“The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” ~ C. S. Lewis, from The Screwtape Letters

                   

“The hippies wanted peace and love. We wanted Ferraris, blondes and switchblades.” ~ Alice Cooper

Sunday evening. Cloudy and cool, 51 degrees.

Today marks my 1500th post. I was considering just posting the images with no words and just letting that stand as my milestone marker. Truthfully, I’m still considering it. I mean, yep, I’ve hit a milestone, but is the doing worthy of the words? It seems more than a bit self-congratulatory, and I don’t know if surviving merits congratulations.

I’ve been doing this blog since February 26, 2008. That first year was spotty, and the posts had yet to take on any kind of form or format. In many ways, it was still like a continuation of the few posts I had written when I had a MySpace page years and years ago.

Actually, this blog was not the first attempt. The first one was called The Poem Makers, and I had great goals of creating an online poem that anyone could contribute a line towards. I would monitor submissions, etc. It was a dismal failure—for many reasons. First, I knew nothing about blogging, and blogging was still relatively new. Second, I actually built the site, with html coding and everything. Third, go back to first.

“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

After enduring the headache of html for several months, I came upon WordPress, and it was like manna from heaven. All of the work was already done for you. Just plug in words and go.

I killed Poem Makers, and no one noticed, not even me. It was an assignment for one of my publishing classes. I had the degree. What was the point in prolonging the agony?

And so I began this adventure. Finding a name was the hardest part in the beginning. I looked around and it seemed that everyone else had names with deep meaning, or names that were symbolic of something, or names that were amusing and witty. In the end, I gave in to my wordy tendencies, and went with what I knew: Lola was a given, just because. And I knew that I was a curmudgeon, and I also knew that I would never just write about one thing, one topic. And so musings came into play, because what were they if not musings from a tortured brain?

“Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.” ~ Flannery O’Connor, from Letters of Flannery O’Connor

Initially I did not include music or poems, and I included images in a kind of scattershot way. The idea of doing a theme kind of grew on its own.

I actually spent a lot of that first year writing about politics. I mean it was such a ripe subject: Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber, John McCain. The content practically wrote itself.

I began to use the “More later. Peace” closing sometime that first year. The more later came from a former colleague I used to work with in the English department. The Peace was mine since forever. The combination just felt right, so it took hold and has never left.

I wrote my first random thoughts post in January of 2009, and my first Friday leftovers in that same month. And if you are a regular reader, you know that those two categories remain today.

“Even a snail will eventually reach its destination.” ~ Gail Tsukiyama, from The Street of a Thousand Blossoms 

I think that I began the practice of using quotes as my header and as subheaders sometime in February of 2009. The first post in which I implemented quotes was about beauty, our notions of beauty, society’s unrealistic expectations of what makes a woman beautiful. It wasn’t a post that I was particularly married to in content; I was just saying how I felt. What blows my mind is that post continues to be one of my most-read posts, and I fear it’s because I mentioned Kim Kardashian. If I could go back and make that post go away, I might just do it.

(I know I can delete it, but that wouldn’t erase it from my memory banks…)

Anyway, that people read that particular post is very, very weird because it’s not representative of me or of this blog.

For a while, I did “Grace in Small Things” posts, in which I would find five things for that day’s topic, but I found that those posts were taking over my blog, so I stopped doing them; it felt forced. Another type of post that I did more of in those days was the “Now for Something Totally Different” posts, which were a throwback to my great fondness for Monty Python.

Truthfully, though, I think that I was funnier in the early days. Witness my rules of etiquette post or anything I said about Sarah Palin.

“If you have a painting in you, paint. If you have a song to sing, sing. Don’t judge your creation. Just create it. Banish doubt and fear and step out of your own way if you have to. Write if you’re a writer and invent if you’re an inventor. Do what you were born to do.” ~ Toni Sorenson

In early 2009 I wrote a series of posts called “Vale et Memini,” which were about friendship, loss, and pain. I still think those posts rank among my best.

I think that I began to make music videos a regular part of my posts around May or June of 2009. At first, I just used songs and artists I already knew, but as I began to get into more of a rhythm here, I spread my wings, found lots and lots of artists with whom I had been previously unfamiliar.

