“The past is always carried into the present by small things.” ~ Michael Ondaatje, from Divisadero

“The Fire” (1943, oil on canvas) by René Magritte (reminded me of the California wildfires)

“The tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from “Gerontion”

Thursday evening, cloudy and cold, 41 degrees, warming temperatures.

Well, where do I begin this post? So far, I’ve kept it light, telling you a bit about our move, the mountains, the animals, but I haven’t touched on how we ended up here, which is a long and convoluted story, one that cannot be shared in its entirety because other people deserve their privacy, even if I put everything about myself down here. So let me go back, back to 2017.

Last year began one of the absolute worst times of my life, I mean, ranking right up there with the loss of Caitlin, the loss of my father, the loss of my mother. Emotionally, we began 2017 on what can only be described as a roller coaster in hell, and it only got  much worse. I don’t mean to be cryptic, but I’m not going into specifics; I just wanted to set the mood a bit.

“The False Mirror” (1928, oil on canvas)
by René Magritte

Suffice it to say that by the middle of the year, I had, not by my choice, officially—emotionally and somewhat physically—lost any contact with either of my sons, and contact with my daughter was fraught at best. Perhaps I should backup even more. If I’m going to tell some of this, I need to go back more, back to that time in which, for various reasons, younger son chose not to have much to do with  me, and older son followed suit, more by accident than deliberation, I think.

Eldest son has always been independent, and he has been closer to his dad than to me since about the age of 13 or 14. His dad exited our lives when the boys were only 7 and 6 respectively, but he did his visitation regularly, always paid his support, so I’m not slamming him here, just stating facts. Anyway, eldest son has much in common with his father, some good and some bad, as we all tend to be, so I was not entirely surprised that once eldest moved out for good, I didn’t see or hear from him regularly, not that it didn’t wound me or that I didn’t miss him tremendously, just saying it wasn’t a surprise.

But separation from youngest son? That wounded me to my very core, and it is still a very fresh wound. I really don’t know if it will ever get easier or better.

“Birds make great sky-circles of their freedom.
How do they learn it?
They fall, and falling they’re given wings.” ~ Jalāl ad-Dīn Muhammad Rūmī

Youngest son is also my youngest child, so he was the one who was with me alone after the other two moved out. We did pretty much everything together, watched movies, exchanged books, went to poetry readings and thrift stores, and I always loved how close we were, but life happens, everyone grows up, and nothing stays the same. If that were all that it were, I could accept it. But that’s not it. For various reasons unrelated to me, he began to withdraw, which is not to say that there aren’t reasons related to me because there are. The problem is that I don’t understand a lot of those reasons. I can, however, pare it down to one particular devastating accusation though: He told me that I was abusive, emotionally abusive.

“Memory” (1948, oil on canvas)
by René Magritte

Okay. Well, then . . .

No. Not okay then. Not okay at all. Yes, there are all kinds of ways to be abusive, and god knows that there is an entire generation approaching life through trigger warnings and needing safe spaces, and no, I don’t really understand that either, but whatever. Look, he’s had social anxiety issues for most of his life, and who am I to criticize, hermit and agoraphobic that I am. But I tried many times to help and to get him help, not wanting him to end up like me; nevertheless, he began to deal with other more serious things as he got older, but I always approached him honestly and with all of the understanding that I had, and I always told him that I would love him no matter what, and I have. But apparently, I must have loved him abusively . . . is that even a thing?

I know that helicopter parenting can create a slew of problems, but I never saw myself as a helicopter parent. I tried hard to help when asked, comfort when needed, and to butt out when it warranted. I never said anything to anyone about having the wrong friends or the wrong boyfriends or girlfriends or significant others. I didn’t snoop, even when I really, really wanted to. And I promised myself that I would never break a promise and that I would always try to be truthful. The brutal truth for parents is that ultimately they must step back and watch their sons and daughters make mistakes, watch them fall, and although it is a painful thing to do, it must be done, but that doing is never easy. So what is it that I did, exactly?

I believed to my soul that I owed my kids all of that—truth, love, understanding, and yes, protection. But I never thought that I coddled them. My kids didn’t have everything that they wanted or asked for; they didn’t wear designer clothes; we had some lean Christmases, and we even lived without cable for years (shudder). But they had a solid roof over their head albeit a smaller one with old furniture, and they never went to bed hungry. They weren’t deprived, but neither were they spoiled rotten.

