“We are the words; we are the music; we are the thing itself.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from A Sketch Of The Past

Irish Roadside Panorama by Hauke Musicaloris (FCC)*

“More and more I have the sense of being present at a point of absence where crossing centuries may prove to be like crossing languages. Soundwaves. It’s the difference between one stillness and another stillness.” ~ Susan Howe, from “The Disappearance Approach”

Thursday afternoon, rainy, dropping temperatures, 75 degrees.

Thursday thoughts . . .

Not really sure that I have a lot to say today. I sit and stare at the quotes I have gathered for today’s post, hoping that some word or phrase will inspire me, but nothing happens. It’s as if words themselves have decided to take a hiatus in my brain; they do not wish to appear in cogent ways for me.

Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh, Scotland by City.and.color (FCC)

I had another’s doctor’s appointment yesterday, for my annual female exam, and I actually managed to get there on time. I asked the doctor doing the exam if she could take a look at my hand, which I injured the other day while trying to shoot a gun. Her response was actually quite witty: “Well, that’s not your vagina, and I’m here to look at your vagina.”

The office that I was in is set up with residents and two attending physicians, so I suppose as this particular resident was on vagina duty, she couldn’t really help with the big oozing gash on my hand unless the attending physician agreed. Ultimately, though, she looked at it as did the attending. As I had suspected, I should have gotten stitches when it happened, but it was the day after Max’s death, and I was in no shape to go anywhere or talk to anyone, so I didn’t go. As a result, the gash, which is about an inch long, isn’t really healing well. Yesterday I couldn’t touch my little finger to my thumb because of the swelling.

I was prescribed some doxycycline, but as we are more than flat broke, I cannot pick it up. Yet another case of being too poor to be healthy.

“Alone with wind. I came here
to tell you I have loved everything once.” ~ Gregory Sherl, from “How to Brave Night”

Anyway, today the wound looks better, or at least I’m telling myself that. It isn’t too uncomfortable to type, so at least there’s that.

Corey is working on a structure for the goats. Bobby looks like she’s going to give birth soon, and we are fairly certain that Ruby is pregnant as well. I really hope that she is so that we can have at least a piece of Max to hold onto.

The Church of St. Chad, Pattingham, Staffordshire, UK by Richard West (FCC)

The two female goats that we bought in Roanoke are quite a pair, mother and daughter. If they become separated by more than a few feet, the daughter, Bobby, begins to bray loudly. It’s sweet, but it also functions as an alarm. If I hear Bobby making noise, it usually means that Sylvia has come inside the kitchen door. I don’t know what it is about these goats that makes them think that they should live in the house, unless it’s that Roland is still inside with us; he is quite spoiled and has his own alarm system: if Corey leaves the room in which Roland happens to still be situated, Roland begins to bleat very loudly and then runs through the house looking for him. I’m not the only one who spoils animals . . .

The dogs have been quite good in the last few days, and I’m hoping that I’ve broken them of chasing the goats. We’re both keeping a keen eye on them while everyone is outside, and if I yell out the door at them, they all immediately stop what they’re doing. Nevertheless, we must be ever vigilant. I really cannot handle a repeat of what happened to Max, and neither can Corey.

“I find I get more and more disagreeably solitary; In fact I foresee the day when I shall have gone too far into myself that there will no longer be anything to be seen of me at all.” ~ Vita Sackville-West, from letter to Virginia Woolf

It’s supposed to rain here for the next four days, and I’m trying to talk Corey into doing some painting inside. It’s at times like these that I really wish that his brothers were closer so that they could help him with some of what needs to be done. The reality is that I could probably paint a bit, but it’s more than that: we need to move furniture and other stuff, lifting that I simply cannot do. I feel so useless.

Hadrian’s Wall, running up to the back side of Housesteads Fort, Northumberland, UK, by savagecats (FCC)

Lately I’ve been experiencing spasms in my lower back once again. I told Corey that even if my back gets bad again that there’s no way that I will ever have another back operation, not unless it’s the kind that can be done with a small incision and no long hospital stay.

Speaking of backs and mobility and such, I’ve been pondering yet again whether or not I should try to go back to work. I miss working, but more, I miss the income. However, if I did try to go back to work, my disability would cease, and then if something happened again, I would have to start the whole process once more, and it took so long with social security in the first place—two hearings, a stupid judge, two appeals, years of waiting. Honestly, I don’t know what to do.

I think of Eliot’s “Prufrock” poem: “Do I dare? Do I dare?” I really loved that poem so much, one of my all-time favorites.

