“More and more I found myself at a loss for words and didn’t want to hear other people talking either. Their conversations seemed false and empty. I preferred to look at the sea, which said nothing and never made you feel alone.” ~ Paula McLain, The Paris Wife

The Needles, Cannon Beach, Oregon
by Steven Pavlov (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“I am obsessed at nights with the idea of my own worthlessness, and if it were only to turn a light on to save my life I think I would not do it. These are the last footprints of a headache I suppose. Do you ever feel that? — like an old weed in a stream. What do you feel, lying in bed? I daresay you are visited by sublime thoughts. Dearest, do write to me; for I long for your words. Do tell me you wish to see me.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a letter to Vita Sackville-West dated 18 August 1929

Friday afternoon. Cloudy, drizzle, low 70’s.

Seaside Beach Oregon Sunset
by The Knowles Gallery (FCC)

It’s been a hellacious few days. My dog Shakes is not doing well. That I am alone in this, or rather, without Corey, is exacerbating the pain. I spent last night intermittently listening to him wheeze, a strange reassurance that he was still breathing. Sleep, when it came, was uneven and troubled.

We humans are a funny lot, what with our emotions, our needs, our desires. But I do not believe that we are the only sentient beings in existence. Each day, science reveals yet another way in which members of non-human species possess the ability to reason, the ability to care, the ability to protect. Sentience, though, is truly a double-edged sword: it makes us aware, even when remaining ignorant would be so much easier, even when an ability to emote sometimes results in feelings akin to being slammed against a cement wall, the wind knocked from our lungs.

Sentience is the price we pay for free will, I suppose, and sometimes, it is an exorbitant price.

I think that I finally understand that line from Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock”—”I should have been a pair of ragged claws scuttling across the floors of silent seas.” After all, if that were my only lot in life, I would not care about everything happening around me, would not be aware that the world is so much more—bad and good.

What you can’t get over,

You must get past. Through a haze of smoke and rum,
What’s left of me squints at the odds and ends.” ~ Elton Glaser, from “Downloading the Meltdown”

Of course, because I’m already vulnerable, I came across a Springsteen song that I had completely forgotten about—”If I Should Fall Behind.” Man, what a song. And because I have a very morose personality, such songs pierce my heart quite acutely, make me think about what ifs, whens. hows.

Sunset at Haystack Rock
by Wes Rogers (FCC)

The other day I was trying to tell Brett about the Big Man, Clarence Clemons, what a force he was, how he played the saxophone  like he had a direct pipeline to the gods. How Springsteen and Clemons were an incomparable duo. Man, I miss Clemons.

Music has always been one of my primary ways of reflecting my mood, but of course, this is a trait many humans share. Music has been a part of life far longer than most people realize. In 1995, a Slovenian archaeologist discovered a bone carving with evenly spaced holes. This carving, believed to be about 43,000 years old, was named the Divje Babe flute. Other flutes made of bird bone and mammoth ivory have been carbon-dated as being approximately the same age.

I find it fascinating that early humans integrated musical sounds into their societies for whatever reasons. It is entirely possible that we have sought sounds to soothe for millennia. And we are not alone. Consider whale songs—those intricate, long underwater melodies.

“What uniform can I wear to hide my heavy heart?
It is too heavy. It will always show.” ~ Jean Cocteau, from The Holy Terrors

Don’t really know how I got off on that particular tangent. My mind is not exactly cohesive of late. More often than not, I realize that I am sitting in front of this computer screen, and nothing is happening—no music, no words, just my wallpaper and icons.

An example of the state of my mind? Yesterday I went to pick up prescriptions. I got home with only one, even though I had paid for four, and didn’t realize it until hours later. I haven’t been back to get the others as that would take so much effort. Just writing about it makes me tired all over.

Haystack Rock Sunset, Oregon
by Gary Halvorson (Wikimedia Commons)

Actually, this post is making me tired all over. I don’t know that I’m getting anywhere, that I’m saying anything. If feels more like an exercise in futility. I’ll leave you with a few things that I’m pondering:

  • When will I be able to read again? I hate it when this happens, when I cannot still my mind enough to become absorbed in someone else’s words.
  • Which plot idea will I actually begin to work on when I start this project?
  • How long before I give up this project, convince myself yet again that I have nothing to say?
  • How will I ever make it through the upcoming holidays? The thought of getting the house ready, preparing the meals—it all makes me so very, very tired.
  • How can October be two-thirds over?
  • How will I ever find the energy to  make Brett’s costume for him?
  • How much of my life has been spent in dwelling on the imponderables?

“I would like a simple life
yet all night I am laying
poems away in a long box.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “The Ambition Bird

Just a few more . . .

  • I have no idea as to what kind of images I can pair with these words. Nothing fits.

    Oregon Coastal Sunset
    by Malcolm Carlaw (FCC)
  • My words feel hollow. I wonder if they read that way . . .
  • I’m already regretting signing up for NaNoWriMo.
  • At this very second, I have a spot almost in the middle of my scalp that feels like someone is picking at it with a sharp object.
  • I did not realize until now that I am squinting.
  • The last two items mean that a headache is coming.
  • Can I please just hide in my bedroom until the year is over?

(Decided that sunset on the Oregon coast seemed to fit somehow.)

Music from the Boss, “If I Should Fall Behind” (couldn’t pick my favorite version, so I posted both)

                   

The Forgotten Dialect Of The Heart

How astonishing it is that language can almost mean,
and frightening that it does not quite. Love, we say,
God, we say, Rome and Michiko, we write, and the words
get it all wrong. We say bread and it means according
to which nation. French has no word for home,
and we have no word for strict pleasure. A people
in northern India is dying out because their ancient
tongue has no words for endearment. I dream of lost
vocabularies that might express some of what
we no longer can. Maybe the Etruscan texts would
finally explain why the couples on their tombs
are smiling. And maybe not. When the thousands
of mysterious Sumerian tablets were translated,
they seemed to be business records. But what if they
are poems or psalms? My joy is the same as twelve
Ethiopian goats standing silent in the morning light.
O Lord, thou art slabs of salt and ingots of copper,
as grand as ripe barley lithe under the wind’s labor.
Her breasts are six white oxen loaded with bolts
of long-fibered Egyptian cotton. My love is a hundred
pitchers of honey. Shiploads of thuya are what
my body wants to say to your body. Giraffes are this
desire in the dark. Perhaps the spiral Minoan script
is not language but a map. What we feel most has
no name but amber, archers, cinnamon, horses, and birds.

~ Jack Gilbert

“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

“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)