“He no longer trusted words.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from Divisadero


“Maybe I have written to see; to have what I never would have had . . . from the tips of the fingers that transcribe by the sweet dictates of vision. From the point of view of the soul’s eye: the eye of a womansoul. From the point of view of the Absolute, in the proper sense of the word: Separation.” ~ Hélène Cixous, from “Coming to Writing”

Thursday afternoon. Partly cloudy and warmer, 45 degrees.

Not really certain as to what I want to say today. I took a little time out to put on some makeup. Don’t ask me why. I mean, for the dogs? I suppose for myself more than anything. Sometimes I just feel so dowdy, and then I turn to my vast collection of makeup that goes unused day after day. I never used to feel like that—dowdy. Of course, I had a job to go to, people to meet. I dressed in more than yoga pants and t-shirts. I fixed my hair and my face. It seems like a lifetime ago, and actually it was—a decade this past October.

I cannot believe that it’s been that long, and at the same time, I cannot remember what it was really like, only the idea of what it was like. Does that make sense?

Who was I then? I had a full-time job, career, and my sons still lived at home, were still in school. My house was crowded with people and things, and it was a good time. I was in graduate school again getting my publishing degree. Corey was going to sea and enjoying his career. We took vacations as a family and as a couple. Things were so different. I’m not really sure what I miss the most. All of it? Some of it? Who knows . . .

“Thus they went on living in a reality that was slipping away, momentarily captured by words, but which would escape irremediably when they forgot the values of the written letters.” ~ Gabriel García Márquez, from One Hundred Years of Solitude

I can honestly say, though, that I didn’t get back to my writing in any kind of regular way until I was forced to go on disability in 2008. Between approximately 1999 to 2008, I wrote only sporadically. I worked, a lot. Writing didn’t really fit into that schedule, but then I met Corey, and I wrote during the beginnings of our relationship, and then, not so much. Well, that’s not exactly true; when Corey started going to sea, we both started journaling, and then we would exchange journals for his next trip. That was very meaningful for both of us, I believe.

But after the back operation and the disability decision? I mean, it was a matter of write or go crazy, and so this little blog that I had begun as part of a project for a publishing class began to take on more shape, began to turn into something regular and predictable in my life, and that, too, was good.

I don’t know why I never wrote my book, books. There were so many starts and stops, and I kept telling myself that I had time, that May Sarton didn’t even get published until she was in her 50’s. I had time, I kept telling myself. The irony is not lost on me.

And now I feel as though I’m out of time, out of time to write that book, that is. God. So many plots, so many characters, so many spurts of dialogue and settings. So many pieces, so disparate and so cohesive at the same time. It was going to be a mystery, a memoir, a biography, a history, a thriller. It was going to be a confessional with poetry, essays and photographs. It was going to be . . . so many things.

You can begin to see my problem. It’s nothing new. It’s a matter of having too many words and too few words simultaneously. It’s also a matter of a seeming lack of discipline.

“You are looking
for mountains to climb.
I am looking
for the words to a poem
I can’t remember.” ~ Sarah Kay, from “A Place to Put Our Hands”

Other people write books all of the time, and other people who write books go on to be not famous, end up working in tech or a grocery store, but dammit, they tried, at least. I never wanted to write to be famous or rich. I wanted to write for validation, to prove that I could, to show that my words could mean something, could touch someone besides me.

My first husband, I’ll give him credit, used to read my poems and try oh so hard to be nice. He would say things like, “I understand this, but maybe not everyone would.” It was so frustrating and yet, comforting. I knew that he was trying to be kind; that was when we were still kind to one another. And then he left, and I wrote and wrote and wrote, so many words that so many women who had gone through the same thing could understand. I wrote for days on end. I still remember the words just flying from my fingers, unabated by anything. Yet still, I never sent out my poems. Never tried for publication.

Look. It’s not that I don’t think that I could get published. I’ve sent out three poems in my life, and one was published. I entered two writing contests, and placed third my first time. So I know that there is a grain of talent here. And yes, I know that self-publishing is a thing now. People on tumblr seem to do it successfully all of the time . . .

Maybe I’m just lazy. Or maybe, I’m so fricking insecure and so very afraid of criticism that I continue to try to protect myself by not even trying. Maybe . . .