“One can sometimes
touch, in the distance between two people,
a moment of another person’s endless dream.” ~ Yves Bonnefoy, from “Les Arbres” (The Trees), trans. John Naughton

And speaking of dogs and goats, Roland and Bailey continue their friendship. Roland has taken to butting Bailey’s head gently as she lays sleeping, and oddly enough, Bailey does nothing. She allows him to do whatever he wants to her, and I am quite amazed. He also licks her ears. I swear that this goat thinks that he’s a dog, and I’m uncertain as to how he’ll adjust to living outside once he’s weaned, which will be soon.

Vindolanda Hadrian’s Wall, Northumberland, UK by Rincewind42 (FCC)

The other day Corey and I went over to Dallas’s house to look at the horses. Dallas says that he’s going to let me pick out some horses to have over here, but he’s still claiming that Napoleon cannot come yet. I want Napoleon and Petra to be returned, but I’m trying not to pin my hopes on anything that Dallas says as we all know that what he says should be taken with a very small grain of salt.

A while back (cannot remember if I mentioned this), one of Dallas’s RVs and part of his storage burned down. He claims that someone did it during the night, which is definitely possible as his feud with his nephew continues, but there is also the possibility that Dallas was so drunk that he started  the first himself accidentally, or maybe even on purpose; however, he has no insurance, so I cannot think why he’d deliberately commit arson.

I hate that I even think these things of him.

While we were there, though, we picked a bunch of cherries from his cherry tree in the front yard. I’ve never seen such a big cherry tree. He says that he planted it when he first moved onto the property, which means that it is several decades old. I had no idea that fruit trees could survive for so long. The cherries are quite small, but tasty, and apparently, his dogs like to eat them, which is good as they all continue to look very malnourished.

“But even so, every now and then I would feel a violent stab of loneliness. The very water I drink, the very air I breathe, would feel like long, sharp needles. The pages of a book in my hands would take on the threatening metallic gleam of razor blades. I could hear the roots of loneliness creeping through me when the world was hushed at four o’clock in the morning.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I suppose I did have a few things to say, surprisingly enough, although I’m not sure how much more I have in me.

Yorkshire Dales, UK by Robert Heath (FCC)

Look. The dry spell continues. My ability to string together words creatively continues to elude me. The joy that I normally find in writing these posts simply isn’t there, and I cannot seem to find that wellspring that houses my spark or my muse or whatever it is that is missing.

I would dearly love to know how to overcome this block so that once again this blog provides me with a sense of accomplishment as opposed to feeling that it is a burden that I approach reluctantly each time I try to compose. This blog has served me well for many years. I began it as an experiment, and it morphed into a way of life for me. I have very fond memories of sitting at my desk on Benjamin and rapidly writing 1,000 words without a second’s hesitation. I want that again. I need that again. And I think that I deserve to have that again in my life again.

Am I kidding myself? I truly do not know.

More later, I hope. Peace.

Feeling nostalgic for the British countryside today.*


Music by Winona Oak, “Don’t Save Me”


You Ask Me to Talk About the Interior

it was all roadside flowers & grasses
growing over the cities

was made of wilderness & sky
with God washed out of it

was the foreign prayer-word
it was a list of missing persons

was the solid bronze charging
bull on the famous street

was like the Roman method for making bees

was its taken-down carcass
& its bed of apple branches & thyme

was a new anatomy, a beaten hide,
a skeleton sweetening to glowing fluids,

& the bee born out, & the grist of them born
glistening as coins

it was anthem
was the listening,

the way a searchlight listens over a lake
it was the prayer-word out of your mouth
your thousand-noun request
it goes up up to the florescent weather

was an ivory box,

was hurdle & burn, burning through
the infinite, your overbright comet

was made of stones, made of berries & box tops & eggshells
it was like the word having reached the ear

& the words pollinated the dark, there was darkness there,
like the after-hours inside a library

~ Carolina Ebeid

 

“Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are.” ~ Harper Lee, from Go Set a Watchman

Swingset by Nate Lampa (FCC)

“I am tired like the ancients were tired.” ~ Natalie Lyalin, from “Your Brain is Yours”

Saturday afternoon, overcast and warmer, 57 degrees.

So last night was pure hell. Earlier in the evening, Corey spotted a dog that was not ours beneath the swing-set on the side of the house, and then we heard a bunch of howling. He went to investigate, and at the top of the driveway, and he saw several strange dogs roaming around, apparently chasing something.

Anyway, this went on for hours during the night, and each time that the pack would start barking and yelping, Maddy would sit up and begin to bark. It’s really hard to sleep through all that noise. We both had the hardest time getting back to sleep, and consequently, I ended up dreaming that I couldn’t sleep, which is incredibly tiring. I had very strange dreams involving my mother—who has been in my dreams repeatedly lately—a dessert, a gay couple, and Olivia’s toys.

You know the theory that your dreams are your brain’s method of sifting through the day’s detritus? Well apparently my brain was overflowing with many a non sequitur, that is if indeed my dreams are any kind of barometer of such things.