In the early days, I would go weeks between posts. It’s only been in the last three years that I have made an effort to post something every day, and I try to be selective in material that is reblogged from somewhere else, try to make it relate to things that I talk about when I talk about things.

I do know that in 2009 we (the family) were going through some major tough times, and I wrote about those tough times because writing about things is what I do. Writing about things helps me to gain perspective, helps me to separate the wheat from the chaff. My family, whether they wanted to or not, has become a part of this blog. I write about them, and I talk about them, but I always try to do it with a view to balance. In other words, anything that I say in this blog, I would say in real life, and to the person to whom I am referring.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I don’t really know what I had in mind when I started all of this 1500 posts ago, but I do know that I never thought that it would go on this long. I never thought that I would dedicate so much of myself and so much of my time to this experience, which has sometimes been an exercise in pain and sometimes been a little slice of heaven.

Those of you who follow along and comment along the way make it all worthwhile. I mean, I’m not in it for the fame or glory (obviously, because that ain’t happening), but it really does help to know that there are people out there who care about what I have to say, people who care if I had a bad day. It’s affirmation, pure and simple.

But truth be told, I would continue to write and post even if there were no one out there in the ether. This blog has become my lifeblood in so many ways. It is an extension of myself, good and bad, and I have no plans to end any time soon, so I hope you’ll stay along for the ride.

And as always, there will be more later. Peace.

Music by Christina Grimmie, “With Love”

                   

Annunciation

Even if I don’t see it again — nor ever feel it
I know it is — and that if once it hailed me
it ever does —And so it is myself I want to turn in that direction
not as towards a place, but it was a tilting
within myself,as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where
it isn’t — I was blinded like that — and swam
in what shone at me only able to endure it by being no one and so
specifically myself I thought I’d die
from being loved like that.

~ Marie Howe

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“I am in a state of shock” ~ Flannery O’Connor

This reminds me of an intense discussion about a poem I had written that contained an apple. Comments included things such as seeing the apple as male testicles, sex, death, etc. It was an apple.

Reblogged from Letters of Note:

In 1961, a professor of English wrote to author Flannery O’Connor and asked her, on behalf of his students, to explain “A Good Man is Hard to Find” — a short story of hers that his class had recently been studying, and for which they were struggling to find an acceptable interpretation. He wrote, in part:

“We have debated at length several possible interpretations, none of which fully satisfies us. In general we believe that the appearance of the Misfit is not ‘real’ in the same sense that the incidents of the first half of the story are real. Bailey, we believe, imagines the appearance of the Misfit, whose activities have been called to his attention on the night before the trip and again during the stopover at the roadside restaurant. Bailey, we further believe, identifies himself with the Misfit and so plays two roles in the imaginary last half of the story. But we cannot, after great effort, determine the point at which reality fades into illusion or reverie. Does the accident literally occur, or is it part of Bailey’s dream? Please believe me when I say we are not seeking an easy way out of our difficulty. We admire your story and have examined it with great care, but we are not convinced that we are missing something important which you intended us to grasp. We will all be very grateful if you comment on the interpretation which I have outlined above and if you will give us further comments about your intention in writing ‘A Good Man is Hard to Find.'”

O’Connor was unimpressed, and responded as follows.

(Source: The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O’Connor, via Patrick Robbins; Image: Flannery O’Connor, via.)

28 March 61

The interpretation of your ninety students and three teachers is fantastic and about as far from my intentions as it could get to be. If it were a legitimate interpretation, the story would be little more than a trick and its interest would be simply for abnormal psychology. I am not interested in abnormal psychology.

There is a change of tension from the first part of the story to the second where the Misfit enters, but this is no lessening of reality. This story is, of course, not meant to be realistic in the sense that it portrays the everyday doings of people in Georgia. It is stylized and its conventions are comic even though its meaning is serious.

Bailey’s only importance is as the Grandmother’s boy and the driver of the car. It is the Grandmother who first recognized the Misfit and who is most concerned with him throughout. The story is a duel of sorts between the Grandmother and her superficial beliefs and the Misfit’s more profoundly felt involvement with Christ’s action which set the world off balance for him.

