“The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” ~ C. S. Lewis, from The Screwtape Letters

                   

“The hippies wanted peace and love. We wanted Ferraris, blondes and switchblades.” ~ Alice Cooper

Sunday evening. Cloudy and cool, 51 degrees.

Today marks my 1500th post. I was considering just posting the images with no words and just letting that stand as my milestone marker. Truthfully, I’m still considering it. I mean, yep, I’ve hit a milestone, but is the doing worthy of the words? It seems more than a bit self-congratulatory, and I don’t know if surviving merits congratulations.

I’ve been doing this blog since February 26, 2008. That first year was spotty, and the posts had yet to take on any kind of form or format. In many ways, it was still like a continuation of the few posts I had written when I had a MySpace page years and years ago.

Actually, this blog was not the first attempt. The first one was called The Poem Makers, and I had great goals of creating an online poem that anyone could contribute a line towards. I would monitor submissions, etc. It was a dismal failure—for many reasons. First, I knew nothing about blogging, and blogging was still relatively new. Second, I actually built the site, with html coding and everything. Third, go back to first.

“We must walk consciously only part way toward our goal and then leap in the dark to our success.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

After enduring the headache of html for several months, I came upon WordPress, and it was like manna from heaven. All of the work was already done for you. Just plug in words and go.

I killed Poem Makers, and no one noticed, not even me. It was an assignment for one of my publishing classes. I had the degree. What was the point in prolonging the agony?

And so I began this adventure. Finding a name was the hardest part in the beginning. I looked around and it seemed that everyone else had names with deep meaning, or names that were symbolic of something, or names that were amusing and witty. In the end, I gave in to my wordy tendencies, and went with what I knew: Lola was a given, just because. And I knew that I was a curmudgeon, and I also knew that I would never just write about one thing, one topic. And so musings came into play, because what were they if not musings from a tortured brain?

“Accepting oneself does not preclude an attempt to become better.” ~ Flannery O’Connor, from Letters of Flannery O’Connor

Initially I did not include music or poems, and I included images in a kind of scattershot way. The idea of doing a theme kind of grew on its own.

I actually spent a lot of that first year writing about politics. I mean it was such a ripe subject: Sarah Palin, Joe the Plumber, John McCain. The content practically wrote itself.

I began to use the “More later. Peace” closing sometime that first year. The more later came from a former colleague I used to work with in the English department. The Peace was mine since forever. The combination just felt right, so it took hold and has never left.

I wrote my first random thoughts post in January of 2009, and my first Friday leftovers in that same month. And if you are a regular reader, you know that those two categories remain today.

“Even a snail will eventually reach its destination.” ~ Gail Tsukiyama, from The Street of a Thousand Blossoms 

I think that I began the practice of using quotes as my header and as subheaders sometime in February of 2009. The first post in which I implemented quotes was about beauty, our notions of beauty, society’s unrealistic expectations of what makes a woman beautiful. It wasn’t a post that I was particularly married to in content; I was just saying how I felt. What blows my mind is that post continues to be one of my most-read posts, and I fear it’s because I mentioned Kim Kardashian. If I could go back and make that post go away, I might just do it.

(I know I can delete it, but that wouldn’t erase it from my memory banks…)

Anyway, that people read that particular post is very, very weird because it’s not representative of me or of this blog.

For a while, I did “Grace in Small Things” posts, in which I would find five things for that day’s topic, but I found that those posts were taking over my blog, so I stopped doing them; it felt forced. Another type of post that I did more of in those days was the “Now for Something Totally Different” posts, which were a throwback to my great fondness for Monty Python.

Truthfully, though, I think that I was funnier in the early days. Witness my rules of etiquette post or anything I said about Sarah Palin.

“If you have a painting in you, paint. If you have a song to sing, sing. Don’t judge your creation. Just create it. Banish doubt and fear and step out of your own way if you have to. Write if you’re a writer and invent if you’re an inventor. Do what you were born to do.” ~ Toni Sorenson

In early 2009 I wrote a series of posts called “Vale et Memini,” which were about friendship, loss, and pain. I still think those posts rank among my best.

I think that I began to make music videos a regular part of my posts around May or June of 2009. At first, I just used songs and artists I already knew, but as I began to get into more of a rhythm here, I spread my wings, found lots and lots of artists with whom I had been previously unfamiliar.

In the early days, I would go weeks between posts. It’s only been in the last three years that I have made an effort to post something every day, and I try to be selective in material that is reblogged from somewhere else, try to make it relate to things that I talk about when I talk about things.

I do know that in 2009 we (the family) were going through some major tough times, and I wrote about those tough times because writing about things is what I do. Writing about things helps me to gain perspective, helps me to separate the wheat from the chaff. My family, whether they wanted to or not, has become a part of this blog. I write about them, and I talk about them, but I always try to do it with a view to balance. In other words, anything that I say in this blog, I would say in real life, and to the person to whom I am referring.

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

I don’t really know what I had in mind when I started all of this 1500 posts ago, but I do know that I never thought that it would go on this long. I never thought that I would dedicate so much of myself and so much of my time to this experience, which has sometimes been an exercise in pain and sometimes been a little slice of heaven.

