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”

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“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)

“She stood upon a continent of ice, which sparkled between sea and sky, endless and dazzling, as though the world kept all its treasure there; a scale which balanced poetry and prayer.” ~ Carol Ann Duffy, from Another Night Before Christmas

Apologies. For some reason, the caption was not showing up with this image. Finally had to delete and reinsert . . .

“Morning Tea” (1917, oil on canvas)
by Igor Grabar

                   

“Even your name
is a pale ghost and, though I exhale it again
and again, it will not stay with me.” ~ from “Miles Away

Two for Tuesday: Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate of the UK

Love

Love is talent, the world love’s metaphor.
Aflame, October’s leaves adore the wind,
its urgent breath, whirl to their death.
Not here, you’re everywhere

The evening sky
worships the ground, bears down, the land
yearns back in darkening hills The night
is empathy, stars in its eyes for tears. Not here,

you’re where I stand, hearing the sea, crazy
for the shore, seeing the moon ache and fret
for the earth. When morning comes, the sun, ardent,
covers the trees in gold, you walk

towards me,
out of the season, out of the light love reasons.

                   

Tea

I like pouring your tea, lifting
the heavy pot, and tipping it up,
so the fragrant liquid steams in your china cup.

Or when you’re away, or at work,
I like to think of your cupped hands as you sip,
as you sip, of the faint half-smile of your lips.

I like the questions – sugar? milk? –
and the answers I don’t know by heart, yet,
for I see your soul in your eyes, and I forget.

Jasmine, Gunpowder, Assam, Earl Grey, Ceylon,
I love tea’s names. Which tea would you like? I say,
but it’s any tea, for you, please, any time of day,

as the women harvest the slopes,
for the sweetest leaves, on Mount Wu-Yi,
and I am your lover, smitten, straining your tea.

                   

Music by Yo La Tengo, “Gentle Hour”

“In music, in poetry, in life, the rest, the pause, the slow movements are essential to comprehending the whole.” ~ Maryanne Wolf

“Winter Morning,” Igor Grabar* (1907, oil on canvas)

                   

“There is no exquisite beauty without some strangeness in the proportion.” ~ Sir Francis Bacon quoted in E. A. Poe’s “Ligeia”

Wednesday afternoon. Rainy and 64 degrees.

Yes. I know. It’s been a full week since my last post. I haven’t been completely idle, though. The house is decorated inside and out. My collection of santas are on the hearth, and the holly swags are hung. Most of the packages are wrapped. The Christmas cards have been addressed, just need to get stamps and pop them in the mail.

"Frost," Igor Grabar (1905, oil on canvas)

Unfortunately, it seems that I’m kind of limited to doing one thing a day, so sitting here and posting has had to take a back seat to holiday preparations, especially since wrapping presents just kills my back, so I’m only doing a little at a time. We’re doing Christmas day dinner here, but fortunately, everyone is making a major dish. We’re doing Filipino food instead of turkey or ham. We did the same thing last Christmas, and it was nice. So there will be pancit, rice, tuppa (marinated beef), stir fry green beans, lumpia, and perhaps a pork roast.

Most of the presents that I had to order online have been delivered, except for Corey’s big present, which is being ground shipped from California. I’m really hoping that it gets here in time. He has no idea that I’ve ordered this particular thing, so it will be a true surprise. It’s something that he’s wanted for a very long time but hasn’t mentioned in a while. I’m hoping that I ordered the right thing. Suppose we’ll just have to wait and see.

“. . . every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.” ~ Basho

We got some interesting news this afternoon. The representative from the shipping line that hired Corey called to say that he won’t be on the ship that he was originally slated to crew. Instead, he’s going to be on a big tanker that runs between Russia and Germany. The runs last for 90 days.

"Clearing Skyes," Igor Grabar (1928, oil on canvas)

Major pause here for deep breath.

It is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. I mean, he’s going to get the deep sea time that he wanted. He’s going to see some new countries. He’s going to be making good money. But . . .

Ninety days straight. We’ve never been apart that long in our entire time together. None of us.

I know that he’s happy at the thought of a new experience, but he is also very worried about the unknown. Going from a tug boat to a tanker is a major jump. He has no idea as to what he’ll be doing. Fortunately, he’s working a shift at the boatyard where the company’s other tanker (the one we thought he’d be on) is coming into port this weekend, so he hopes to speak to some of the crew members about the company, what they’re like to work for, etc.

