“Mysteriously, wonderfully, I bid farewell to what goes, I greet what comes; for what comes cannot be denied, and what goes cannot be detained.” ~ Chuang-Tzu

"Catterline in Winter" (1963, oil on hardboard)Joan Eardley
“Catterline in Winter” (1963, oil on hardboard)
by Joan Eardley

                   

“I drank coffee and read old books and waited for the year to end.” ~ Richard Brautigan, from Trout Fishing in America

Monday, late afternoon, New Year’s Eve. Cloudy and cold, 40’s.

(c) DACS/Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Breaking Wave” (1960, oil on hardboard)
by Joan Eardley

In the past two days, I have attempted to write a post, only to be stymied after the first few sentences. I’m not really sure why, only that what I did write seemed forced and contrived, which made continuing seem pointless.

Part of me feels as if there is something simmering just beneath the surface, waiting to be voiced, but another part feels completely incapable of giving words to that feeling. Truly, I do not know which direction to take or even if there is a direction to be had, so I decided to find some suitable end-of-the-year quotes and just give it a go, see how it unfolds, as it were. I make no promises that any great revelations will ensue, or even that I will find a common thread among these disparate sentences.

I do know that the looming 2013 seems awkward and strange to me. Thirteen has never been a bad number for me. Corey and I were married on the 13th of May, and that particular thirteen has turned out to be one of the best days of my life. But the year 2013 makes me pause, and for the life of me, I could not tell you exactly why that is.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.” ~ T. S. Eliot, Four Quartets

I remember being suitably excited when 1999 rolled into 2000, even though the official start of the new millennium did not begin until 2001. But the coming of both of those years seemed momentous to me—so many changes in my life, so much going on, such excitement about what was ahead. I remember that Corey and I spend New Year’s Eve of 2001 in his brother’s hot tub in Ohio. We were surrounded by snow, and it was absolutely freezing outside, but the water was hot and comfortable, and it was a perfect way in which to greet the new year.

(c) Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Storm at Sea” (1960, oil on hardboard)
by Joan Eardley

But if you were to ask me what I did on New Year’s Eve of 2003 or 2005 or even 2008, I don’t know that I could tell you as we really aren’t big New Year’s Eve people. By that I mean that we do not go out. I am too afraid of all the drunk crazies on the roads, and we usually just watch a movie and go to sleep. It may sound boring, but it works for us.

I remember that my m-in-law used to go out on her porch at midnight and bang a pot, more to annoy her neighbors than anything else. I have sometimes gone to parties, but for most of my life, I have stayed in. What does that say about me? That I’m careful? Boring? Lazy? Who knows? But this year I am a bit hesitant about 2013 coming to pass. I don’t know if it’s that still, small voice inside of me that is trembling a bit, or if there is something worrying the edges of my brain, but something just doesn’t feel right.

Don’t you just hate it when you have those kinds of feelings (if you do), and you cannot ascertain as to why?

“Only, there is a haunting sense of the imminent cessation of being; the year, in turning, turns in on itself.” ~ Angela Carter, “The Erl-King”

I don’t really do resolutions, either, never have. I know myself only too well, and I try never to make promises that I know I can’t or won’t keep. All of those false promises about quitting this or that, losing weight, exercising more, giving more to charity, being less selfish, more generous . . .

Ya da ya da ya da . . .

Bollocks.

"Setting Sun over Fields" (1955-63, oil on canvas)by Joan Eardley
“Setting Sun over Fields” (1955-63, oil on canvas)
by Joan Eardley

No one does it. Not really, so why say that you will?

Perhaps we make these promises to ourselves because we really do believe that we can or will change in the coming year. Perhaps we think that if we say it, it makes it so, makes it more tangible, harder to ignore. But the truth is that if we don’t want to quit smoking (or drinking or eating chocolate or whatever), then we won’t. The desire has to exist else a thousand words written in stone will not make it real.

