“Deliberate violence is more to be quenched than a fire.” ~ Heraclitus

                   

“We decry violence all the time in this country, but look at our history. We were born in a violent revolution, and we’ve been in wars ever since. We’re not a pacific people.” ~ James Lee Burke

I just don’t understand. I don’t understand what is going on in this country. No other country in the world has nearly as much gun violence. And don’t talk to me about second amendment rights. Do you really need automatic weapons to bring down a deer? Please.

Every time this happens—and that statement itself reveals far too much (as in it has happened too many times and it continues to happen)—we starts to make comments about what we can do to prevent this, and then a month later, nothing has been done, and nothing will be done.

And by the way, more than 50 percent of NRA members agree that background checks are a necessary precaution, and in that vein, agree that the gun show loophole needs to be closed.

No, this maniac did not buy his guns. He got them from someone in his family. But still, he had access to weapons that are not used for hunting. These were weapons whose purpose is to kill, wound, maim human beings. And don’t even say that if he hadn’t had a gun, he would have used something else. Could he have killed 20 children that quickly with say, a brick?

I’m tired of your arguments. I’m tired of the Charlton Heston attitude of prying my gun from my cold dead hands. I’m tired of what we do to one another. I’m tired of nothing of any consequence ever being done by any administration because the people in charge of the NRA are myopic, and apparently everyone is afraid of them. I’m tired of hearing that “now is not the time to have a discussion on gun control.”

If not now, then when? When the next school massacre occurs? We did nothing of consequence after Aurora. We even did nothing of consequence after Virginia Tech. We continue to do nothing.

NOTHING.

“So let’s state the plain facts one more time, so that they can’t be mistaken: Gun massacres have happened many times in many countries, and in every other country, gun laws have been tightened to reflect the tragedy and the tragic knowledge of its citizens afterward. In every other country, gun massacres have subsequently become rare. In America alone, gun massacres, most often of children, happen with hideous regularity, and they happen with hideous regularity because guns are hideously and regularly available.” ~ Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker

Other countries who allow handguns do not have the kind of violence that we have. Consider Israel, a pretty violence country, all things considered, had 58 handgun deaths last year. Compared to our country’s 10,728 handgun deaths, that’s 185 times more deaths. Is anyone else bothered by this math?

What makes us such a violent society? Video games? Movies like Batman? Pshaw. You and I both know that that’s simply not it. We are violent because we have this innate belief that we are superior to everyone else, and in that position of superiority, we do not hold ourselves to the same standards as the rest of the world. We have different rules in the U.S. because, well, just because we can, I suppose.

We do not love one another. We do not respect one another, and we certainly do not care about one another. We have rampant poverty. We have children who are starving. We have families who live in cars. But we are an advanced super power.

I’ve had it. I am so sick of the party line, whichever party it is. We have a real problem in this country, and until we face up to it, nothing is going to change.

NOTHING.

More from Adam Gopnik:

The people who fight and lobby and legislate to make guns regularly available are complicit in the murder of those children. They have made a clear moral choice: that the comfort and emotional reassurance they take from the possession of guns, placed in the balance even against the routine murder of innocent children, is of supreme value. Whatever satisfaction gun owners take from their guns—we know for certain that there is no prudential value in them—is more important than children’s lives. Give them credit: life is making moral choices, and that’s a moral choice, clearly made.

All of that is a truth, plain and simple, and recognized throughout the world. At some point, this truth may become so bloody obvious that we will know it, too. Meanwhile, congratulate yourself on living in the child-gun-massacre capital of the known universe.

The pervasive attitude of I’ve got mine, to hell with the rest of you? It’s killing our souls.

People, he walked in and deliberately targeted kindergarten students. Does that not say something to you? Does that not speak to your very moral fiber?

I know that my rant is all over the place. For more studied and better developed commentary, take a look at the links below.

I also know that I haven’t really made any kind of cogent argument here. I don’t care, I tell you. I just don’t care. And you know what else? I would bet my mortgage money that this time next month, even six months from now, that the changes we are clamoring for, the reforms that we say are needed, that what we will see will be

NOTHING.