“The world seethes with words. Forgive me.” ~ Paul Bowles, from “Next to Nothing”

Okay. All of that is all well and good. So what about here? What about this blog? This blog takes discipline, work, and dedication. I mean, 90 percent of the time I put my words down here. Sometimes they’re funny. Sometimes informative, and sometimes they even speak to the heart. More often than not, they are nothing more than a journal like Samuel Pepys, who recorded daily life in London from 1660 to 1669. The ironic thing is that his diary turned out to be a very informative document that included entries on the great plague and the great fire of London.

Will my blog be famous 50 years from now because I talked about horses and dogs and trees? Or because I talked about the heartbreak of losing a child in infancy and then losing children in a different way in adulthood? Or because I bemoaned the loss of friends over the years, mostly due to my own consistent inattention. Yes, a lot of what I say is relatable to a lot of people, and a lot that I say is not relatable at all. So will this blog become some kind of marker of life here in the mountains, or in a small town, or life during this turbulent political time? Doubtful.

I mostly write these words to try to keep my brain and my spirit nimble, and if someone in the ether reads what I have to say, that’s wonderful, but I cannot count on that. Writing my way through is what I’ve always done, and it’s what I’ll always do, in one way or another. I know that I’m self-absorbed; I’ve never claimed otherwise. But then, I am simultaneously too empathetic to the plights of those around me. Other’s pain affects me more than I care to admit. A dichotomy. Again, nothing new. But these aspects of my personality feed into my creative side, at least.

“Words, I think, are such unpredictable creatures. No gun, no sword, no army or king will ever be more powerful than a sentence. Swords may cut and kill, but words will stab and stay, burying themselves in our bones to become corpses we carry into the future, all the time digging and failing to rip their skeletons from our flesh.” ~ Tahereh Mafi, from Shatter Me

I have another admission: I always imagined that living in the mountains in the midst of such natural beauty would offer a wellspring of creative drive, that I would be like Thoreau and suck that frigging marrow out of life, etc. But one reality is that creative people, while they like to work in solitude, often feed off other creative people, and I just don’t think that I’m going to find a writing group anywhere around here, especially as I cannot even find a decent doctor.

But technology has fixed that. There are countless writing groups and communities online Diana Gabaldon, creator of the Outlander series, began her writing career as an exercise on a forum, and now look at her, how many books later? Other people began their writing careers while they were working full-time jobs as lawyers, publishers, university professors, coroners, whatever, and they passed their writing around to colleagues, friends, for feedback, criticism.

So why can’t I get it together enough to put one word after another into some semblance of a manuscript? Why? Nothing? Several years ago I promised myself that I would look for an agent. Did that happen? Need you ask? Did I complete NaNoWriMo? Nope.

I know that I’m spitting into the wind (such a lovely turn of phrase that), but I am genuinely searching for an answer here. I want to know why I cannot move from the safety of this screen beyond, into . . . into whatever is out there. Why am I so freaking scared? What is it in me that is so fragile that causes me to shy away from what I want the most for myself?

I have no answers. I seem to type that a lot lately, but it’s true. I have absolutely no answers. The only thing that I can say is that I’ll keep looking. I owe myself that much at least. And as Mr. Keating (Robin Williams) said in Dead Poets, “and the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?”

I have no idea. Yet.

More later. Peace.

All images are taken from Wordstuck, which is currently dormant, but you can find it here.

Music by Sleeping at Last, “Saturn”


I Want to Write Different Words for You

I want to write different words for you
To invent a language for you alone
To fit the size of your body
And the size of my love.

I want to travel away from the dictionary
And to leave my lips
I am tired of my mouth
I want a different one
Which can change
Into a cherry tree or a match box,
A mouth from which words can emerge
Like nymphs from the sea,
Like white chicks jumping from the magician’s hat.

~ Nizar Qabbani (Trans. Bassam K. Frangieh and Clementina R. Brown)

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“I am in the mood to dissolve into the sky.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Purple Portal to Narnia (photographer unknown)*

                   

“On a small planet, where minute follows minute, day follows day, year follows year, where tradition marches on with a deafening, orderly beat—sometimes the order is disturbed by a dreamer, an artist, a scribbler — sometimes the beat is changed one person at a time.” ~ Mary E. Pearson, from Scribbler of Dreams

Saturday afternoon. Sunny and mild, mid 60’s.

