“Our hearts teach us how to fly with wings of pain.” ~ Frank Lima, from “Felonies and Arias of the Heart”
Saturday afternoon, sunny and warmer, 57 degrees.
This afternoon Corey is adding a modified barbed wire to the pasture enclosure so that we can move the goats there. It should keep them in and keep predators out, at least, that’s the intent. I really don’t like barbed wire, and I know that part of that is because of how it looms darkly through the movie Legends of the Fall. Hey, at least I’m being honest.
On Thursday, Corey and I made the trip to Bristol, Tennessee so that I could have an echocardiogram and ultrasound. The echo was to check out a suspected murmur, and the ultrasound was for my thyroid. But as usual, things did not go as planned. I did have the correct day this time, but I did not know that I would have to pay the copay upfront for the ultrasound. While it was only $16.78, I did not have the local bank card with me; Corey had it, so I had to cancel the ultrasound; this was the second time I had to cancel it. However, when I reschedule I might be able to have the test done somewhere closer to home. Here’s hoping.
Anyway, it seems that the echo went fine; the tech said that my heart pictures were “beautiful,” which was about all that she could tell me, of course, because they aren’t allowed to say anything as the test has to be read by a cardiologist. I wasn’t too worried about the murmur as such things are supposedly fairly common, and obviously, it wasn’t something that I’ve had all of my life.
However, years ago, my heart used to click whenever I lay on my side. It did that for a couple of years and then went away. I remember telling some doctor and was told that it was nothing, and since it went away, I never thought about it again until the echo.
“We’ve paid our dues. Our hearts are inscribed
with loss after loss.” ~ Luci Tapahonso, from “The Holy Twins”
So after leaving the hospital and while I still had a 3G signal, I tried to call my insurance company to see if I could change my PCP. I’ve tried a couple of times to do so online, but I’ve locked myself out of the account. Turns out, the doctor with whom I have an appointment on Monday isn’t even in network, even though she’s part of the local medical network. It’s all such bullshit. I ate up minutes trying to clarify with the insurance rep, only to find out that the echo that I had just had done wasn’t covered; the urgent care visit that I had when my fingertip was bitten off wasn’t covered either.
I did not wail uncontrollably into the telephone, which was my internal reaction; instead, I just asked the rep to transfer me to tech support, but when she did, I was put on hold. I just didn’t have it in me to stay on hold any longer and eat up valuable minutes just to have the online account unlocked. Frankly, I’d had more than enough stress for one day. I don’t even want to know what my blood pressure was at that point.
I’m keeping the appointment on Monday with the out-of-network PCP because I’ve had such a horrendous time finding competent doctors around here. Apparently, the co-pay will only be $5 instead of $0 for an in-network doctor, so that’s not prohibitive (she says even though we are currently broker than broke and sorely lacking in things like, oh, milk . . . whatever).
“And I knew you, a swelling in the heart,
A silence in the heart, the wild wind-blown grass
Burning—as the sun falls below the earth—
Brighter than a bed of lilies struck by snow.” ~ Brigit Pegeen Kelly, from “Elegy”
In other news, Max and Ruby (the goats) are finally beginning to forage, which they weren’t doing initially. The pair of them are actually very quiet. For some reason, I always thought that goats were loud when they bleat, but I’ve only heard them bleat quietly. Maybe different breeds of goats bleat at different levels. I suppose we shall find out.
Dallas hasn’t been around here since the dog fight. Apparently, the fight frightened him. I’m not complaining as it’s been an unexpected boon for me. It’s been quiet, but that’s not to say that he still doesn’t call Corey frequently for rides to various places or for help, and of course Corey so generously assists..
Speaking of animals, we’ve been dragged into the periphery of a local feud of sorts. Dallas has a nephew who has property on the ridge. This is the same guy whose livestock has been frequently found grazing and roaming on the road in search of food, something we’ve witnesses ever since we rounded a corner and almost hit a horse the first time we came here.
Well apparently this guy had a cow and its calf who wandered onto someone’s property, and the idiot son of the property owner shot the cow, leaving the nursing calf without a mother. Unbelievable. Corey and I heard about it, and I was livid at the ignorance that would make someone think that this was an okay thing to do. I mean, what happened to saying shoo and waving your arms?
It seems that calling the police and suing one another is another local pastime around here, and Dallas and this nephew do not get along. The day after this happened, and to be neighborly, Corey stopped while he was out and asked the guy if he had found the calf yet. The guy hadn’t found the calf, but he had accusations to throw, mentioning Dallas’s name and insinuating that Corey might have something to do with it.
Corey assured him that he knew nothing at all about the situation other than hearing about the cow being shot, and then he drove off. When Corey told me about this, I did not have a good feeling, and Corey described this guy as being incredibly arrogant. Nevertheless, we had hoped that would be the last we would hear of things.
“It’s raining in my heart.” ~ Tim Dlugos, from “Come in from the Rain”
Listen, we moved here to get away from nosy neighbors, petty comments, and city regulations, and we’ve made it a point to mind our own business. We’re friendly, and will wave and say hello, but for the most part, we don’t know or care to know who is doing what to whom at any given time, including the saga of the cow and her calf.
Unfortunately, things did not end there.
Dallas took the cow carcass to his property supposedly to get rid of it, but not quite. And then the next day he and Travis, another neighbor we know, wanted Corey to help them load up the calf. Dallas said that he was going to let the calf nurse on his milk cow. Neither Corey nor I wanted any part of this, but Corey agreed to help round it up but nothing else.
