I am going to be a college professor . . . no, really, no . . .

To celebrate my return home, I am stealing this vid from my compatriot Janson Jones on Floridana Alaskiana v4.0. I know several of you out there will love this as much as I do. Enjoy:

Real post tomorrow. Promise. Peace.

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“Sleep no more . . .” ~ Macbeth by William Shakespeare

Hitting a Brick Wall, image by Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana

 

“Methought I heard a voice cry ‘Sleep no more!
Macbeth does murder sleep’, the innocent sleep,
Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleeve of care,
The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
Chief nourisher in life’s feast . . . ”  ~ William Shakespeare (Macbeth II,2)

Just a quick update. I haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in many nights/days. Today, I had a caudal injection at my Pain Management Center and have spent the day in bed on the heating pad, napping fitfully.

Sorry not to be posting, but I feel absolutely useless. The picture above reflects my current state perfectly: I feel as if I hit a brick wall while traveling 100 mph. Discombobulated, ringing in my ears, throbbing muscles. Not a pretty sight. Hope to be able to post something more meaningful tomorrow, perhaps.

Until then, more later. Peace.

Classic by Sam Cooke: “A Change is Gonna Come”

 

“Who could be so lucky? Who comes to a lake for water and sees the reflection of moon.” ~ Mawlana Jalal al Din Rum

    

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Advil Cold & Sinus is good, but Theraflu warming relief is better; however, since I only have Advil Cold & Sinus, that will have to do. With any luck, this is just a cold and not the onset of anything else. When I have serious body aches, it’s hard to say whether or not the aches are from my regular pain or whether they have anything to do with being sick, one of the perks (I don’t think so).   

Oh well.   

Last night I just didn’t have the energy for a regular post, and I’m not sure about my output for tonight, but let’s just follow along and see where this takes us . . .   

I have been meaning to comment on the moon, which was absolutely spectacular in its second full moon phase for December. My entire backyard was fully lit in the middle of the night. The frozen surface of the water in the pool glimmered and looked sort of Tolkien.   

I know that those of you who are old enough are familiar with the phrase once in a blue moon, which is a colloquialism for rarely and has nothing to do with the orb’s color.  The phrase blue moon refers to the second full moon in a calendar month, which is an infrequent occurrence, once every 2.5 years to be exact, and the next one is expected in 2012.   

But this year’s blue moon fell on New Year’s Eve, which makes it a generational blue moon; the last blue moon on New Year’s Eve was 19 years ago. Do you remember where you were on New Year’s Eve 1990? Me neither. The next New Year’s Eve blue moon is supposed to appear in the year 2028, after another metonic cycle (which equals 19 tropical years). I won’t even discuss how old I might be when that happens. Anyway, I was aware of this year’s, sorry, last year’s blue moon appearance, but then promptly forgot to mention it in any previous posts, but when I came across the Rumi quote about the reflection of the moon, it stirred my memory.    

“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” ~ Henry David Thoreau 

Sunset Over Lake Dora, FL, by Janson Jones

My friend in Alaska, Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana, recently posted two beautiful pictures of the sunset, both of which I am featuring, as well as an older photo of moonrise. Janson and his family went to Florida for the winter break, and the sunset images are the first of his photographs from his latest sojourn down south.   

I know that I’ve been posting a lot of winter and snow pictures, but I thought that for a change of pace tonight I would mix a few beautiful sunsets from warmer area of the lower 49 along with some images of  the moon.   

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

It’s a Thoreau kind of night, by that I mean a bit reflective, a bit peaceful. I return to Thoreau frequently as I have always found great beauty in his words. Thoreau’s ideas about nature, simplicity, friendship, reading, writing, and truth fill me with a sense of quietude far deeper than most other philosophers. One quote in particular, which I found years ago, has always stayed with me: “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”   

I was much younger when I found that particular quote, and only in recent years have I begun to appreciate its true meaning. When I think back on all of the pained, vapid verse and prose that I wrote, ink-stained fingers from agonized pauses, searches for just the right phrase to declare my angst, my heartbreak, my despair. Thank god that I don’t know where most of that work is because I think that I would probably burn it if I ever came across it.   

Don’t misunderstand. I’m hardly declaring myself a genius with the written word. Rather I’m saying that now that I have lived much more of life—have stood up for things, have been knocked down by other things, have loved, lost, raged, crashed, gotten back up, fallen, gotten back up, retreated, gone back in—now that I have tasted some measure of life, I believe that I finally understand what Thoreau meant.   

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Years ago, before Google could return a search on subject quotes in a millisecond, people actually had to read a great deal to amass a collection of quotes. And before I ever had a computer, I had a quote journal. It’s still around here somewhere. I used to (still do, actually) cut things out of newspapers and magazines, copy passages I had read, write down the words to songs. Anytime I came across words that I found inspiring, or touching, or life-changing in their intent, I stole them openly and added them to my collection.   

