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

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

                   

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

Wednesday early evening. Partly cloudy, 83 degrees.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enough.

More later. Peace.

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

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

We Should Be

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

~ Ana Blandiana

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“Write hard and clear about what hurts.” ~ Ernest Hemingway

“(Art as Idea as Idea) (Water),” (1966)
by Joseph Kosuth

“The heart’s the eye
we cry
the body through.” ~ Graham Foust, from “Poem”

Sunday, early afternoon. Overcast, high 70’s, but still humid.

Let’s subtitle this post, “Cleaning One’s Floors the Hard Way,” or perhaps, “Avoiding the Realization that Your Homeowner’s Insurance Has a Ridiculously High Deductible,” shall we?

“Flood Water” (1896)
by Claude Monet

Yesterday was, well, strange is the only word that fits.

I awoke and looked at the clock, and squinting to decipher the time, thought that I had slept until 3 in the afternoon, which didn’t make any sense. Then I squinted harder and realized that the 3 was a 9 and that when I had reset the clock, I had mixed up the am/pm setting. I felt a bit better that I hadn’t slept so late, and was just relaxing when I heard the unmistakable sound of water suddenly gushing. The sound was coming from the bathroom.

That’s how I began my day.

Oddly enough, the dream that I was having just before I awoke was about Corey’s very old washing machine, the one that he had in his apartment. It was an archaic affair, with a very small bin for washing, and then you had to move the clothes to the other side for the rinse cycle. Anyway, in the dream, this washer is sitting in the middle of the living room, and Corey is mad because he told me not to use it because it would flood. I did, and it did.

Then there was the real flood.

“It always takes a long time
to decipher where you are.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “The Ottawa River by Night”

It took me few minutes to realize that I wouldn’t be able to recap the water source and that I needed to turn off the main water valve in the front yard post haste. By the time I had done so, water was puddling on the hard wood floor in the hall and running into the master bedroom and under the bed. I grabbed towels from everywhere (fortunately, we keep a large stack of old towels for the dogs), and then I waded towards the water source.

“Finale (Sonata of the Sea)” (1908, tempera on paper)
by Mikalojus Ciurlionis

Apparently, the washer or rubber gasket within the connecting PVC that runs from the water source to the toilet decided to fray, hence allowing the entire assembly to be propelled from the wall with a lot of force.

Ah yes, plumbing on a Saturday morning.

I cursed the fact that I was home alone, and then I called the only person who I knew would be available: Alexis. What could she do? At least she could help me to clean up the sopping towels and vacuum the water. I will admit I got a bit hysterical with her, but she finally made it over, with Olivia in tow, crying loudly at having her routine disturbed, and so began the plumbing repairs and the ensuant clean-up. While waiting for her to arrive, I thought that I should at least make myself some coffee, so I turned on the faucet in the kitchen and got . . . nothing, of course. Thank the gods for bottled water.

All in all, I will admit that it wasn’t pretty, and that it took two trips to the local hardware (which were a complete waste of time as I knew more about plumbing than the supercilious man who attempted to help me), and then two trips to a nearby plumbing supply store that was open until 3 on Saturday (thank goodness as most local business owners close early on Saturday) before I was able to finish the repair. In between were two ill-fated attempts to turn the water main back on and more flooding.

“Loneliness clarifies.  Here silence stands
Like heat.  Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;” ~ Philip Larkin, from “Here”

So six hours later . . .

I was left with two full loads of wet towels, rags and rugs. Alexis used the Shop Vac on as much as possible. The dusty objects beneath my bed were removed to dry.

“Ocean Waves” (nd)
by Katsushika Hokusai

Dryness restored in the bathroom, I set about cleaning the floors, first the tile in the bathroom, and then some Murphy’s Oil Soap on the hardwood. There is no apparent warping or bowing, which I am eternally grateful for as I don’t think that I could take one more thing in this house that is out-of-whack.

Alexis went by Ann’s house, my s-in-law, and borrowed her big Shop Vac, as ours (which I know that we own) is buried somewhere in the garage. This realization led me to a not-so-kind epiphany: When Corey gets home, the first thing on his major list of things to do is to clean out the garage, even if we have to rent a storage space. I cannot take not being able to find anything when I need it. Ever. Not ever. (My dad, who was obsessive about keeping his tools and garage in order, would shudder at the sight.)

