“Days pass here, weeks slip away, and even when it isn’t, it seems to be Sunday, irreal, subdued, the queer, slowed-down feeling of late afternoon spreading through the hours of an entire day.” ~ Elizabeth Spires, from “Letter from Swan’s Island”
Sunday afternoon, sunny, warmer, 85 degrees.
Out of sorts today. I was awakened before 6 by one of the dogs, and then for the next two hours, there seemed to be an ongoing parade of dogs and a cat going in and out the front door. Most days, I open the front door early in the morning to let in the cool air, but lately I haven’t been doing so because of the swarms of flies; hence, I have to let the dogs out and in and out and in and . . .
Corey rolled over around 7 and asked me what I was doing. I replied that I was letting the dogs out over and over. He rolled over and went back to sleep, and I continued to watch YouTube videos, all while wishing for more sleep, which I finally got sometime around 8.
What a strange morning. Anyway, my timing is completely off today.
Today’s birthdays of note:
Richard the Lionheart (1157-1199), king of England
Patsy Cline (1933-1963), country singer born in Winchester, Virginia
Bernie Sanders (1941), U.S. politician
Aimee Mann (1960), musician born in Richmond, Virginia
Martin Freeman (1971), English actor (The Hobbit, Sherlock)
P!nk (1979), singer
So I thought that I’d post songs by these three incredible female vocalists. Enjoy.
Music by Patsy Cline, “I Fall to Pieces”
Music by Aimee Mann, “Drive”
Music by P!nk, featuring Chris Stapleton, “Love Me Anyway”
Sunday afternoon, cloudy, not quite as hot, 86 degrees (feels like 93)
We’re supposed to get rain. We need it. Last night was quite a light show of lightning in the distance, but the rain never got here. Corey parked my car where it can be rained on because it’s so dirty. I never used to let my vehicles get this dirty.
I thought that I’d share part of an interview with writer Catherine Chung from the June 18 “Ten Questions” feature in Poets & Writers. I like this particular feature as I find it interesting to read what writers have to say about their craft. P&W is a wonderful publication, one that I really should take better advantage of, but as with most things, I do not.
Oh well . . . Know thyself, as they say.
Here are Chung’s answers to two of the questions asked:
2. What was the most challenging thing about writing the book?
My mind! My mind is the biggest challenge in everything I do. I write to try to set myself free, and then find myself snagged on my own limitations. It’s maddening and absurd and so, so humbling. With this book, it was a tie between trying to learn the math I was writing about—which I should have seen coming—and having to confront certain habits of mind I didn’t even know I had. I found myself constantly reining my narrator in, even though I meant for her to be fierce and brilliant and strong. She’s a braver person than me, and I had to really fight my impulse to hold her back, to let her barrel ahead with her own convictions and decisions, despite my own hesitations and fears.
3. Where, when, and how often do you write?
I write where I can, when I can. I’ve written in bathtubs of hotel rooms so as not to wake my companions, I’ve written on napkins in restaurants, I’ve written on my phone on the train, sitting under a tree or on a rock, and on my own arm in a pinch. I’ve walked down streets repeating lines to myself when I’ve been caught without a pen or my phone. I’ve also written on my laptop or in a notebook at cafes and in libraries or in bed or at my dining table. As to how often I write, it depends on childcare, what I’m working on, on deadlines, on life!
Here is a link to the list of P&W “Ten Questions” features.
P.S. Thought I’d post the beautiful sonnet by Emma Lazarus to which I alluded in yesterday’s post, “The New Colossus,” which is mounted on a plaque on the pedestal below the Statue of Liberty. You know, the universal symbol of freedom, that woman who greets immigrants to a better life here in the U.S.
Music by Mumford & Sons, “White Blank Page”
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
“……………But mine is darker, slanted, nitrous blue at the root,
an acrostic of what is most free and far.” ~ Joanna Klink, from “Aubade”
Tuesday late morning, cloudy and humid, 80 degrees.
It’s interesting living in a house during the summer without an air conditioner. It would be impossible in Norfolk, where the summer humidity hovers between 90 and 100 percent. But it’s not bad here, except when doing something physical, like cleaning. Then it becomes impossible. Nevertheless, I like the fact that we’re not adding to global warming even though that’s not why we don’t have AC.