                   

In the Loop

I heard from people after the shootings. People
I knew well or barely or not at all. Largely
the same message: how horrible it was, how little
there was to say about how horrible it was.
People wrote, called, mostly e-mailed
because they know I teach at Virginia Tech,
to say, there’s nothing to say. Eventually
I answered these messages: there’s nothing
to say back except of course there’s nothing
to say, thank you for your willingness
to say it. Because this was about nothing.
A boy who felt that he was nothing,
who erased and entered that erasure, and guns
that are good for nothing, and talk of guns
that is good for nothing, and spring
that is good for flowers, and Jesus for some,
and scotch for others, and “and” for me
in this poem, “and” that is good
for sewing the minutes together, which otherwise
go about going away, bereft of us and us
of them. Like a scarf left on a train and nothing
like a scarf left on a train. As if the train,
empty of everything but a scarf, still opens
its doors at every stop, because this
is what a train does, this is what a man does
with his hand on a lever, because otherwise,
why the lever, why the hand, and then it was over,
and then it had just begun.
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“I cannot walk through the suburbs in the solitude of the night without thinking that the night pleases us because it suppresses idle details, just as our memory does.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges

I wrote this last night, but decided to mull it over and come back to it in the morning. Still feel the same way. Apologize for the disjointedness (is that even a word?)………..

President Jimmy Carter Signing an Extension of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) Ratification (1978)
(Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“I could as easily bail out the Potomac River with a teaspoon as attend to all the details of the army.” ~ Abraham Lincoln

Friday night. Cloudy and humid, high 60’s.

I’d never heard that Lincoln quote before, about using a teaspoon to bail out the Potomac River. Isn’t it wonderful? Reminds me of Eliot. I still feel that I’m measuring out my life in coffee spoons, and now I can add teaspoons to my list of metaphors for not being able to get things done.

So I’ve spent a lot of this week amassing a bizarre list of things that I’ve noticed that perplex me, but I have to warn you, this post is all over the place. Here are a few:

Suffragettes (1908)
Wikimedia Commons
  • Why, when there is a clearly marked turn lane, must there always be the one person who pulls into it diagonally, thereby blocking at least one lane?
  • How do I always manage to park in a puddle, and why do I only find out this reality once I have stepped into said puddle?
  • Why do the cars in front of me always seem to be in a conspiracy to keep traffic moving at least three miles below the speed limit?
  • Why do defoggers only work on the magical setting, you know, the one that comes from moving the different settings several times until you reach that nirvana that can never be duplicated?
  • Why are there no Obama signs in my neighborhood except for mine? Did the Dems just decide to concede Virginia’s swing state classification to the Mittens and concentrate on Ohio? It would appear so . . .

“Men who wish to know about the world must learn about it in its particular details.” ~ Heraclitus

And then there is this (true story): While driving Brett to campus the other day, I asked him what that window decal on the car ahead of us was supposed to be. I assumed that he would know because it looked like some kind of character out of a game.  It was pink, and smiling, and cartoony. To wit, he replied, “It’s a uterus.”

Demand Equal Rights

Now, let me pause here as I am certain that you are pausing also. “A uterus?” I asked. “But why?”

Brett replied that the uterus has become the new pink, the new breast cancer, the cause de célèbre, if you will.

Okay. I need to say a few things about this one. First, I am a firm believer that what goes on in my uterus is my business and no one else’s. I find it to be a very personal relationship, one that I do not particularly care to share with the whole world. Second, I also believe that I am a pretty radical thinker, open to new concepts and ideas, welcoming a steady stream of new data into my hard drive, as it were. But a uterus?

Seriously?

Apparently so. The uterus decal is a woman’s way of saying something along the lines of this is mine, or perhaps, I’m female and I’m proud of my lady parts, or maybe, This is how I look on the inside. Yes, yes. Don’t get testy. I know that it’s a political statement, but still, I think that I’m almost offended—a pink, smiley uterus with eyes. I think it’s the eyes that creep me out. I’m going to have to ponder this little detail some more and perhaps come back to it later.

“It is in the treatment of trifles that a person shows what they are.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

Other things I’ve been mulling over:

  • Why are Republicans so caught up in having fake tans? They’re kind of like the Real Housewives of Orange County in that vein.

    Equal Rights Conference (1922)
    Wikimedia Commons
  • Will there be any paper magazines in a decade? Newsweek will no longer be in traditional print. That saddens me probably way more than it does them.
  • Why do people in Hampton Roads act totally insane when there is news of a tropical storm or hurricane somewhere in the Atlantic. There was a run on water in the Wal Mart Market this afternoon. You would have thought those jugs contained gold.
  • Did you know that I also have accidents with shopping carts? Just thought I’d mention that.
  • I can’t find a decent ringtone for UB40’s “Red, Red Wine” on any reputable sites. This is not earth-shattering, but I’ve been wondering about it.

“I prefer to explore the most intimate moments, the smaller, crystallized details we all hinge our lives on.” ~ Rita Dove

Getting back to that whole uterus decal thing—and yes, I am, sooner than expected—I can’t help but think that these same women who are displaying their female reproductive organs on their rear windows would be highly offended if they pulled up behind a truck with a big old decal of a penis and accompanying testes. I mean, wouldn’t that cause an uproar? Bad taste! Offensive! ya da ya da ya da . . .