“Memoory” (1948, oil on canvas)
by René Magritte

I’m not claiming to be blameless. Of course I’ve done things. All parents do, even when they don’t really mean to. I’m certain if you asked any of my offspring if I ever screwed up, that they could come at you with a list, and each of those lists would probably not contain that same things. What? I’m only human, after all. But this, this accusation, this statement, whatever it is? I just don’t understand it, and I really, really really want to understand it because the gulf just keeps widening, and as it does, my heart just keeps breaking.

Years ago, when I used to talk about moving to the mountains, I told youngest that he could come and build his own place wherever we went, and when I would daydream about that move, he was always a part of it. But now? He’s hundred of miles away, and the chances that he will ever move here and build his own place are completely non existent.

“Don’t you get tired of wanting
to live forever?
Don’t you get tired of saying Onward?” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “Circe/Mud Poems”

I know that I began this post talking about 2017 and how we actually ended up here in the mountains on 100+ acres, trying to live the dream, but it looks like I’m going to have to come back to that later because this has morphed into a post about parents and children, and loss and heartache and . . . yep, all of that and so much more.

“Secret Life IV” (1928, oil on canvas)
by René Magritte

Suffice it to say that the entire family on all sides went through emotional hell, and there are some wounds that may never heal. Corey and I have only very recently begun to allow ourselves to attempt to move on and get along with our lives, but all of that crap about resolution? Resolution is a gift, and some receive it, and others do not, and a great deal depends upon the individual, so you can rightly assume that I do not feel that resolution has been bestowed upon me.

But as for youngest son, I no longer contact him, and that is as he wishes, not as I wish. Does that mean that I don’t want to every hour of every single fricking day? Need I bother to answer? But again, it’s that thing of trying to respect your child’s wishes because that child is no longer a child, is no longer the unexpected miracle of your life, no longer the boon companion of years previous.

“And if you are not a bird, then beware of coming to rest above an abyss.” ~ Friedrich Nietzsche, from unpublished fragments dating to June-July 1883

Look, it’s November, for me the time of bad anniversaries, and the holidays are upon us, and as usual, it’s the beginning of my annual dive into the depths of my personal abyss, so here I am. And even as I type these word, I wonder to myself will I actually post this? Will I really put this out there? And the answer is . . . I have no idea.

I came back to this forum recently for several different reasons:

The political climate and the state of our democracy made me want to rant, really, really rant.

The new location seemed to afford me a new beginning, so I wanted to talk about that and all that it encompasses.

“Clairvoyance (Self Portrait)(1936, oil on canvas)
by Rene Magritte

But mostly, I missed it. Admittedly, I missed the small group of regular who always had something to say to me. But more than that, I missed me. I missed the me that sat down and just let the words flow like water from an open faucet. I missed the me that not only felt things deeply but who also shared those feelings. And mostly, I suppose, I missed the me that took great care in creating this personal space that was mine alone, mine to do with whatever I deemed worthy or appropros, regardless of who I offended or who I enraged, regardless of who I might alienate.

Honestly, I don’t want to alienate or offend anyone, but I refuse to self censor. Ever. What I will do, from this point on, is be more respectful of other’s privacy. That I will do, but that is my only concession. What is the point of having a personal blog that isn’t personal? Everything else just seems like time wasting, like gathering wool, as it were.

And so in beginning again, in returning to this forum, I feel, no, I need to talk about my own truths. I need to work through what I can with my words. If that is callous or heartless, then I apologize for that, but I won’t change the words, any more than I could change my inner core of being. The truth is that most people who create are patently self-absorbed. I am no different. So to the question of whether I will post this . . .

Hmm . . . things that make you go hmm . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Ben Abraham, “This is On Me,” featuring Sara Bareilles


Black Maps

Not the attendance of stones,
nor the applauding wind,
shall let you know
you have arrived,

nor the sea that celebrates
only departures,
nor the mountains,
nor the dying cities.

Nothing will tell you
where you are.
Each moment is a place
you’ve never been.

You can walk
believing you cast
a light around you.
But how will you know?

The present is always dark.
Its maps are black,
rising from nothing,
describing,

in their slow ascent
into themselves,
their own voyage,
its emptiness,
the bleak temperate
necessity of its completion.
As they rise into being
they are like breath.