“Let me begin again as a speck
of dust caught in the night winds
sweeping out to sea. Let me begin
this time knowing the world is
salt water and dark clouds, the world
is grinding and sighing all night, and dawn
comes slowly, and changes nothing.” ~ Philip Levine, from “Let Me Begin Again”

Corey has taken all of the dogs for a long walk to the big pond, which leaves the house blissfully quiet, except for my music and the hum of the washing machine. Ever since the first time he took them there, they now head for it anytime he leaves the house; I think that they’re looking for him, but when they don’t find him, they come back. I shouldn’t worry, but I know that there are coyotes here, and the puppies are still puppies, after all.

I know. I know. I worry too much.

When we left the house on Benjamin, I really looked forward to having a house that wasn’t inherently dusty, which that one was; however, as I knew nothing about the soot that wood stoves produce, I was unprepared for the layers and layers of dust that inhabit this house. I suppose as with the mud, I just need to wait for warmer temperatures when the stove isn’t heating the house, and then I can sweep away the dust and cobwebs and start anew.

Of course, I say that now, but who knows how I’ll feel when it is actually spring, and as Corey reminded me this morning, spring is less than two weeks away. My inability to track time seems to be getting worse the older that I get. I’ve always seemed to skip over November and February, but this feels worse, somehow. Don’t ask me how as I truly don’t know. Perhaps it’s because I’m looking forward to warmer temperatures too much that I feel as if once again I’m setting myself up for failure; I mean, I have so many projects that I want to finish. Will I just retreat further inside and get nothing at all accomplished?

Who knows? Certainly not I.

“Your heart is like a great river after a long spell of rain, spilling over its banks. All signposts that once stood on the ground are gone, inundated and carried away by that rush of water. And still the rain beats down on the surface of the river. Every time you see a flood like that on the news you tell yourself: That’s it. That’s my heart.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Kafka on the Shore

I wonder how other people do it—live their lives, I mean. I don’t remember a time in my life in which I was not living with my depression. It’s a way of life for me, so I truly wonder how people who do not suffer from this crippling disorder manage to make it through their days. I know that some have religion, and some have drugs, and some have money, but what about the rest of them? Are they floating through their lives as seemingly lost as I have always been?

I know that yesterday I mentioned those two incredibly talented people who I knew in high school, and how their lives turned out so differently than anyone ever thought they would or could. But I mean, come on. I know that there are people out there whose days are not filled with self-doubt. Are they sociopaths? Is that how they move through their days, blissfully unaware of pain and anguish? Or are they so completely satisfied with their lots in life that they just move forward and never look back?

How does it work? How does it work for people unlike me who feel everything too much, so much that eventually we become numb, closed off for protection or fear or both? I think again of concentration camp survivors, most of whom are now dead, but how did they get on with their lives after such unimaginable cruelty was visited upon them? How did they have enough strength and faith to raise families, have careers, kindle friendships? As opposed to their great suffering I feel like an ungrateful peon.

“. . . but as you know any
amount of time is an uncertain one.” ~ Dalton Day (source uncertain)

Corey is back from his walk, and he managed to tire all of the dogs thoroughly. Tink came in, jumped on the couch and was immediately asleep. I envy dogs and cats their abilities to fall asleep so quickly. I don’t think that animals ever have insomnia, or at least, they don’t toss and turn all night thinking about bills and utilities and missteps and failures. It seems their dreams are filled with running and chasing and playing, as anyone who has ever watched a dog run in its sleep can attest.

Actually, I envy anyone who sleeps easily. Corey is only troubled occasionally with insomnia. My first husband could fall asleep easily. I know that in my youth I could sleep anywhere at any time. On a school trip to New York, I fell asleep at a Knicks’ game, which still amazes me. I have fond memories of curling up on Yvonne’s wing back chair, much like a cat, and falling fast asleep.

When each of my children were babies, I used to lay on the big hammock in my in-laws’ backyard with them, and we would sleep companionably under the shade until someone would wake us. I was never so at peace as the moments I spent with my babes in my arms, asleep, inviolable. Life was so different then, seemingly, but probably not. Whenever we look back, our memories are colored by whatever we wish to wash them wish. I’m not so much a fool that I don’t know that to be true.

“Time is not a solid, like wood, but a fluid, like water or the wind. It doesn’t come neatly cut into even-sized length, into decades and centuries. Nevertheless, for our purposes we have to pretend it does. The end of any history is a lie in which we all agree to conspire.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from The Robber Bride

There are memories that I can snatch at will, and then there are memories that I can only find the edges of, as if I know that something is there, but I can never quite uncloak it completely in order to take it out and examine it. I am reminded of Oriental puzzle boxes, with all of the false drawers and interlocking pieces; once taken apart, they are so hard to piece together properly, that is, until you find the secret. I think that memories are like that—that there is a secret to the ones stored deeply, and only when you come upon the answer are you allowed to touch them again.

