“I can feel the limits of what humans are capable of—that a certain type of perfection can only be realized through a limitless accumulation of the imperfect. And personally I find that encouraging.” ~ Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Gargoyle, Holy Trinity Church in Stratford upon Avon, UK, by lowfatbrains (FCC)

                   

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

Sunday afternoon. Sunny and cool, low 50’s.

Gargoyle, Church of St. Peter and St. Paul, Tring, UK, by Today is a good day (FCC)

Well only a few days ago, it was 80 degrees, and then the temperature dropped 30 degrees, and snow fell on parts of the east coast. It seems the weather reflects my state of mind.

I had joked to Ann that we could walk on Friday unless it snowed . . . right. So far, our attempts to start a daily walking routine have been thwarted, but we’re going to try again this week, and with luck, perhaps we’ll have some results.

Gargoyle, Cathédrale Saint-Etienne de Meaux, France (WC)

I awoke on Friday with one of the most painful migraines I’ve had in a while. It was blinding, and any bodily movement meant stabbing pain. I did not move from the bed all day except for necessities. Then this morning when the dogs woke me early to go outside, I stepped out of bed and couldn’t straighten my body because of my back. I have to tell you that this switch off between my back and my head is not in the least amusing, and I could really live without it.

Yesterday, I had planned to post. I gathered my quotes and images, and then ran out of steam, which is unfortunate as I had the whole house to myself, and it was nice and quiet. I think that I overcompensated for Friday’s inertia by doing too much yesterday—laundry, the kitchen, various other small chores, and I found by 7:30 or so that I was too tired to do anything requiring my brain, so no post.

So I’m trying today, and we’ll just have to see how far I get. Unfortunately, I’ve been taking muscle relaxers since early morning because of my back, and while they do not ordinarily affect me, the leftover fatigue from the migraine coupled with the meds is definitely leaving me sluggish.

“Artifacts
Are the accounts we leave behind.
We leave them buried beneath what is buried” ~ Michele Wolf, from “Archaeology”

So I’ve been thinking about gargoyles. Don’t ask me why, perhaps because of Halloween, which is tomorrow. I’ve always been fascinated by these carvings, which can look like anything from the famous pensive statue atop Notre Dame to really hideous statues resembling something out of a nightmare.

Gargoyle Atop Notre Dame, Paris, by Lisa Kline 1 (FCC)

According to one site that I visited, the word gargoyle shares a common root with the word gargle, which comes from the French word gargouille, which means throat. Many people confuse gargoyle with grotesques, the difference being that a gargoyle is a water spout or drain pipe, and a grotesque is not. In a gargoyle, a trough is cut into the back of the carving, and the rainwater flows from the mouth.

Writer Russell Sturgis says that in medieval architecture, “the gargoyles, which had to be very numerous because of the many gutters which were carried on the tops of flying buttresses, and higher and lower walls, were often very decorative, consisting, as they did, of stone images of grotesque animals, and the like, or, in smaller buildings of iron or lead.” Supposedly, gargoyles can be traced back to ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, where such carvings depicted animals like eagles and lions, as well as mythological creatures.

While gargoyles and grotesques can appear to be quite ugly, something about them fascinates me. I love that these intricate carvings can be found all over the world, but the ones that I really like are the really old ones atop cathedrals. I like the juxtaposition of the grotesque with the holy. While the consensus is that the gargoyle was supposed to represent evil outside the church walls, I just cannot imagine the medieval sensibility, which believed in all sorts of evil spirits, not cringing each time it passed beneath one of these faces to enter a church.

“I will walk home alone with the deep alone, a disciple of shadows, in praise of the mysteries.” ~ Edward Hirsch

Gargoyles, St. Stephens, Vienna, by ccarlstead (FCC)

Anyway, Halloween around our house is usually just an excuse for me to eat more candy, but I’m really trying this year. I haven’t opened the bags of candy that I bought to pass out to the neighborhood kids. Of course, that’s the second batch of candy. The first batch of candy my mom brought over, and it included mini Almond Joy bars, which are a big weakness for me,and Reese’s peanut butter cups, which Corey loves. Love those, but they are so bad for me, between the chocolate and the coconut, bad for my head and bad for my cholesterol.

Not to worry, though. I polished those off weeks ago, which is why I had to buy more candy. I try to buy things that I’m not crazy about so that I don’t succumb to temptation, but it has to be stuff that someone in this house will eat in case we have leftovers, which we can never predict. Sometimes, we have lots and lots of kids and run out of candy, and sometimes we have fewer than ten, which means leftovers.