And so I make no promises, either to myself or the powers that be or anyone else, at least no coming year promises. I save my promises for important things, like things that I will do for my children or for Corey. I will tell myself that it’s in my best interest to go back on my chocolate fast as the few pounds that I have gained since Thanksgiving/cruise/Christmas dinner are beginning to add up, and I liked it better when I was on a healthier diet, but other than that? Nothing.

“All night we now hear the desperate downwardness.
All day we have watched the last icicle
Drip, drop by drop, as though from a wound—grow less and less.
Dark comes again.  Shut eyes, and think of a sacred cycle.” ~ Robert Penn Warren, from section 1 of “Downwardness” in “Seasons”

One tradition that I do miss is that of building a fire in the fireplace on New Year’s Eve. My ex and I used to do that each year, even that was the only fire we built for the year, but I honestly feel too guilty now when building a real wood fire. Pollution and all of that. But oh how I would dearly love to have a gas fireplace hookup. It’s one of the few luxuries that I want to install if and when we ever go into reno mode. A gas fireplace and a jetted tub—two things that I would so love to have, two things in which I find true comfort.

(c) DACS/Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Snow” (1958, oil on board)
by Joan Eardley

Corey and I only used the fireplace during those two winters in which we did not have gas heat. Those were cold winters, and the fireplace did help, if only briefly.

Some people cannot abide the smell of woodsmoke, and I can understand that, but I am not one of them. One of the things that I loved about going camping in the mountains was building an outdoor fire from fallen branches and twigs. Sitting there in the evening with friends, talking about everything and nothing, watching the wood burn down to embers before zipping up in a sleeping bag.

Simpler times.

“I’ve never been very good at leaving things behind. I tried, but I have always left fragments of myself there too, like seeds awaiting their chance to grow.” ~ Joanne Harris

Anyway, 2012 is in its last hours, and the new year will be hear in less than eight hours. Corey and I will spend the evening with Olivia as Lex and Mike are going out. Eamonn is house sitting for his father, and Brett is with friends. So I think it will just be the three of us and the dogs, and that’s just fine with me.

(c) Anne Morrison; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“Sarah’s Cottage” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Joan Eardley

I will leave you with this, things I hope may happen in 2013, in the world and at home:

  • Congress will grow up and realize that being obstructionists serves no one well.
  • Automatic weapons will once again be banned.
  • Obama will become the president we all know he could be.
  • Honey Boo Boo, the Real Housewives of everywhere, Dance Moms, Toddlers and Tiaras, Bad Girls, and all of the rest will quietly fade into the background (okay, know this won’t happen, but I can wish).

 

"Harvest Time" (1960-61, oil on board)by Joan Eardley
“Harvest Time” (1960-61, oil on board)
by Joan Eardley

and also these wishes:

  • Brett will make his trip to New Zealand and from this experience be able to glean a little insight into what he wants out of life.
  • Eamonn will get a job as a merchant mariner and begin to enter the adult world.
  • Alexis will continue to try to work towards a more stable life.
  • Corey will get the job he really wants.
  • My dogs will remain healthy.
  • Our families will suffer no more losses.
  • I will actually do real work on my novel and poetry.

To all of you out there, may the coming year bring you health, happiness, and safety, and may you move one step closer to achieving your dreams and desires.

Peace.

“Lilac Wine,” Jeff Buckley version and mashup with Nina Simone, couldn’t decide:

                   

New Year Resolve

The time has come
To stop allowing the clutter
To clutter my mind
Like dirty snow,
Shove it off and find
Clear time, clear water.

Time for a change,
Let silence in like a cat
Who has sat at my door
Neither wild nor strange
Hoping for food from my store
And shivering on the mat.

Let silence in.
She will rarely speak or mew,
She will sleep on my bed
And all I have ever been
Either false or true
Will live again in my head.

For it is now or not
As old age silts the stream,
To shove away the clutter,
To untie every knot,
To take the time to dream,
To come back to still water.

~ Mary Sarton

“I feel as though I have lived many lives, experienced the heights and depths of each and like the waves of the ocean, never known rest. Throughout the years, I looked always for the unusual, for the wonderful, for the mysteries at the heart of life.” ~ Leni Riefenstahl

Maria Mikhalskaya, Children’s Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

                   

“I’m tired of facts, I’m tired of speculations, I want to be consumed by unreason.” ~ Leonard Cohen, Beautiful Losers

Wednesday afternoon. Partly cloudy and mild, mid 50’s.