I’m trying very hard to keep my freaking out to myself. I mean, this is a classic case of being careful of what you wish for . . . We’ve both bemoaned our fate for so long, complained about the lack of shipping when the recession hit, the dearth of jobs available, so now that this has landed in our laps, we need to look at it as the gift that fate has accorded us.

But still . . .

“Vague fatigued promise hangs
in the low darkened sky
when bunched scrawny starlings
rattle up from trees,
switchback and snag
like tossed rags dressing
the bare wintering branches,
black-on-black shining” ~ W. S. Di Piero, from “Chicago and December”

My dad was a deep-sea mariner, traveling all over the world, sailing in just about every ocean and in many seas. He routinely had hitches that lasted months at a time. During the Viet Nam war he was gone for nine months straight. He liked it. My mother liked it. They liked each other better from afar.

"Frost," Igor Grabar (1918, oil on canvas)

That always struck me as so bizarre. They had separate lives, separate friends. It wasn’t until he finally retired that they began to do things together, but it was always an uneasy peace, one that could blow at any second. And the blowouts were horrible, not physical, but loud and hateful. And even as an adult living my own life with my own family my mother still tried to draw me into the middle of the fray.

I’ll never forget the one time that my mother came to my house and announced that she was going to make my father leave. I told her that if she did that, then I would take him in. She was completely taken aback. I knew that she was yet again making an empty threat for effect, but if was the first time that I had ever called her on it.

In all, they were married something like 45 years. I don’t ever remember them being happy together.

“Surrounded by a deep and comfortable sea of blank space, she is right there—one end of a luminous brain-bridge—plain as day, front and center, hidden in full view.” ~ Stacey Schiff, from Vera: Mrs. Vladimir Nabokov

I’m still trying to absorb this piece of news, trying to be appropriately grateful and happy. Instead, I just feel an ache in the pit of my stomach, and that makes me angry at myself. What Corey and I have is strong enough to weather distance and time, of that I am certain. What I am less certain of is myself—my ability to not withdraw into myself.

"Sunrise," Igor Grabar (1941, oil on canvas)

I mean, I have lived alone before, alone when I was in college, and alone with the kids after my ex left. And I know that being a single parent to young children is much different from being a single parent to grown children. All of my kids are fairly self-sufficient. Eamonn loves to cook, and Brett is learning how to make more things now that he is feeling more secure about his abilities. I mean Lex doesn’t live here, but Brett and Eamonn do, and there are no plans for that to change anytime soon.

I’m hoping that I will be able to use this time to get a little bit more back on my feet, get out of the house more often, loosen myself from my safety nets. As it is, I do not leave the house daily, and that is pretty much by choice. Corey does the grocery shopping and the errands, something that started when my back gave out, and it’s something that he continues to do because he likes to do it, and I do not.

But that will have to change. Change can be good. I just have to remind myself of that.

“I do not consider myself less ignorant than most people. I have been and still am a seeker, but I have ceased to question stars and books; I have begun to listen to the teachings my blood whispers to me.” ~ Hermann Hesse, Demian, trans. Michael Roloff and Michael Lebeck

I just took a break to do the dishes and eat the most delicious scone that Emilie’s uncle dropped by the house. Most people who bake scones tend to make them on the dry side, but the ones that he gets from this particular bakery are incredibly tasty and moist. The one that I ate had bits of ginger in it. Ginger is one of those tastes that you either love or hate; I don’t believe that there is an in-between in that, but I happen to love ginger, especially crystallized ginger.

"Frost," Igor Grabar (1907, oil on canvas)

Anyway, as to what I was talking about—I am very much aware that I am a creature of habit, much more so now that I do not work full time. But I think that with my sons’ help I should be fine while Corey is gone. If I make myself get back into the habit of writing for a couple of hours each day, I think that that will help considerably in keeping my mind occupied.

Of course, I really have no idea how things will play out as I can only surmise. Perhaps I will surprise myself. Perhaps I’ll use the time to put down one of the many book plots that I have had running through my brain for years. Perhaps I am getting ahead of myself.

I just know that I am truly thankful for this upcoming change in our circumstances. It has been a long time in coming. We have come far too close to losing everything, which makes all of us acutely aware of just how harsh reality can be. We have been close to the edge, but never over it, and we are all stronger for it and grateful for what we have.

