“Maybe I still haven’t become me. I don’t know how you tell for sure when you finally have.” ~ Emily M. Danforth, from The Miseducation of Cameron Post

DC Cherry Blossoms Frame the Jefferson Memorial, by cliff1066 (FCC)

“I’m like that. Either I forget right away or I never forget.” ~ Samuel Beckett, from Waiting for Godot

Sunday afternoon, sunny and warmer, 64 degrees.

Another wretched night. I kept waking up and then being unable to get back to sleep. The time change always messes with me. I like getting that extra hour in the fall, but losing the hour in the spring throws me off balance, and trying to get the animals back on schedule is a pain. Benjamin Franklin originally came up with the concept of daylight savings time in a letter to Journal de Paris, on April 26, 1784 as a proposal to have more natural light in the home, but the idea wasn’t adopted in many countries until WWI and after as a way to conserve energy. But do we still need it? Is it really effective?

400-Year-Old Sakura Tree Kumamoto Prefecture, by Tanaka Juuyoh (FCC)

Who knows . . . certainly not I.

Yesterday evening, I was sitting here when I suddenly felt like someone was staring at me. I looked up, and Napoleon was at the door, just standing there, waiting for a treat. I love that horse. Unfortunately, because of all of the rain, his coat is developing bald spots. I have wished more than once that we lived in a community that still did barn raisings. Remember that beautiful scene in the movie Witness, with Harrison Ford, in which all of the Amish men raise a barn in one day? Yep. Like that.

We need a barn, a shelter for the horses, and then we’ll need a goat shed, or a combination building, and we need a shelter for the spring box that feeds water to the house. Each time that we have a deluge, the water becomes discolored because the box needs a major cleaning. The cover is a huge cement block that would take several people to put back in place; we don’t have several people, and as a result, the rain seeps into the box, and we have brackish water for a few days. We still aren’t drinking the water, but we are using it for showers and laundry, which means sometimes . . . ick.

“Dear Forgiveness, you know that recently
…………we have had our difficulties and there are many things
………………………………………..I want to ask you.
I tried that one time, high school, second lunch, and then again,
……….years later, in the chlorinated pool.
…………………..I am still talking to you about help. I still do not have
……….these luxuries.” ~ Richard Silken, from “Litany in Which Certain Things are Crossed Out”

I’m listening to another old playlist today, songs I haven’t listened to for quite a while. Corey and I had a song from years ago, Fisher’s [correction: the title is “I Will Love You”] “You.”  Neither the song nor the group were that well known, and I came upon it by accident (pre YouTube); it’s such an incredibly beautiful song, and it popped up a few minutes ago. I was immediately taken back to that Sunday afternoon so many years ago when we danced to our song in front of our families and friends. We didn’t spend a lot of money on our wedding as no one had a lot of money, but it was everything that we wanted. Truthfully, I don’t understand the whole idea of spending hundred of thousands of dollars, or even millions. Who is the pageantry for?

Japanese Pagoda Rising above the Cherry Trees, by Sébastien Bertrand (FCC)

And then, how long do those expensive unions last? We were talking the other day about how not a single couple we knew when we got married was still together. How do some people endure while others move away without a seeming backward thought? I really don’t think that it has anything to do with morality or anything like that; more, that it goes back to the reasons you come together in the first place. There has to be something more to the spark than sex. But as I have already had one failed marriage, regardless of how long we were together, I suppose that I am not really the best person to ponder this.

I truly don’t know; and I think that the reasons that my parents stayed together, mostly finances and habit, belong to another generation. I don’t know what makes people come together, fall apart, never speak to one another again, or stay for the duration. I just don’t know.

“People always talk about how hard it can be to remember things – where they left their keys, or the name of an acquaintance – but no one ever talks about how much effort we put into forgetting. I am exhausted from the effort to forget… There are things that have to be forgotten if you want to go on living.” ~ Stephen Carpenter, from Killer

But getting back to music: If only I had realized weeks ago that listening to old songs would jump-start my writing . . .

The idiotic thing is that music has always been a source of inspiration for me, but I suppose as with most things in the past two or three years, I had forgotten that particular fact. I have this memory of watching some show on CMT many years ago in which it was the top 50 country love songs. Corey was at sea, when he was still on the tug boat, and I sat there and cried and cried, simply because the songs were so beautiful, but Corey wasn’t with me to hear them .

