“This grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere; the dew is never all dried at once; a shower is forever falling; vapor is ever rising.” ~ John Muir, John Muir: John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir

Great Blue Heron in Morro Bay, CA by mikebaird (FCC)

                     

“An intense copper calm, like a universal yellow lotus, was more and more unfolding its noiseless, measureless leaves upon the sea.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick

Early Friday evening. Absolutely beautiful day, high 60’s, low humidity.

China Wu Chuan, by stfbfc (FCC)

Day five of this particular migraine, and today is the worst day so far. Sharp, stabbing pain on the top of my skull, like someone is trying to drive a screwdriver into my head.

In spite of the pain, I have been quite reflective today, probably because I had to drive Corey to work so that I would have the car to do school transport. He had a short shift just over the bridge at the dock off Shore Drive, so we passed Lake Whitehurst. The water was so still, like a mirror. Then, too, the Lafayette River looked like a slate grey plane when we drove over the Granby Street bridge.

In noticing this, I realized something about myself: I pay attention to things and not people. On any given day, I can tell you how the sky looked, what birds I heard, how still or turbulent the water was . . . but I would be hard-pressed to describe the people I passed. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about the woman standing at the bus stop right outside my car window as I waited for the light to turn green. I would not be able to describe the cyclist I passed who almost veered into traffic.

Is this a bad thing? Does this reflect negatively on what kind of person I am? Or does it just mean that I am more in tune with the natural world than with the world inhabited by people?

I really couldn’t tell you.

“The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” ~ Edward Gibbon

Morning in Saintes Maries de la Mer, Cote d'Azur, France, by Wolfgang Staudt (FCC, this image can be downloaded as wallpaper)

My affinity for water, though, is long-standing. And when I picked up Corey from the boatyard, a tug was pulling away from the dock. I turned to him and asked him in all seriousness if he doesn’t miss being on the water on days like this.

I know that if I had been born male, know this with every fiber of my being, I would have picked a job that took me onto the water. Why male, you might ask? Unfortunately, the water is still one of the last bastions that is not completely open to women. It takes more than strength of will to do battle with the water and survive. There must be physical strength. That is simply the way that it is.

But I really do understand why my father was always more comfortable at sea as opposed to being on dry land. I mean, I know that being gone for months at a time is a lonely prospect, but I like to think of what it might have been like to be on a NOAA exploration vessel, the things I would have seen, the experiences I might have had.

Truthfully, the only major I regret not pursuing in college is oceanography, which might seem weird for a woman who loves literature and writing, but imagine the tales I would have to tell if I had gone to sea.

It is not something that I would have undertaken lightly, though, as I have a healthy respect for the power that lies just beneath that mirror-like calm, how in an instant the blue can become white churning, relentless and angry.

“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, from “The Letter Scale,” (trans. Andrew Shields)

Captain on the Bridge by Jens Lumm (FCC)

What still gives me hope—and yes, I am still capable of that—still grants me a sense that all is not lost is my ability to find beauty unexpectedly, when I happen upon a moment so perfect that I must pause and swallow and perhaps wipe away a tear.

Too sappy? But true.

I know that it’s the romantic sensibility in me that gives me this gift, and I am oh so grateful that all of my cynicism has not polluted this side of me. Because yes, I am cynical, snarky, and just plain curmudgeonly. I do not suffer fools at all, and I have very little tolerance for stupidity. But my soul can be quelled in a second when a chance encounter with the splendor that is nature reaches past my veneer of safety, the shell in which I encase myself most of the time so as to repel the ugly and the discouraging that seems to permeate this world.

Don’t bother to ask me if the glass is half empty or half full because I would wonder first about the glass itself, and I would probably prefer that it be empty so that it can refract the sunlight.

I am all too aware of my shortcomings, my deep plunges into the darker side of my soul, and my tendency to speak of too many regrets and too many what ifs, but not today. Today, in spite of the pain that has now taken up residence in my right temple, in spite of a series of telephone calls with some very nasty people, in spite of these things, I choose to reflect on the water, which is partially the theme behind today’s images (still blue water).