Unfortunately, I’m still not venturing outside much except to help Corey milk Penny the goat. We don’t have a milking stand, so I hold her and soothe her as he milks, and when I come back inside, I am covered in bites. Once we have a stand, the whole milking process should improve. It will be good when the pasture is finally divided and fenced so that I can reclaim the front yard from the animals. Truly, it looks as if a barnyard out there, and there is no escape from the no-seeums that plague my body with bites.
Today’s poems are by American poet Joanna Klink. Both are entitled “The Graves.” I have included links to the sites on which I found the poems. I love the following passage in which Klink talks about why she writes poes:
“In poems I am trying to find my bearings through a world that at times feels remote and inchoate and struck blank with noise. I would like to place myself in a field of deep attention, and out of that attention come to feel and regard with more acute understanding what is there. I write to be less hopelessly myself, to sense something more expansive than where I speak from.”
Wind for your sickness.
The moon for your sickness.
…….A river of night- …….trees. Mossy patches
where something recently slept.
A hand-drawn sketch of
fish for your sickness,
…….red and ghost- …….loamed. From your mother,
for your sickness, a late
flock of snow-geese
swept up in a gust.
…….From your father, a cave …….of violas in luminous …….pitch. For the panic
desolation. For scratchy bed-
sheets, the gathering of tumors,
a dispensation traveling in
…….far-nesses across the …….galaxy-quiet of what is
to come. Dark-sunned,
you are swimming in schools.
…….For the despairing quality of …….hospital fluorescence,
the secondhand alarm—
theft of time theft of
…….hope. The messages …….arrive like flowers.
For the common un-
contested light of dusk.
For tobacco moths
…….in clouds of wings at …….the door. For the dawn-
emotion, a calm-in-vastness
that descends upon
what is. Upon the storm-
…….tangle of branches, wing- …….veins and hand-veins …….shadow-shown on that pale
skin of sky. Too stone for
fear. Too brittle for
…….findings. From the powers that, …….born on the site of sorrow,
fall in strands of smoke
across your sickness,
for your sickness,
…….and carry and keep you. …….That would keep you here.
“Understand me. I’m not like an ordinary world. I have my madness, I live in another dimension and I do not have time for things that have no soul.” ~ Charles Bukowski
Thursday afternoon, rainy and cooler, 74 degrees.
Bad day. I’m mulling over a decision that has to be made, and I just cannot see a solution in which anyone can be happy with the outcome, least of all me. To distract myself, I thought I’d just do kind of a random post . . .
Why on earth would Corey’s recipe for beef and noodles also include mashed potatoes? Not enough calories in the noodles?
When will Roland realize that Bailey is a dog and that he cannot have sex with her?
I wish that Dallas could have a life-altering epiphany, but I just don’t see that happening. He’ll never change, and he’ll probably live to be 110.
Can we ever take the time to paint this stupid house? I hate living like this.
Why did Danny Burke leave Most Amazing Top 10? I know that this is probably only something that I wonder, well, me and the other 5 million subscribers.
Why on earth would anyone trust a Facebook cyber bank? Talk about taking unnecessary chances . . .
Can we just get an even 30 Democratic candidates for president? I mean, 24 isn’t nearly enough. Is it?
Will I ever be old enough not to have breakouts? Once upon a time, I assumed that such things ended once you left your teens. Ha.
I miss my books.
I dreamed last night that I pushed on my stomach and a ball the size of a handball popped out. I pressed on my belly again, and another one popped out, and then a third. But no holes, just stretched skin. Weird, huh?
What is the goats’ obsession with my Bentwood rocker? I’ve had this thing longer than my kids, and I really would prefer that it not be destroyed by goat hooves.
Did you know that a kid swallowed a live fish, and then the fish ended up living in his lung? Also weird.
There are no movie theaters within a half an hour of here.
There is nothing within half an hour of here.
My daughter wonders if I’m going crazy from the isolation yet.
Hmm . . .
