“The wreckage of stars — I built a world from this wreckage.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from Through the Circle of Dionysian Dithyrambs, trans. James Luchte and Eva Leadon

Fall on the Merced by puliarf FCC
Fall on the Merced
by puliarf (FCC)

                   

“I keep remembering—I keep remembering. My heart has no pity on me.” ~ Henri Barbusse, from The Inferno (L’Enfer), trans. Edward J. O’Brien

Sunday morning. Partly cloudy and mild, 66 degrees.

I am forcing myself to sit here and make an honest attempt at a post. I make no promises. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, more that I am in the midst of one of those times in which linear thought is hard. It is much easier to focus on the fact that the furniture should be polished, or perhaps that I should clean the light fixtures—inanity over creativity.

Fall Foliage in Central Park2 NYC by Alakan Dude FCC
Fall Foliage in Central Park, NYC
by Alaskan Dude (FCC)

But I will eschew the temptation to wander into mindlessness.

Perhaps it is better if I approach this as a random thoughts post and see where takes me. So . . .

  • Corey’s ship is due in port this evening. They had to reroute to go around a storm. He is supposed to be in port for five days.
  • He is coming home to sad news: His grandfather died last night.
  • I never really had a grandfather. My mother’s father was in a nursing home, and I only met my dad’s father that one time when we were in the Philippines. The only thing I remember about him was that he was a short man who did not smile.
  • During times like these, I miss my father, miss how much he loved his grandchildren. He would have adored Olivia.
  • I’m not sure if I’m going to be able to finish this as I am filled with longing and grief.

“We are dancing in the hollow of nothingness. We are one flesh, but separated like stars.” ~ Henry Miller, from Tropic of Capricorn

  • I’ve never read Tropic of Capricorn. I don’t know why. I knew someone once who had met Henry Miller at a party. I was so naive at the time that I thought he was talking about Arthur Miller.

    Fall Foliage by C E Kent FCC
    Fall Foliage
    by C E Kent (FCC)
  • When I think about how much I thought I knew then that I didn’t actually know, I cringe a little inside.
  • It’s too bad that we cannot go through our whole lives with the surety of knowing everything that pervades our youth. The years strip us of this blissful ignorance and replace it with the weight of knowledge.
  • I was so self-assured in my 20’s, so completely certain that I knew more than the next person. I feared nothing and no one. What happened to that person?
  • I remember after I had been in my new job at the medical school for a bit and had made friends, I asked one of them why she had been so cold to me in the beginning. She replied that I scared the crap out of her. I was completely taken aback.
  • It took the death of Caitlin to humble me, to make me realize that everything that I had thought I knew and believed simply wasn’t true.

“… this is the wreath of love, this bed of thorns
is where I dream of you stealing my rest,
haunting these sunken ribs cargoed with grief.
I sought the peak of prudence, but I found
the hemlock-brimming valley of your heart,
and my own thirst for bitter truth and art.” ~ Federico García Lorca, from “Wounds of Love (Stigmata of Love)”

  • I stepped outside a few mornings ago and realized that the air was beginning to smell like fall, the aroma that resembles mountain water and dead leaves, a commingling of smells like no other.

    Autumn in Kyoto by Daily Picture FCC
    Autumn in Kyoto
    by Daily Picture (FCC)
  • I have an ongoing battle with autumn: It has always, always been my favorite season, and it has always, always been the time of year in which I find myself helplessly, hopelessly depressed.
  • By last night I knew that I was already in the midst of a major depressive episode; as I lay immersed in the hottest water possible in my new tub, I had a sudden sense of being completely overwhelmed.
  • When this happens, anything and everything can set me off: a song, a smell, a sound.
  • I applaud those of you who never feel this way, and I am completely astonished that not everyone feels this way.
  • My skin feels foreign, too small for my body, too taut for my emotions.
  • And I just want to be far away, preferably in the mountains, where there is enough air, where the walls do not contain me.

“Skin, though it takes pains to remember caresses, is marked by the road that pain takes.” ~ Rosmarie Waldrop, from Driven to Abstraction

  • My antidepressant does help, some, but nothing can help completely. I think that many people think that antidepressants are cure-alls; they are not.
  • I resisted going on medication because I thought that I would not be able to feel, because I liked my extreme highs and lows. Let me back up a bit—the first antidepressant I tried (and I tried many) completely numbed me. Who wants to feel nothing? Certainly not I.

