“It was a scene which seemed the heart of this land. The lowing sun and the one star waking, white wings on a black water, and the smell of rain, and the long lane fading where a voice comes in the falling night.” ~ Jamie O’Neill, from At Swim, Two Boys

The dark horse, Liscannor, Ireland J0sh FCC
The Dark Horse, Liscannor, Ireland by J0sh (FCC)

” . . . they would tell me nothing, except that they had been commanded to travel over Ireland continually, and upon foot and at night, that they might live close to the stones and the trees and at the hours when the immortals are awake.” ~ W.B. Yeats, from The Adoration of the Magi

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and humid, 81 degrees.

I just read the most remarkable essay in Parabola, “The Search for One Thing,” by Betsy Cornwell.

Please understand: This is more than one of my casual reblogs. Cornwell’s words hit so close to home, almost too close. Everything she says, I have felt. All of her words have been my words at one time or another, but not in such a beautiful, linear fashion. This essay explains Ireland for me—the green that I have long dreamed of—all of it, it’s all here.

Sea thrift and the sea by slkovjr fcc
Sea Thrift and the Sea by slkovjr (FCC)

The Aran Islands have been in my dreams since I first saw them in some forgotten movie eons ago. The cliffs, the green, the sheep, the sky—everything that I have ever wanted in one place.

I don’t have Cornwell’s past with her father, yet I can understand her need to break away, to search on her own. For so many years I wanted to break away, but the curse of the only child is that your life is never your own, at least not until your parents are gone, not unless you want to bear the label of being selfish, and it was a label I couldn’t bear.

I don’t think that anyone has ever completely understood my dream of Ireland. Corey tries; he knows that it’s someplace I have always wanted to go, but it’s more than just wanting to visit. I want to spend time there, days, weeks, months. I want to walk and bike and, well, mostly I want to think about my life.

It’s not escape I seek. It’s clarity. The kind of clarity I will never have here, not here in this house in this city in this state in this country. Don’t ask me why I know that to be true, but I do.

This is the biggest truth I know: I need to go to Ireland, and soon, otherwise, I fear it may be too late.


 

The Search for One Thing
by Betsy Cornwell

“Give it one week of hard frost,” my new husband says, “and all the green will be gone.” He has slowed the car to let two adolescent does cross the road, and we watch them vanish neatly into the ditch on the other side. In the 4:30 November gloom, the perfect white of their rumps is nearly all we can see.

Irish Cliffs minniemouseaunt FCC
Irish Cliffs by minniemouseaunt (FCC)

As they pass through the high brambles of the ditch, Richie admires their fleetness, their nimble feet. I say the deer must risk the danger of the road only because it’s winter and they are hungry, but he says they wouldn’t be wanting yet; that’s when he warns me about the week of frost, and the green.

But here, even in winter, Ireland is so green that to walk through the countryside is almost to think you are underwater. And here a ditch is not a hole, not an absence, but its opposite. An Irish ditch is a raised thicket, a dense living tangle of blackberry and ivy and gorse. Twining through the ditch are innumerable tiny tunnels—through them mice and spiders wind. No snakes here, of course—remember St. Patrick—but the tunnels mimic their absence, their silent, assured sinuousness.

When I first came to this country, I remember thinking that even if I jumped from one of its many cliffs I wouldn’t fall, but float, until the cool wet wind of this place carried me back, softly, onto the grass that is so green it is like water, like every kind of life pulled together into one.

I came here to renew—something, although I didn’t yet know what. And to escape, well, everything.

Two years ago, at the end of my MFA program, I was broken down and burned out, spent twigs for a spent fire. I did everything quickly, heart in my mouth, because I felt sure that if I took any extra time I would collapse into ash. I was teaching three times the prescribed student limit, tutoring, writing, finishing my thesis and my classes, and editing my first novel for next year’s publication—all jobs that filled me with whiplash joy and panic and soul-crushing insecurity. A person I loved had shown me such grinding ambivalence that I’d had to let him go, and I spent far too much time imagining our never-to-be future together. There was a cushion-laden corner of the floor in my cheap apartment that was alternately a nook for grading papers and a nest to curl up in and cry until I fell asleep. I ate whatever I thought would make me feel better, mostly
cheese and Vernor’s ginger ale. My heart was broken and my belly ached.

I had a particular dream that kept me working: I wanted to go to Ireland. I’d come in second for a Fulbright arts grant to write about selkies in Dublin, and the near miss had left me determined to get there on my own. But when the summer came and I looked at my finances, I realized that even with my book advance I would have to choose between Ireland and more earthly concerns like healthcare and rent.

That day, my father called and said he wanted to know my schedule for next year because he was taking the family to Africa. We would go on safari and sleep in tents together.

But I have spent much of my life figuring out how to avoid being in the same place as my father, especially at night. And for the first time, that day, I told him so. One advantage of being so very tired, on the threshold of adulthood, is that your childhood nightmares start getting tired too, and it is harder for them to frighten you.

“I can’t go,” I said in a voice that shook but was still my own voice, coming out of my own body. “I can’t sleep in the same room with you.”

Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry, Ireland by Jackie L Chan FCC
Gap of Dunloe, County Kerry, Ireland by Jackie L Chann (FCC)

The other end of the line was silent. After a few seconds he said, “All right. That doesn’t make me happy, but I understand.”

We hung up soon afterward, and one weight was strangely gone from the fears I carried.

A few days later he called again and offered to buy me a ticket to Ireland instead, since I wasn’t going to Africa. It felt like hush money—if I was brave enough to tell him I remembered, whom else might I tell? I said I would have to think about it. I felt sure I would say no, but that dream was a hard one for me to give up.

I went into town to have coffee with Trish, a woman twice my age who feels like someone I grew up with, a friend whom I often call my spiritual guide. The Catholic school we attended, with its Planned Parenthood protests, homophobia, and rape apologism, tempted me to throw up my hands at even a nebulous, agnostic God—but it was Trish’s faith that kept me searching for my own. She combines her devout and somewhat radical Catholicism with dashes of Buddhism and a sharp flair for the intersectionally feminist, and I’ve always loved her for it. I liked to say that she was “Tapped In To Something,” because it was the only way I could find of explaining her radiant wisdom and kindness, the light that shines through her. (When she’s not giving spiritual counsel to frightened young women, Trish is a professor of sociology and a brilliant poet.)