I have so many insect bites on my limbs that it actually looks like I have small hives.
Obviously, I’m competing with the bug zapper for number of captures.
One of the goat girls has figured out how to make knocking sounds on the front door. I kid you not.
Dogs like to eat goat poop. Yep. Just as disgusting as you might imagine.
I really want to have bee hives. We have plenty of room for them. Yet another thing to go on the list.
Did you know that bees are so essential to our lives that they even affect the production of coffee? Like coffee? Save the bees.
Should I try to go back to work full time? The question that continues to plague me.
The White House sent out an official letter in which the word occurring was misspelled. Not surprised.
I really, really want to try a pint of Magnum sea salt caramel ice cream with a chocolate shell. Every time I see the commercial, I begin to salivate.
I’m still having the script problem, particularly on WordPress and YouTube. Anyone else using Firefox experiencing the same issues? It’s making me kind of crazy. More than usual. Meh.
Well, I think that’s about all. Concentrating on thoughts is just too hard, and that’s just sad. Chocolate would definitely make me feel better.
“Because the world is so full of death and horror, I try again and again to console my heart and pick the flowers that grow in the midst of hell.” ~ Hermann Hesse, from Narcissus and Goldmund
Sunday afternoon, sunny, warm, 78 degrees.
Another mass shooting, this one so close to my old home, so close to my children. The world is so full of madness, and nowhere as much as in this country at this time. I won’t go on about the need for better gun laws. That is only a part of the problem. The bigger part, perhaps, is that people are essentially cruel and entitled: My life isn’t going as I want, so I will punish those I blame. I will pick up a weapon, and I will show them. I will show them how much stronger and better I am than they believe.
Strength from a gun . . . Right.
In a society so full of misplaced entitlement, one in which people buy their entrance into things—jobs, colleges, elections–it is no small wonder that violence is the method by which we conduct our lives. Violence in word. Violence in deed. The violence we bear in our hearts towards anyone deemed not as good as ourselves.
I am so sick of turning on the television to see more breaking news screaming in red letters at the bottom of the screen. I am so sick of everything. I am tired of wondering if a name that I recognize from my past will be among the list of the slaughtered. I am weary of wondering if those I love are safe. I am long past rending my heart because I can no longer protect my children through word or deed.
It’s all too much.
“Girl, all of sorrow is this single drop Of your blood.” ~ Juan Ramón Jiménez, from “Song” (Trans. H. R. Hays)
Truthfully, I don’t know if I have what it takes to make it here. I don’t know if I have the constitution to live on a farm, to see death up close. I just don’t know how to do it.
Yesterday I was unable to save Max from my own dogs, whose nips turned into bites. I walked outside to look for the dogs, only to see them circling Max at the bottom of the pasture. I was alone, of course, and thoughts raced through my head on how best to stop them. You see, the dogs, the pups mostly, have made a game of chasing the goats, but Ruby turns and butts them when she is tired. Max, unfortunately, does not do this. We have always thought that Max a little slow, slow but very sweet.
Normally, it’s Ruby who is chased, but a few times I have caught the pups chasing Max. Yesterday was different, though. They weren’t dogs playing a game. They were predators with prey, and my heart sank at the very idea. When they didn’t stop when I yelled at them, I thought that I could fire a gun at a tree, and the noise would startle them into inaction. But I couldn’t get the damned gun to fire. Then I got in my car and drove to the bottom of the pasture.
I found Max at the edge of the water, blood coming from his throat, and my heart sank even as I sank into the mud at the edge of the water. I still don’t know how I lifted him and climbed back up the incline, but somehow I got him to the car and put him in the back seat; he was still alive, but barely. I made the instant decision to drive to Dallas’s house to see if I could get help for Max, even though my head knew that it was a futile move. I tried to call Dallas because I knew that Corey was with him, but of course there was no answer, nor was there gas in the car.
I drove anyway, and Corey called as I made my way around what seemed like thousands of curves in the long road. By the time I made it to Dallas’s driveway and stopped the car, Max was dead. I turned around and drove home.
