“I feel all shadows of the universe multiplied deep inside my skin.” ~ Virginia Woolf

carnivalporthalfmooncayjpg.ashx
Carnival Port Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

                  

“I am subject to wind, the perambulations of the moon, the constellations, and anxiety.” ~ Rikki Ducornet, from The Complete Butcher’s Tales

Monday, late afternoon. Partly cloudy and warm, low 70’s.

Captain Corey
Captain Corey Relaxing on the Beach
L. Liwag

Well, here we are, fifteen days until Christmas. We got back from vacation Saturday night. I spent all day yesterday unpacking, organizing and doing tons of laundry. Alexis and Eamonn both denied agreeing to pick us up at the airport on Saturday, much in the same way they both denied agreeing to take us to the airport last Sunday. Neither of us were surprised; we took a taxi the few miles home.

Vacation was absolutely heaven, just the two of us, warm temperatures, blue water, sunny skies (except for one day). My lungs cleared; my cough disappeared; I had no headaches. I’ve been home two days and the nastiness in my chest is back; I awoke with a migraine, and the cough is making a full comeback. Mind over matter? The air? The temperature changes? Who knows . . .

Corey and I gave each other our vacation to the Bahamas as our Christmas present for the last five years. Actually, it’s been almost seven years since we went anywhere together, a very long time. We did a whole lot of nothing besides eating, relaxing, and being tourists. I cannot begin to tell you how much my mind and body needed the recharge before embarking upon another new year.

“How many years have slipped through our hands? 
At least as many as the constellations we still can identify. 
The quarter moon, like a light skiff,
 floats out of the mist-remnants
 Of last night’s hard rain. 
It, too, will slip through our fingers
 with no ripple, without us in it.” ~ Charles Wright

I will admit, though, that it took me a full 48 hours before I began to relax, well and truly relax. I kept thinking about things that needed to be done, bills, money, you name it. I kept feeling guilty for allowing us to do this. That old Puritan guilt that has shaped my life in oh so many ways. Now that we’re back, I still feel a bit guilty, but not nearly as much. Corey and I do and do and do for everyone else, mostly the kids, but we never do for ourselves. This past year was filled with family obligations, and I’m not complaining, but it’s nice to remember that we’re a couple who truly enjoys one another’s company, far away from the daily demands of family and life.

Carnival Ecstasy
Carnival Ecstasy at Anchor
L. Liwag

Unfortunately, I got a telephone call once we were back letting me know that my brother-in-law Patrick died on Wednesday. Patrick is my ex’s brother, but I have always been close to him; we’ve had a special relationship. Patrick is the one who was in a car accident years ago that left him a paraplegic who could not speak. He kept his mental faculties and his exceptional mind, but he was trapped in a body that no longer functioned on its own. Patrick was married to my German sis-in-law Helma.

He contracted bronchitis and went downhill quickly. Ann says that he went peacefully in his sleep, and for that I am so thankful.

To be honest, Patrick lived a much, much longer life than any of us ever thought that he would. After the accident, because he was so susceptible to illness and because he has had a couple of life-threatening bouts, we (the family) weren’t so sure he would even last a decade. The accident was in 1983. He lived almost three decades after.

“Light is meaningful only in relation to darkness, and truth presupposes error. It is these mingled opposites which people our life, which make it pungent, intoxicating.” ~ Louis Aragon, from Paris Peasant

So our homecoming was bittersweet. My ex and Ann will be flying to Germany for the memorial. I would like to go, but that’s not possible.

Swimming with the Fishes, Bahamas by cdorobek FCC
Swimming with the Fishes, Bahamas
by cdorobek (FCC)

Some of you may find my continued relationship with my ex’s family a bit strange, but truthfully, I was probably much closer to his mom and siblings than he was, and in my mind, I divorced him, not his family. Anyway, I feel fortunate to have such an extended family, the losses of the past 15 months notwithstanding.

