“The heavenly solitude, the pacifying trees, the blue night that was a good counsellor, the peace of wild animals—” ~ Colette, from Claudine and Annie

Orage vu de Petit-Croix by Thomas Bresson (FCC)

But this is the very condition of existence. To become spring, means accepting the risk of winter. To become presence, means accepting the risk of absence . . .” ~ Antoine de Saint Exupéry, from The Little Prince

Monday afternoon, partly sunny, 82 degrees.

Well yesterday was interesting. Temperatures in Roanoke were hotter, and the AC in the truck doesn’t work; by the time we got home, my eyes were dry and hurting from the wind coming in the windows. We picked up the two female Nubian goats. They already have names: Sylvia and Roberta. Sylvia I can handle, but Roberta? Never liked that name. She’s young enough that maybe we can switch her name to Bobby. We’ll see.

Unfortunately, Sylvia had her babies prematurely, and neither survived. One died on Saturday, and the other died before we got there yesterday. Bobby is still pregnant, so we’re hoping that everything goes okay with her. The woman from whom we bought them says that she thinks it may have been a mineral deficiency. As Bobby is Sylvia’s daughter, we know that Sylvia can have successful pregnancies, so at least there’s that.

All of the animals were worked up by the time we got home. Tillie and Bailey went for each other, but luckily, Corey and I were both on hand to break it up. Roland is hoarse today, so he must have been bleating for hours, which makes me feel guilty, but we couldn’t take him with us because we thought we’d be bringing a baby goat home. At the moment, Roland thinks that he’s one of the dogs; it will be interesting once he’s bigger to see if he still acts the same way—i.e., wanting to take an afternoon nap on the couch.

“Not only rational and irrational, but even inanimate creatures have a voice, and speak loudly to men, and it is our duty to learn their language, and hearken to them.” ~ Ralph Austen, from The Spiritual Use of an Orchard or Garden of Fruit Trees

We’ve learned that the temperatures here on the ridge tend to be a bit cooler than surrounding areas. I think that it’s because we’re pretty much situated in a bowl, so we always have a good breeze. The downside is that breeze can really be a fierce wind at times. We’ve been discussing shelter issues for the outside animals, and we had talked about one of those metal buildings, but I’m afraid that if it isn’t fixed properly, the wind will just pick it up and drop it.

Thunderstorm in Victoria by Ryk Neethling (FCC)

More than once we’ve wished that we could have a barn building like the Amish. Remember that beautiful scene from the Harrison Ford movie Witness? But we’re missing one or two of the key components for such a thing: people and lumber.

Ah me . . .

Yesterday, just as we were getting ready to leave for Roanoke, Dallas showed up. I knew that he would because Corey had slipped and told him that we were going to Roanoke. I was afraid that he’d come while we were gone to try to take Sassy back, but he didn’t bring the horse trailer. Instead, he said that he was coming to fish in the ponds, which is fine, as long as he doesn’t try to take back the last horse that we have.

“I must wash myself clean with abstract thoughts, transparent as water.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from Nausea

I took the opportunity of having him in front of me to confront Dallas about still having Napoleon, but he claims that he still needs him for stud. Originally, he had told me that he’d only have Napoleon for two weeks, but I should know by now that he just tells you what he thinks you want to hear and that the truth rarely escapes his lips. I did tell him that Sassy is lonely as horses need the company of other horses, and I pointed out how overgrown the pasture is getting, so he ultimately agreed to bring over some more horses. We’ll just have to see, I suppose.

Storm over Cayuga by Adam Baker (FCC)

Look, I know that technically, the horses belong to him; I’m not unaware of the reality. But we take much better care of the animals that are here than he ever could, not to mention the fact that when he first brought the horses here, he said that he was giving them to me. But again, it’s the matter of him saying one thing while meaning something completely different. We’ve learned that he has a habit of taking things back when he gets mad at someone; he’s done it repeatedly with different people—he giveth and then he taketh away.

Dallas is a prime example of being both a boon and a curse. And quite frankly, we’ve had way to many curses in the last few years. I tire of them. I tire of never getting ahead, never making forward progress.