Moonrise Over Long Key, FL by Janson Jones

Now, I still like to find my quotes from places other than quote sites. For example, several blogs that I read use a lot of quotes. Goodreads is also a wonderful source of quotes, and then of course, there are all of the books.   

I have written many times that I collect certain things—books, boots, purses, pens—admittedly to the point of clutter at times, but there is no doubt that what I collect more than anything else in the world, what I earnestly seek, unearth, amass, record, and return to again and again are words, in particular words from other people—writers, philosophers, poets, journalists, artists—those who have experienced life in a different way than my own experiences, or those whose insight I value, or those with whom I find great empathy.  

Words are phenomenal things. They have the power to soothe, to enrage, to instill, to oppress. Words used by a charismatic personality can take a group of people who are indifferent to a cause and ignite within them a desire to act. Give words and a forum to an aggressive individual who desires power without justice, and you can create a dictator. The right words spoken to a young person who is seeking reinforcement can instill the confidence to go on; just as hateful words spoken out of anger can be more injurious than a weapon. 

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” ~ Henry David Thoreau  

Sunset 2 Over Lake Dora, FL, by Janson Jones

I suppose my reflective mood may come from the school project that I typed recently for Brett, one in which he had to research one decade for each of four centuries in American history. The most interesting part of the project was that Brett had to identify an iconic quote, work of literature, piece of music, person and event for each decade. So much delving into history always makes me thoughtful about where we have been as a nation, as a people, as a community, as humanity.   

Brett chose the 1690s, the time of the Salem Witch trials; the 1780s, the post-Revolution and first Congress; the 1860s, the Civil War, and the 1960’s, a time of massive social change in America. There was so much information as each of those decades were times of social reform, cultural divisiveness, upheaval and unrest in society, and governmental change

I don’t know how one could help but be moved when reading the words of individuals such as Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and of course, Thoreau, not to mention reading the words to songs of generations past.   

So I will close with this passage from one of Thoreau’s journals (1840):   

No day will have been wholly misspent, if one sincere, thoughtful page has been written. Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves sand and shells on the shore. So much increase of terra firma, this may be a calendar of the ebbs and flows of the soul; and on these sheets as a beach, the waves may cast up pearls and seaweed.    

More later. Peace.   

 Annie Lennox’s  beautiful “Fingernail Moon,” of course:   

    

   

                                                                                                           

From St. Nadie in Winter by Terrance Keenan    

One day, my dear,
you stop and look around you,
find yourself stuffing needs into a sack of thoughts,
realize you have talked your life to pieces,
scratched your self to bits,
that neither hope nor doubt
can protect you,
that you are not mistaken,
that you haven’t lost your grip –
it is dissolving.
Now you can speak about everything silently.

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .

 

Video of  Avalanche Creek in Montana’s Glacier National Park by Janson Jones

“Start a huge, foolish project, like Noah…it makes absolutely no difference what people think of you.” ~ Rumi 

Well, one of the only good things about being bi-polar is that sufferers of this condition have manic bouts in which they become very hyper and have a lot of energy. Granted, I don’t have these bouts of mania the way that I used to, mostly because of my medication, but since I’m not taking my medication as I am supposed to, I am now having these spurts of energy. Did you follow all of that?

Anyway, yesterday I don’t know what got into me, but I cleaned the kitchen and then proceeded to do all of the paperwork that has been backed up, which meant forms to seven pharmaceutical companies requesting participation in their patient assistance programs. In addition to the forms, I had to include supporting documentation showing why I need this assistance. After completing the forms online, I then tried to get all of the packages together but ended up confusing myself, so I enlisted Corey’s help in going through each package to make sure that I had everything.

I also had to do an explanatory cover letter, and a cover letter to my doctor explaining everything that I was trying to do. In addition, I finally got the paperwork together for my student loan requesting forbearance due to poverty, and I completed a form for another withdrawal from my retirement, this time to pay my health insurance premium. At this rate, I will have absolutely no money left in my retirement, well, very little.

But the point is that I got all of this paperwork completed and ready to go to the various places to which it needs to be disbursed; I also filed my copies and filed a pile of other stuff that was cluttering up my desk. Finally. And of course, Corey helped. So a very productive day. Today? Well today my back is killing me and I have a headache—the price for doing too much in one day.

“It is not the perfect who always succeed in life, but those who keep trying even in the face of tremendous hardships . . .” ~ Steven Apel

Termination Dust, Chugach State Park, AK by Janson Jones

The director of the publishing program at George Washington University denied my grade appeal, which I predicted he would do, but at least I finally found out what grade I got on my project for the infrastructure class. He claims that the grade was posted on Blackboard, but it was not posted for the three months that I checked. I got an A on the project, but since the project only counted for 15 percent of the grade, it wasn’t enough to balance my abysmal performance on the midterm or final exam.

Quite frankly, that class was a failure as far as I’m concerned. The professors who were team-teaching did not mesh well. Entirely too much material was presented without there being any type of background preparation. It was a very advanced course without a background course preceding it in the cohort.