A Bumper Sticker I Could Live With

Look, I understand militant feminism. I stopped wearing a bra when I was young (truthfully, I didn’t really need one, but that’s beside the point) because I heard that’s what real feminists did. I was on the forefront of fighting for equal pay for the same job before most of you were born. I adopted the Ms. moniker proudly, declaring to all within shouting distance that my marital status did not need to be indicated in a formal title, after all, Mr. did not indicate marital status. I mean folks, I still have an ERA NOW button. I understand that women are taking back their uteri (is that the correct plural for uteruses?), demanding that men-folk stop sticking their noses where they don’t belong. I completely agree.

But a smile? Eyes? Just ewwwwww all over the place.

“After all it is those who have a deep and real inner life who are best able to deal with the irritating details of outer life.” ~ Evelyn Underhill

So, I’ve also been considering a few other things:

March for the Equal Rights Amendment
  • I wonder what would happen if one night I crept into the yard of the guy in Lex’s neighborhood who has 20 Romney/Ryan yard signs in his teeny, tiny front yard, and swapped one out for an Obama/Biden sign? Not in the front, but somewhere in the middle . . . how apoplectic do you think he’d get?
  • Is it really sad that I can’t wait for December so that I can go see Peter Jackson’s Hobbit movie?
  • Is it pathetic that I wish there were going to be more Harry Potter movies?
  • Should that last question really have been more along the lines of how pathetic would it be?
  • Does anyone want to sew Brett’s costume for me?

“The devil is in the details.” ~ unknown

Okay, back to this.

2011 Reintroduction of the ERA
by Rebecca Koenig

People, please. Feminism came about because women wanted to be treated as equals, you know, that whole equal rights thing? It’s a pretty basic concept, but somehow it’s morphed into something I don’t recognize, something that promotes misandry, something that contends that the owner of the vagina is better than the owner of the penis. If I’m making you squirm, good. Misandry is no better than misogyny. And let me pause here—I am not talking about sexual orientation. Unfortunately, at some point, the Rush Limbaughs of the world began to pair the words feminist and lesbian. The first can be the second, and the second can be the first, but not necessarily so.

Who you share your uterus with is none of my business. What you do with it is none of my business. Do you really need to shout to the world that you have a uterus? If this makes me old fashioned, then I guess I am, but I’m still a feminist, in the truest sense of the word because I do not believe for one second that one gender is better equipped (no pun intended) to perform a job or hold an office or make a decision than the other gender.

And by the way, if you are so inclined to try to turn this into a debate about rape culture, don’t bother. This is definitely not about that and that is not about this. It’s essentially this: I’m for human rights, equality for all. It doesn’t get much more basic than that.

Oh, whatever. As Bukowski said,

“I decide that the only definition of
Truth (which changes)
is that it is that thing or act or
belief which the crowd
rejects.” (from “The People Look Like Flowers”)

More later. Peace.

Music by The Chromatics, “Into the Black”

                   

The Strongest Of The Strange

you won’t see them often
for wherever the crowd is
they
are not.
those odd ones, not
many
but from them
come
the few
good paintings
the few
good symphonies
the few
good books
and other
works.
and from the
best of the
strange ones
perhaps
nothing.
they are
their own
paintings
their own
books
their own
music
their own
work.
sometimes I think
I see
them – say
a certain old
man
sitting on a
certain bench
in a certain
way
or
a quick face
going the other
way
in a passing
automobile
or
there’s a certain motion
of the hands
of a bag-boy or a bag-
girl
while packing
supermarket
groceries.
sometimes
it is even somebody
you have been
living with
for some
time –
you will notice
a
lightning quick
glance
never seen
from them
before.
sometimes
you will only note
their
existence
suddenly
in
vivid
recall
some months
some years
after they are
gone.
I remember
such a
one –
he was about
20 years old
drunk at
10 a.m.
staring into
a cracked
New Orleans
mirror
facing dreaming
against the
walls of
the world
where
did I
go?

~ Charles Bukowski

“When your neuroses become your style, you’ve got it made. Everybody has a personality composed of neurotic patterns. I’ve given up thinking I’ve got to go through the eye of the needle and become psychologically sound. I’m always going to be a mess!” ~ Ram Dass

Jackson Pollock, Blue Poles: Number 11 (1952, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Australia)

                    

“We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut

Monday afternoon. Not too hot, mid-80’s, sunny.