“Animals, at least, don’t experience fear until it’s upon them, immediately. But our nerve reactions can convey worry about the future, until the fear insinuates itself into the present, into everything.” ~ Sylvia Plath, from a letter to Eddie Cohen, September 11, 1950

We hit rain on the way home even though the forecast had not called for any, and then as we neared the ridge, it was apparent that there had been a big storm while we were gone. I think that’s part of the reason the dogs were so riled when we got home. Tillie is very afraid of storms, especially if no one is around to comfort her, and I think that Bailey senses that unease.

Storm by Jim Sorbie (FCC)

As we came down the drive, the trees were heavy with rain. So everything was close to the sides of the drive, almost as it was the first time that we came to the ridge, and everything was so overgrown. At least the gas company fixed the part of the drive that had washed out, but they just cut into the side of the mountain, which is essentially compacted soil, so it’s a temporary fix at best. The next big wind and rain storm will undoubtedly wash out more. It would be nice if they’d build up the embankment with rock, but unfortunately, we have no control over what they do with the drive.

I saw the big excavator that the company had parked on the side after carving more of the mountain side on the drive, and I told Corey that it’s too bad that we don’t know how to hot wire it and use it for a few days. We could scoop up some of the loose gravel that’s around the wells and dump it on the drive. Or we could dig out a hole for an in-ground pool. I’ve always wanted to drive something like an excavator—how awesome would that be? It’s an interesting fantasy.

“The sky is lowering and black, a strange blue-blackness, which makes red houses pink, and green leaves purple. Over the blowing purple trees, the sky is an iron-blue, split with forks of straw-yellow. The thunder breaks out of the sky with a crash, and rumbles away in a long, hoarse drag of sound.” ~ Amy Lowell, from “Before the Storm (III)”

This morning the dogs were doing their fierce, alert barks, and Corey looked out the window to see a bear in the pasture again. Oddly enough, Sassy didn’t seem to be afraid of it. She was at the trough and took a few steps towards the bear. I’m hoping that it’s the same bear and not another one. Knowing that one bear is nearby is unnerving enough; I’d hate to have to wonder about several.

I do wonder, though, where he or she was hibernating; I’m hoping the bear is male because a female with cubs can be very vicious when in protection mode. We haven’t really come upon any caves in our walks, but I would imagine that there have to be some around here. Here’s hoping the dogs will be enough to keep the bear from coming too close. Corey says that Llamas and Alpacas are good to have for herd protection. That’s something to think about for the future.

Thunderstorm over Nevada by Stuart Seeger (FCC)

The future is something I don’t really want to think about at the moment. We find ourselves in a precarious position yet again, and truthfully, I’m really tired of living this way, never really knowing how we’re going to survive, pay the bills. The fear of losing everything yet again never seems to be far away, and the really weird aspect of all of this is that I know that we make more money than many people around here, and trust me when I say that living on my disability is not making a lot of money.

Again, I know that if we can survive the year, that things will change, that getting started on a farm is precarious at best, but damn I’m tired of precarious. I’m tired of always worrying. I suppose I’m just tired, but who isn’t any more?

More later. Peace.


Music by Welshly Arms, “Legendary”


The Trees are Down

—and he cried with a loud voice:
Hurt not the earth, neither the sea, nor the trees—
(Revelation)

They are cutting down the great plane-trees at the end of the gardens.
For days there has been the grate of the saw, the swish of the branches as they fall,
The crash of the trunks, the rustle of trodden leaves,
With the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas,’ the loud common talk, the loud common laughs of the men, above it all.
I remember one evening of a long past Spring
Turning in at a gate, getting out of a cart, and finding a large dead rat in the mud of the drive.
I remember thinking: alive or dead, a rat was a god-forsaken thing,
But at least, in May, that even a rat should be alive.
The week’s work here is as good as done. There is just one bough
   On the roped bole, in the fine grey rain,
             Green and high
             And lonely against the sky.
                   (Down now!—)
             And but for that,
             If an old dead rat
Did once, for a moment, unmake the Spring, I might never have thought of him again.
It is not for a moment the Spring is unmade to-day;
These were great trees, it was in them from root to stem:
When the men with the ‘Whoops’ and the ‘Whoas’ have carted the whole of the whispering loveliness away
Half the Spring, for me, will have gone with them.
It is going now, and my heart has been struck with the hearts of the planes;
Half my life it has beat with these, in the sun, in the rains,
             In the March wind, the May breeze,
In the great gales that came over to them across the roofs from the great seas.
             There was only a quiet rain when they were dying;
             They must have heard the sparrows flying,
And the small creeping creatures in the earth where they were lying—
             But I, all day, I heard an angel crying:
             ‘Hurt not the trees.’