So I am moving into this Christmas season filled with mixed emotions—not all that different from any other year, I suppose.

Last night my dreams included my dad, who was dressed up to go to some big government function, and I was a visitor staying at someone’s home, but the teenaged girls who lived in the home resented all of the company. I tried to talk to one of the young girls, to ask her who her heroes were, but she told me that she didn’t have any. I told her that everyone needs heroes. And in the dream, I was doing laundry . . .

“I go through phases. Somedays I feel like the person I’m supposed to be, and then somedays, I turn into no one at all. There is both me and my silhouette. I hope that on the days you find me and all I am are darkened lines, you still are willing to be near me.” ~ Mary Kate Teske

I will finish 2012 short of my reading goal of 60 books, even though in the past month I’ve read quite a few, and I will finish well short of my writing goal. I did not work on my stories at all while we were gone, even though I had plans to do so. I did finish two books, and I worked on my tan, obviously not as artistically productive, but hey, I didn’t get any sun this past summer.

Tugboat, Freeport Bahamas
Tugboat Water Spray, Freeport, Bahamas
C. Fickel

While we were on the ship, we did a little bit of karaoke, and boy, did I find out how out of shape my vocal chords are. Yikes. It was fun, and one night, I even sang with a band, but my performances were, shall we say, tepid at best. Who cares? I’m never going to see anyone on that ship again (although we did meet some people from the area). Singing again did make me hanker to get my voice back in shape We shall see, I suppose.

Let’s see, what else? A book I really want to read comes out tomorrow, and Peter Jackson’s new movie The Hobbit releases this week. I am anticipating the first and absolutely quivering with anticipation over the second. I still contend that I would be Peter Jackson’s gopher given the chance.

This week I hope to do holiday cards and perhaps to begin to decorate the house, although the warm temperatures do not exactly make me feel all wintery wonderland inside. Lex and Mike leave this weekend to visit his family in Mississippi for the holidays, which means that I will not see Olivia for 12 days. I have missed her tremendously in the past week and a half; I had hoped that Alexis would come by before we left, but alas, no.

“This morning, waking to unaccustomed calmness,
I write these words to stay in that silent, unfevered existence,
to delay the other words that are waiting.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “I Write These Words to Delay”

Before we left, I was looking through photographs for some reason, and I came across a photo of Shakes that we took before the family vacation in 2007. My suitcase was on the couch, and Shakes crawled inside and went to sleep. Obviously, he wanted to go with us. It was weird coming home to just the two dogs, no smelly fat boy to curl up against me my first night home.

Parasailing Half Moon Cay
Parasailing in Half Moon Cay, Bahamas

I did not take a lot of photographs while we were gone. In truth, there just wasn’t that much to shoot. We didn’t venture beyond the ports. Our afternoon on the private Half Moon Cay was delightful, though, and I got some nice shots of Corey and the water. Speaking of water, it was so clear that I watched schools of fish swim around me. It was heavenly just spending some leisurely moments doing nothing but idly paddling as the sun beat down. The air was clean and there were no sounds of traffic or sirens or whatever. I was able to shut out pretty much everything and just chill. I did kind of wish that I could go parasailing, though.

I think I had forgotten how to do that. Chilling is an art form that comes naturally to some people, and then for people like me who are wrapped too tightly most of the time, it is an acquired state of being. I wonder if I could live like that all of the time . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Julie Roberts, “Wake Up Older”

                

A Momentary Creed

I believe in the ordinary day
that is here at this moment and is me

I do not see it going its own way
but I never saw how it came to me

it extends beyond whatever I may
think I know and all that is real to me

it is the present that it bears away
where has it gone when it has gone from me

there is no place I know outside today
except for the unknown all around me

the only presence that appears to stay
everything that I call mine it lent me

even the way that I believe the day
for as long as it is here and is me

~ W. S. Merwin

 

“I have things in my head that are not like what anyone has taught me—shapes and ideas so near to me—so natural to my way of being and thinking that it hasn’t occurred to me to put them down.” ~ Georgia O’Keeffe

Iron-Rich Creek Bed
by Michael Melford, National Geographic*

                   

“The ear can detect a whole apocalypse in the starry night of the human body.” ~ Jean Cocteau, from “Opium: The Illustrated Diary of His Cure”

Sunday, late afternoon. Stormy and cool, high 50’s.