Well, it’s been an eventful week. The dems won Virginia and Ohio. Obama won reelection, and Corey came home. This is good news for you also as it means that my political posts will go back to almost nothing for a while.

Narnia Portal, Sintra, Portugal (photographer unknown)

The ship pulled in Thursday night, and Corey was officially signed off yesterday afternoon. So he’s home for a bit, which is really nice. They hit some rough weather off the Outer Banks, which delayed them a bit, but not too much. I’m hoping that now that he’s home safely and now that the election is finally over and I can rest easy because no politicians are going to interfere with my personal health issues that I can regain the focus that I lost at the beginning of the week.

When I changed the direction of my story on NaNoWriMo, I was full of words, and they came pouring out unimpeded, and then I hit that wall, the one that always does me in. Since Monday, I’ve only written about 600 new words, which puts me sorely behind in my word count and my month’s goals. My plan is to try to get a lot written this weekend, but I really wanted to do a real post for today before going back to the novel project.

“Night is longing, longing, longing, beyond all endurance.” ~ Henry Miller, from Sexus

The other night I had the strangest dream: I was crippled, as in my legs weren’t functioning. I was attending a wedding for my friend Rebecca; she was remarrying her ex-husband, something that would never happen. For the first dance, her ex offered to dance with me, but I wasn’t really sure this would work as I couldn’t walk or stand on my own, and then someone brought in a walker for me. Very, very strange.

Narnia: Tree Portal, Ireland (photographer unknown)

I haven’t heard from Rebecca in a while. She moved out of Hampton Roads this past August, not too far away. I’m terrible at maintaining friendships these days.

Anyway, this past week also saw yet another bad anniversary for me: Caitlin’s death on November 7th. Honestly, I was more upset on Monday than on Wednesday, though. She died on a Monday afternoon, and all day on Monday I was in a fairly deep funk. I never know from one year to the next how this date will affect me, if it will affect me, how bad or not so bad things will be. My reaction is as unpredictable as the days. I suppose I should just be thankful that I am no longer completely paralyzed by the anniversary in the same way that I was in the first decade after her death.

For those of you who are wondering if I really meant to say decade, yes, a decade.

“I discovered that my obsession for having each thing in the right place, each subject at the right time, each word in the right style, was not the well-deserved reward of an ordered mind but just the opposite: a complete system of pretense invented by me to hide the disorder of my nature. I discovered that I am not disciplined out of virtue but as a reaction to my negligence . . .” ~ Gabriel García Márquez

So getting back to the whole writing thing . . . I really like my protagonist, probably because I have her doing a lot of stream of consciousness/internal monologue stuff, but I’m wondering if it’s sustainable. As in, can I keep this going for a couple of hundred pages? And I finally got clarification from the NaNoWriMo people: I keep my existing word count even though I switched subjects, so I’m not as behind as I thought, but the four-day lapse really didn’t help.

Gateway to Narnia? (location and photographer unknown)

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and mild, low 70’s

Yep. I packed it in yesterday. Just couldn’t think of anything to write here. Nothing to write on the novel. Nothing to write anywhere except bills, which is what caused the complete cessation of anything creative. I found out that in my attempt to pay some bills, I overdrew the joint checking account, which caused one of those domino effects. I really hate that. I really hate taking care of the finances, even though I managed to do it fairly well while Corey was gone. Money management just isn’t my thing. I mean, even when I attempt to do the right thing, pay down some past due balances, I manage to screw it up.

WHY??? (That’s the sound of me shrieking.)

“Everyone carries a room about inside him. This fact can even be proved by means of the sense of hearing. If someone walks fast and one pricks up one’s ears and listens, say in the night, when everything round about is quiet, one hears, for instance, the rattling of a mirror not quite firmly fastened to the wall.” ~ Franz Kafka, The Blue Octavo Notebooks

Corey has begun the arduous task of cleaning out the garage, which in the past few years has become that place where just about everything has gone to rest: Christmas decorations, boxes of books, boxes of other stuff, whatever. If you can think of it, it’s probably residing somewhere in our garage. Just to attempt to breech it is akin to preparing for battle. Boxes placed precariously atop one another. Picture frames from which the glass has fallen and broken on the floor. Loose nails and wires. It is a room filled with traps, and many times I have stood before it and wanted to tackle the mess, but I know that what I once could have knocked out in a weekend would knock me flat, so I’ve left it, and now, it’s Corey’s.