Well I hope that everyone who celebrates it had a very Merry Christmas. My family had a lovely one. Everyone seemed to get that one special gift, and so far, only Alexis needs to exchange sizes. Many thanks to those of you who sent good wishes.

Maria Mikhalskaya, Children's Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Christmas dinner was, shall we say, interesting. My mother was in true form, which means that she wasn’t nearly as nice as she was at Thanksgiving. She started eating before everyone was seated at the table, and justified it by saying that we should have begun dinner an hour earlier. Lovely. It was that kind of night.

Several drama scenes, one of which involved my s-in-law Ann, who was quite touchy, but as I reminded everyone, this was her first Christmas without her mother, and that first holiday season after losing a parent or child is pure hell. Ann left but then came back and sat around with us for a few more hours, so everything was smoothed over on that front.

Other drama involved my mother and her tactless comments, none of which are really worth repeating here. What I am amazed by is that I really wasn’t bothered by her comments as I usually am. They just rolled off my back, and I was (thankfully) able to help smooth the ruffled feathers of those who actually took her comments to heart.

That I was unaffected this time is unusual, and that I can write about it without being the least bit upset is also unusual, but good, good for me, at least.

“The fern in the rain breathes the silver message.
Stay, lie low. Play your dark reeds
and relearn the beauty of absorption.
There is nothing beyond the rotten log
covered with leaves and needles.
Forget the light emerging with its golden wick.
Raise your face to the water-laden frond.
A thousand blossoms will fall into your arms.” ~ Anne Coray, The Art of Being

My in-laws in Ohio sent gift cards to everyone for Christmas, and I got one for Barnes and Noble and one for Amazon. I am so excited because it means that I can order some of the books that have been on my wish list. For me, that’s the absolute perfect gift. Eamonn already used his gift card to Vans to buy a pair of shoes. Alexis and Mike got a gift card to Olive Garden, one of Lex’s favorite places to eat, and Brett got a gift card to Best Buy, one of his favorite places to shop.

Maria Mikhalskaya, The Red House Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Corey got two new fleece shirts from his parents. I wrapped them and put them under the tree for them, so he opened them on Christmas morning and had a little piece of Ohio in his morning.

By the way, Tillie got a new squeaky toy from Santa (23 squeakers total), and she’s already operated on it and removed two of the squeakers. She is such a funny dog. All of the dogs always get excited on Christmas morning because so much is going on, but this year I noticed that Shakes slept through most of it. I guess my fluffy guy is getting old, which makes me sad.

Speaking of sad, I really could have gone the entire holiday season without Sarah McLachlan’s gut-wrenching commercial for the ASPCA—all of those images of starving and abused cats and dogs, and even a horse, all with her haunting voice singing “Silent Night” in the background. I mean please. I carry around enough guilt for fifty people, I really don’t need more guilt about animal suffering . . . of course, I still watch and tear-up because hey, it’s better than self-flagellation or a hair shirt, I suppose.

“Perhaps you and I are types and this sadness which sometimes falls between us springs from disappointment in our search, each straining through and beyond the other, snatching a glimpse now and then of the shadow which turns the corner always a pace or two ahead of us.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

So Corey is waiting for the call telling him when he will fly out. I’m hoping that we get more than just a couple of days warning before he has to go. I’d really like to have one night out with him, maybe sushi and a movie. I guess it’s all up in the air right now.

Maria Mikhalskaya, Children's Magazine Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

The guy across the street finished the work on the truck, but there’s a twist: the truck won’t start. We’re not sure exactly what the problem is other than no power is going to the coil or the spark plug wires. I’m really hoping that it’s not some kind of major computer problem. So even though the major repair has been finished, the truck is still not on the road yet.