I once thought that I would never forget the way that Caitlin smelled or how soft the skin was on her chubby arms, but I was wrong. I can remember neither. I can only remember the memory of what that was like, but I cannot recall the exact smell or the incredible velvet of her skin. Yet there have been times over the years in which something from some unknown place has assailed my senses, and I am once again in that hospital room, holding her close and inhaling deeply the very essence of her in order to imprint it upon my very cells, the core of my being.

The recall of such memories is both a boon and a curse. I want them more than anything, but once they come upon me, the pain is so acute that I want nothing more than to feel nothing again. And the truly sad part—in my mind—is that I find myself doing that now with memories of each of my children, no longer just Caitlin: the early spring afternoon Alexis and I lay in the hammock in my back yard, and she fell asleep in my arms even though she was six; the time that Eamonn asked me so earnestly when he could tell Corey that he loved him; the many, many times that Brett and I lay in my big bed and watched movies together when no one else was home.

It’s all a deep soul pain t hat never abates, mingled with a spark of contentment that can never be replaced.

Pure love. Irreparable loss.

The heart would have it all again, regardless.

More later. Peace.


Music by Rosie Golan, “Been a Long Day”


End of Winter

Over the still world, a bird calls
waking solitary among black boughs.

You wanted to be born; I let you be born.
When has my grief ever gotten
in the way of your pleasure?

Plunging ahead
into the dark and light at the same time
eager for sensation

as though you were some new thing, wanting
to express yourselves

all brilliance, all vivacity

never thinking
this would cost you anything,
never imagining the sound of my voice
as anything but part of you—

you won’t hear it in the other world,
not clearly again,
not in birdcall or human cry,

not the clear sound, only
persistent echoing
in all sound that means good-bye, good-bye—

the one continuous line
that binds us to each other.

~ Louise Glück

 

“The human heart is like a night bird. Silently waiting for something, and when the time comes, it flies straight toward it.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years of Pilgrimage

(c) Perth & Kinross Council; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Blyth Autumn” (1963, oil on canvas)
by Robert Henderson

Two for Tuesday: October

Thursday evening. Partly cloudy and humid, 81 degrees.

Argh. Heat and humidity. What gives? I want it to feel like October, to feel like autumn.

Corey has spent the day working on the side yard again. All of the random trees have been cut down. He has mulched a huge pile from the wood, and today, he put up a make-shift fence until he has the funds to rent an auger and do all of the post holes. At some point he’s going to work on getting some of the stumps out or cut level, don’t know which, but removal requires a grinder, which costs money. Anyway, I know that he’s happy with what he’s accomplished. As am I.

We’re working on getting done the things we have to get done so that we can put this house on the market. As far as I’m concerned, the sooner the better. But, of course, everything takes money, so it’s here and there. It would be so nice if we had the funds to just take care of everything all at once, but alas. Not for now.

He goes back next week, and it’s been really nice to have him home for a full three weeks. With this set schedule, he’ll be home for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and somehow we have to fit in holidays and a trip to Ohio to see the new baby. I long for easier days. Oh well . . . Baby tonight, which is always nice.

More later. Peace.

MSKG - Zonnige boom - Emile Claus (1900)
“Tree in the Sun” (1900, oil on canvas)
by Emil Claus

Late October

Carefully
the leaves of autumn
sprinkle down the tinny
sound of little dyings
and skies sated
of ruddy sunsets
of roseate dawns
roil ceaselessly in
cobweb greys and turn
to black
for comfort.

Only lovers
see the fall
a signal end to endings
a gruffish gesture alerting
those who will not be alarmed
that we begin to stop
in order to begin
again.

~ Maya Angelou

                   

Léon Spilliaert October Evening, 1912
“October Evening” (1912, pastel on paper)
by Léon Spilliaert

October, Mon Amour

The first dead leaves lie like sea urchins

browned on the asphalt drive.

It’s got to be October,

Slayer of living things, refrigerator of memory.

Next to the wilted lettuce, next to the Simone Weil,

Our lives are shoved in,

barely visible, but still unspoiled.

Our history is the history of the City of God.

What’s-to-Come is anybody’s guess.

Whatever has given you comfort,

Whatever has rested you,

Whatever untwisted your heart

is what you will leave behind.

~ Charles Wright

                   

Music by Esthero, “Crash” (featuring Johan Johnson)

“She read books as one would breathe air, to fill up and live.” ~ Annie Dillard, from The Living

book chart the atlantic

“Unsurprisingly, several children’s books appear in the top 20 on the list; as Adamic and Patel point out, we tend to read these books at a very impressionable age. Favorite books from those early years are likely to lodge themselves deeply in our memories.” ~ Claire Fallon, from “‘Harry Potter’ Tops Facebook’s ’10 Books That Stayed With You’ Meme And No One Is Surprised” (Huffington Post)

Thursday afternoon. Sunny with climbing temperatures, 87 degrees.