    Autumn in the New Forest by MarilynJane FCC
    Autumn in the New Forest
    by MarilynJane (FCC)
  • I view my medication as a large band-aid—it protects me from harm, but there is still a wound under it that takes time to heal.
  • It’s strange really, how I have come to know the precise second an episode has arrived, as if it has rung a bell or announced itself somewhere in the recesses of my brain. I suppose after all of these years it makes sense that I would be so attuned.
  • But back to my initial resistance: having felt the extremes for all of my adolescence, I battled attempts to fix me in my 20’s. I suppose that is a natural response, not to want to be dependent upon something, to want to be able to fix things without the benefit of drugs. It’s a battle that I still fight, actually, looking at the pills in my hand for my various ailments, wondering what would happen if I just stopped.
  • But I don’t. Age has allowed me, at least, the wisdom to recognize that I will probably take pills until the day I die.

“A brief parenthesis in chaos.” ~ Thomas Lovell Beddoes, from “Insignificance of the World”

  • I remember sitting in my first psychology course in high school, the very moment I was able to put a name to what was happening to me, when the teacher began to describe manic depression (as it was called then), the extreme highs and lows, the split second changes between the two.

    Autumn in herefordshire by apdk FCC
    Autumn in Herefordshire
    by apdk (FCC)
  • I told no one.
  • I really don’t know why I’m rehashing this; it’s not as if I haven’t mulled over this again and again and again.
  • But then, I don’t really know why I do a lot of things, at least, not when I feel like this.
  • Nothing seems to make sense, and everything is hard.
  • Everything is hard.
  • Everything is hard.
  • If only chocolate really were a cure.
  • Thanks for tuning in.

More later. Peace.

Music by Noah Gundersen & The Forest Rangers, “He got away”


Steady Now

Although things vanish, are what mark our vanishing,
we still hold on to them–ballast against the updraft
of oblivion–as I hold on to this umbrella in a world of rain,

of heavy wet greens and grays dissolving into a new
atmosphere, a sort of underwater dulled electric glow
off everything, the air itself drowning in it, breath

thickening, growing mold. Yesterday I felt the smell
of grass greeting me as across a great distance, trying
to tell me some good thing in an underglaze of memory,

some forgotten summer trying to speak its piece. It is
the way of things and it never stops, never calls a halt–
this knocking and dismantling, this uprooting, cutting out

and digging down, so tall oaks and honey locusts are
laid low and drop to earth like felled cattle, shaking
the ground we’ve taken a stand on as if it were a steady

establishment, a rock of ages to outface ruin itself, not
the provisional slippery dissolving dissolute thing it is–
which we have against all the evidence set our hearts on.

~ Eamon Grennan

 

“Heightened self-consciousness, apartness, an inability to join in, physical shame and self-loathing—they are not all bad. Those devils have been my angels. Without them I would never have disappeared into language, literature, the mind, laughter and all the mad intensities that made and unmade me.” ~ Stephen Fry, from Moab Is My Washpot

John Piper Covehithe Church 1983 oil on canvas
“Covehithe Church” (1983, oil on canvas)
by John Piper

                   

“All morning I was at my notes, ferreting through my life records, wondering where to begin, how to make a start.” ~ Henry Miller, in a letter to Anaïs Nin

Monday, early afternoon. Partly cloudy, 80 degrees.

Well, I made it through another Father’s Day. The hardest part of this particular holiday is seeing all of the cards on display. I don’t know why, but that always gets me. I had made a few revisions to “My Father’s Hands,” so I decided to post it again.

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“A Ruined House, Hampton Gay, Oxfordshire” (1941, oil and Indian ink on canvas)
by John Piper

This year Corey wasn’t here as he’s in Ohio visiting his family for Father’s Day. It was a surprise for his dad, which is nice. Of course, his trip wasn’t without the usual hitches; this time, he missed his connecting flight in Atlanta and had to spend the night at the airport and pay $50 to change his ticket. It’s a good thing we hadn’t paid all of the bills yet so there was money on the card. He’s also getting to meet his newest nephew, Ian. I’m so jealous, as you know how I am about babies.