Cherry Blossom Tree Near the Kofuku-ji Temple in Nara, Japan, by ncole458 (FCC)

I never used to listen to country music, that is, not until I heard someone sing “Amazed” at the karaoke bar that I used to go to, once upon a time. I had never heard that song before, and as this was before you could find anything at the touch of a keystroke on the internet, I had to ask around to find the song again. It’s a song by Lonestar, but it’s in the perfect key for my voice, so I found the song and practiced and practiced until I felt that I could do it justice. I used to do that with songs, mostly so that I wouldn’t make a fool of myself at karaoke, which, I suppose, defeats the whole purpose of getting drunk and singing karaoke.

Anyway, after Corey and I got together, he introduced me to more country music, and eventually, the line between country and pop became so blurred that it really didn’t matter any more what category a song fell into; consider, Taylor Swift began as a country singer, and now look at her, not that I’m a big Swift fan, as I’m not. Just an example.

“I’m looking to cleanse regret. I want to give
you a balm for lesions, give you evening
primrose, milk thistle, turmeric, borage” ~ Lory Bedikian, from “Apology to the Body”

I say anyway, a lot, don’t I?

So the point was: music, any kind of music—it’s always been a big part of my life and a key to my creativity. Before country, it was soundtracks especially that got to me, the soundtrack from Legends of the Fall, the one from The Piano, but especially, the one from The English Patient. That music stirred something deep within me. And there is still one particular composition that always, always makes me misty-eyed: Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings.” Mari introduced me to that one. If you don’t know it, I’ll include it below, but you’ve probably heard it at some point during a crucial death scene in a movie or show. I know that I’ve posted this one before, but once is never enough for this one

Bird in Sakura,Tokyo Prefecture, by Raita Futo (FCC).

Another vivid memory: Driving through the cemetery in the afternoons after my morning classes at ODU, listening to David Lanz’s “Cristofori’s Dream” over and over. The cemetery was my sanctuary after I lost Caitlin, especially that first November. It’s full of maple trees, and they formed an amazing golden and red canopy over the narrow lanes between plots. And at the very back of the cemetery, against the very edge, were several old, individual mausoleums. They were beautiful in their stark loneliness, and once I hit that part of the cemetery, I would turn the car stereo almost all of the way up, and then the weeping would overcome me, and I would have to pull over and wait.

“And so it was. So it was that one by one I picked them up, remembered them, kissed them good-bye, and tore them to pieces. Some were reluctant to be destroyed, calling in pitiful voices from the misty depths of those vast places where we loved in weird half-dreams, the echoes of their pleas lost in the shadowed darkness” ~ John Fante, from The Road to Los Angeles

When we first buried Caitlin at Forest Lawn, there were no trees in the infant plot, and it was so freaking barren that just looking at it broke my heart, so the next year, our family pooled money and bought four Yoshino cherries, and then the next year, we bought two more. The people in charge of the cemetery told me that our gesture actually created the memorial tree program, so at least there was that.

It occurs to me that the cherry trees everywhere are coming into bloom now. Corey planted a weeping cherry in the yard at Benjamin, but I think that the weather was just too hot for it to thrive.

Weeping Cherry, by aturkus (FCC)

As I come to the end of this post, I realize that there exists one particular song for each and every significant even in my life, far too many to list all of them now, but here are just a few that come immediately to mind:

Elton John’s “Your Song” (junior year), Bruce Springsteen’s Thunder Road (senior year), Janis Ian’s “Seventeen” (second year of college), Robbin Thompson’s “Sweet Virginia Breeze” (graduate school), “Mandolin Rain” (after Caitlin), “Unchained Melody” (Eamonn), Joan Osborne’s “St. Theresa” (Alexis), Bryan Adam’s “I Do it for You” (Brett), Tracy Chapman’s “Promise” (the Museum), Annie Lennox’s “Why?” (after Paul), Melissa Etheridge’s “I’m the Only One” (surviving teaching 8th grade public school), Meredith Brook’s “Bitch” (karaoke), Melissa Etheridge’s “Sleep” (Dillard’s), Savage Garden’s “Truly Madly Deeply” (the first time I met Alana), Sugarland’s “Make Me Believe” (Corey, only one of many), and finally, because this list could go on interminably, Sarah McLachlan’s “I Will Remember You,” which is my anthem.