Gargoyle, Manchester Cathedral, UK, by Gordon Marino (FCC)

I do miss the days when the kids went trick or treating, helping them to pick out their costumes, doing their faces. Some years their costumes were extravagant, and some years, just a black cape and some fake blood.

I remember when I was a kid, and I would take a pillow case, and Cathy Weaver and I would have to come home at least once to empty our sacks before going out again for more. Of course those were different times. We went all over the neighborhood and to houses around the schools. We would hit at least ten different streets. Neighbors knew each other, and trick or treating went on for hours, or until you were exhausted. There were the stories about razor blades in apples, but really, who went to houses that gave out apples?

I remember after 9/11, the hospitals set up free x-rays of Halloween candy. Bizarre. We only took the kids to houses that we knew, so we never felt a need to have the treats undergo x-ray. Nothing has the innocence of years past. Nothing.

“It’s not humankind after all
nor is it culture
that limits us.
It is the vastness
we do not enter.
It is the stars
we do not let own us.” ~ Simon J. Ortiz from “Culture and the Universe”

Gargoyle, Arundel Cathedral, Sussex, UK, by howzey (FCC)

So other than those tidbits, not a whole lot going on. Corey is working at least four shifts a week, which is always good. And more and more, I’m really glad that I didn’t submit that application packages as my health in the past month has been a real roller coaster, with far more downs than ups.

Thanksgiving and Christmas are right around the corner, and my other m-in-law is on my mind a lot. This year’s holidays will be the first without her, and it’s going to be so hard. Even if we didn’t eat dinner with her, we always spent some time at her house, even if it was just to visit and have dessert. She loved to cook for her family in the old days when she could still cook. She would set the table with her best china and her silver and make enormous quantities of food.

Gargoyle, Château de Chenonçeau, France, by bolt of blue (FCC)

It’s going to be very strange. This losing parents thing really sucks, I have to say.

I don’t know if we are going to try to  make a trip to Ohio around Christmas. That’s always iffy and dependent upon so many things, but it’s nice to be there at the holidays, especially if it snows.

Anyway, I don’t know why I’m already thinking about the holidays; although, it’s probably because the stores have all of their Christmas stuff out already, and I’m seeing advertisements for holiday sales. So glad not to be in retail any more, even though there were parts that were definitely fun. I remember when I managed the home store, and we had a party for the associates to decorate the display trees one evening after work. Those are the good memories, admittedly, not that many.

Well, back is really hurting again, so time to go.

More later. Peace.

Music by Land of Talk, “Troubled”

                   

The Last Days of Summer Before the First Frost

Here at the wolf’s throat, at the egress of the howl,
all along the avenue of deer-blink and salmon-kick
where the spider lets its microphone down
into the cave of the blackberry bush—earth echo,
absence of the human voice—wait here
with a bee on your wrist and a fly on your cheek,
the tiny sun and tiny eclipse.
It is time to be grateful for the breath
of what you could crush without thought,
a moth, a child’s love, your own life.
There might never be another chance.
How did you find me, the astonished mother says
to her four-year-old boy who’d disappeared
in the crowds at the music festival.
I followed my heart, he shrugs,
so matter-of-fact you might not see
behind his words
(o hover and feed, but not too long)
the bee trails turning to ice as they’re flown.

~ Tim Bowling

“And now we welcome the new year, full of things that have never been.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

                   

“Where you’ve nothing else construct ceremonies out of the air and breathe upon them.” ~ Cormac McCarthy, The Road

Wednesday night. Day 9 of the headache from hell.

Reboot Universe

Bonne Année! Buon Anno! Happy New Year . . . five days late.

As I said above, I am now on day nine of this particular migraine, and quite frankly, it’s driving me to distraction. I had wanted to do my new year’s post, well, on new year’s day, but stabbing pain in one’s eye coupled with extreme light sensitivity make approaching the computer for more than a few minutes impossible. At the moment, I seem to be in a lull from the pain; I wouldn’t dare say that it’s over as that would just reignite the curse; nevertheless, I thought that I would write while I am able.

I have chicken cacciatore simmering on the stove, something that I haven’t made in years. The idea popped into my head, and since I had chicken in the freezer, I thought, ‘why not?’ I’m using boneless chicken breasts, but thighs are better as they give the dish more flavor. Some of you may know the dish as Hunter’s Chicken—same dish, different name. Essentially, it’s an Italian chicken stew with wine, onions, garlic, and preferably, fresh herbs and tomatoes. The only fresh herb that I have is Rosemary, but I made do. From the aromas wafting from the kitchen, I think that I may have just nailed it even though I couldn’t find my recipe and had to cobble together something from a few different recipes on the Internet.

