André Gide, Journals, 1894
Andre Gidé, author (LIFE 1947)

 

Those of you who have never ridden these waves probably find me incomprehensible. How could anyone possibly enjoy suffering? Well, enjoy is not the best word. I don’t think that anyone enjoys suffering (well, almost anyone). It’s more that the suffering becomes so entwined in the very fiber of being that to be without it feel as if a hollow has replaced the niches in which the pain and suffering resided.  

Consider Emily Dickinson. Hers was a life of complex solitude that led to pages and pages of contemplation about life, death, grief, spirituality, hope, and pain. Dickinson’s poems often expound on the idea of what life must be like for other people—their dreams, sorrows, etc.:  

I measure every grief I meet
   With analytic eyes;
I wonder if it weighs like mine,
   Or has an easier size.  

I wonder if they bore it long,
   Or did it just begin?
I could not tell the date of mine,
   It feels so old a pain.  

I wonder if it hurts to live,
   And if they have to try,
And whether, could they choose between,
   They would not rather die.  

That no one found the poet’s written pages until after her death reflects her intense need for privacy. Perhaps Dickinson believed that no one else would be able to comprehend that of which she spoke, that no one else would care to share her intimate thoughts. Of course, many years later Dickinson has become a mainstay in the American literature canon.  

“Artistic temperament sometimes seems a battleground, a dark angel of destruction and a bright angel of creativity wrestling.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle
Anne Sexton, Poet

 

Does the individual need to be mad to be an artist? Of course not. Is there a tinge of madness in many artistic souls? Probably.  

I think that it, this kinship with madness, comes from feeling too much, that there must be something in the artistic temperament that makes bearing witness to life and death, love and hate, elation and despair—that makes the knowing too hard to be left untold. Hence, reams and reams of poetry and prose, canvases awash with emotion, photographs that capture that absolute essence of a moment in time, songs that run so deep that listeners weep upon the hearing; sculptures, carvings, tapestries, mosaics, and architecture that reflect a connection with beauty, a knowledge of pain, a reflection of loss.  

It’s all here. It always has been, ever since the first person took a finger, dipped it in blood or berry juice, and began to draw on a cave wall, ever since someone else took a rock with a sharp edge and hewed into a larger stone. The need to translate what is felt into something tangible is as ancient as time.  

“The creative person is both more primitive and more cultivated, more destructive, a lot madder and a lot saner, than the average person.” ~ Frank Barron
Pablo Neruda, poet

 

So, the question perhaps is whether or not to medicate the artistic mind. To what end? To allow that person to become more normal? To bring that person some sense of peace? Who decides just what is acceptable, what is normal? Can peace of mind be induced chemically?  

Or is the call for medication more for those around the artist so that the surrounding family, friends, whatever, can live life with fewer disruptions caused by the shifting moods of the odd one? You know, the one who doesn’t really fit in, who has never really fit in—the outsider.  

But consider this: Often when not medicated, the artistic individual will turn to other sources for calming or for stimulation. Alcohol? Heroin? All of it? How many creative geniuses has society lost to the vices employed as balms to the tortured soul?  

  • Elizabeth Barrett Browning (opium)
  • Ernest Hemingway (alcohol)
  • Beethoven (alcohol)
  • William S. Burroughs (heroin)
  • Kurt Cobain (heroin)
  • Edna St. Vincent Millay (alcohol)
  • Tennessee Williams (alcohol, amphetamines, barbiturates)
  • Charlie Parker (heroin)
  • Jack Kerouac (alcohol)
  • Hunter S. Thompson (anything and everything)

And then, of course, are the artists who were depressed, suicidal, and/or addicted: Anne Sexton, Vincent Van Gogh, Sylvia Plath, James Wright, and many, many others. Would Van Gogh have painted “Starry Night” if he were on lithium? Could he have even envisioned those passionate swirls with all of their intense aching if were pumped full of prozac?  

Just wondering. More later. Peace.  

                                                                                                               

VII  

 

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.”  

