“At last, she makes her choice. She turns around, drops her head, and walks toward a horizon she cannot see. After that, she does not look back anymore. She knows that if she does, she will weaken.” ~ Khaled Hosseini, from And the Mountains Echoed

Fog over the ridge, by C. Fickel

“You cannot fight against the truth
of what has happened.
You cannot expect metaphor
to comfort you ~ Nate Pritts, from “Decoherence”

Sunday afternoon with an amazing effulgent sun and unseasonably warm temperatures, 65 degrees.

I’m not entirely certain as to what I want to say today, but I know that the words are just below the surface. The fact is that I probably should go for a walk up to the ridge and beneath the trees, especially as the weather is beautiful even though the wind is wicked, and more than likely, I will interrupt this post to do just that, or perhaps not. I haven’t decided yet.

As far as the eye can see: a view from the right side of the ridge, by L. Liwag*

Last night was another rough one, sleep wouldn’t come even though I was so tired, and then I awakened several times during the night, only to spend about three hours trying to will myself back to sleep. If you’ve never suffered from insomnia, you cannot possibly understand, but if you, too, have been susceptible to these spells, you have my complete sympathy. Once morning comes, more often than not, you feel groggy and half formed, at best.

One of the main reasons that I’m having such a hard time sleeping is that I’m out of a lot of my regular medications. Since moving here, I’ve had a real beast of a time trying to find a pain management practice that will take me, and I have yet to find a practicing psychiatrist who is accepting new patients. It took three months just to find a primary care physician because no one wants to touch you if you have been in pain management because the assumption is that you are a drug addict. I’m not joking about this.

“Meanwhile, within the tiny moments of this hell
I was fighting a small fight of my own which was not leading
anywhere—but like a man with a bent spoon trying to dig through a
cement wall I knew that a small fight was better than quitting: it
kept
the heart alive.” ~ Charles Bukowski, from “If you let them kill you, they will”

Apparently, this area is rife with people who are addicted to opiates and amphetamines, which means that those of us who just want meds in order to live a normal life are pretty much out of luck. Without my maintenance pain meds, I spend hours trying to calm my legs, as one offshoot of my chronic pain is RLS (restless leg syndrome), and like insomnia, it’s almost impossible to describe to someone who has never experienced it. Essentially, though, your legs tingle and ache, and you feel the need to keep moving them to try to find a comfortable position, something that doesn’t exist.

To Infinity and Beyond: Under such an effulgent sky, by L. Liwag

The medicine most prescribed for RLS, ropinirole, is one that I cannot take because it can cause tardive dyskinesia, which is involuntary body movements. Oh, the irony. Several years ago, I took relpax, and for a while, it was doing good things for me, that is until my doctor noticed that I was moving even while sitting, so she promptly pulled it from my regimen. Later, my pain doctor prescribed ropinirole for my RLS, but it wasn’t until much later that I realized the connection when I started making those weird movements without realizing it. So the medicine that is supposed to stop the discomfort of RLS movement can cause dyskinesia, or involuntary movement: it’s yet another instance of damned if I do and damned if I don’t.

Unfortunately, the RLS is the least of my medical issues. I’ve been without my maintenance meds for more than two months now, and the result is that I am back to having three or four migraines a week. It’s so disheartening because I had finally gotten my migraines under control after years of trying to find the med that would work best for me, and I tried a dozen or more, including Botox—no lie. So until I can find a neurologist or pain medicine doctor, I’m basically ingesting ibuprofen and supplements in an attempt to stem the tide. The success is limited, at best.

“Lonely for weeping, starved for a sound of mourning
I bowed my head, and heard the sea far off
Washing its hands” ~ James Wright, from “The Slackening of the Tide”

Anyway, enough of my medical trials and tribulations . . .

I was telling you how we actually came to be here, on this glorious piece of land with so very many possibilities, so let’s go back to 2017 again. As I had mentioned, 2017 was one helluva year for us, all of us, near and far. But in the midst of this, Corey took his mind off things by looking for land. We had decided that once we could get back to a somewhat stable place, that we were going to move.