Random thoughts:

  • I make telephone calls to strangers at 3 a.m. (line from unfinished poem).
  • In the shower I realized that I do not use the word sardonic enough. Great word.

    Yellow Birch, Adirondacks
    by Michael Melford, National Geographic
  • I am wearing socks with penguins on them.
  • One pitfall to cooler weather is that my bones ache, especially the bones in my back and the base of my neck.
  • Remembered line, possibly from another unfinished poem: I am not your faithless remembrance.
  • Tillie the Lab does not understand why we cannot play outside in the rain and mud.
  • Jif peanut butter is like crack cocaine for my dogs. They know when I unscrew the lid.
  • I ran out of hot water in the shower today, which is particularly ironic as I told myself that I was going to take the hottest shower possible to try to help my back. Figures.
  • I ache—literally and figuratively—to take a long hot bath that smells of lavender or verbena.
  • Why did I not know about the television show “Haven” on the Sci Fy channel?
  • There was another line that came to me in the shower, but I waited too long to put it down, and now it has escaped into the ether, probably forever.
  • I have realized that I use the pause comma quite a lot.

“I’ve stepped onto the front porch to see
the stars perforating the milky black clouds

and the moon staring coldly through the trees,
but this negative I’m carrying inside me.” ~ Edward Hirsch, from “More than Halfway”

Serious thoughts:

  • My dog Shakes is getting worse, but he still has an appetite. When he stops eating, I’ll know, and I hope that I won’t be alone.

    Stream Reflection, South Africa
    by Maurits Van Wyk, Your Shot, National Geographic
  • In my dreams, I am visited by my father and my uncle, but not by Caitlin.
  • I worry that I am becoming obsessive in my love for Olivia.
  • In retrospect, I wish that my wedding bouquet had been a small spray of fresh lavender and herbs rather than the humongous white rose thing that I carried. That this still bothers me is problematic, for me only.
  • I feel Mari’s distance too keenly in October; her birthday was the 1st of the month; we did not speak.
  • Mari was the one person to whom I could say absolutely anything, or so I thought.
  • I miss friendship on a daily basis, comforting, like a mug of hot tea.
  • Am I too old now to still do the things that I long to do? When is it too late? When are we too old? When do we accept the halfway mark?

“hushed, hushed, the mountain
hidden deer, distant, calling
leaves falling, falling
I have no friend to see
and my heart grows cold” ~ Sugawara no Michizane, rewriting an anonymous Japanese tanka

Difficult thoughts:

  • The Eagles’ song “Wasted Time” hits too close to home.
  • I do not speak to my mother enough. I find it taxing, especially in this state of mind. Another check in the guilt column.

    Autumn Brook
    by Olegas Kurasovas, My Shot, National Geographic
  • I do not want to spend my entire life in this house in this city in this state, but I’m afraid that I may do so.
  • My life has become a series of milestones, good and bad, in other people’s lives, and that I have no control over this hangs heavy about my heart.
  • I am positive that when I spoke the the former chair of my department at the reading the other day, he had no idea as to who I was. I could see his eyes darting back and forth as if to try to grasp that thread, but it never came.
  • Am I the kind of person that is easily forgotten, and if so, why didn’t I know that before now?
  • I do not want to become bitter. I really, really do not want to become bitter, and I know that this is one reason that I do not spend more time with my mother.
  • I wonder sometime if anyone will leave stones at my grave, and then I remember that I want to be cremated.