Those of you who follow along and comment along the way make it all worthwhile. I mean, I’m not in it for the fame or glory (obviously, because that ain’t happening), but it really does help to know that there are people out there who care about what I have to say, people who care if I had a bad day. It’s affirmation, pure and simple.

But truth be told, I would continue to write and post even if there were no one out there in the ether. This blog has become my lifeblood in so many ways. It is an extension of myself, good and bad, and I have no plans to end any time soon, so I hope you’ll stay along for the ride.

And as always, there will be more later. Peace.

Music by Christina Grimmie, “With Love”

                   

Annunciation

Even if I don’t see it again — nor ever feel it
I know it is — and that if once it hailed me
it ever does —And so it is myself I want to turn in that direction
not as towards a place, but it was a tilting
within myself,as one turns a mirror to flash the light to where
it isn’t — I was blinded like that — and swam
in what shone at me only able to endure it by being no one and so
specifically myself I thought I’d die
from being loved like that.

~ Marie Howe

Advertisements

“I have passed down the river before sunrise on a summer morning, between fields of lilies still shut in sleep; and when, at length, the flakes of sunlight from over the bank fell on the surface of the water, whole fields of white blossoms seemed to flash open before me, as I floated along, like the unfolding of a banner” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Fields of Gold FCC Walt Stoneburner
Fields of Gold (Flickr CC)
by Walt Stoneburner

                   

Summer

Be of this brightness dyed
Whose unrecking fever
Flings gold before it goes
Into voids finally
That have no measure.

Bird-sleep moonset,
Island after island,
Be of their hush
On this tide that balance
A time, for a time.

Islands are not forever,
Nor this light again,
Tide-set, brief summer,
Be of their secret
That fears no other.

~ W. S. Merwin

                   

Music by Dana Winner, “Fields of Gold”

“Find beauty; be still.” ~ W.H. Murray

Chiaroscuro: Watcherby L. Liwag
Chiaroscuro: Watcher
by L. Liwag

                   

“In each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice. We’re each of us our own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real.” ~ Libba Bray, from A Great and Terrible Beauty

 Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and cold, low 40’s.

Things I believe in:

Chiaroscuro colon snow angel
Chiaroscuro: Snow Angel
by L. Liwag
  • the Oxford comma
  • friendship on a daily basis
  • lifelong love
  • romance
  • fictional characters
  • dreams (as in sleeping) as reflections of our lives
  • the inestimable power of music to move
  • the unmistakable humanity of dogs
  • past lives
  • monogamy
  • revenge
  • the existence of true good and real evil in the world
  • there is always hope

“We all walk in mysteries. We are surrounded by an atmosphere about which we still know nothing at all.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, letter dated 23 July 1820

Things I know for certain:

Chiaroscuro colon Winter Berries
Chiaroscuro: Winter Berries
by L. Liwag
  • Turning 40 changes your life in ways you cannot fathom for years to come
  • Melancholy is a way of life
  • Being different is both hard and easy
  • Revenge is counterproductive, which doesn’t lessen its desirability
  • I belong in front of a college classroom
  • I will always miss Caitlin, my father, and Mari
  • I have lived through momentous points in history but have failed to notice
  • The mirror is not my friend
  • I have surprised myself with the quality of some of the things I have written
  • I did not win the lottery

“There are so many
lives of which I know nothing.
Even my own.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “Unnameable Heart”

Things I don’t know well enough—yet:

Chiaroscuro colon La Luna
Chiaroscuro: La Luna
by L. Liwag
  • How to choose a friend wisely
  • How rain sounds on a tin roof
  • My own soul
  • How to believe in myself
  • How to be still, really still
  • How to be comfortable in my own skin
  • How to make and apply fondant on a fancy cake
  • How to renovate a house from top to bottom
  • How to find a literary agent
  • Where to find my place in the sun

“. . . the compulsion to repeat what one has experienced is like gravity, and it takes special equipment to break away from it.” ~ Edward St. Aubyn, from The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind

Things I will never do:

Chiaroscuro colon dog and snow
Chiaroscuro: Dog and Snow
by L. Liwag
  • Parachute out of a plane (used to be on my bucket list)
  • Have my picture taken while a snake is wrapped about my shoulders (I would die of fright first)
  • Pay retail
  • Go back on a promise (as long as it is within my power)
  • Race in the Tour de France (well, duh)
  • Dye my hair blond
  • Dance on a table (again)
  • Ride a big wave
  • Be sorted into a house at Hogwarts
  • Travel in a TARDIS
  • Not have a dog in my life

“We all want to take our lives in our own hands
and hurl them out among the stars.” ~ David Bottoms, from “Coasting Toward Midnight at the Southeastern Fair”

Things on my bucket list I may actually achieve some day:

Frozen Chiaroscuro
Frozen Chiaroscuro
by L. Liwag
  • Photograph a feeding hummingbird
  • Photograph a hawk in flight
  • See the New Year’s Eve fireworks show in Sydney
  • Fly a glider (yep, still want to do this)
  • Go to Ireland
  • Retile a room, walls and floor
  • Relax in a natural hot spring
  • Go to the Louvre
  • Go back to London and visit the places I knew as a child
  • Read everything Virginia Woolf ever wrote, including diaries
  • Have floor to ceiling built-in bookshelves filled to the brim with books of poetry, fiction, and some science and history
  • See the Northern lights and the Great Barrier Reef
  • See Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge and all of the stone circles across Europe
  • Publish a real book that people will want to read