My goal is to clean today . . . but first . . . not.

Ah, to meme or not to meme . . .

The above graphic (click for larger) is taken from an article in The Atlantic based on a recent meme making the rounds on Facebook in which people have been asked to “List 10 books that have stayed with you in some way . . . Don’t take more than a few minutes, and don’t think too hard. They do not have to be the ‘right’ books or great works of literature, just ones that have affected you in some way.”

Another article (have forgotten writer, sorry), glibly stated that the addition of Harry Potter to so many lists proves that adults don’t really read books. Um, what? I read all of the Harry Potter books as a bona fide adult. At first, I had wanted to see what all of the commotion was about, the naysayers saying that it was demonic, and the supporters saying that it was a wonderful series. Of course, I agreed with the latter. Reading the series with my kids became a family rite of passage that I wouldn’t trade for anything, and truthfully, I miss the anticipation of the next release date, getting in the car with Brett early on a Saturday morning, hitting Krispy Kreme for hot donuts, and then making our way to the almost pristine cube of books placed immediately in the entrance. Good, good times.

“Indeed, if there is a backlash, I imagine it will be fuelled by accusations of elitism. Weirdly, reading is seen as a middle-class practice . . . This is one meme that has nothing to do with showing off. It’s a place to be honest about what brings you personal delight” ~ Daisy Buchanan, from “Facebook’s ‘Share 10 books’ meme shows that social media doesn’t have to be vicious or bullying” (The Telegraph)

I’ve been reading snarky comments from different people about how people are padding their lists, how most people haven’t read the things they claim to have read. Well . . . maybe. Who knows, but more importantly, who cares?

My point is (and yes, I have one) this: Does it really matter which books have stayed with people? Does it matter if they’ve padded their lists? Does it matter if childrens’ books and YA books appear frequently on peoples’ lists? No. These lists are proof of several key things:

  1. People read. People of all ages read all kinds of things. How can that be perceived in any negative light?
  2. Even if they haven’t read what’s on the list, they are thinking about things they want to read or things they think they should read. There’s nothing wrong with that.

  1. The fact that childrens’ book show up on these lists is wonderful. Study after study show that children who are introduced to reading from very young ages will continue to read on their own. A groundbreaking study found that “having as few as 20 books in the home still has a significant impact on propelling a child to a higher level of education, and the more books you add, the greater the benefit” (from The National Literacy Trust).
  2. The people who participated in this meme are proud of their reading, and they should be. So who cares what they read? Bear in mind that unfortunately, access to books, or the lack thereof, directly ties to a person’s success. According to The National Commission on Reading, “The single most significant factor influencing a child’s early educational success is an introduction to books and being read to at home prior to beginning school.”

I could go on and on as I am wont to do, but you get the point. All of those naysayers out there who are making fun of the lists need to shut it. Instead of criticizing, donate some books to a school, or donate some money to First Book, a wonderful organization that helps to connect books with children who don’t have any.

And my final point is this: In this society that places people on pedestals simply for being famous or for having a pretty face or for dunking a basketball or whatever, this meme is a refreshing change. Instead of reading about bullying on Facebook, or hearing about a group of teens who posted directions on how to kill someone (yes, this is true), we are being treated to something real in people’s lives, something that matters, something that adds to the world in which we live: Reading.

“But passionate readers believe books are for all people. Many of us have grown up feeling obscure and alone. Books were our friends when we had no human ones . . . the best literature educates by stealth. Books are there to make us more empathetic and kinder—and in times of emotional turmoil, they can comfort.” ~ Daisy Buchanan, from “Facebook’s ‘Share 10 books’ meme shows that social media doesn’t have to be vicious or bullying” (The Telegraph)

Listen, books saved me—not just once but time and again. Being an only child is lonely. I found friends among the pages. And when I hit my teens and began to suffer from clinical depression, books helped me to understand what was wrong, and they helped to comfort me. And when I lost my beautiful baby girl, books (not self-help books) helped me to escape from the pain.

I can go several weeks without reading a book, and then I can read six books in four days. It doesn’t matter. My to read stack has tripled in size this year, and I know that is mostly as a result of Corey’s new schedule.

Hey, I don’t need to go to bars or hang out with people who aren’t really my friends. I have my one true love, my kids, my dogs, and my books. It may not work for some people, but it works for me.