Enough for now. More later. Peace.


Music by Samuel Barber, “Adagio for Strings” (Detroit Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Leonard Slatkin)

 


Meridian, Last Night

Last night, I dreamt I went to Meridian again, and
in the dream, a slight dark girl darts from the side

of the house, arms waving, waving while a woman
inside resists the building’s collapse on its own

emptiness. The house is still standing and in ruin.
As it always was. As always.

Of these things on earth I know:
I cannot return. There is no time,

even now, that was golden above another.
Every epoch has its trials. We are human.

We are failing. We are always falling down.
The past was always more menace than I’d imagined;

the past is both retribution and reward
now that it has been endured.

And it is right that we stand in its ruin,
among all this longing and decay.

~ T. J. Jarrett

Reflections on Hope

Dark Angel

Dark Angel of Forest Lawn, by L. Liwag

The Loss of Hope (August 5, 2009)

“We have lived our lives in a land of dreams!
How sad it seems.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Angel Face
Contemplating Angel by L. Liwag

I have been considering the whole concept of hope and its opposite, hopelessness, and in the considering, I realize that my entire life has been a constant vacillation between the two, a relentless movement of highs and lows, and the harrowing realities that bespeak such an existence.

Please do not pity me. It is not pity that I seek. Rather, I yearn for the type of even existence that seems second-nature to so many. I ache for the idea of normalcy. I crave a life that does not encompass such valleys and zeniths—one that has the steady beat of a second hand on an old, reliable watch.

“We must take the measure of our own days and bear them out with a truthful eye.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “Just Open Your Eyes”

 I have tried to pinpoint the exact moment when our lives began this slow descent into a waking nightmare. It’s hard as there is no certainty, and my loss of hope began many years before Corey’s personal crisis.

Infant Angel
Cherubim by L. Liwag

I have mentioned many times the loss of my daughter Caitlin. And that loss changed everything about me, even the ways in which I allow myself to feel. For a long time, I did not allow myself to feel anything, and then I did, but cautiously. I worked my way back into an existence that I could tolerate and even at times, enjoy.

When Corey and I came together, I was able to feel pure joy for the first time in memory. I found myself daring to hope that the darkness that had cloaked me was finally receding. And it did, in so many ways: I began to have dreams again. I allowed myself to invest myself totally in a relationship that sustained me. I felt within myself the ability to trust life again, and with that trust, came hope.

But then things began to happen, small, seemingly inconsequential things at first. I had a run of bad luck with jobs. Nothing seemed to fit, or perhaps, I did not fit. That I felt like a failure is a vast understatement. Why could I do nothing right? Perhaps it was because I did not believe in myself enough.

Then, I lost my father before Corey and I had shared even our first anniversary, and I was heartbroken. That my father did not live long enough to see me pull myself out of my personal abyss always dismayed me, but now, part of me is glad that he has not been around to watch my slow slide into stagnation.

And then there was a betrayal by Corey, a lie of such consequence. But we were new in our life together, and Corey did not yet know the weight a lie would place on my heart, and I was trying to learn the concept of true forgiveness, something that had eluded me before. So we were willing to work through this major rift as the prospect of what we could have far outweighed the wound to my heart.

A few years after we were married, I lost my left ovary to a tumor, and our dreams of children seemed to be snatched from us with one small cut. Still, we prevailed, never losing hope in the possibilities of things to come. So we coasted through a few more years together, making our way through normal dips and peaks, like the naturally-occurring lines on an EKG.

But somewhere in 2006, something seemed to break somewhere—a subtle shift in the continuum, so subtle, that at first, we did not recognize it for what it was and what it would come to be: a continual struggle with relentless events so injurious to the psyche and diminishing to our existence that it seemed that we had walked under a dark cloud and never moved away from its paralyzing shadow.

“Looming, the Fata Morgana stung my eyes 
crept into my dreams   
offered only a cruel discordance,
falsehoods in the night where only truth should reside” ~ Lolita Liwag, “These are the only truths I know

I made a change in my career in September of 2005, a position on which I had stumbled quite by chance, and fate seemed to be on our side. Corey, too, decided that he wanted a change in his career, and made the fateful decision to return to the Coast Guard Reserves.

