“There is something miraculous in the way the years wash away your evidence, first you, then your friends and family, then the descendants who remember your face, until you aren’t even a memory, you’re only carbon, no greater than your atoms, and time will divide them as well.” ~ Anthony Marra, from A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

This is the post that I was writing on Monday that I stopped. I mulled over whether or not to continue it or just post it . . . so, just posting it.


“We experience life as a continuity, and only after it falls away, after it becomes the past, do we see its discontinuities. The past, if there is such a thing, is mostly empty space, great expanses of nothing, in which significant persons and events float.” ~ Teju Cole, from Open City

Monday afternoon, sunny and mild, 71 degrees.

It’s an absolutely beautiful day today after two days of rain over the weekend. Truthfully, though, the whole concept of weekend has changed so much in my life. No longer is weekend the only time in which I can do things around the house, or catch up on laundry, or run errands, or all of those other ways in which I used to fill those two days. Gone is the need to rush to accomplish everything by Sunday evening in order to get some rest before beginning the work week once more.

And truthfully, I kind of miss that structure. Even though it’s been more than 11 years since I left my full-time job, my career, whatever you want to call it, I still miss work. I miss having deadlines, having places to go, even doing mundane paperwork. I don’t miss my last group of coworkers as they were undoubtedly the most dysfunctional group of people I have ever encountered in an office: one was uber passive aggressive, another was a smile-in-your-face-stab-you-in-the-back master, and the person with whom I worked most closely was a full-blown sociopath.

Hindsight. It’s such a clarifier.

But I never saw that job as the end of my working career. I still had goals, still wanted to accomplish more things, explore more avenues, but that all ceased to be possible in the spate of one week. Even now, all of these years later, I still think about what jobs I’d like to do, what degrees I’d like to earn. It’s hard to let go of it all.

“I can’t explain the goings,
or the comings. You enter suddenly,
and I am nowhere again.
Inside the majesty.” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi

One of the worst decisions I ever made was to have that major back surgery in 2007. Essentially, it wrecked my body and began my long road down a path of chronic, unremitting pain. Had i waited even five years, I’m convinced the surgery and recovery would have been simpler, and my results might have been better.

I know that it’s more than a cliche to say that when you’re young you approach life as if you are infallible, but it’s so true for me. As a teenager I taxed my body as a cheerleader; when I was married the first time, I ended up lifting and carrying more weight than I should have, mostly because my marriage was such a game of one-ups-manship: I would ask my spouse to take care of something; he would ignore it; I would do it to spite him, never realizing that I was only hurting myself. When I taught, I carried around huge stacks of books and papers all of the time. Then when I worked as a retail manager, I used to routinely move fully-loaded fixtures around the floor. In my mind, it took too much time to unload the clothes, so why bother.

Of course, I was very physically fit at the time. It never occurred to me that I might suffer the consequences somewhere down the line, so of course, I did.

Youth and stupidity go hand in hand in oh so many ways.

“I saw the first light, fore-running the sun, gather in a cup of the eastern cloud, gather and grow and brim, till at last it spilled like milk over the golden lip, to smear the dark face of heaven from end to end . . . the clouds slackened, the stars, trembling on the verge of extinction, guttered in the dawn wind, and the gates of day were ready to open at the trumpet . . .” ~ Mary Stewart, from Madam, Will You Talk?

Ever since Dallas took Napoleon, Sassy has become incorrigible. Each day, she comes onto the front porch and stamps her hooves, demanding to have food. I tell Corey that he doesn’t understand that she’s pregnant, so she’s hungry all of the time. In his mind, there’s a pasture filled with fresh grass just ready to be grazed, so why isn’t she cooperating with that? I don’t know if horses get funny food cravings when they are pregnant, but wouldn’t it funny if they did? What if she’s craving sunflowers? Or Kentucky Fescue?

I remember that with each pregnancy, I had different cravings: first it was hot fudge sundaes from McDonald’s and olives, but not together; second was soft pretzels (I think); third was Mexican food, and fourth was mustard.

But as I try to type this, Sassy is on the porch stamping, which causes Maddy to bark like crazy. It’s very distracting, but then, pretty much everything out here is distracting: the small spider crawling up the side of my screen, all of the different bird songs, including the hawk that just flew over, the podcast that I have running in the background, the way all of the pups suddenly decide to chase the goats, just out of the blue.

