“To handle a language skillfully is to practice a kind of evocative sorcery.” ~ Charles Baudelaire

I really need to read more Baudelaire . . .

Spleen

I have more memories than if I’d lived a thousand years.

A heavy chest of drawers cluttered with balance-sheets,
Processes, love-letters, verses, ballads,
And heavy locks of hair enveloped in receipts,
Hides fewer secrets than my gloomy brain.
It is a pyramid, a vast burial vault
Which contains more corpses than potter’s field.
— I am a cemetery abhorred by the moon,
In which long worms crawl like remorse
And constantly harass my dearest dead.
I am an old boudoir full of withered roses,
Where lies a whole litter of old-fashioned dresses,
Where the plaintive pastels and the pale Bouchers,
Alone, breathe in the fragrance from an opened phial.

Nothing is so long as those limping days,
When under the heavy flakes of snowy years
Ennui, the fruit of dismal apathy,
Becomes as large as immortality.
— Henceforth you are no more, O living matter!
Than a block of granite surrounded by vague terrors,
Dozing in the depths of a hazy Sahara
An old sphinx ignored by a heedless world,
Omitted from the map, whose savage nature
Sings only in the rays of a setting sun.

~ Charles Baudelaire, trans. William Aggeler

Music by MS MR, “Hurricane”

“Life is a journey. Time is a river. The door is ajar” ~ Jim Butcher

“Flight of Swans,” by Frank Weston Benson (1951)

                            

“Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again . . .” ~ Frank O’Hara

Well, hey. How have you been? Long time no words between us . . . 

"The Reader," Frank Weston Benson (1910)

First, my computer died, an unanticipated immediate death, requiring the ordering of parts and much finger crossing. Said computer is still sitting forlorn in the corner of the bedroom, collecting dust and serving as a clothes stand. Ah, such is life. 

Then I appropriated Corey’s computer, which is no easy feat. Adjusted myself to his scratchy mouse and a different corner of the house, this one an apparent heat sink of a spot as all afternoon heat collects in this corner. Not to mention that his computer’s speakers sound tinny, an observation that made Corey reply haughtily, “Well, we can’t all have Bose speakers.” What? Was it something I said? 

Then, the Internet was shut off, so between the breakage, moving, and lack of payment, my posting has been, shall we say, bereft? 

In such a short space of time, summer is waning right outside my door. Oh, it’s still beastly hot, but leaves are beginning to appear on the surface of the pool. Speaking of which, my forays into the pool this summer have been few, not because I have developed an aversion to floating about on water but because the interminable headaches make it hard to be in the heat and bright sun. Tillie the Black Lab has been sure to jump into the pool as much as possible, and I’m sure that it’s only to make me feel better. 

“She would never change, but one day at the touch of a fingertip, she would fall.” ~ Simone de Beauvoir
"Lily Pond," Frank Weston Benson (1923)

As I said in my brief post yesterday, I found my blog’s theme changed when I was finally able to log in. How disconcerting. Apparently, WordPress is updating some themes and deleting others. Mine, which I mistakenly believed was Pressrow, was Cutline, which (as Isaak Mak pointed out—thanks), has been morphed into Coraline. Progress is fine, but change is not always necessarily good. It took me almost two years to switch from the first theme that I had, and now I am breaking in a new theme again. 

Granted for some people this would not present a problem, but I had everything where I wanted it, all of the widgets lined along the right side, a new header photo. Part of the problem, you see, is that I’m still not on my own computer, the repository of my vast folder of images, so I had to search for another image for my header last night. I settled on the one above, but it doesn’t seem quite right. And this blasted typeface seems incredibly big. I wonder if it is or if my eyes are rebelling? 

It seems the family is experiencing its share of computer problems. Brett is supposed to submit a Writing Sample Placement Test to ODU before he can register for his freshman English class. He is most unhappy at this proposition as he believes that having survived several years of IB English should make him qualified to take freshman composition. I agree, but as I explained, everyone has to do it unless they tested out, which he did not. 

To date, he has tried to take this test four times. He has written the essay two times. When he hits submit, the essay disappears, and he is locked out. The last time he wrote the essay I reminded him to copy it and paste it into a blank document so that he wouldn’t have to write it again. Brett, like his mother, becomes stymied by those things he deems unnecessary, this test being one of them. Multiply the process by four, and the result is a very unhappy son. 

Meanwhile, the router, the thingy that connects all of the computers in the house to the Internet and to each other, yep that thingy—continues to go in and out. 

“I want to write like August, to swim in it like a pool and forget the clock hands moving across summer’s face.” ~ Terresa Wellborn
"Rainy Day," Frank Weston Benson (1906)

 What else is new on the home front? I would love to be able to say that I’ve been commissioned to write a screenplay, that Corey has been given his own boat, that my children are all content, that the dogs do not have fleas . . . I would love to be able to say these things, but we all know that I would be lying. 

