“Bodies have their own light which they consume to live: they burn, they are not lit from outside.” ~ Egon Schiele

Fire in the Sky (NOAA Corps Collection)

                   

“A great fire burns within me, but no one stops to warm themselves at it, and passers-by only see a wisp of smoke.” ~ Vincent van Gogh

Sailboats at Sunset (Pixdaus)Sailboats at Sunset (Pixdaus)

Sunday afternoon. Partly cloudy, hot and very humid. 

The house is quiet. The dogs are all hiding in cool spots, so it’s just Brett and me. Corey had a medical transport today, which means a road trip to Dulles Airport and back, long day, but good hours for him.

Some welcome news for a change: After my, shall we say, less-than-friendly letter to the president of the Ford dealership, we have resolution at last. The dealer is going to honor the buy-back and try to recoup the money from Ford Motor Company, which will pull us out of the dispute. I mailed the letter on Monday and received a call from a vice president on Tuesday. We’re set to turn in the rental and pick up the check this coming Tuesday, so after seven months, resolution in two days.

Isn’t it amazing what carefully chosen words can do? My friend Mari once suggested that I go into business writing letters of complaint for people.

Another avenue unexplored . . .

No rental means we go back to one vehicle temporarily, but with the check from the dealer, we can finally get Corey’s truck fixed (transmission, transfer case, etc.). I know that he’ll be glad to have his truck working again; the only drawback is what it will cost to fill the truck with gas versus what we’ve been paying to fill these little economy-class cars from the rental company. Big difference there.

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” ~ Frederick Douglass

Sailboat at Sunset (Pixdaus)

Well, I had my lumbar puncture on Thursday, which brought on an instantaneous migraine and laid me low all day Friday and partially yesterday. Hence, no post. I did try to write last night, but my wrists and hands were still tingling. Don’t ask me why . . .

The procedure itself is uncomfortable, mostly because of the position in which I had to place my body. The only thing that I felt at the puncture site was some pressure. So glad that LPs have come a long way from the frightful spinal taps of the past. I cannot imagine having the puncture done without numbing medicine first. However, because the doctor had to go through scar tissue from my operation, it took a few tries before she was in, which produced a bonus sensation: a shooting pain from my back all the way down my right leg.

Nothing is ever easy or straightforward when it comes to my body and doctors.

It would be nice if she actually gets some kind of results from the tests, if only because it will help to explain some of the constant headaches. They are such a part of my life now that I only notice when I don’t have a headache.

“There is a place where time stands still . . . illuminated by only the most feeble red light, for light is diminished to almost nothing at the center of time, its vibrations slowed to echoes in vast canyons, its intensity reduced to the faint glow of fireflies.” ~ Alan Lightman

Sunset at Samurai Beach, NSW, Australia (Wikimedia Commons)

I’ve been thinking about people again, in the general sense. Remember I had mentioned people who are cheerful, who smile easily and how I am not one of those kinds of people? Well, what about those individuals in whom you can sense a burning, an internal fire?

These are the people who will not be bound by the shackles of an ordinary life. I’m not talking about the Donald Trumps of the world; those are the people who climb upon the backs of others to get what they want (no idea what made me think of Trump, who I truly despise). I’m talking about people like Beethoven, van Gogh, Emily Dickinson—the ones in whom the passion inside was so great that they just had to find a way to release it.

Beethoven composed, created great beauty that he could not hear. When his hearing began to fail, he did not stop composing; rather, he composed more fervently. The music that he heard inside was such a primal force that the composer put his ear to the floor to feel the vibrations. I don’t know that I believe that Beethoven was writing for the world. Instead, I think that he was writing to set himself free. Unless he made the notes real, they would haunt him.

Vincent van Gogh was mad and brilliant, and that combination brought forth yellow stars that are instantly recognizable throughout the world. The artist had so much to say, even if no one around him wanted to hear the words. Imagine what it must have felt like for van Gogh, alone with only his mind, never quite knowing what was real, and then transferring those emotions into vivid swirls in hues brilliant to behold. Imagine the force that drove van Gogh to paint himself over and over—his attempt to make himself real? Solid?