The water was the first thing that I noticed this morning, and it has stayed with me all day long and well into night. Actually, one of the best things about living in this area is the proliferation of bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, numerous rivers and lakes, inlets and gullies. The very things that makes this area so dangerous during a hurricane is the very thing that I most love.

“It says we all are beautiful at least once.
And, if you’d watch over me, we can be beautiful again.” ~ D. A. Powell, from “Boonies”

Lake Hawea, New Zealand, by Kiwi Flickr (FCC)

Do you notice what you notice? I mean, are you aware of what seeps into your brain without deliberation? I know that I am not and that I do not, not noticeably, but then images come back to me like my own personal slideshow. But as with most of the images that I post, very few people take residence in them.

I am always astonished when Corey points out something to me that was right in front of me that I never caught myself. He definitely notices people, what they are wearing, how they are standing or walking. Someone once told me that he was attracted to me because of how I carried myself, so full of confidence. Of course, that was years ago.

The comment surprised me, though, because I don’t think that before that moment I had ever paid any attention to how I carried myself, and certainly never considered that I reflected confidence. People used to say that they found me intimidating, which also surprises me as I do not try to be so. I just am as I am, as it were.

Maybe years ago, when I still considered myself a professional with a career, I did exude confidence, but it was not a purposeful decision on my part. I think that perhaps many of us exude things without ever realizing it, which makes me wonder if I now exude a sense of hesitancy . . .

“The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing, is the sweetest place to be. And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.” ~ Linda Hogan, The Woman Who Watches Over the World

Dawn Reflections by stachelig (FCC)

Speaking of which, Eamonn told me the other night that I was a housewife . . . how incredibly insulting. I’m not married to my house or any other house. Don’t bother to tell me that being a housewife is an honorable profession. Staying at home full time to raise a family is indeed an honorable profession, a choice, one that requires numerous skills. But no one who stay at home to work is a housewife; it’s just such an insulting term.

I know that years ago it was perfectly acceptable, even desirable to be considered a housewife, but things change, dear. I did not start working full time in my teens and pursue three degrees so that I could be told that I’m married to my house.

Let’s just say that I’m semi-retired, and leave it at that.

Of course, Corey does not understand why the term is derogatory, but that is because he’s never been a woman who was fighting to be taken seriously in the workplace. He has never been a woman who was underpaid simply because she had a spouse, and her job was considered a “hobby.” He has never been in a situation in which he was called “missy” in a meeting in which he was the only female in a room full of retired generals and colonels, and he happened to be in charge.

Corey is a male, which does not preclude him having faced discrimination. That is not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that because he is not female, and because he did not come of age during a time in which gender roles were being forever reshaped, he cannot possibly understand why the terminology is important. But sometimes, the word choice is everything.

“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together . . .” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

Lake Crabtree, NC by justindoub (FCC)

Actually, word choice is everything, the end all and be all as it controls thought, perception, attitude, response, hierarchy, power (or the lack of it). In the telephone conversation that I mentioned earlier, a man who I’ve never met tried to run roughshod on me by taking a hostile tone and increasing the volume on his voice. It did not work, and I simply told him, calmly (believe it or not), that this thing was not going to happen.

People use words and language all of the time to try to gain the upper hand, to try to intimidate; just as they use words to woo and to soothe, to placate and to pacify. They use words to assault and to provoke, and they use words to insinuate themselves where they are not necessarily wanted. They use words to evoke hate and to express love, words to reflect sorrow and words to encompass joy.

I have used words to my advantage my entire life. I know the power of choosing exactly the right word, and I know the power in inserting carefully selected words in a timely manner. I have used words as weapons and as balm. I am not proud of the former, and I try to offer more of the latter. I have wielded words as if they could cut to the bone, and in doing so, I have usually accomplished the emotional equivalent of that act. But as with most things in my life, I now wield words as weapons far less than I employ them in empathy.

Why do I tell you this? Perhaps as a cautionary tale. I know, unfortunately, what a bitter taste is left in the mouth after making a meal of words thrown out carelessly. And I can tell you without hesitation that even as they rebound upon the speaker, most words only gain power with use.