So even though I don’t do Facebook, I do do bookish memes, so here’s mine, off the top of my head, without any second thoughts, and I know that my list is longer than proposed, and I know that I have two lists, but whatever. So in no particular order, here are the books that have stayed with me, and by that I mean the books I have read over and over, the books from which I can quote, even the books that just thinking about make me pause and smile:

  • The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje
  • The Harry Potter Series, by JK Rowling (I’m cheating in counting these as one, so sue me)
  • Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, by JRR Tolkien (same here)
  • The Little Prince, byAntoine de Saint-Exupéry
  • Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
  • Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë
  • Tender is the Night, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Angela’s Ashes, by Frank McCourt
  • Memoirs of a Geisha, by Arthur Golden
  • Rich in Love, by Josephine Humphries
  • The Virgin Suicides, Jeffrey Eugenides
  • The Things they Carried, by Tim O’Brien
  • The Awakening, by Kate Chopin
  • Alias Grace, by Margaret Atwood
  • Sherlock Holmes (all the collected works), by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  • The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
  • The Alchemist, by Paul Coehlo
  • Leaves of Grass, by Walt Whitman
  • Tuesdays with Morrie, by Mitch Albom
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Richard III/Henry V, by William Shakespeare
  • Hunt is a Lonely Hunter, by Carson McCullers
  • The Shining, by Stephen King
  • The Weight of Water, by Anita Shreve
  • Silence of the Lambs, by Thomas Harris
  • A Wrinkle in Time, by Madeleine L’Engle
  • Mrs. Dalloway, by Virginia Woolf
  • Shogun, by James Clavell
  • The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak
  • Children of Men, P. D. James

” . . . reading novels as a child — implying literary engagement with life’s social, cultural and psychological complexities — can have a positive impact on personality development and social skills. A study published last year in Science found that reading literary fiction, as opposed to popular fiction or nonfiction, results in keener social perception and increased empathy” ~ Bret Stetka, from “Why Everyone Should Read Harry Potter” (Scientific American)

Here are my runners up. I will admit that I cheated for this list; I went to my Goodreads list of books and did a quick scan and was surprised by the titles I had forgotten. So again, in no particular order:

  • Reflections in a Golden Eye, by Carson McCullers
  • Cover her Face, by P. D. James
  • Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer
  • The Bone Collector, by Jeffrey Deaver
  • Dr. Faustus, by Christopher Marlowe
  • Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton
  • Dune, by Frank Herbert

  • The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold
  • Daughter of Time, by Josephine Tey
  • The Duchess of Malfi, by John Webster
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • Song of Ice and Fire, by George R. R. Martin
  • Murder Must Advertise (Lord Peter Wimsey), by Dorothy L. Sayers
  • Mystic River, by Dennis LeHane
  • A Child Called It, by Dave Peltzer
  • Darkness Visible, by William Styron
  • The Yellow Wallpaper, by Charlotte Perkins Gilman
  • Snow Falling on Cedars, by David Guterson
  • Heart of Darkness, by James Conrad
  • Dubliners, by James Joyce
  • The Hours, by Michael Cunningham
  • The Velvet Room, ZK Snyder (has stayed with me since 7th grade)
  • The Cellist of Sarajevo, by Steven Galloway
  • In the Woods, Tana French
  • Island of the Blue Dolphins, Scott O’Dell (has stayed with me since 6th grade)
  • Peace Like a River, by Leif Enger (wish I could find my copy of this)

And yes, I have read all of these, even James Joyce.

More later. Peace.

Music by Zedd, featuring Foxes, “Clarity”

                   

The Pleasures of Reading

On his deathbed my father is reading
The memoirs of Casanova.
I’m watching the night fall,
A few windows being lit across the street.
In one of them a young woman is reading
Close to the glass.
She hasn’t looked up in a long while,
Even with the darkness coming.

While there’s still a bit of light,
I want her to lift her head,
So I can see her face
Which I have already imagined,
But her book must be full of suspense.
And besides, it’s so quiet,
Every time she turns a page,
I can hear my father turn one too,
As if they are reading the same book.

~ Charles Simic

“Every time I try to say something, it misses the point. Either that or I end up saying the opposite of what I mean. The more I try to get it right the more mixed up it gets. Sometimes I can’t even remember what I was trying to say in the first place. It’s like my body’s split in two and one of me is chasing the other me around a big pillar. We’re running circles around it. The other me has the right words, but I can never catch her.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Blind Willow Sleeping Woman

From Word Stuck:

Thursday evening. Warmish, 59 degrees.

I had a very strange day today. Everywhere I went, I was nice to people. I was patient . . . I gave up my place in line so that the pharmacy tech could take care of two nasty customers who were complaining loudly behind me . . . I told the Wal-Mart greeter to have a nice day . . . I smiled at strangers . . .

You don’t understand: This is not me. I am a curmudgeon, through and through. I don’t do casual nice. It’s awkward for me. But all of the above happened spontaneously. The only thing I can think of is that my meds weren’t working, allowing the manic to peek through.

Hmm . . . . . . . . things that make you go hmm……………………………

Music by Lucinda Williams, “Are You Alright?”