I’ve been commissioned to do nothing, so I’m thinking about selling Avon online as a way to make a spare bit of cash. Of course, I have to check with my disability people to see if I’m even allowed to do such a thing. Corey still has no boat to call his own, and he is working tirelessly at his port security job. 

Alexis is frayed and exhausted from trying to take care of Jennifer’s paperwork, and son, and still be a good friend. She seems on the verge of tears most of the time, and her visits are just brief enough to drop off her laundry, which Corey has volunteered to do for her so that she has one less thing to worry about. 

Jennifer is home from the hospital, and now, I suppose, we are all in wait mode. Alexis and Jennifer’s brother Christopher are trying to enroll Reilly in the grade school that is just around the corner from my house, which would allow me to walk over and pick him up from school any time needed, and Lex’s Aunt Ann has volunteered to be on the emergency list for Reilly as well. 

I wish that I could say that the outlook is good, that Jennifer is rallying, and the doctors have predicted good things . . . If wishes were fishes . . . 

“I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer . . . It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips.” ~ Violette Leduc 
"Dog River, Alabama," Frank Weston Benson (1930)

Everything that I have written so far has been much ado about nothing. I realize that. I also realize that I am once again standing too close to a precipice to peer over the side. Too many things are stirring in the cosmos. Too many things are unsettled and being bandied about like a badminton shuttle (I’m certain that’s spelled correctly, but it looks funny). 

My dreams of late have been filled with babies and confrontation, heated arguments with people in charge, those unknown faces of people who hold power over me. I wake up frantic and in pain after averting physical fights. Last night there was a knife, a group of teenagers who were shooting automatic weapons on a side street in Downtown Norfolk, and a long walk down an alley. I don’t need psychoanalysis to tell me what that means. 

The end of summer used to have a curious coda to it: When I was teaching at ODU, August became a month of frenzied activity, getting ready for school, buying new clothes for everyone, trying to fit in as many activities as possible. Now, it is merely muggy and long. A part of me even misses the chaos of buying school supplies for Eamonn and Brett, the lists, the rush from store to store to find three-prong folders with pockets because all of the stores only have the ones with pockets. Buying a certain kind of pen for Brett, and another for Eamonn. 

Corey, the boys, and I would try to fit in a trip to Busch Gardens, and maybe a trip to the Outer Banks. Those were heady summer days. It all seems to very far away. 

“When you start to live outside of yourself, it all seems dangerous.” ~ Ernest Hemingway
"Red and Gold," Frank Weston Benson (1915)

Now, here with two-thirds of the year gone, I think back to the plans I made at the beginning of the new year, my resolution to myself that this would be the year that I finally did something, that I would make the telephone calls, that I would release the flow of words that are dammed within. 

I have done nothing. I have moved through eight months without gaining any forward motion. If I were to disappear tomorrow, there would be nothing to show the world that I was here except as a mother, as someone’s spouse. My sense of self, though, that would disappear in an instant with me. 

All of the worlds within my mind, all of the stories left untold, all of the lines left unwritten—they would cease to exist, and the fault would be mine alone, a result of my continual, ongoing paralysis of spirit. 

Self-pity is heinous on a bright August afternoon. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Powderfinger, “Nobody Sees”

“Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all.” ~ Ayn Rand

I miss Bill Watterson’s Calvin and Hobbes

 “Were you born this infuriating?”
“It’s taken me years of practice.” ~ Misty Massey from Mad Kestrel

A bit better today. It’s still bone-chillingly cold outside, and pretty chilly inside, but at least I feel able to get out of bed for a bit. You know that you are truly sick when you take a shower and then have to get back into bed to recover from the exertion.

Last night Corey and I watched more of the NCIS backlog on the DVR. One of the best aspects of our cable company is that they supply a DVR with the cable bundle service to which we subscribe. This means that I have the poor man’s version of TiVo, but it works really well. I have all of my favorite shows set up to tape, and I can rank them so that if there happens to be a conflict, the higher-ranked shows will tape.

Anyway, I have this incredible backlog of NCIS (my very favorite show) because Corey asked me to tape it for him, but it’s hard to get him to watch them. So we’ve been making a concerted effort to get caught up. I’ve been picking out the most important story arcs, but there is one problem with that: When a show is a repeat, it does not necessarily have the same name as the original. As a result, we’ve watched some shows out of order, and we are missing a few key shows.

Corey thinks that it’s a subversive plot on my part to drive him crazy: Let’s watch the shows about La Grenouile . . . Oh wait, that one is missing. Only to find the show under a different name later. Personally, the back and forth doesn’t bother me at all as that is the way in which my mind works—all over the place at once—and even though it isn’t a conscience plot, perhaps I am trying to make Corey less rigid in wanting things to be linear . . .

Oh well. At least it sort of sounded good.

