“. . . I cannot remember a time when I was not in love with them—with the books themselves, cover and binding and the paper they were printed on, with their smell and their weight and with their possession in my arms, captured and carried off to myself.” ~ Eudora Welty, from “One Writer’s Beginnings”
Monday afternoon, sunny and mild, 82 degrees.
I thought that today I’d complete a survey that I found. I enjoy doing these once in a while. This one is perfect for me as it’s about books and reading. By the way, if you don’t know it, you can find great copies of hardback books from all genres at Ollie’s. I know, a surprise right? Usually the books are $3.99 or less. Whenever we go there, I look for copies of books that I lost with the storage unit.
Another great place to find books is in thrift stores. There were two in Norfolk that I loved to peruse; one of them used to have a bag of books option: as many books as you could fit in a bag for $5. They were very generous in not limiting bag sizes. I really miss that place.
That all for now. More later. Peace.
“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero
What are you currently reading? I’m rereading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.
How many books have you read this year? I’m behind in my goals, having only read 12.
How have your reading tastes changed from when you were a child? I wouldn’t say they’ve changed as much as they’ve broadened. As a child, I loved pretty much anything I could find in the young section of the library. Now, I still love books from all categories—science fiction/fantasy, mysteries, in particular British mysteries, poetry, action/adventure, sweeping historical fiction, biographies, actual histories, and memoirs. I also like that category known as Young Adult, although I’m not sure why it’s called that.
Physical book or e-book? Only paper for me. I love the way that books smell and feel. You cannot get that from an e-reader.
Where do you love to read? I love to read outside; if I had a hammock again, that would be my preferred place. I did see one of those hanging egg chairs at Sam’s Club that I would give anything to have as that would be ideal.
What is your ideal reading atmosphere? background noise or silent? alone or with others? I don’t want anything going on in the background if I’m reading, and I prefer to be alone. When I was a teen, I would watch TV with my boyfriend while reading. Don’t really know how I did that.
Are you a writer? I like to think so.
What was your very first baby book? The first book that I remember having was A Child’s Garden of Verses.
What was the first book you read on your own? I’m fairly certain that the first things that I read on my own were Superman comics, but the first book was probably The House at Pooh Corner.
How many books have you read in total? A conservative estimate would be about 2,000 books.
What has been the longest gap between books? I went through a really bad depression in which I couldn’t concentrate enough to read. It was almost a year without books.
What are your favorite genres? See number 3. My very favorite would probably be British mysteries. I’ve been reading those kinds of books the longest.
What books make you happy? This is a weird question. Reading in general makes me happy. Books that make me smile tend to be things like comic compilations such as Calvin & Hobbes or The Far Side.
What books have made you uncomfortable? Why? I don’t really like romances, mostly because they are so antithetical to real life, and the writing style tends to be formulaic.
Can you read anywhere? Moving vehicle? Roller coaster? I used to be able to read anywhere, but I can no longer read in a moving vehicle without getting carsick.
How do you bookmark books? I have a collection of bookmarks, but I rarely remember to use them. Usually I just use whatever piece of paper is closest to me.
Policy on book-lending? I only lend books to close friends or family. My other mother and I used to exchange books all of the time.
Do people know you’re a bookworm? If they know me, they do.
How well do you take care of your books? I cherish my books, and I prefer to purchase hardbacks. I hate it if they become damaged.
Can you read in other languages? I can read a bit in French.
What is a total book turn-off for you? I hate books that contain errors in grammar and syntax, and I get really upset if a book has a bad ending.
What is an essential element of a good book? For me, it needs to have good plot and character development, and it needs to be written well.
Genres you rarely read? I don’t read self-help books. They get on my nerves.
Do you read non-fiction? Yes, I like to read biographies, especially those of writers. I also like memoirs and collections of essays.
Do you read reviews on a book before you read it? Not usually, but if I do read a review and it seems intriguing, I will probably order the book.
Do you judge a book by the cover? I try not to. I learned when pursuing my publishing degree that the cover design is not always as closely married to the text as it should be.