Narnia Gateway (location and photographer unknown)

We’re going to rent a storage space so that the garage and shed can be emptied of all of the stuff (all-encompassing term, stuff), and the goal is that Corey can get back to his renovation projects next year.

T’would be wonderful, indeed.

The plan is for the garage to become a small den, and for the part of the garage that abuts the kitchen wall to become a small second bath and pantry. I would love to knock out the end wall of the kitchen to expand that by six feet, but we’re talking major reno there. Actually, it’s all major reno. And each project is dependent upon another project. I keep telling myself that it will be worth it as we will add value to the house for resale. I’m just glad that we’re not trying to sell anytime soon. It will be far better to wait for the market to continue in its rebound, which it will, although I seriously doubt that it will rebound to the unrealistic market of 2004 or so, during which anything that went on the market sold for well above asking price.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

“I am learning to see. I don’t know why it is, but everything enters me more deeply and doesn’t stop where it once used to. I have an interior that I never knew of. Everything passes into it now. I don’t know what happens there.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge

So I’m hoping that today after I post this I can knock out a couple of book reviews and then perhaps attempt to get back to the writing project, although to be truthful, I’m still not feeling it. I know that there are scads of writers out there who contend that there is no such thing as writer’s block, that it’s just an excuse. To whom I say beh. I know writer’s block, just as I know reader’s block. My mind shuts down, or it becomes selective in what it will process and how.

Narnia: Laurel Hill Cemetery

When I finished a book last night, I was overjoyed. I am used to knocking out a couple of books a week, at a minimum. When I go through these reading blocks, I really feel the loss acutely. I love everything about books. I would love to be able to say that I’ve written one, a real one, not just one I’ve been hired to write about a man I didn’t particularly like. That wasn’t writing; it was regurgitating.

So why am I not writing? Why am I letting the days slide by me like shifting sand? I have no answers except that November is not a particularly propitious month for me under the best of circumstances. A month-long writing project would serve me much better in, say, January. Who chose November? Why? Again, no real answers.

Are my words lame excuses? Probably. Will I try again? Definitely? Will I succeed? Who knows.

More later. Peace.

(*All images were found on “20 Entrances That Are Clearly Gateways to Narnia.” I tried to track down original sources, but was not very successful.)

Music by Eliza Rickman, “Cinnamon Bone”


Finding the Scarf

The woods are the book
we read over and over as children.
Now trees lie at angles, felled
by lightning, torn by tornados,
silvered trunks turning back

to earth. Late November light
slants through the oaks
as our small parade, father, mother, child,
shushes along, the wind searching treetops
for the last leaf. Childhood lies

on the forest floor, not evergreen
but oaken, its branches latched
to a graying sky. Here is the scarf
we left years ago like a bookmark,

meaning to return the next day,
having just turned our heads
toward a noise in the bushes,
toward the dinnerbell in the distance,

toward what we knew and did not know
we knew, in the spreading twilight
that returns changed to a changed place.

~ Wyatt Townley, from The Afterlives of Trees

“There is a great deal that either has to be given up or be taken away from you if you are going to succeed in writing a body of work” ~ Susan Sontag’s thoughts on writing, from her diaries

                   

“Whatever I do I must
keep my head. I know
it is easier for me to lose my way
forever here, than in other landscapes” ~ Margaret Atwood, from Journey to the Interior

Sunday, late morning. Sunny, not as hot, but thunderstorms predicted for later, 80’s.

I had big plans to write on Friday and Saturday, but I became distracted by all of the things that still needed to be done, like sorting my files on this computer, cleaning my desk, giving the dogs a bath, cleaning the floors . . . I used to think that if I had a bigger house, that it wouldn’t get so messy, but now I realize that the mess would just be bigger. The dogs would still come in with wet paws; people would still leave mail in odd places, and dishes would just have more places to get lost in if there were more space.

Pigmy Manta Rays at Aussie Point, Munda, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffhanger (FCC)

Anyway, Corey had an uneventful flight to New York, and he’s all settled in to his quarters; he sounds tired, though. The ship is actually coming to Norfolk this coming week to take on a load. Have to love that. I have no idea as to how long he’ll be in port, but I’ll take what I can get. Tillie is already missing him as she is acting out quite a bit. She wakes me up with a ball in her mouth as if to say, “Now? Now?” Or she sits on the bed while I’m at the computer, and she talks to me (yes, talks).