The meaning of a story should go on expanding for the reader the more he thinks about it, but meaning cannot be captured in an interpretation. If teachers are in the habit of approaching a story as if it were a research problem for which any answer is believable so long as it is not obvious, then I think students will never learn to enjoy fiction. Too much interpretation is certainly worse than too little, and where feeling for a story is absent, theory will not supply it.

My tone is not meant to be obnoxious. I am in a state of shock.

Flannery O’Connor

“ . . . I am with fire between my teeth and still nothing but my blank page.” ~ Monique Wittig

André Kertész, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s Desk at Bernard Lamotte’s Home, ca 1960

“I still don’t know if I am a falcon, or a storm, or a great song.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

Friday evening. Overcast, feels like rain.

Flannery O'Connor's Desk and Typewriter at Andalusia, GA

I have wanted to write a post for days now, but just haven’t had it in me. I feel completely enervated—weak and listless. It took everything I had to go to the concert on Wednesday, which really sucks. I hate feeling as if I have to steel myself to go somewhere or to do something.

The house is quiet. Corey is at work, and Brett has gone to see his friends Gordon and Tailor. Tillie is hanging out on the couch, looking out the window, and the two Jack Russells are probably on the bed being lazy. Good day for it. Today I’ve consumed Nilla wafers and Pepsi (caffeine free). Just one of those days.

Well, supposedly the world is going to end tomorrow . . . again. The guy who is predicting this also predicted the end of the world sometime in the 90’s, but says that he got his math wrong. Yep. I’m surely going to trust my future to someone who cannot do math properly. Excuse me for being flippant, but if the world is going to end, does that mean that I don’t have to worry about bills any more?

End of the world, you can stockpile books, or you can stockpile canned green beans. I know what I’m hoarding. I can’t eat the books, but I’ll never be bored. Besides, canned vegetables have no nutritional value and taste like tin.

“No one forces you to write. The writer enters the labyrinth voluntarily . . . ” ~ Roberto Bolaño

André Kertész The Way a Poem of Ady’s began on a Café Table in Paris, 1928

So many things to not write about. So many words tumbling around inside me, none floating to the surface. As a child eating alphabet soup, I used to make letters sink by pushing them down with my spoon. That’s how I would rid myself of the excess letters that did not fit the pattern I was trying to make. If only life were still so easily manipulated. Perhaps if I keep writing, something will float to the surface.

Then there were the boxes of animal crackers. Why were they called crackers when they were in fact cookies? Did you ever wonder how they decided which animals to use? Camels? Now there’s an animal you see everyday. Monkeys? If you took the empty box once you had finished biting the heads off the animals, supposedly you could make a circus cage (back in the days when they acknowledged using cages). I never made the cage as I had enough of a moral dilemma in eating the animals. Truly.

I was a complicated child.

Writing, always writing, even before I knew words, I wrote. I would take scraps of paper and write notes to our neighbors in the large apartment building in London. Then I would slip the pieces of paper beneath their doors and wait for them to reply. They never did. Some of the neighbors thought that someone in the building was a bit mental until my mother explained that I was the source of the mysterious notes.

My first poem in first grade. So proud of it. I read it out loud for one of my mother’s friends, who suggested that I jazz it up by adding some more words. I was highly affronted and told her so. Even then I could not abide criticism.

Words. So many words. So much paper. So much that I felt that I needed a satchel to carry them all in. I lost a tooth and convinced my father that instead of a shilling, he should give me 10 shillings so that I could buy the leather book satchel in Mr. Higgins’ store that I had been coveting for months but which my mother would not agree to buy for me. He did, and I ran to the store and bought it. I filled the tan leather briefcase with paper, pencils, and Barbie dolls. I carried the satchel to Flora Gardens school even though the school supplied all of our necessities.

It was the start of my history as a bag lady. In love with words and bags to hold the pens, pencils, and notebooks.

