“I feel as though I have lived many lives, experienced the heights and depths of each and like the waves of the ocean, never known rest. Throughout the years, I looked always for the unusual, for the wonderful, for the mysteries at the heart of life.” ~ Leni Riefenstahl

Maria Mikhalskaya, Children’s Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

                   

“I’m tired of facts, I’m tired of speculations, I want to be consumed by unreason.” ~ Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers

Wednesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and mild, mid 50’s.

Well I hope that everyone who celebrates it had a very Merry Christmas. My family had a lovely one. Everyone seemed to get that one special gift, and so far, only Alexis needs to exchange sizes. Many thanks to those of you who sent good wishes.

Maria Mikhalskaya, Children's Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Christmas dinner was, shall we say, interesting. My mother was in true form, which means that she wasn’t nearly as nice as she was at Thanksgiving. She started eating before everyone was seated at the table, and justified it by saying that we should have begun dinner an hour earlier. Lovely. It was that kind of night.

Several drama scenes, one of which involved my s-in-law Ann, who was quite touchy, but as I reminded everyone, this was her first Christmas without her mother, and that first holiday season after losing a parent or child is pure hell. Ann left but then came back and sat around with us for a few more hours, so everything was smoothed over on that front.

Other drama involved my mother and her tactless comments, none of which are really worth repeating here. What I am amazed by is that I really wasn’t bothered by her comments as I usually am. They just rolled off my back, and I was (thankfully) able to help smooth the ruffled feathers of those who actually took her comments to heart.

That I was unaffected this time is unusual, and that I can write about it without being the least bit upset is also unusual, but good, good for me, at least.

“The fern in the rain breathes the silver message.
Stay, lie low. Play your dark reeds
and relearn the beauty of absorption.
There is nothing beyond the rotten log
covered with leaves and needles.
Forget the light emerging with its golden wick.
Raise your face to the water-laden frond.
A thousand blossoms will fall into your arms.” ~ Anne Coray, The Art of Being

My in-laws in Ohio sent gift cards to everyone for Christmas, and I got one for Barnes and Noble and one for Amazon. I am so excited because it means that I can order some of the books that have been on my wish list. For me, that’s the absolute perfect gift. Eamonn already used his gift card to Vans to buy a pair of shoes. Alexis and Mike got a gift card to Olive Garden, one of Lex’s favorite places to eat, and Brett got a gift card to Best Buy, one of his favorite places to shop.

Maria Mikhalskaya, The Red House Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Corey got two new fleece shirts from his parents. I wrapped them and put them under the tree for them, so he opened them on Christmas morning and had a little piece of Ohio in his morning.

By the way, Tillie got a new squeaky toy from Santa (23 squeakers total), and she’s already operated on it and removed two of the squeakers. She is such a funny dog. All of the dogs always get excited on Christmas morning because so much is going on, but this year I noticed that Shakes slept through most of it. I guess my fluffy guy is getting old, which makes me sad.

Speaking of sad, I really could have gone the entire holiday season without Sarah McLachlan’s gut-wrenching commercial for the ASPCA—all of those images of starving and abused cats and dogs, and even a horse, all with her haunting voice singing “Silent Night” in the background. I mean please. I carry around enough guilt for fifty people, I really don’t need more guilt about animal suffering . . . of course, I still watch and tear-up because hey, it’s better than self-flagellation or a hair shirt, I suppose.

“Perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

So Corey is waiting for the call telling him when he will fly out. I’m hoping that we get more than just a couple of days warning before he has to go. I’d really like to have one night out with him, maybe sushi and a movie. I guess it’s all up in the air right now.

Maria Mikhalskaya, Children's Magazine Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

The guy across the street finished the work on the truck, but there’s a twist: the truck won’t start. We’re not sure exactly what the problem is other than no power is going to the coil or the spark plug wires. I’m really hoping that it’s not some kind of major computer problem. So even though the major repair has been finished, the truck is still not on the road yet.