I had real misgivings about all of this and was still really upset about the jackass who murdered the mother cow. Corey helped load the calf and came home. When Dallas and Travis got down the ridge, the police were waiting for them and wanted to know where they were taking the calf. Smooth talker that he thinks he is, Dallas said that they had found the calf and were returning it to his nephew. The cops had them unload the calf and then let them go.
That night, Dallas said that around 1 a.m. he heard horns honking, and he went out to find his nephew’s horses in the road. Dallas said that he rounded up the horses and put them in his pasture for the night and then went back to bed. The next morning, the local cops showed up with a warrant (kind of fishy, the timing of that), claiming that Dallas had stolen his nephew’s horses. Corey happened to be at Dallas’s at the time. They took Dallas in, and said that he’d be released that afternoon.
“She treats the dark like a cathedral.
She is all swallow, the heart working
under every scale to outgrow a fortified spiral.
The cathedral swallows the heart.” ~ Amber Flora Thomas, from “Shed”
This whole situation is unbelievable, but that’s not the end. That night, one of Dallas’s RV campers was set on fire. Dallas sometimes sleeps in this particular camper, which is behind his house and on the edge of his property; fortunately, he didn’t happen to be in it on this particular night.
Now Dallas is talking about getting his lawyer involved, and he still has to go to court over the horses, and his nephew has apparently moved his horses and cows somewhere else. I’m just hoping that wherever he has relocated his livestock, that he takes better care of them and feeds them better because they were always breaking out and wandering in the road looking for areas in which to graze.
All in all, I’m really over all of this. These people around here need to find better ways to spend their time and leave us out of it. I know that it’s a small-town mentality to be up in everyone else’s business, but seriously? WTF, people?
I had thought that my old neighbors on Benjamin were busy bodies, but they were small time compared to these people. I’m just glad that we had already been pulling back in our dealings with Dallas. The whole “painted by the same brush” mentality apparently applies: if you associate with someone, then obviously you are guilty by association.
Give me a break.If this is how it’s going to be, then perhaps my decision to become a hermit has not been ill-founded after all.
More later. Peace.
I lied a little. There are things I don’t want to tell you. How lonely
I am today and sick at heart. How the rain falls steadily and cold
on a garden grown greener, more lush and even less tame. I
haven’t done much, I confess, to contain it. The grapevine, as
usual, threatens everything in its path, while the raspberry canes,
aggressive and abundant, are clearly out of control. I’m afraid the
wildflowers have taken over, being after all the most hardy and
tolerant of shade and neglect. This year the violets and lilies of
the valley are rampant, while the phlox are about to emit their
shocking pink perfume. Oh, my dear, had you been here this
spring, you would have seen how the bleeding hearts are thriving.
~ Madelon Sprengnether (from Angel of Duluth)
Music by Jane Olivor, “Come in from the Rain” (a favorite song from my past)
Two for Tuesday: Dana Gioia
Tuesday afternoon, sunny and colder, 42 degrees.
It was so cold last night, and early this morning, everything was covered with a layer of frost. Spring is tomorrow, yes? Now that we’re thinking about crops, I couldn’t help but feel a pang of worry for people with fruit trees. Would the cold dip and frost hurt their crops? I absolutely love oranges, and I remember a year in which the Florida citrus crops were devastated by crops. Not sure of what year. No idea where that memory emerged from in the recesses of my mind. Hmm . . .
Things that make you go hmm . . . Which reminds me, I really need to plant a mock orange somewhere around the porch.
Yesterday I had a post planned (old story, I know), but then I realized that I had nothing to say. Hence, no post yesterday.
Actually, I did have something to say, but I just couldn’t do it. My eldest son’s birthday was this past weekend, and as a result, my kids have been ever-present on my mind. I check my email every few days, and if I really want to torture myself, I search on Alexis’s and Eamonn’s names, just on the off-chance that one of them emailed me. It’s an exercise in futility and pain.
So that’s why I didn’t write.
Anyway, today’s post features two poems by Dana Gioia (pronounced JOY-uh), the first obviously because of my latest bout with insomnia. Gioia, former chairperson of the NEA, has written five collections of poetry. You can read a complete biography on his site.
Now you hear what the house has to say.
Pipes clanking, water running in the dark,
the mortgaged walls shifting in discomfort,
and voices mounting in an endless drone
of small complaints like the sounds of a family
that year by year you’ve learned how to ignore.
But now you must listen to the things you own,
all that you’ve worked for these past years,
the murmur of property, of things in disrepair,
the moving parts about to come undone,
and twisting in the sheets remember all
the faces you could not bring yourself to love.
How many voices have escaped you until now,
the venting furnace, the floorboards underfoot,
the steady accusations of the clock
numbering the minutes no one will mark.
The terrible clarity this moment brings,
the useless insight, the unbroken dark.
And in the end, all that is really left
Is a feeling—strong and unavoidable—
That somehow we deserved something better.
That somewhere along the line things
Got fouled up. And that letter from whoever’s
In charge, which certainly would have set
Everything straight between us and the world,
Never reached us. Got lost somewhere.
Possibly mislaid in some provincial station.
Or sent by mistake to an old address
Whose new tenant put it on her dresser
With the curlers and the hairspray forgetting
To give it to the landlord to forward.