“The sky grew darker, painted blue on blue, one stroke at a time, into deeper and deeper shades of night.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Dance Dance Dance

Chang Dai-chien Splasher Color no title2
Splashed Color (nd, no title, color and ink on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

                   

“Almost impossible to sleep; plagued by dreams, as if they were being scratched on me, on a stubborn material.” ~ Franz Kafka, from Diaries

Wednesday early evening. Partly cloudy, 83 degrees.

Lots of drizzle the past few days mixed in with scattered thunderstorms. My body has reflected the weather: I feel dampened, pending somehow, as if something is incipient. Yesterday, I wasn’t able to get out of bed for most of the day. Hate days like that, but there was nothing for it. I just wasn’t able.

Chang Dai-chien Splashed Color no title
Splashed Color (nd, no title, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

I’ve spent days and days calculating square footage, calculating how much insulation, how many tiles, how much backerboard, etcetera. I am nothing if not a stickler for precision. I know that this is not what Corey had planned when he said he was going to tear out the bathroom, but there was no point in doing it halfway only to have to do more before we sold it.

Tile board (which he had planned to use) looks cheap, but it serves its purpose in a rental property. We’re going with ceramic and mosaic tile. Essentially, we’re gutting down to the studs and starting over. I keep waking in the middle of the night and going to the computer to check something, to make absolutely sure that I have allowed for this or that. Corey says he’ll just be glad when we start to that I will quit obsessing. I concur.

Tomorrow we go to the big box stores to get what I couldn’t get online. Luckily, because it’s the 4th, Corey gets credit for his military service, and we get a 10 percent discount. Any discount is better than no discount.

“I need the shade of blue that rips your heart out. You don’t see that type of blue around here.” ~ Cath Crowley, from Graffiti Moon

Aside from preparing for the bathroom reno, there isn’t much going on. We’re still struggling with puppy training. Still lots of hit or miss. I told Corey that not every dog can be as intelligent as Tillie who seemed to train herself that first week. Bailey makes up for the mistakes in cuteness, though. Would that all of life were so . . .

Chang Dai-chien Snow Storm, Switzerland
“Snow Storm, Switzerland” (nd, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

Ever since my last post about that memory, I have been melancholy. I couldn’t put a name to why, exactly, but it’s here. I know that when I have these health relapses it always throws me, makes me afraid that I’m regressing to those first months after going out on disability when I was so dependent on everyone else, when I could do so very little on my own. That kind of dependence is frightening, perhaps because it may be a precursor to how life will be in the latter years, when so much of life is beyond your control.

I think of Corey’s grandfather, my own mother, how the years are not friendly to the elderly. I watch my mother diminish little by little, unable to finish sentences, repeating things she’s already told me five times. It’s painful. I can do little but watch and try not to add the phrase “I already told you this” to my sentences when we talk.

“I do not want my voice to go out into the air while my heart is sinking.” ~ E. M. Forster, from The Paris Review, “The Art of Fiction”

What am I afraid of, really? Dying without ever doing anything? Without accomplishing a damned thing?

Chang Dai-chien Snowy Mountain
“Snowy Mountain” (nd, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

Yes.

I am mightily fearful that my life will have meant nothing when I am gone, that I will have left my children with little, not monetarily, but in the ways that mean the most—in the kinds of memories that they will share with their children, the remembrance of small moments that might still conjure a smile.

I am afraid that I will reach my last days and that I will still be sitting here wondering when I’m going to get around to writing that book, trying to decided whether or not I should get a doctorate. I don’t want to be that person, that lost soul who never quite found her way. I don’t want people to remember me as the woman who never did anything, who never lived up to her potential.

“I am a forest, and a night of dark trees: but he who is not afraid of my darkness, will find banks full of roses under my cypresses.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Thus Spake Zarathustra

God that sounds so narcissistic, as if I have so much to give, so much to contribute. What makes me any different from the next woman, from the woman in the car next to me at the stoplight, the one who is keeping time on her steering wheel, all the while wondering if she remembered to thaw anything for dinner . . .

Chang Dai-chien Mist at Dawn ink and wash 1974
“Mist at Dawn” (1974, ink and wash on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

It’s ridiculous, I know, but I still fancy myself that mysterious woman, the one who people wondered about, the one who a professor referred to as a woman of mystery. I like to pretend that’s still me, even though the mystery has faded, and I am just another person trying to get along, trying to survive without going mad.

Can I tell you a secret? Of course, it isn’t much of a secret considering where I am at the moment, but anyway—I always relished my differentness. Not a word, I know, but difference isn’t quite accurate. I have liked being different, not being able to fit into any predetermined niche. I have liked that very much. I have liked that I do not have blond hair and blue eyes, that my name is not ordinary, that my lineage is not easily identifiable.