A bit of background here: The publishing degree that I completed in the summer of 2008 was set up as a cohort, which meant that everyone took the same classes for the sequence of the degree, with the exception of the concentration classes. I took the e-publishing concentration, which included this computer infrastructure class. However, at no point in the sequence was there a basic HTML course or a course in creating a website. As a result, those of us with little or no HTML backgrounds were completely lost in the infrastructure class.

We were also the second cohort to complete the program, which is now undergoing a complete restructuring. In essence, our cohort, along with the first cohort, were the guinea pigs, the ones they got to experiment on to see what worked and what didn’t work. There was duplication among the courses, and then there was the problem with the e-publishing concentration.

Now I must pause here to say that overall, the instructors in the program were wonderful, with diverse backgrounds in the publishing industry. I learned a great deal, and wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. However, I do feel that we were short shrifted in that the kinks in the new program had yet to be finessed. Oh well. Live and learn.

“A thousand words leave not the same deep impression as does a single deed.” ~ Henrik Ibsen 

Paint Cans from marthastewart.com

Now that I’ve complete my major paperwork project, I’ve finally gotten Corey to agree to painting the bedroom. I really hope that he comes through this time. Originally the bedroom was supposed to be painted for Mother’s Day . . . 2008! Since it was never done, the new bedroom bureau has been sitting in the living room taking up much-needed space and is part of the reason for the clutter that I go on about so much.

We have all of the supplies to do the bedroom, but it’s such a huge undertaking that we haven’t gotten around to doing it. We have to move furniture out of the room, move things into the middle of the room, removed everything from the walls, spackle, prep, etc.

To be fair, I know personally how hard it is to get motivated for such an undertaking when you just aren’t feeling right. Being out of work for as long as Corey has been has really taken a toll on him emotionally. His self-esteem is shot, and in essence, he cannot really concentrate on anything too big. I know this feeling well.

But Corey’s job with Vane Brothers is fast approaching; his point of contact said the end of December or beginning of January. I can’t believe that it is almost December, but if we can all make it through the upcoming holidays, things should be looking up by 2010. I know that Corey will like being back at work, and I also know that it will greatly improve his state of mind.

Unfortunately, the apprenticeship with the shipyard did not pan out as Corey does not have the required background in advanced math classes, which is a requirement for acceptance. By the time he takes the 12 hours of math and technology, he will have a semester of college completed. The way he looks at it, and I agree, is that if he has to take a semester of college to get into the program, which he would complete with an Associate’s Degree (four to five semesters of work), he might as well go ahead and register for classes and get his Associate’s in his preferred field.

With the upcoming position with Vane Brothers, the disappointment with the apprentice program has been cushioned, and Corey is looking forward to getting back on track professionally.

 “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” ~ Winston S. Churchill

As for my own career, who knows? One of the areas that I would like to explore would be book indexing, which is something that I could pursue at home, which would allow me to work at a more comfortable pace without the pressures of a regular schedule. If anyone out there knows or works for someone who is looking for a book indexer, I’m available, and I’m good at it.

However, part of me really wishes that I could go back to a real job, one in which I interact with other grownups, have responsibilities, make a decent living with benefits. The reality is that I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to do that again. But I’m not giving up on the idea entirely. I suppose that it’s just one more thing in my life for which I’ll have to wait and see what the future holds.

So other than those tidbits, I don’t have a lot to report, but here are a few thoughts for Friday:

  • How did Heidi Klum manage to walk the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show only six weeks after giving birth to her fourth child? That woman must have incredible elasticity in her skin, that and very good genes.
  • Carol Hannah Design from Project Runway Finale
  • Speaking of Heidi Klum, Project Runway finished last night with Irina being declared the winner. Personally, I liked Carol Hannah, but I knew that Irina would win. That show is one of my guilty pleasures.
  • I read that a man in London has been found not guilty for strangling his wife. Apparently, he has suffered long-term from a sleep disorder and has automatism, a condition in which the sleeping individual has no control over his or her actions. Brian Thomas, the man on trial, strangled his wife because he mistook her for an intruder. Hmm, things that make you go hmm.
  • In Peoria, Arizona, a family’s home was burglarized. The intruders took electronics and a music box containing their deceased baby’s ashes. Man, I’d like to know what kind of person steals ashes.
  • Linday Lohan is upset that she wasn’t allowed to take $15,000 worth of jewelry from an event. She was promised between $1500 and $2,000 of loot for her appearance. Hello? I would show up wearing a gopher suit to get $1500 worth of free loot, and I wouldn’t complain. I mean, I’m a lot funnier than Lohan, whose only claim to fame at the moment is that she does nothing.
  • Hershey Co. is making a bid for Cadbury PLC. This disheartens me. I don’t really like Hershey’s chocolate, but I absolutely love Cadbury as it’s the chocolate that I ate as a child in England. Cadbury Fruit and Nut Bar, Cadbury Caramello. Um Um Good.
  • MSNBC regularly posts photographs of people who have had Ambush Makeovers. These are “Today Show” fans who are grabbed off the street and given a makeover. I wonder if they make house calls . . .
  • Speaking of house calls, I am seriously thinking of submitting our house for “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition.” I know that we don’t have eight children, but geez, does every deserving family have to have a boatload of kids to qualify? What about normal everyday people who have a real need? Maybe they could consider someone like us for a change.
  • And speaking of houses, I’m not liking the current season of “House” that much. I mean, the two-hour season premier was wonderful, but since then, it doesn’t seem to have its usual bite.
  • Dr. Warner (Tamara Tunie) of Law & Order SVU
  • And while I’m on shows that have lost their bite, “Law & Order SVU” might be on its last leg. What makes that particular L&O franchise so good is the interaction with the criminals and the nature of the crimes themselves. This season is spending too much time on the personal lives—a show about Olivia, a show about Elliott, a show about Huang. An episode about ADA Paxton. Get back to the squad room and the victims.
  • The long nightmare is over: Jon & Kate are finally saying buh bye. Never watched the show myself, but am soooo tired of hearing about this two. And what’s with her hair?
  • And finally, an image of the Virgin Mary holding the baby Jesus has appeared on a piece of glass in a church in Latvia. I don’t mean to be mean, but the image that they are showing looks more like the snow suits that Luke and Han wore on the ice planet in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back. Does that make me a bad person?