Do you read cover to cover or sometimes skim parts? I read cover to cover, and I often reread books I love, in particular series such as Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings, both of which I have read multiple times.
Do you always finish a book, even if it is dull? It’s hard for me to leave a book unfinished, and I can count on my hands the number of books that I’ve actually put down without finishing.
How do you organize your books? I organize by last name within genres.
Favorite book this year? This would have to be The Magicians trilogy. I really, really liked those books, and I wish that there were more in the series.
Music by Keane, “Somewhere Only We Know”
Burning of the Books
Typewriters wait at desks,
stories loiter outside hotels.
Far from the boiling pulp of Thunder Bay
starved spruces in wordless bogs
wait to be books.
You who leave the bookstore
will know how the snow waits
for the white fox to venture out
when hunger is spelled in his gut,
how his tracks end in a tuft of fur
and the asterisk of blood
which is the only color on this page;
the unwritten preface to your book.
It will speak to you in your study
like the claviforms on cavern walls
that have kept felling bison
for forty thousand years.
As you open the cover
an axe will strike in the north woods
and teams of draft horses will haul
great logs across the ice.
And if you read well when you read fire
the censor’s match will fail,
the heart of a pinecone will shine.
Incendiary slogans that sleep in libraries
will inspire arsons in the night.
Fireballs will crown the forests,
and in your book-walled room
the sweet smoke of a word’s entrails
will rise from ashes of the page.
“Technology is a queer thing. It brings you great gifts with one hand, and it stabs you in the back with the other.” ~ Charles Percy Snow
Wednesday afternoon, sunny, 80 degrees.
So yesterday while I was in the kitchen, one of the goat boys knocked my laptop onto the floor, and now I have a major problem. I cannot get the mouse to work, and the screen keeps going in an out. I have to physically move it incrementally until it comes back. This is more fun than I can possibly express.
I had to complete an online form for my long-term disability coverage, and without a mouse, I had to rely on the touch screen. If the screen isn’t working correctly, using the touch screen to select a microscopic dot becomes an exercise in futility at best, and akin to pulling out eyelashes at worst.
So the only good thing about today is that it’s lovely outside. I’m inside. Sitting here at the only computer that I have access to . . . while the goats practice jumping on things, like my coffee table. Their banishment to the outside cannot come soon enough for me. They’re wonderfully cute when they are a week old, cuddly and quiet, needing only food and love. Give them a few weeks and they are pure hellions who want to have sex with anything vertical, including my legs.
“Never trust a computer you can’t throw out a window.” ~ Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple
I’ve had the Mueller hearings playing in the background all day as I was unable to watch them on TV. I don’t know why I do this to myself; it only makes my blood pressure rise.
I’ve thought for over a week that I had my mammogram appointment today, but guess what . . . it was on Tuesday. Now I need to reschedule. Again. I really don’t know how I keep doing this. I guess it’s a good thing that I missed it because Corey and I both thought that we had appointments that were only an hour apart, and it takes a frigging hour to get anywhere from here. Turns out his appointment was rescheduled as well. So no appointments today. Hooray?
I know. I know. I wanted to move away from the city. That doesn’t mean that I like the distance from convenience. Whatever.
Never trust anything that can think for itself if you can’t see where it keeps its brain.” ~ J. K. Rowling, from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I do have good news, though: Napoleon is back home, and he and Sassy are getting along just fine. He got out of the trailer and immediately walked to the gate for the pasture and walked down to the pond. It was as if he was making sure everything was where it was supposed to be. We had no problems getting him to get in or out of the trailer, even though the guy who had taken him from Dallas’s house said that they had a horrible problem getting him into their trailer. I told Corey that it was because Napoleon didn’t know them; the same thing happened when Dallas tried to get him in the trailer—he really didn’t want any part of it.
Apparently, several people had their eyes on Napoleon, trying to make claims on him. He really is quite a beautiful stallion, so I can understand that people wanted him, but he’s mine, all mine. He came to me as soon as I walked towards him in the pasture. Unlike Sassy, he has no problem with being nuzzled. I missed him so much. Wherever Dallas is now, I hope he sees that I got my horse back despite his best efforts to keep him from me.