And to further complicate matters, the starter on the Rodeo finally died. Corey spent yesterday afternoon changing that; unfortunately, it was raining, so he ended up soaked to the bone by the time he was finished. I’m just glad that it was a repair that he could do and a part that we could afford. I mean, we knew that the starter was going, which meant that each time we got into the Rodeo, we were driving on a wing and a prayer. That it lasted until after Christmas was good.

We know that we have other repairs pending on the rodeo: the brakes, the O2 sensors, and we need new tires. If everything can just hang on for another month, we might be okay, but the thought that we would be without either vehicle was so depressing. I must say.

“ . . . spirit of the fountain, spirit of the garden,
Suffer us not to mock ourselves with falsehood
Teach us to care and not to care
Teach us to sit still
Even among these rocks . . .” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “Ash Wednesday

Anyway, now that we’ve made it through Thanksgiving and Christmas, the only big thing pending on my schedule is taking down the decorations, which I never do before the New Year. I know that some people take everything down the day after Christmas, and some people do it on New Year’s Day, but I like to wait a few days after, no particular reason other than I like to look at everything.

Maria Mikhalskaya, The Nutcracker and the Mouse King Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Other than that, the other big thing is that my Botox has stopped working, and it’s as if it effectiveness stopped all at once. I’ve had three massive migraines in the past four days, the kind in which the pain is so intense that it wakes me up. On Monday, I was just sitting on the side of the bed holding ice to my forehead and rocking back and forth. I even had to ask Corey to take off Tillie’s jingle bell collar as the sound was killing me.

You know how people say that you never remember the pain of childbirth, that if you actually remembered it, you’d never have another child? Well, I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know that I had kind of put out of my memory the pain of a really bad migraine, wishful thinking I suppose, and then when that first one hit, I felt as if someone had hit me in the head with an iron skillet. No lie.

So now I have to make an appointment with the neurologist who gave me the Botox shots, but first I have to find out if I’m going to have to pay $650 out of pocket since it’s the beginning of the year, and my co-pay kicks in. I can’t get the shots until the end of January because it has to be three months in between shots.

When I get migraines like these, I always think about that stupid, stupid Social Security judge who said that I could work with my migraines. What an idiot. Obviously, he’s never had a migraine. Oh well, that’s an entirely different saga, one that I’ll probably be facing sometime in 2012.

“For it is not yet the memories themselves. Not until they have turned to blood within us, to glance, to gesture, nameless and no longer to be distinguished from ourselves—not until then can it happen that in a most rare hour the first word of a verse arises in their midst and goes forth from them.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge,

Maria Mikhalskaya. The Nutcracker and the Mouse King Book Illustration (Behance Network CC license)

Anyway, I’ve spent the last 48 hours, give or take, in bed with ice on my head. I’ve used to much ice that the automatic ice maker hasn’t been able to keep pace. Sad really.

But the migraines have kept me from posting, from putting away the silver we used for Christmas dinner, from doing laundry. Consequently, I’m behind in everything. But since the house was cleaned before Christmas, it doesn’t look terribly messy, unless you look at the piles of clothes in the garage.

Oh yes. That’s another thing: our washer is dying. It sometimes doesn’t agitate during the wash cycle, and sometimes doesn’t spin during the spin cycle, so finishing one load of laundry may take twice as long depending on whether or not I’m babysitting the washer. Oh what fun . . .

Enough for now. I’m starting to see lots of spots in my eyes, which is a sure sign that I need to stop.

More later. Peace.

Today’s post features the illustrations of Maria Mikhalskaya, a Russian illustrator and designer. I don’t remember how I came across her work, but it was probably on tumblr. Mikhalskaya attended the Moscow University of Printing Arts, and her illustrations to The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, which were published by Arbor Publishers in 2007, seemed perfect for a holiday post.

Music by Barlow Girl, “Never Alone”

                   

First Chaldaic Oracle

There is something you should know.
And the right way to know it
is by a cherrying of your mind.

Because if you press your mind towards it
and try to know
that thing

as you know a thing,
you will not know it.
It comes out of red

with kills on both sides,
it is scrap, it is nightly,
it kings your mind.