Tonight, we get to babysit Miss Olivia while Alexis and Mike go to a surprise birthday party for her friend Jennifer, who has been cancer free for over a year now (who would have thought?), I believe. Eamonn is very excited that the baby will be here. I wonder how excited he’ll be when I tell him to change a diaper . . . Speaking of the baby, I still haven’t downloaded the pictures from the camera, but I figured that I’d just take a few more today, and then download the whole bunch. How’s that for logic?

“I am
a series of
small victories
and large defeats
and I am as
amazed
as any other
that
I have gotten
from there to
here . . .” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “The People Look Like Flowers At Last”

So I have clean dogs, a clean desk, clean floors. I’ve almost finished going through the pile of papers, and I’ve almost finished the Social Security form. I had my eye exam and was fitted properly for multi-focal lenses (which I don’t happen to have in at the moment) and now have a new prescription for glasses. I’ve picked out the frames, just have to buy them and take them to Sam’s Club to get the lenses put in. I seem to have accomplished quite a bit.

Top Shelf, Munda, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffbanger (FCC)

So why do I feel as if I’ve accomplished nothing? Last night I dreamt that it was time for final exams, and I hadn’t been to two of my graduate classes and was behind in turning in assignments. I was trying to explain to my professors that I had been sick, but to no avail. One of my instructors did offer me some candy to make me feel better, but she still wasn’t going to accept any late assignments, and I needed to read two books in one day for a final exam. Such a stressful dream, but so telling: I’m behind even when I’m ahead.

Last night when I was backposting for this past week, I felt genuinely sad and disappointed in myself. I mean, I do like what I’ve posted, the poems, the quotes, but they aren’t real posts, are they? At least not real within the parameters that I’ve set for myself. I never wanted this blog to become a chore, but last night it felt that way, felt a bit like the song of the albatross (which is something I said once upon waking from a dream(?)), but that feeling is another reason that I did not go on to write more then.

Did that make any sense?

“Sometimes it gets lonely here,
the sea water collapses
out beyond the horizon
like the dream I thought
I understood, only to find
waking harder than the dream’s horizon.” ~ Michael Burkard, from “Directly in Shadow”

I feel as though I’m a walking jumble of emotions all of the time, not just here and there, but all the time, and that’s quite disconcerting. I’m happy that Olivia is here, and she’s healthy and happy and good-natured (as far as one can tell about an infant). I’m sad that Corey is gone for another three months, but I’m glad that he’ll be in port soon, but it will be hard to gear myself up to say goodbye again.

Rock Hind in a Sponge, Netherlands Antilles, Bonaire
NOAA Photo Library (FCC)

I’m glad that we’re doing much better financially, but I’m so sad that Corey is working at a job that keeps him from going to college and keeps him away from the family for long stretches. I’m glad that Brett has found a major that he truly loves, but I wish that he knew how to drive, but I understand why he doesn’t want to learn.

I’m glad that my mother seems relatively healthy, but I’m terrified because I think that I’m seeing signs of Alzheimer’s, and I have no idea as to how to approach her about this.

I’m delighted that I have my computer back and that everything is set up and working, but seeing it sitting here on this desk is almost like an unspoken taunt: What are you going to do now? I kept promising myself that I would do this and this and that once I got my computer fixed. Okay, so it’s time. Now what?

“Greedy for life, we forget in body and soul our hopes for the future until reality teaches us that tomorrow is not what we had dreamed, and we discover nostalgia.” ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez, from “Memories of My Melancholy Whores”

So, dear readers, I feel as if I have arrived at some sort of juncture in my life, Frost’s two roads, if you will. What I find immensely strange is that most of the time in life we do not have such a clear indication that the juncture is before us. We make choices, change our lives, and then we realize that there was a turning point. Sometimes the junctures are obvious: Do I go to graduate school? Do I get married? But I think that most of the time, they are not so obvious.

Skull Island Wall, Munda, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffbanger (FCC)

For example, in the back of my mind I have had a certain date looming: October 2012. That’s the point at which my student loans for my last graduate degree will be forgiven as I am on disability. Now, once that happens, do I want to do what many would consider to be stupid and apply for a Ph.D. program in English? Am I not too old to be embarking on such a course? But then there is this: I truly do not feel as if I will ever be satisfied unless I achieve this milestone in my life.