Look Dallas! I got my horse, in spite of you! Ha. Ha.
Yes. I’m vindictive. Sometimes. So sue me. But I wouldn’t suggest crossing me today as I’m full of piss and vinegar. It’s a combination of having a broken computer that is working but not working and listening to stupid people pose impossibly stupid questions.
I’m not even going to try to include images with this post as it would be near impossible to do without my trusty mouse. One of these days, my desk will be set up, and I will have more control over my life. Maybe once Corey gets back from Ohio. Who knows. Certainly not I.
“View from the Window” (c1940, oil on canvas) by Axel Nilsson
“A View from the Window” (c1014) by Zinaida Serebriakova
“Open Window. Lilacs” (1886, oil on canvas) by Valentin Serov
“A Window” (1912, watercolor) by Anna Ostroumova Lebedeva
“View from a Studio Window, New York” (1931, oil on canvas) by George Oberteuffer
“Interior” (c1940, oil on cardboard) by Grace Cossington Smith
“Open Window, Etretat” (1920, oil on canvas) by Henri Matisse
“Sunny Window” (nd, oil on canvas) by Astrid Munth de Wolfe
“Window, Tiraspol” (1909, oil on canvas) by Mikhail Fyodorovich Larionov
“Woman at her Window” (1895, oil on canvas) by Pierre Bonnard
“Window on the Promenade, Des Anglais, Nice” (1938, oil on canvas) by Raoul Dufy
“View from a Window” (1909, oil on canvas) by Spencer Frederick Gore
“Night Windows” (1928, oil on canvas) by Edward Hopper
“View from the Window” (1939, oil on canvas) by Stanislav Zhukovsky
“From a Hotel Window” (nd, oil on canvas) by William John Leech
“New York Rooftops, My Window” (1943, oil on cardboard) by Mstislav Dubozhinsky
“A View from the Window” (nd, oil on canvas) by Wojciech Weiss
“Through a Cottage Window, Shipley, Sussex” (1930-40, oil on canvas) by Charles Ginner
“View from a Window” (1933, gouache and paper collage) by John Piper
“Strange how we decorate pain. These ribbons, for instance, and the small hard teardrops of blood. Who are they for? Do we think the dead care?” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Morning in the Burned House”
Wednesday afternoon. Rainy and cooler, 76 degrees.
Last night I had a very melancholy dream: I was working for the government contractor again, preparing a major proposal, but for some reason I was doing the writing/editing at home. At one point during the dream, I’m in a coffee bar, and I’m waiting for a male friend of mine to finish his conversation with his lover. While I am waiting, I begin to draw with colored chalk on one of the walls. I don’t ask—I just do. The image that I create is incredible, swooping colors and forms emerging from my fingertips, and I wonder where this talent came from.
While I’m drawing, my friend leaves, so I sit down on a bench and just stare at what I’ve created. I ask for a glass of wine . . .
Return to home and the proposal . . . for some reason, I’m trying to take a shower so that I can go in to work before the deadline, but I can’t quite get the shower to work, and it’s because i have too much on my mind. This idea of being late for work frequently appears in my dreams. I’ve run into a man with whom I used to share a very deep love, and he tells me that he has remarried and has a child, and this is the last thing I am expecting. I ask him why he didn’t tell me before, and he says that he didn’t know how.
I tell him that I still have to finish one whole section of the proposal, and that I cannot deal with what he has said right now. I turn my back on him so that he cannot see how much he has hurt me, and then I get in the shower with all of my clothes on. By the time I get out, he has gone, and I know that I will never see him again. My mother comes in and asks me why I am taking so long.
When I awake, I’m trying to remember the name of the person in the company who prepared the budgets for the proposals. I can only remember his first name: William. He wasn’t in the dream at all, but somehow my mind has carried on with the proposal theme into waking. I begin the day with a heavy heart.
