“But I write badly. The part of my brain in charge of writing ability refuses to work.” ~ Anton Chekhov, “A Boring Story”

Writer Carson McCullers, by Leonard McCombe

“My memory has weakened, my thoughts lack consistency, and each time I set them down on paper it seems to me that I’ve lost the intuition of their organic connection . . . And, remarkably, the simpler the writing, the more excruciating is the strain.” ~ Anton Chekhov, from “A Boring Story”

Sunday evening, ice and snow, and very cold, 17 degrees.

Well, sleep eluded me again last night until after 3 a.m., which, relatively speaking, is not bad for me. There have been times when I’ve been in the midst of an insomnia bout, I’ve watched the sun rise and still couldn’t close my eyes. And yet again, I awoke with a migraine. Nevertheless, I’m going to make a true effort to write today. No promises that I’ll have anything interesting to say.

Eudora Welty Autographing a Book in 1984, by Terry James

Last night the wind whipped around the house with a sound resembling a freight train. I worried about the horses as they still don’t have a shelter. Corey assures me that as long as they have enough hay that they will be able to produce sufficient body heat. They still manage to get out of the pasture each night, and the ringleader, Napoleon, leads them to the front porch.

He’s a beautiful horse, but he’s already spoiled. When he hears me at the front door calling the dogs, he lumbers over and waits for me to give him treats, and often when I do, he comes all of the way to the door after I go inside as if he wants to come inside. Yesterday, both he and the mare Sassy stood at the side window looking in at us as if to let us know, in case we had forgotten, that they were out there.

I no longer wonder if it’s possible to spoil a horse.

“One morning you wash your face,
look into the mirror,
find the water has eroded your features,
worn them smooth as a rock in a brook.” ~ Daniela Gioseffi, from “Some Slippery Afternoon”

So my current problem with words? Probably a myriad of reasons. I still haven’t gotten my other mood stabilizing medication because there’s presumably a shortage, at least that’s what the pharmacy says, and of course, the ongoing lack of my pain maintenance medications doesn’t help things. Added to that the current state of my back is horrendous—it hasn’t hurt this much in years.

Dorothy Parker at Work at Her Typewriter in 1941

I know. I know. Nothing new, but between the ongoing winter depression and the recurrent pain, it’s hard to string thoughts together coherently. The physical always affects the mental, and vice versa.

And so I sit down at my little workspace (because my desk still isn’t set up), and I open YouTube and start playing news stories or true crime stories to run in the background, and then I open up a new screen for a draft, and I stare . . . that, or I work on putting quotes together for future drafts, or I spend some time on tumblr looking for more quotes or images for future posts, and then . . . after wasting more time, I go back to the draft screen, and nothing.

“. . . I hope to learn from you how things really are, why it is that around me things sink away like fallen snow, whereas for other people even a little liqueur glass stands on the table steady as a statue.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Description of a Struggle”

The house still isn’t completely organized or painted, mostly because Corey has so much to do with all of the outside things that need to be handled, that or he ends up unwillingly wasting entire days with Dallas who always proposes projects and then never gets around to them.

Vita Sackville-West in Her Tower Study at Sissinghurst in 1939

The truth of the matter is that Dallas has a drinking problem, one that seems to be getting worse. I don’t like to be around drunks. I’ve had too much experience with drinking problems, and it really gets to me. I mean Dallas has a good heart and good intentions, but as Corey says, Dallas just cannot stay on task; his mind flits from one thing to another, and as a result, little gets done.

I don’t regret that Dallas entered our lives; the relationship is definitely beneficial on both sides: he’s a lonely man who doesn’t appear to have much of a relationship with either of his children, and I have to wonder if that is because of his drinking. But I do feel sorry for him, and I do really try to be patient with him unless he shows up three sheets to the wind. I know that Corey, too, gets frustrated, but there’s little he can do besides try to keep Dallas focused. Still, the ongoing state of the inside of the house is really starting to get to me; I wish so much that I could do some of this stuff myself.

If wishes were fishes . . .