And if they are studied at all
it is only to find,
too late, what you thought
were concerns of yours

do not exist.
Your house is not marked
on any of them,
nor are your friends,

waiting for you to appear,
nor are your enemies,
listing your faults.
Only you are there,

saying hello
to what you will be,
and the black grass
is holding up the black stars.

~ Mark Strand

 

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“Love is an act of endless forgiveness, a tender look which becomes a habit.” ~ Peter Ustinov

From the Original Dr. Zhivago

“The minute I heard my first love story I started looking for you, not knowing how blind that was. Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.” ~ Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Just a brief note for today . . .

I don’t know where I’ve been or how I missed this, but a British remake of Dr. Zhivago came out as a television serial in 2002 (Directed by Giacomo Campiotti, starring Keira Knightley, Sam Neill, and Hans Matheson). The serial has since been released on DVD. I first saw the original movie when we were in the Philippines. I remember being absolutely taken with the images of snow as my mother and I sat in the theater, one of the only air conditioned venues available, tropical temperatures outside hovering around 100 degrees.

I still remember the pivotal scene in which Yuri hears the sound of the water hissing on the hot iron and is taken back to his days with Lara (at least I think that’s what happened). Years later, I read the Boris Pasternak novel, which I also loved, but not as much as the movie (Omar Sharif and Julie Christie), an unusual occurrence for me. I understand that the ’02 remake differs in several key elements from the original film as well as the book, but I would still love to see the newer version.

More later. Peace.

Music by Ludovico Einaudi from the Dr Zhivago Soundtrack
 

“I have loved to the point of madness; That which is called madness, That which to me, is the only sensible way to love.” ~ Francoise Sagan

April Snow-Covered Mountains over Portage, Chugach National Forest, Alaska by Janson Jones

“This is love: to fly toward a secret sky, to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment. First to let go of life. Finally, to take a step without feet.” ~ Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Sepia Docks (Wikimedia Commons)

Very melancholy today. I sense the stirrings of an impending fall. The days before a fall are always so precarious—I feel out of sorts but for reasons that I cannot quite discern. My senses are heightened; loud sounds unnerve me, and food does not taste exactly right. In other words, lots of things that are non specific, that I cannot quite grasp, hovering just beyond the periphery. 

I have wondered many times in my life how people who are even-tempered make their way through the days, never falling into the depths of despair, never flying on the wings of mania. I have wondered what my life would have been like if I had been blessed with an even temper, how much I might have missed if that had been my reality instead of this reality. 

I chose Janson’s picture of the mountains over Portage because I find it so incredibly intriguing. It’s spring snow, but because of the sepia tones, it could be sand. The picture itself undulates with its shadows and patches of light, which reminds me of my life, and how it moves in ripples, little peaks, sometimes deep vallies. And then again, moving through my life often feels like walking on sand: the slow trudge to make headway without losing my footing, the strain of climbing against grains that fall away with nothing to hold onto, the slow slide when going downhill. 

“Oh soul,
you worry too much
You have seen your own strength.
You have seen your own beauty.
You have seen your golden wings.
Of anything less,
why do you worry?
You are in truth
the soul, of the soul, of the soul.” ~ Jalal ad-Din Rumi

Josef Sudek Still Life (w/sepia tones), 1954

I have been thinking about love for the past few days. Love in general. Love specifically. Motherly love. Passionate love.

Why do some people love so passionately while others are more reserved? Is it a matter of control, as in loving too much is giving up control? Do men love differently than women? In a relationship, are women the ones who love more? You know what I mean—there is always one person in the relationship who loves more than the other person. I think that being able to recognize this and accept it is a sign of maturity. 

Perhaps.

I mean, when you are young and newly in love, you want the other person to love you just as much as you love him or her, and nothing less will do. I think that once you have had some experience, you realize that no two individuals love in the same way, ever. But loving in the same way is not the same as loving less. I think that loving less reflects an unwillingness to give over the self to another, and this, I think, is directly tied to trust. 

As in Do I trust myself enough to lay myself bare to this other person? Do I trust this person enough to lay myself bare, to risk everything? It’s a tricky path, one that has no clear markers. 