Today is a good day: good news, good food, good music. Today I could not ask for more.

As I’ve said before, I know that compared to many, many others, we are lucky, and now, it seems, we have more luck on our side. So let me pause here to say thank you to all of you who have been so supportive, who have sent good wishes and prayers our way. It means more than I can ever say.

More later. Peace.

*All images by Igor Grabar, born in Hungary in 1871, studied and worked in Russia until his death in 1960. Many of his paintings (several of which are entitled “Frost”) are in the Tretyakov Gallery, the biggest collection of Russian art in the world, which Grabar headed from 1913 to 1935.

Music by Rascal Flatts, another version of “White Christmas”

                   

The Letter Scale

One of the objects I’ve treasured most in my life
Is this letter scale which, long ago, you gave me.
I was an active correspondent at the time,
Even sending lots of letters overseas.
While still enjoying the pleasure of going to the post,
I now had another: assessing exactly, in advance,
At my counter, the cost of packets and envelopes,
To which, price list in hand, I stuck my stamps.
I use it less these days, this quite simple device
Graded with little marks up to a whole pound,
For my mailings rarely still exceed the price
Of an ordinary stamp. The tray of polished metal’s now
Covered with dust, without the slightest hint
That the red pointer marking the weight on the front
Has budged. But in the long run, one would, I think,
Discern a difference and see how much the months
Were worth in terms of dust, the seasons elapsed
Since the previous weighing. But having been seized,
Suddenly, just this morning, by a tremendous attack
(Annual) of cleaning, from which nothing is released,
I restored to the tray’s slightly concave stainless steel,
That ever so slightly distorted mirror, its polished shine.
It reflected all of the sky, through which clouds reeled,
And I could confirm that space does not weigh more than time.

~ Jacques Réda

“Words form the thread on which we string our experiences.” ~ Aldous Huxley

“Winter Morning,” by Igor Grabar (1907, oil on canvas)

“After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own.” ~  Oscar Wilde

"Clearing Skyes," by Igor Grabar (1928, oil on canvas)

Unbelievable. Snow. Again. That’s three times in two weeks, more than we’ve had in years. It’s no longer snowing, but the wind is fierce, and boy is it cold. Earlier today the wind had that rumbling sound, not quite a freight train, but very, very loud and prolonged. For a moment I thought about the old oak tree right outside our bedroom window, but then I figured that since it had survived three hurricanes, it was probably not going to be taken out by the gusts.

Removing that particular tree is one our very long list of things to do around here once Corey starts back to work. The list continues to grow despite the lack of job. Funny how that works.

Last night I played music in my dreams. I’m pretty sure that it was a Chopin prelude, but I can’t remember which one. How strange.

I looked at the calendar and realized that I haven’t posted very much at all in February, despite my intentions to post every day. Quite frankly, I just haven’t had it in me. Between the excruciating back pain, and this headache (not quite a migraine) which has been around for over a week, I’m just not feeling very prolific. I mean, I sit here at the computer each day, open the screen that says Add New Post, and just look at the blankness before me. And then nothing. Nada. No joy, as it were.

I know. I know. I’m letting the blank white page (so to speak) get to me, letting it cower me into submission, allowing it to intimidate me. But any writer will tell you that the blank white page is a living, breathing nemesis. It chuckles softly at my inability to put down the opening sentence. Mocks me. And no, I’m not hearing voices in my head. Things haven’t deteriorated that badly—yet. But the white page, the blank rectangle stretched out on my screen fears nothing, which makes me fear everything.

I begin, and then delete. It’s part of the curse of technology. When writing in longhand, it’s so much harder to undo the words that have been written. Now it’s just a matter of holding down the backspace key or the delete key, and voila: Gone. Blank again. I used to hate to cross out my words. It seemed like such a violation, so I would write and continue to write. Maybe I could put something on my backspace key to make it painful to the touch, train myself, you know, like Pavlov’s dog.

Right.

 “Once you know some things, you can’t unknow them. It’s a burden that can never be given away.” ~ Alice Hoffman

"February Day," by Igor Grabar (1904, oil on canvas)

Anyway, on to other things. Corey called his contact at Vane Brothers, but hasn’t been able to speak to him. Considering Baltimore is crushed under the weight of yet another storm, it’s very possible that the office is not open. No need to read too much into things.