~ Charlotte Mew

“The truth is, I pretend to be a cynic, but I am really a dreamer who is terrified of wanting something she may never get.” ~ Joanna Hoffman

The wild horses of David Thompson Country, Alberta, by kevinmklerks (FCC)
“I know I have conquered nothing
I have simply outgrown everything” ~ James Broughton, from “Aglow in Nowhere”

Wednesday afternoon. Party cloudy and cold with melting snow, 27 degrees.

So the house is quiet, just me, the dogs, and the (now) two cats. We acquired a new black girl cat with topaz eyes a few weeks ago. She took a few days to actually come to the door, another couple to come inside, and another few to let me touch her. Now, though, she has made herself quite at home, spending most afternoons curled up on an old flannel duvet cover in front of one of the heaters. Her name is Cleo because of the very exotic looking eyes.

Irish Horses by martie1swart (FCC)

Most certainly, she was someone’s pet as her coat is in good shape, but she was definitely too skinny when she arrived on our back porch, which probably means that she’s been missing for a bit.  Around here, that doesn’t often mean much—no one has come looking for her that we know of; of course, they’d have to be very dedicated to make it up the mountain to look here.

We’ve seen so many seemingly stray animals since moving to the mountains—cats, dogs, horses, donkeys. I had read stories for years about how people just abandon animals on or near land in the country that looks occupied, thinking that surely the landowners will take in the stray, but that just doesn’t always happen.

This area is so different from the city. There are many people out of work, and there really isn’t work to be hand anywhere nearby, so families aren’t so eager to take on more responsibilities. That, and many of the animals that we’ve seen that do belong to someone just look underfed, not anything like our spoiled rotten crew with the shiny coats and rib cages hidden within well-fed bodies. I try not to judge, but it’s hard because I’m so damned judgmental. I want to take in all of the strays and feed them until they have bellies full, but I suppose baby steps for now.

My new motto.

“Eat, sleep, sleep, eat. Exist slowly, softly, like these trees, like a puddle of water, like the red bench in the streetcar.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from Nausea

So I said that I’d tell you more about the horses, and so I will, but it’s not a short tale. But first, an aside: I’m writing on my laptop, the one that Corey gave me several Christmases ago. It’s a lovely little thing, but I still miss my desktop with the wide screen and the very clicky keyboard. My fingernails keep catching on these close together keys. I know. I’m analog . . .

But I digress . . .

Galloping Horses by Clint__Budd (FCC)

Horses. A few weeks after we finally moved here permanently after many fits and starts, Corey met a local guy, a neighbor a few miles down the road. His name is Dallas, and he’s a native, so native that he actually spent some of his youth in this house on this ridge. Fate is funny, huh?

Anyway, Dallas is as much of a character as you would imagine someone named Dallas would be, and the first time we met he offered me horses, puppies, and a stove. He’s one of those kinds of people: If he has something that you want or need, he’ll offer it to you. Well, so far, no puppy yet (promised), nor a stove as we didn’t really need one, but the four mares arrived a few days ago. It’s an arrangement that works for everyone: we have quite a bit of grazing pasture with nothing as yet to graze; his grazing land is getting sparse for the number of animals that he has. Apparently, I can expect to see at least two more, stallions this time, along with a selection of saddles.

I wouldn’t call Dallas a hoarder because he isn’t one, but he is a collector—not one saddle, but a dozen, not one dog, but 14. I think that’s what I like about him. I collect books, nail polish, and makeup; he collects pretty much everything else.

“The mountains have valleys
and I have thoughts.
They stretch out
until fog and until no roads.” ~ Yehuda Amichai, from “Poems for a Woman”

The first time Dallas came to call, he arrived on a big John Deere tractor, which he then proceeded to use to clear a huge section of our land. Before this, Corey had been doing his best with a ride-on mower, which worked for some areas, but not the really overgrown ones. We had both been quite down about not purchasing our own tractor before we encountered the bounty of Dallas. When we left Norfolk, we had much less money in our account than we had hoped for, which meant that the purchases of a tractor, and a new washer and dryer were not going to materialize any time in the near (or possibly far) future.