This, I know all too well.

More later. Peace.

Music by Eluvium, “When I Live by the Garden and the Sea” (which is where I hope to be someday)

                   

Ask Me

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

~ William Stafford

“Here among the thirty thousand days of a long life, a single day stands still.” ~ Donald Hall

“Silent Dawn” by Walter Launt Palmer (1919, oil on canvas)

A liberal is a man or a woman or a child who looks forward to a better day, a more tranquil night, and a bright, infinite future.  ~ Leonard Bernstein

Frozen Afternoon on Indian Lake, by L. Liwag

Cold and grey here today, this after temperatures in the high 50’s yesterday. All fleeting feelings of spring fever have evaporated. 

Big loss for the Democrats yesterday in the Massachusetts special election to fill the late Senator Kennedy’s seat. We were spanked. Hard. 

Of course, everyone is commenting that this win by a virtually-unknown Republican is a clear indication that the country’s support for President Obama is waning fast and that the mid-term elections could be a toss-up. 

A few reminders: The mid-term elections are almost always a toss-up when a new party takes office. There is no stopping that trend, which results from the incredible impatience of the American voter. That’s right—impatience. 

Might I just suggest that since President Obama has been in office just one short year, those of us who are complaining might want to exercise a bit more of that commodity that is so lacking. One year. No, all the change hasn’t happened. Get real. Did we really expect it all to happen in the first year? And yes, people are afraid of the healthcare bill, mostly because it has been labeled as a giant tax increase, the death of Medicare, a deficit buster. Excuse me, the majority of Americans polled said that they wanted healthcare reform. 

Now that the hard work is under way, people are backing off, saying that they never agreed to higher taxes. Ya da ya da ya da. Tax and spend Democrats. Ya da ya da ya da. Look, Corey and I are already in a fairly high tax bracket, not because we are rich, because if we were rich, we would have all of those wonderful loopholes to keep us from being in a high tax bracket. But I would pay a bit more in taxes if it meant real healthcare reform, available healthcare for anyone who needs it. 

Personally, I have always favored a flat tax: Everyone pays the same percentage, no deductions, no loopholes. If everyone paid the same flat rate, we could get rid of much of the IRS (save a whopping amount there), and the system would be fair. Just imagine if everyone who pays taxes paid a flat 10 percent. For us, that would be a huge savings. For the budget, it would mean an incredible influx of cash from the wealthier sector, you know, those really wealthy people who, in the end, pay about 6 percent. 

Ah. I can dream, can’t I? 

“Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one; Helen Keller is the other” ~ Erma Bombeck

Lita looking decidedly unglamorous while freezing at Indian Lake

Yes, I am disappointed in President Obama in some ways, but at the same time, I remind myself that it’s only been a year. Given the eight years that W. had to run this country in the ground, I think that we can allow the POTUS a bit more time to try to enact his proposed changes. I can be more patient, and so can you. 

So the stars are coming out for Haiti. Telethons. Glitz, million-dollar donations. I say, let them. It makes them feel useful, and many of those who are on the forefront are known for their charitable giving anyway. 

I didn’t watch the Golden Globes because those ceremonies bore the crap out of me. However, I will admit to watching the after shows in which the fashion police bash the people who appeared on the red carpet. Apparently, ruffles are big this year. Some women looked like they were going to the junior prom in a dress made by their mom. I’m sorry but peach colored ruffles? Yuck. 

Of course, I can sit here in my flannels and holiday socks and say such things because I do not walk red carpets. No one is shoving cameras at me and asking me inane questions. Personally, I’d rather sit here like the lump that I am than have to endure that kind of mob mentality: Ryan Seacrest leering at Mariah Carey’s over-exposed chest yet again. (When is that woman going to realize that she is not 20; her shoulders are really wide, which is not diminished by her humongous globes, and she just looks baaaaa-d in the clothes that she chooses?) 

But I digress . . . 

“You will never understand bureaucracies until you understand that for bureaucrats procedures is everything and outcomes are nothing.” ~ Thomas Sowell

Corey in his shades, what else?