“The place of language is the place between me
and the world of presences I have lost” ~ Marie Ponsot, from “Imagining Starry”
Writer Clarice Lispector at Home in Rio de Janeiro, ca. 1973

I’m trying very hard, even it doesn’t seem like it, trying not to let things get to me, trying not to think about how my children are far away and out of touch, trying not to think about how there’s always so much to do, trying not to worry too much about Dallas and things that are out of my hands, trying to enjoy once again the act of writing these words . . .

. . . trying hard to be present in my life, which is so much harder than it might seem . . .

. . . trying hard to be thankful for what is here and not devastated by what is not . . .

. . . but no matter how hard I try, I just seem to find myself treading water, and I despise this more than I can say.

“I just can’t live an ordinary life, I can’t pass the time. I can’t organise myself, I don’t have ordinary motives anymore. I can’t even manage my body, when I go to bed I don’t know where to put my arms.“ ~ Iris Murdoch, The Green Knight

And I wonder if I have ever truly been present in my life, wholly present. I have this memory of my first husband asking me early in our relationship why I always worried about the future, always worried about what might or might not happen. I had no answer then, and I have no answer now.

Writer Zora Neale Hurston in 1955

I wonder if part of it is being an only child who always felt that I needed to be the mediator for my parents’ disjointed relationship. If I always worried so much about what might happen between them that I just got in the habit of always worrying about what might happen and never figured out how to just be present in today.

Or perhaps this inability comes from being a teenager and always wondering why I never felt as if I belonged. I had friends, a lot of friends. But still, there was always this feeling that these friendships were tenuous, dependent on my acting a certain way, a way that was acceptable, whatever that meant, and so I fretted and worried. No one ever made me feel this way. It was purely internal, and it went back years: In London I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my American accent and Filipino last name; In Norfolk, I didn’t feel as if I fit in because of my British accent and Filipino last name.

I cannot tell you how frustrating it is. How can a person even begin to hope to be normal (whatever that is), hope to make her way through the days in any kind of pseudo normal fashion when everything is a question and the answers never seem to be available?

Anyway, more later. Peace.


Music by Coldplay, “O (Fly On),” extended version


With a Changing Key

With a changing key
you unlock the house where
the snow of what’s silenced drifts.
Just like the blood that bursts from
your eye or mouth or ear,
so your key changes.

Changing your key changes the word
that may drift with the flakes.
Just like the wind that rebuffs you,
packed round your word is the snow.

~ Paul Celan (Trans. Nikolai Popov and Heather McHugh)

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“I would like to do whatever it is that presses the essence from the hour.” ~ Mary Oliver, from The Poet’s Notebook

Curon in Alto Adige (from meinsuedtirol.com)

                   

“The slate is wiped clean.  It is almost as if the discouragement were necessary, that one has first to encounter despair before one is entitled to hope.  Then a time comes when one takes a pencil and a fresh sheet of paper and begins.  Begins, really for the first time.” ~ Walker Percy, “From Facts to Fiction” in Signposts in a Strange Land

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and warm, high 70’s.

I don’t remember my dreams from last night or the night before, an exceedingly rare occurrence for me, but it could be because I’ve had a headache that is moving around my head, currently at the edge of my right eye. This morning I got a text from Corey; he’s off the coast of Dover, England and got a signal. He sounds good. I asked him if he was close enough to the coast to see lighthouses, but he said not quite. We just exchanged a few texts as he was about to go to dinner and then sleep.

Resia, Italy by Angelo C (found on Google Earth, share alike license)

I’m hoping that I can finish this post before Eamonn gets home from work. The pool store has started keeping its Sunday hours, so his work schedule is full. Last night, we got Chinese takeout, and I ordered what I thought was the dish that Corey always gets for me, but it turns out that I ordered the wrong thing, and I didn’t like it much. Such a disappointment.

Today I really need to do laundry and filing—both tasks that I abhor, but as the chances of a maid brigade volunteering to come into my house are slim to none, I suppose it’s left to me. I also need to finish the paper work that I started earlier in the week and send that off. Oh crap.