No. Scorch is not the way
to know
that thing you must know.

But use the hum
of your wound
and flamepit out everything

right to the edge
of that thing you should know.
The way to know it

is not by staring hard.
But keep chiselled,
keeping Praguing the eye

of your soul and reach—
mind empty
towards that thing you should know

until you get it.
that thing you should know.
Because it is out there (orchid) outside your and, it is

~ Anne Carson

“Some nights stay up till dawn, as the moon sometimes does for the sun. Be a full bucket pulled up the dark way of a well, then lifted out into the light.” ~ Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

Irish Cob Horse (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“Time is constantly passing. If you really consider this fact, you will be simultaneously amazed and terrified . . . As soon as it arises, it is gone. You cannot find any duration. Arising and passing away are simultaneous. That is why there is no seeing nor hearing. That is why we are both sentient beings and insentient beings.” ~ Norman Fischer

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and low 50’s.

Four days since my last post, more if you count real posts with words. Have kind of hit a wall again when it comes to posting. Hoping that after the holidays I can get back into the swing. Who knows. Actually, I had really wanted to post yesterday, but the computer was non-cooperative. I had to shut down completely twice, and after all of that, I just thought, bugger it, and stopped trying.

Chilly Christmas on Colton Hills, Wolverhampton, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

The tree is up, as are the stockings, but the house is still half-way done. I need to clear off the dining room table and decorate in that room, and of course, everything needs a good dusting. The living room is still full of boxes from the tree decorations. I would put them back in the garage myself, but you know how that goes. Corey has been called into work last minute the past few days, so he hasn’t had much time around here. Of course, there are my two sons . . .

Hoping to finish shopping this weekend—stocking stuff, underwear, socks, the not-s0-glam presents. I still haven’t done my Christmas cards (we’ve only received two cards so far this year; how sad). I’m thinking that if I get the dining room done today, perhaps I can do the cards tonight, but the past few days have been limited to one project.

The nasty cough is mostly gone, but the wheezing remains, as does the lethargy. I’m just bloody thankful that I did not get the usual accompanying bad migraine from the cough, which always used to happen when I got my annual bronchitis bout. I am fast becoming a true believer in migraine botox. Of course I say that now, but I’ll have to pay out of pocket for the next dose as it will come in 2012 with new my new copayment. Oh well . . .

“You see, I want a lot.
Maybe I want it all:
the darkness of each endless fall,
the shimmering light of each ascent.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

When I selected these quotes, I think that I had something else in mind, but I can’t quite be certain. But I have found over the years that it’s hard to go astray with Rilke and Rumi, two of my favorites, obviously.

Attaka in Winter Pasture (Wikimedia Commons)

A blogger friend of mine mentioned a site to me (I Write Like) on which you can paste a sample of your writing, and a program will do a quick analysis and spit out the name of a famous writer whose style is similar to yours (or vice versa). I’ve put in several different samples, and this is what I’ve gotten: I write like E. L. Doctorow, Anne Rice (?), H. P. Lovecraft (haven’t read anything by), David Foster Wallace (well, that’s not bad, I suppose), and one other person that I can’t remember.

What does this tell me? Not a lot, other than I don’t write like Fitzgerald or Woolf, which would have been too much to ask for, I suppose.

It’s interesting though in that I’m certain the program looks at things like sentence length, word choices, phrasing, etc., and from the various results that I’ve gotten it tells me that I don’t write like the same person on any given day. What does that say about me? That’s I’m just as fragmented as I’ve always believed myself to be? That my style depends upon my mood? That I don’t have a style, per se?

Quite honestly, I think that what it says most of all is that—as I’ve long suspected—the interwebs have a brain and wicked sense of humor.

“Man is a microcosm, or a little world, because he is an extract from all the stars and planets of the whole firmament, from the earth and the elements; and so he is their quintessence.” ~ Paracelsus, Swiss Alchemist, Philosopher

Last night I dreamt of my uncle, the one who wasn’t really my uncle but was one of my dad’s lifelong best friends, so in the Filipino way, I called him uncle and have always thought of his family as relatives. He died two years after my father died. That I still dream of him says a lot about what a presence he was in my life. I dreamed that he was a jewelry maker and that he had designed these incredible necklaces with beautiful stones. I picked out one that had lovely aquamarine stones.