Many thanks to my comrade Janson Jones for the inspiring video. More later. Peace.

One of my all-time favorite songs: “Chances Are,” by Bob Seger and Martine McBride from Hope Floats.

 

“We convince by our presence.” ~ Walt Whitman

Blue River Henry County Indiana by Julayne

Blue River, Henry County, Indiana by Julayne

 

“Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.” ~ Walt Whitman

“When I give, I give myself.” ~ Walt Whitman

Sings of Autumn U of AK campus JJ
Signs of Autumn, U. of Alaska Campus by Janson Jones

Earlier this morning when I let the dogs out, I stuck my head outside and inhaled deeply. Yep. Smells like fall.

Even though we don’t live in the country, so to speak, the air still has those fine seasonal permutations in which sounds and scents can be discerned. Today promises to be in the low 60’s and sunny, or so says my little weather icon. Part of me could live in clear and cool in the 60’s every single day of my life. Not hot. Not cold. Not gloomy. Not snowy.

Yet, there is still that part of me that aches for the tropics. Not so much the heat as the blazing sun and azure waters. Feeling the fine grains of sand beneath my feet and falling asleep to the sound of the incoming and outgoing tides. I find that very appealing.

People who are from this area know exactly how fickle the weather can be. It can be 80 degrees on Thanksgiving Day. It can snow five inches in the middle of March. We can go from a high of 86 on Monday to a high of 60 on Tuesday. Everyone talks about how wonderful it is that we have such mild winters, but that makes me yearn for snow. And as I have said before, spring is entirely too short: We virtually run through spring directly into summer in about two weeks. But fall does seem to last a bit longer, which is fine by me.

“The future is more uncertain than the present” ~ Walt Whitman 

I’ve had this feeling of late that I am coming to some sort of crossroads. Part of that feeling is probably due, in part, to the fact that we are now at a do or die time for Corey to get a job, and the outlook for him being able to get a job on a tug boat is looking extremely dim.

Forecasts for the shipping industry do not anticipate any kind of upturn in the industry until 2010. I just read about a strike by some tug workers in New York harbor because of hiring practices.

Fall FoliageSo we have been discussing alternative careers. I know and Corey knows that circumstances will probably make it more than a possibility that he is going to have to shift his career if he is going to get a job anytime soon, which makes both of us more than a little melancholy. He just finished those classes to get more endorsements on his Merchant Marine Document (MMD), and he is more qualified than he has ever been at any point in his shipping career. But there just aren’t any jobs.

My Captain is without a vessel. I really ache for him. I, too, know what it is like to be out of work (not the current circumstances of being disabled), but avidly looking for work, and getting nothing but the standard, “We’ll put your resume on file” response. After the first 50 times, it’s hard not to begin to turn inside and think that there must be something wrong with you.

Statistically, in this kind of stagnant economy, I think the old saying is that for every 100 resumes you send out, you can expect to get 1 interview. Bummer, huh?

But even though we are still on this see saw, I have this gut feeling that a change is coming, not exactly sure what kind of change, but some kind of change. Change can be good. Right? I should embrace this gut feeling. Right? Then why do I feel trepidation?

“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes.” ~ Walt Whitman 

Perhaps trepidation is too strong. Fear is too dramatic. Icky feeling in my gut is poorly phrased. What’s the word that I’m looking for? Agitation? Perturbation? Palpitation? Hesitation? That’s it: hesitation.

I am hesitant to embrace any kind of gut feeling that might portend a change for the better. After all, if you convince yourself that things are looking up, that’s about the time a grand piano falls from the sky and lands on your head.

Skyline DriveIs it any wonder that I really liked the story of  “Chicken Little” when I was a child? I suppose I have always been a glass half-empty person. I mean, if I won the lottery, after being incredibly excited, my very next feeling would be dread because of the taxes that I would have to pay. I know. I know. I’ve been talking about hope and strength and peace of mind, but the nudge side of me keeps intruding.