And we still wait like children who have sent
Two weeks’ allowance far away
To answer an enticing advertisement
From a crumbling, yellow magazine,
Watching through years as long as a childhood summer,
Checking the postbox with impatient faith
Even on days when mail is never brought.
Music by Ruelle, “Carry You”
“I’m like that. Either I forget right away or I never forget.” ~ Samuel Beckett, from Waiting for Godot
Sunday afternoon, sunny and warmer, 64 degrees.
Another wretched night. I kept waking up and then being unable to get back to sleep. The time change always messes with me. I like getting that extra hour in the fall, but losing the hour in the spring throws me off balance, and trying to get the animals back on schedule is a pain. Benjamin Franklin originally came up with the concept of daylight savings time in a letter to Journal de Paris, on April 26, 1784 as a proposal to have more natural light in the home, but the idea wasn’t adopted in many countries until WWI and after as a way to conserve energy. But do we still need it? Is it really effective?
Who knows . . . certainly not I.
Yesterday evening, I was sitting here when I suddenly felt like someone was staring at me. I looked up, and Napoleon was at the door, just standing there, waiting for a treat. I love that horse. Unfortunately, because of all of the rain, his coat is developing bald spots. I have wished more than once that we lived in a community that still did barn raisings. Remember that beautiful scene in the movie Witness, with Harrison Ford, in which all of the Amish men raise a barn in one day? Yep. Like that.
We need a barn, a shelter for the horses, and then we’ll need a goat shed, or a combination building, and we need a shelter for the spring box that feeds water to the house. Each time that we have a deluge, the water becomes discolored because the box needs a major cleaning. The cover is a huge cement block that would take several people to put back in place; we don’t have several people, and as a result, the rain seeps into the box, and we have brackish water for a few days. We still aren’t drinking the water, but we are using it for showers and laundry, which means sometimes . . . ick.
“Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently
…………we have had our difficulties and there are many things
………………………………………..I want to ask you.
I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again,
……….years later, in the chlorinated pool.
…………………..I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have
……….these luxuries.” ~ Richard Silken, from “Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”
I’m listening to another old playlist today, songs I haven’t listened to for quite a while. Corey and I had a song from years ago, Fisher’s [correction: the title is “I Will Love You”] “You.” Neither the song nor the group were that well known, and I came upon it by accident (pre YouTube); it’s such an incredibly beautiful song, and it popped up a few minutes ago. I was immediately taken back to that Sunday afternoon so many years ago when we danced to our song in front of our families and friends. We didn’t spend a lot of money on our wedding as no one had a lot of money, but it was everything that we wanted. Truthfully, I don’t understand the whole idea of spending hundred of thousands of dollars, or even millions. Who is the pageantry for?
And then, how long do those expensive unions last? We were talking the other day about how not a single couple we knew when we got married was still together. How do some people endure while others move away without a seeming backward thought? I really don’t think that it has anything to do with morality or anything like that; more, that it goes back to the reasons you come together in the first place. There has to be something more to the spark than sex. But as I have already had one failed marriage, regardless of how long we were together, I suppose that I am not really the best person to ponder this.
I truly don’t know; and I think that the reasons that my parents stayed together, mostly finances and habit, belong to another generation. I don’t know what makes people come together, fall apart, never speak to one another again, or stay for the duration. I just don’t know.
“People always talk about how hard it can be to remember things – where they left their keys, or the name of an acquaintance – but no one ever talks about how much effort we put into forgetting. I am exhausted from the effort to forget… There are things that have to be forgotten if you want to go on living.” ~ Stephen Carpenter, from Killer
But getting back to music: If only I had realized weeks ago that listening to old songs would jump-start my writing . . .
The idiotic thing is that music has always been a source of inspiration for me, but I suppose as with most things in the past two or three years, I had forgotten that particular fact. I have this memory of watching some show on CMT many years ago in which it was the top 50 country love songs. Corey was at sea, when he was still on the tug boat, and I sat there and cried and cried, simply because the songs were so beautiful, but Corey wasn’t with me to hear them .
I never used to listen to country music, that is, not until I heard someone sing “Amazed” at the karaoke bar that I used to go to, once upon a time. I had never heard that song before, and as this was before you could find anything at the touch of a keystroke on the internet, I had to ask around to find the song again. It’s a song by Lonestar, but it’s in the perfect key for my voice, so I found the song and practiced and practiced until I felt that I could do it justice. I used to do that with songs, mostly so that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself at karaoke, which, I suppose, defeats the whole purpose of getting drunk and singing karaoke.
Anyway, after Corey and I got together, he introduced me to more country music, and eventually, the line between country and pop became so blurred that it really didn’t matter any more what category a song fell into; consider, Taylor Swift began as a country singer, and now look at her, not that I’m a big Swift fan, as I’m not. Just an example.
“I’m looking to cleanse regret. I want to give
you a balm for lesions, give you evening
primrose, milk thistle, turmeric, borage” ~ Lory Bedikian, from “Apology to the Body”
I say anyway, a lot, don’t I?