“The story I am writing exists, written in absolutely perfect fashion, some place, in the air. All I must do is find it, and copy it.” ~ Jules Renard

Virginia Woolf's Writing Desk

I think that satchel is still somewhere in my mother’s attic. Wouldn’t that be grand? Wouldn’t it be grand if I opened it and found something that I had written a lifetime ago? Conversely, wouldn’t it be sad if I opened it and found nothing? Perhaps I shan’t look for it after all.

Carl Sandburg once wrote that the past “is a bucket of ashes.” If I remember correctly, that’s one of the first quotes that I collected. The rest of the quote is something about living for the present, ya da ya da ya da, nothing nearly as eloquent as the bucket of ashes. But consider, if we truly relegated our pasts to the ash pile, if we burned the memories, charred the moments, what would we have to build upon?

Everyone needs a foundation upon which to build. That’s what the past is. That’s what my little leather satchel is: all of the words that my young mind possessed at that time and how I committed them to paper in my early attempts to make things last.

This is not to say that I have not thrown moments of my past upon the pyre, that I have wished them to be gone forever, that I have poured enough kerosene to ignite the pages, only to find that my mouth tasted of ashes, but the past was still there, could not be unwritten no matter how hard I tried.

Fire destroys. Fire cleanses. I think that I fear death by fire more than any other kind.

“Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy.” ~ Marshall McLuhan

Do not look for coherence in this post. There is none.

Jane Austen's Writing Table

T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” (1922) is heavy upon my mind tonight. Yes, I do think like this sometimes, like the Penelope chapter in James Joyce’s Ulysses—Molly Bloom’s soliloquy, words tumbling out without internal punctuation, stream-of-consciousness, free association and complete nonsense.

Yes, I remember my Eliot, but not by heart, except for the Shakespeherian Rag that Susan (long gone from my life) and I used to recite on our way to Blacksburg. Four hundred thirty-four lines of poetry, prose, prophecy, reflection, repudiation, the parsing of life itself. Just a few, here:

  • “I will show you fear in a handful of dust” (30) — If only fear could be reduced to dust and blown into the wind. I carry my fear with me.
  • “I knew nothing/Looking into the heart of light, the silence” (40-41) — We seek out light, thinking that it will bring truth, but in reality, light is silent, just as dark is silent. The layers in between light and dark harbor the truth.
  • “Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes,/Unguent, powered, or liquid” (87-88) — The sense of smell is deeply connected to memory. I inhale essence of spring lilacs and am transported to the side of a mountain, to the cup of fresh lilacs my first husband brought me to atone for his deception. It was a salve, an unguent for my soul.
  • “My nerves are bad to-night. Yes bad. Stay with me./Speak to me. Why do you never speak? Speak.” (111-112) — My nerves are bad tonight, every night, all of the time, some of the time, sometimes. I get so tired of speaking of it.
  • “‘Do/You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember/’Nothing?'” (121-123) — My mother-in-law remembers nothing most of the time, some things, some of the time. I ask Alexis if she sees anything. . .
  • “O O O O that Shakespeherian Rag—/It’s so elegant/So intelligent” (128-130) — Can be sung to many different tunes.
  • “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME” “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME” “HURRY UP PLEASE IT’S TIME”(141, 152, 165, etc.) — Said in pubs and bars worldwide, but do they ever specify just exactly what it is time for? Time to go? Time to pack up your troubles and smile, smile, smile as we march off to war? Time to make time? Time for change? No more time?
  • “By the waters of Leman I sat down and wept . . .” (182) — From “The Fire Sermon,” not Psalm 137, weeping will not be enough to quench the fires of my soul.
  • “Datta. Dayadhvam. Damyata.” (432) — Three Da’s: give, be compassionate, be self-controlled. No explanation needed.

Enough already.

Shantih. Shantih. Shantih. (Children of Men, bearded Jasper (Michael Caine) and his strawberry cough.)

More later. Peace.

Music by Damien Rice, “9 Crimes”

                   

From “Miner’s Pond

1

A caver under stalactites,
the moon searches the stars.

In the low field, pools turn to stone.
Starlight scratches the pond,
penetrates in white threads;
in a quick breath, it fogs into ice.
A lava of fish murmurs the tightening film.

The crow is darkness’s calculation;
all absence in that black moment’s ragged span.