And yet, there were days when I would have given anything to be like everyone else. Granted, I was still but a child, but to be different when you are a child is a very hard thing.

“He carries stars in his pockets because he knows she fears the dark. Whenever sadness pays her a visit, he paints galaxies on the back of her hands.” ~ Alaska Gold

There was a scene recently in a show that I follow in which the detective goes inside a closet and looks up; she sees stars, the kind of luminous plastic stars that you can stick to the ceiling in a child’s room. I have those stars above my bed. They used to be in the shape of a few constellations. I took great care in the placement, but in the years since, some have fallen down, and the constellations are incomplete. It wouldn’t have taken much to replace the ones that fell, but I chose not to because somehow the incompleteness of what I had created seemed to make more sense.

Chang Dai-chien Diety Trees 1970 ink and color on paper
“Diety Trees” (1970, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

And that, my friends, is the true story of my life.

I gravitate towards the incomplete, the imperfect, the jagged and the broken, the lost, the wandering. It’s a harder road, one that fits squarely inside Frost’s maxim about the less traveled path. I remember I came upon that poem in high school, and it made perfect sense to me.

Why choose the road that everyone else has already taken? Discoveries cannot be made on such roads. Everything new under the sun, if there is still such a thing, will not be on a well-trod path. This I know, but I also admit that I probably could have avoided many falls and scrapes had I chosen differently.

“Look at how beautiful this ink is. Now do you understand why I needed clear water? Water is the brightness of the day and the whiteness of the paper. Black is the velvet of night and the satiny ink of the paintbrush. If you know how to make ink correctly, you will never again be afraid of nightmares.” ~ Françoise Place, from Hokusai (The Old Man Mad About Drawing)

Chang Dai-chien Earth
“Earth” (nd, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

I’ve probably mentioned it before, but I once wrote a poem about my ex called “For My Husband, Returning to His Lover” in the style of Anne Sexton’s “For My Lover Returning to his Wife.” I mention this now because I remember a particular passage of my poem in which I refer to my stretch marks:

Look closely, these faint gray lines
at the tops of both my thighs, surely
she has not acquired anything
quite as exquisite.  Mine are badges,
earned by keeping pace with him
for decades–the many treks
we made across life’s arduous terrain.

Each scar on my body is a story. And had I gone the easy way, I would not have these stories to tell. I don’t regret any of it.

Chang Dai-chien Spring Clouds 1965 ink and color on paper
“Spring Clouds” (1965, ink and color on paper)
by Chang Dai-chien

Look, I once refused to go on antidepressants because I wouldn’t be able to write. I told that particular doctor—who was a misogynistic quack—that he just didn’t understand, that I was nothing without my extreme highs and lows. Later, a doctor who I respected convinced me otherwise, but there is a part of me that still remembers the intensity of living without medication, and I would be lying if I said that I don’t wish that I had that, had those intense emotions all of the time, but the truth is that living day-to-day with such emotions will kill you, sometimes quickly, and sometimes slowly.

This post has taken on a life of its own, which is what happens when I suddenly unleash the floodgates.

Enough.

More later. Peace.

(I am late in discovering Chinese artist Chang Dai-chien, also known as Zhang Daqian (1899-1983). In 2012, “Lotus and Mandarin Ducks (1947), a  painting by the artist fetched $191 million (Hong Kong) at auction. The price was more than nine times Sotheby’s estimate of HK$20 million.)

Music by Gretchen Peters, “On a Bus to St. Cloud”

We Should Be

We should be born old,
Come wise into the world
Already able to choose our destiny,
Already knowing the pathways that lead from the crossroads of the origin.
Then, it would only be irresponsible to yearn to go ahead.
Afterwards, we’d gradually grow younger,
Come to the gateway of creation mature and strong,
Pass through, and enter into love as adolescents,
Then be children when our children are born.
They’d immediately be older than we are.
They’d teach us to talk; they’d rock us to sleep in a cradle,
And then we’d disappear, getting smaller and smaller,
Like a grape, like a pea, like a grain of wheat …

~ Ana Blandiana

“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, from The Great Gatsby

Puppy Portrait: Bailey (May 2013)
Puppy Portrait: Bailey (May 2013)

                   

Tears were warm, and girls were beautiful, like dreams. I liked movie theaters, the darkness and intimacy, and I liked the deep, sad summer nights.”Haruki Murakami, from Dance Dance Dance

Monday afternoon. Partly cloudy and a bit cooler, 83 degrees.

Finally, I made myself sit down and edit some photos so that I can post. We had Olivia this weekend, and I took the opportunity to take some shots of her in the pool, and to grab some of puppy Bailey while she sunned herself in the backyard.

My first attempt at creating a slideshow. Hope it works. Enjoy.

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Music by Santana, “Smooth”