Jackson Pollock, Ocean Greyness (1953, oil on canvas, Guggenheim Museum)

It’s been a long six days since I last posted, during which I have wanted to post several times, but for various reasons, have been unable to do so. In finishing the big furniture shuffle, we have the house in better shape, but as usual, I overdid it and was down for several days. Have I mentioned how much I hate the fact that I have to rest for days after I clean my house or do anything strenuous (not strenuous for most people)? Sucks, really.

Of course, the last room to be put back together is our bedroom, and once again, half of it is in order, and half of it isn’t. Since we moved my desk into Eamonn’s room, I was left with various items without a home, so to speak. But I took the opportunity to throw away more stuff and to clean the stuff that I’m keeping. Hence, the overexertion.

As I mentioned, on Tuesday everyone went to Bush Gardens, and they seemed to have a good time, although everyone came home tired and grouchy, which is always the case after spending ten to twelve hours in the heat. Thankfully, it wasn’t too crowded, so they didn’t have to wait in long lines.

Last Thursday, Phillip and a few of Eamonn’s buds came over to hang out. Corey and Phillip ended up playing XBox at 2 in the morning. Everyone seemed to have a good time. Then Friday night Corey, Phillip, Patrick, Lucas, and Shawn (Patrick’s former aide) went out for a boys’ night out. And Saturday, we all got together at the beach house before the Germans were to leave on Sunday.

By the way, Phillip corrected the usage of the phrase the Germans to describe our relatives who live in Germany because as he pointed out, he and Hannah were born in the U.S. and have dual citizenship. I just found it amusing that after I had been mulling over the correctness of using such a collective he made a point of negating it. He is very much like his father in being exact about things.

Anyway, they were to leave yesterday, but because of severe weather in the north, all flights in the direction were delayed three hours, which would have made them miss their connecting flight. And in addition, Patrick’s wheelchair and a few other necessities were locked in the trunk of the rental car along with the keys. It was not the best day for them. As it turns out, they left today. I did not go to the airport as I’m still feeling melancholy and sad, and frankly, I did not want to say goodbye again.

“It is so hard to learn to put sadness in perspective so hard to understand that it is a feeling that comes in degrees, it can be a candle burning gently and harmlessly in your home, or it can be a full-fledged forest fire that destroy almost everything and is controlled by almost nothing. It can also be so much in-between.” ~ Elizabeth Wurtzel

Jackson Pollock, Number 23 (1948, enamel on gesso on paper, Tate Gallery)

Corey had to work both first and third shift yesterday, so he is sleeping today. When I got out of bed today, I could barely move because my back was so stiff, and it made me feel so old and decrepit. Hate that too.

A few nights ago, I kept smelling something burning, and for a brief second, I thought the house was on fire. Turns out the fires in the Great Dismal Swamp are still burning, and the wind had shifted, resulting in a very smokey evening for our area. My asthma was quite irritated, and we had all of the fans in the house turning to try to clear the house. But it resulted in yet another evening of restless sleep for me as I actually had to use my inhaler twice during the night, which is quite unusual for me.

I haven’t mentioned it yet because as I said I haven’t really been able to write, but my other m-in-law is in the hospital. It seems that she developed a high fever, and Ann was with her in the emergency room last Wednesday in the wee hours of the morning. She has a UTI and an infection in her lungs, but thankfully, not pneumonia. She is doing better, but I haven’t been to see her yet, which really makes me feel like crap.

Ann has decided to move her mom from the rehab home that she was in, and I am so glad. My line of thinking is that someone should have noticed that she was ill before she spiked such a high fever. And the fact is that I spotted pus in her catheter line and told the nursing staff that she had a UTI the last time, and even then, it took two days before they tested her. Ann has found a place that is closer to home, and she toured it the other day. Another good thing is that the request can be made not to have any male attendants, which is also a relief.

“There’s no reality except the one contained within us. That’s why so many people live an unreal life. They take images outside them for reality and never allow the world within them to assert itself.” ~ Hermann Hesse

Jackson Pollock, Number 16 (1949)

Last night I dreamed that the crazy woman I used to work with called me just to talk, and I knew that it wasn’t just to talk. I knew that she wanted something from me, but I could not figure out what. Then the dream shifted, and I was supposed to get on a flight with a bunch of Jedi younglings, and I knew that Darth Vader was going to be on the flight. Darth and I decided not to fight on the flight because of all of the children who could get hurt, and he took off his helmet. The whole Jedi thing probably came from my watching part of Men Who Stare at Goats before going to sleep.

A totally silly movie, but I love Ewan McGregor. I may watch the rest of the movie tonight, but really, it was more to pass the time than anything.

Undoubtedly, one of the stranger sci-fi dreams I have ever had. Especially since at some point we were on a bus instead of a plane, and the bus driver decided to drive in the water so that we could see all of the creatures in the water around us, and I saw a turtle with long, female legs . . . Not even going to try to decipher this one.