From here to eternity: a view of our land from the left side of the ridge, by L. Liwag

I had wanted to leave Norfolk for years, but never felt that I could or should because of my mother; I’m an only child, you see, and while that may seem like a wonderful thing to be, it actually isn’t, especially if you have an elderly parent with medical issues of her own. I’m not complaining about it; god knows my mother took care of me through my asthma, migraines, and a host of other things. But once I had begun to recover from her death in 2014, we decided to look for the land that we had always talked about.

The first piece of land that we looked at was absolutely gorgeous, but it came with a hefty price tag, one that we could not possibly afford. Then, during the summer of 2017, on a whim, Corey and I decided to look at another piece of land that he had found. It was about seven hours from Norfolk, but we ended up driving around for about nine hours because we got so lost. Once we finally found it, though, we both fell in love. It was over 100 acres, and there was a small house on the property that was built in the late 1800s. Fortunately, it had been updated over time. Even better, the price was amazingly affordable.

So began our saga of trying to leave Norfolk, and the house that I had lived in for a very long time. I simply cannot go into all of the details that made this transition so hard, but it will suffice to say that it took us almost a year from the time that we first saw it to the time at which we finally arrived. It was a very, very, long, hard year.

“It takes courage . . . to endure the sharp pains of self discovery rather than choose to take the dull pain of unconsciousness that would last the rest of our lives. ~ Marianne Williamson, from “A Return to Love”

Honestly, there were days in which I believed that the dream that we had so fervently sought would never happen. And during the wait, we suffered—emotionally, physically, spiritually. It seemed that the entire world was against us.

Three at the trough, by C. Fickel

You know, at times like that it’s hard not to wonder if some kind of karmic disharmony isn’t being visited upon you. You begin to think that you must have done something absolutely horrible at some point to be faced with the almost insurmountable. There was even a point during all of this that a piece of the ceiling in the Norfolk house suddenly crashed to the floor, and all that we could do was look at one another and shake our heads because it just felt like it was yet one more thing beyond our control. Mind you, a piece of your ceiling falling is a pretty major event, but we had been through so much that by the time it happened, it was just one more thing in a very long list of one more things. It’s weird to think of that event in that way now

But we clung to one other and to the possibility of actually realizing a dream that had seemed so out of reach for so long, and very long story abbreviated, now, here we are. And there is no other place in the world that I would rather be.

“In this life, this is how
one must wait, past despair,
the heart a fossil, the minutes molten, the feet turned to stone. ~ Li-Young Lee, from “Here I Am”

Well, that all came out much faster than I had thought. I suppose the words were much closer to the surface than I had thought. That’s good when that happens, although at times I feel that I’m just throwing words at the screen and hoping that something sticks and makes sense, kind of like spaghetti noodles that aren’t overcooked.

So much beauty everywhere I look, by L. Liwag

In returning to this forum, I realize that I’m more than likely opening some wounds that really haven’t healed, but this is how I heal best. Fingers on keys, letting them fly without restraint (my very dear friend Rebecca once likened my typing to machine gun fire). I realize that I’m fortunate to have this ability—to write, not to type rapidly—because I am well aware that many people out there who are wounded or trying to heal have nothing more than their own thoughts, and that can often feel all-consuming. But I have always written my way out, have done this since I was a child—truly. I wrote my first poem when I was six. I started my first journal when I was twelve. Words have always been the balm to my soul.

I hope that by rekindling my love affair with this blog, that perhaps my words might touch someone out there in the ether and let them see that they are not alone in feeling lost or depressed or overwhelmed. I do not proclaim to have answers for anyone, myself least of all, but sometimes just reading someone else’s words can be a salve, much like hearing the perfect song can help us heal. We take what we can get, right? We are all only human after all.

Just a note: Today’s poem is a direct result of watching “Little Drummer Girl” on AMC, which was incredible. I really love it when shows incorporate beautiful poetry into the story lines, and Darwish is one of my favorites. I’ve featured his works here before.