As soon as she sat down I started crying—big, gasping sobs from a shy woman who can rarely even manage to raise her voice in anger. I don’t know if I’d ever shown that much emotion in public before.

Trish stroked my arm. I wept into my giant bowl of latte.

When I quieted, she laughed and said “Honey, I wouldn’t go through my twenties again for anything.”

Galway by Shadowgate fcc
Galway by Shadowgate (FCC)

Suddenly, I felt much better. I wiped my eyes, and she asked me what was wrong.

Trish is third generation Irish-American; three of her grandparents were born on the island where I now live. And it was she, in the end, who brought me here. I told her what my father had offered, how it felt like a bargain I didn’t want to make, and that I never wanted to owe him anything ever again.

She looked at me steadily. “You never will,” she said. “He could give you money until the end of the world and you’d owe him nothing.” He’d taken more, she said, than he could ever give back; and though some well-trained part of me thought I was being a Bad Daughter, I admitted she was right.

“But . . .” said the Bad Daughter, on the verge of tears again. I found I couldn’t finish my sentence, and I took a deep, shaky breath. “God, I’m so tired. I’m sorry about this.” I waved at my eyes.

Trish shook her head. “Go to Ireland,” she said. “You’ll rest there, you’ll write your book. It’s where the world keeps its magic. And don’t go to Dublin. In fact . . .” She pulled out her tablet and did a quick image search. “You need to go here.”

Galway, Panoramic from Claddagh and River Corrib WC
Galway, Panoramic from Claddagh and River Corrib (Wikimedia Commons)

She showed me a Google page thick with pictures of green cliffs, dark waves, and small stone-bound fields. A girl’s feet dangled over the edge of one cliff, her legs mid-swing and
relaxed.

“The Aran Islands?” I laughed. “It’s mostly sweaters there, right?”

“The Aran Islands,” she said. “See? You’re happier already. Go there,” she thought for a moment, “for at least a month. It will heal your soul.”

My soul leapt out for healing, and I knew that I would go.

Three months later, I am sitting in the warmest corner of Tigh Joe Watty’s, one of only two pubs on the whole island. I am smiling, and every part of me feels light. Tall, redheaded Uinseon McCarron dances a beautiful Australian girl named Sjonelle across the dark wood floor, and the rest of us at the table watch and admire them, their easy grace and easier smiles. Dave, the handsome, acerbic owner of the hostel where we all work, comes back to the table with pints of cider. I haven’t written anything in weeks.

I did not understand, when I first came to Ireland, why I wasn’t writing. It was the first time in my life that I didn’t feel overworked, and suddenly I couldn’t work at all. I’d been manically, neurotically productive for years, trying to scratch my way into prep school, college, graduate school, New York agencies and publishing houses. And now here I was, not a student for the first time since I was three years old and my parents enrolled me in university preschool. I had my master’s, and my book wasn’t coming out for almost a year. I could support myself until then, meagerly, on my advance and hostel work-exchange.

Inishmann Teach Synge by Arcimboldo WC
Inishmann Teach Synge by Arcimboldo (Wikimedia Commons)

All my life I had wanted “to write full time,” but here I had all the time in the world, and I wasn’t writing at all. I would wake up early every morning determined to work, and I would hover over the Cinderella retelling on my computer, making small changes that meant nothing. I always ended those sessions at least a little disgusted with myself.

My afternoons, though, I set myself free, wandering through the cobblestoned Latin quarter of Galway City to the rushing gray mouth of the Corrib. I would walk the promenade from Galway to Salthill and back, looking out at the quiet bay, cold wind slipping over my face and silvering my hair and skin with salt, breathing air clean as miracles.

I’ve spent most of my life inside my head. In childhood my body was the site of fear and confusion at the hands of an adult protector; I became expert at curling up inside myself, where my senses would know and remember nothing. The desires and doubts of adolescence only made me retreat further. My body hardly ever did what I wanted it to; I have never even been good at sports.

As I grew older, this disconnect led me to think that my body had no needs of its own, and certainly not much value. It carried my mind and my heart around, and that was all. When I felt worn out at the end of school, I thought it was only my soul that hurt. I didn’t notice the knots in my back.

I struggled over my writing in Ireland, and as Trish had instructed me, I worked to heal my broken heart. It was my lungs and my legs, though, that first grew stronger, walking along the promenade, making beds and mopping floors at the hostel.

Galway gpoo FCC
Galway by gpoo (FCC)

Salt and clean air, and enough work to make you need them.

Healing was in my body, was stitching into my very cells, before I could even see it working, before I could see new words on the page. When I came here I thought I was failing, but something was already starting to grow.

In college, I studied literature and fairy tales. Some—”The Selkie Bride,” “Cinderella,” “Red Riding Hood,” “Tam Lin”—I’d read in different translations and retellings since I was a child. I have always loved, more than anything, stories. Stories helped me escape those parts of my childhood that I could talk about only years later. I told myself stories, too, even as I progressed into adulthood. I thought I knew what I wanted, whom I would love, how my life would lead. I was a good student, a follower of rules. Whenever I searched for something, I believed I knew what I would find, and when, and how.

I write fairy tales for a living now, and like many feminist writers I try to give my heroines the agency that they sometimes lack in older versions of the tales. The aims of women of my generation and the one before—and many, many brave and hard-fighting women before us—are all for choice and action. By action I mean achievement, agency, doing. I believe in these ideals; they keep the world moving forward, and help to give it some chance of (maybe, someday) being just.

But lately I have been thinking that these older princesses and witches and peasant girls have a kind of wisdom to offer us that has lately been lost: the wisdom of passivity, of stillness.

Those seemingly un-feminist stillnesses are nearly always there, in the most enduring of the old fairy stories. Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Red Riding Hood curled up in the wolf: what are they thinking, unthinking, as they lie there un-doing? Are they glad, un-chosen as it is, for the rest?

Whether they are or not, the stillness is part of the narrative, and therefore is itself part of the moving forward, the doing of the story. Even when they are still, their stories go on. And I have found, in the time that I have spent in this place, that stillness has a strength and power of its own. I believe now that I needed not to write for that time. There are many fields here that lie fallow.