“All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life—where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.” ~ Miranda July, from It Chooses You
I won’t pretend that I’m doing better. I mean, I was, for a few days at least. But at this moment, the dining room table is covered with everything that I removed from the small, antique bookcase that sits in the corner of the living room. You see, the other day I decided to try to touch up some scratches on the dining room table . . . hours later, and I had touched up the finish on the coffee table, two end tables, the Bentwood rocker, another rocking chair, and the bookcase. I have no idea how any of this came about. I only know that I worked myself into a state of great pain.
So two days later, everything remains off the shelves and on the table, and I am no closer to having the house clean for Corey’s homecoming on Saturday. So here I sit, tired and depressed and completely unable to muster even a scintilla of energy. At least I have two more days . . .
At the moment, it’s raining, and thankfully, the temperature has dropped. But my mind is still on the dreams, on the chalk image and the heartbreaking words. I haven’t seen this man in decades. I have no idea as to where he is or what his life is like, so that he makes an appearance in my dreams and leaves me feeling devastated is, shall we say, unwelcome? But more, I am wishing that I actually had the artistic talent that I had in the dream, the ability to blend colors, create shapes, all without hesitation or thought.
I don’t know which part of the dream hurts more, and I wonder if other people dream this way: complete scenarios, emotions, colors, smells, tastes . . .
“But I won’t go there again. We are all and only our distances And when we touch that is what we touch. Our messy shelves. Our sullen privations And overabundance of lemons. Our grief, our mountains and fields And rivers of grief.” ~ Dan Chelotti, from “My Sparrow”
Other things: The air is so heavy, and while there is no mist, it feels that there should be one. Does that make sense? I don’t know . . .
Lately my nights are taking on a strange hue: the color of loneliness and ennui. I sit in bed and watch television. The dogs follow me from room to room, looking at me with anticipation as if I am going to do something incredibly exciting, and then sitting rather resolutely when I do not. Do you know how it feels to know that you have disappointed even your dogs? I am thankful for the company, but this loneliness will not lessen. This small house now has too many rooms.
My mother has been much on my mind, of late, and she pops up in my dreams constantly, even when she doesn’t fit the narrative, and that’s how it was in life as well. There is so much my mother never knew about me because at some point I stopped sharing, feeling that I would only receive scorn and negativity, as in, “why in god’s name would you do that?”—a comment I heard more than once in my life.
My mother would call and ask what I was doing, and I would tell her that I was on the computer. She would ask what I was doing on the computer, and I would use that catch-all word: writing, because to explain blogging would have been just too damned hard, and perhaps I didn’t give her credit, and perhaps she didn’t earn that credit, and perhaps I was too hard on her, and perhaps I learned hardness from her.
I only know that this year will be full of firsts, and I am not looking forward to any more of them: Olivia’s first birthday without her, my kids’ first birthdays without their Oma, the first Thanksgiving, the first Christmas, and truly, I would like nothing more than to be far far away when those dates roll around, having no desire to meet them head on.
“Sorrow is so woven through us, so much a part of our souls, or at least any understanding of our souls that we are able to attain, that every experience is dyed with its color. This is why, even in moments of joy, part of that joy is the seams of ore that are our sorrow. They burn darkly and beautifully in the midst of joy, and they make joy the complete experience that it is. But they still burn.” ~ Christian Wiman, from My Bright Abyss: Meditation of a Modern Believer
And it’s funny, but when my father appears in my dreams, he is just the same: quiet, unassuming, and I can deal with this visage of my father because it is so like the reality that was. But now, when my mother appears I do nothing but question. Why was she in that dream? What does it mean? Does it mean anything? Because, you see, she is different in the dreams, somehow. It’s hard to pinpoint it exactly. All I know is that sometimes she is so much more caring in my dreams, more concerned about my welfare, and it makes me wonder, really wonder, if she was this way in real life, and I just didn’t see it.
Too much . . . . . . . too much . . . . I am reminded of the Wordsworth poem, “The world is too much with us”:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Late and soon . . . . . . late and soon . . . . .
My life is on a loop replay of literary quotes from things I read and studied so very many years ago. Funnily enough, I came across an older profile of myself in which I called myself a “Virginia poet,” and that really took me aback. How very pretentious of me. I write poetry so seldom now, having little to no faith in my abilities where verse is concerned. Needless to say, I changed the profile, but coming up with even the barest of descriptions for myself was taxing. I mean . . . . . . what am I?