“One of ennui’s most terrible components is the overwhelming feeling of ennui that comes over you whenever you try to explain it.” ~ Ingmar Bergman

We’re back to the very strange dreams again. Apparently, I’m waking up not screaming, but arguing, and then when Corey tries to calm me, I get angry with him, and I am so loud that Brett hears me from the other room. I hate that because when I wake up for good, I’m in a foul mood, which makes absolutely no sense. How very strange.

The dreams that I remember are strange as well. In one of them, I found out that Brett had shot someone, but my mother told everyone to lie to me about it. Obviously, I was distressed by this news, and then my dad (always disconcerting when dad appears) told me that he would take care of it and talk to my mom and Brett. The strangest part about this dream was that after the main dream, I then dreamed that I was awake and that I was going to write a book about what had happened. I even came up with the title of the book and the first chapter. Of course when I actually awoke, there was no book, and the title made no sense at all. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I did that automatic writing thing in my sleep and woke up to find a chapter written?

In another one, I someone was shooting me, not near me but at me. I don’t remember a lot about this one except for the fact that I was being shot and that I was screaming at the person who was shooting me. Last night, I had a very, very weird dream in which there was some small-town high school event, and I was going to disrupt it somehow.

I know. Weird. Why can’t I have dreams about lying on a white sandy beach with an umbrella drink in my hands? Just that, nothing else, no confrontations, no conflict, just the ocean, the sand, blue skies. Probably too much to expect of a dream.

“Give me detached existentialist ennui . . . Give me rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism.” ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
Flash.”

Okay, so the quotes about ennui? The word popped into my head while I was sitting here trying to figure out the best way to describe the past few days. Ennui: a feeling of listlessness for lack of activity or excitement . . . voila! My past few days. I have been so listless that I cannot even read, which is a very big deal, especially as I am in the middle of a book, but as I said, I am starting to feel a bit better, a little more energy.

I have an embarrassing story to tell about the word ennui: Many years ago I was playing Scrabble with my ex and some friends (for some reason, my ex always won when we played together, which really pissed me off as he was the scientist and I was the lit major). Someone put down the word ennui. Now, I should have recognized the word, but to give me credit, her pronunciation really threw me. She said en-noo-ee, not on-we, so I didn’t know what the hell she was talking about, and I challenged her. Of course, I was wrong, but shouldn’t she have lost points for her dreadful mispronunciation?

I know. Poor sport. But I hate to lose at Scrabble, which is probably why no one will play with me any more. I think that it has something to do with my rampant intellectualism as a coping mechanism . . .

“Life is like topography, Hobbes. There are summits of happiness and success, flat stretches of boring routine and valleys of frustration and failure.” ~ Bill Watterson, Calvin & Hobbes

I do miss Calvin and Hobbes, as witnessed by today’s images. It was a genius comic strip, written for both the child and adult from a child’s point of view but with infusions of adult wisdom from the stuffed tiger Hobbes. I always viewed Calvin’s perpetual energy, zeal for life, and unabashed talent for reducing things to bare bones as being such a refreshing commentary on life. Watterson did with his strip what Shulz had done with Peanuts years before: used a popular medium to entertain on the one level and enlighten on a more subliminal level. I’m hoping that I can get the collection that hit the market a few months ago, perhaps for my birthday.

I want to share with you a wonderful passage I recently came across. It’s from Simon Rich’s Ant Farm: and Other Desperate Situations, and I think that it is absolutely priceless in summing up frustration:

“I still remember the day I got my first calculator

Teacher: All right, children, welcome to fourth grade math. Everyone take a calculator out of the bin.
Me: What are these?
Teacher: From now on we’ll be using calculators.
Me: What do these things do?
Teacher: Simple operations, like multiplication and division.
Me: You mean this device just…does them? By itself?
Teacher: Yes. You enter in the problem and press equal.
Me: You…you knew about this machine all along, didn’t you? This whole time, while we were going through this…this charade with the pencils and the line paper and the stupid multiplication tables!…I’m sorry for shouting…It’s just…I’m a little blown away.
Teacher: Okay, everyone, today we’re going to go over some word problems.
Me: What the hell else do you have back there? A magical pen that writes book reports by itself? Some kind of automatic social studies worksheet that…that fills itself out? What the hell is going on?
Teacher: If a farmer farms five acres of land a day–
Me: So that’s it, then. The past three years have been a total farce. All this time I’ve been thinking, “Well, this is pretty hard and frustrating but I guess these are useful skills to have.” Meanwhile, there was a whole bin of these things in your desk. We could have jumped straight to graphing. Unless, of course, there’s some kind of graphing calculator!
Teacher: There is. You get one in ninth grade.
Me: Is this…Am I on TV? Is this a prank show?
Teacher: No.”

More later. Peace.

Moby’s “One of these Mornings,” just because it is so beautiful. Actually, couldn’t decide between two videos, so posting both. Let me know if you have a preference . . .