“We are not made whole by pain, no matter what they say. We are broken by it, taught to peel back cushion between us and the world because we have no choice but to rebuild it, again, and, again: ~ Jesse Rice-Evans, from “Argonaut”
Corey arrived home just a few minutes after I did, and between sobs, I explained what had happened. The pajamas that I was still wearing were covered in blood and goat hair, and the situation had caused my body to go into a full-blown asthma attack, none of which I had noticed until I stopped the car and finally made my way inside.
As Corey buried Max where the dogs couldn’t find him, I stood in the shower and sobbed some more, trying to wrap my head around the fact that my dogs had acted ferally, that they now had a taste for blood.
In trying to reconstruct everything in my mind, I couldn’t quite remember who did what, except that I had a very clear memory of Bailey still trying to attack Max even as I struggled to lift his body from the water. I remember hitting her forcefully to make her stop. The other dogs had already backed off as I am certain that they could feel the fury emanating from my body in forceful waves. But not Bailey. Not my dog, the one I found at the shelter and cradled in my lap as a pup.
Look. I know that dogs come from wolves. I know that certain breeds of dogs have more violence bred into their bloodlines, but I have always believed that it is the owners who determine just how vicious their dogs behave through how much or how little love and attention and training they bestow upon their animals. Am I completely wrong in this belief?
“this is the map of my heart, the landscape after cruelty which is, of course, a garden, which is a tenderness, which is a room, a lover saying Hold me
tight, it’s getting cold. We have not touched the stars, nor are we forgiven” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”
And now things are fraught. Corey would very much like to give Maddy back to Dallas, take Tink to a shelter, and put down Bailey as he fears there will be a repeat with the other goats, especially the kids to come.
I cannot fathom such a thing, and that he has seriously contemplated this breaks my heart all over again. I must now deal with reconciling myself that I could not save Max, and now my spouse no longer wants some of the dogs. I contend that the dogs can be broken of this habit of chasing, but he is so full of rage over what happened that he will not hear it.
I know that he will do nothing to do the dogs if don’t agree, and I don’t, but the very idea that he harbors such feelings is tearing at my soul. Bailey is 7; she has only known us. Tink is very much my dog. To give Maddy back to Dallas would ensure that she would not be fed or cared for properly.
Can I retrain them? Can Corey forgive them? Can I forgive myself? The dogs are all cowed at the moment as they sense a change. Of course they do; how could they not?
“I want the truth of things. But there’s nowhere to find it.” ~ William Golding, from The Pyramid
I have no answers, none at all. Friday night left me reeling after the news about the shooting, and then yesterday afternoon broke me. This morning, my breathing is still hard and phlegmy, and my soul is fractured. So I am back at my original question to myself: Do I have the constitution to live this kind of life?
In your mind’s eye, achieving your dream seems so filled with possibilities. That I’ve always wanted to own land in the mountains, and then to get that land—it has been as if the fates finally aligned after so many years of hardship and loss. But the reality is that there are things you never consider, things that you will encounter that never neared the idyll that filled your dreams.
I had wanted a few goats for milk, and then Corey decided that he wanted to raise goats for an income. It seemed like a fairly straightforward move. It never occurred to me that there would be an issue with the dogs; after all, all of the dogs had been around cats and horses, and there had never been any problems. How could I foresee what would happen? Why did I not?
And now the atmosphere is filled with anger and regret and loss and pain, and I question how Corey could even contemplate such actions. It is not within me to be cruel to any creature, even when angry, and my dogs have always been part of my family. I am hoping against hope that his is just a reaction to what happened, even though he claims that it is not, that what he says is said from anger and grief and not what he truly feels.
Everything has changed, and I am wholly uncertain as to if it can be changed back.
Music by Gregory Alan Isakov, “If I Go, I’m Going”
I eye the driver of the Chevrolet
pulsing beside me at a traffic light
the chrome-haired woman in the checkout line
chatting up the acned clerk
the clot of kids smoking on the sly
in the Mile-Hi Pizza parking lot
the meter reader, the roofer at work
next door, a senior citizen
stabbing the sidewalk with his three-pronged cane:
which one of you discarded in a bag
—sealed with duct tape—in the middle of the road
three puppies four or five weeks old,
who flung two kittens from a moving car
at midnight into a snowbank where
the person trailing you observed the leg
& tail of the calico one that lived,
and if not you, someone flossing her teeth
or watering his lawn across the street.