That’s another thing that’s changed with me: I used to be able to concentrate so fully on a task that I would forget to go to the bathroom. Single-minded was a good description. Now, scattershot comes to mind.

More later. Peace.


Music by Iron & Wine, “Muddy Hymnal”

“Between me and life is a faint glass. No matter how sharply I see and understand life, I cannot touch it.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Dubrovnik Rooftops, Croatia
by will clayton (FCC)

                   

“I don’t have a word to say. Why don’t I just stay quiet, then? But if I don’t force myself to talk, silence will forever engulf me in waves. Word and form will be the plank on top of which I shall float over billows of silence.” ~ Clarice Lispector, from The Passion According to G.H. (trans. Ronald Sousa)

Saturday, early evening. Sunny and mild, high 60’s.

Another day of catch-up—laundry, writing, playing with the dogs. My back was hurting before I began. Woke up in pain. Hate that.

I completely forgot to watch the VP debate this past week, but apparently, Joe Biden did a good job. Just hoping Obama gets his groove back before this week’s re-match with Romney. But that’s not what this post is about. Not going to do political today. Just not up for it.

Falmouth Rooftops, UK
by Tim Green (FCC)

Shakes is hanging in. When he has his coughing spells, his whole body seems wracked. It’s terrible to watch. But he’s eating, and this morning, he enjoyed himself doing army crawl across the backyard (that’s when he lies on his belly and pulls himself about with his front legs only). It’s how he scratches his belly. Funny to watch, and he enjoys it.

I took Tillie the Lab outside for modified stick. Tried to keep her from getting over-exerted so that I don’t have to worry about seizures.

In the meantime, I’m sitting here with one of my heated neck wraps around my neck and shoulders, trying to burn the pain out. Not really. Just trying to use heat to make the muscles untense. So far, it’s not working.

This past week, I accidentally rear-ended someone at a read light. Not a big collision, small and stupid. Her truck was completely unharmed. The rodeo, on the other hand, decided to act up, and the lights went out. Turns out I had mashed the light relay against something. Easy enough to fix. Lights back on. I just felt really, really stupid. I wasn’t paying attention, noticed that the light had turned green, started to go before she did. Fortunately it wasn’t anything worse than that.

“All of the influences were lined up waiting for me. I was born, and there they were to form me, which is why I tell you more of them than of myself.”~ Saul Bellow, from The Adventures of Augie March

Yesterday I stopped into Marshall’s to see if they had any good clearance items. Made the mistake of taking a few things into the dressing room. I really, really hate it when I think that my body is smaller than it is. I see nothing but sausage in the mirror. Yes, it keeps me from buying anything, but boy does it do a number on my self-image. It was a whole lot of yuck, no way, and this is terrible. I think that I’ve been watching too much “Project Runway,” which makes me think that I can wear cool clothes.

Rooftops in France
by ifraud (FCC)

Not so much.

Actually, I could be content with myself if I lost 20 to 25 pounds. Don’t ask me how I’m going to go about that. I’ve already given up sugar (mostly). I’m staying away from chocolate (really, mostly), and I’m trying to eat small meals throughout the day. I know that I’m thinner than I was this time last year, but thinner is perhaps not the best word choice.

I don’t know. My body-image is so warped (thanks, Mom). I saw one of my cousins a few weeks ago, and she looks great. She has one of those naturally slender body frames, you know, the kind that normal women do not have. So the visit was bittersweet: great to see all of them, but left feeling like I’m fat and ugly and my mother dresses me funny. This is precisely why I don’t like to leave the house. Bumping up against these harsh realities is taxing.

“What is your life about, anyway? Nothing but a struggle to be someone. Nothing but a running from your own silence.” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi

I am in desperate need of a shower. Too much information?

When my kids were little, they had this saying, “Something’s sticking” to describe if their shoes didn’t feel quite right or if a label was bothering them. Well, something’s sticking in this shirt that I’m wearing. I think that I have it narrowed to the clear rubber/plastic thread they used. It’s poking me in the chest. Why, mass manufacturers of affordable garments, why? Again, too much information?

Zhouzheng Rooftops, China
by Praziquantel (FCC)

I do apologize, but obviously I am quite uninspired today. Perhaps I should really wait until nothing’s sticking, the back isn’t aching, and I’m not feeling slovenly. Truthfully, each time I got in the mindset to shower, one of my sons beat me to the bathroom—a major drawback to living in an older home with one bathroom. How did families survive in the 1950’s. They had an average of two children. Did those children not take ungodly long showers? Were those children trained not to hog the bathroom because someone else might be in need?