“The heart is forever inexperienced.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Things I will love until the day I die:

Blossom Chiaroscuro
Blossom Chiaroscuro
by L. Liwag
  • A mockingbird’s song
  • The smells of fresh lavender, lilac, and rosemary
  • A cup of hot tea
  • Fresh bread still hot enough to melt butter
  • My name
  • Black leather boots
  • A long, hot bath scented with bath salts
  • A neck massage
  • The smell of the air after a spring rain
  • The feel of fine, soft, squishy leather purses and jackets
  • Christmas socks
  • Paper in all colors and weights
  • Handwritten letters and notes
  • Books, books, books
  • The certainties of cemeteries and waterfalls, mountains and oceans, and the moon in the night sky
  • “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes
  • The smell of 4711 cologne

Music by Bruno Mars (feat. Lindsey Stirling, Alex Boye’, & the Salt Lake Pops), “Grenade”

All images are mine, my concept of chiaroscuro.

                   

As I Grew Older 

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream.

And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.

Shadow.
I am black.

I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.

My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

~ Langston Hughes

“He did not remember when everything began to remind him of something else.” ~ Tobias Wolff, from “Bullet in the Brain”

"Cloister Cemetery in the Snow (1817-19, oil on canvas)by Caspar David Friedrich
“Cloister Cemetery in the Snow” (1817-19, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich

“I never change, I simply become more myself.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates,  from Solstice

Wednesday late afternoon. Cloudy and cold, 40’s.

I spent a lot of time today editing photos that Corey downloaded from the camera, starting with last Christmas. Yes, I am remiss. I changed my header image and my gravatar. What do you think?

My thoughts are meandering, so I thought that I’d create an appropriate post. Here are rambling thoughts, just because I can:

  • I really like eggnog with bourbon. It’s such an appropriately winter drink. Just saying.
"Hut in Snow" (1827, oil on canvas)by Caspar David Friedrich
“Hut in Snow” (1827, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich
  • No one sends Christmas cards any more. To date, we have received a whopping two. That won’t stop me from sending them, though.
  • Corey thinks I’m silly for sending out cards after Christmas, but I contend that my cards bear good wishes for the coming year, which makes them pretty timeless. Anyway, I hope to get them out in the next few days.
  • I need to make Olivia’s Christmas stocking, but so far I am uninspired. Nothing is really striking me, so I think that I just need to go to the fabric store and meander.
  • I’m not really feeling this whole Christmas season yet, and it’s almost the middle of the month. Perhaps my vacation threw off my whole timing?
  • When Corey and I were on the bus that took us from the airport to the pier, we passed this expansive wetland, and this is what I thought: That would be a great place to hide a body. Does this make me stranger than I already think that I am?

“You, clamped in your Depths,
climb out of yourself
for ever.” ~ Paul Celan, from “Illegibility”

Things that wish were different:

  • I wish that I was as secure about my physical being as Corey is about his. He gladly poses for pictures and then actually allows people to see those pictures. I reluctantly pose for pictures, and then—if and only if I Photoshop them into an acceptable state—chances are great that no one will ever see them.
"Winter Landscape with Church" (1811, oil on canvas)Caspar David Friedrich
“Winter Landscape with Church” (1811, oil on canvas)
Caspar David Friedrich
  • I wish that I could live more in the present and future instead of so much in the past, but I realize that at this point in my life, I am unlikely to change.
  • I wish that my children did not inherit my insecurities and inanities. Alexis is way too OCD; Eamonn overcompensates because he is insecure; and Brett views the world through a cynical lens. All me.
  • I wish that I were better at maintaining friendships, but I realize that having been burned badly in my last significant friendship that I am very, very gun-shy.
  • I wish that I could go back and change my decision not to pursue my doctorate decades ago.
  • I wish that I knew what made my mother such a hard person. I mean, what happened to her? There had to be something. When I told her that my ex and Ann were flying to Germany for Patrick’s memorial service, she said, “Why?” As in, she really couldn’t fathom what the point was. I just don’t understand.

Every man casts a shadow; not his body only, but his imperfectly mingled spirit. This is his grief. Let him turn which way he will, it falls opposite to the sun; short at noon, long at eve. Did you never see it?” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Things I genuinely don’t like about myself:

  • I don’t really think that I’m a good soul, you know, the kind of person who people will say, “She was a good person.”
Caspar David Friedrich, Graveyard under Snow 1826 oil on canvas
“Graveyard Under Snow” (1826, oil on canvas)
Caspar David Friedrich
  • I acknowledge that I’m an intellectual snob, and it’s not an exactly endearing quality, but at least I am aware that it’s true.
  • I have to force myself to make small-talk. Idle conversation is not my forte, but engross me in a political discussion or a discussion on the disparities in society, and I can talk forever.
  • I have one of those mouths that turns down at the corners. I realized this when I was about 14, and it has bothered me ever since. I mean, how can you go about with a cheerful disposition if your mouth cannot even physically reflect this?
  • When did I get thighs? I’ve never had thighs, but, well, there they are. Getting older is hard enough without gaining bodily sections that you never had. I used to like my legs, really like them as in not be ashamed to show them, but now? Geez.