Why such excitement over a dinner? Well if you know me at all, you know that I don’t cook often any more, mostly because the standing for prep work really gets to my back, so when I am able to put together a meal, I add it to the victory column, a column that reads mostly empty.

(Aside: Have you ever fed a dog a spaghetti noodle? Too funny.)

Oh well. Small steps.

“Your heart, that place
you don’t even think of cleaning out.
That closet stuffed with savage mementos.” ~ Louise Erdrich, “Advice to Myself”

Word Art

Corey is working tonight until 11. Yesterday he had to fly to D.C. for a medical transport. Luckily, he didn’t get snowed in like last time, and he was up and back within a day. I know that he’s tired—physically and mentally. Now that the holidays are over, he’s hoping that something will happen on the shipping front. It’s so hard not to place too much stock in what he has been told, not to pin our hopes on assertions and predictions by people who have not idea as to just how much they hold our future in their hands.

Yesterday Brett had his IB ceremony at Granby. Kind of strange since the graduates have finished one semester of college, but it has to be this way since the IB grades aren’t calculated until after graduation. IB diplomas and certificates are awarded to those who graduated from the program in the preceding academic year. It was a nice, short ceremony, fairly informal, and Brett was able to catch up with some people, which was nice for him.

He’s had a good Christmas break, seeing some friends, relaxing, and wreaking havoc on “Call of Duty.” Haven’t seen much of Eamonn since Christmas Day, and Alexis hasn’t been around since losing her car. I have no idea as to what she is going to do; every time I call her she’s asleep.

Not even going to go there . . . My mother does enough fretting over the situation for the both of us.

“All day I think about it, then at night I say it. Where did I come from, and what am I supposed to be doing? I have no idea. My soul is from elsewhere, I’m sure of that, and I intend to end up there.” Jalal al-Din Rumi

"Someday this pain will be useful to you"

Having really strange dreams of late. Only vague memories of people from my past, and of course, the ongoing work dreams in which I have returned to work, but in recent dreams, I keep getting fired from whatever job I’m doing.

I have a fairly good idea as to why my dreams are moving in this direction: Up until a few weeks ago, I had been feeling much better in the pain department. Then the migraine hit, and about five days ago, my back really began to act up again, so much so that I spent two straight days in bed. The retreat to my bed for consecutive days hasn’t happened in a few months, and I had forgotten how much I really, really detest it.

I mean, in trying to recapture somewhat of a normal (whatever that is) life, I am trying to do more, not overdo, just do. So when my body rebels, I take it quite personally: a betrayal, a direct assault on my sensibilities.

Let me explain: The two months during which I took care of my mother I had to shunt aside my own health concerns to focus on her needs. Admittedly, there were days in which I was exhausted—physically and emotionally—but I had no choice but to do what was necessary, and in so doing, I found that I felt more necessary, not just to my mother, but in this world as a whole. Then, when faced with the reality of my own physical limitations, I find that I highly resent it.

Does that make sense? Resent myself, or rather, my physicality?

“I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings.” ~ Mary Oliver, from “Starlings in Winter”

Plato Word Art

I suppose that I still cling to the idea that one day I will be my old self again—the self who could work 12 hours a day, get by just fine on five hours of sleep, take yoga classes, clean my own house, wash my car, plant flowers—that person. It’s hard to settle for less when you know exactly what you used to be capable of accomplishing in your own.

I don’t want that person to be gone completely from this world as that is a reality that would sadden me and make me feel useless.

Another oh well . . .

So instead of resolutions for 2011 (since I never keep resolutions), I am going to list just a few things that I would like to see as being within the realm of possibility in my life at some time in the near future (in no particular order):

  • Visit the Humpback Mountain in western Virginia and trying to walk/hike the basic trail
  • Get back into yoga
  • Plant flowers this spring
  • Paint the living room
  • Treat myself to a good haircut and a massage
  • Contact a few people from the publishing program at GW just to catch up
  • See Mari again
  • Put new batteries in my watches that have died (I know, pitiful huh?)
  • Get away for a weekend with Corey, just the two of us, anywhere
  • Write a few poems
  • Watch less television
  • Take Tillie for walks around the neighborhood

I don’t see this as an impossible list, and I’m not even saying that I’ll do all of this in 2011, but damn. If I don’t put some ideas out there, then I’ll never focus. It’s not that I lack motivation, or at least I don’t think that’s what it is. I could be kidding myself. I mean, I had to really think to come up with 12 separate items.

This is by no means my bucket list. This is my memento vivere list, my reminder to myself to live, that I still live, that life is truly still mine for the taking. Perhaps it’s sad that I must remind myself of this, but at least I am self-aware enough to know that I need to be reminded.

Understand?

Headache is returning. Time to retreat.

More later. Peace.

Music by Greg Laswell, “And Then You”

“Youth ages, immaturity is outgrown, ignorance can be educated, and drunkenness sobered, but stupid lasts forever.” ~ Aristophanes

Vintage Christmas Card: Christmas Song Birds (1913)

                   

“The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity.” ~ Harlan Ellison

Vintage Christmas Card: Germany (1901)

Monday, early evening, Webb Center computer lab, ODU.

I arranged to pick up Brett from school today at 4:15. My phone is still not working, so I was unable to find out whether or not he wanted to stay longer. Turns out, he did, so I decided to come to the lab for a bit and work on this blog while he hangs.

We are switching my phone back to our T-Mobile plan, which means replacing the sim card. I did that, but for some reason, it takes 24 to 48 hours for my phone number (which was originally a T-Mobile number) to be transferred back from the Straight Talk plan.

Just a word of caution for anyone who is thinking of switching over to Straight Talk: Don’t. The customer service is absolutely horrible, and the plan, while it seems fairly straightforward and simple, isn’t. We had thought about switching over everyone to the Straight Talk plan to try to save some money; fortunately, we tried it with my line first while keeping the T-Mobile plan for everyone else.

The problems just weren’t worth the small savings; hence my switch back to T-Mobile. Only problem is that I don’t have service yet.

Cox Communications, our cable and Internet provider, is now offering wireless service. I suppose we’ll check that out to see what they are offering. If we can bundle all of our services, we may be able to save a bit of money. Have to see what’s going on with that.

“I responded to this development with the kind of sophisticated language for which I am famous. “Crap crap crap crap crap crap crap stupid stupid stupid stupid stupid crap.” ~ John Green

Vintage Christmas Card: Bringing Home the Tree (date unknown)

Sunday evening, home. Windy and cold.

It is now almost two weeks since I began this particular post, and you may be wondering to yourself, ‘why bother?’ Legitimate question. Let me just say that I had already picked out all of these wonderful quotes about stupidity, and I hate to waste a good quote. So we will now be rejoining our regularly scheduled program, already in progress.

Brett finished his exams last Friday; we’re waiting for final grades, but it looks like he may be getting two A’s and two B’s. Quite happy about that. And Eamonn told me last night that he got three B’s and one C, much better than last semester. His comment was that he didn’t even try; I did not come back with the expected retort of imagine how well he would do if he did try . . .

Since I began this post, quite a few things have happened. One of which is that we learned—much to our joint consternation—that the wonderful Straight Talk phone we bought several months ago when we decided to try the switch, that phone (which is a Samsung Gravity model), cannot be used with any other system, even though it is SIM-card ready. My new T-mobile SIM card will not work in the phone. Period. Corey found out this dismaying information after several wonderful conversations with the ST customer service people. (He had to make the calls as I refuse to deal with them ever again; he now understands why that is.) We even tried some Internet sources that claim to be able to unlock any phone; well, they can’t.

So my mother, who cannot stand that she is unable to call me several times a day, is buying me a new phone for Christmas. I found a great deal on e-Bay for a similar Samsung, not one of the newer gravity models, which is fine as I don’t really like touch screens or have  need for all kinds of apps.

Once again, a word of unsolicited advice from me to you: DON’T go with Straight Talk unless you have unlimited patience and never plan to move your service again.

“The difference between stupid and intelligent people—and this is true whether or not they are well-educated—is that intelligent people can handle subtlety.” ~ Neal Stephenson

Vintage Christmas Card: German Elves (date unknown)

In keeping with tonight’s theme, I want to mention a very entertaining blog that I came across on blogsurfer.us: Losers I’ve Loved and Lost. The blog isn’t stupid, far from it, but the responses from the individuals on match.com who contact the blog’s author . . . well let’s just say that they are a bit lacking in the functioning grey cells category.