I fear that by the time I am finally able to get out of this paean to 1950s suburbia, I will no longer need to as my children will be out in the world on their own. Every time I ride into this neighborhood with its floral subdivision names so full of hope and promise I find myself thinking of “Leave it to Beaver,” with all of the neat houses in a row, everything in its place, impeccable yards and garages, and everyone in his or her assigned niche. It’s frighteningly stagnating.

“I see the mountains in the sky; the great clouds; and the moon; I have a great and astonishing sense of something there, which is “it”—it is not exactly beauty that I mean . . . A sense of my own strangeness, walking on the earth is there too: of the infinite oddity of the human position; with the moon up there and those mountain clouds. Who am I, what am I, and so on: these questions are always floating about in me.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated February 27, 1926

Seriously, though, were architects and planners of these ‘burbs so completely uninspired? Or were they secretly warped, laughing to themselves, as if to say, “This will keep people in line: row after row of cookie cutter houses with slight variations in window placement? Or was everyone just so glad to be in a post-war boom that any thought of creativity took a back seat to production values—developers churning out suburbia like baked bread because the masses couldn’t get enough of it.

Tallin Rooftops, Estonia
by samipaju (FCC)

Not much has changed, though. In fact, it may be worse. I swear that when I was the marketing director for a local realtor, I got so sick of seeing the same basic design for McMansions, maybe a different gable here, a double dormer there, but all the same.

But isn’t this how it is all over the world? People live in neighborhoods (interesting term, that) that are nothing more or less than mirror images with different door colors, whether the house is brick or tin or wood. We conform so easily, without thought, into these nice, neat niches, never questioning why.

Whoa. Getting a tad too philosophical there.

“A man’s truest self realizations might require him, above all, to learn to close his eyes: to let himself be taken unawares, to follow his dark angel, to risk his illegal instincts.” ~ Jean Cocteau

But think about it. Beneath the slate or concrete or thatch or mud or tile or shingles, haven’t we always tried to conform, most of us? When we lived in caves, how soon did the competitions for the best caves begin? Graduate to huts, how soon before the need arose to make this hut just like that hut, or to make this hut a tad bigger than that hut?

Uncastillo Rooftops, Spain
by lostajy (FCC)

The need to compete outweighing the need to conform? Row after row of black and white townhouses, and then bam, one with a red door. How long before the community association slaps the homeowners with a notice to comply?

We humans are so predictable. We want to fit in, but we want to stand out. We need to be accepted, but we ache to surpass. We search for meaning in a cesspool of sameness. Is it any wonder that nothing ever changes?

When we bought this house, it never occurred to us to look for something different. So conditioned have we been to seek what was available. Then, a decade or so later, the era of 2,000 square feet and above as standard made my little brick ranch obsolete. Then downsizing. The realization that so much square footage came encumbered with any number of unspoken needs. A whole generation of house poor people, now upside down in their grand suburbs, so similar to the one next door and the one three doors down from that.

I always wanted a log cabin on a plot of land with a natural lake, lots of trees, the smell of mountain air only faintly overtaken by an ocean breeze wafting in from near by.

Damn. I went and made it philosophical after all.

More later. Peace.

Music by Stuart Murdoch, “Another Saturday”

                  
Apple
I wake and remembered
nothing of what I was dreaming
The day grew light, then dark again —
In all its rich hours, what happened?
A few weeds pulled, a few cold flowers
carried inside for the vase.
A little reading. A little tidying and sweeping.
I had vowed to do nothing I did not wish
to do that day, and kept my promise.
Once, a certain hope came close
and then departed. Passed by me in its familiar
shawl, scented with iodine woodsmoke.
I did not speak to it, nor it to me.
Yet still the habit of warmth traveled
between us, like an apple shared by old friends —
One takes a bite, then the other.
They do this until it is gone.
~ Jane Hirshfield

“If I lose the light of the sun, I will write by candlelight, moonlight, no light. If I lose paper and ink, I will write in blood on forgotten walls. I will write always. I will capture nights all over the world and bring them to you.” ~ Henry Rollins

“Sapphires and Amethysts” (1925, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie*

                   

“I sleep. I dream. I make up things that I would never say. I say them very quietly.” ~ Richard Siken

Saturday afternoon. Hazy, hot, and humid. Liquid air.