I do remember getting off the bus and seeing a woodchuck in the middle of the road. I startled the woodchuck, and it began to hop. The kids on the bus laughed. Other animals that we saw included a jaguar, a hippo, koi, female lions, and gators. The bus driver recited this litany of animals as she drove maniacally through the water, and no one seemed too bothered that the bus was in the water.

When I’m dreaming things like this, something in my subconscious registers and thinks that the dream would make a good movie or a good book, usually a good book, and then I wake up and think to myself, “Who would buy a book about a bus driving through the water?”

Oh, well . . .

“A doctor once told me I feel too much
I said so does god
That’s why you can see the grand canyon from the moon” ~ Andrea Gibson, from “Jellyfish”

Jackson Pollock, Guardians of the Secret (1943, oil on canvas, SFMOMA)

Last night because I couldn’t sleep I watched the movie Pollock, with Ed Harris in the title role, and Marcia Gay Harden as Lee Krasner, his companion/wife/promoter. I’ve been wanting to see this movie for a while, but I knew that it would be an emotional roller coaster, and it was.

Harris is wonderful as the artist, portraying his struggles in attempting to bring his true vision to the canvas via his drip and splash method (action painting), and Harden won an Academy Award for best supporting actress as Krasner.

I remember the first time that I saw a Pollock painting; I was totally confused. Admittedly, I knew nothing about abstract expressionism and had little appreciation for the movement. But I have found in recent years that my appreciation for Pollock, de Kooning, Diebenkorn, and Rothko has deepened. The lack of a focal composition point makes sense somehow.

What I have come to appreciate is the immediacy of the work done by artists during this period. I’ve never been a fan of Picasso as I find his work to be quite disconcerting, which is what it’s supposed to be. And while I also know that Picasso and other surrealists influenced the abstract Impressionists, cubism befuddles me. Not so Pollock.

The years between 1947 and 1950 Pollock produced the works for which he is most famous. Instead of using brushes, Pollock dripped, flung, and splashed paint; he used sticks, knives, and hardened brushes, among other implements to move his liquid paint onto his huge canvases, which were laid on the floor of his studio.

Pollock maintained that through his technique of working on the floor, he was able to see all sides of his work: “My painting does not come from the easel. I prefer to tack the unstretched canvas to the hard wall or the floor. I need the resistance of a hard surface. On the floor I am more at ease. I feel nearer, more part of the painting, since this way I can walk around it, work from the four sides and literally be in the painting.”

I suppose what appeals to me is how Pollock’s paintings reflect so much of his inner turmoil, how his subconscious defines the art. I can appreciate that. If I were to attempt to paint (which I would not presume to do as I have no talent in that area), the visceral approach employed by Pollock would be something that I might try.

“”The soul is dyed the color of its thoughts. Think only on those things that are in line with your principles and can bear the light of day. The content of your character is your choice. Day by day, what you do is who you become. Your integrity is your destiny—it is the light that guides your way.” ~ Heraclitus

Jackson Pollock, Mural (1943, oil on canvas (97 1/4 x 238 in), UIMA)

Let’s see . . . what else?

I feel as if I’ve eaten nothing but junk food for a week: chips, crackers, dip, other stuff that’s not healthy. I have been on a fresh fruit binge, though, to try to counteract the empty calories. I need some fresh vegetables, yogurt, and fruit for the next few days.

I seem to have run out of steam for this post. I had another tangent in mind when I began this section, but I drifted off while I was listening to Melody Gardot sing “The Rain.” Her voice is like smokey silk, half what I imagine I sound like but probably do not.

It’s quite easy at this moment to become distracted as clouds are rolling in outside this window, and the room is taking on the hues of dusk. I have my blues playlist running in the background, and the house is fairly quiet. The temperature is dropping, and thankfully, the nights are becoming cooler.  It feels a bit like fall, although if you were to ask me exactly why, I could not pinpoint a particular reason.

I would live in fall perpetually given the chance, which is why I believe I am so enamored of living in Ireland. Who knows if that will ever happen. The likelihood is slim as Corey has no desire to leave the country, which I can certainly understand. It’s not that I want to leave this country, but it’s more that I want to live in Ireland, a desire I have long harbored. The history of poet and writers, the verdant landscape, the smaller villages. Of all of the places that I have dreamed about and given character to, Ireland comes the closest to my imaginings, or at least that’s what the people who have been there tell me.