So I did laundry until 1 in the morning. In between, I managed to shower and eat some rather bad fast food. I also downed two Coronas. Two! (I do like to drink beer in the summer as I find it very refreshing, but should I be concerned that I drink one a day? Seriously? Is this a sign of some kind?) Of course that was over the span of seven hours, but still I felt somewhat guilty as I took the two empty bottles into the kitchen to rinse for recycling.

“I began to understand that suffering and disappointments and melancholy are there not to vex us or cheapen us or deprive us of our dignity but to mature and transfigure us.” ~ Hermann Hesse, from Peter Camenzind

Late last night, as the muscle pain really began to take over, I made the mistake of applying too much topical pain ointment, which resulted in a terrible burning feeling on my neck. I didn’t realize that I had applied too much until I was lying on my bed, which I had stripped of all linens, and I began to feel this horrible sensation. Truly, it felt as if I were on fire. I found the aloe (in the hall closet, the bottom of which is newly cleaned and organized) and applied it liberally, which helped a bit. I probably should have taken another shower, but I was just too damned tired.

“Water” (nd)
by Erte

This morning, I’m sore, but I can move—slowly.

So far, my repairs are holding, no drips, no leaks. So glad that my dad taught me some things about plumbing. Can you imagine if I were some helpless female type?

Nah, I can’t imagine it either, so why bother to go there? Except that too many females still don’t take the initiative to learn as much about as many things as possible, preferring to think that someone will come to their rescue. That bothers me. Knowledge, any kind of knowledge, is power. Who would willingly choose not to have a taste of that? It’s not a mindset to which I can relate at all.

As I was walking back to the main turn-off valve, I thought to myself, “It’s all just a matter of logic, really. If this part does this, then this part does that, and to connect them I need . . . ” No, I don’t have Brett’s mathematical mind, but I can employ linear thought fairly well when I need to. Of course, such intense thinking takes its toll on my brain, and later, all I want to do is find a chocolate source and ingest it quickly, which I did, only to feel first horribly guilty and then smugly satisfied.

“That summer I did not go crazy
but I wore
very close
very close
to the bone.” ~ Dorothy Allison,  from “To the Bone”

“After the Water, the Clouds” (1926)
Rene Magritte

This post has taken a bit longer than normal as I’ve been stopping between sections to search for songs that I’ve heard recently so as to add them to my various playlists. I’ve surprised myself with the realization that I actually like a Carrie Underwood song, “Blown Away,” the subject of which is what led me to post the Patrick Stewart quote about violence against women and girls (there’s a connection there). If I ever get a new-old car, I must be sure that it has auxiliary input so that I can plug in my non-existent MP3 player and listen to all of these playlists that I’ve been compiling over the past few years.

Anyway, today I’m trying to go slowly. I still need to do the kitchen floor and finish cleaning beneath the bed—a chore that will require much bending, hence, the drawing out of the post so as to postpone the last bit of cleaning.

Just realized that my head is actually quite tight, something of which I was unaware until I noticed that I’m squinting terribly at the screen, and I paused to figure out why. Hate that—pain that creeps up like that—but I suppose it signals a good time to wrap this up. I hope to be a bit more regular in posting this week. I actually did have three posts written for this past week, but forgot to set them up to publish—another thing I hate (okay, hate is a strong word, but you know what I mean).

Hoping for an extremely quiet week. I should know better.

More later. Peace.

All images taken from wikipaintings.org, water-related, what else?

Music by Ron Pope, “Reason to Hope”

                   

I Don’t Miss It

But sometimes I forget where I am,
Imagine myself inside that life again.

Recalcitrant mornings. Sun perhaps,
Or more likely colorless light

Filtering its way through shapeless cloud.

And when I begin to believe I haven’t left,
The rest comes back. Our couch. My smoke

Climbing the walls while the hours fall.
Straining against the noise of traffic, music,

Anything alive, to catch your key in the door.
And that scamper of feeling in my chest,

As if the day, the night, wherever it is
I am by then, has been only a whir

Of something other than waiting.

We hear so much about what love feels like.
Right now, today, with the rain outside,

And leaves that want as much as I do to believe
In May, in seasons that come when called,

It’s impossible not to want
To walk into the next room and let you

Run your hands down the sides of my legs,
Knowing perfectly well what they know.

~ Tracy K. Smith