Speaking of which, I want/need to have Olivia over this week, but I’m not feeling up to doing this on my own, so I guess I’ll wait until the weekend when Corey is home.

“Tears were warm, and girls were beautiful, like dreams . . . I liked the deep, sad summer nights.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from Dance Dance Dance

Life around the house has calmed a bit since Jake was taken back to the shelter. I made the mistake of going on the site to see if he’s featured, and it made me feel guilty all over again. He was such a wonderfully loving dog; I can only hope that someone full of love adopts him and gives him the home he deserves.

John Piper Seaford Head, 1933, mixed media
“Seaford Head” (1933, mixed media)
by John Piper

But I must admit that I’ve been able to focus better on training Bailey (yes, she officially has a name now!), and she’s catching on very quickly. Far fewer accidents and more going to the door when it’s time. The real plus is that she and Tillie seem to get along very well. They have play fights and tug-of-war, and it’s great to see Tillie back to her old self again, not hiding from Jake under the bed, only coming out when she absolutely had to. She’s asserted her place as queen of the household pack, and Bailey is learning the routine from her.

But I just keep picturing Jake sitting there in his cage at the shelter wondering what happened. Oh well . . . We did the right thing, so why does it feel so wrong? That’s usually how it is, though.

“The whisper of leaves, water running down gutters, green depths flecked with dahlias or zinnias; I deviate, glancing this way, or that way, I shall fall like snow and be wasted.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

I must sound like a fruit loop sometimes, the way I go on about dogs, but dogs have been a major part of my life since I was a child. I can’t imagine living without at least one in my life.

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Welsh Landscape” (1950, oil on canvas)
by John Piper

In other news . . . I’ve actually been able to float in the pool a few times. It hasn’t been deadly hot and humid, and yesterday it was just the dogs and me and the sky. Very quiet.

I put Bailey in the pool, but she’s not quite pool-adept yet. Her big paws just pound the water. Tillie looks on with a bit of disdain; she hardly causes a ripple when she swims. Too funny.

I need to do some basics around here—laundry, paper work, some official replies—but I cannot for the life of me find even a spark of energy. Things haven’t gotten completely out of hand yet, but the mail is starting to make a small pile, and I have two baskets of clothes that I need to put away. The one good thing about Eamonn moving out is that the laundry has been cut in half. He routinely changes clothes at least twice a day.

Small favors.

“In my journal I write—I belong in this place of words. This is my home. This dark, bone black inner cave where I am making a world for myself.” ~ Bell Hooks, from Bone Black: Memories of Girlhood

Well, it’s the middle of the year, and I have yet to do anything about taking the GREs so that I can apply to GW’s doctoral program. This song and dance is not new for me. I have gone back and forth for so many years over whether I should pursue a doctorate. The truth is that having a PhD would probably do nothing for me professionally as there is a plethora of post-docs looking for work.

John Piper Park Place, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire 1941 oil on canvas on panel
“Park Place, Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire” (1941, oil on canvas on panel)
by John Piper

Is it enough to go through all of this simply because I have always felt that I should do this? When I say always, I am not exaggerating—I have always, since I was an undergraduate, seen myself as holding a doctorate, teaching at some college somewhere.

I certainly don’t need the degree to pursue my writing. Lots and lots of successful writers out there who don’t hold degrees. For the writing I just need to write, and we all know that I haven’t done so well on pursuing that front either.

So what gives? Why oh why do I believe that I need this thing so much . . . I have no more answers than the last time I pondered this situation. Maybe I’ll just spend the rest of my years having this inner debate ad infinitum.

“An inheritance of wonder and nothing more.” ~ William Least Heat-Moon, from Blue Highways

I’ve spent the last few nights in my past again. Mari has made several dream appearances, as have the people I used to work with at Dillard’s. I have no idea if it means anything or not, but it leaves me feeling limp in the morning, as if I’ve traversed hundreds of miles in my sleep.

John Piper Seaton Delaval 1941 oil on canvas laid on wood
“Seaton Delaval” (1941, oil on canvas laid on wood)
by John Piper

Last night I dreamed that I had a phone altercation with a bill collector who was looking for Corey. That was very, very strange, but the strangest part is that I have a feeling it actually happened. I’ve been known to carry on entire conversations in my sleep. I can only hope that it was indeed a dream and not an actual occurrence.