It’s quite easy to build up a scenario in your wild imaginings about how a certain town or country might be, but it’s quite another thing to encounter the brutality of the reality of that place. The few places that I think would actually live up to what I have imagined are Ireland, New Zealand, New South Wales, and perhaps Wales and the Netherlands.

I wonder if I will ever get to compare my imaginings with the realities . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Tom Waits, “The World Keeps Turning” from the Pollock soundtrack

                   

Stone

Go inside a stone
That would be my way.
Let somebody else become a dove
Or gnash with a tiger’s tooth.
I am happy to be a stone.

From the outside the stone is a riddle:
No one knows how to answer it.
Yet within, it must be cool and quiet
Even though a cow steps on it full weight,
Even though a child throws it in a river;
The stone sinks, slow, unperturbed
To the river bottom
Where the fishes come to knock on it
And listen.

I have seen sparks fly out
When two stones are rubbed,
So perhaps it is not dark inside after all;
Perhaps there is a moon shining
From somewhere, as though behind a hill—
Just enough light to make out
The strange writings, the star-charts
On the inner walls.

~ Charles Simic, from The Voice at 3 A.M.

“I have forced myself to begin writing when I’ve been utterly exhausted, when I’ve felt my soul as thin as a playing card . . . and somehow the activity of writing changes everything.” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

From The Cycle “Windows of My Studio,” Joseph Sudek (1954)

                   

“I have always spent most of my time staring out the window, noting what is there, daydreaming or brooding. Most of the so-called imaginative life is encompassed by these three activities that blend so seamlessly together, not unlike reading the dictionary . . .” ~ Joyce Carol Oates

Thursday afternoon. Clear and cold.

Steps in Snow, New York City, by Merg Ross (1964)

To say that this week has been unproductive would be the height of understatement. The headache from hell continues to march on within my skull relentlessly. I saw my headache doctor on Monday, and he finally admitted that he can do nothing for me. Next step, a referral to a neurologist. Meanwhile, I am on a series of steroids (hooray, not) and all of the attendant side-effects: bloating, water retention, increased appetite, and my personal favorite: headaches.

I decided to try to post today for two reasons: It’s been over almost a week since I last posted, and when I sat down to begin, the pain had subsided a bit, as it always does—here and then gone, assault and then retreat—much like the incoming and outgoing tides. I have no control over when the next onslaught will come; none of my pain medications are working, alone or in combination; and this particular battle is leaving me weak and mostly bed-ridden.

A situation I truly abhor. Of course, whenever I am phsically incapacitated like this, my thoughts always turn to the Social Security judge who said that my pain was not beyond normal parameters, and that I could hold down one of my former positions, say sales manager or marketing director. That man holds a very special place in my heart.

I was able to read a book on Tuesday as the pain was mostly dull, and reading did not seem to exacerbate anything, but sitting in front of the computer screen is still not the best situation, and since I am my own worst enemy, I got up from the computer this afternoon after only a few minutes to take care of a few things around the house, like the dishes and laundry. I wanted to take advantage of the lull. Of course this means that now that I am back at the keyboard, the tide is coming in once again, and rather quickly, too, I might add.

“When Heraclitus said that everything passes steadily along, he was not inciting us to make the best of the moment, an idea unseemly to his placid mind, but to pay attention to the pace of things. Each has its own rhythm: the nap of a dog, the procession of the equinoxes, the dances of Lydia, the majestically slow beat of the drums at Dodona, the swift runners at Olympia.” ~ Guy Davenport, The Geography of the Imagination: Forty Essays 

Chairs with Leaves, Luxembourg Gardens, Paris, by Ilse Bing (1952)

Eamonn stopped by for one of his 15-minute visits this afternoon, and he brought his friend Sean with him. Sean enlisted in the Army right after high school graduation, and he is due to go back to Iraq in the spring.  Fortunately, he does not have a combat position. He told me that he has been asked to go out on missions, but he has the option to decline, and he has chosen to take that option; however, he says that the other people call him a girl, and various other military slurs for coward. (I did not comment on the whole sexism thing as I just wasn’t up to it.)

I told Sean that there is nothing wrong with wanting to stay out of combat. His current position is a very necessary one, and he is serving his country in his own way. Actually, I was a bit surprised that he enlisted in the first place; in the past, he has displayed a terrible temper (he and Eamonn got into a fist-fight in middle school, and both were suspended) and lack of self-control, but the military seems to have helped him. Having said that, I am awfully glad that Eamonn did not enlist with him.

Truthfully, who among us would want a son or daughter in the army at this very precarious time in our country’s history? I’m just not that person, not when it comes to my kids. Oddly enough though, I once thought of joining the military and said quite boastfully to my friends that I would willingly go into combat if I had to, and I think that I really meant it—at the time.