While trying to retrain in the reserves, Corey had a freak accident that almost demolished his knee, one misstep, and his knee was torn. His hopes for a new, more fulfilling career were gone in one afternoon. The training that he had done so far was for naught as the Coast Guard would never let him work in his desired field.

Angel of Fire
Angel of Wrath by Lita Liwag

Our finances also began to crumble as Corey was out of work for several months while he recuperated. But still we rallied.

Then soon after, yet another misstep, and Corey found himself felled by his own carelessness, and this error of judgment affected the entire family for quite a while in several different ways. However, Corey went back to work as a merchant marine, and our lives seemed to be getting better, but this lull was short-lived.
 
The increasing pain in my back was not responding to ongoing physical therapy and treatment, and so I made the fateful decision to try surgery.
 
I had a back operation in March of 2007. By July, it was apparent that the operation had not been successful, and I found myself in constant pain. However, I was not willing to stop working. But it was not a decision that I was allowed to make.

In September of the same year, I made a discovery that literally sucked the air from my lungs and left me broken and completely disillusioned. I had been betrayed again, and my emotional pain had reached a point at which it melded with my physical pain. I was so spent as to be completely ineffective.

I left work full time in October 2007. Corey was laid off in January 2008. Our downward spiral has continued unabated to this moment—unpaid bills after working so hard to gain ground with our finances, continuing health problems (emotional and physical), a constant battle to keep the utilities on, sometimes unsuccessfully.

But we have not succumbed.

“ . . . then you would never have to move into that next second when you know for certain that all possibilities have ceased to exist and that the pain—a pain that you have never felt before, are unfamiliar with, are not used to assimilating and reacting to—that pain has only just begun to consume you.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “Last Possible Second”

In the past 20 months, we have become two shells of the people we once were: both of our lives defined greatly by our careers, the loss of first mine and then Corey’s was a full frontal assault on our sense of worth as individuals. We have floundered about, steadily sliding down a precipice leading to an almost numbing loss of hope.

Angel in Clouds
Angel of Reflection by L. Liwag

And each time that we rally, something else seems to happen to weaken the already strained fabric of our existence: another bill in the mail demanding full payment, another snide comment from someone on the outside about not trying harder. But worse, the unkind cuts from those who should have more understanding.

And then, in just the past two months, we have come within a hair’s breadth of losing our home, the only place in which I feel safe. We do not answer telephone calls from area codes that are unfamiliar as we never know who will be calling to threaten us because we have not made payments.

First the truck and then the SUV have failed, until the most recent complete breakdown of the Trooper on the side of a mountain in western Maryland.

We have depended upon the kindness of our families and even strangers for help. I have depleted the minuscule amount available to me in my retirement account. There is nowhere left to turn for help, and it both frightens and disgusts me that we have reached this point of hopelessness.

We cling to each other, but there are times when being together is too painful, each of us consumed by our own feelings of guilt, worthlessness, and despair, neither wanting to let proximity cause grief for the other.

I have tried prayer, pleas to anything out there that will listen, and I have cried deep into the night at the injustice of it all in one instance, and then in the next second, I weep tears of hot guilt for failing to live up to everything that I promised my father I would be.

“I think that you’ll understand
if I tell you
that Barber’s Adagio for Strings
makes me weep.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “Finding My Way Through Our Friendship”

And then once in a while, perspective kicks in, as does reality, and I am faced with more truth than I can bear: My uncle, my father’s brother with whom he was very close, is very ill, possibly dying, and another wound has been opened. My uncle is one of my last surviving ties to my father.

Blue Angel
Blue Angel by L. Liwag

Corey’s family is filled with a kind of despair, knowing what we face, and being able to offer only so much solace. My own mother is in denial, moving between blame and worry. The few friends who know offer kindness.

My eldest son wants to begin community college in a few weeks, and I know that this is an impossibility, but I do not know how to face him with this news. And even if somehow he is able to begin classes, we no longer have a vehicle for him to drive.

It’s as if we are caught in a kind of endless mobius strip, chasing our tails, catching up long enough to fix one thing only to have two more crash and burn.

There is a chance of Corey being able to get a job with a shipping company, but we must await his certifications from the Coast Guard for his most recent training.