Road through the Burren EoinGardiner FCC
Road through the Burren by EoinGardiner (FCC)

Soon after I met my husband on Inis Mor (the largest of the Aran Islands—oh, Trish, how right you were) he told me something that has twined itself through my heart ever since. In Irish, he said “faigheann iarraidh, iarraidh eile.” In English: the search for one thing leads to another.

I came to Ireland to write a book. I could not write, but if the soul is a place of quiet and stillness and peace inside oneself, I found mine, and the island and I healed it where it had been starved and broken. I met my partner, and I found my home. And nine months later, in the spring, living in East Galway with Richie, I began to write again.

“It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Stack of Books by Evan Lawrence Bench FCC
Stack of Books by Evan Lawrence Bench (FCC)

                    

“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” ~ Anna Quindlen, from How Reading Changed My Life

Found on my tumblr dash:

Cross out what you’ve already read. Six is the average.

Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
Harry Potter series – JK Rowling 
To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee 
The Bible
Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
Middlemarch – George Eliot
Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
Bleak House – Charles Dickens
War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
Emma – Jane Austen
Persuasion – Jane Austen
The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
Animal Farm – George Orwell
The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
Lord of the Flies – William Golding
Atonement – Ian McEwan
Life of Pi – Yann Martel
Dune – Frank Herbert
Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth
The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
The Secret History – Donna Tartt
The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas

On The Road – Jack Kerouac
Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
Moby Dick – Herman Melville
Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
Dracula – Bram Stoker
The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
Ulysses – James Joyce 
The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
Germinal – Emile Zola
Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
Possession – AS Byatt
A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
The Color Purple – Alice Walker
The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
Charlotte’s Web – EB White
The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
Watership Down – Richard Adams
A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
Hamlet – William Shakespeare
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
Les Miserables – Victor Hugo

“There is earth | that never leaves your hands, | rain that never leaves | your bones. Words so old they are broken | from us, because they can only be | broken.” Anne Michaels, from “Into Arrival”

“Silent Eiffel Tower”
by overcome (treakearth.com)

                   

Two for Tuesday: Anne Michaels

Phantom Limbs

“The face of the city changes more quickly, alas! than the mortal heart.” ~ Charles Baudelaire

So much of the city
is our bodies. Places in us
old light still slants through to.
Places that no longer exist but are full of feeling,
like phantom limbs.

Even the city carries ruins in its heart.
Longs to be touched in places
only it remembers.

Through the yellow hooves
of the ginkgo, parchment light;
in that apartment where I first
touched your shoulders under your sweater,
that October afternoon you left keys
in the fridge, milk on the table.
The yard — our moonlight motel —
where we slept summer’s hottest nights,
on grass so cold it felt wet.
Behind us, freight trains crossed the city,
a steel banner, a noisy wall.
Now the hollow diad
floats behind glass
in office towers also haunted
by our voices.

Few buildings, few lives
are built so well
even their ruins are beautiful.
But we loved the abandoned distillery:
stone floors cracking under empty vats,
wooden floors half rotted into dirt;
stairs leading nowhere; high rooms
run through with swords of dusty light.
A place the rain still loved, its silver paint
on rusted things that had stopped moving it seemed, for us.
Closed rooms open only to weather,
pungent with soot and molasses,
scent-stung. A place
where everything too big to take apart
had been left behind.

                   

Red Moon over France
by ced (FCC)

11. What the Light Teaches

Language is the house with lamplight in its windows,
visible across fields. Approaching, you can hear
music; closer, smell
soup, bay leaves, bread — a meal for anyone
who has only his tongue left.
It’s a country; home, family; abandoned, burned down; whole lines dead, unmarried.
For those who can’t read their way in the streets,
or in the gestures and faces of strangers,
language is the house to run to;
in wild nights, chased by dogs and other sounds,
when you’ve been lost a long time,
when you have no other place.

There are nights in the forest of words
when I panic, every step into thicker darkness,
the only way out to write myself into a clearing,
which is silence.
Nights in the forest of words
when I’m afraid we won’t hear each other
over clattering branches, over
both our voices calling.

In winter, in the hour
when the sun runs liquid then freezes,
caught in the mantilla of empty trees;
when my heart listens
through the cold stethoscope of fear,
your voice in my head reminds me
what the light teaches.
Slowly you translate fear into love, the way the moon’s blood is the sea.

“All things pass, all things, that is, but mystery.” ~ Rikki Ducornet

Sunset on Ke’e Beach, Kauai, Hawaii
by jaybergesen (FCC)

                   

All that we do
Is touched with ocean, yet we remain
On the shore of what we know.” ~ Richard Wilbur, from “For Dudley”

Saturday afternoon. Storms.

So where was I? Oh yes, I left you on July 6 at the point at which Alexis was ready to push . . .

So she pushed and pushed and pushed, for two hours, but the baby’s head was facing up and turned at an angle. I guess she was looking around, but as a result, the pushing didn’t achieve very much. The nurse said to Alexis, “I’m going to step out for a moment and talk to the doctor,” and that’s when I knew . . .

Kaena Point, Oahu, Hawaii
by puuikibeach (FCC)

Within five minutes, the room went from quiet, with just Alexis, Mike, the nurse, and me, to a room filled with people: the ob, a couple of nurses, a pediatrician, the anesthesiologist. People were breaking down things and setting up things, and the doctor told Alexis that she was going to have a c-section. She got a bit weepy, which made Mike nervous, and I was told that everything had to be packed to move to another room.Mike was suited up in sterile scrubs, and a nurse and I moved all of Alexis’s stuff (she’s a bag lady, like her mother) to another room. My mother went home, as I told her that it would be a few hours, and it was already going on 9 p.m. I promised to call her. Corey and I waited in the room, and I tried very hard not to panic.

About half past ten Mike walked into the room and said that we could go to the nursery. I think that I finally took a deep breath at that point.

“Perhaps creating something is nothing but an act of profound remembrance.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke,  from The Poet’s Guide to Life, (trans. Ulrich Baer)

So Miss Olivia was born via c-section, and we were able to see her brand new, in all of her tiny, glorious wonder. Mike was more emotional than I had ever seen him, and Corey was pretty awe-struck himself. And me? I officially became MiMi at 10:11 p.m. on July 6, one day before Alexis’s 28th birthday.