“That’s why I speak
In a voice so soft it sounds like writing
Night writing. A structure of feeling
Broken by hand.” ~ Ben Lerner, from “Mean Free Path”

Things that creep into my thoughts in the middle of the night:

  • I am not middle aged. I am older than middle aged, unless I’m going to live much longer than anyone in my family. This is a brutal reality.
Caspar David Friedrich, Dolmen in the Snow oil on canvas
“Dolmen in the Snow” (1807, oil on canvas)
by Caspar David Friedrich
  • It’s strange to realize that more of your life is past you than before you.
  • In the last 15 months, I have lost three people and one canine friend. And people wonder why I am so fixated on loss.
  • At this stage of my life, I am probably going to be dealing with the loss of more people from my life, and I wish with all of my heart that this were not so.
  • Maybe I really am too old to embark upon a whole new chapter. How does one know this? Who decides what is too old?
  • Ernest Hemingway wrote when he was just a child that he was going to be a writer and go on adventures. When I was just a child, I said that I was going to be a poet. He did exactly what he said he was going to do. Why didn’t I?

“I cannot make you understand. I cannot make anyone understand what is happening inside me. I cannot even explain it to myself.” ~ Franz Kafka

Idle remnants:

  • The name of the book that I was going to write years ago was White Moon on Black Water: Writings on Loss and Resolution. I still think it’s a good title.
  • I really wish that I could be working in the publishing industry in some capacity.

    Caspar David Friedrich Tree of Crows, oil on canvas, ca 1822
    “Tree of Crows” (ca 1822, oil on canvas)
    Caspar David Friedrich
  • I really wish that I were working.
  • It’s hard for me to answer the question posed by strangers, “So, what do you do?” Do? Nothing?
  • I am of that generation that equates self-worth with careers. That old Puritan work ethic: Hard work brings success. Interestingly, though, I have never equated money with success, as in the more I made, the more successful I was. My goal was always that I like what I was doing, whatever it was.
  • Do you know that well before the scrapbooking fad I was making books for people, and these books were filled with pictures and poems and quotes that I thought suited the individual. My therapist asked me if this wouldn’t be a good business idea, and I told her that I didn’t really think so. That right there shows you how my mind does not work in a capitalist fashion. I could only see the books as creative outlets, not as a money-making venture. This is why I will never be rich.

(All images by Caspar David Friedrich, 19th century German Romantic painter)

Music by Efterklang (a recent discovery), “Natural Tune”

                   

Abyss

You’ve left a hole
the size of the sky
in the chair across the table

in the chasm of the closet
your shoes hold the shape
of every step we took

through the seven rooms
of a world with no language
but that of moving

on macadam and the miles
of velvet earth before rainfall
between rows of corn

and up the curving drive
until they landed beside
the bed a black hole

you disappeared through
as I look for a sign
of you slivered with stars

your body without borders
nowhere and everywhere
in the wind moving through trees

on its way down the hall
to the back of my neck
in the chill you still send through me

and so I slip into the deep
abyss of your shoes
standing where you were last

pointing in two directions
trusting the way forward
is also the way back

~ Wyatt Townley

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

The English Patient
(Ralph Fiennes & Kristin Scott Thomas)

                   

“Let the darkness transform into rock
across the wilderness of my memory” ~ Liu Xiaobo, from “Fifteen Years of Darkness” (trans. Jeffrey Yang)

Monday night. Stuffy outside, humidity. Seems like storms are looming but not actually becoming.

Count Almásy and Katherine Clifton Dancing Cheek-to-Cheek

Memory is a tricky thing, as I’m sure I have said before. The same memory can at times be nostalgic, conjuring a bittersweet longing for a return to the moment of conception. And then later, that same memory can be so fraught with emotion that tears are the only possible response.

For example: Last night I was flipping through the channels rather aimlessly. I happened upon a showing of The English Patient, a movie that has held the number 2 spot in my all-time favorite movies for well over a decade. (It was formerly in the number 1 spot, that is until the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and well, there is no surpassing that). As I noted the listing, I paused on the channel, thought that I would probably move on to something else, but never changed the channel.

This was a mistake.

I know that I have to be in the right frame of mind to watch The English Patient, and I wasn’t in that frame of mind. But by the time the credits rolled, I was in full emotional meltdown. I pulled my soundtrack off the rack, popped it into the computer, and waited for morning.

“The rapturous notes of an unendurable grief, of isolation and terror,
the nearly impossible to sustain slow phrases of the ascending figures—
they drifted out over the dark water
like an ecstasy.” ~ Louise Glück, from “The Balcony”

The English Patient
Naveen Andrews & Juliette Binoche

I first saw that movie upon its release in 1996, which was a very, very bad year for me. A friend of mine at the museum had recommended the Michael Ondaatje book to me the previous spring, but I had promptly forgotten about it. Immediately after watching the Anthony Minghella-directed movie, I did two things: I bought the soundtrack, and I bought the book. I didn’t look for the best price, or a sale, I just bought them, which, if you know how I shop, is very uncharacteristic.