And to further complicate matters, the starter on the Rodeo finally died. Corey spent yesterday afternoon changing that; unfortunately, it was raining, so he ended up soaked to the bone by the time he was finished. I’m just glad that it was a repair that he could do and a part that we could afford. I mean, we knew that the starter was going, which meant that each time we got into the Rodeo, we were driving on a wing and a prayer. That it lasted until after Christmas was good.

We know that we have other repairs pending on the rodeo: the brakes, the O2 sensors, and we need new tires. If everything can just hang on for another month, we might be okay, but the thought that we would be without either vehicle was so depressing. I must say.

“ . . . spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks . . .” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “Ash Wednesday

Anyway, now that we’ve made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, the only big thing pending on my schedule is taking down the decorations, which I never do before the New Year. I know that some people take everything down the day after Christmas, and some people do it on New Year’s Day, but I like to wait a few days after, no particular reason other than I like to look at everything.

Maria Mikhalskaya, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Other than that, the other big thing is that my Botox has stopped working, and it’s as if it effectiveness stopped all at once. I’ve had three massive migraines in the past four days, the kind in which the pain is so intense that it wakes me up. On Monday, I was just sitting on the side of the bed holding ice to my forehead and rocking back and forth. I even had to ask Corey to take off Tillie’s jingle bell collar as the sound was killing me.

You know how people say that you never remember the pain of childbirth, that if you actually remembered it, you’d never have another child? Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that I had kind of put out of my memory the pain of a really bad migraine, wishful thinking I suppose, and then when that first one hit, I felt as if someone had hit me in the head with an iron skillet. No lie.

So now I have to make an appointment with the neurologist who gave me the Botox shots, but first I have to find out if I’m going to have to pay $650 out of pocket since it’s the beginning of the year, and my co-pay kicks in. I can’t get the shots until the end of January because it has to be three months in between shots.

When I get migraines like these, I always think about that stupid, stupid Social Security judge who said that I could work with my migraines. What an idiot. Obviously, he’s never had a migraine. Oh well, that’s an entirely different saga, one that I’ll probably be facing sometime in 2012.

“For it is not yet the memories themselves. Not until they have turned to blood within us, to glance, to gesture, nameless and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—not until then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge,

Maria Mikhalskaya. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Anyway, I’ve spent the last 48 hours, give or take, in bed with ice on my head. I’ve used to much ice that the automatic ice maker hasn’t been able to keep pace. Sad really.

But the migraines have kept me from posting, from putting away the silver we used for Christmas dinner, from doing laundry. Consequently, I’m behind in everything. But since the house was cleaned before Christmas, it doesn’t look terribly messy, unless you look at the piles of clothes in the garage.

Oh yes. That’s another thing: our washer is dying. It sometimes doesn’t agitate during the wash cycle, and sometimes doesn’t spin during the spin cycle, so finishing one load of laundry may take twice as long depending on whether or not I’m babysitting the washer. Oh what fun . . .

Enough for now. I’m starting to see lots of spots in my eyes, which is a sure sign that I need to stop.

More later. Peace.

Today’s post features the illustrations of Maria Mikhalskaya, a Russian illustrator and designer. I don’t remember how I came across her work, but it was probably on tumblr. Mikhalskaya attended the Moscow University of Printing Arts, and her illustrations to The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which were published by Arbor Publishers in 2007, seemed perfect for a holiday post.

Music by Barlow Girl, “Never Alone”

                   

First Chaldaic Oracle

There is something you should know.
And the right way to know it
is by a cherrying of your mind.

Because if you press your mind towards it
and try to know
that thing

as you know a thing,
you will not know it.
It comes out of red

with kills on both sides,
it is scrap, it is nightly,
it kings your mind.

No. Scorch is not the way
to know
that thing you must know.

But use the hum
of your wound
and flamepit out everything

right to the edge
of that thing you should know.
The way to know it

is not by staring hard.
But keep chiselled,
keeping Praguing the eye

of your soul and reach—
mind empty
towards that thing you should know

until you get it.
that thing you should know.
Because it is out there (orchid) outside your and, it is

~ Anne Carson

“You cannot write in the chimney with charcoal.” ~ Russian Proverb

Blue Skies by Harsh Patel (FCC)

                   

Have you ever heard the wonderful silence just before the dawn? Or the quiet and calm just as a storm ends? Or perhaps the hush of a country road at night, or the expectant pause of a room full of people when someone is just about to speak, or, most beautiful of all, the moment after the door closes and you’re alone in the whole house? Each one is different, you know, and all very beautiful if you listen carefully. ~ Norton Juster

Thursday afternoon. Passing storm, temperatures are dropping, but it’s quite humid.