Lava Steam Plume Hitting Ocean, Hawaii
by Erik Charlton (FCC)

They brought Alexis into the room around 11 p.m., and we started sending out text messages and texts to let everyone know about her arrival and that mother and daughter were healthy. I slept at the hospital that first night with Alexis and Olivia, and it was truly surreal—being with my first baby and her first baby.Alexis was in the hospital until Monday evening, and I’ve spent the last week at her apartment during the day, trying to help her adjust and taking care of both of them.

There have been more than a few teary breakdowns, the normal insecurities, the feelings of inadequacy. Breastfeeding wasn’t working, so Olivia is being bottle-fed. Again, causing feelings of failure, which the pediatrician (one from the same practice that all of my children went to) helped tremendously in helping to alleviate by sharing her own problems with breastfeeding. I have tried to reassure Lex by pointing out a few things that others told me along the way: A c-section is major surgery, and the body needs time to heal; I’ve done this four times, so I have a bit more experience, which only means that time is a great teacher.

“How right that the body changed over time, becoming a gallery of scars, a canvas of experience, a testament to life and one’s capacity to endure it.” ~ Janet Fitch

Let’s see, family reactions: My mother is more than a little tickled (she showed up at the hospital on Saturday morning at 9 a.m.). Eamonn is telling anyone who will listen that he has a niece and that he’s an uncle. Brett is afraid to hold Olivia as he thinks that she’s breakable, a feeling he shares with Mike who finds even burping to be a bit overwhelming as he’s afraid of patting too hard. My s-in-law has been great in taking care of the puppy for the past week, which alleviates the need for Lex to go up and down the stairs all day to take out the puppy.

Kaho’olawe Hawaii
by Justin Ornellas (FCC)

Corey is enamored, but I can tell that it’s a bittersweet love as I watch him look at her fingers and her nose and her hair. Wistful, is probably the best word, and I try not to think about it too much.A steady stream of Lex’s friends and family have stopped by, sometimes all at once, which causes her to become anxious, totally understandable. Corey’s parents have had to postpone their visit until November, so we are keeping them updated as much as possible.

So we are all adjusting in our individual ways. Truthfully? I’m exhausted and kind of enjoying having today to myself to get caught up here. Each day this past week I have tried to spend fewer hours at the apartment so that there is less dependency on Lex’s part. This coming week, I’m only going in the afternoon while Brett is in class.

“I carry inside myself my earlier faces, as a tree contains its rings.” ~ Tomas Gösta Tranströmer, from For the Living and the Dead

So that’s the latest news regarding our family’s latest addition.

Waves Crash Against Lava Rock, Maui, Hawaii
by Randy Son of Robert (FCC)

I must admit to feeling a bit like I’m walking through water—I am filled with a joy I haven’t felt in years and years, yet at the same time, I am feeling a keen sense of loss and more than a bit of bittersweet longing. These are things that I cannot say to anyone but Corey, and you, of course.When I hold Olivia, my mind is taken back to the days of holding my own babies as they were new in this world. I remember things so keenly that had been long forgotten, and the remembering is too sweet. But then I am brought back to the present, and it is an unfamiliar time in which I find myself: I have passed on the birthing of new babes to the next generation, and now I must face the hard fact that I will never bear another baby, that I will never give Corey that child for which he longs.

And that I feel these things makes me ashamed, because should I not be able to see only the joy? Why must I always remember Caitlin? That Alexis gave her daughter Caitlin’s name means more than I can ever, ever express: It is a carrying on, a continuum. And it is double-edged: sweet and painful. But I suppose that is how it will always be with me, no matter what, sweet and painful.

Again and again, I try to put down a few words.
As day and sky dissolve in sheets of gray,
 the sea repeats your name to the desireless sand.” ~ Stephen Dobyns, from “Letter Beginning with the First Line of Your Letter”

You are probably thinking that I should be more grateful, after all, everyone is healthy, and I am, grateful, that is. I am so, so grateful, and I am so, so melancholy.

Kilauea Lighthouse, Hawaii
by Makahauine Pa’i Ki’i (FCC)

Perhaps it’s the end of a very long seven, no eight days, and my psyche has been through extreme highs and lows. And after all, it’s not my hormones that have been thrown into shock, but there is something . . . something ephemeral, just beyond my grasp, something that I cannot quite name, and I don’t know what it is. Perhaps it’s the coming down after rolling along on an adrenaline high for so long. Perhaps it’s coming face-to-face with the essence of life, the cyclical nature of our existence.I really couldn’t tell you.

I am a flawed individual, just like the rest of you, but I tend to focus too keenly on my flaws, to the detriment of anything positive. That I am aware of this does not make me any less perplexed. Awareness of a thing does not necessitate understanding of said thing.

“Those who fear the border do not know they are walking on the sea.”  ~ Luis Benitez, from “The Pearl Fisherman

Recently I ran across that ontological query: If you could take a pill that would instantly cure you, would you take it? (Or more precisely: If your mental illness could be cured by one pill, would you take it?)

Mala Surf, Hawaii
by vl8189 (FCC)

No.

Years ago I resisted Prozac because it made me feel nothing. Some of you might think that my medication is not working for me because I still have these highs and lows. I can only tell you that they are nothing compared to the pendulum that used to be my extreme emotional swings. But this is the cold, hard truth: If I did not have lows, then neither would I have highs, and living in the middle is not living for me.

I am, as someone once said, stitched together by my flaws. All that makes me who and what I am comes from my angels and my demons, from my hellish nights and my placid days. That I can feel both great joy and great sadness simultaneously only tells me that I can feel. That I know that this is not normal, only reassures me that at least I know myself, that I am not deluded enough to believe that I can be like everyone else.

I don’t know how I got onto this philosophical bent. Perhaps it would have been better saved for another post, but I have not written in a week, and all of this was churning around inside me.

I’m going to cheat a bit today, what with the longer post and everything, I’m including a shorter poem here because it just really, really fits how I’m feeling:

Isadora Duncan

The wind?
I am the wind.
The sea and moon?
I am the sea and moon.
Tears, pain, love, bird-flights?
I am all of them.
I dance what I am.
Sin, prayer, flight
the light that never was on land or sea?
I dance what I am.

~ Carl Sandburg

More later. Peace.