“Your love
Should never be offered to the mouth of a
Stranger,
Only to someone
Who has the valor and daring
To cut pieces of their soul off with a knife
Then weave them into a blanket
To protect you.” ~ Hafiz of Persia, The Gift

In looking back over past relationships, I realize that I used to fall in love easily, but that I did not stay in love unless there was an equity in the relationship. In my relationship with the pathological liar—which happened when I was quite young—my mind constantly sent warning signs that my heart overruled. It was not until I was willing to face the truth that I was able to break the cycle. 

Solitary Bench (w/sepia tone)

In my relationship with my ex, my love grew and adapted over the years, which is how it should be in a long-term relationship. However, my mind sent me warning signs that I chose to ignore: Yes, he drank, but was it really too much? Who says what is too much? Was I really the one who always took care of the details, or was I making too much out of things? I think that in the end, I needed the break as a result of exhaustion as much as anything else. I was bone-weary from fighting constantly, and the love I had within me felt drained and tainted. 

Now, with Corey, I am aware of many differences from past relationships, one of the main being that I feel a sense of protection that I never felt with anyone else, and I am not sure if that is because I have changed enough to let someone protect me, or if Corey’s protection allowed me to change. Another aspect that differentiates our relationship is the tenderness that Corey shows me. It is blissful to feel such tenderness.

That being said, there is still a part of Corey that I cannot touch, a part that he holds back in reserve for himself. I try not to see that as a statement about our relationship, but sometimes it’s hard. 

“Love is an attempt at penetrating another being, but it can only succeed if the surrender is mutual.” ~ Octavio Paz

I understand why he would feel a need to protect himself. I understand the deep wounds that he has. But understanding and accepting, unfortunately, are not the same. To reveal the self completely is to open the door to vulnerability. Few people will willingly walk towards vulnerability. It’s much too frightening. And then there is the sense that if a person holds something back, in reserve, then he can never be completely broken. 

Paris Street (ca 1925, w/sepia tone)

Yet if I am to be completely truthful, then I must admit that I long for him to be as open with me as I am with him, which makes me feel as if I am expecting something unreasonable. I mean, love is not ownership. Two individuals who love each other do not have to be completely immersed in each other in order for their relationship to succeed. In fact, it is usually better if each person has outside interests, things to occupy time away from each other. But this separateness can be taken to the extreme. 

I think of my own parents whose relationship was supremely dysfunctional, and I am amazed that I have ever been able to have a healthy relationship given what I witnessed. My father spent more of their marriage at sea than at home. When he retired from the Navy, he couldn’t stand being on dry land, and they couldn’t stand that much togetherness, so he became a merchant marine. My mother had her own interests, and my father had his. They only began to do things together when they were older. Still, my father was unfaithful numerous times, and my mother tolerated it, and I don’t understand that at all. 

My ex and I spent the first part of our marriage doing things together and the last part of our marriage with separate friends, going out separately, and it was rare that we came together to do something as just a couple. I hated that. Corey and I enjoy each other’s company, which is a good thing as we have spent the last two years practically living in each other’s skin, which is problematic all by itself. 

“Nobody has ever measured, not even poets, how much the heart can hold.” ~ Zelda Fitzgerald

White Rose (w/sepia tone)

In the end, though, this is what I believe: Love is not necessarily patient and kind and all of the other things Corinthians says that it is. Love is complex and intense. It is so much like dancing naked in the rain. It is risk and faults and failures. It is learning to love sushi and learning to appreciate things in life you may have never considered before. Love is as solid as it is ephemeral; it can burn like a dragon’s fire and soothe like the coldest mountain stream. Love takes courage, and it can be terrifying in the way it consumes. Love demands respect and in its deepest essence it hearkens to our finest natures. 

The human heart, both fragile and strong, is only amplified by love. And while the heart is a solid vessel, in its abstract form, it is an empty vessel, waiting for the elixir of life to fill it to satisfaction. Handled without care, the human heart can break into a million pieces, while at the same time, its ache can be taken away with a simple phrase. As Ondaatje says, “the heart is an organ of fire.” 

We can no more choose who we love than we can choose our natures. If we are lucky enough to find that true companion, the one who will take our hearts and hold them close, keep them safe, and refill their occasional emptiness, then we are fortunate indeed. 

Love is hard. Life is hard. To expect otherwise is to be naive. 

More later. Peace. 

Music by Sarah Bareilles, “Gravity”