“Tenderness does not choose its own uses.
It goes out to everything equally,
circling rabbit and hawk.
Look: in the iron bucket,
a single nail, a single ruby—
all the heavens and hells.
They rattle in the heart and make one sound.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, “Late Prayer”

Other thoughts:

  • I do not make these lists because I am lazy. That’s just how my mind works on some days—linear progression, one step at a time—and then in prose on other days.

    Leaves, Cascade Lake
    by Michael Melford, National Geographic
  • I learned to cook spaghetti when I was 14 from a recipe on a tomato sauce can. It’s gotten better since then.
  • I remember the name of the first boy on whom I had a crush, the name of the first boy I kissed, the name of my first love, but not their faces, well, except one, and he will forever be young and that summer color of milky coffee in my mind.
  • For a time I kept my journal on yellow legal pads. I have no idea what happened to them.
  • I have had an obsession with writing implements ever since I worked at the newspaper, a lifetime ago. I ordered the office supplies, and I kept a secret stash of pens in my bottom drawer.
  • Why did I remember that?
  • I once set out in the rain to walk to the cemetery from my house. I found a dog and brought him home. The other dogs were not amused.

“How invisibly
it changes color
in this world,
the flower
of the human heart.” ~ Ono no Komachi (trans. Jane Hirshfield)

Final thoughts:

  • The theme in today’s quotes happened quite by accident.

    Autumn Leaves, Japan
    by Michael Yamashita, National Geographic
  • On a show that I was watching on Discover ID, a woman was talking about how, when she learned that her sister had been murdered, how she felt her heart break. She said that she had heard this term many times, but never really knew that it was a physical thing. I knew exactly what she was talking about.
  • The human heart is such a powerful organ and such a tender vessel, a working muscle, yet the imagined seat of the soul. And in the middle of the night sometimes, I like to place my hand on Corey’s chest to feel the strong beats of his heart as he sleeps.
  • For some reason, I always think of two places when it rains: the mountains and London.
  • This is a very telling memory: Out of all of the songs in Mary Poppins, my favorite, even as a young girl, was “Feed the Birds.” It still makes me cry.
  • I’m thinking that I have no more thoughts.

More later. Peace.

*I probably spent more time looking for images than I did writing today. I just couldn’t pinpoint what I was trying to achieve with the images, went from paintings to black and white photography, finally landed on a combination of color and water, found everything on the National Geographic photography site.

Incredibly beautiful music by Martha Wainwright, “Prosperina” (her mother’s last song, can’t believe I’ve never heard of her)

                   

Tear It Down

We find out the heart only by dismantling what
the heart knows. By redefining the morning,
we find a morning that comes just after darkness.
We can break through marriage into marriage.
By insisting on love we spoil it, get beyond
affection and wade mouth-deep into love.
We must unlearn the constellations to see the stars.
But going back toward childhood will not help.
The village is not better than Pittsburgh.
Only Pittsburgh is more than Pittsburgh.
Rome is better than Rome in the same way the sound
of racoon tongues licking the inside walls
of the garbage tub is more than the stir
of them in the muck of the garbage. Love is not
enough. We die and are put into the earth forever.
We should insist while there is still time. We must
eat through the wildness of her sweet body already
in our bed to reach the body within the body.

~ Jack Gilbert (Found this on Dragonfly’s Poetry & Prolixity)

“We must leave evidence. Evidence that we were here, that we existed, that we survived and loved and ached. Evidence of the wholeness we never felt and the immense sense of fullness we gave to each other. Evidence of who we were, who we thought we were, who we never should have been. Evidence for each other that there are other ways to live—past survival; past isolation.” ~ Mia Mingus

The Milky Way above a Volcanic Crater, Somuncura, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)*

“How fragile we are, between the few good moments.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “Vinegar and Oil”

Saturday, early evening. Showers and much cooler temperatures.