In 1996, my marriage to my ex was quickly declining, for a multitude of reasons. I had been laid off from the Museum because of the massive deficit, and I was in a very dark, lonely place. My relationship with Mari, one of the bedrocks of my life, was also in rapid decline, for reasons of which I am still not fully aware. But I went to see this movie with her, and, as it turns out, with her young amour, the person who would be responsible for completely changing her.

But I digress.

We went to the Naro, an old renovated theater in the heart of downtown’s Ghent section. The sound in this particular theater is incredible, and from the opening notes of the first song I was totally enthralled.

“We have understood nothing of life until we have understood that it is one vast confusion.” ~ Henry de Montherlant, from The Bachelors

Almásy in the Desert

If you are unfamiliar with the movie (which holds very closely to Ondaatje’s book), I will briefly recap chronologically what is shown in two different timelines: Count Almásy (played by a then rather gorgeous golden Ralph Fiennes) is part of of a Royal Geographical Society archeological expedition in the deserts of Egypt and Libya in the 1930s. Katherine (played by a blond Kristin Scott Thomas) and her husband (Colin Firth) join the group. An affair ensues, hearts are broken, promises are broken, WWII breaks out, Almásy trades important maps of the desert with the Germans in exchange for a plane and fuel so that he can keep his promise to return to Katherine, a plane crash follows, the Count is burned beyond recognition, loses his identity and simply becomes the English patient, Juliette Binoche, Naveen Andrews, and Willem Dafoe enter the picture, hearts are broken, betrayals occur, the war ends.

It all sounds so clinical when spelled out like that. It is anything but.

The cinematography is breathtaking. The music is heart-wrenching. The acting is impeccable. So how could something that I consider to be so good hurt me so bad(ly)? To provide a true answer to that would take a lot more time and space than this little forum.

“Once I conjugated every animal to sorrow . . . Even now it seems like every version of melancholy rescues a nocturne for the pallid sky. A type of permanent dusk. Fold down the bedsheet. The room has earned its sadness. Nondescript despite how we have rearranged ourselves inside it, undressing with cold hands. Us with our pilgrim hearts. Stationed fast to parentheses of sleep and winter.” ~ Allison Titus, from Sum of Every Lost Ship

Le me try a slightly sifted explanation in which the chaff has been mostly eradicated:

Final Walk to the Cave of the Swimmers

The love affair between Katherine and Almásy is epic. It is destiny. It is the kind of love between two people that those of us who are romantics firmly believe is possible, what we hope for but what we know we will never have. Even as she lays dying, Katherine offers her love a quiet peace within the last words she writes, and she writes these words even as the lamplight is dying, the air is chilling, and any hope of rescue is firmly quenched.

Later, as he lies in a foreign bed in a deserted house, Almásy spends his time daydreaming about the hours they shared. His copy of Herodotus is filled with love notes and personal commentaries on love and betrayal, overwriting the historian’s account of Greco-Roman history.

After watching the movie and then reading the book, I found a kind of running thread of words and phrases from both in the back of my mind at any given time during the day or night. I underlined passages. I wrote marginalia, the most telling of which was “I wish that I could find someone to love me like this.”

“Now and then, I remember you in times
Unbelievable. And in places not made for memory
But for the transient, the passing that does not remain.” ~ Yehuda Amichai, from “Little Ruth” (trans. by Benjamin and Barbara Harshav)

At that time in my life, I did not feel loved, or rather, I felt loved in the wrong way, if that makes any sense. Any sense of belonging that I felt came from outside my home. I felt stretched too thin, underappreciated, overworked, and mostly, mostly I felt hollow. So when I see this movie, all of those feelings come back to the surface. I remember exactly where I was sitting in the theater. I remember trying to tell my ex about the beauty of the movie, asking him to go see it with me (which never happened).

The English Patient Original Theatrical Release Poster

(Later that year, the owner of the Naro gave me the movie poster as he knew how much I coveted it. I still have it and am still waiting for that room of my own in which to hang it.)

The English Patient does for me exactly what Aristotle’s Poetics declared great drama would do to an audience: allow an empathy with the story so profound as to cause a purging of pity and fear. The mythos (plot) and ethos (character) of the movie combine to reopen old scars, leaving me stinging as if the scab has only recently been scratched, and then, a few days later, I am purged. But the reopening of the portal to that era in my life is not without consequences.

Or, to put it more simply, it’s an elevated version of The Way We Were, the Streisand/Redford collaboration of the 70’s that depicted two ill-fated lovers who loved too much, whose love was all-consuming, and consequently, couldn’t withstand time and circumstance. Of course, The English Patient won nine Academy Awards, and The Way We Were none. But the real point is this: Why is such passionate love always doomed?

But that’s a completely different entry.

More later. Peace.

Music from The English Patient, closing theme, composed by Gabriel Yared

                   

Light By Which I Read

One does not turn to the rose for shade, nor the charred song of the
redwing for solace.
This past I patch with words is a flaw in the silvering,
memory seen
through to.
There I find the shallow autumn waters, the three stolen pears,
The horizon edged with chalk, loose where the fabric frayed.
Each yesterday glacier-scored, each a dark passage illumined by a
honeycomb.