When we returned from our ill-fated trip to Ohio, Corey received a letter in which all of his certifications were kicked back, prolonging the review process and diminishing the chances of getting a job. Another injustice: the reasons for the denial are all based on incorrect facts, a lack or loss of paperwork by the processing center, as all of the documentation has been submitted at least twice. Yet still they persist in holding out what we so badly need.

We are living a nightmare that will not abate, a living purgatory from which there is no release, and I have to ask: Are we bad people? Did one of us do something, somewhere, at some point in time to warrant this hand that fate has dealt us?

“How did you know that it was time  
I didn’t. I still don’t.” ~ Lolita Liwag, “The Final Loss of Hope.”

Is hope not merely a wish, a whim? Do we not invest in hope our deepest, fondest desires to make something that does not exist come into being? And if that is the case, then what is the point of hoping, really, if we know that something is not possible? 

Sleeping boy angel
Sleeping Cherubim by L. Liwag

How do we continue to hope, to hope for hope when the possibilities now seem impossible? 

And in the end, is not hoping for something that is not possible the worst possible betrayal of self, a delusion that can only wound to the very core of our being?

Or is continuing to hope a fool’s errand, that attempt to wish into being something that rests just beyond the reach, futility by its very definition?

Then what purpose, hope?

Peace be with you and yours.

Buying Silk Flowers

cherry-trees-in-bloom-kyoto-japan

Cherry Trees in Bloom, Kyoto, Japan by Q. T. Luong

“Bread feeds the body, indeed, but flowers feed also the soul.” ~ The Koran

Bringing Beauty Where None Exists

akasaka-blooming-cherry-trees1
Blooming Cherry Trees, Akasaka, Japan

This afternoon I created a new floral arrangement to put on Caitlin’s grave. I had hoped to put it together yesterday, but I still did not have everything that I needed. I used to perform this ritual every year, twice a year. I would buy silk flowers and make an arrangement for spring and summer, and place it on Caitin’s grave on her birthday—March 26.

Then I would make another arrangement around the end of October for fall and winter. I would put this arrangement on her grave near the anniversary of her death—November 7.

Eventually, I stopped this ritual. I don’t remember exactly when, but I think that it was near the time of my father’s death, which also occurred in November. I cannot remember why I stopped or what was behind my thought process.

But this year, I decided that I really wanted to make a new arrangement and go to the cemetery. My desire probably arises from my recent series, Vale et Memini, in which I chronicle Caitlin’s illness and death.

So I purchased silk flowers again, and it took me back to those days gone by in which the actual ritual of selecting the flowers was enough to set me back for days, sometimes weeks. I would walk the aisles of Norfolk Wholesale florist for hours, putting together flowers, and then putting some back because I did not like the color scheme. Every choice that I made was personal and instigated by my need to bring beauty to a place that is not beautiful.

I remember that after we buried Caitlin in the infant cemetery, I was so depressed by the lack of trees and fresh blooms in that particular section of the cemetery.

Most of the older sections had beautiful maples and oaks surrounding the periphery, but not the infant section. Consequently, I approached the groundspeople about purchasing trees for the plot. Based on their recommendation, we purchased five Chinese Yoshino Blooming Cherry trees. They planted four along the back of the lot, and one on the end of the row where Caitlin was buried.

This was a family project. Everyone in the family contributed money towards the purchase. Then, about four years later, we purchased one more tree to be planted on the other end of Caitlin’s row.

Now, every spring when the trees bloom, the infant cemetery is surrounded by beautiful pale pink blooms. It was the best investment that I ever made. Other parents hang wind chimes in the trees, and for the most part, the groundspeople do not remove them. At first they thought that I had hung all of the windchimes, but I had not. I was content to have just the trees and the blooms.

The infant cemetery has unwritten rules of conduct for visitors: if someone is visiting, most people will wait in their cars until the parent or relative or friend has finished with their visit so as not to intrude. Many people who visit there do not just clean their children’s gravesites, but will pick up stray trash and set right flowers that have fallen over.

It’s a horrible fraternity to belong to, but at the same time, there is comfort in being with people who are just as devastated as you are and who can truly understand what life has become for you.

On that note, I will close with a few poems from the vault that reflect my varying states after Caitlin’s death.