Centuri Sky, Corsica by Ornithorynque (FCC)

No one is home except the dogs and me. Quite quiet.

Such a discombobulating day. Corey worked until 7 this morning, came home and slept a few hours, then had to be at school at 1 this afternoon. He came home around 3, changed clothes, and went back to work until 11 tonight.

He’s exhausted, and I’m tired just because I can’t figure out my nights from my days.

The guy across the street still hasn’t finished the work on Corey’s truck, which means that we’re down to one vehicle, and it’s getting harder to keep up with everyone’s schedules.

Last night I had two very different dreams. In the first, I ran into a very old friend of mine, and I found out that he was dying. I met his son for the first time, and he said that he had heard about me. I asked the old friend if he had kept any of the things that I had given him, and he said that he had kept almost all of them.

We spent time going through his things, and he told me that his wife had left him for another woman, and I was surprised to learn that the other woman was a friend of mine who had never mentioned the relationship with the wife. It was a very bittersweet dream. Seeing him again even in dreams makes me very sad that he is no longer in my life.

In the other dream, I was taken hostage in a grocery store. The bad people had curved knives, and one of the women had bright red hair. She was the most savage of the group. Somehow, I made it from the store to the parking lot, but one of the bad guys was in the parking lot, and he killed an older couple right in front of me.

Then somehow a Charles Manson kind of character appeared. I realized that I had to pretend to agree with him to survive. Then, thankfully, I woke up.

“This has the strong
clench of the madman, this is
gripping the ledge of unreason, before
plunging howling into the abyss.” ~ Derek Walcott, from “The Fist”

Friday afternoon. Very bright and sunny, painfully so.

Sky Blue by jimflix! (FCC)

So much for posting yesterday. In the middle of writing Eamonn came home and turned on a documentary about WWII, and away flew my thoughts. Then I had promised Brett that I would look at a paper that he had due for a class today. My little sojourn into writing for and about myself completely vanished.

I ended up going to sleep about 3:45 this morning, only to get up at 8 a.m. to have a final look at the paper and then transport to school. On the way there, a vicious migraine surfaced in my eye just as the morning sun pierced the windshield of the car. It was so bright that I thought the crack in the glass would deepen from the intensity.

I lie. It just seemed that way. Back home, meds, cold eye pillow, and sleep. That is until my mother called only to ask if I wasn’t feeling well. Migraine, I said. She continued to talk. Have I mentioned that I must turn the volume down to 1 on my phone when talking to my mother? Well, I must, and I did, and then I hung up and immediately passed out again only to be awoken by . . . my mother, who wanted to know if I still didn’t feel well, and when was I going to get the Botox shots, and why hadn’t they happened yet, and was I still drinking caffeine . . .

Pain. Great pain.

“ . . . perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us. ~ Evelyn Waugh, from Brideshead Revisited

Afternoon Sun, San Francisco, CA, by mioi (FCC)

I thought that I’d try to share the bright sky with you through my choice of images, a reflection of what I saw this morning and what is still streaming through the window.

So here I am again, attempting to construct a post that is somewhat readable. I’m trying to make my cup of coffee last as we are almost out of coffee, and I fear that there will be none of this caffeinated elixir on which I depend for morning relief when I wake up tomorrow. (Don’t tell my mother.)

Eamonn came home last night with a broken finger (details not to be provided as he would not appreciate it). I had thought that I had tongue depressors in my stash of medical supplies, but they have disappeared, so I had to make do with chopsticks for splints until he could go to the doctor today. Turns out he has a ruptured tendon. No wonder he couldn’t feel anything when I tried to realign his finger.