More later. Peace.

*By the way, I did pause in this post to go for a long walk up to the top of the ridge with the dogs, which is where I took some of the images in today’s post.

Music by Katelyn Tarver, “You Don’t Know”

 

Now, as you awaken

Now, as you awaken, remember the swan’s
last dance. Did you dance with young angels
while you were dreaming? Did the butterfly
light you up when it burned with the eternal
light of the rose? Did the phoenix appear clearly
before you and call you by your name?
Did you see the morning dawn from the fingers
of the one you love? Did you touch
the dream with your hand or did you
leave it to dream alone, aware suddenly
of your own absence? Dreamers don’t abandon
their dreams, they flare and continue
the life they have in the dream…tell me
how you lived your dream in a certain place
and I’ll tell you who you are. And now,
as you awaken, remember if you have wronged
your dream. And if you have, then remember
the last dance of the swan.

~ Mahmoud Darwish

“This has become my picture of my future self: wandering the house in the darkness, in my white nightdress, howling for what I can’t quite remember I’ve lost.” ~ Margaret Atwood, from “The Bad News”

Zinaïda Serebriakova Poultry Yard 1910
“Poultry Yard” (1910)
by Zinaïda Serebriakova

“I want to be lifted up
By some great white bird unknown […]
And soar for a thousand miles and be carefully hidden
Modest and golden as one last corn grain,
Stored with the secrets of the wheat” ~ James Wright, from “The Minneapolis Poem”

Thursday afternoon. Partly cloudy and cold, 39 degrees.

Edvard Munch Winter in Kragerø 1916 oil on canvas
“Winter in Kragerø” (1916, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

Another bad night. I forgot to apply a new pain patch before bed, and as a result, the ache in my legs awoke me every few hours, which only fueled the dogs to keep pestering me to go out, even when I knew that they really didn’t need to.

I had a very weird dream in which Corey’s sister was balancing our checkbook, and we lived in a different big house that had a sunken tub, and all I wanted to do was escape and soak in the tub, but people kept asking me to do things, and then someone wanted to know why I was having the drapes in my mother’s house altered, and how it only cost $40, and I just didn’t have answers.

And last night as I was watching something, can’t remember what, I realized that my head hurt, and I wonder when I passed over from being acutely aware of my headaches to the point at which their omnipresence has become status quo, so much so that I don’t quite feel them? How does that happen? I mean, I know that the body adjusts its threshold for pain, but this? To actually have to tell myself, “hey, your head really hurts . . . perhaps you should take some medicine for that”?

It just blows my mind.

“There is something maddeningly attractive about the untranslatable, about a word that goes silent in transit.” ~ Anne Carson, from “Variations on the Right to Remain Silent”

At some point during one of my awake periods, I had a fragment of a poem appear, and I rolled over thinking that surely I would remember it, but then I realized that I would never remember it, so I jotted it down in pencil on the first thing I could find, which was the wrapper for my pain patch, and now I have to find it. I have another fragment somewhere, but for the life of me I can’t remember if I stuck it in the middle of one of my countless drafts here, or if I actually opened Word and put it there.

Boris Anisfield Stony Point, New York 1925 oil on canvas
“Stony Point, New York” (1925, oil on canvas)
by Boris Anisfield

So obviously, forcing myself to write down what I told myself I would remember was a good thing . . .

I had Olivia on Monday and Tuesday of this week, which is always a treat, but since Corey left Monday afternoon, I did not sleep much at all that night. That’s how it always is on the first night after he leaves again. I have to try to remember (that word, again) not to schedule anything for the day after he leaves because I am physically and emotionally useless.

After all of this time of him shipping out, you would think that I would be used to it, but not so much. I mean, I have adjusted much better to the period when he is gone and being her by myself with just the dogs, and only once in a while does it cause me to fall into a tailspin, but the actual physical separation as represented so starkly in our half empty bed? That gets to me every single time.