“I speak best and most fully in my sleep.  When my heart
is not wrapped in layer after layer of daylight, not prepared
like some fighter’s taped fist.” ~ Mark Cox, from “The Word”

I heard on the radio that Alison Krauss is going to be here at the end of the month. I love her music. This is one of those cases in which I wish that Corey were going to be home as that is a concert that he would enjoy too. Oh well.

Resia, Italy by AlSanin (found on Google Earth, share alike license)

I just remembered a snippet of my dream: I was in a doctor’s office, and she wouldn’t give me trigger shots because it was too soon, but she felt a knot on my neck, and said that I had gotten it because I hadn’t taken nsaids (like ibuprofen or Alleve). Then she told me that my EEG showed that I had lung problems. I told her that I thought it was weird that an EEG would show something like that. Then there were elevators again, and of course, they wouldn’t take me where I wanted to go.

What is it with elevators? In life, I hate cramped elevators and will not get on one that is already full of people. The sensation of being trapped inside a small compartment with people pressed in truly terrifies me. But in dreams, what is an elevator? A means of travel? A closed-in space? Being unable to control things if only for a few minutes? All of these? None? And the fact that these dream elevators will not take me where I want to go, what’s up with that?

“I felt for an instant
that the vast star-clustered sky was mine, and I heard
my name as if for the first time, heard it the way
one hears the wind or the rain, but faint and far off
as though it belonged not to me but to the silence
from which it had come and to which it would go.” ~ Mark Strand, from Man and Camel

Shakes just came into the room, sat down by my feet, and said “arf.” I mean, literally, arf. I didn’t know that dogs actually said that except in comics. My dogs are so funny.

I had a realization today that pleased me: I may actually be able to keep off this weight that I’m losing because it’s not a diet but a change in lifestyle. Giving up sugar and sodas and increasing my physical activity—these aren’t things that I plan to stop doing. So perhaps I may be able to get of this yo-yo weight coaster. That would be nice.

Il Campanile della vecchia Curon Venosta nel Lago di Resia

Yesterday Brett and Em made brownies, and admittedly I did have one, but it was less than one-inch square, and I was satisfied with that. Now that’s change I can live with, she said oh so smugly . . .

Last night/early this morning when I got up to let the dogs out, I stuck my head out the door and inhaled deeply. It smelled of earth and trees. The night was beautiful, a slight breeze, clear skies, and I realized that just a few months ago I would have still been awake at 3:30 a.m. Except for a few nights, I’ve been able to get to sleep before one in the morning. I would like to bring that back one more hour, and then I might actually be living my life within the same 24-hour cycle. Does that make sense?

I mean, waking and going to sleep within the same day, kind of like what other people do; although I’m not sure why it matters to me that I sleep like other people. I suppose I’m just trying to be a bit more normal, whatever that is. Normal is such a nothing word when it comes to a definition. Remember that commercial: “What’s normal is what’s normal for you”? Probably about a laxative or something like that. But seriously, normal? Normal is completely dependent upon the individual. Normal and status quo are not synonymous. Normal and ordinary are not one in the same. Normal and traditional are not interchangeable.

So why do I care about being normal? I don’t, actually. I just care about being more like the person I used to be, to be honest.

“Since we must and do write each our own way, we may during actual writing get more lasting instruction not from another’s work, whatever its blessings, however better it is than ours, but from our own poor scratched-over pages. For these we can hold up to life. That is, we are born with a mind and heart to hold each page up to, and to ask: is it valid?” ~ Eudora Welty, On Writing

My book wish list continues to grow as I come across more titles and authors that I want to have in my personal library. Is it obnoxious to tell my kids that I want a book for Mother’s Day? I guess it is a bit, but geez, they get to give me lists for Christmas and their birthdays. Why don’t moms get to make requests once a year?

But I mean, what’s the point of an Amazon wish list? Santa sure as hell isn’t going to make it happen. And don’t even get me started on the whole concept of the Easter Bunny and presents. I find the Easter Bunny at malls incredibly creepy, but that’s another story (ooh, I will add that I heard that a mall Easter Bunny was popped for being high on the job—see? Creepy. Couldn’t stay sober for a few weeks?)