My ex used to call me a nudge, as in I could never let something go. I would keep nudging until it erupted or died like the proverbial dead horse on the front lawn. I’ve really worked on the whole letting go thing. I think that I’ve gotten much better. For example, whenever I used to get into an argument, I was never ready to apologize and move on. I do apologize now, and I actually mean it sincerely 99 percent of the time.

But I don’t think that I’ll ever get to the point at which I can say (truthfully) that I have let go of the perturbation at having been wronged by someone (other than Corey). I mean, I don’t openly dwell as much; truth be told, I don’t dwell to the point of internal agitation. But every once in a while, a memory of a situation in which someone has treated me badly will pop into my brain, and I will stew for a bit. I really wish that I could overcome the ability to remember past wrongs with such clarity. The rest of my memory seems to be getting fuzzier, but not the “Oh. I have been done wrong” part.

But I digress . . .

“Not I—not anyone else, can travel that road for you,/You must travel it for yourself.”  ~ Walt Whitman  

Crossroads. Fall. Right.

I do feel that I am coming to some sort of divide in the road, Frost’s two roads diverging. And I will probably take the path less trodden upon as it seems to offer more in the way of surprises. I’m just hoping that they will be good surprises, for a change.

Fall is my season of big change. Almost everything significant in my life has happened in the fall—good and bad. Job changes. School. New friendships. Losses. All in the fall.

I also find that I write more in the fall. I am planning to get back to my daily writing in October: posting everyday, getting back into my routine of writing about something, anything every day. Fall is also my time for poetry, perhaps because my psyche is has embellished upon it the memories of teaching literature classes to students who would groan audibly when I would mention poetry. By the second week, they wanted more. It’s all in the words, the ways in which we share them, the manner in which we connect with them.
sunset on skyline drive
Perhaps the change that I sense is the bounty that fall brings to my life. Perhaps not. Not being a seer, I have no way to tell. I just know that something is looming, just over the horizon. And I think that I am actually ready for it.

So I will pause and make myself cherish the coming days. Go outside more and breathe the air, watch the birds, listen to the geese as they fly overhead, and smell the leaves, the chrysanthemums, and enjoy my season.

I have used quotes from Walt Whitman in this post because his words have been echoing in my brain. In particular, there is one long quote by Whitman that is among my most favorite:

“This is what you shall do: love the earth and sun, and animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence towards the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men; go freely with the powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and mothers, of families: read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life: re-examine all you have been told at school or church, or in any books, and dismiss whatever insults your soul.”

I have included James Wright’s “A Blessing,” as it is one of my favorite poems, and it jumped into my mind as I was writing this post. Obviously, it was supposed to be here.

More later. Peace.

A Blessing

Just off the highway to Rochester, Minnesota,
Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass.
And the eyes of those two Indian ponies
Darken with kindness.
They have come gladly out of the willows
To welcome my friend and me.
We step over the barbed wire into the pasture
Where they have been grazing all day, alone.
They ripple tensely, they can hardly contain their happiness
That we have come.
They bow shyly as wet swans. They love each other.
There is no loneliness like theirs.
At home once more,
They begin munching the young tufts of spring in the darkness.
I would like to hold the slenderer one in my arms,
For she has walked over to me
And nuzzled my left hand.
She is black and white,
Her mane falls wild on her forehead,
And the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear
That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist.
Suddenly I realize
That if I stepped out of my body I would break
Into blossom.

~ James Wright

                                                                                                   

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“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” ~ John F. Kennedy

AWARD--Honest_Weblog_Award

Me? Seriously? You Shouldn’t Have But I’m Glad That You Did

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” ~ Albert Schweitzer

This is a little late in coming, but I would like to thank Zirgar for bestowing upon me the Honest Weblog Award. I have been told by several people that one of the better qualities of my writing is its honesty; I know that I do write from my heart, which is not always a good thing, I realize, but it is my way of being true to myself. So many thanks Z and all of the other wonderful regular readers who stop by here to read and sometimes comment.

Chesapeake Bay
End of the Day, Chesapeake Bay, Virginia

As we all know, no award comes without a few strings, and the Honest Weblog Award is no exception. Here are the rules: 

  1. You must brag about the award.
  2. You must include the name of the blogger who bestowed the award on you and link back to that blogger.
  3. You must choose a minimum of seven blogs that you find brilliant in content or design.
  4. Show their names and links and leave a comment informing them that they were prized with the Honest Weblog Award.
  5. List at least ten honest things about yourself.

Then pass along the award with the above instructions.

Top Seven

So here are the blogs to which I have chosen to pass along the Honest Weblog Award. The blogs are listed in no particular order, and their content is as varied as their owners. I try to visit these blogs daily or as often as possible, and my interest in each of them is evidenced by the fact that you can find them listed under the different categories of blogrolls to the left of my site.