The reclusive Emily Dickinson alone, fragile, writing page after page of verse that the world would know nothing of until after her death. Dickinson dared to stray from the conventions of her time—no titles, extensive use of dashes, odd capitalization, short lines with internal rhyme— and wrote instead what her heart spoke to her. I wonder if she had any inkling of how much her writing would change the landscape of poetry.

“Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.” ~ Patti Smith

Caribbean Sunset by photon y (FCC)

I suppose what I am pondering is how each of these creative individuals possessed a spark that urged them onward, regardless of circumstances. Each burned within, consumed with passion and desire. Each garnered more attention after death than during life. Did each die thinking him or herself a failure?

How we judge ourselves is very telling indeed.

Burning desire. Creative passion. clichés? Perhaps, but that fire does exist, and it does not exist in everyone. This I know for certain. But is this internal fire a partner to madness, the madness that comes from wanting something so much that everything else is left by the wayside? What else but mad desire would have driven Michelangelo to lie on his back for four years to paint the Sistine Chapel?

To be clear, I know the difference between mad desire and psychotic desire: The first gives the world Michelangelo’s frescoes; the second gives the world Hitler’s death camps. Creative madness eats at the soul of the individual who harbors it; it does not harbor a desire to destroy those who look on. That is not to say that the person who gives rise to such passion does not take prisoners along the way. Just consider the siblings and spouses left behind to pick up the pieces. Ted Hughes was still trying to come to terms with Sylvia Plath in his last published work, in spite of his own poetic genius.

Perhaps what I am really contemplating is whether or not that spark still resides somewhere in my soul. Do I still possess the same passion for words that I once felt, or worse, did I never really feel it? No, I should not dissemble: I have felt it all my life—the it that separates those of us who are different, not of the mainstream. And I know the price that we pay, know how many will subsume the desire in order to fit in, to be like everyone else.

It’s like walking a tightrope backwards: a constant balancing act without any clear idea of where it’s all going. It’s as if we are constantly moving into the sunset, blinded by the fire in the sky, but unwilling to give up the quest beyond the horizon because to attain it, the elusive it, would mean peace at last, at least, that’s what we convince ourselves. As Henry James once said, “We work in the dark—we do what we can—we give what we have. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. The rest is the madness of art.”

Music by Right the Stars, “You Know the Way to Go”

                   

Flame

the breath               the trees               the bridge
the road                  the rain                the sheen
the breath              the line                  the skin
the vineyard          the fences             the leg
the water               the breath             the shift
the hair                  the wheels            the shoulder
the breath              the lane                the streak
the lining               the hour                the reasons
the name                the distance          the breath
the scent                the dogs                the blear
the lungs                the breath             the glove
the signal               the turn                  the need
the steps                the lights               the door
the mouth             the tongue             the eyes
the burn                the burned            the burning

~ C. D. Wright

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“We search for patterns, you see, only to find where the patterns break. And it’s there, in that fissure, that we pitch our tents and wait.” ~ Nicole Krauss, from “Great House”

Snowy, Snowy Night by Miranda Wildman (mirandawildmanart.com) 

                   

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” ~ Frederick Douglass

Snow Glow by John Rawlinson (Flckr creative commons)

Sunday afternoon. Cold and cloudy.

It snowed last night for several hours. Snow in early December—not normal for this area. Of course all of the snow was gone this morning, but it was pretty while it lasted.

I’ve been on a cleaning binge for the past two days. It takes so much longer to do what I used to do in one Saturday afternoon. I have to clean a little and then take a break, so I usually visit my tumblr during breaks to see what has been posted most recently on the dashboard. I find that I really enjoy tumblr; I read somewhere that tumblr is the in-depth equivalent of Facebook, which makes sense to me. I mean, FB is nice for finding out how your friends in other places are doing, but the same can be accomplished with a phone call or e-mail.

Very often on tumblr, a predominant theme will show up on the dash quite by accident (e.g., book burning, war, silence). One individual starts with a few posts, and then other like-minded individuals join the thread. It’s a different kind of social networking. The most important thing is not the statement on how you are feeling, but the posts that reflect how you are feeling, or what you are doing, or what you are thinking.