I just remembered that part of my dream last night involved me floating about five feet off the ground on what can best be described as kind of a magic carpet, only it wasn’t a carpet, it was white and silky. I’ve had this dream many times before, and I’ve had the sensation of being able to float from place to place. These floating dreams are usually very enjoyable, for obvious reasons, but last night’s included a pit bull jumping up and grabbing me while I was floating. He was grey. No idea where that came from.

“Few people realise the immensity of vacancy in which the dust of the material universe swims.” – H. G. Wells, from The War of the Worlds

(c) Mrs Clarissa Lewis (daughter); Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Coventry Cathedral 15 November (1940, oil on plywood)
by John Piper

Corey will be home Wednesday evening. I couldn’t tell you why this particular trip hit hard, especially as it’s only for a few days. I guess it’s just an accumulation of things. I hope that I’m feeling better by then as I am so tired of feeling tired, so tired of feeling less than myself.

It’s hard to describe sometimes, this enervating lethargy. It’s not just feeling tired, but more of feeling like a rag that’s been wrung tightly and left to dry—shapeless, limp, used up. I’m not sure if I’m in the tail end of this particular depressive episode, if it is bodily aguish as a result, or if the body is causing the mind, or if it’s all unrelated.

When I finish this, I just may crawl back into bed. Even floating in the pool feels like too much work. I suppose the cobwebs will just have to wait another day.

More later. Peace.

All images by English artist John Piper (1903-1992)

Music by Gretchen Peters, “Five Minutes”

                   

Celestial Music

I have a friend who still believes in heaven.
Not a stupid person, yet with all she knows, she literally talks
to god,
she thinks someone listens in heaven.
On earth, she’s unusually competent.
Brave, too, able to face unpleasantness.

We found a caterpillar dying in the dirt, greedy ants crawling
over it.
I’m always moved by weakness, by disaster, always eager to
oppose vitality.
But timid, also, quick to shut my eyes.
Whereas my friend was able to watch, to let events play out
according to nature. For my sake, she intervened,
brushing a few ants off the torn thing, and set it down across
the road.

My friend says I shut my eyes to god, that nothing else
explains
my aversion to reality. She says I’m like the child who buries
her head in the pillow
so as not to see, the child who tells herself
that light causes sadness—
My friend is like the mother. Patient, urging me
to wake up an adult like herself, a courageous person—

In my dreams, my friend reproaches me. We’re walking
on the same road, except it’s winter now;
she’s telling me that when you love the world you hear celestial
music:
look up, she says. When I look up, nothing.
Only clouds, snow, a white business in the trees
like brides leaping to a great height—
Then I’m afraid for her; I see her
caught in a net deliberately cast over the earth—

In reality, we sit by the side of the road, watching the sun set;
from time to time, the silence pierced by a birdcall.
It’s this moment we’re both trying to explain, the fact
that we’re at ease with death, with solitude.
My friend draws a circle in the dirt; inside, the caterpillar
doesn’t move.
She’s always trying to make something whole, something
beautiful, an image
capable of life apart from her.
We’re very quiet. It’s peaceful sitting here, not speaking, the
composition
fixed, the road turning suddenly dark, the air
going cool, here and there the rocks shining and glittering—
it’s this stillness that we both love.
The love of form is a love of endings.

~ Louise Gluck

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

Purple Portal to Narnia (photographer unknown)*

                   

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

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

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

Narnia Portal, Sintra, Portugal (photographer unknown)

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

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

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

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

Narnia: Tree Portal, Ireland (photographer unknown)

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

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

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

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

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

Gateway to Narnia? (location and photographer unknown)

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and mild, low 70’s

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

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

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

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

Narnia Gateway (location and photographer unknown)

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

T’would be wonderful, indeed.

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

We’ll just have to wait and see.

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

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

Narnia: Laurel Hill Cemetery

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

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

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

More later. Peace.

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

Music by Eliza Rickman, “Cinnamon Bone”


Finding the Scarf

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

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

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

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

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

~ Wyatt Townley, from The Afterlives of Trees