By the way, if you haven’t already checked it out, today’s Google celebrates Klimt with “The Kiss” (thinking of you, Maureen).

Music by All Thieves, “Turn and Turn Again”

                   

The House of Belonging

I awoke
this morning
in the gold light
turning this way
and that

thinking for
a moment
it was one
day
like any other.

But
the veil had gone
from my
darkened heart
and
I thought

it must have been the quiet
candlelight
that filled my room,

it must have been
the first
easy rhythm
with which I breathed
myself to sleep,

it must have been
the prayer I said
speaking to the otherness
of the night.

And
I thought
this is the good day
you could
meet your love,

this is the black day
someone close
to you could die.

This is the day
you realize
how easily the thread
is broken
between this world
and the next

and I found myself
sitting up
in the quiet pathway
of light,

the tawny
close grained cedar
burning round
me like fire
and all the angels of this housely
heaven ascending
through the first
roof of light
the sun has made.

This is the bright home
in which I live,
this is where
I ask
my friends
to come,
this is where I want
to love all the things
it has taken me so long
to learn to love.

This is the temple
of my adult aloneness
and I belong
to that aloneness
as I belong to my life.

There is no house
like the house of belonging.

~ David Whyte

“We need the tonic of wildness.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Snowy Owl against White Sky by Mark Miller (Finger Lake Times)

                   

“I am
the sun and moon
and forever hungry
the sharpened edge
where day and night shall
meet and not be one.” ~ Audre Lorde, from “The House of Yemanjá

Sunday evening, rainy.

(“House of Yemanja” was one of my favorite poems to teach in my American lit class.)

White Skies in Dubai by untitled blue (FCC)

6:54 a.m., the time I last glanced at the clock on the computer. Heard the clock in the living room chime 7 a.m. Looked outside at a pearly white sky, the kind of morning sky when no sun pierces through the clouds, the kind of sky that follows a night of rain. The white sky most associated with winter. Luminous white, without color, or is white all color? I always forget that basic color principle, black, white, all color, absence of color.

I thought about beginning this post then but knew that if I did, I would probably never go to bed, and my body simply cannot tolerate such things any more.

This insomnia is killing me.

And my sinuses are in revolt. It was in the 80’s this past week; tonight they are calling for rain and snow with temps in the low 30’s. By mid-week, it’s supposed to be back in the 60’s. I feel like banging my head against a wall. It might actually make me feel better, between the no-sleep, the sinus headaches, and the ongoing computer lockups and snafus (ARGH) . . .

Diy-um, as they say in the south.

“That’s who you really like. The people you can think out loud in front of.” ~ John Green

Anyway, when I couldn’t sleep, I went out into the dining room and played with Tumblr on Corey’s computer until my body felt heavy. Unfortunately, while Corey and I were watching the backlog of “Bones” on the DVR, I ate Fritos, the honey BBQ swirls, which I used to eat all of the time when I was going to GW. Not so much any more. They left this coating on my tongue that I felt like scraping off with a blunt edge, even after brushing and using mouthwash. The coating stayed after chewing Tums and drinking water. Then I felt them in my chest.

Monochrome Morning by goingslo (FCC)

I’ve been out of my Dexilant for about a week, and consequently, the GERD is acting up. Apparently, Fritos at 3 in the morning are not a good diet choice. Who knew?

After sitting up in the dining room chair for an hour or so the heaviness in my chest was gone, and I decided to try sleeping again. Grabbed an eye pillow out of the ziplock bag in the freezer and headed back to bed, only to find that all of the dogs had migrated to my side of the bed. Luckily, Corey has become quite proficient in moving Tillie in his sleep if I give him a nudge; otherwise, I am left to try to reposition the dead weight of a sleeping labrador. Not an easy task. I made myself get up this afternoon even though I really could have kept sleeping.

I so hate this—inching back the hours until I’m going to bed at a reasonable time for a night owl, only to lose traction and wind up staying up past dawn. Who lives like this?

“Is suffering really necessary? Yes and no. If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

I have so much to do that sitting here writing this post is probably irresponsible. I went through the mail basket a couple of nights ago and sorted the unopened bills, junk mail, and flyers, shredded what needed to be destroyed and put the rest in recycling. Now I really need to get back to organizing the family records. Our label maker died a while ago, and I need to set up new files. Add this to the pending taxes and FAFSAs . . . crap.

White Sky Angel, Tyne, Gateshead UK by smlp.co.uk (FCC)

Earlier this week Corey received a departure date—today. Obviously, it didn’t happen. New date is sometime at the end of this week. I don’t even know if I should put that out there as the fates might find it too tempting and switch us up yet again. The bad thing (for me) is that when he gets actual travel orders, I start to get really down and withdraw, initially, and then I compose myself and remind myself that this is a good thing. So by the time I adjust my thinking to him actually boarding a plan and leaving, everything gets put on hold, again.

The bad thing for him is that he moves into near-panic mode only to be put on pause, which leads to more pacing and heavy sighs. When we think that we have a date, we plan the few days before, decide on the things that we really need to take care of, which is a good thing, but then when the plans change, we toss everything by the wayside, as if we’ve moved a pile of dirt from one place to another, and then instead of doing something productive with it, we just leave it in the new place where it can erode and get muddy and whatever.

“The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
since the imperfect is so hot in us,
lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.” ~ Wallace Stevens, from “The Poems of Our Climate

Anyway, that’s where we are. My body thinks that it’s afternoon, and the clock says that it’s 7:34 pm.

White on White by audreyjm529 (FCC)

“Flawed words and stubborn sounds”—some of the quotes that I’ve been coming across seem to be thrown into my lap propitiously in that they are so very appropriate in reflecting what I’m feeling. One of the bloggers who I visit made a comment about how she finds some people’s blogs so hard to follow, as if there is no real point, and it made me pause . . . Was she talking about me? Not being paranoid, more like reflective and analytical. Are my words too flawed to be worth anything to anyone else? Are my posts too full of stubborn sounds so as to be enigmatic, didactic, problematic?

Should I change up? Should I stay or should I go (old song lyrics)? Should I . . .

The section of the Joan Didion essay that I posted a couple of days ago has had me thinking quite a bit. Why do I write? It’s a topic that I’ve covered several times from different angles, but I’ve been mulling over the whole process for me, its origins, its evolution. I know that it’s a post-in-waiting, and perhaps after some sleep I’ll be able to tackle it. Didion stole the title from George Orwell, and I’ll steal the title from her. After all, stealing in writing is high praise—supposedly.