“Each flower is a soul opening out to nature.” ~ Gerald De Nerval

From the Vault:

cherry-twig1

Cherry Twig by Rose Siegl-Ibsen

On buying silk flowers
for my daughter’s grave. A ritual I have created for myself to prepare me for the anniversary of her death, the logic being this:  If I can take her beauty that I have made, then I won’t have to dwell on the painful truth that brings me to a grave in an infant cemetery on a Monday afternoon in November.
 

 

 

Norfolk,Virginia in

Forest Lawn Cemetery,
among the stone faces of the cherubs
and the silent marble lambs
I have finally come to know
that it is all here, you see,
that no matter how far I travel from this place,
how hard I try to rebuild with what is left,
the piece of me that was you
will always beckon me to return here–
to this soil, this cold earth,
which cradles but does not comfort.
Nothing is nurtured here.
where renewal is as lifeless
as the silk poinsettias,
lovingly placed, then forgotten
left to fade beneath a late winter sun
warm as April, but without the glory.
In this most solitary of places–
crowded with souls long gone
and those newly taken–
here in this small plot of land,
lie the lost dreams
of too many fathers,
too many mothers,
who buried their hopes with their children
in this ground, fertile with sorrows.

 

 

Last Possible Second

Do you have any idea what it is like to hold someone you love until she dies?  Until that last second when all sound is gone and you are sucked into a void—complete nothingness.  And then the monitor doesn’t make that steady beep any more, and all of a sudden, you hear all of the sounds that had been there all along, but you had just stopped noticing them:  the footsteps, the nervous coughs, the sounds of the other monitors attached to other patients.  But most of all, you hear your own heartbeat.  It starts somewhere deep inside of your gut and pulsates relentlessly within your ears.  And you would give anything if the sound would just stop.  If your heart would just stop.  If all of the noise would just stop.  Because if it did, then you would never have to move into that next second when you know for certain that all possibilities have ceased to exist and that the pain—a pain that you have never felt before, are unfamiliar with, are not used to assimilating and reacting to—that pain has only just begun to consume you.  So you wish most of all that your own heart would stop, just as hers did.  And then neither of you would ever have to feel the pain again.

 
Small Silent Victories

I did not.
I did not go.
I did not swallow
the handful of pills on
what would have been your first birthday.
I did not allow myself to return to the emergency room
to slay the resident who said you only had a virus.
I did not allow myself to stay barren forever.
I did not let myself stop feeling things when
I could have stopped feeling anything.
I did not forget how to love others.
I have not forgotten how you smelled.
I have not forgotten you.
I have not left.
I am still here.
I am, still.
I am.

 
More later. Peace

And Now . . . For Something Totally Different

flickering20fireflys
Lightning Bugs

Reflections on the Letter L

I saw this on someone else’s blog, and for the life of me, I cannot remember whose. So if it was yours, please jump in and remind me so that I can give you credit. The idea is that you choose a letter of the alphabet to ponder, and then once you have chosen, you think of ten things that that letter signifies for you and write about them. I thought that it was an interesting writing prompt, and since I am not up for anything too taxing today, I thought that I might try this.

The letter that I have chosen is . . . L. Surprise! I know that you are absolutely dumbfounded, as was I. But it was the first letter that popped into my weary head, and so I thought that free-association may come easier. I’m going to try to find new subjects to write about so that I’m not always writing about the same, predictable things.