So the point was: music, any kind of music—it’s always been a big part of my life and a key to my creativity. Before country, it was soundtracks especially that got to me, the soundtrack from Legends of the Fall, the one from The Piano, but especially, the one from The English Patient. That music stirred something deep within me. And there is still one particular composition that always, always makes me misty-eyed: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” Mari introduced me to that one. If you don’t know it, I’ll include it below, but you’ve probably heard it at some point during a crucial death scene in a movie or show. I know that I’ve posted this one before, but once is never enough for this one
Another vivid memory: Driving through the cemetery in the afternoons after my morning classes at ODU, listening to David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream” over and over. The cemetery was my sanctuary after I lost Caitlin, especially that first November. It’s full of maple trees, and they formed an amazing golden and red canopy over the narrow lanes between plots. And at the very back of the cemetery, against the very edge, were several old, individual mausoleums. They were beautiful in their stark loneliness, and once I hit that part of the cemetery, I would turn the car stereo almost all of the way up, and then the weeping would overcome me, and I would have to pull over and wait.
“And so it was. So it was that one by one I picked them up, remembered them, kissed them good-bye, and tore them to pieces. Some were reluctant to be destroyed, calling in pitiful voices from the misty depths of those vast places where we loved in weird half-dreams, the echoes of their pleas lost in the shadowed darkness” ~ John Fante, from The Road to Los Angeles
When we first buried Caitlin at Forest Lawn, there were no trees in the infant plot, and it was so freaking barren that just looking at it broke my heart, so the next year, our family pooled money and bought four Yoshino cherries, and then the next year, we bought two more. The people in charge of the cemetery told me that our gesture actually created the memorial tree program, so at least there was that.
It occurs to me that the cherry trees everywhere are coming into bloom now. Corey planted a weeping cherry in the yard at Benjamin, but I think that the weather was just too hot for it to thrive.
As I come to the end of this post, I realize that there exists one particular song for each and every significant even in my life, far too many to list all of them now, but here are just a few that come immediately to mind:
Elton John’s “Your Song” (junior year), Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road (senior year), Janis Ian’s “Seventeen” (second year of college), Robbin Thompson’s “Sweet Virginia Breeze” (graduate school), “Mandolin Rain” (after Caitlin), “Unchained Melody” (Eamonn), Joan Osborne’s “St. Theresa” (Alexis), Bryan Adam’s “I Do it for You” (Brett), Tracy Chapman’s “Promise” (the Museum), Annie Lennox’s “Why?” (after Paul), Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” (surviving teaching 8th grade public school), Meredith Brook’s “Bitch” (karaoke), Melissa Etheridge’s “Sleep” (Dillard’s), Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply” (the first time I met Alana), Sugarland’s “Make Me Believe” (Corey, only one of many), and finally, because this list could go on interminably, Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You,” which is my anthem.
Enough for now. More later. Peace.
Music by Samuel Barber, “Adagio for Strings” (Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin)
Meridian, Last Night
Last night, I dreamt I went to Meridian again, and
in the dream, a slight dark girl darts from the side
of the house, arms waving, waving while a woman
inside resists the building’s collapse on its own
emptiness. The house is still standing and in ruin.
As it always was. As always.
Of these things on earth I know:
I cannot return. There is no time,
even now, that was golden above another.
Every epoch has its trials. We are human.
We are failing. We are always falling down.
The past was always more menace than I’d imagined;
the past is both retribution and reward
now that it has been endured.
And it is right that we stand in its ruin,
among all this longing and decay.
~ T. J. Jarrett
“My life is a crystal teardrop. There are snowflakes falling in the teardrop and little figures trudging around in slow motion. If I were to look into the teardrop for the next million years, I might never find out who the people are, and what they are doing.” ~ Joan Baez, as found in Joan Didion’s “Where the Kissing Never Stops”
Friday afternoon, snow and rain, cold, 39 degrees.
During the night when I was letting the dogs out, I looked out to see snow covering the ground, which was a surprise. The weather forecast did not call for snow, only more rain. Corey and I agree that the weather here is actually quite depressing. I can only hope that as the weather gets warmer that we are finally able to dry out around here. The mud is overwhelming, as is the near constant rain.
So we lost internet Wednesday night, right as I was watching that new documentary on HBO about Michael Jackson, Finding Neverland. It’s actually quite disturbing as it features two men who were childhood victims of abuse at Jackson’s hands. Truthfully, I’m surprised that they were able to make it. I know that Jackson’s estate sues people all of the time. Nevertheless, it’s more than time that these victims were able to tell their stories.
Anyway, I can’t believe the nerve of some companies, wanting to be paid for their services as opposed to offering them for free. I remember reading something sometime ago about how Tesla wanted electricity to be free, and someone who wanted the internet to be free. Such radical ideas: actually giving the public something that they can use as opposed to making a profit.
Hmm……..Things that make you go hmm……
“I hear two sibilants—here silk,
the snowstorm outside. Beating soul
and breathing blood. We both got what
we wanted” ~ Marina Tsvetaeva, from “Playacting” (Trans. Christopher Whyte)
I decided to be proactive for a change, and rather than wait for the internet to become available again, I decided to go ahead and write some posts on Microsoft Word until we can get it restored on Monday. Then I’ll just post and backdate, which I know is cheating, but hey, when you’re me, and you never know what day it is, does it really matter?
So no podcasts for me for a bit, so I’ve been listening to some of my old music playlists. I made the mistake of putting on an old country playlist while I was taking a bath, and boy, some of those songs are just heartbreaking. For example, there was Blaine Larsen’s, “How Do You Get so Lonely,” which is about a boy who commits suicide, and then there was “Alyssa Lies,” which is about child abuse.