So do I go left,  or do I go right?

But more immediately, what is this turning point at which I feel I have arrived? Is it that I have now joined the ranks of my friends and compatriots who are witnessing a second generation within their families? And in reaching this, have I crossed some invisible demarcation in the sand that now places me firmly in one category versus another?A person could go well and truly mad over such thoughts.

More than we experienced has gone by.
And the future holds the most remote event
in union with what we most deeply want.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “[II]” (Appendix to The Sonnets to Orpheus) by  (trans. Stephen Mitchell)

If only life were like nail polish: You choose a color, put it on, wear it for a bit. Then, you decide that you don’t like the color, and you change it. You can even do this daily if you are obsessed enough. Put it on. Take it off. A different color for every day. A different choice for every day. A different way of seeing things for each day.

Munda Bar, Solomon Islands
by Lenny Cliffbanger (FCC)

I know. It’s a pretty lame simile, but hey, it’s close to home.

When I used to go to the nail salon, the people who worked there had a running joke: What color do you want today? Red or red? Everything was a shade of red. It fit me, fit my mood, fit my demeanor. Now that I’m not so angry at the world all of the time, I have branched out—pink, purple, copper, black, even blue.

Oh my, that last statement was actually an epiphany for me. I don’t think that I realized until I wrote it that the red was my shield, my protective armor against all of the forces that I thought were against me, and truthfully, there were some forces against me. Don’t even get me started on the boss who openly hated women. (But that’s another story.) So perhaps I don’t need that armor any more, or at least, not all of the time.

“I have heard a kind of whispered sighing
not far
like a night wind in pines or like the sea in the dark
the echo of everything that has ever
been spoken
still spinning its one syllable
between the earth and silence” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “Utterance”

I have Radiohead playing in the background, seems fitting.

Batfish at Munda Bar, Solomon Island
by Lenny Cliffbanger

I’m sure you are familiar with the phrase teenage angst, but I don’t believe I’ve ever heard the phrase adult angst. But why not? Angst is not singular to adolescence. Well, at least not for me. I’m not sure about you, out there in the ether.

Angst (Latin angustia, “tensity, tightness” and angor, “choking, clogging”), aside from being a truly wonderful word, applies to all manner of anxiety. True, Søren Kierkegaard used the word Angest (in common Danish, angst, meaning “dread” or “anxiety”) to describe “a profound and deep-seated spiritual condition of insecurity and fear in the free human being” (Wikipedia, I’m lazy today).

Personally, angst is much more than mere anxiety. For me, it is the following:

anxiety + fear + insecurity + frustration + self-loathing (the unknown)3 = success ± failure

I was going to say squared, but somehow it didn’t seem emphatic enough.

More later. Peace.

Music by, who else, Radiohead, “No Surprises”

Continuing on yesterday’s theme: images of ocean life taken from Flickr Creative Commons

                   

Where Horizons Go

I never write the words I meant to write.
Those come from where I’ve been, looking for me;
they are a door ajar, as if they might
almost be true, and almost make me free.
But then the words that they set out to be
become those others that perhaps I meant
for naming what I wanted not to see,
as if some truth half giving its consent
turned, and the turning made it different
and led it elsewhere, somehow, by a hand
not the same hand that guided my intent.
I mean to write those words I understand
before they speak themselves, but then they close.
And what they would have said, god only knows.

~ Rhina P. Espaillat

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

From the Infinity Series by L. Liwag©

“Memory is a part of the present. It builds us up inside; it knits our bones to our muscles and keeps our hearts pumping. It is memory that reminds our bodies to work, and memory that reminds our spirits to work too: it keeps us who we are.” ~ Gregory Maguire

In the Gloaming II (pointillated) by L. Liwag

I no longer weep on Caitlin’s birthday. That fact does not make me sad. No. That’s not the truth. That fact does make me sad, for does it mean that I have forgotten? In truth, I have not forgotten anything, but I suppose the memory has become so much a part of me that it no longer sits alone by itself, waiting to be taken from its perch, brought to the front, so that it can hold sway over my entire existence. 

That is the fact, the truth, the reality.