I called my mom today (phones are back on as of yesterday) to check on her, but she didn’t answer. It’s entirely possible that she’s mad at me again for not calling her even though Corey went by to check on her while he was out last week and told her that the phones were off. I never know when or why my mother is mad at me. It’s kind of like the phases of the moon: they happen all by themselves (well, not really), and if you wait long enough, a full moon will come around again. That’s my mother.

Who knows the whys and wherefores of her logic. I should talk. But now that the phones are back on, I really need to call my gastro doctor and make an appointment; it’s just the thought that he’s going to put me through some kind of uncomfortable test really sets up an internal roadblock, making me put off making the call. Going to a gastroenterologist is never just an office visit. I mean, there’s the visit, but then, without fail, there is some kind of test involving a tube, or a nasty drink, or something of that sort. I cannot fathom why anyone would become a gastroenterologist. But then, I cannot imagine why anyone would become a podiatrist.

Actually, it’s hard to imagine doing a lot of things that different specialists do, which is precisely why my pre-med major did not last very long in undergraduate school. The first time we had to dissect rats that were still warm I realized that perhaps touching things for a living was not for me, and I retreated to books. They’re safe. They don’t smell (unless they’re old), and they don’t bleed or ooze.

My uncle was very disappointed in me for not going to medical school. For some reason he had it in his head that I would make a really good doctor. When I told him that I was thinking about law school, he had a cow, told me I was wasting my brain. Of course, law school didn’t happen either as I became pregnant with Alexis. I don’t really have any regrets about not becoming a lawyer. I love the research, but cannot see myself working for a corporation or representing some of the people who need lawyers. Of course, my view is skewed from watching years and years of Law & Order.

That particular uncle died just a year after my dad. He actually wasn’t my uncle, but my dad’s childhood friend, and everyone knows that when you are Filipino, you have lots and lots of uncles and aunts who aren’t related by blood. That’s just the way that it is. I think that it’s kind of neat, actually. Anyway, I still dream about both my father and my uncle as he was such a big part of my life.

 “She tells her love while half asleep,
In the dark hours,
With half-words whispered low:
As Earth stirs in her winter sleep
And puts out grass and flowers
Despite the snow,
Despite the falling snow.” ~ Robert Graves

"Frost," by Igor Grabar (1905, oil on canvas)

Valentine’s Day is coming up in just a few days. I have very mixed feelings about Valentine’s Day. Mostly, I think that it’s a big ripoff. The cost of flowers doubles, even triples. People who have no one special in their lives are made to feel inferior, especially when the florists deliver bouquets to co-workers. The greeting card industry makes a fortune, as do the manufacturers of stuffed animals and chocolates. There’s something wrong with setting up one day of the year on which to display affection for your significant other.

Expressions of love should be a continual thing. I don’t mean flowers and cards. I’m talking about hugs, kisses, saying I love you. Doing thoughtful things for one another.  I think that our society in particular has these manufactured holidays that set up people to fulfill ridiculous expectations. My boyfriend didn’t send me a dozen red roses. He must not love me as much as he says that he does.

Please. If it only takes a dozen roses to prove love, then our expectations about relationships are too low. Let me tell you a true story: A radio station was running a contest; I don’t really remember the exact nature of the contest. The DJ’s had a woman on the line, and they called her boyfriend to tell him that he had won a drawing for a dozen roses. They asked him who he wanted the flowers to be sent to, and his response was his wife. He gave the DJ’s the name of his wife, at which point, his girlfriend interrupted and said, “Your wife?” The DJ’s cut the feed.

My point exactly. Roses do not define a relationship. If Corey spent $60 to send me roses, I would be too bothered about what that $60 could have been used for to enjoy the roses. Buy me a card and write something lovely inside. Tell me every day how you feel about me. It means more. Maybe it’s age, or maybe it’s wisdom, or maybe it’s a combination of things, but now that I have someone in my life who lets me know every single day how much he cares about me just in the way that he treats me, I don’t need the roses.

Now diamonds. That’s another story.

Quotes found on Crashingly Beautiful. More later. Peace.

Music by Chopin: Etude in A Flat Major, Opus 25, No. 1

 

 

*All images are by Igor Grabar (1871-1960), a Russian post-Impressionist painter.