German Winter: Horses in Snow (Wikimedi Commons)

Then my dreams carried me back into the classroom, and I was teaching math (me? please) to grade school children during summer school. I was with some of the people I had taught with at the middle school, and they did not try to hide their displeasure at my appearance. No one was prepared with any kind of lesson plans, and I was serving the kids cake. Make of that what you will.

Why must I dream of people I would much rather never see again, let alone give a thought to? Why cannot my dreams be more populated with the faces of those I love and have loved? Why does my mind go to such strange places sometimes: math and cake? And why, oh why, whenever I dream about working in some way, do I always have this sudden realization that I cannot be working and that I will have to repay the government thousands of dollars?

I know. There are no answers for such futile questions.

“Sit and be still
until in the time
of no rain you hear
beneath the dry wind’s
commotion in the trees
the sound of flowing
water among the rocks,
a stream unheard before,
and you are where
breathing is prayer.” ~ Wendell Berry, Stanza VI, “Sabbaths 2001”

A woman with whom I worked once asked me why I used the word dreamt instead of dreamed. I think that it’s probably just an offshoot of my literary training. Shakespeare. You know. But dreamt just comes naturally to me, and seems a bit more poetic somehow.

Non sequitur. Or maybe not.

Horse at Moulzie, Upper Glen Cova, UK (Wikimedia Commons)

I mean, I have been thinking about why I use the words that I use. I have been very, very fortunate throughout my life to have worked with and encountered people with a real command of the English language, not just in college and graduate school, but at the newspaper and even at the government contracting firm for whom I worked years ago. There I worked with two men who were both very erudite and articulate. Then there was the museum director for whom I worked.

Dipping my toes into so many different pools has shaped me in so many ways, has afforded me continuous growth. I miss that as I do not believe that we should never stop growing. I miss the garrulous banter of the newsroom that nurtured me when I was an undergraduate. I miss the deep, rich voice of the man who walked into my office, hand outstretched, and said, “I’m from corporate. I’m here to help,” with just the faintest trace of irony beneath his words.

Sitting here, I do not have the same opportunities to hear the rich pageantry that is still churning somewhere out there without me. I mean, I know that in general, our society is in a period of decline culturally and socially, but I know that there are still people out there who love the word, love the sound of words, love the essence of words, and I’m not speaking of politicians, who use and abuse words.

They exist still, perhaps not those same individuals, but those individuals who just by their very essence enrich those around them with their everyday verse, the verse of Walt Whitman’s common man.

“The time has come to turn your heart into a temple of fire. Your essence is gold hidden in dust. To reveal its splendor, you need to burn in the fire of Love.” ~ Mawlana Jalal-al-Din Rumi

I supposed the point at which I have arrived is the “foul rag and bone shop of the heart” of which W. B. Yeats spoke in “The Circus Animals’ Desertion”—searching for a theme in vain, “What can I enumerate but old themes?”

Winter in Westphalia, Germany (Wikimedia Commons)

You know the rag and bone man. He lives still today, with his shopping cart with the wobbly wheel, his trash bags filled with aluminum cans and other things that the world has deemed as refuse. He (and she) walks along, collects, and most of us have no concept of what might be of value to him.

The traditional rag and bone man, who amassed household refuse and resold it to make a living, the rags and bones of life, what we castoff in search of . . . something. I think that as writers we are all rag and bone men at some point: gathering, sifting, getting rid of what we can, keeping some, always looking for more. And more often than not, we are looking for a theme, a theme that eludes us.

Whether that’s words, or even the perfect turn of the phrase, we wander, perhaps not down streets and alleyways with our rag bags or our carts, but we wander, and we pick up, and sometimes out of what we collect, we are able to make something worth more than the parts alone.

But only sometimes.

More later. Peace.

Music by Diana Krall, “White Christmas’

                   

Love After Love

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott