Two for Tuesday: Personal Histories

Gertrude Hermes The Cuckoo 1958 woodblock and linocut
“The Cuckoo” (1958, woodblock and linocut)
by Gertrude Hermes


“I have woven a parachute out of everything broken.” ~ William Stafford, as found on Writer’s Almanac

Tuesday evening. Clear and cold, 24 degrees.

Yes, I’m still here. Let’s just call February a wash, shall we? It was a horrible month for so many reasons, and yet this surprises me not at all because my Februaries are almost always horrible; this one just happened to be a record for physical and mental pain. My rebound migraine finally seems to be breaking—after four weeks. It’s a good thing Corey and I didn’t try to fit in a trip to Ohio in the past few weeks, as I would have been miserable company.

The headache is still here, just not nearly as acute as before. The snow is supposed to melt tomorrow as the temperatures are supposed to hit the 60s. Of course on Thursday, we’re supposed to have freezing rain again. I have left the house twice in the past two weeks, once for the doctor, and once to make a trip to campus with Brett.

Cabin fever anyone?

                   

“Pine Branch” (1951)
by Eyvind Earle

The Phone Call

She calls Chicago, but no one
is home. The operator asks
for another number but still
no one answers. Together
they try twenty-one numbers,
and at each no one is ever home.
“Can I call Baltimore?” she asks.
She can, but she knows no one
in Baltimore, no one in
St Louis, Boston, Washington.
She imagines herself standing
before the glass wall high
over Lake Shore Drive, the cars
below fanning into the city.
East she can see all the way
to Gary and the great gray clouds
of exhaustion rolling over
the lake where her vision ends.
This is where her brother lives.
At such height there’s nothing,
no birds, no growing, no noise.
She leans her sweating forehead
against the cold glass, shudders,
and puts down the receiver.

~ William Stafford

                   

Igor Grabar Winter Rooks Nest 1904
“Winter Rook’s Nest” (1904)
by Igor Grabar

Solstice

Remember how the city looked from the harbor
in early evening: its brutal gaze
averted, its poised and certain countenance
wavering with lights?

Remember how we sat in swaybacked chairs
and marvelled at the brush fires
of dusk clear in the distance, the flames
scrawled across the skyline

like a signature while currents shifted
inside us? Ecstasy of fire—
works rising in midsummer, of fulvous sails
flashing in the heat

And orange life buoys bobbing on the water;
ecstasy of flares and secrets
and two bodies held aloft by desire…
judge us as you will,

but remember that we, too, lived once
in the fullness of a moment
before the darkness took its turn with us
and the night clamped shut.

~ Edward Hirsch

                   

Music by Dustin Kensrue, “This Good Night Is Still Everywhere”

“I now know what I want: I want to remain standing still in the sea.” ~ Clarice Lispector, from An Apprenticeship

Igor Grabar Winter Rooks Nest 1904
“White Winter, Rooks’ Nest” (1904, oil on canvas)
by Igor Grabar

                   

“I fear this silence,
this inarticulate life.” ~ Adrienne Rich, from Twenty-One Love Poems

Friday morning. Sunny and very, very cold, 17 degrees.

Well, I had a Friday leftovers post ready to go, but I’ve decided that I’m going to try to do a real post today, you know, one with my actual words and thoughts and not a reblog of someone else’s stuff. I’ve had my first cup of coffee; I have my heat wrap around my neck, the one filled with flax that goes in the microwave; it’s comforting. I’m ready . . . I think.

Izsák Perlmutter  Snowy Trees in the Garden
“Snowy Trees in the Garden” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Izsák Perlmutter

So yesterday was my birthday, and it was as unspectacular as I had thought it would be. My mother did not call to wish me Happy Birthday; she regularly forgets my birthday, which, if you think about it, is quite a statement about our relationship. She will say that she doesn’t remember anything, but she’s been forgetting this day for at least a decade, so . . .

It doesn’t bother me so much now, but it used to really get to me. Lex and Brett both got me early, and Corey texted. I heard from Eamonn in the evening, and then Corey called to see how it went. He knows of my love/hate relationship with my birthdays, how I tend to get depressed, or if I’m already down, to spiral downwards even more. I actually didn’t spiral this year, but I think it’s because I’m in denial and on hold until Corey returns. I mean, Christmas, New Year’s, and now my birthday—all have passed with me being without my life partner, and it’s weird.

“I so often feel that I’m barely here, that to feel weight is to be reminded of my own existence.” ~ Hannah Kent, from Burial Rites

Tillie is better. I’ve only had to give her the sedating cough medicine a few times. I can tell that she’s feeling much better because she and Bailey are having their daily play fights and romps around the yard. It’s wonderful to see her with her regular bright eyes.

Janos Tornyai Winter Landsape with Violet Lights
“Landscape with Violet Lights” (c1934)
by Janos Tornyai

I am on day five of this particular migraine. I don’t even know why I try any more. Nothing works. The Botox obviously isn’t working, or perhaps, is only working some. Admittedly, the pain is not quite as acute, but the duration is hanging in there; no one-day headaches for me. I am nothing if not prolific (in all of the wrong ways). I put a call in to the pain management center, waiting to see is they have any ideas.

So, I’ve been weepy this month, actually since New Year’s eve. It doesn’t take much to make the tears begin to pool. I hate being weepy. So far, I’ve cried at an Apple commercial (the one in which the kid surprises his family by actually being aware of them); I cried at a YouTube video (the one about the guy who gets out of prison only to rob a bank of $1 so that he can go back in). And I cried at last week’s episode of “Bones,” in which one of the characters finds out he has bone cancer.

I have to say, 2014 is starting off with a bang.

“I have travelled so far to remember
Nothing of my former life, though perhaps that is
Truly best. I’ve left everything I’ve ever known

To come here, to stand in the shape of your shadow.” ~ David St. John, from “XVI. A Traveller”

I just went to refill my coffee cup, and while I was standing at the counter, a gust of frigid air caught me around the ankles; it came from the sink cabinet. This house is so drafty, and it’s so damnably cold. The dusting of snow we had a few days ago is mostly ice. The least it could do if it’s going to be this cold is to snow more than half an inch. Oh well. I think I’ll switch to some random thoughts at this point.

Boris Izrailovich Anisfeld Melting Snow, Petrograd, 1917 oil on canvas
“Melting Snow, Petrograd” (1917, oil on canvas)
by Boris Izrailovich Anisfeld

Here goes . . . Things I have realized:

  • If the color slate blue is anywhere in an image, I will immediately be drawn to it; more so if yellow is also present. This is odd considering I used to have a real antipathy towards the color yellow. Now? No longer.
  • Part of me wishes that I worked in an art museum now that I have developed a much broader appreciation of art, well beyond my novice love of the Impressionists. It would be so lovely to roam the galleries unimpeded by ropes and stanchions that keep visitors at a safe distance.
  • My appreciation of duck tape only grows with age, she said, apropos of nothing . . .
  • I’m not agoraphobic, but I don’t much like leaving the house. What’s the term for that? Lazy?
  • I think that I’ve finally resigned myself to the fact that I will not be getting my doctorate; what program is going to admit someone my age when they have the pick of 20-somethings?
  • This does not mean that I will ever stop wishing that I had gotten my Phd. I will always wish that.

“It is awful to want to go away and to want to go nowhere.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from The Unabridged Journals

Things I want to say but never will:

  • To my ex: You are a cold, selfish shell of the man I once knew. I never thought you would absent yourself from your children’s lives as deeply as you have. You are not worthy of their love or respect.

    Georgia O'Keeffe Winter Trees, Abiquiu, I, 1950 oil on canvas
    “Winter Trees, Abiquiu, I” (1950, oil on canvas)
    by Georgia O’Keeffe
  • To my s-in-law (here): Your mother and I had a really great friendship; she told me once that she liked me better than the son I was married to, so for god’s sake, stop.
  • To my mother: You will never know how many ways you have crushed my spirit and wounded me to the core. You have made me insecure about every aspect of my life.
  • To the boss who continues to plague my dreams: You are a stupid man for not realizing how you were being played and manipulated by the redhead.
  • To the man I spent too much time with simply because I was lonely: I know that you beat your wife. I’m so glad that I did not have anything more than a superficial relationship with you.

   “I thought

of you—              your obvious loveliness,         your obliviousness

to lost things.” ~ Sally Delehant, from “It’s Always Something”

Things I still don’t know:

Gabriele Munter Paysage d'hiver 1933 huile sur bois
“Paysage d’hiver” (1933, oil on wood)
by Gabriele Munter
  • How to make fondant for a cake.
  • How to apply false eyelashes (in what situation would this be necessary?).
  • How to find a literary agent.
  • How to motivate my children to move beyond where they are now.
  • How to motivate myself to do something . . . anything . . .
  • How to make Crème fraîche.
  • How to have my picture taken.
  • How to take a photograph of running water and get that blanket effect.
  • How to lay brick.
  • How to let things go.
  • How to love myself.

“I want something else. I’m not even sure what to call it anymore except I know it feels roomy and it’s drenched in sunlight and it’s weightless . . .” ~ Mark Z. Danielewki, from House of Leaves

Things I still haven’t done:

  • Gone to Ireland, Iceland, New Zealand, or Australia.
  • Visited the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, or the Pyramids of Giza.
  • Read Dante’s Divine Comedy, or Homer’s Iliad/Odyssey.
  • Found a literary agent.

    Camil Ressu Winter Day oil on cardboard nd
    “Winter Day” (nd, oil on cardboard)
    by Camil Ressu
  • Gotten past the first 30 pages of a draft without sabotaging myself and convincing myself that no one would want to read what I have written.
  • Seen the Northern Lights or the Grand Canyon.
  • Visited any of a number of stone circles in Britain.
  • Taken a photograph of a hummingbird.
  • Gotten another tattoo.
  • Gotten any work as a book indexer. I would be so good at this. How can I make this happen?
  • Flown in a glider (will never give up this particular dream), or ridden in a hot air balloon.
  • Lived in a house on a cliff by the sea . . .

I guess that’s enough for now.

More later. Peace.

All images today are obviously an homage to the freezing temperatures and my wish for a blanket of snow . . .

Music by Justine Bennett, “Carry Me”

                   

no help for that 

there is a place in the heart that
will never be filled

a space

and even during the
best moments
and
the greatest
times

we will know it

we will know it
more than
ever

there is a place in the heart that
will never be filled

and

we will wait
and
wait

in that
space.

~ Charles Bukowski

“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, from Brideshead Revisited

“Autumn, Rowan Tree and Birches” (1906, oil on canvas)
by Igor Grabar

                   

“Remembered landscapes are left in me
The way a bee leaves its sting,
hopelessly, passion-placed,
Untranslatable language.” ~ Charles Wright, from “All Landscape Is Abstract, and Tends to Repeat Itself”

Sunday night. Rainy and cool, blessedly cool.

Outside my door, the low October sky looms. I would like to say looms largely, but it seems to contrived, somehow. But it’s true. It’s low. It’s looming, and it’s large.

“Autumn Landscape” (1903, oil on canvas)
by Henri Edmond Cross

Heavy. Gravid.

It is gravid in its heaviness.

I’m not trying to be coy. That’s just how it is, how it seems: low, looming, large, heavy, gravid—as if expectant.

Expectant for what, I do not know. But if I peer into the clouds long enough, I can feel the air gathering around my face, the descent of minute particles of moisture collecting in my brows. And I must say, it is heavenly. A respite from the thick humidity, more like August than October. And so I delight in this evening, despite the unending wall of clouds the color of pale rust.

You see. I have not forgotten how to live in the moment upon occasion. I can still summon that still, small voice that says to the universe in its infinite wonder, thank you.

“Ah, it is here now, the here.” ~ Jorie Graham, from “The Covenant

“Poplars, Row in Autumn” (1891)
by Claude Monet

You might find it strange that I can delight in such dismal weather, but I have spent too much of recent days wiping sweat from my face, feeling as if my skin is covered in a thin coat of oil, the kind that sprays from a can, as if I have been misted, not with mineral water, but soul-clogging oleo.

So even though it is raining, even though the cover for the grill is completely soaked and lying on the ground instead of protecting the gas grill we bought for Corey, even though the dogs will not venture outside, I am delighted, delighted that it is almost 30 degrees cooler than yesterday, that the air conditioners are off, and the ceiling fans are still. Fall is finally here. Autumn has arrived.

I can feel it. But more importantly, I can smell it, smell the beginnings of loam from the fallen leaves that have collected in piles across the grass. There is no other smell quite like it unless it is the smell of freshly fallen snow on a plot of land far away from the city.

Fall. The season of poets and painters. The time for words and golden washes.

Too much? Perhaps, but I think not.

“The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother’s call
Not a cruel song, no, no, not cruel at all. This song
Is sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.” ~ Brigit Pegeen Kelly, from “Song”

“October Morning” (nd)
by Guy Rose

My best October?

To tell you would be to reveal too much, but I can say that it was the year I began graduate school in the mountains of Virginia, a place where Autumn is a rite of passage, where people stop and pay attention to leaves changing color. It was a season filled with change, exciting discussions about literature, Brunswick stew cooked over a fire in an iron pot, a gathering of graduate students drunk on cheap wine and heady conversation.

My worst October?

Oh. The autumn of great loss. Caitlin. Felt hats and rain coats. New friends and old. Heartbreak before the intense pain and anguish.

My most memorable October?

The year Corey and I sailed around the Caribbean, played tourist in far-away places, saw waters so blue I wanted to weep.

“overtaken
by color, crowned
with the hammered gold
of leaves.” ~ Linda Pastan, from “The Months

What is it exactly that I love about autumn (aside from the incipient melancholy)? Nostalgia? Oh yes, the melancholic gets very nostalgic indeed.

But what specifically? Another list?

  • It’s finally cold enough for Christmas socks and sweaters
  • The color burgundy isn’t too dark to wear.

    “October Gold” (1922)
    by Franklin Carmichael
  • Velvet. I don’t know why, but I associate the softness of velvet with autumn
  • Dark nail polish. Do you know how many shades of dark red there are?
  • Classical music. My taste in music is seasonal, and cool weather heralds Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart.
  • Books. There is nothing that I like to do more than read on a cold, rainy afternoon.
  • Poetry. I write more poetry in the fall.
  • Black yoga pants and white cotton sweaters. I am nothing if not a creature of habit.
  • Beef stew, homemade vegetable soup and Brunswick stew in the crock pot simmering all afternoon. And corn bread.
  • The piano. I am drawn to play again, even though doing so locks up my back and wrists for days.

I know that everything isn’t golden in the way it is depicted in art, but somehow, it seems that way. Even if I don’t make it to Skyline Drive, something I haven’t done in too many years, the golds and deep reds of the changing leaves are firmly imprinted in memory.

As I draw to a close, the sky is no longer visible. The air is cool and damp, and everything smells a little bit like bread and wet dog, and it’s a strangely comforting combination.

More later. Peace.

Music by Darius Rucker, “It Won’t Be Like This Forever”

                   

Du siehst, ich will viel (You see, I want a lot)

You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.

So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.

But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Robert Bly)