Boy, I know how to put together a playlist that makes you want to cut your wrists with a rusty razor blade—that was a Kathleen saying, or maybe it was a Gail saying. Can’t remember. But those two women were big friends of mine once upon a time.
“I’m tired of my life, my clothes, the things I say. I’m hacking away at the surface, as at some kind of gray ice, trying to break through to what is underneath or I am dead. I can feel the surface trembling—it seems ready to give but it never does..” ~ James Salter, from a letter to Robert Phelps (July 6, 1969-70)
Yesterday, I wrote a letter to another long-time friend of mine, the woman who taught me piano for almost eight years. I always looked up to her, and when she got melanoma years ago, I was so afraid that she would succumb to it, but fortunately, she didn’t, and she went on to have a son by a man who later betrayed her big time.
She was such a classy, talented woman, and oddly enough, she’s the one who made me love Bach, who I had always eschewed before she started teaching me. I was intimidated by Bach—too many notes on the page, as it were, but I learned to master his Two-Part Inventions, and went on to the Three-Part Inventions before I stopped.
I really miss playing, but my piano is in terrible shape. I hope that one day I can find a decent used piano to purchase. Corey’s parents had a beautiful piano in their basement that I always coveted, but then his brother threw out the keys that had come loose, and they got rid of the piano. I miss learning new pieces. I mean, I could teach myself, but there is something special about learning from someone who really knows music. God I loved to play the piano, and I was relatively good at it. I wasn’t one of those naturals who can sit down at a keyboard and just play what they hear in their brains, nor could I ever master changing keys on my own.
I went to school with a couple of people like that, incredibly talented both of them. The one who played the cello died of AIDS during the height of the epidemic, and the other, who played any instrument she touched, ended up having a major tragedy in her life that she never recovered from.
“My wound existed before me;
I was born to embody it.” ~ Joë Bousquet, from “Traduit du silence”
Which just proves that no one is immune from life’s travails, regardless of talent, and here I am still, even when I never imagined being this old, never thought that I would make it this far, and I still feel mediocre every single day of my life. I’ve been doing a lot of soul searching for months now, trying to figure out why I can’t be happy. Honestly, I still don’t have an answer, and my inability to find one just makes me madder and madder at myself.
Granted, the last few years have been majorly stressful, and that I even made it out in sort of one piece still amazes me. I remember years ago, after I lost Caitlin, and I went to that first psychiatrist (who I loathed), and he told me that losing a child is ranked as the second or third biggest stressor in life, with being in a concentration camp ranking as first. How did people even survive that when they were finally liberated? How did they not hate everyone and everything?
Anyway, I had a point, which was that other life stressors include moving, starting a new job, and getting married. I got married (the first time), moved to Blacksburg, and started graduate school and teaching composition all within two weeks of each other.
I supposed I’ve never been one to do things half way. It’s all or nothing. Or maybe, it’s everything or nothing. Who knows.
“All I can hear now is the sound of my own heart, opening and closing, opening and closing, opening.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Handmaid’s Tale
But getting back to the idea of being happy: I know that only I can control my happiness. I’m not naïve enough to think that someone else can make me happy. No matter how much Corey loves and cares for me, he cannot control what is inside of me, nor does he try to.
There is such a feeling of deep regret within me, regret, and guilt, and a sense of being incredibly ungrateful.
Let me explain: I have wanted to live in the mountains, on my own property, for as long as I can remember, ever since the first time I drove into Blacksburg to visit Paul. I knew in that instant that my soul belonged in the mountains. So here I am, surrounded by everything I ever wanted, land, an incredible vista, animals, yet somehow, it’s not enough.
No. Let me back that up. It’s not that it’s not enough; it’s that there is such a large hole in my heart that I’m having a hard time allowing myself to be filled with the splendor with which I am surrounded. Aside from the mud, this place is everything. But I don’t have my kids, and I no longer have a home in Norfolk. I wasn’t able to keep my parents’ home in the family, and I know that many people are not able to do this, but I feel like such a failure because of that, and because I wanted my kids to have the opportunity to have it someday. And more than that, I want my kids.
It’s coloring everything, and I hate it more than I can say, so maybe I should stop trying to say anything more at the moment.
More later. Peace.
Music by Ruelle, “Slip Away”
You work with what you are given,
the red clay of grief,
the black clay of stubbornness going on after.
Clay that tastes of care or carelessness,
clay that smells of the bottoms of rivers or dust.
Each thought is a life you have lived or failed to live,
each word is a dish you have eaten or left on the table.
There are honeys so bitter
no one would willingly choose to take them.
The clay takes them: honey of weariness, honey of vanity,
honey of cruelty, fear.
This rebus—slip and stubbornness,
bottom of river, my own consumed life—
when will I learn to read it
plainly, slowly, uncolored by hope or desire?
Not to understand it, only to see.
As water given sugar sweetens, given salt grows salty,
we become our choices.
Each yes, each no continues,
this one a ladder, that one an anvil or cup.
The ladder leans into its darkness.
The anvil leans into its silence.
The cup sits empty.
How can I enter this question the clay has asked?
“my dry spell
the thing I don’t talk about with anyone.
My desperation: first of many. Hollow, or
hollowed, depending on where you stand;” ~ Jesse Rice-Evans, from “The Self as Liminal, Endless”
Sunday afternoon, overcast and cold, 43 degrees.