But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence . . .” ~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry, from The Little Prince
Monday afternoon, partly sunny, 82 degrees.
Well yesterday was interesting. Temperatures in Roanoke were hotter, and the AC in the truck doesn’t work; by the time we got home, my eyes were dry and hurting from the wind coming in the windows. We picked up the two female Nubian goats. They already have names: Sylvia and Roberta. Sylvia I can handle, but Roberta? Never liked that name. She’s young enough that maybe we can switch her name to Bobby. We’ll see.
Unfortunately, Sylvia had her babies prematurely, and neither survived. One died on Saturday, and the other died before we got there yesterday. Bobby is still pregnant, so we’re hoping that everything goes okay with her. The woman from whom we bought them says that she thinks it may have been a mineral deficiency. As Bobby is Sylvia’s daughter, we know that Sylvia can have successful pregnancies, so at least there’s that.
All of the animals were worked up by the time we got home. Tillie and Bailey went for each other, but luckily, Corey and I were both on hand to break it up. Roland is hoarse today, so he must have been bleating for hours, which makes me feel guilty, but we couldn’t take him with us because we thought we’d be bringing a baby goat home. At the moment, Roland thinks that he’s one of the dogs; it will be interesting once he’s bigger to see if he still acts the same way—i.e., wanting to take an afternoon nap on the couch.
“Not only rational and irrational, but even inanimate creatures have a voice, and speak loudly to men, and it is our duty to learn their language, and hearken to them.” ~ Ralph Austen, from The Spiritual Use of an Orchard or Garden of Fruit Trees
We’ve learned that the temperatures here on the ridge tend to be a bit cooler than surrounding areas. I think that it’s because we’re pretty much situated in a bowl, so we always have a good breeze. The downside is that breeze can really be a fierce wind at times. We’ve been discussing shelter issues for the outside animals, and we had talked about one of those metal buildings, but I’m afraid that if it isn’t fixed properly, the wind will just pick it up and drop it.
More than once we’ve wished that we could have a barn building like the Amish. Remember that beautiful scene from the Harrison Ford movie Witness? But we’re missing one or two of the key components for such a thing: people and lumber.
Ah me . . .
Yesterday, just as we were getting ready to leave for Roanoke, Dallas showed up. I knew that he would because Corey had slipped and told him that we were going to Roanoke. I was afraid that he’d come while we were gone to try to take Sassy back, but he didn’t bring the horse trailer. Instead, he said that he was coming to fish in the ponds, which is fine, as long as he doesn’t try to take back the last horse that we have.
“I must wash myself clean with abstract thoughts, transparent as water.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from Nausea
I took the opportunity of having him in front of me to confront Dallas about still having Napoleon, but he claims that he still needs him for stud. Originally, he had told me that he’d only have Napoleon for two weeks, but I should know by now that he just tells you what he thinks you want to hear and that the truth rarely escapes his lips. I did tell him that Sassy is lonely as horses need the company of other horses, and I pointed out how overgrown the pasture is getting, so he ultimately agreed to bring over some more horses. We’ll just have to see, I suppose.
Look, I know that technically, the horses belong to him; I’m not unaware of the reality. But we take much better care of the animals that are here than he ever could, not to mention the fact that when he first brought the horses here, he said that he was giving them to me. But again, it’s the matter of him saying one thing while meaning something completely different. We’ve learned that he has a habit of taking things back when he gets mad at someone; he’s done it repeatedly with different people—he giveth and then he taketh away.
Dallas is a prime example of being both a boon and a curse. And quite frankly, we’ve had way to many curses in the last few years. I tire of them. I tire of never getting ahead, never making forward progress.