We are all collections of our memories—both painful and lovely, luminous and cutting. We file our memories in the small repositories within our brain, move them around over time so that some can be recalled instantaneously, while others are relegated to forgotten corners where they collect dust, withdraw into almost nothingness, only to resurface at inappropriate times. 

“Memory is a tenuous thing, like a rainbow’s end or a camera with a failing lens.”  ~ Ellen Hopkins

Lynnhaven Pier at Twilight (pointillated) by L. Liwag

Some years, the memories of my baby girl breach my consciousness in horrible ways, unrelenting waves that pull me under and leave me gasping for air. But most years, the memories are just there. I can delve into them if I choose, or I can just look at them from afar, keep my distance, choose not to touch them. 

That I have arrived at this point in my life is a good thing, I think. That I can meet March 26 without the fear of complete emotional paralysis means that I no longer feel Caitlin’s presence, her life, her death, so keenly. She is no longer the fresh wound that I bore for so many years, one that I continually tore the scab from so that I could watch it bleed. Rather, she and all that she was has become one of those fine lines on my body, one of the silvery scars that make me who I am. 

I do not believe for a moment that there will not still be days in my life on which I suddenly find myself overcome with grief, but I know that those days will happen with less and less frequency because that is the way of life. We live, we collect, we sift, we hold, we discard. All of the pieces that are precious never fade entirely. That is why we are allowed the gift of memory. Some of the pieces will not go away. That is why we are burdened with the pain of memory. 

“Some things don’t last forever, but some things do. Like a good song, or a good book, or a good memory you can take out and unfold in your darkest times, pressing down on the corners and peering in close, hoping you still recognize the person you see there.” ~ Sarah Dessen

Caitlin and Me

For me, the pain of those days in November has melded with the joy of those days in March and April so that it has all become one. If I pick too much at the threads, it will fray and unravel, but if I just touch it gently, it will remain whole, with all of its swirls and hues. The Pointillists knew that if they created enough colored dots, the eyes would see a whole image. Such is memory: thousands and thousands of disparate dots, a second here, an afternoon there—all coming together to create the one image. 

In my mind’s eye, I see Caitlin with her dark hair and almond eyes, her chubby arms and legs. I see her without the wires, without the machines. I can still hear the machines, but I no longer see them. In truth, I do not remember very much about the day on which she was born. I remember the doctor, and I remember that it was afternoon. I remember taking a shower. Other than those few things, I do not remember.  Unfortunately, too much of what I remember came later. 

Today, though, I remember her arms and her hands. I am not weeping, nor am I overwhelmed with sadness, and that is a good thing. For now. 

“You are lucky to be one of those people who wishes to build sand castles with words, who is willing to create a place where your imagination can wander. We build this place with the sand of memories; these castles are our memories and inventiveness made tangible. So part of us believes that when the tide starts coming in, we won’t really have lost anything, because actually only a symbol of it was there in the sand. Another part of us thinks we’ll figure out a way to divert the ocean. This is what separates artists from ordinary people: the belief, deep in our hearts, that if we build our castles well enough, somehow the ocean won’t wash them away. I think this is a wonderful kind of person to be.” 

 ~ Anne Lamott from Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life 

                                                                                                           

Rain Light 

All day the stars watch from long ago
my mother said I am going now
when you are alone you will be all right
whether or not you know you will know
look at the old house in the dawn rain
all the flowers are forms of water
the sun reminds them through a white cloud
touches the patchwork spread on the hill
the washed colors of the afterlife
that lived there long before you were born
see how they wake without a question
even though the whole world is burning 
 

~ W. S. Merwin 

Ray LaMontagne’s “Empty” 

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.” ~ Gabriel Garcia Marquez

One of Corey’s Handmade Keepsake Boxes 

“Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened” ~ T.S. Eliot

Well, I tried to do a favor for my mom, and it didn’t quite work out the way that I thought that it would. Big surprise. She needs to file an amended tax return for 2007, and since I’m fairly good at taxes, I thought, how hard could it be? It turns out, pretty hard if she does not have a copy of her 1040 in the files. Apparently, my mother has been getting her taxes prepared for free at a community center that specializes in doing tax preparation for senior citizens. Sounds great, right? It would be great if they had given her a copy of her completed tax return; instead, they gave her a summary sheet.