Lago di Resie from (Garni Platzer website)

Anyway, one book keeps appearing on my Tumblr dash from someone I follow who I happen to know likes the same kind of poetry that I do. It’s called The Poet’s Notebook, and even though it was published in 1995, some of the passages that he’s been posting are really interesting. I used to buy books on the craft of writing all of the time. I remember one of my writing professors as an undergraduate said that it was our obligation was wannabe writers and poets to support those who were actually publishing, and it was a profound statement, really.

I mean, who buys books of poetry? Certainly not the general public. Long before the Internet I used to buy my poetry books from a mail order service that, oddly enough, Christopher Buckley told Mary and me about. It was called Spring Hill Books (I think), and a woman actually ran it out of her house. I don’t think that she’s still around, probably having been put out of business by Amazon and Barnes and Noble. She was a lovely, kind woman who used to write me when she got a new title that she thought that I would like. I miss her. I miss independent booksellers who are quickly fading from the landscape.

By the way, happy belated birthday Eudora Welty.

“There is a basic iconographic pattern in the universe (the seasons, for example), but our relationship to it is our own.  How we hear it is our own, and is therefore unpredictable . . . No one needs to confirm our experience, which is unconditional.  We confirm it.  The only magic that exists is personal, real, direct.” ~ Gail Sher, from “My White and Your White Aren’t Necessarily the Same,” from The Intuitive Writer: Listening to Your Own Voice

When I worked at the Museum, we used to order lunch from a cafe inside an independent bookseller in downtown Norfolk. They had the best homemade hummus and focaccia bread. Prince Books. I wonder if they are still there . . .

Val Venosta, Resia, Italy by Davide Bedin (FCC)

Just the other day I was thinking about working at the Museum. How wonderful to be surrounded by such beauty, to be able to wander the galleries to clear my head, to joke about putting the Bernini bust in my purse and take it home (this thing is huge). I loved that job. Of course there were parts that were hard to take, like working with the board (class warfare, anyone?), but spending time with creations that were hundreds of years old? Works of art by Renoir and Tissot? That was magical. And because I worked there it meant that on some days I had all of the galleries to myself. Can you imagine?

Speaking of jobs, I had that dream again in which I realize that I’ve gone to work teaching (public school), but then quit, and I haven’t told my disability provider, and now I’ve probably lost my coverage. I hate that dream. I mean, think about it—who would actually choose teaching in public school as the job to return to after all of this time? Not me, that’s for sure. Maybe teaching in a tony private school in which, as Alexis used to say, the biggest different is that the student body can afford better drugs, but you know what I mean—teaching in a school in which the students assault the teachers versus teaching in a school in which parental pressure for the prodigy to make grades worthy of Harvard. Hmm . . .

Well, I suppose I had better get to the real life chores that await me.

More later. Peace.

Music by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant, “Your Long Journey”

                   

Del Lago di Resia (1949)

Images of Campanile di Curon and surrounding area: Flooded by the waters of il Lago di Resia (Reschensee), situated in Val Venosta in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of Italy, the Campanile di Curon is a vestige of the old town of Curon Venosta. This small alpine town was buried shortly after World War II when three pre-existing lakes (Lago di Resia, Lago di Curon, and Lago di San Valentino alla Muta) were joined together to create one bigger artificial lake. The town is still sitting under water, but the tower was so tall that it juts out, marking the central location of a place many once called home.

                   

And I Said To My Soul, Be Loud

Madden me back to an afternoon
I carry in me
not like a wound
but like a will against a wound

Give me again enough man
to be the child
choosing my own annihilations

To make of this severed limb
a wand to conjure
a weapon to shatter
dark matter of the dirt daubers’ nests
galaxies of glass

Whacking glints
bash-dancing on the cellar’s fire
I am the sound the sun would make
if the sun could make a sound

and the gasp of rot
stabbed from the compost’s lumpen living death
is me

O my life my war in a jar
I shake you and shake you
and may the best ant win

For I am come a whirlwind of wasted things
and I will ride this tantrum back to God

until my fixed self, my fluorescent self
my grief–nibbling, unbewildered, wall–to–wall self
withers in me like a salted slug

~ Christian Wimen, from Every Living Thing