“I was the shadow of the waxwing slain
By the false azure in the windowpane
I was the smudge of ashen fluff—and I
Lived on, flew on, in the reflected sky.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov, from “Pale Fire”

Yesterday I took care of some Christmas returns and exchanges. Brett and Em went with me, so it made it a bit easier. We actually got a tremendous amount done, and we were all done in afterwards.

Vincent van Gogh The Old Station at Eindhoven 1885
“The Old Station at Eindhoven” (1885, oil on canvas)
by Vincent van Gogh

I had bought myself some dinner at Costco, but only ended up eating a slice of bread. Before you think me too spartan, I have to confess that every time I get up in the middle of the night into the morning, I eat something, whether it’s a piece of chocolate or an Oreo. It’s an abominable habit, one that I would really like to break. The only time I haven’t done this in recent memory was when I had bronchitis, and everything tasted foul.

Anyway, another leftover from the bronchitis is my unabating hankering for Typhoo tea with lemon and honey. I go through phases with my tea, and most of the time I take it like workman’s tea—strong with cream and sweetener, but the honey/lemon combination helps so much with chest congestion. That, or it’s completely in my mind, which has been known to happen.

“My heart always timidly hides itself behind my mind. I set out to bring down stars from the sky, then, for fear of ridicule, I stop and pick little flowers of eloquence.” ~ Edmond Rostand, from Cyrano de Bergerac

Let’s see . . . what else is going on in my fun-filled adventurous life?

I’m gradually getting the house back in order after Christmas. Right before Corey left he finally set up the single bed for Olivia, and we began to sift through the boxes and piles that have accumulated in that corner bedroom. There is just so much. It’s never a good idea to let one room in your house become a junk room because it just gets away from you too easily. I can vouch for that.

“Winter Sketch” (1912, oil on paperboard)
by J. E. H. McDonald

He was also able to set up but not finesse the house backup system I bought us for Christmas. This thing has 4 terabytes of memory. Remember when 2G was a big deal? Hell, I remember being happy with megabytes. My how far we’ve come in such a short time.

I have at least two tubs worth of books that I need to sort through and pack, and my reason for not doing so before is silly: I want to record them on Goodreads. It’s not the number of books that I’ve read, but the fact that Goodreads gives me a free repository of the titles in my personal library. Years ago, before PCs, I had a handwritten list of my books, in particular, my poetry books, and it came in very handy after the one place I worked caught on fire. So there’s that.

But there is also a mess of strange cords, loose tools, two bags of shredding to be done . . .

“But in those days what did I know of the pleasures of loss,
Of the edge of the abyss coming close with its hisses
And storms, a great watery animal breaking itself on the rocks,

Sending up stars of salt, loud clouds of spume.” ~ Mark Strand, from “Dark Harbor”

Well, the end of January is creeping up on me, and I have to admit that I am terribly afraid. My mom has been on my mind so much lately, and she haunts my dreams almost every night. And as much as I wish it would snow, I think that having a snowstorm at the end of January would just about do me in because one of my acutest memories of last year was walking to the hospital in the snow.

Pekka Halonen Lumisia Mannyntaimia Snowy Pine Seedlings 1899
“Lumisia Mannytaimia (Snowy Pine Seedlings)” (1899, tempera on canvas)
by Pekka Halonen

Anyway, I’m trying to keep my mind occupied, but who knows . . .

I still haven’t done anything with the now dead poinsettias that I had bought for the cemeteries, and they serve as a constant reminder of what a failure I am at honoring my mother and father. I know. You probably think that I’m exaggerating, trying to get sympathy. But truly, no.

I have never hidden my long-standing love/hate relationship with guilt, but this is something more. I well and truly feel as if I have dishonored and failed my parents by not going to the cemetery at Christmas, by not even visiting Caitlin at Christmas. And yes, I had bronchitis, but still, the feeling looms large, and it pierces my heart, and I just don’t know what else to say, so perhaps I should stop now.

More winter pictures. More later. Peace.