.

Above Miner’s Pond, geese break out of the sky’s
pale shell. They speak non-stop, amazed
they’ve returned from the stars,
hundreds of miles to describe.

It’s not that they’re wild, but
their will is the same as desire.
The sky peels back under their blade.

Like a train trestle, something in us rattles.
All November, under their passing.

.

Necks stiff as compass needles,
skeletons filled with air;
osmosis of emptiness, the space in them
equals space.

Their flight is a stria, a certainty;
sexual, one prolonged
reflex.

Cold lacquering speed, feathers oiled by wind,
surface of complete transfluency.
The sky rides with tremors in the night’s milky grain.

.

Windows freeze over like shallow ponds,
hexagonally blooming.
The last syrup of light boils out from under the lid
of clouds; sky the colour of tarnish.
Like paperweights, cows hold down the horizon.

Even in a place you know intimately,
each night’s darkness is different.

They aren’t calling down to us.
We’re nothing to them, unfortunates
in our heaviness.
We watch at the edge of words.

At Miner’s Pond we use the past
to pull ourselves forward; rowing.

~ Anne Michaels

“She seems so cool, so focused, so quiet, yet her eyes remain fixed upon the horizon. You think you know all there is to know about her immediately upon meeting her, but everything you think you know is wrong. Passion flows through her like a river of blood.” ~ Neil Gaiman, Fragile Things

Tuscany Landscape by Marcin Sacha

                   
 

“She is not waiting. Not quite. It is more that the years mean nothing to her anymore, that the dreams and the street cannot touch her. She remains on the edges of time, implacable, unhurt, beyond, and one day you will open your eyes and see her; and after that, the dark. It is not a reaping. Instead, she will pluck you, gently, like a feather, or a flower for her hair.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Crovie Banffshire Scotland by Chris Spracklen

Isn’t the picture above just breathtaking? I have landscapes on the brain today—lush green, gold, and red landscapes, far, far away from here. Imagine living in that house amidst those rolling hills, surrounded by nothing but green. 

It’s Sunday afternoon, and the weather outside is lovely, a temperate 76°F with lots of sun and no clouds. If I had any inkling of motivation, I would sit outside and read a book. Obviously, that is not what I am about today. I’m still recovering from yesterday’s migraine, a pretty foul one that kept me in bed all day with an ice pack glued to my head. It’s always such an attractive look. 

The pain finally ebbed around 2 a.m., and I was almost asleep when the dogs decided that it was time to go out, which meant that by 3 a.m., I was wide awake and full of nervous energy. Hence, I loaded the dishwasher, wiped down the bathroom, and took a shower in the hopes that the warm water would soothe me. No joy. 

Spider solitaire until 5 a.m. Ah, the rich pageantry that is my life. 

“There were always in me, two women at least, one woman desperate and bewildered, who felt she was drowning and another who would leap into a scene, as upon a stage, conceal her true emotions because they were weaknesses, helplessness, despair, and present to the world only a smile, an eagerness, curiosity, enthusiasm, interest.” ~ Anais Nin

Bench, Germany, Svetlana aqua2512

I had thought about dedicating a post to that nut job tea bagger in Delaware, Christine O’Donnell, but what’s the point, really? She lies as it suits her, has a platform that would deny women’s basic rights, and ducks the hard questions. How is she any different from anyone else who is running this November? 

I’m so tired of all of them, dems and reps alike. The right is running on a fear-mongering platform, and the left has essentially tucked its collective tail and run for cover. The president is stumping, but I cannot help but feel that it is too little, too late. 

If the right retakes Congress, we can look forward to a dismantling of the first real healthcare reform in decades, and it’s all so disheartening. Just for grins, I called Optima last week to see if I qualified for health coverage . . . three guesses as to their response . . . pre-existing conditions are a bit of a problem. But let’s make damned sure that we undo what has been done, if for no other reason than principle: the Kenyan socialist enacted it, so we must backpeddle, post-haste. 

Beh. Double beh. 