Wow, such a week. Brett started fall semester on Monday, which meant a brand new schedule, one in which he has to be on campus by 9 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesday, and Fridays. That’s 9 in the morning. I don’t do 9 in the morning, at least, not very well, and especially not well after the dogs have gotten me up several times during the night.

“The Cove” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

And of course, in between, I’m still going over to help Lex. Mike is on the night shift, and everyone’s schedules are very out of sync, most especially mine, and it’s taking its toll.

When I awoke earlier to let the dogs out, I found that my legs hurt all the way down to the soles of my feet. No lie. It may be from all of the running I was doing in my dream in which I was trying to get away from lions, then tigers. I had gone to Japan with a group of girls from school, and we had a hotel suite right on the beach. We could see Mt. Fuji from our balcony, but I realized that I had left my camera at home. As we were looking out over the beach, I noticed two lions at the shoreline, and then when I looked down, I saw three white dogs evenly spaced in the water. I realized that the lions saw the dogs at the same time I did, and one of the lions jumped in the water and swam towards the dogs.

I wanted to try to rescue the dogs, but my roommates talked me out of it. I watched in horror as the lion devoured each dog. Then the lion came into our hotel room. We ran to the hotel office, which was in a separate building, and that’s when the dream got really weird. One lion became attached to me. Simultaneously wanting to sit next to me and attack me. I think that one of the dogs must have been trying to awaken me at this point. From there, I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to flee by climbing roofs and pipes, but the lions had learned how to jump straight up. As I was fleeing, I was trying to get the lions away from the hotel which had turned into an elementary school. At one point there were tigers and a panther and electric lines.

I never did get my photograph of Mt. Fuji.

“if i can only recount
the story of my life
right out of my body
flames will grow” ~ Jalal al-Din Rumi

That was my night, or rather, my late morning.

“Out to Sea” (1924, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

Alexis had wanted me to watch Olivia for a bit today while she went to a neighbor’s cookout and Mike slept, but I just had to pass. I am feeling completely drained today, and the thought of putting on real clothes and leaving the house just overwhelms me and makes me hurt more.

Corey should be arriving in Antigua any day now. He was in Ascension last weekend. We talked briefly, but I didn’t want to talk for too long as our phone bill already has an extra $300 in telephone calls on it. I can sense that he is down, which could be from his birthday or could be from being away from home when so many things have happened in his absence. I’m not really sure. I’m actually trying not to pay attention to the date or the days as it makes his absence a bit easier to handle.

Anyway, when he gets home he can enjoy watching the new seasons of “Grimm” and “Dr. Who,” both of which I have recorded for him and am foregoing watching until he is home (well, at least “Grimm”). I know that I will be unable to avoid watching “Dr. Who” as I’ve been waiting for this new season for soooo long. You would have to be a Whovian to really understand the madness inherent in such dedication to a show.

“They wished to flower,
and flowering is being beautiful:
but we wish to ripen,
and that means being dark and taking pains.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

I was going to say that I will try to resist from getting too political in the coming weeks, but with the DNC coming up next week, it will probably be hard. I do apologize to those of you who have no real interest in my rantings about politics and politicians, but they all just make it so easy. Part of me truly wishes that we had more of a campaign season like the UK’s, which only lasts a few weeks.

“Off on the Breeze” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

These weeks and weeks of ads, exaggerations, and outright lies really get to me. I find myself talking back to the television more than usual. That being said, I had planned to do a real post last night, but I lost the first section when I went to save and was redirected to login, which peeved me to no end, so I decided to watch television for a bit and then post. And then . . . holy cow, the empty chair and Clint Eastwood—it was beautifully comedic and somewhat sad at the same time. I have always loved the squinty-eyed Eastwood, loved all of his spaghetti Westerns, but nothing beats his performance at the RNC.

Hence, I posted the footage as Jon Stewart presented it. I mean really. Does anything beat an academy-award actor having a dialogue with a chair? Surreal. And yet, too real. But Eastwood’s performance was only beaten by Stewart’s commentary, which was almost poetic in its incision. As Brett reminds me, it’s kind of sad that the most honest political reporting is on Comedy Central.

“Now I am quietly waiting for
the catastrophe of my personality
to seem beautiful again . . .” ~ Frank O’Hara, from “Mayakovsky

So a little bit of good news. I picked up the frames that I ordered at Wal Mart a few weeks ago, and quell surprise! I still like them. Now I just have to wait for Corey to get paid so that I can actually order the glasses and sunglasses. I am still waffling about the contact lenses.