*

I begin to fathom the brittle intricacy of the window’s scrim of ice.
For years, I managed without memory—stalled, unnumbered,
abridged—
No more alive than a dismembered saint enthroned in two hundred
reliquaries.
Now, it is hard not to say I remember,
hard, in fact, not to remember.
Now, I hear the filament’s quiver, its annoying high frequency, light
by which I read.

*

River mist, mudbanks, and rushes mediate the dark matter
Between two tomorrows:
one an archive of chance effects,
The other a necropolis of momentary appearances and sensations.
One, a stain of green, where a second wash bleeds into the first.
The other time-bound, fecund, slick with early rain.

*

As if to impose a final hermeneutic, all at once the cicadas wind down.
The gooseberry bush looms like a moon: each berry taut, sour, aglow.
The creek runs tar in the cloud-light, mercury at dusk.
Then the frogs start up.
Clay-cold at the marrow. A hollow pulse-tick.
And it seems, at last, I’ve shed my scorched and papery husk.

~ Eric Pankey

(To see poem with original indents, click on link.)

“We need the tonic of wildness.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Snowy Owl against White Sky by Mark Miller (Finger Lake Times)

                   

“I am
the sun and moon
and forever hungry
the sharpened edge
where day and night shall
meet and not be one.” ~ Audre Lorde, from “The House of Yemanjá

Sunday evening, rainy.

(“House of Yemanja” was one of my favorite poems to teach in my American lit class.)

White Skies in Dubai by untitled blue (FCC)

6:54 a.m., the time I last glanced at the clock on the computer. Heard the clock in the living room chime 7 a.m. Looked outside at a pearly white sky, the kind of morning sky when no sun pierces through the clouds, the kind of sky that follows a night of rain. The white sky most associated with winter. Luminous white, without color, or is white all color? I always forget that basic color principle, black, white, all color, absence of color.

I thought about beginning this post then but knew that if I did, I would probably never go to bed, and my body simply cannot tolerate such things any more.

This insomnia is killing me.

And my sinuses are in revolt. It was in the 80’s this past week; tonight they are calling for rain and snow with temps in the low 30’s. By mid-week, it’s supposed to be back in the 60’s. I feel like banging my head against a wall. It might actually make me feel better, between the no-sleep, the sinus headaches, and the ongoing computer lockups and snafus (ARGH) . . .

Diy-um, as they say in the south.

“That’s who you really like. The people you can think out loud in front of.” ~ John Green

Anyway, when I couldn’t sleep, I went out into the dining room and played with Tumblr on Corey’s computer until my body felt heavy. Unfortunately, while Corey and I were watching the backlog of “Bones” on the DVR, I ate Fritos, the honey BBQ swirls, which I used to eat all of the time when I was going to GW. Not so much any more. They left this coating on my tongue that I felt like scraping off with a blunt edge, even after brushing and using mouthwash. The coating stayed after chewing Tums and drinking water. Then I felt them in my chest.

Monochrome Morning by goingslo (FCC)

I’ve been out of my Dexilant for about a week, and consequently, the GERD is acting up. Apparently, Fritos at 3 in the morning are not a good diet choice. Who knew?

After sitting up in the dining room chair for an hour or so the heaviness in my chest was gone, and I decided to try sleeping again. Grabbed an eye pillow out of the ziplock bag in the freezer and headed back to bed, only to find that all of the dogs had migrated to my side of the bed. Luckily, Corey has become quite proficient in moving Tillie in his sleep if I give him a nudge; otherwise, I am left to try to reposition the dead weight of a sleeping labrador. Not an easy task. I made myself get up this afternoon even though I really could have kept sleeping.

I so hate this—inching back the hours until I’m going to bed at a reasonable time for a night owl, only to lose traction and wind up staying up past dawn. Who lives like this?

“Is suffering really necessary? Yes and no. If you had not suffered as you have, there would be no depth to you as a human being, no humility, no compassion.” ~ Eckhart Tolle

I have so much to do that sitting here writing this post is probably irresponsible. I went through the mail basket a couple of nights ago and sorted the unopened bills, junk mail, and flyers, shredded what needed to be destroyed and put the rest in recycling. Now I really need to get back to organizing the family records. Our label maker died a while ago, and I need to set up new files. Add this to the pending taxes and FAFSAs . . . crap.

White Sky Angel, Tyne, Gateshead UK by smlp.co.uk (FCC)

Earlier this week Corey received a departure date—today. Obviously, it didn’t happen. New date is sometime at the end of this week. I don’t even know if I should put that out there as the fates might find it too tempting and switch us up yet again. The bad thing (for me) is that when he gets actual travel orders, I start to get really down and withdraw, initially, and then I compose myself and remind myself that this is a good thing. So by the time I adjust my thinking to him actually boarding a plan and leaving, everything gets put on hold, again.