  1. White Orchid: This blog is written by one of my dear online friends, Maureen, who lives in Australia. Maureen’s blog covers a wide range of topics—family, friends, work, Australian politics, and much more. Maureen has a very loyal group of followers, and she is diligent about responding to comments and e-mails.
  2. Supersense: Written by Bruce M. Hood, the Director of the  Bristol Cognitive Development Centre in the Experimental Psychology Department at the University of Bristol in England. Bruce recently published Supersense: Why We Believe in the Unbelievable, an incredible book that I found immensely enjoyable and informative (I promise that I’ll get around to posting my review soon). Part of what makes Bruce’s blog so interesting is the comment section: His regulars are a diverse bunch with very strong opinions.
  3. Floridana Alaskiana v2.5: This blog is written by Janson Jones, who lives in Anchorage, Alaska. If you appreciate fine photography, then you definitely need to visit this blog. Janson, who recently celebrated the birth of his daughter Aurelia, fills his posts with beautiful images of landscapes, wildlife, and people. He also comments occasionally on political issues in which he is interested.
  4. Islamorada Florida by JJ
    Islamorada, Florida by Janson Jones
  5. My Sweetest Downfall: This pseudonymous blog is beautifully written by a woman with incredible wit and enough sarcasm to keep me entertained. She doesn’t post daily, but the content of her posts makes up for the wait between. I think that what I probably enjoy most about JaneyLynn’s blog is that I can totally relate to it, to the craziness of her life, and to her occasional funks.
  6. Zirgar’s Fresh New Brain Squeezins: Zirgar, who presented me with this award, describes his blog as “a place to vent and find catharsis.” Very left of center, Z takes on Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the whole Fox circus, as well as most far-right politicians and politicos. Be warned, he doesn’t censor himself, so if you are offended easily, then this isn’t the blog for you. That being said, I greatly enjoy his rants and screeds on closed-minded racists and bigots, as well as the regulars who comment on his posts. Very glad I found this particular blog, and many thanks again Zirgar for remembering me.
  7. Leaving Lilac Sky: Another pseudonymous blog written by a very talented poet. I have been following this writer’s blog for almost a year now. As with most poets, she has her dry spells, and then she goes into periods in which she is incredibly prolific, turning out a poem a day. A confessional poet, her poems deal with heart-rending emotions, but at the same time, she celebrates life.
  8. Willpen’s World: This is another blog that I have been following regularly since I began blogging last year. Another kindred political spirit, WP is not afraid to voice her opinions about the state of affairs in this country. Worth noting: Several of the blogs that I now read regularly I found through the comments section of WP’s blog.

A few honorable mentions: November Fifth (intelligent, articulate, and a college-level English prof), Really . . . Really . . . Seriously (music and movies), David Bridger (writer with a lot to say about writing, life, and lots of other things). There are a few other blogs that I read as much as possible, but these are the highlights.

Ten Honest Things About Myself

  1. I am hypersensitive, although I try very hard not to be. Just how sensitive I am depends upon the state of my life, which means that currently, I can tear up upon hearing a song or watcing a commercial.
  2. I believe in reincarnation. I know that this is not logical (Bruce), but it is something that I have felt very strongly about since I was very young. No, I was not Marie Antoinette, but my affinity for and knowledge of things that I don’t have a logical reason for knowing has to come from somewhere.
  3. I was a daddy’s girl. As an only child, I was spoiled, and my dad labeled me as a “Want-Whiney” when I was a little girl. If I am to be completely honest, the label still applies. 

    Sailing on the Chesapeake Bay
    Catamaran on the Chesapeake Bay, Virginia
  4. I love to wear boots, long skirts and sweaters. I should probably live in a cooler climate as this is how I would clad myself everyday if I had somewhere to be.
  5. My biggest personal regret is not going for my doctorate in English.
  6. I am a collector: books, stuffed bears, boots, office supplies, and watches probably being the top five.
  7. I don’t do things half way. It’s either all in or nothing.
  8. I have become too much of a recluse in the past two years, and I really need to get out of the house more.
  9. I love words. I love to find new quotes by writers I have been reading for years. I love to find new writers. I love to put words together and push them around until I have created something of which I can be proud.
  10. I love the man who has been the biggest part of my life for the past 10 years unconditionally and completely, and my children are my joy. Never try to come between me and my family.

Okay, a couple of other tidbits: I am not afraid of spiders, but am terrified of snakes and centipedes. I love the colors red, black and purple. I really enjoy nature: backyard birding, mountains, waterfalls, and sunrises and sunsets. I am very insecure about the way that I look. I do not have tons of friends, rather, a select few. I love them and miss them every single day, and there is nothing that I wouldn’t do for one of my friends.

“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” ~ Lionel Hampton

So, gentle reader, this ends my conferring of the Honest Weblog Award upon some of my favorite online sites. I hope that you take the time to visit a few of these worthwhile and diverse sites.

More later. Peace.