But the point? I’ve quite forgotten at the moment. I only know that I’ve got an idea rolling around in my brain. Cogitating as it were.

“Suspect each moment, for it is a thief, tiptoeing away with more than it brings.” ~ John Updike, A Month Of Sundays

I had an interesting comment on my A to Z bucket list post regarding my classification of the French as xenophobes. Of course, I was generalizing, something that I do when I’m not being careful. Nevertheless, I apologize for any offense. As I responded, I know that all French people are not xenophobes, just as I know that all Irish people do not drink Guiness, and all Australians don’t  throw shrimp on the barbie.

Tree and Berries Against White Sky

But the point is that when we write these posts, when we put things out there for public consumption, unless we are intentionally attempting to be controversial (which I know I can be), or we are trying to be bigoted (which I really try not to be), we need to be mindful of our words.

To be honest, the word xenophobe crept into my subconscious as it is one of the few words beginning with the letter x that I really like, not the definition, but the sound of it. X is such a problematic letter, sounding like z in the English language, and sh in many Asian languages, etc. So in the back of my mind when I was thinking about possible entries for X (which I know I copped out on), xenophobe planted itself firmly in my subconscious data file. Not an excuse, just an explanation.

Sorry this has been such a fluff post, but I’m on auto-pilot. Not an excuse, just an explanation.

More later. Peace.

Music by Cass McCombs, “Broken”

                   

Wait

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

~ Galway Kinnell

“Hold fast to your dreams, for without them life is a broken winged bird that cannot fly.” ~ Langston Hughes

Anemone in Seventeen Parts by Oslo in the Summertime (FCC)

                   

“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” ~ William Stafford 

Friday afternoon. Way too warm for winter, 80’s.

That’s right, 80’s. Ugh. What’s so bad about this is that I’m certain that next week it will probably be in the 40’s. How is a person with sinus problems supposed to thrive in such an environment? It’s hot. No wait, it’s cold. No, it’s hot. The natural immunity that I have gets so confused that it runs and hides.

Kaleidoscope by ark (FCC)

As it is, I’m out of my Singulair, so my lungs are beginning to crackle again, and because of the hiccup in Corey’s job, I cannot get refills until this coming Thursday. By then, with the temperature changes, this gunk that had taken up temporary residence in my lungs may have come back for an extended visit.

Last night, the progress I had made in getting to sleep earlier vanished as I was unable to fall asleep until 5 a.m., and then I had very bad dreams about dead babies. So not cool.

Corey is working all weekend, which is actually good as it keeps his mind busy so that he doesn’t dwell on the still-unannounced departure date. His truck is finally working; of course, it needs gas, which isn’t going to happen, so while he’s excited that his truck has been fixed, he’s depressed that he cannot drive it anywhere. Of course, there are still a few other things that need to be done, not the least of which is to put new tires on it, but we’re planning to wait until he gets back from his hitch before that expenditure.

Meanwhile, life carries on, as it were.

“Fortune is like glass—the brighter the glitter, the more easily broken.” ~ Publius Syrus

So I’ve been thinking about things that break—real and imagined, literal and figurative. Not really sure why. What follows is stream of consciousness and random association, so be forewarned:

  • Crystal (too much)
  • Hearts (too many)
  • Promises (promises to keep . . .)
  • Words (is this the same thing as promises?)
  • Glass (looking glass? walking on broken glass?)
  • Eggs (secrets and treasurer inside a fragile box)
  • Families (far too many of these)
  • Concentration (too easily done)
The Twist by sebilden (FCC)
  • Fevers (hallucinations or reality)
  • Negotiations (power struggles)
  • Wings (fear of flying)
  • Codes (more secrets?)
  • Locks (the way in or keeping something out?)
  • Bones (corporeal fragility)
  • Habits (bad? broken enough?)
  • Contracts (see words and promises above)
  • Records (as in over and over, or in something to surmount?)
  • Speed of sound (can we travel this far this fast?)
  • Barriers (all of my life)
  • Rules (meant to be broken)
  • Spirits (see wings and hearts)
  • Glass ceilings (barriers for women)
  • Systems (this country)
  • Waves (crash down)
  • Deadlines (as in promises?)
  • Bodies (feel this too acutely)
  • Ties (promises? hearts? families? All of these?)
  • Covenants (more than a promise)

“I was never one to patiently pick up broken fragments and glue them together again and tell myself that the mended whole was as good as new. What is broken is broken—and I’d rather remember it as it was at its best than mend it and see the broken places as long as I lived.” ~ Margaret Mitchell

So what does all of this mean? In no particular order . . .

I spent a great deal of time in my 20’s trying to break the glass ceiling. I felt that it was my duty, to myself, to the women who looked up to me and those I mentored, and to women in general to take on the very systems that promoted inequity. I had indoctrinated myself in the whole system of feminism, the idea that there should be no inequality between the sexes, that people were people, regardless of sex, creed, color.

Kaleidoscope VI by fdecomite (FCC)

I have learned in recent years that feminism has taken on a new meaning, that the rules by which I lived may no longer apply. All of the unspoken promises that those of us on the frontline made to the cause, those ideologies have been overshadowed by something that is no better than the patriarchy that we fought so hard to replace. Feminism should not be about women being better; it should not be about lesbians being better. The whole point of the covenant that we made was that no one should be considered better or treated better or made to feel inferior.

I am sadly disheartened on several fronts: the young women who see feminism as a dirty word, associating it with women who don’t like men (not sexual preference, just in general), defining it as women who hate marriage, family, children. That’s not what it’s about, or at least what it used to be about. I also hate that so many of the young women who are enrolled in women’s studies curricula have made it an uncomfortable place for men. When I was seeking my women’s studies certificate as an undergraduate, the classes were filled with men and women, all who sought equity, more parity between the sexes, all of whom were dedicated to an idea that women could be whatever they wanted and that men could actively support this. It was a curricula that welcomed everyone, and it still should, but I fear that that is no longer the case.

So many barriers that used to hold women back—in government, in society, in all aspects—these barriers have been broken. They should not be replaced with new barriers, reverse sexism, if you will.