So my plans for working on the computer last night were foiled, another reason I never finished my post. After applying first aid, I contented myself with watching “Project Runway.” Oh, don’t be that way. I love the madness of it, and for some reason, it makes me think that I can sew, which I can’t.

Obscure things tend towards clarity,
bodies dissolve themselves in a weightless flow
of colors: these then into music. To vanish
is thus the supreme fate of all fates. ~ Eugenio Montale, from “Bring me the Sunflower” (trans. by Margaret Brose)

Sun and Clouds by StefPress (FCC)

So what else is new in my little world?  I won the Lotto? I was offered the job of my dreams? I awoke in a new house that needed no repairs? My bill basket suddenly emptied itself?

No, wait. That’s just my delusions again. Hate it when that happens.

As I was lying in bed earlier, I actually thought about what I would say, but of course, I have long since forgotten that thread. I think that it was something about life, good and evil, ya da ya da ya da . . .

No, really. It was profound. Seriously and absolutely profound, or at least that’s how it seemed in my dream/wake state. I’m certain that it had something to do with the latest Kardashian circus, er, wedding, as you are all well aware of my abiding respect for people who are famous because they are famous.

I mean think about it: We’re protesting the Wall Street whore-mongers who take millions in bonuses each year without a thought about the inequities inherent in the system, but no one says a word about a celebrity(?) wedding that costs more than a school district’s annual budget. What does that say about us as a society? That we are seriously warped?

Yep. That would be it.

I am as far as the sleep of rivers
that stains the deepest sky between clouds,
you are as far as invention, and I am as far as memory. ~ Susan Stewart, from “Yellow Stars and Ice”

Sun Over Catalonia, Spain, by CarlesReig (FCC)

Admittedly, so far this post has been little more than fodder. Perhaps it’s the really screwed up sleep schedule, and perhaps it’s the migraine. Perhaps it’s eating Cinnamon Toast Crunch for dinner. I have no answers, but in an attempt to redeem myself, I will share the following:

A half a century later,

  • and I have borne four children and buried one
  • I have lost pieces of myself that I can never reclaim
  • I am incapable of letting go of the past
  • When I look in the mirror, I do not recognize the person looking back at me
  • I doubt my own worthiness as a human being
  • My dreams are slowly fading
  • The repetition of my days is slowly inuring me to possibilities
  • Instead of becoming more secure as the years have passed, my insecurities have grown exponentially
  • I fear that I will never see Ireland
  • I wonder where the words have gone

These things I believe:

  • Our society has forgotten how to feel, truly and deeply feel.
  • We exist from one byte to the next, adding to our collection of data, but failing to nourish our souls.
  • Ours is no longer a representational government.
  • How a country treats it children directly reflects how it values it future.
  • A flat tax would completely level the playing field.
  • We have abandoned our veterans, our poor, and our elderly.
  • The quality of education continues to decline, and no one in power seems to recognize what this means.
  • We communicate more but understand less.
  • Global warming is not a theory.
  • Paper before pixels.

More later. Peace.

Music by Phil Collins, I Wish it Would Rain (original video featuring Eric Clapton, watch the whole thing if you have time), for Diana, who also embraces the rain

                   

Today I planted the sand cherry with red leaves—
and hope that I can go on digging in this yard,
pruning the grape vine, twisting the silver lace
on its trellis, the one that bloomed
just before the frost flowered over all the garden.
Next spring I will plant more zinnias, marigolds,
straw flowers, pearly everlasting, and bleeding heart.
I plant that for you, old love, old friend,
and lilacs for remembering. The lily-of-the-valley
with cream-colored bells, bent over slightly, bowing
to the inevitable, flowers for a few days, a week.
Now its broad blade leaves are streaked with brown
and the stem dried to a pale hair.
In place of the silent bells, red berries
like rose hips blaze close to the ground.
It is important for me to be down on my knees,
my fingers sifting the black earth,
making those things grow which will grow.
Sometimes I save a weed if its leaves
are spread fern-like, hand-like,
or if it grows with a certain impertinence.
I let the goldenrod stay and the wild asters.
I save the violets in spring. People who kill violets
will do anything.

~ Ann Struthers