Touching Home Base

Chugach State Park AK by JJ

Fall Colors Chugach State Park, Alaska, by Janson Jones*

“And you would accept the seasons of your heart just as you have always accepted that seasons pass over your fields and you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

“Autumn is a second spring where every leaf is a flower.” ~ Albert Camus

It’s been rainy and cloudy here for days, which is all right considering that my spirits have been rainy and cloudy for days as well. But a few days ago, something subtle changed: It is beginning to smell like fall.

Looking Skyward by Janson Jones
Looking to the Sky by Janson Jones

I remember when I was a child, fall lasted longer. And before they were such harbingers of air pollution, the smells of neighbors’ fireplaces infused the night with the comforting aromas of woodsmoke.

The falls that I spent with my family in Great Bridge were especially wonderful. With the longer days, my cousins and I would stay outside as long as possible playing hide-n-seek well past dark, the big Sycamore tree in the front yard serving as home base. The sounds of tennis shoes crashed through the thick carpet of fallen leaves as we all raced home so that we wouldn’t be tagged “it.”

Leaves and sticker balls everywhere. Ignoring calls to come in now. Irreplaceable memories of our innocent days.

On Sunday afternoons, smells of burning piles of leaves permeated the neighborhood. This was before Great Bridge was overdeveloped to the point that trees are almost non-existent. The big trees in my aunt and uncle’s yard were enormous. Someone tied a tire swing to one of the trees in the backyard, and we would push each other so high, high enough to get flutters in our bellies.

My cousins Butch and Sheryl tried to get me to climb the tree with the tire and then jump off a branch while in the tire. If any of our parents knew an iota of the things that we did. Good times.

“Autumn to winter, winter into spring, Spring into summer, summer into fall—So rolls the changing year, and so we change; Motion so swift, we know not that we move. ” ~ Dinah Maria Mulock

Fireweed Chucagh St Park
Fireweed, Chucagh State Park, Alaska by Janson Jones

Sundays at Great Bridge were such a large part of my life for so long. Being an only child, those times spent playing with my cousins are some of the best memories of my life. We were a motley group. No one wore designer clothes or expensive tennis shoes. We were made equal by our extreme ordinariness.

Of course, I was different—no blonde hair, no ordinary name, the ony one with no siblings—but after their initial mistrust faded of anyone who didn’t know what iced tea was, I was never treated any differently.

In actuality, the younger ones, the ones who were my age, were my second cousins; my first cousins were closer to my mother’s age, daughter’s of my Aunt Ronnie and Uncle Ros. We were all close, until the first divorce, the first move out of the area, the first pregnancy. Time and circumstance, as they always have a way of doing, stepped in and ended our idyllic lives.

I couldn’t tell you the last time I saw one of them, but I’ll be seeing all of them soon. My Aunt Ronnie died yesterday. She had suffered from Alzheimer’s for a number of years. That most unkind of diseases that takes over the brain, erases memories, makes even the most familiar face into the face of a stranger.

The last time she saw me, she did remember me, fleetingly. But it was so long ago

“A few days ago I walked along the edge of the lake and was treated to the crunch and rustle of leaves with each step I made.  The acoustics of this season are different and all sounds, no matter how hushed, are as crisp as autumn air.”
Eric Sloane 

Eastern Tiger Swallotail by Janson Jones
Eastern Tiger Swallowtail by Janson Jones

For me, Aunt Ronnie was the closest thing to a grandmother that I had. When my cousins called her grandma, I was always so envious. A part of me wished that I could call her grandma as well.

I used to buy my Aunt Ronnie butterfly pins for Christmas. She loved butterflies.

I never knew my mother’s mother. She died when mom was only eight years old. The youngest of 12 children, my mother was raised by her older brothers and sisters. My Aunt Ronnie was almost the oldest of the 12, so my mother’s relationship with her oldest sister was very close, more like mother and daughter than sisters at times.

I wasn’t as close to Uncle Ros. I don’t really know why, but the first time I met my Aunt Ronnie was when Mom and I were visiting the States while Dad was stationed in London. I remember that my cousin Jeanette and her husband at the time had been in a horrible car accident, and everyone was recuperating.

I was overwhelmed by all of the people and completely unused to so many children in my own age range. It was great. I never wanted to leave. 

“Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting and autumn a mosaic of them all.” ~ Stanley Horowitz

December Snow Anchorage by JJ
December Snow, Anchorage, Alaska by Janson Jones

Once my dad retired from the Navy and we moved back to the area, visits to Great Bridge became almost weekly events. 

Christmas at Great Bridge was such an occasion. We would open presents on Christmas Eve. So many presents everywhere. But Christmas Day we would all get together for Christmas dinner.

I know that I’ve written about Sunday dinners at Great Bridge before, but Christmas dinner was the ultimate Sunday dinner: turkey, stuffing, country-style green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, greens, country ham, homemade biscuits (usually two batches), sweet tea. Homemade banana pudding, fudge and pies for dessert.

And the most amazing aspect of this feast was that until she was in her 70’s, my Aunt Ronnie made almost all of the food by herself. If someone were going to contribute something to the dinner, it was usually dessert.