People. We are people, and as such, we can embrace our difference and similarities without building more walls.

“It makes my heart sick when I remember all the good words and the broken promises.” ~ Chief Joseph

Someone once said that a broken promise is better than no promise. I heartily disagree. A promise reflects the individual. One who is willing to make a promise is giving his or her word. To toss that aside thoughtlessly is to be careless with the essence of what makes us who we are.

Starspheres by Song_Sing (FCC)

When we marry someone, we make all kinds of promises, sometimes in front of large groups of people and sometimes in front of no one more than an official. In so doing, we bind ourselves, create a tie. When Corey and I wrote our vows, we promised to do things for each other, with each other. Time and circumstance should not change those promises. I don’t believe that either of us said those words lightly. Nevertheless, I would not be telling the truth if I did not admit that we have each broken pieces of the other’s heart, have each chipped away at that unspoken code to do no harm to those we love best. We are only human, after all.

Admittedly, I made promises to my ex, or we made promises to one another. In the end, our words ended up on the scrap heap of broken promises; our marriage on the pile of rocks where broken marriages go to die. Years later, I no longer feel the seething anger or intense heartbreak that I once felt, and time and distance have allowed me to see how much we were both at fault, how we broke each other’s spirits, and broke our covenant, which resulted in a broken and fractured family that has slowly rebuilt itself..

We move through time, salve our wounds, fix some things, but are unable to repair completely others. Too often we walk about in a fog, as if in a fevered ague, and only awaken when necessity forces us to confront what is before us.

“The tender heart, the broken and contrite spirit, are to me far above all the joys that I could ever hope for in this vale of tears.” ~ Charles Simeon

Years ago, when I was still teaching at ODU, I was standing on the kitchen counter, reaching for something, and I dropped a glass on the floor, which immediately broke into pieces. I looked down, saw the glass. This fact registered in my brain, but I still stepped down onto the floor in my bare feet and immediately cut a deep gash on the sole of my foot that required stitches.

Daisy Kaleidoscope by srqpix (FCC)

Why do I mention this? Because even with knowledge, foresight, we still take steps that are foolhardy; we still knowingly step into a pile of sharp edges, and then we are surprised when we are wounded. We enter into frays knowing that we might exit with wounds, yet still we do it, perhaps because we think that if we make it through to the other side, we have outpaced our own limitations, we have approached the speed of sound, come close to shattering yet another barrier. Or perhaps it is something much more simple: We are not careful enough, not mindful enough. We do not treat our hearts and our souls like the fragile eggs that they are, always believing that we can go just one step further, take one more chance.

We have no fear of flying, convincing ourselves that it cannot possibly happen to us, that is until it does, until our wings are broken, or at the very least, clipped. And what then? Does the reflection looking back at us become unrecognizable, distorted as if reflected from broken glass?

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

Ultimately, this is a world of broken people, fragmented lives, and no matter what system we depend upon for support, we are all still imperfect beings. How we seek to attain perfection varies as widely as there are people on this planet. How we attempt to reach that state of grace is limitless.

And as I sit here now, contemplating the mutability of life, I am brought back to the corporeal as a stabbing pain shoots down my spine. And I know that even though my body is broken in so many ways, that I often do not recognize the person in the mirror as I glance quickly and then turn away, I also know with just as much conviction that the places in me that are broken have been stitched together with things that I have borrowed and stolen from everyone I have ever encountered:

Mushroom Flower by sebilden (FCC)

A bone of contention here, a sliver of spine there. I have amassed fragments and pieces, facets and slivers.

Sitting atop my jewelry box is a rather small Waterford crystal salt cellar, an individual dish for salt. My m-in-law gave it to me years ago, and it was my first piece of Waterford. She had received it as a present from an elderly woman to whom she delivered Mobile Meals. This vessel contains three small pins that I no longer wear as I have few occasions to wear suits. This tiny crystal container is perhaps one of my most treasured belongings, so I handle it with great care, probably more care than I take with my life as a whole.

Why do I mention it here? Because it is one of those things that I have amassed that is as much a piece of me as anything else. It does not serve the purpose for which it is intended, but if I were to  employ it for salt, it could hold my tears. Or I could stand at the edge of the shore as the waves break onto the sand and collect sea spray that would dry as salt, and fill it wave by wave.

For now, I allow it to contain memories, and I protect it and everything that it symbolizes, which, in the end, is all that we can do really—protect that which can be broken or mend that which has already fractured.

More later. Peace.

Music by Livingston, “Broken”

                   

The Opening of Eyes

That day I saw beneath dark clouds
the passing light over the water
and I heard the voice of the world speak out
I knew then as I have before
life is no passing memory of what has been
nor the remaining pages of a great book
waiting to be read

It is the opening of eyes long closed
It is the vision of far off things
seen for the silence they hold
It is the heart after years of secret conversing
speaking out loud in the clear air

It is Moses in the desert fallen to his knees
before the lit bush
It is the man throwing away his shoes
as if to enter heaven and finding himself astonished
opened at last
fallen in love
with Solid Ground

~ David Whyte

“I realize in the end that I am probably powerless to affect the outcome of even the least thing that happens, but nevertheless, and in spite of myself, as if in an act of blind faith, I want to assume full responsibility . . .” ~ Paul Auster from Disappearances – Selected Poems

Blacksburg, VA, by zachstern (FCC)

                   

“All human actions have one or more of these seven causes: chance, nature, compulsions, habit, reason, passion, desire.” ~ Aristotle

Late Saturday afternoon. Overcast, low 50’s.

Second day on antibiotics. My chest still feels as if it’s in a vise, though. The cough is more painful today than anytime in the last week. Go figure. Still, I thought that I would try to bang out a post. We’ll see how far this goes.

Winter in Blacksburg, VA, by bwhistler (FCC)

By the way, do you like the new header? It’s from a photograph that I took last February when Brett and I were wandering around Forest Lawn Cemetery. Let me know.

I’ve had to restart the computer twice so far today. Perhaps computers are like people in that as they get older, they are more affected by the weather: cold and damp, hard to move . . . Perhaps I am anthropomorphizing again. Probably the latter.