Music by David Beats Goliath, “Maisie & Neville

                   

Death and the Moon

(for Catherine Marcangeli)

The moon is nearer than where death took you
at the end of the old year. Cold as cash
in the sky’s dark pocket, its hard old face
is gold as a mask tonight. I break the ice
over the fish in my frozen pond, look up
as the ghosts of my wordless breath reach
for the stars. If I stood on the tip of my toes
and stretched, I could touch the edge of the moon.

I stooped at the lip of your open grave
to gather a fistful of earth, hard rain,
tough confetti, and tossed it down. It stuttered
like morse on the wood over your eyes, your tongue,
your soundless ears. Then as I slept my living sleep
the ground gulped you, swallowed you whole,
and though I was there when you died,
in the red cave of your widow’s unbearable cry.

and measured the space between last words
and silence, I cannot say where you are. Unreachable
by prayer, even if poems are prayers. Unseeable
in the air, even if souls are stars. I turn
to the house, its windows tender with light, the moon,
surely, only as far again as the roof. The goldfish
are tongues in the water’s mouth. The black night
is huge, mute, and you are further forever than that.

~ Carol Ann Duffy

“We work with the substantial, but the emptiness is what we use.” ~ Tao Te Ching

“In the Midst of the Thick Wood,” Kay Nielsen

  

“In this metallic age of barbarians, only a relentless cultivation of our ability to dream, to analyse and to captivate can prevent our personality from degenerating into nothing or else into a personality like all the rest.” ~ Fernando Pessoa
Arthur Rackham, "The Ring" illustrations (#26)

Yes, I know. Once again, I have posted items out of sequence, back-posted as it were. Indulge me, please. I have been unable to get out of bed for three days.  It’s times such as these when I long for my old laptop and folding desk. At least I would be able to write while in bed. Alas, alack . . .

I watched the light creep through the blinds this morning as the clock moved toward 6 a.m. For a minute I considered getting up to write and just forgoing sleep altogether, but then my body reminded me that I really needed sleep, so I turned over yet again and tried to find a position that would allow me to be a bit comfortable as Tillie blew warm dog breath into my face while she slept quite peacefully. I looked over, and Corey was snoring quietly; Alfie was above Corey’s head on the pillow, and Shakes was buried deep beneath the covers, scratching intermittently. Meanwhile, a two-foot square of open space seemed to be allotted for me.

Let’s just say that it was not a tableau that invited the deep sleep of Ameles potamos, or Lethe. I would love to have eight uninterrupted hours of mindlessness sleep, a sleep of pure forgetfulness, no interruptions, no distractions, just sleep, and then once rested, awake to a painless new day of possibilities. That it what I would like . . .

“The perception of small things is the secret of clarity; guarding of what is soft and tender is the secret of strength.” ~ Lao-Tzu
Arthur Rackham, "Undine: Soon She was Lost to Sight Beneath the Danube"

Corey has worked four days in a row. Can I get a hallelujah from the chorus? I must say that the duty sergeant has an unenviable job, having to shift people constantly because of the unpredictability of ship movement. At one point, Corey was scheduled to work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. and then to go back in at 11 p.m. and work 12 hours, and while that would have been great in the hours column, it would have really sucked in the sleeping column. But he’s hanging in, which is more than I can say for myself.

I seem to be in the midst of a grand pity party, one that was not scheduled, as it were.  I know exactly what started it, what precipitated this most recent excursion into the poor, poor, pitiful me fray: I went on the Old Dominion University site to look at information for Brett’s orientation, and just for grins, I thought, I went to the English Department’s site. After perusing for a few minutes I realized that I knew a grand total of four people in the department. All of the old guard is gone. Names I’ve never heard of filled the department roster, which really set me back until I realized that it’s been a grand total of 16 years since I left ODU.

Sixteen years. The boys were toddlers. I was still plugging away at my marriage to Paul. The dogs were two black labs. The house was in most respects, the same, and I owned my favorite car, the black Oldsmobile Calais. My father was still alive. I knew people, lots of interesting, engaging people, and Mari was still a part of my life.

Might I just say that it is a bitter pill to have shoved down one’s throat—the realization that time has continued, inexorably, whilst I have not.