“Maine Seascape” (ca 1920’s, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

I know that I went on and on about how wonderful it was to have contacts that I could actually see with, but after wearing them for a few days, I had to face the harsh reality: Yes, I can see wonderfully when they are in, but my near vision, such as reading labels, it compromised. I am fortunate for an individual of my age, shall we say, in that I have no problems whatsoever in reading close up. I do not use glasses for reading, for using the computer, when I’m in the kitchen. I don’t need them.

So when I went to make formula for Olivia while I was wearing the news lenses, and I realized that I couldn’t really see the lines on the bottle, not distinctly, I was dismayed. I could pump up that vision by wearing a pair of reading glasses, I suppose, but then, what would be the point in wearing multi-focal lenses? I don’t need nor want reading glasses. I have nothing against them except that I don’t need them.

So do I order contacts so that I have them on hand when/if Corey and I go out, and I don’t want to wear glasses? Probably, but I really hate that my eyes have gotten to this point, whatever point that is. And I know that I’ll never have vision correction surgery as I am just way too scared when it comes to anyone messing with my eyeballs.

Whatever . . .

“All the means of action—the shapeless masses—the materials—lie everywhere about us. What we need is the celestial fire to change the flint into the transparent crystal, bright and clear.

That fire is genius.” ~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In this past week, I have composed the beginnings of a poem and the beginnings of a story in my mind. Wonderful, you say?

“Boats at the Pier” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

Not really as I did not bother to write either of them down. Have no record of them, and hence, no memory. Haven’t the vaguest what either of them were about. I know that one poem came to me after driving Brett to school, but I cannot remember the context, and I know that the story came to me after a dream, but again, that’s all that I remember.

So much for my big plans to do anything with anything.

I stopped in a discount store last weekend looking for one thing. As I was walking down the book aisle, because of course, if there is a book aisle, I have to traverse it even if I’m looking for antifreeze, a title jumped at me, something about contacting literary agents. It was insanely cheap, and I put the book in my cart, but then, I couldn’t find the one thing that I was looking for, so I left the cart with the book sitting in an aisle, and I walked out of the store.

Now consider: Does this make any sense to you? I found a very affordable book listing literary agents and what their specialties, a book from 2011, for under eight dollars, and I did not purchase it. Wat it because I can find this same information on the Internet? No. That’s not the reason. I actually talked myself out of buying this book because what was the point in standing in line when I couldn’t find antifreeze? But which was really more important in the grand scheme: the antifreeze (which I really needed immediately) or the book (which I could actually use to do something with my writing)?

Obviously, I opted for antifreeze, and for the life of me, I have no idea as to why. Genius, thy name is not mine.

“I write differently from what I speak, I speak differently from what I think, I think differently from the way I ought to think, and so it all proceeds into deepest darkness.” ~ Franz Kafka, from his Diaries

Whenever I come across a song or poem that I want to post, but it seems too familiar, I do a search on key terms within my old posts to make sure that I’m not repeating myself, which is how I came across a post from this past spring that really brought me up short. The post is from April 29 and features a picture from my friend over at Titirangi Storyteller. Why do I mention this? Only because of this: When I reread it, I felt disembodied.

“Fishing Boats at Sunrise” (nd, oil on canvas)
by Jonas Lie

Who had written these words? Where did they come from?

You see, I really felt like I hadn’t written it, couldn’t have written it, could not have possibly said these things in this way. It was just too . . . well, too lyrical, for want of a better word.

I hate it when that happens, hate it and love it when I surprise myself like that. Hate it when I realize that perhaps I really can write, and then hate it more when I think that that’s how I write sometimes, but I do nothing with it. Hate it when I sense that those words are within me, yet I do not let them out most of the time. You have no idea how painful it is to realize that somewhere inside are poems and stories, and yet, they only surface occasionally.

Or is it that I only let them surface occasionally? Or do I not work hard enough at letting them surface? Or am I just lazy? These are the kinds of things on which I obsess, the kinds of things that make me crazy and give me headaches. Between this and the literary agents book, I’ve worked myself into a conundrum: Why do I do the things that I do? No, really. Why?

Why? Why? Why?

More later. Peace.

*All images by Norwegian-born American painter Jonas Lie (1880-1940), known for his New England seascapes and American landscapes.

Music by Cass McCombs, “Harmonia”

                   

Between Going and Coming

Between going and staying
the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can’t be touched.

Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theater of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.

~ Octavio Paz