I woke up to migraines today and yesterday, or it might be more accurate to say that the migraines awakened me. I don’t know if the Botox is already wearing off or if the bronchitis cough is the cause. I’m really hoping that I have at least another month on the Botox. It would really suck if the shots only lasted for less than six weeks.

I had planned to decorate the house this weekend, but that’s going to have to wait. Maybe sometime this week, but Corey has to work the next five days in a row, so I’m not sure if decorating will happen. More of the wait and see mode. He also has his biology final this Thursday, so it will be a very busy week for him.

ODU finals start next week and then break. Eamonn already had his final in medical terminology. I’m so glad that he finished at least one of the classes; of course, both would have been nice, but I’ll take what I can get at this point.

“Out of my wounds they have made stars:
Each is an eye that looks on you” ~ James K. Baxter, from Howrah Bridge

I’ve been thinking about stars. I’ve had a lot of sky pictures show up on my tumblr dash recently, some really beautiful shots of galaxies, nebulas, night skies. I want to live somewhere that in which I can look up and see a myriad of stars and galaxies, unpolluted by lights from the city and the suburbs. I want to be able to drink in the heavens, the boundless beauty of light and color.

Grand Canyon Night Sky by kern.justin (FCC)

I remember when I was in graduate school in Blacksburg, we lived in an apartment on a hill, and the night view seemed to stretch on forever. I remember the sound of the train horn echoing in the middle of the night. Sounds from sirens were few and far between. Life was so completely effortless then: school, studies, friends. Open spaces and cold mountain air. We lived on $7500 a year, and that was probably the best year in my marriage to my ex.

After that, life intervened. Obligations to people and things mounted. Possessions grew. Simplicity faded away and never returned. When we are in the midst of happiness, we never realize it. Few of us are in touch with ourselves enough to know that this moment here, this experience, is perfection, that this slice of life will never be replicated, can never again come close to the periphery of our existence.

Retrospect alone offers us truth and perspective. The now slips away, eludes us—we are such transient creatures, appreciating more that which we have already lived.

“We can speak without voice to the trees and the clouds and the waves of the sea. Without words they respond through the rustling of leaves and the moving of clouds and the murmuring of the sea.” ~ Paul Tillich

Duck Pond at Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA (WC)

A few memories of that time:

  • Eating homemade Brunswick stew by an open fire with other graduate students from the department
  • Crying as I walked through a snowfall after learning that John Lennon had been killed
  • Making a bottle of wine last longer than possible
  • Driving my car into a vast countryside, completely undeveloped, almost getting lost

Don’t misunderstand. I do not long for the relationship with my ex, but I do long for that simplicity. I long for the hunger I had back then, a constant hunger for new things, new tastes, new smells, new people.

I approached life so differently then. It’s not the youth that I long for, but perhaps the openness of youth. Not to be so jaded. Not to be so cynical. Not to be completely inured to life’s foibles.

I don’t know. I seem to be rambling. I cannot quite grasp the words to describe what it is that I am thinking. Sorry. I’m not sure if I can finish this post. I had thought that I knew what I wanted to say, but . . .

I’ll try again tomorrow. I know the poem is long, but it seemed appropriate.

More later. Peace.

Music by J. S. Bach, “Cello Suite No. 1, i, Prelude, performed by Mischa Maisky

                   

Finding the Space in the Heart

I first saw it in the sixties,
driving a Volkswagen camper
with a fierce gay poet and a
lovely but dangerous girl with a husky voice,
we came down from Canada
on the dry east side of the ranges. Grand Coulee, Blue
Mountains, lava flow caves,
the Alvord desert—pronghorn ranges—
and the glittering obsidian-paved
dirt track toward Vya,
seldom-seen roads late September and
thick frost at dawn; then
follow a canyon and suddenly open to
          silvery flats that curved over the edge
          O, ah! The
          awareness of emptiness
          brings forth a heart of compassion!
We followed the rim of the playa
to a bar where the roads end
and over a pass into Pyramid Lake
from the Smoke Creek side,
by the ranches of wizards
who follow the tipi path.
The next day we reached San Francisco
in a time when it seemed
the world might head a new way.
And again, in the seventies, back from
Montana, I recklessly pulled off the highway
took a dirt track onto the flats,
got stuck—scared the kids—slept the night,
and the next day sucked free and went on.
Fifteen years passed. In the eighties
With my lover I went where the roads end.
Walked the hills for a day,
looked out where it all drops away,
discovered a path
of carved stone inscriptions tucked into the sagebrush
          “Stomp out greed”
          “The best things in life are not things”
words placed by an old desert sage.
Faint shorelines seen high on these slopes,
long gone Lake Lahontan,
cutthroat trout spirit in silt—
Columbian Mammoth bones
four hundred feet up on the wave-etched
          beach ledge; curly-horned
                    desert sheep outlines pecked into the rock,
and turned the truck onto the playa
heading for know-not,
bone-gray dust boiling and billowing,
mile after mile, trackless and featureless,
let the car coast to a halt
on the crazed cracked
flat hard face where
winter snow spirals, and
summer sun bakes like a kiln.
Off nowhere, to be or not be,
          all equal, far reaches, no bounds.
          Sound swallowed away
          no waters, no mountains, no
          bush no grass and
                    because no grass
          no shade but your shadow.
          No flatness because no not-flatness.
          No loss, no gain. So—
          nothing in the way!
          —the ground is the sky
          the sky is the ground,
          no place between, just
 
          wind-whip breeze,
          tent-mouth leeward,
          time being here.
          We meet heart to heart,
          leg hard-twined to leg,
                    with a kiss that goes to the bone.
          Dawn sun comes straight in the eye. The tooth
          of a far peak called King Lear.
 
Now in the nineties desert night
          —my lover’s my wife—
old friends, old trucks, drawn around;
great arcs of kids on bikes out there in darkness
          no lights—just planet Venus glinting
by the calyx crescent moon,
and tasting grasshoppers roasted in a pan.
 
          They all somehow swarm down here—
          sons and daughters in the circle
          eating grasshoppers grimacing,
 
singing sūtras for the insects in the wilderness,
 
—the wideness, the
foolish loving spaces
 
full of heart.
 
          Walking on walking,
                    under foot   earth turns
 
          Streams and mountains never stay the same.
 
 
 
 
                              The space goes on.
                              But the wet black brush
                              tip drawn to a point,
                                       lifts away.