So . . . long time no real post. One week, actually. So what’s new with you?

To the Stars, Buenos Aires, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)

I did manage to post the really big news in my life this past week, which is that my computer is back home, new motherboard and graphics card installed, and it did not cost me a fortune as I did not take it back to the geek squad or whatever they are called at Best Buy. Instead, I took it in to a local computer repair place, and the guy there was wonderful and more than reasonable. I will be taking all future problems to his store, for certain.

The other big news is that I’ve spent just about every day with Alexis and Olivia, much to the chagrin of my boys at home—all of them—and the sole other female in the abode, Tillie the Lab. As a result, I’m feeling tugged in a million different directions at once. I want to help Alexis get adjusted, and I want to spend these early days with Olivia, but I am also missing being at home and having some semblance of a routine.

Then, to make everything a thousand times more complicated, Corey got a departure date: this coming Wednesday. I am more than a little discombobulated.

“ . . . there is luxury in being quiet in the heart of chaos.” ~  Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 23 June 1927

I simply cannot fathom that he will be leaving for three months again in just a few short days. We haven’t even gone on a date since he’s been home as the baby’s arrival threw everything out of kilter, and he’s been spending his days trying to tame the wilderness that is our backyard. Now he’s scheduled to leave, and I feel as if we haven’t spent any time together.

Little Boat on the River, in Zárate, Buenos Aires, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)

My middle name is guilt.

I wonder how I balanced all things when I was working full time. Was everyone so needy then? I’ve been coming home from spending time at Lex’s apartment, and then I do dishes and laundry here and try not to let myself just fall on the bed in a sweaty, exhausted pile of nothingness. The weather certainly hasn’t helped with heat index temperatures above 100 degrees and 150 percent humidity (at least that’s how it feels).

I feel as though even the Beta (Capt. Jack Harkness) is giving me the evil eye for neglecting him. Is it possible to spoil a pet fish?

“It’s odd how the objects of our lives
Continue to not define us,
no matter how close we hold them unto us.
Odd how the narrative of those lives is someone else’s narrative.” ~  Charles Wright, from “Bees Are the Terrace Builders of the Stars”

So all of the big plans to see movies together, to eat sushi, and everything else . . . these things now have to be crammed into a few days.

Lobos Lagoon, Buenos Aires, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)

Of course, I also need to spend time scanning and printing photographs of the baby as my mother is demanding pictures to send to relatives. Pictures need to be inserted into thank you notes. The computer’s hard drive needs major cleaning as I made duplicate backups of my files when it seemed that everything would be lost, and consequently, I have way to0 much duplicate data.

I need to go through two weeks of unopened mail, because, well, no one else has done it, and a million other things that are demanding my attention. At least the OB cleared Alexis to drive at yesterday’s appointment, not that that means much as she is still quite uncertain of herself and her ability to do thing with the baby by herself.

I know that my daughter is not a clone of myself, nor do I expect her to be, but I think back on when I gave birth the first time, and how alone I was in everything. My ex went back to work immediately, did not take a day off work, and there I was in our townhouse in Alexandria trying to learn how to be a mother for the first time. Daunting, but nothing that millions upon millions of women haven’t been doing for millennia. Still, I found then and subsequently that motherhood came quite naturally to me. I was fortunate in that, I know.

I guess I am aware of her mental and emotional fragility and want to ease the transition as much as possible.

“The edge is what I have.” ~  Theodore Roethke

Still, I find myself torn and divided and feeling as if there is no time to do the things that I want to do, like write my posts, or reacquaint myself with this wonderful machine with the huge monitor, sort out my desk, clear off my nightstand. I feel as if everything that I want to do for myself has been placed on that proverbial back burner until everyone else is taken care of, in as much as possible.