I’ve spent the past few days trying to figure out why I cannot put words down here. It’s disconcerting and weird. But I have landed on one possible reason: I set myself up.
Yes. Exactly that. Let me explain: I find these beautiful passages in my meanderings around the ether, mostly on tumblr. I group them by themes, creating drafts for possible future posts, and then I sit down to write, and nothing that I think I can say seems to be worthy of the words of others. Actually, I think that probably the reason for many instances of writer’s block for me, and possibly others—the writer doesn’t feel worthy, doesn’t feel as if she has anything new to say, so what’s the point.
It’s a twisted kind of self-fulfilling prophecy: my words aren’t good enough so I cannot produce the words. The irony is that half of today’s quotes are not from a previously created draft, but from my most recent tumblr visit. I only have about 120 drafts to work through.
“I don’t think any of us can speak frankly about pain until we are no longer enduring it.” ~ Arthur Golden, from Memoirs of a Geisha
Speaking of beautiful words, Golden’s novel about a geisha is one of the best written novels that I’ve ever read. Unfortunately, I fear that my copy ended up in one of those tubs in storage that we lost. The loss of most of my library still pains me. Some of you may view a collection of books as needless, nothing but something to take up space, but books have always, always been my salvation.
I began reading at a very young age, and as an only child, books became my boon companion. Once I started working as a teen, I began to collect hardback books with the money that I earned. That’s how long I’ve been at it. And I had some truly incredible editions, things that have gone out of print. I remember that I had a two-book, oversized collection of all the works by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle; I love Sherlock Holmes. But now that set, as well as most of the rest of my collection are gone.
I didn’t just put my books in storage bins and forget them. I can say fairly certainly that I’ve read at least 80 percent of my books more than one time. My dream in the old house was always to have built-in bookcases in the living room. That never happened, and now this small house does not have the space for a wall of bookcases, which I suppose it just as well as I no longer own almost a thousand volumes of fiction, poetry, history, and biographies.
“Here is the river, and here is the box, and here are
the monsters we put in the box to test our strength
against.” ~ Richard Siken, from “Snow and Dirty Rain”
My big plans to clean the house have not materialized. You see, Corey left on Friday for Ohio for a visit with his family, which means that I am alone here with the animals. The being alone part is not problematic, as I’ve stated numerous times. The sticking point is that I’m still sick. The cough awakens me in the middle of the night, and my body is just depleted.
So here I sit in the midst off muddy paw prints on the wood floors; add to that the shredded tissues that the pups have dragged out of the waste baskets, and you are left with quite a mess, one that I find quite oppressive. I suppose it’s all just coalescing and pressing down on me, making me feel as if everything is just too much.
And then, mere minutes after Corey made his way down the driveway, the toilet clogged, and for some reason, the good plunger that I had at the old house is missing, and the only thing I have to work with is some bizarre design of a plunger that requires me to use my non-existent upper body strength in order to create the adequate suction. Aren’t you glad I shared that with you?
And then . . . I got in the car with Bailey to take her for a short drive to the mailbox only to find that my vehicle is dead and probably needs a new battery. Corey took Tilly with him to give her a special treat (she loves to travel with him), so I’m trying to give Bailey extra attention as she was quite pissed when they left, but the new bag of dog chew is probably in the mailbox, which I cannot get to without hiking a few miles.
Under better circumstances, the mileage would not matter, but as I begin to cough and wheeze moving from the kitchen to the bedroom, it doesn’t bode well for a hike down the mud in the cold.
“She was . . . flame-like and fierily sad. I think she did not know she was sad. But her heart was eaten by some impotence in her life.” ~ D. H. Lawrence, from Twilight in Italy: The Lemon Gardens
Among the positives (because, yes, there are definitely still positives), we’ve finally had some clear nights again, and the night sky is breathtaking. One night as I stood on the porch just admiring the view, the stars seemed to be hanging just above the ridge. One day I’m going to get a good telescope. Brett had one when he was younger, but it wasn’t very good, and you couldn’t really see much from the yard of the old house because of all of the light pollution.
That’s definitely not an issue here. Once we turn off the outside lights when we go to bed, the darkness is so complete that you literally cannot see the top of the driveway. It bothered me when we first got here, but now, it’s fine . . . most of the time.
When I woke up coughing around dawn, I looked out the window that faces the front of the house, and I thought I saw a truck parked in front of the house, not Corey’s pickup, but more like a box truck. Then I put on my glasses and realized that it was actually just a square of pitch black between the porch posts. It was weird.
Of course, if there were anyone or anything out there, the dogs would be spastic, especially Maddy, who still barks at the horses as if they only just appeared in the pasture. I really wish that I had taken her from Dallas sooner because she is a bugger to train; even a simple command like “sit” seems to just fly over her head. I won’t even get into Dallas’s beliefs about training dogs except to say that it’s pretty much non-existent except for making them bark like crazy . . .
“One winter I lived north, alone
and effortless, dreaming myself
into the past. Perhaps, I thought,
words could replenish privacy.” ~ Jennifer Chang, from “The World”
I am making an effort not to spend hours on tumblr as I used to when it first came around. My logic is that I need to put the effort here, not there. It is a rather addicting site, though. I mean, there’s so much there. Predictably, I follow people who post quotes from poems and other literature, as well as photography, art, and some architecture, but there are sites that are nothing but memes, or comics, or old firearms, or artistic porn (well, maybe not any more since tumbler instituted puritanical restrictions), etc. ad nauseam
I find it to be quite a good source to jump-start my thought processes, and after perusing my dashboard, which is where the posts appear, my brain seems to be more primed to do something, anything; unfortunately, for the past two (four?) days, that something has been nothing more than playing spider solitaire.