For someone like me who loves quotes, photography, and art, it’s a treasure chest, and with each visit I find something new. The only problem is that as tumblr become more popular, the site’s servers are having a hard time keeping up with the traffic.

“True alchemy lies in this formula: ‘Your memory and your senses are but the nourishment of your creative impulse.’” ~ Arthur Rimbaud, Illuminations

Fall Snow (Pixdaus)

So aside from Eamonn’s room, the house is clean. My intent is to decorate sometime this week so that I’m not doing everything at the last minute again this year. I have the wreath on the front door, but that’s as far as I’ve gotten.

I did spend some time on YouTube yesterday creating my country/folk playlist. A few nights ago I watched CMT’s songs of the decade special, which reminded me of how much I actually like country music, something I would not have said a decade ago. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of traditional country, with the twang and such; I’m more of a crossover fan, heartache, love, and betrayal Keith Urban, Rascall Flatts, and Sugarland style.

I remember watching a CMT special on the best 100 country love songs several years ago. Corey was out on the boat, and by the time the show was over I was a blubbery mess. I called Corey, and when I told him what I had watched, he understood perfectly why I was crying. Country music has a way of doing that to me.

I amassed a playlist of 86 songs in just a few hours. Who knew I knew that many country and folk songs . . .

“The need for mystery is greater than the need for an answer.” ~ Ken Kesey 

Snowstorm (Pixdaus)

Corey is at work. He got off at 11 p.m. last night and had to go back in at 7 this morning; he works until 8 tonight. Getting hours is great, but I have to say that the scheduling lacks forethought. I know that scheduling people is hard; I had to schedule 50 people at a time, and it’s a great big headache. But this sergeant doesn’t even allow Corey to get a good night’s sleep before asking him to work 13 hours.

I know that he’s really tired of port security, and I don’t envy him having to stand watch on a ship for 8 hours in the freezing cold. As he said, at least when he’s on a tugboat, he’s never outside for eight hours at a time.

Here’s hoping that with 2011 we get to start the year on a new path. It seems that I’ve said that so many times in the past few years. I just don’t really know what to think any more, and I certainly don’t know what I should hope for

“The books we need are the kind that act upon us like a misfortune, that make us suffer like the death of someone we love more than ourselves, that make us feel as though we were on the verge of suicide, or lost in a forest remote from all human habitation—a book should serve as the ax for the frozen sea within us.” ~ Franz Kafka

Snow on Rose by Russell.Tomlin

I am very behind in my reading and reviewing. I have received a few advanced reader’s copies that I need to read and review before the end of the year. And since I hope to get some books for Christmas, I really need to finish at least two of the books that I am currently reading. One is by Elizabeth George, and the other is by P. D. James—two of my very favorite authors.

I’ve been reading about the Stieg Larsson trilogy, and I think that that’s the next series that I want to tackle. We got a Costco flyer in the mail, and the entire set in hardback is available online, so maybe if I get a little cash sometime soon, I might be able to order it.

I also want to read Birthday Letters by Ted Hughes. I’ve read a lot of Sylvia Plath, but not much of Ted Hughes. I think that I, like many people, blame Hughes for Plath’s death, which is not really fair. The reality is that Plath would have committed suicide at one point or another in her life, and if she had been found in time on the day she stuck her head in the oven, then she most likely would have tried again. Certainly no one can say for sure.

“There comes a time in every life when the world gets quiet and the only thing left is your own heart. So you’d better learn to know the sound of it. Otherwise you’ll never understand what it’s saying.” ~ Sarah Dessen, Just Listen

Tree Branches in Snow by D. Sharon Pruitt (Flckr creative commons)

Tortured souls who make up their minds to commit suicide most often do so eventually unless they have some kind of major change or epiphany.

Life is hard, harder for some than others. Some people move through their days as if covered in teflon, nothing penetrating or touching. But if nothing bad can touch them, then neither can anything good get through the protective armor. Other people walk through life with their hearts, souls, and psyches on the outside—the walking wounded who never seem to heal.

And then there is the space between through which most of us move. We suffer storms and sometimes find ourselves blinded by relentless deluges. And then we take a few more steps and move into the clear, sometimes even stumbling into brilliance.