Essentially, the blog is a running list of selected letters the author has received via match.com and her responses to said letters. Now I’ve never tried online dating, and I know that it has become a staple in the dating world for many reasons, not the least of which is the ability to cull through the chaff for the wheat via profiles and responses. I will be the first to admit that this system would never work for me, ever, ever, as I would correct grammar and be generally bitchy and condescending, that is, my normal self.

So when I began to read the letters and her responses, I found myself laughing out loud as matchmaker (the blog’s author) comes across as my kind of woman: She does not suffer fools gladly. For example, she specifies that she is short, that she smokes, that she is not interested in an older man, a divorced man, or a man with children. She also specifies a locale. Do any of the men who write her pay attention to these specifics?

Of course not.

To wit:

Letter (intro paragraph): May I have the honor of inviting you for a dinner or lunch in San Francisco (I work in downtown) or a dinner in Berkeley (my neighborhood has all the celebrated restaurants)? I really enjoyed reading your relaxes but refreshing profile—you seem to be lovely person inside and out. (accompanied by photograph of obviously older gentleman)

Response (selected parts): dinner at a celebrated restaurant in berkeley sounds fantastic!  i love places that people celebrate or that others find celebrating or that celebrate regularly.  celebration is the essence of celebration.  the problem is i live in los angeles.  but it’s just a minor problem.  you sound very successful and i’m sure you could find a private jet to fly me up and back just for dinner.

i think you do meet all of the criteria for my partner.  except for the “within 5 mile radius of west hollywood” one, and the “between the ages of 34 – 39” one (as you’re 62).  and i’m glad you enjoyed my relaxes, because i relaxes a lot.  i relaxes all day if i can… and if i can’t, at least i make time to relaxes for at least half the day every day.

regarding me being a lovely person inside and out, well that’s a tough one.  i hate most people, pull the wings off of flies, and try to purse my lips in a frown like manner so people don’t approach me or try to talk to me as i don’t like strangers

See what I mean? She pulls no punches, which will offend some, alienate others, and put off those males looking for a traditional, sweet wifey type—which is obviously her strategy. And those of you out there who know me well know that I would take the same tack, which is why I am sooo glad that I don’t have to do this kind of thing. Visit LIL&L if you are into acerbic wit and rampant sarcasm.

“An intelligent hell would be better than a stupid paradise.” ~ Victor Hugo 

Vintage Victorian Christmas Card (via vintageholidaycrafts.com)

Let’s see . . . what else is happening? I have on my list of things to do addressing Christmas cards, with any luck, perhaps even tonight when I finish this post. May I just pause here to say that I am terribly saddened by the fact that no one, no one sends cards any more. To date, we have received two cards.

What is up with that? I read recently that more and more people are sending e-cards in lieu of paper cards. I know, a greeting of any sort is lovely, but I want that tactile sensation. I want to ooh and aah over the images, to read the short notes hastily scrawled inside in an attempt to be more personal. I mean, a recent study revealed that children are using less of their brain potential because they do not write with pens and pencils any more. We have an entire generation coming up that will have no idea as to how to pen a letter, literally.

Such a waste. I mean, what about doodling? All of those doodles with colored pens, matching your own name with some boy’s name, drawing little hearts and curlicues. Or the mad doodling in which the pen is pressed to the paper so hard that you form wholes and tears. A child who does not know how to take up a writing implement is being deprived, much in the same way as the child who is read to from an e-reader (another subject worthy of pages and pages of ranting).

Big I digress as usual . . .

Famous Louis Prant Christmas Card (ca 1882) via Card Museum

Holiday cards: Yes, that was the subject. No one sends them any more. It’s not like they are expensive. Boxes of beautiful cards can be bought at after-Christmas sales for a few dollars. I know because I’ve been doing that for years. And postage? Okay, send ten cards, just ten. It’s still about the same as the cost of a caramel machiato at Starbucks. Which one lasts, and which one goes straight to your hips?

Okay, before you accuse me of being the curmudgeon that I am, know this: I am a foolishly sentimental curmudgeon. And it’s not that I don’t embrace change. I love technology, love the gadgets and hoo-has, but I sincerely believe that in this, as with everything else, there must be balance. I mean, think about it. Are we going to progress so much that wedding announcements will be received via Blackberry and iPhone?

If you really don’t understand why I’m making such a big deal out of this, then you have never had a love affair with paper. You have never obsessed over the perfect pen. And if that’s the case, then there really isn’t any point in continuing this discussion.

More later. Peace.

Music by George Winston, “Variations on Pachelbel’s Canon in D”