This morning, I deliberately did not open tumblr or spider solitaire; it’s just too easy, and I’m tired of doing easy. Well, I’m tired—that part is true. Seriously, though, I’m fed up with doing nothing. I’m so ready for warmer weather so that I can work on the kitchen cabinets and all of the other projects that have been set aside for winter. But I’m also fed up with myself, fed up with being sick (I really hate to be so sick that I’m incapacitated), fed up with doing nothing.
I keep remembering how I used to clean the entire house, top to bottom, every Saturday morning of my life from the time I was about 10. I enjoyed it—truly. It was the whole thing of being able to get immediate tangible results that I could see as soon as I had finished.
Tangible results aren’t as apparent when you write for yourself, at least not when it feels forced, but you see, I have to take my own advice, the advice that I used to give my students: If you can think of nothing to say, write “I can think of nothing to say, repeatedly, until you do think of nothing to say.” It was an exercise that I started every writing class that I taught, and it almost always produced results.
Okay, so I haven’t written that phrase over and over, but I’m trying to apply the principle: just writing whatever pops into my head in the hopes that I might actually create something more than fodder.
So maybe not so much today, as in more than fodder, but hey, I tried, which is more than I can say about the last few weeks. Anyway, that’s the latest.
More later, in the hopes that the words will flow better. Peace.
Music by Shells, “Jagwar” (discovered this on The Magicians, my current favorite show)
a selection from “Snow and Dirty Rain”
If this isn’t a kingdom then I don’t know what is.
So how would you catalog it? Dawn in the fields?
Snow and dirty rain? Light brought in in buckets?
I was trying to describe the kingdom, but the letters
kept smudging as I wrote them: the hunter’s heart,
the hunter’s mouth, the trees and the trees and the
space between the trees, swimming in gold. The words
frozen. The creatures frozen. The plum sauce
leaking out of the bag. Explaining will get us nowhere.
I was away, I don’t know where, lying on the floor,
pretending I was dead. I wanted to hurt you
but the victory is that I could not stomach it. We have
swallowed him up, they said. It’s beautiful. It really is.
I had a dream about you. We were in the gold room
where everyone finally gets what they want.
You said Tell me about your books, your visions made
of flesh and light and I said This is the Moon. This is
the Sun. Let me name the stars for you. Let me take you
there. The splash of my tongue melting you like a sugar
cube… We were in the gold room where everyone
finally gets what they want, so I said What do you
want, sweetheart? and you said Kiss me. Here I am
leaving you clues. I am singing now while Rome
burns. We are all just trying to be holy. My applejack,
my silent night, just mash your lips against me.
We are all going forward. None of us are going back.
~ Richard Siken (full poem found here)
“You could rattle the stars . . . You could do anything, if only you dared. And deep down, you know it, too. That’s what scares you most.” ~ Sarah J. Maas, from Throne of Glass
Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and 44 degrees.
Another cloudy day on the ridge. This morning, both Sassy and Napoleon were outside the pasture and the top of the driveway. I wonder where they thought they were going . . .
I’ve been doing some clean up on my blog, looking at drafts that I’ve put together with quotes and poems, and I noticed in my stats that I’ve published 1,859 posts. That’s a lot, isn’t it? Yes, some of those are just Friday leftovers and such, but for the most part, it’s all my writing crammed in between quotes and images, with the average word count being around 1800 words. If you deduct about 150 for the quotes and about 250 for the average length of poems, that still means that I’ve rambled on for about 1400 words.
I hadn’t realized that I was so verbose; actually, that’s just not true. I know that I’m verbose. All. The. Time. I remember when I had been into this blog for about half a year that I posted an explanation that my posts are actually blongs, or long blogs. It appears that not much has changed on that front—I’d be surprised if it had.
“Alive, it all returns to the mind,
Unattainable now time has passed;
Like a sharp sure dagger
Its memory pierces my breast.” ~ Luis Cernuda, from “Native Land”
I’m trying to post every day, but obviously I’m not quite there yet. Part of me feels guilty sitting here for hours at this keyboard while there is still so much to do. I suppose that I’m resigned that there will be no Christmas decorations this year. It doesn’t happen if I don’t do it, and I truly don’t think that I can, at least not this year. I’ve never not had at least a tree. I remember one time in England that my mom put up one of those small silver trees on a table; they probably don’t make those any more. I still have wonderful memories of Christmas in London: Everything in the city was decorated and lit.
When I was a teenager, I kind of assumed the responsibility for buying a tree and decorating it, back when we still used live trees, until we found out that the tree was directly affecting my mom’s lungs, my lungs, and Brett’s lungs. Of all of us, Brett had the worst asthma; he would get so sick. It was artificial trees after that. But I’ve always tried to have a real wreath on the door so that there would at least be the smell of Christmas when you came to the door. This year, no wreath either. Le sigh.
It was always my responsibility, or rather, I always took on the responsibility for decorating the tree, the house, everything. In my old house, once upon a time I used to also do the outside lights, climbing the branches and wrapping the lights around each one, that is until the trees became too tall. I have always loved climbing trees, that is, until I couldn’t. Once Brett was older, he actually helped with the outside lights. I wonder if he misses that as much as I do.