The bad thing for him is that he moves into near-panic mode only to be put on pause, which leads to more pacing and heavy sighs. When we think that we have a date, we plan the few days before, decide on the things that we really need to take care of, which is a good thing, but then when the plans change, we toss everything by the wayside, as if we’ve moved a pile of dirt from one place to another, and then instead of doing something productive with it, we just leave it in the new place where it can erode and get muddy and whatever.

“The imperfect is our paradise.
Note that, in this bitterness, delight,
since the imperfect is so hot in us,
lies in flawed words and stubborn sounds.” ~ Wallace Stevens, from “The Poems of Our Climate

Anyway, that’s where we are. My body thinks that it’s afternoon, and the clock says that it’s 7:34 pm.

White on White by audreyjm529 (FCC)

“Flawed words and stubborn sounds”—some of the quotes that I’ve been coming across seem to be thrown into my lap propitiously in that they are so very appropriate in reflecting what I’m feeling. One of the bloggers who I visit made a comment about how she finds some people’s blogs so hard to follow, as if there is no real point, and it made me pause . . . Was she talking about me? Not being paranoid, more like reflective and analytical. Are my words too flawed to be worth anything to anyone else? Are my posts too full of stubborn sounds so as to be enigmatic, didactic, problematic?

Should I change up? Should I stay or should I go (old song lyrics)? Should I . . .

The section of the Joan Didion essay that I posted a couple of days ago has had me thinking quite a bit. Why do I write? It’s a topic that I’ve covered several times from different angles, but I’ve been mulling over the whole process for me, its origins, its evolution. I know that it’s a post-in-waiting, and perhaps after some sleep I’ll be able to tackle it. Didion stole the title from George Orwell, and I’ll steal the title from her. After all, stealing in writing is high praise—supposedly.

But the point? I’ve quite forgotten at the moment. I only know that I’ve got an idea rolling around in my brain. Cogitating as it were.

“Suspect each moment, for it is a thief, tiptoeing away with more than it brings.” ~ John Updike, A Month Of Sundays

I had an interesting comment on my A to Z bucket list post regarding my classification of the French as xenophobes. Of course, I was generalizing, something that I do when I’m not being careful. Nevertheless, I apologize for any offense. As I responded, I know that all French people are not xenophobes, just as I know that all Irish people do not drink Guiness, and all Australians don’t  throw shrimp on the barbie.

Tree and Berries Against White Sky

But the point is that when we write these posts, when we put things out there for public consumption, unless we are intentionally attempting to be controversial (which I know I can be), or we are trying to be bigoted (which I really try not to be), we need to be mindful of our words.

To be honest, the word xenophobe crept into my subconscious as it is one of the few words beginning with the letter x that I really like, not the definition, but the sound of it. X is such a problematic letter, sounding like z in the English language, and sh in many Asian languages, etc. So in the back of my mind when I was thinking about possible entries for X (which I know I copped out on), xenophobe planted itself firmly in my subconscious data file. Not an excuse, just an explanation.

Sorry this has been such a fluff post, but I’m on auto-pilot. Not an excuse, just an explanation.

More later. Peace.

Music by Cass McCombs, “Broken”

                   

Wait

Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.

Wait.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.

~ Galway Kinnell

“I walk without flinching through the burning cathedral of the summer. My bank of wild grass is majestic and full of music. It is a fire that solitude presses against my lips.” ~ Violette Leduc, Mad in Pursuit

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

                   

“To express the thought of a brow by the radiance of a light tone against a somber background; to express hope by some star, the eagerness of a soul by a sunset radiance.” ~ Vincent van Gogh, from a letter to his brother, Theo, September 1888

Friday afternoon. Sunny and warm, low humidity.

Sunrise over Salar de Uyuni

Massive migraine yesterday, so no writing. Just a dull throb today, so better.

Yesterday was a frustrating day (actually, the whole week has been that way), one of those days in which too many telephone calls had to be made, and no forward motion was made. I’m trying to ascertain whether or not my health insurance will cover Botox injections for my migraines (not for my face). I keep getting told different things with each phone call. I finally spoke with someone in my neurologist’s office who actually was familiar with how my particular insurance covers the shots, and she is going to have the nursing supervisor call me next week (when she returns from vacation) so that I can put everything in place.

I first read about Botox for migraines about five or six years ago, but at that time, it was still considered experimental. Slowly, more and more insurance companies are paying for the shots for people like me who suffer from frequent migraines and for whom normal treatment is ineffective. I’m really hoping this pans out so that I can get these shots. I’m kind of at the end of my rope as far as the migraines go; I mean, I’ve given up caffeine almost entirely, and I avoid triggers, but I still get these damned things at least two or three times a week.

I would like to preserve the few brain cells that I have left. Really don’t think that’s too much to ask . . .

When Corey got home from work yesterday, we spent a few hours in the pool just floating and talking. It was quite relaxing except, of course, for the times when Tillie would jump into the water to get her ball. She’s such a needy little bugger. Even now as I type, she’s sitting in the door whining because I’m ignoring her. It’s like having a toddler.

“The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening. It is a little star dust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.” ~Henry David Thoreau, Walden

The World’s Largest Mirror: Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Corey and I are both making an effort to get to sleep earlier, so that we can wake up earlier, as in no more 4 a.m. sleep times. Although I am sleeping better, I still wake up at least two to three times, which means the longest stretch of uninterrupted sleep that I get is about four hours. Still that’s better than the two hours I was averaging before. The dogs are still the primary reason that I wake up.