  1. Lies: I have a very hard time with lies and liars, and I think that it’s because of my nature to trust too easily and too quickly. As a result of this, I frequently find myself encountering people who lie as easily as they breathe. I find this to be a deplorable trait as what is the point in trying to have a relationship of any kind if it is not based on truths that are shared? Too many people in this world get by on façades which they hide behind, never letting anyone see beyond the persona they have created.
  2. Labradors: I have never made it a secret that labs are my favorite breed of dogs. They are quirky, funny and have incredible senses of humor. Just don’t ever buy one as a guard dog. A lab is more than likely to welcome an intruder and lead them to the cookie jar than to attack them. But they are wonderful family dogs and protective of their little humans. Just don’t leave lab puppies alone to their own devices or you will probably find that they have begun to teeth on your best pair of boots or a piece of furniture. 
  3. Loneliness: I am one of those people who can be very lonely if a loved one is away, or I can relish the time alone in the peace and quiet. It really depends upon the circumstances, as in exactly how long I am going to be alone and why. I do not equate being alone with loneliness. Sometimes, it is very nice to spend time alone; while other times, it is infuriatingly tedious. 
  4. Learning: I am a believer in life-long learning. If it were possible, I would stay in school all of the time earning degrees in different subject areas: anthropology, sociology, political science. Since I can no longer teach, it would suit me just fine to be on the opposite side of the lectern listening and devouring. I know that my sons think that I am some kind of freak for thinking this, for actually wantingto sit in a classroom, but I don’t care. I’m not much for online learning. I like the face-to-face time too much. 
  5. I was offered a job teaching English online for an online college several years ago, but I just could not do it. I was supposed to write scripts for other instructors to use to teach literature classes, but when I sat down to do it, I realized that there was no way that I could put down in a script what I do in a classroom. I ad lib too much, depending upon the mood of the class, my mood, the reading material. And what I do depends so much on the immediate feedback from the students. I literally feed off them. Learning, and teaching, are creative processes. A script does not allow for independent thought.

  6. Lantana: In Mexico, lantana grows wild in between the rocks, and it’s everywhere you look. Corey planted lantana in the front yard, and it’s the centerpiece of the miss20huff20lantana201butterfly garden. The plants, when in full bloom, are almost four feet tall and just as wide, and full of orange and yellow and purple and pink blooms. Like our lilac bush and fresh lavender, butterflies love the blooms and the scents, but the lantana also attracts large bumble bees. When I look at the plants, I am always reminded of the plants in Mexico. 
  7. Lightning Bugs: When I was a child, we used to catch these little beacons in jars and watch them light the jars in which we imprisoned them, never having the first idea that we were harming them. When the boys were young, I used to read a book to them by Eric Carle, I believe, about the lonely lightning bug that was looking for his family, and on the last page, he found them, and there were all of these blinking lights. I loved those books. I remember there used to be so many lightning bugs (or fire flies)in the summer time; they were never hard to find. Now, I hardly ever see them. I wonder what happened to them all. 
  8. Leaves: I love to see the changing leaves in the fall, particularly on Maple trees. The best place in Norfolk for beautiful foliage is Forest Lawn cemetery off Granby Street near the Naval Base. There are so many different kinds of trees planted in that cemetery. I remember that right after Caitlin died, the first few years, I would ride through the cemetery every day, and in the fall, there would be this wonderful path of yellows and reds lining the narrow lanes between the sections. Other than there, Skyline Drive in the foothills of Virginia is a lovely place to drive and look at nature’s autumn pageant. 
  9. Loons: Loons are lake birds, larger than mallards but smaller than geese. They can live for up to 30 years and have been known to mate for life, but what is so distinctive about loons, and what I find so intriguing about these water birds, is their call, which has been described as haunting. In some native legends, the loon is a bird of magical power. To me, the sound of a loon calling, and the water lapping is the epitome of a natural concerto.

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  11. Lockets: Lockets are wondrous things, and you don’t see them much anymore. I’m talking about the sizable lockets of the Victorian era in which small keys and shakespeare-sonnet-locket-based-on-va-museumlocks of hair could be enclosed from prying eyes. Lockets could also contain powders, poisons, and other secrets. Made of sterling, gold, aluminum, brass and copper, the lockets of old were much more interesting than today’s lockets, which tend to be flat, with only enough room for pictures. Round and heart-shaped Victorian lockets were often set with seed pearls and jewels such as rubies, and were often monogrammed and worn close to the heart.
  12. Li-Young Lee: I’ll bet you thought that I was going to finish with love, didn’t you? I told you, I’m trying for new topics tonight. Li-Young Lee is one of my favorite poets, and his poem “The Gift,” one of my very favorite poems. I will close with the first two stanzas of that poem because it always reminds me of my father, his hands, the great care that he took when he was doing something gentle with them:

 
The Gift

To pull the metal splinter from my palm
my father recited a story in a low voice.
I watched his lovely face and not the blade.
Before the story ended, he’d removed
the iron sliver I thought I’d die from.

I can’t remember the tale,
but hear his voice still, a well
of dark water, a prayer.
And I recall his hands,
two measures of tenderness
he laid against my face,
the flames of discipline
he raised above my head.

(from The City In Which I loved You, 1990) 

More later. Peace.