“Listen: you are not yourself, you are crowds of others, you are as leaky a vessel as was ever made, you have spent vast amounts of your life as someone else, as people who died long ago, as people who never lived, as strangers you never met. Rebecca Solnit, from The Faraway Nearby
Corey’s brother is supposed to be here tomorrow evening to go to an auction for some property near here. There’s a house (bigger than this one), garage and some outbuildings on the block; it all used to belong to Dallas’s sister. There’s also a stream that runs next to the property. Steve has been here a few times, and out of all of Corey’s family, he’s the one that seems to like it here the most. I was the one who had actually suggested to Corey that he tell Steve about the property. Ironically, it’s situated on the other side of the ridge from here, but that’s not how you get there unless you’re hiking.
I imagine that his brother is looking at it for an investment for now, but it would be nice if his family had access to it for visits. It’s less remote than here, so his father would feel more comfortable, I think. When we were first talking about buying this, we thought about maybe getting a trailer for visitors since there are only two bedrooms and one bath in this house; it’s perfect for the two of us, but a bit small for more than a few visitors.
I have no idea if Steve will actually bid on the property, but he’s coming to take a look at it and then plans to leave the next day. I’m trying not to stress over his visit, but that’s impossible for me. I always feel such a weight whenever anyone, I mean anyone visits. Even for a few hours. I suppose it comes from years and years of keeping an immaculate house, first at my mom’s and then later in my first house. And now that I don’t clean like that any more because of my back, I always feel as if I don’t want anyone to see my house.
Yes, I know. It’s weird.
the rituals, and our faces, like smoky icons
in a certain light, seem to learn nothing
but understand all.” ~ Tim Dlugos, from “Pretty Convincing”
Last night I had one of those dreams that stick with you: First, Corey and I were at Nags Head with the dogs, and I walked to the water’s edge to sea how cold it was. The dogs were standing in the surf, and Corey was a few feet out getting ready to throw the ball for Tillie. Then suddenly I was in the backyard of my mother’s house. There was a split tree running the entire length of the back fence, and there was a huge pile of sticks that I thought would have been good for kindling. I told myself to remember to tell Corey.
Then I was inside in my mother’s bedroom with Corey, and I knew that my mom was dead. We were still going through stuff in her closets. Then I heard my father coming down the hall with three of the Yorkies we had when I was younger. He was getting ready to go to his apartment and couldn’t take the dogs with him. (My dad never had an apartment.) But I saw him so clearly and talked to him, heard his voice, and part of me knew that he couldn’t be there if my mother wasn’t also there.
Then there was one more part in which I was in a candy store in Nags Head, and I was looking for a Chik-o-Stik, something I haven’t eaten since I was a kid. There was a man there who was slightly mentally challenged, and he was helping me to find the candy. But he was also upset with me because I had sold my mother’s house and now he had nowhere to live, and I was so upset that I wanted to cry. But I really wonder how that candy stick made its way into my consciousness . . .
I woke up wanting to write. That’s been happening with more frequency.
“Of course to forget the past is to lose the sense of loss that is also memory of an absent richness and a set of clues to navigate the present by; the art is not one of forgetting but letting go. And when everything else is gone, you can be rich in loss.” ~ Rebecca Solnit, from A Field Guide to Getting Lost
Now that I’m back here and back on tumblr, I’m finding all kinds of new poems that I haven’t read, and it’s stirring something in me. I read one yesterday that actually took my breath away because it was so freaking beautiful, and I thought to myself that it was something that I wished I had written.
I have to admit that I haven’t had that particular feeling in several years. I haven’t felt inspired, and I haven’t felt that I could actually create—sit down and write a real poem. I just don’t know how to describe this particular feeling well enough to relate it to you, dear reader.
It’s like for years there has been this dam in my brain, a thick wall keeping the words from forming and exiting. But not just the words—the actual feeling in my soul that there were particular words within me that I needed to put down on the page, that I needed to place and rearrange and take out and insert until there was something there that meant something, at least to me.
So now, maybe, perhaps, the dam is breaking? I really hope so because I have missed that ritual of creation, creating something beyond here but a companion to here, if that makes any sense. I have missed words, the magic of them, running them through my brain, rolling them on my tongue to see how they sound together. And when it works, it’s like music in my brain and in my soul.
Enough for now. More later. Peace.
Music by Lady Gaga, “Joanne” (forgive me if this is a repeat, but I really love this song)
He lets me listen, when he moves me,
Words are not like other words
He takes me, from under my arms
He plants me, in a distant cloud
And the black rain in my eyes
Falls in torrents, torrents
He carries me with him, he carries me
To an evening of perfumed balconies
And I am like a child in his hands
Like a feather carried by the wind
He carries for me seven moons in his hands
and a bundle of songs
He gives me sun, he gives me summer
and flocks of swallows
He tells me that I am his treasure
And that I am equal to thousands of stars
And that I am treasure, and that I am
more beautiful than he has seen of paintings
He tells me things that make me dizzy
that make me forget the dance and the steps
Words…which overturn my history
which make me a woman…in seconds
He builds castles of fantasies
which I live in…for seconds…
And I return…I return to my table
Nothing with me…
Nothing with me…except words
~ Nizar Qabbani, found on Poem Hunter