I have realized that what will kill the dems in November is apathy: We voted for change, real change. We got dribbles and drabs. DADT still exists. Guantanamo still exists. Rendition still exists. Healthcare reform is tepid at best. We’re still pouring money into Afghanistan, and non-combat personnel are still dying in Iraq. And oh yeah, Newt Gingrich still thinks that he’s Speaker of the House. 

Look, I’m not some starry-eyed innocent who doesn’t understand that certain intelligence policies will always exist. I know that Gitmo and places like Gitmo will always be in operation. But can’t change happen on the domestic front at least? 

Get out the vote is going to be damned hard in November, and I don’t foresee long lines of people waiting at 5 in the morning to cast their votes. But how I wish that I could be proven wrong on this one. 

“She was illusive. She was today. She was tomorrow. She was the faintest scent of a cactus flower, the flitting shadow of an elf owl. We did not know what to make of her. In our minds we tried to pin her to a corkboard like a butterfly, but the pin merely went through and away she flew.” ~ Jerry Spinelli 

Unknown Landscape found on Pixdaus

A few things are going well, though. Brett is adjusting well to college, much better than I had hoped, actually. He has joined a club, and has already made a small circle of friends with whom he likes to spend time outside of class. He gets out of bed and gets ready in the morning without any kind of prodding or mood propping by me, and he actually likes going to class. 

The change in him is pretty phenomenal. He has realized that I wasn’t lying when I told him that college was nothing like high school. He isn’t self-conscious about wearing his beret if he wants to, and he has commented that no one on campus looks the same, as in that high school pressure to dress and look like everyone else. 

He had his first test on Friday (in psychology), and he received a B-. Happiness all around. 

I can feel my need to be in protective mode loosening each day as he gains self-confidence and begins to make his own way. I’m really hoping that the worst is behind us, that he will no longer suffer agonizing depressive episodes that paralyze and drain him.  

Now, if I could just see eldest son more than a few minutes ever few weeks, I might be able to feel less anxiety in the parenting department . . . Who am I kidding? We all know that if I’m not worrying about Brett, I’ll just turn my focus on someone else. Speaking of which, Alexis is adrift again. She is sleeping hours and hours and missing time at work. I wish that I knew how to help her. 

“She could never be a saint,
but she thought
she could be a martyr . . .
if they killed her quick.” ~ Flannery O’Connor, “A Temple of the Holy Ghost”

The northern coast of Normandie found on Pixdaus

Since the hearing last week, I have been obsessing about what I did or did not say. If the judge rules in my favor, it will be a mixed blessing at best. I mean, I will be covered under Social Security as far as income and health insurance (unless the Republicans go through with their threat to shut down the government after the election), but at the same time, I will officially be disabled; my name will be on a government roster somewhere, down as unable to work. 

I really don’t know how that makes me feel. Sort of. I mean, it means that I have moved from that group of people who contribute to society to that group of people who take from society. Don’t get me wrong: I’ve been paying into the system since I was 16, and I have no qualms about receiving the benefits due me. 

It’s the emotional part. The part in which I feel as if I have been sidelined. Everyone claps when the injured party moves off the field, acknowledging that the injury isn’t life-threatening, but no one in the stands gives another thought to what happens to the person who was taken off on the stretcher, not really. The attention goes back to the ongoing action. 

Okay. I apologize for the sports metaphor, particularly since I do not like most sports, but it’s what came to mind. Now that I’m on the sidelines, apparently for good, now what? Just put it all away and wait until tomorrow? 

I suppose. 

I’ll close with this wonderful quote that I found by Janet Finch from White Oleander

I regret nothing. No woman with any self-respect would have done less. The question of good and evil will always be one of philosophy’s most intriguing problems, up there with the problem of existence itself. I’m not quarreling with your choice of issues, only with your intellectually diminished approach. If evil means to be self-motivated, to live on one’s own terms, then every artist, every thinker, every original mind, is evil. Because we dare to look through our own eyes rather than mouth cliches lent us from the so-called Fathers. To dare to see is to steal fire from the Gods. This is mankind’s destiny, the engine which fuels us as a race.

More later. Peace

Music by Katie Herzig and Matthew Perryman Jones, “Where the Road Meets the Sun”