Twilight on the Rocks, Miramar, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)

For instance: Eamonn is on a new tear about wanting a double bed; consequently, I need to be on the lookout NOW for good buys on mattresses. The dogs’ nails need to be clipped, and Alfie the Insane has developed another bump on his face underneath his left eye. Brett has been nagging both Corey and me to address the Internet issues plaguing our home network (as in it is painfully slow), and his fall semester is coming up, and we still haven’t found the funds to pay for the two summer school classes that he has taken. Corey’s unemployment still hasn’t kicked in for the time that he’s been home, and his phone, which he dropped into water, is not working and needs to be fixed before he leaves. Not to mention that neither I nor Brett have had our eye appointments yet. I need to make an appointment to have the new tires put on the Rodeo so that I can get the damned thing inspected before I get a ticket. and I need to stop by the local urgent care to get my TDAP shot, which I promised Lex I would get . . .

. . . and on and on and on . . .

And in between I try to keep myself bathed and try to remember to take my own medication, even as in the back of my mind I have the Social Security Administration’s form to complete, which should have been done months ago, and my disability provider leaving messages on my phone.

Have I brushed my teeth today?

“I want to tear myself from this place, from this reality, rise up like a cloud and float away, melt into this humid summer night and dissolve somewhere far, over the hills. But I am here, my legs blocks of concrete, my lungs empty of air, my throat burning. There will be no floating away.” ~  Khaled Hosseini, from The Kite Runner

Bitch, bitch, bitch . . . moan, moan, moan.

Jetty Blues, Buenos Aires, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)

Truthfully, though, there has never been anything in my life coming close to a happy medium. It has always been feast or famine. But currently? I am at a loss as to how I should even begin to approach this Everest.

Breathe deeply, realize that there is not enough air, try again.

I know that this post is colored in large part by the migraine with which I awoke early this morning, the residual effects of which are still creeping about my eyes. I’ve had a headache every day for the last two and a half weeks, mostly because of the heat, but it morphed into a full-blown, brutal migraine finally, and I was reluctant to wake Corey to help me as he has not been able to get to sleep for four nights in a row.

Everyone is stressed, not just me. I know that, but the environs resemble a pressure cooker about to blow, and I really want to avoid that at any cost. Unfortunately, my OCD which came back with a vengeance a few months ago will not allow me to let even one thing go, let one thing slide until later.

“I want to be with those who know secret things or else alone.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from A Book for the Hours of Prayer (trans. Robert Bly)

Sorry my first real post in a week is nothing but line after line of whinging. Allow me to switch tacks for a moment . . . good things:

  • Olivia is an adorable baby with a very calm demeanor. There are moments in which her facial expressions so keenly resemble her mother’s when she was a baby that I am lost in time.
  • My BOSE computer speakers are connected, allowing me to enjoy streaming music.
  • My new Logitech mouse that Brett got me for Christmas is very cool, a vast improvement over what I have been using, exactly what I’ve been wanting.
Selene at the Sea, Mar de Las Pampas, Buenos Aires, AR
by Irargerich (FCC)
  • We’ve gotten a break in the sweltering temperatures and agonizing humidity.
  • I stumbled upon a new blog that features really great photographs.
  • I can open Photoshop on this computer without everything locking up.
  • I can finally get back to visiting my blog community on a more regular basis.
  • I no longer have to listen to Eamonn complain that I’m invading his space by using the computer in his room.
  • I am getting familiar with my new workspace, and I’m fairly certain that I can make this work comfortably.
  • I can tell my mother that I’m feeding/changing/rocking the baby and end telephone conversations much more quickly . . .

So, enough for now. Hope to be back to regular posting.

More later. Peace.

*All images are taken from Irargerich’s photosets on Flickr (creative commons)

Music by Gotye, “Hearts a Mess”

                   

Keeping Quiet

Now we will count to twelve
and we will all keep still
for once on the face of the earth,
let’s not speak in any language;
let’s stop for a second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fishermen in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about…

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with
death.

Now I’ll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

~ Pablo Neruda