“Animals, at least, don’t experience fear until it’s upon them, immediately. But our nerve reactions can convey worry about the future, until the fear insinuates itself into the present, into everything.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Eddie Cohen, September 11, 1950
We hit rain on the way home even though the forecast had not called for any, and then as we neared the ridge, it was apparent that there had been a big storm while we were gone. I think that’s part of the reason the dogs were so riled when we got home. Tillie is very afraid of storms, especially if no one is around to comfort her, and I think that Bailey senses that unease.
As we came down the drive, the trees were heavy with rain. So everything was close to the sides of the drive, almost as it was the first time that we came to the ridge, and everything was so overgrown. At least the gas company fixed the part of the drive that had washed out, but they just cut into the side of the mountain, which is essentially compacted soil, so it’s a temporary fix at best. The next big wind and rain storm will undoubtedly wash out more. It would be nice if they’d build up the embankment with rock, but unfortunately, we have no control over what they do with the drive.
I saw the big excavator that the company had parked on the side after carving more of the mountain side on the drive, and I told Corey that it’s too bad that we don’t know how to hot wire it and use it for a few days. We could scoop up some of the loose gravel that’s around the wells and dump it on the drive. Or we could dig out a hole for an in-ground pool. I’ve always wanted to drive something like an excavator—how awesome would that be? It’s an interesting fantasy.
“The sky is lowering and black, a strange blue-blackness, which makes red houses pink, and green leaves purple. Over the blowing purple trees, the sky is an iron-blue, split with forks of straw-yellow. The thunder breaks out of the sky with a crash, and rumbles away in a long, hoarse drag of sound.” ~ Amy Lowell, from “Before the Storm (III)”
This morning the dogs were doing their fierce, alert barks, and Corey looked out the window to see a bear in the pasture again. Oddly enough, Sassy didn’t seem to be afraid of it. She was at the trough and took a few steps towards the bear. I’m hoping that it’s the same bear and not another one. Knowing that one bear is nearby is unnerving enough; I’d hate to have to wonder about several.
I do wonder, though, where he or she was hibernating; I’m hoping the bear is male because a female with cubs can be very vicious when in protection mode. We haven’t really come upon any caves in our walks, but I would imagine that there have to be some around here. Here’s hoping the dogs will be enough to keep the bear from coming too close. Corey says that Llamas and Alpacas are good to have for herd protection. That’s something to think about for the future.
The future is something I don’t really want to think about at the moment. We find ourselves in a precarious position yet again, and truthfully, I’m really tired of living this way, never really knowing how we’re going to survive, pay the bills. The fear of losing everything yet again never seems to be far away, and the really weird aspect of all of this is that I know that we make more money than many people around here, and trust me when I say that living on my disability is not making a lot of money.
Again, I know that if we can survive the year, that things will change, that getting started on a farm is precarious at best, but damn I’m tired of precarious. I’m tired of always worrying. I suppose I’m just tired, but who isn’t any more?
More later. Peace.
Music by Welshly Arms, “Legendary”
The Trees are Down
—and he cried with a loud voice: Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees— (Revelation)
They are cutting down the great plane-trees at the end of the gardens.
For days there has been the grate of the saw, the swish of the branches as they fall,
The crash of the trunks, the rustle of trodden leaves,
With the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas,’ the loud common talk, the loud common laughs of the men, above it all.
I remember one evening of a long past Spring
Turning in at a gate, getting out of a cart, and finding a large dead rat in the mud of the drive.
I remember thinking: alive or dead, a rat was a god-forsaken thing,
But at least, in May, that even a rat should be alive.
The week’s work here is as good as done. There is just one bough
On the roped bole, in the fine grey rain,
Green and high
And lonely against the sky.
And but for that,
If an old dead rat
Did once, for a moment, unmake the Spring, I might never have thought of him again.
It is not for a moment the Spring is unmade to-day;
These were great trees, it was in them from root to stem:
When the men with the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas’ have carted the whole of the whispering loveliness away
Half the Spring, for me, will have gone with them.
It is going now, and my heart has been struck with the hearts of the planes;
Half my life it has beat with these, in the sun, in the rains,
In the March wind, the May breeze,
In the great gales that came over to them across the roofs from the great seas.
There was only a quiet rain when they were dying;
They must have heard the sparrows flying,
And the small creeping creatures in the earth where they were lying—