This makes completing the 1040X form darn near impossible since I need to pull specific items off the 1040 for the amended return. Trying to explain this to my mother was almost as taxing as trying to recreate her 1040. My mother is not a stupid person by any means, but she is woefully tech unsavvy, which means that trying to explain to her exactly what I needed and why I needed it turned into a 45-minute conversation. Her response to me was that I should just get on the computer and find her 2007 return.

You see, my mother is a big believer in the permanent record, you know, as in “that will go on your permanent record,” and unfortunately, after watching the Sandra Bullock movie The Net years ago, my mother is convinced that everyone has a permanent record that looms out there somewhere just waiting to be accessed. I tried to explain that I really needed to know how they filed her return, and her response was “the computer.”

Arghh. Good grief, Charlie Brown.

“Some things don’t last forever, but some things do. Like a good song, or a good book, or a good memory you can take out and unfold in your darkest times, pressing down on the corners and peering in close, hoping you still recognize the person you see there.” ~ Sarah Dessen

Yesterday, Corey had a surprise for Brett and me: Corey has been working on a secret project for a couple of months, and he was ready to unveil his project for us. Turns out, he’s been building boxes, you know, as in keepsake boxes. He had seen one in a catalogue that he liked, but it was listed for $30, which gave Corey the idea to see how much it would cost to build one of his own. He built four, images of which are included in this post. It was hard to get a good shot of the Led Zeppellin box as it is very glossy, which does not translate well to a picture with the lighting in our house.

I was pretty impressed. He did all kinds of cost analyses on materials; he tried different techniques, and he came up with four versions. Corey said that he was aiming for a rustic look, kind of like old ammunition and fruit boxes. These four were just his experimental models, he told us. They are nice, solid wooden boxes that can be used to store games, or letters, or whatever. Now I know why there hasn’t been any room in the shed . . .

All of us—the kids, Corey, and I—have our own special boxes in which we put cards, awards, letters, and miscellaneous other things. All of our boxes are full. I have filled three of these over the years. Now I have the “Imagine” box that Corey made with me in mind. Brett claimed the AK-47 box.

Now that he has experimented and seems to have worked out many of the kinks, he says that he wouldn’t mind making personalized boxes for presents, which I think is a lovely idea.

“One lives in the hope of becoming a memory.” ~ Antonio Porchia 

Speaking of presents, we have three birthdays in March: my mother’s, Eamonn’s, and my other mother-in-law’s, on the 15th, 16th, and 17th of the month.  I have no idea what Eamonn wants for his birthday this year, but I do know that he may have to wait before he gets anything. That’s just how life is at the moment.

Other than those tidbits, not much is going on. The Academy Awards were on last night. I did not watch. I find the program itself to be unendurably long and boring, and the supposedly witty repartee that each year’s host engages in inevitably falls flat. I cannot imagine the combination of Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin, and from what I’ve read, most people wish that the combo had not been hosting.

I will probably watch the red carpet wrap-up on VH-1 as I love to look at beautiful gowns, as well as the less-than-appealing ones. You know, the ones that make you scratch your head and say, “what could she possibly have been thinking.”

I was very glad that Kathryn Bigelow won for “Hurt Locker.” I have heard many good things about the movie, which is on my want-to-see list. It’s about time a female director won. Part of me really did not want insufferable egomaniac James Cameron to win so that we did not have to endure another “I’m King of the World!” moment.

More later. Peace.

Music by Bon Iver, “Stacks”

Stacks

This my excavation and today is kumran
Everything that happens from now on
This is pouring rain
This is paralyzed

I keep throwing it down two-hunded at a time
It’s hard to find it when you knew it
When your money’s gone
And you’re drunk as hell

On your back with your racks as the stacks are your load
In the back and the racks and the stacks of your load
In the back with your racks and you’re un-stacking your load

Well I’ve been twisting to the sun and the moon
I needed to replace
The fountain in the front yard is rusted out
All my love was down
In a frozen ground

There’s a black crow sitting across from me
His wiry legs are crossed
He is dangling my keys, he even fakes a toss
Whatever could it be
That has brought me to this loss?

On your back with your racks as the stacks are your load
In the back and the racks and the stacks of your load
In the back with your racks and you’re un-stacking your load

This is not the sound of a new man or crispy realization
It’s the sound of the unlocking and the lift away
Your love will be
Safe with me