When you think about it, isn’t it kind of amazing how many vastly different people we are during a lifetime? A would-be warrior here, a want-to-be politician there . . . and then looking back, thinking how odd life would have been if we had walked that path.

“Illusions are important. What you foresee or what you remember can be as important as what really happens.” ~ Javier Marias

House in Demolition by Petr Helbich (1985)

I’m not ready to write about last Saturday yet. It’s a subject that is fraught with emotion, and I know that I am not able to deal with all of the thoughts that are around inside my brain regarding yet another senseless American tragedy and what it means to me, to this country, to both sides of the ongoing fray.

Perhaps tomorrow. We’ll see.

Brett went back to ODU this past Monday, and I don’t think that winter break could have ended soon enough for him. I was starting to notice a definite downswing in his overall mood, and I am fairly certain that it was caused in part because he found himself at loose ends without classes and the company of his friends. 

On other fronts, I went a few days without calling my mother because of my own maladies, which means that when I did call her I got the expected “I could have been dead over here” complaint. I knew that it was only a matter of time before she returned fully to form once I moved back home. All of the kindness and intimacy that passed between us during those months in which I took care of her have already been put on the back burner, only to be replaced by the same old refrains.

I wish that I could say that I am surprised, but I am so not. I was, however, surprised by my mother’s response to my offer to drive her to Roanoke to see her sister whose condition is worsening quickly. My mother wanted none of it as it would upset her too much. I suppose I should have remember her reaction to her older sister’s death a few years ago: My mother wouldn’t even attend the funeral as it would be too upsetting . . . for her.

She has declared that she will never go to another funeral. Her assertion bothers me, although I am not exactly certain as to why it would or should.

“What is to give light must endure burning.” ~ Victor Frankel

Sunset on Lake, by Fausto Mirandoli (Pixdaus)

I suppose that that’s her prerogative  (Bobby Brown totally ruined that word for me) choice, so I should respect it, but it rankles me for lots of reasons: Funerals, obviously, are for those left behind; the dearly departed participate only corporeally. Usually, those attending are family and friends, perhaps coworkers, all of whom are brought together for their own various reasons: grief, love, fear, loneliness, guilt, and occasionally (but, it is to be hoped, rarely) joy.

I don’t know much about funeral customs in other religions and cultures, but the oddly termed post-funeral reception that I have attended many times is probably the most honest part of the entire process. At the service, the deceased is remembered, sometimes lauded. At the reception, after a few glasses of whatever, the stories begin to be told, and those who did not know the deceased quite as well as others get an earful.

They hear about exploits better forgotten, family events at which the departed individual acted particularly rude or obnoxious or funny, and sometimes, little tidbits from the workplace are revealed, tidbits that no one in the family had heard about before this gathering. Truth is part of grief in an odd but integral way, and I think that that’s the part with which my mother is most uncomfortable: the moments in which truth comes out and is bandied about like some kind of Jello salad with miniature marshmallows making its way from person to person: Not everyone necessarily wants it, but most will sample it to be polite, and a few will secretly enjoy it. My mother, on the other hand, refuses to partake.

Hell, what do I know . . .

“Imagine if all the tumult of the body were to quiet down, along with our busy thoughts.
Imagine if all things that are perishable grew still.” ~ St. Augustine 

Village, by Hajrudin Murselovic (Pixdaus)

I’m sorry that this post is so disjointed; it seems to be going all over the place without any clear focus, which is probably exactly what is really happening (and not just imagined) as that is exactly how my mind feels. Example: I walked from the bedroom to the dining room to do something. I stood there for a few minutes trying to remember what I had come to do. I walked back to the bedroom. Several hours later I remembered that I had gone to the dining room to get a piece of chocolate.

Okay. I probably/definitely did not need the chocolate because of a) the migraine, and b) the calories. But how discouraging . . . to decide that a piece of chocolate would be nice only to forget immediately after taking a few steps only to remember once the desire was no longer there.

It’s especially frustrating for the dogs who jump off the bed to follow me to the kitchen in the hopes of getting something, anything for their efforts only to be thwarted by my abysmal lack of linear thought.

More sooner rather than later (I hope). Peace.

Music by Natalie Walker, “By and By”

                   

Lines for Winter
for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.

~ Mark Strand

“All is flux; nothing stays still.” ~ Heraclitus

True Pathway of Life by Feathered Tary (Flckr Creative Commons)

                      

“Sometimes in life, from out of a myriad of prosaic decisions like what to eat and where to sleep and how to dress, a true crossroads is revealed. In these moments, when the fog of relative irrelevancy lifts and fate rolls out a demand for free will, there is only left or right”. ~ J. R. Ward
The Bamboo Forest by Trey Ratliff (http://www.stuckincustoms.com/)

My hearing with Social Security is coming up on September 16, and I believe that I am beginning to panic. After all, that hearing is going to be a live-altering event.  I mean, if SS determines that yes, I am in fact disabled, then I go on their roster of disabled people. It makes it official—government official.  