Gah! I am too old to be doing this who am I crap.
“Some begin to talk, to themselves, as do the mad; some give their hearts to silence.” ~ Stephanie Strickland, from “The Red Virgin: A Poem of Simone Weil”
I have said many times—in jest and not—that this world is purgatory, this here and now—this is the realm in which we are destined/doomed to work through our sins, resolve our issues. Again and again and again and again.
I feel as if I have spent my whole adult life to this point just waiting, waiting for life to begin. I will be able to do x once I have done y. I will be able to leave this area once my mother is no longer alive. I will be able to do to do . . . what??? It’s maddening, I tell you. How have I lived this long, done this much, and still have absolutely no idea as to who or what I am?
I am (was?) a daughter, a mother, a spouse, an ex-spouse. For so many years I wanted to be someone’s sister, but that’s another story . . . I have been an editor, a staff writer for a weekly news insert, a newsroom supervisor, a proposal development specialist, a marketing director, a publications manager, and a sales manager. I have taught college, and I have taught middle school. I have managed staffs of 45, and staffs of 2. I have worked in a steak house and in a donut shop. I have been a nanny, a housekeeper, and a restaurant server. I have coordinated special events and memberships.
I have dated navy pilots, a devout catholic boy, a sociopathic liar, lawyers, and others. I married and divorced my best friend, and I married the man who has tried to make my dreams come true.
I have lost a daughter, a father, a mother, a woman who was like a mother, an uncle who was like a father, and many more.
What is the point of this litany? Well, you would think, wouldn’t you, that after all of this I might have a better idea of who and what I am, but I don’t. I really don’t, and part of me, a small part, envies those people who do one job their entire lives; I mean, for them, it seems that everything is clear cut. You work in factory x or business y. You get up, go to work, come home. You get raises and promotions along the way, and when someone asks you what you do, you have an answer.
“Wherever I turn, the black wave rushes down on me.” ~ Franz Kafka, from “Diaries”
Look. If I am to be honest, and that is what I am attempting to do, I would have to say that I have never been satisfied, even in my dream job of teaching English at ODU. While I was doing that, I kept thinking that I really needed to be in a doctoral program, and perhaps if I had followed through with that, I would still be teaching English at some college somewhere.
Follow through. Key words, those. I’m great at starting, at doing, but continuing? Going all the way to the end? As my dad used to say, “Shee-yit.” (I really miss hearing my dad say that. It was his one- word exclamation for just about anything, good and bad.)
Anyway, the point is . . . there is no point. I have reached and passed that milestone birthday, that one that signifies you are now definitely on the downswing of life, and I used to point out to Mari when we were adrift that May Sarton didn’t publish her first novel until she was in her 50s. Somehow, when you are in your 30s, that seems like all of the time in the world, that you have plenty of time to write your own verse.
When I presented Dead Poets Society to my literature classes, I was so finely attuned to Mr. Keating’s words, his query of the young boys: “The powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse. What will your verse be?” I thought, then, that I did, indeed, have a verse.
Late and soon . . . . . . late and soon . . . . .
It is very late, and it is too soon, and I am no closer to any answers than when I typed the first word of this post. I am doing nothing more than decorating my pain. Atwood and Wordsworth, two worthy wordsmiths. Thanks for hanging in there with me.
More later. Peace.
Music by Lucius, “Go Home”
Sailing on Lake Superior
Before us now the edge of the earth,
below us the nearly endless cold.
Around us nothing but shimmering
the miles of empty and sparkling blue.
For a few hours, the sail fills on
toward infinity. Shadows of
our delicate bodies ebb and flow
across the deck of our delicate boat.
What if the beautiful days, the good
and pacific temperate moments,
weren’t just lovely, but everything?
What if I could let it fall away
in the wake, that ache to extract
meaning from vastness?
Let this suffice; the ease of thinking
it all goes on, whether we’re here
to see it or not. The splashing waves,
the suntipped gulls arcing across
the radiant world.