Didn’t post yesterday because I was busy sorting through more forms from my doctor, trying to figure out which ones were ready to send to more prescription companies. Managed to get another four packages ready to send, one of which is for my Cymbalta. I just have three left to do, and those are for headache medications. My headache doctor, who isn’t nearly as nice as my back doctor, wouldn’t sign until he had seen me again (even though I just saw him). Luckily, I have already scheduled an appointment for February. 

I also found out today that my hearing for my Social Security benefits may take up to a year to schedule because of the backlog. Luckily, I don’t really have to do anything for that except sign papers and wait. The company representing me does all the hard work. I just show up when/if they finally schedule me. Supposedly the judge hearing these things actually looks at the paperwork and speaks to the person applying to assess validity. 

However, this drawn-out process really makes me wonder how those who supposedly con the system to go on disability ever manage to do so. There seem to be checks and balances at every single turn. But perhaps the checks and balances have been instituted in recent years because of the number of people who have managed to con the system. Who knows. Just more waiting, something I do in my sleep. 

“In its early stages, insomnia is almost an oasis in which those who have to think or suffer darkly take refuge.” ~ Colette

Close-up of Brett at Indian Lake

Speaking of sleep, I fell asleep around 6 a.m., only to wake up about an hour later to take Brett to school, which means that I didn’t really bed down until 7:30. This is getting to be ridiculous. Who does this? I mean, besides people who work the night shift. I don’t work the night shift, and I still don’t sleep at night. I don’t really remember what I dreamt last night, but I have this horrible feeling that Paris Hilton(?) was in it, and that’s just too depressing because it’s a waste of perfectly good dream space. 

Normally Corey takes Brett to school, and I pick him up, but I knew from listening to Corey’s breathing that he didn’t fall asleep until after 5, and he was asleep when Brett came into the room, so there was no point in awaking him when I wasn’t really sound asleep yet. That’s how insomnia is: Either you are fully awake, or you sleep in fits and starts, or the least sound will break your sleep, or all three. Bah. 

Brett has had a bad few days, and I’m not sure as to why. He had seemed to be adjusting to his new medicine, so I don’t know if this is just a hiccup or what. I’m hoping that’s what it is because he only has half a year left to graduate. I would hate for him to crash and miss a lot of school again. 

Anyway, my birthday is coming up this weekend. Have I mentioned that I hate birthdays? I really do, always have. I really don’t know that we’ll be doing anything, maybe a movie. There are a couple that I would like to see. We’ll just have to see how it goes. And then next week I’m having a caudal done on my back for some intra-spine cortisone. Love my life. 

No really, I do love my life, just hate the individual pieces in it sometimes. 

As for the not sleeping, well I imagine that sometime in the next year that, too, will resolve itself. Thankfully, it does not require a form or a signature to do so. Until then, I will try to appreciate the dawns that creep into my bedroom, moving my sight from darkness to pale light: 

It’s at night, when perhaps we should be dreaming, that the mind is most clear, that we are most able to hold all our life in the palm of our skull.  I don’t know if anyone has ever pointed out that great attraction of insomnia before, but it is so; the night seems to release a little more of our vast backward inheritance of instincts and feelings; as with the dawn, a little honey is allowed to ooze between the lips of the sandwich, a little of the stuff of dreams to drip into the waking mind. ~ Brian W. Aldiss 

More pictures from Ohio trip. More later. Peace.  

Music by Enya, “Stars and Midnight Blue” (Don’t know why I don’t think of her when I cannot sleep) . . . 

  

                                                                                                                                  

The Second Room

The maple that trembles in front of our window
Is like another room we enter
Only when falling asleep and near
Dreams, when it’s difficult to know
What distinguishes the soul and the body, and the night.
Then we become little by little this foliage
That endlessly whispers and perhaps travels
With our sleep which it takes in and leads right
To where roots plunge, the very depths,
Where the top of small branches wanders under the wind.
We sleep, the tree keeps watch, it listens to the words
The dark tree of dreams murmurs as it sleeps.
 

~ Jacques Réda “The Second Room” from Return to Calm (found on Crashingly Beautiful)