“But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;
As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain,
As the stars that are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end, they remain.” ~ Lawrence Binyon, Last two stanzas of “For the Fallen”
Arthur Rackham, "Midsummer Night's Dream: Fair Helena"

Which brings me to the now, the present, the time after the past, and the question. Yes. There is most definitely a question: What in the hell have I done with my life? I am having a crisis of faith of the personal kind. I wonder what it is I have accomplished in all of these years of trying. I wonder if I have really done anything at all. I mean, what am I playing at here? I write. I opine. I open my veins and bleed onto this page, or rather, this virtual page. But to what end?

In looking at all of the unknown names in the English Department, I realized that my dreams of getting my Ph.D. in English are just that—dreams only. I have been left behind, or I have stayed behind while the canon has continued to develop at an amazing pace, largely in part because of the Internet. What these people are teaching and researching goes so far beyond what I know. So I don’t know if I could catch up to them, but perhaps more importantly, I don’t know if I should.

These people have three and four books, pages and pages of publications. They have evolved as the material has evolved, as the very institution of teaching has evolved: distance education, virtual classrooms. I don’t know if I can do that.

And so I sit here and wonder if I’ve ever really been good at anything, anything that matters, that is. When I die, how will I be remembered? As the woman who didn’t leave the house for years? As a woman whose self-image was so skewed that her mantra was “I’m fat and ugly and my mother dresses me funny”? As someone with an acerbic wit? Or as just a woman who was here and then who wasn’t . . .

“Heedless or willfully ignorant of this
procession of changes, we dream of prosperity
all through life and, without understanding
the nature of transience, hope for longevity.” ~ Hōnen
Arthur Rackham, "The Ring" illustrations (#1)

And these thoughts paralyze me, cause me to look about me as if in an unfamiliar place, a place in which the things themselves are different, the atmosphere different, the lighting slightly shifted, and the only thing that is the same is me. I think of the days when I walked around in power suits and leather pumps, so self-important, so engrossed in my own little world, my circle of power. A person to be watched, emulated, respected. Was it all in my mind?

Days from my past pass before this windowpane of memory, and I am hard-pressed to find anything significant. Has it all been an act? Was I so good at deception that I deceived myself more than anyone?

I’m not talking about the consistency of my belly button lint. These are real, hard questions, ones that I need to find the answers to lest I go mad with the thinking. This morning, as I was rolling from side to side, watching night move into morning, I suddenly wondered if one could go mad from thinking too much. And I think that yes, one probably could go mad from too many thoughts, from being unable to stop the flow of thoughts as they engulf everything, unabated, uncensored.

“This world
a fading mountain echo
void and unreal.” ~ Ryokan
 

Kay Nielsen, “Such a Terrible Dream”

   

Yet another thing came to me during my wakefulness, the song from Jesus Christ Superstar, “I Don’t Know How to Love Him.” Don’t really know why that song at that moment, except for the very telling lines here and there: “In these past few days/When I’ve seen myself/I seem like someone else” . . . or “I never thought I’d come to this/What’s it all about?”

Is that clichéd, that I’m thinking in old songs? Probably.

See this is what happens when I don’t write for three days, but I have all of these things running through my head, non-stop, full-speed. Without the ability to exorcise the moment of disillusion, it leeches energy from everything around it and grows until it takes on corporeal form—something very real that needs to be confronted, to be battled, to be handled and then filed away in the completed drawer, a drawer that does not, in fact, exist.

It’s like those old science fiction movies in which the hero meets the dark self, and the two fight with one another in some dark alley with a rain-soaked pavement, drops of water falling from the fire escape above their heads, the sound of empty cans and cats a backdrop to the violence taking place. And the hero always wins, well, most of the time, but not without losing something of himself along the way.

Yes. That’s exactly how it is. I think.

I am reminded of James Wright’s poem, “Lying In A Hammock At William Duffy’s Farm In Pine Island, Minnesota,” which ends with this line: “I have wasted my life.”

Peace.

“illabye” by Tipper