For example, last night, just as I was drifting off, I heard the unmistakable sound of Tillie retching; it sounds very much like a cat with a hairball. She’s been eating grass, so of course, it has to come up. Why do dogs eat grass? They aren’t cows. I just don’t understand how they can eat something that their bodies cannot digest, and then their bodies expel the grass only for them to go back to grazing the next day. Why? Why? Why?

I read a little tidbit from the Telegraph that describes an elk that was ignoring its drinking water. The elk was seen putting its hooves into the water and acting strangely. Then the elk stuck its head into the water and came out with a squirrel in its mouth. The elk put the squirrel down, nudged it to make sure it was alive, and then watched the squirrel scamper off. How cool is that?

How sad is it that the supposedly wild beasts have more humanity than some people? Don’t get me started.

“Now the day is over, the shadows are long on the grass. The new trees hold the light—and wisps of white cloud move dreamily over the dreaming mountains.” ~ Katherine Mansfield, from a letter to John Middleton Murry (May 21, 1921)

Salar de Uyuni at Sunrise

I am finding that I have become quite fond of Katherine Mansfield’s writings, especially her letters. They remind me of Virginia Woolf’s correspondence. Both women wrote such thought-filled missives. I find both women’s prose styles to be quite poetic and vivid.

One of my readers has offered to write me a real letter. I am so excited. Of course, with the drama that has been taking forefront in our household lately, I have yet to send her my address. I am such a poor correspondent even before I get started.

I never had a pen pal as a child, although I know that several of my friends did. I imagine that the notion of a pen pal is quite outdated in today’s virtual world. I mean, first, no one writes with a pen any more, and second, corresponding with someone across the world is no longer something that takes time or effort, really. There is e-mail, instant messaging, tweeting, and Facebook, among other things. If you want someone to know what you are doing or what projects you may be involved in, you can tell them in 144 characters or less. How prosaic can one be in 144 characters?

I gave up Twitter ages ago. Who really needs to know that I’m buying groceries? That’s not to say that Twitter is not a good medium. For example, writer Neil Gaiman uses his Twitter to talk about his writing, his projects, and to promote reading. That’s the kind of information for which Twitter was made. I see no reason to update people every time I leave the house. I mean, who cares really?

I’m reminded of an episode of “Criminal Minds” in which Agent Rossi makes fun of Twitter: “Eating sushi. Yum.” And then he says something like “who are these people that they think their every movement is so important?” The killer in that particular episode was using social networking to stalk his victims. Virtual stalking . . . yep, I can relate.

“A nomad I will remain for life, in love with distant and uncharted places.” ~ Isabelle Eberhardt

Salar de Uyuni (can be downloaded as wallpaper)

The pictures in today’s post feature one of the places on my list of places to see before I die: Salar de Uyuni (or Salar de Tunupa).

Salt Mounds on the Salar de Uyuni

This place, which at times can appear to be the world’s largest natural mirror, is actually the world’s largest salt flat. Located in Bolivia near the Andes, the Salar (Spanish for salt flat) is covered by a flat salt crust atop a brine lake. This brine lake, rich in natural minerals, contains 50 to 70 percent of the world’s lithium reserves. The Uyuni salt flats contain over 10 billion tons of salt, 25,000 tons of which are harvested annually.

The Salar is a major transport route, even during the rainy season when it is covered by a thin sheet of water, which produces the mirror effect. Because it is a prime location for photographers, the Salar attracts tourists from around the world. Many Bolivian tourist sites use the phrases “where the earth meets the sky” or “the border between heaven and earth” in their promotional hype.

I found out about Salar de Uyuni completely by accident when I saw a photograph. The image was mesmerizing, and I looked closely to make sure that it wasn’t photoshopped. Imagine my surprise when I found out that it was a real place and that people can actually go there.

I have lots of places on my list for lots of different reasons: the castles in Scotland, the reefs in Australia, the ruins of old churches in Ireland, the Maldives while they still exist.

One day . . .

Salar de Uyuni: Walking on the Boarder between Heaven and Earth*

More later. Peace

Music by Shawn Colvin, “Never Saw Blue Like That”

*Access used to be limited to hot air balloon, but this is no longer the case. Access is usually via 4×4 vehicles.

                   

City of Lavender

I had everything I ever wanted to say to you organized in my head
but forgot it all when you took my palm in your hand and with
your index finger wrote “disaster.” If you were to ask me how I
ended up here, I don’t even know. Every night at 8:25 I can’t
believe it’s already 8:25 and I’m so happy it’s only 8:25. Sometimes
I find tragedy reassuring. Sometimes the cat licks my neck. I don’t
want to think about where I’ve been or where I’m going anymore.
Sometimes I just want to cry. Sometimes I just want to sit in a
quiet space. It’s within me to rip my own head off. Let me tell you
about the city. It’s a city of lavender. I can’t remember its name.
There aren’t enough bank holidays. Someday you’ll read this and
understand what type of person I am.

~ Jason Bredle