~ Pablo Neruda from Still Another Day  

                                                                                                              

Music by  Neko Case, “Furnace Room Lullabye”  

  

“Words are sacred. They deserve respect. If you get the right ones in the right order, you can nudge the world a little . . . ” ~ Tom Stoppard

Law and Order Optical Illusion Billboard

   

“We are asleep with compasses in our hands.” ~ W. S. Merwin
Berger Paints Billboard Illusion

Watched Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Are Dead last night (1990 starring Tim Roth and Gary Oldman); hence, the Stoppard quote. Thought that it would be a good movie to watch before going to sleep. Good movie, yes. Sleep, no. 

Speaking of sleep . . . I haven’t been getting much—yet again. The past two mornings have seen me sitting at this computer at 7 a.m. and not because I’m an early riser. Au contraire. I am having a hard time falling asleep again. Who knows the whys or wherefores of my body, why I can sleep for 10 hours one night and four hours on another, why I can fall asleep without any pharmaceutical assistance one night but not so on another. Regardless, I am watching dawn break, morning rise, and everything else in between. 

I do know the heat really affects me—headaches, mood swings, appetite—and it has been hotter than hades here for several days. I suppose, though, that we are quite fortunate considering the bizarre weather patterns to the north: a tornado in Bridgeport, Connecticut, a major twister in Eagle, Wisconsin that damaged or destroyed 125 homes and killed one person, flooding in the midwest after severe thunderstorms, a 5.0 earthquake that struck in the Quebec/Ontario border region with tremors felt as far away as Milwaukee, Cleveland, and Toronto. 

A good rain here would be nice, but nothing too drastic. 

“When you have insomnia, you’re never really asleep, and you’re never really awake.” ~ From the movie Fight Club, based on the novel by Chuck Palahniuk
Maker's Mark Billboard Illusion

 One of the things that I did when I couldn’t sleep was to organize my music on my YouTube channel, break it down into more categories as I had reached my 200-song-limit in my main category. One of these days I’m going to follow progress and get an MP3 player. Of course, those are really better for people who actually leave the house, go places in cars, or maybe even on walks. 

Yep. We’ll see about that. 

I’m actually a bit hungry today, craving chocolate and salt. Unfortunately, slim pickings in the house at the moment, so I don’t anticipate that carving being sated anytime soon. Just read an article that states that adults should not ingest more than one teaspoon of salt a day. I’m so busy worrying about sugar and fat; now I have to worry about salt? Sometimes I think that existing on crackers or cereal is really the best way to go. 

I’ve been counting calories recently, and Corey asked me how I’m going about determining calories. I told him that I’m estimating what I think something might be and then doubling it. I watched some show about Americans and food, and it was actually quite revealing. This university professor (cannot remember who or where, sorry) studies food habits. He had this study group divided into two subgroups. Each group was served the exact same meal, but their reactions were very different. The meal was a taco salad from Taco Bell. 

The first group was served the meal on the plastic plate, and they were told that it was fast food. When asked their opinions, most of the individuals said that the taste was mediocre, and they were pretty accurate in estimating the calories at around 1,000. Group two was served the exact same meal, but it was placed on nice dishes, and they were told that it was from a bistro that served health-conscious food. These people claimed that the food tasted great, and they estimated the calories between 300 and 450. 

So interesting how presentation can affect perceptions. But of course, being in marketing, I knew that. 

It’s the same thinking that advises people not to eat standing up over the kitchen sink (Corey does this), and to set the table for at least one meal a day. The mind affects the enjoyment of a meal as much as the meal itself. 

“I’ll tell you how the sun rose a ribbon at a time.” ~ Emily Dickinson
Mini Cooper Underpass Advertisement Optical Illusion

Aside from those tidbits, not much seems to be stirring in my right brain at the moment. I suppose it’s because I know that Corey is in the dining room trying to make less than three hundred dollars cover about one thousand dollars worth of stuff. Alchemy. That must be the answer because working 11 hours a week certainly isn’t creating optimum cash flow. 

I’m not disparaging. On the contrary. If not for Corey’s creative right-brained abilities with the minimal income we have, we would have been out in the cold (or heat, as it were), a long time ago. Just knowing that he is doing this always brings about two diametrically opposing emotions in me: awe and sadness. 

In keeping with the whole concept of creating something out of nothing, the images are optical illusion billboards from around the world. Enjoy. 

More later. Peace

Music by The Pretenders, “I’ll Stand by You”