The fear of being officially classified as a nonfunctioning member of society is causing me to look at the job listings with George Washington. This isn’t the first time I’ve done this, wandering aimlessly through job listings, thinking about what I could do.  

But time for total truth: Would I be able to do it—it being return to the job force full-time, rejoin the lot of functioning, productive members of society?I honestly don’t know, and probably wouldn’t know until I tried. But the catch 22, the big iron in the works, so to speak, is that if I tried and found that I couldn’t do it, then what? Start the entire process again? Would that even be a possibility?  

Hence, my panic. I remember my mother used to repeat a phrase when she was perplexed: “What to do? What to do?” Exactly. Précisément.  

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked. “Where do you want to go?” was his response. “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “it doesn’t matter.” ~ Lewis Carroll
Doorways Neuville: Number One or Number Two?

A person could go mad in the face of such a conundrum: choose to act, and the possible failure has innumerable ramifications, but choose not to act, and the acquiescence may lead to the ultimate loss of self.  

Search your soul . . . Let your conscience be your guide . . . In the end, you’ll do what’s right . . .  

Really? Seriously? Being in this position make me realize acutely why some people consult psychics, have their palms read, have a Tarot card reading: Just tell me what’s going to come, and I’ll know what decision to make.  

Sorry, but no. Back to that whole free will concept: Each individual possesses the ability to control his or her fate by choosing a course of action from among alternatives; whether or not free will is connected to moral responsibility depends upon the individual. That being said, the concept of free will implies being responsible for one’s actions as a result of being accorded the freedom to choose.. However, as most philosophers point out, the concept of free will is illusory in that whether or not the individual succeeds in carrying out actions decided upon depends on a number of factors beyond that individual’s control.  

Or at least, that’s how I perceive it to be.  

“Although every man believes that his decisions and resolutions involve the most multifarious factors, in reality they are mere oscillation between flight and longing.” ~ Herman Broch
Stair Pathways on Hillsides of Valparaiso, Chile

The sticking point for me, then, is that if I do what I most want to do, that is, try to go back to work, possibly work on another degree, then I am subjecting my family to risk. That and the fact that I decide, but many factors out there loom beyond my control.  

The positives of trying to go back to work: 

  • Improved self-worth from feeling as if I am doing something productive
  • Increased family income, thereby helping to move us out of this never-ending miasma
  • Having health insurance paid for by the company instead of self-paying
  • Depending more on myself to get things done
  • Possibly feeling better when my mind has other things on which to dwell

The negatives of trying to go back to work:  

  • Working again and finding out that my body cannot tolerate the activity
  • Not being around full-time for Brett while he is beginning college, or being available to my family on a full-time basis
  • The costs involved in going back to work: purchasing another vehicle, travel, wardrobe
  • Having to go out on disability again and possibly not being able to get coverage
  • Having to pay back debts that were forgiven when I went on disability

I did not put having time to write on either of these lists as my experience in the past few years has shown me that I will write whether or not I have the time depending on my need to say something. In all of the time that I have been out on disability, I still have not put together my book, which is what I said that I would do. That in itself is telling.  

“The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled. For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.” ~ M. Scott Peck
 Pathway bridge in Saharna Moldova, by Guttorm Flatabo

                      

As some of you may realize, I write my way through, the logic being that as I put the words to page, my mind processes and sifts, allowing me to arrive at some kind of logical conclusion, and if not a conclusion, then at least a moment to pause. Having written about decisions countless times, I can say that at this moment, I am not more certain as to what I should do than when I began this post.  

No great truth has come to me. At least, I don’t believe that it has. I heard a homily or proverb one time that went something like this: If you toss a coin in the air to help you make a decision, pause as the coin is in the air to reveal to yourself which outcome you were hoping for. Kind of like truth in a fortune cookie.  

I know what I want to do, but so many things make me afraid to take this route, not the least of which is how much pain I am in from concentrating so hard on getting these words out.  

Best five out of six . . . any words of wisdom would be appreciated.  

“There are no prescriptive solutions, no grand designs for grand problems. Life’s solutions lie in the minute particulars involving more and more individual people daring to create their own life and art, daring to listen to the voice within their deepest, original nature, and deeper still, the voice within the earth.”
~ Stephen Nachmanovitch 

More later. Peace.  

Music by Dryer, “Seen Enough”