We would eat in the early afternoon, and then the parents would watch football and nap on the couch, Uncle Ros in his recliner, while all of the cousins would go outside and get into whatever we could, depending upon the weather. If there was snow, so much the better. There was no keeping us inside.

Then later in the early evening, people would snack on ham biscuits, turkey sandwiches, cakes and pie. Sleepy, satisfied and totally at ease in each other’s company

“Change is a measure of time and, in the autumn, time seems speeded up. What was is not and never again will be; what is is change.”~ Edwin Way Teale

I remember their long driveway would be packed, two-wide with cars, the overflow going onto the street. Leaving was always strategic, depending upon who was parked where and whether or not the car was small enough to turn around in the front yard.

Anchorage Dawn by JJ
Anchorage Dawn by Janson Jones

Eventually, we stopped going to Great Bridge for Christmases, long after I had gotten married (the first time), and Alexis was born. Of all of my children, only Alexis really remembers Aunt Ronnie. My mom would take Alexis with her when she would go to Great Bridge to visit. Alexis would play with my cousin Theresa’s daughter who was a few years older.

Christmas celebrations had moved from my Aunt Ronnie’s house to one of her daughter’s houses. It just wasn’t the same.

And of course, we had all grown up, gotten married, moved away, changed jobs, had children. My second cousins still went, but I kind of dropped out of the fold.

I saw many of them at my Uncle Ros’s funeral several years ago. It was an event that I had to attend and then return to work, so I didn’t have time to visit with anyone. Sunday will be different. I have the time now. I have the memories. I have the regret. I have the loss, the second in less than a month.

“Once more I am the silent one
who came out of the distance
wrapped in cold rain and bells:
I owe to earth’s pure death
the will to sprout.” ~ Pablo Neruda

My mother says that she isn’t going to go to Great Bridge for Aunt Ronnie’s funeral, that she’s never going to another funeral again, that she doesn’t want to see Aunt Ronnie in her coffin; it will give her nightmares.

Turnagain Arm Sunset Anchorage AK by JJ
Turnagain Arm Sunset, Anchorage, Alaska by Janson Jones

I don’t agree with her method of coping, but it really doesn’t matter if I agree or not. Does it? Her unwillingness to visit the family bothers me tremendously, just as her unwillingness to go to Uncle Melchor’s funeral bothered me.

We are so different, my mother and I. While I love to keep hand me downs from family members, appreciate antiques and the memories that go with them, my mother calls it clutter and sees no point in it. I see a tea service that she bought on Portobello Road in London as something to be cherished, a reminder of our time in London and that wonderful section of booths and shops. My mother has no use for it.

Who knows, when I get to be her age, maybe I’ll feel the same way, but I doubt it.

My memories make me who I am. All of the little nooks and crannies in my mind are filled to overflowing with the sweet and the bittersweet. To me, that is life. Little pieces of jewelry, a china cup and saucer, a silver sugar bowl—each is part of a story, my story.

It makes me sad for my mother who only wants to think about happy things, who won’t watch anything deep or sad, who loves sitcoms and talk shows. Don’t misunderstand. It’s not what she does but what she doesn’t do that makes me sad. What saddens me is that she closed a part of herself off a long time ago, and it has been so long since she went through that door that I don’t think she remembers how.

 “There is no answer to any of these questions. It’s a matter of time and timing, of seas and seasons, of breathing in and breathing out. It’s a matter of balance.” ~ Peter McWilliams

Yes, funerals are for the living. My mother wants to be cremated, as do I, as does Corey, all for different reasons. What happens to our bodies after we die is not really the important thing. But memorial services allow a chance for those left behind to say goodbye, to talk about the person who has been lost with fond words, to forget petty arguments, to remember Sunday dinners and sticker ball fights, new bicycles at Christmas and melt-on-your tongue homemade biscuits.

Dawn in Deland Florida by JJ
Aurelia's Dawn, Deland, Florida by Janson Jones

My Aunt Ronnie’s death is like the closing of yet another chapter in my life, a very good chapter, one filled with so much loving and giving. The woman in the casket is not the woman I loved. The woman I loved is already gone; unfortunately, she has been gone for quite a while, ravaged by an unrelenting disease that rips apart everyone touched by it.

But in my mind’s eye, I still see her smile quite clearly. I remember her dining room table, filled to overflowing, and the conversations around it. That was my Aunt Ronnie. The woman who said come and see me sometime. The woman who liked “The Old Rugged Cross” but did not like “Amazing Grace.” The woman who accepted butterfly pins from a young girl with as much relish as if they were rare gems.

These are my memories, the pictures inside the permanent locket of my heart, the ties that bind and make us who we are. The sweet tea of the soul. Piles of fallen leaves. Running as fast as possible when the coast was clear. Touching home base. Being safe. Knowing unconditional love.

 

More later. Peace.

*Many thanks to Janson Jones for giving me the perfect images for this post. Your photographs help me so much to form the words that I need to say.