I have no way of foretelling what the coming days and months have waiting in store for me and those I love. I know what we need and what I wish, but life’s patterns are only discernible in retrospect. I only know that asking why some things work and others go terribly wrong is akin to spitting into the wind.

Reasons get tangled like briars, and sometimes thoughts are so black that no light can illuminate the darkness surrounding them. But sometimes just waiting for the bitter wind to stop howling is enough to get through the night.  

The heart, as Ondaatje describes it, it an organ of fire, moving through joy and sorrow alike in search of what it needs to survive. It’s all that we can do.

More later. Peace. 

One of the saddest songs ever, “Whiskey Lullabye,” by Brad Paisley and Allison Krauss

                   

Waking at 3 a.m.

Even in the cave of the night when you
wake and are free and lonely,
neglected by others, discarded, loved only
by what doesn’t matter—even in that
big room no one can see,
you push with your eyes till forever
comes in its twisted figure eight
and lies down in your head.

You think water in the river;
you think slower than the tide in
the grain of the wood; you become
a secret storehouse that saves the country,
so open and foolish and empty.

You look over all that the darkness
ripples across. More than has ever
been found comforts you. You open your
eyes in a vault that unlocks as fast
and as far as your thought can run.
A great snug wall goes around everything,
has always been there, will always
remain. It is a good world to be
lost in. It comforts you. It is
all right. And you sleep.

~ William Stafford 

“When you eventually see through the veils to how things really are, you will keep saying again and again, this is certainly not like we thought it was.” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi

Happy Birthday Lincoln . . . I Think

 

“The trouble lies in your not believing in yourselves enough. Because you don’t believe in yourselves you are knocked here and there by all the conditions in which you find yourselves.” ~ Lin-chi Yi-sen

So another trip to the financial aid offices at Tidewater Community College and Old Dominion University for Eamonn and Brett respectively.

Can I just share with you how much fun this was—again? This time, we packed up all of our tax information, Corey’s unemployment documentation, and anything else that we thought they might need. Completely prepared, right? Not.

At TCC, we needed Eamonn’s signature on a form as well as a copy of his tax return for 2009. At ODU, we met with a financial aid counselor who obviously had no idea what we were requesting. I explained that we had already been there once and that we were told to bring in documents A, B, C, and D. Blank stare. I explained our financial situation. Blank stare. I suggested that she might want to make copies of A, B, C, and D. Blank stare as she walked away. Finally, she says, “I’ll pass this along to one of the counselors because I don’t do this.”

No. Really? I had no idea.

I must say, though, that trying to make our way through the bureaucracy would be made easier if dumbass people didn’t think that Corey was my son and not my husband. Like we look so much like one another. Yes, there is an age difference, but I do not look like his mother. Talk about depressing. And here I was thinking that I was looking pretty good.

That’s what I get.

“At a time like this, scorching irony, not convincing argument, is needed.” ~ Frederick Douglass 

So we get home, and I have this sudden burst of energy, which makes me want to clean the bedroom. Bad idea. Really bad idea. What usually happens when I have these bursts is that I overdo it, so of course, I overdid it, and I didn’t even finish cleaning the room.

While I was tackling the bedroom, a cop drove by the illegally parked cars in front of our house and put a citation on Corey’s truck for having expired tags and an invalid inspection sticker. Perfect. Only it gets better: We have 48 hours to fix the situation.

The truck is dead, has been dead. To fix it requires money, a bunch of money, money that we do not have. And it’s a big ‘ol Dodge Ram truck, so we cannot exactly hide it in our back yard. Options? Rent a storage space for it until we get enough money to fix it . . . Put it in the backyard with a camouflage tarp over it . . . Go to DMV to update the tags and park the truck in the driveway in the hopes that that will satisfy the appetite of the citation giver.

I should have known that any attempts that I made to restore order in part of the house would cause an equal and opposite reaction in another aspect of the house, i.e., clean bedroom, bad truck.

The end result is that the bedroom is half clean, and the truck is halfway to truck jail. The boys’ financial aid is half done, and life is half-baked.

Short and sweet (bitter?). That’s all for now.

More later. Peace.

Music by Diana Krall, “Cry Me a River”

In keeping with today’s bitchy mood, all images are from http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/.