Brittany Horse by girolame FCC

Then in rode Dallas. And that first day he bushwhacked and mowed and whatever else you do on a tractor, and then he made Corey get on the tractor and spent the next few hours complaining that Corey wasn’t going fast enough, so Dallas kicked Corey off. Since that first day, the tractor and Dallas and Corey have been constant companions. Because of his eyes, Dallas isn’t supposed to be driving (operative phrase being supposed to), so Corey drives Dallas around and then gets introduced to all kinds of people, and in turn, Dallas comes over and clears the land, which had become horribly overgrown and impassable in places. There’s a lot of land, in case I hadn’t mentioned.

As for me? I sit around and watch and offer running commentary. Bailey still barks at Dallas like he’s a stranger, but Tillie loves him, so much so that she knocked him into the small pond while he was fishing. He thought that was hilarious, which immediately endeared him to me. Oh yeah, two ponds, one small and one much bigger, too.

“As life runs on, the road grows strange with faces new—and near the end, the milestones into headstones change, ‘neath every one a friend.” ~ James Russell Lowell

So that’s the story of the horses and Dallas. As for the puppies, he has a litter of five girls and one boy, of dubious heritage, but they definitely have some retriever in them, so I want one. The plan was always for me to get at least two more dogs once we got here. Initially, that was so that I wouldn’t be lonely when Corey went to sea, but it looks like

Cold Horses by grongar (FCC)

Corey may have become a permanent landlubber in favor of farming. I’m not really sure how I feel about that. It’s not that I want him to be gone; more, it’s that I’m afraid that he’ll regret not going some day.

I mean, he’s been over more than half the world and seen so many things, and I know that he really loved doing that. I also know that he was very proud of his accomplishments as a merchant marine, which he had every right to be. Being permanently landlocked, not seeing the ocean, any ocean or any sea again? I would miss that it if were me—in fact I do miss living near the Chesapeake bay and the Atlantic Ocean, but it’s not me. Only time will tell on that front, and there is much here to keep him occupied.

“Always, always you recede through the evenings
toward the twilight erasing statues.” ~ Pablo Neruda, from “Clenched Soul,” trans. W. S. Merwin

That’s a brief synopsis of the past few months here. Lots more details, but enough for now. I am making an efforts to go walking on the property as much as possible. The recent cold has put a temporary halt to that. And you’ll be happy to hear (or not so much, who knows?) that I no longer spend most days in my bedroom. It’s a smaller house, but I manage to frequent all of the rooms! Gasp! Yep, I know, small things . . .

Icelandic Horses by Machine is Organic FCC

Anyway, I’m not doing so much as far as getting out and about, but that’s actually not just my choice. The first time we left the house, we met Bailey on the driveway on the way home; the driveway is almost two miles long. She had pushed out the screen of the open bedroom window and apparently went searching for us. The second time we left the house we closed all of the windows. When we got inside, we saw that she had pulled off the molding on the bottom of the bedroom window and had somehow begun to dig through the masonry. She is a dog with serious abandonment issues.

I haven’t left the house without her since then, but it doesn’t make too much difference at the moment because she’s fine in the car, and I don’t go that many places anyway. Still kind of a hermit. I suppose we all have things to work on here, huh?

So that’s all for now. Even though I started this post in the afternoon, it’s now almost 6 p.m., time to feed the dogs and perhaps bathe the blogger. The evening skies have cleared, but the temps have dropped to 25 degrees. Time to publish my first real post with quotes, images, music, and a poem in what? Years? Well . . . it’s about time, no?

More later. Peace.


Music by Lorde, “Writer in the Dark” (so phenomenal to be so young)


Other Horses
I wept in a stable.
I found money in the dirt.
I reenacted a car accident in the tack room.
I asked a horse van driver to let me off where the bridle path stopped.
I looked at the jockey for what he was dreaming.
I told him he was wrong about making things happen.
He couldn’t make things happen.
I couldn’t make things happen anymore.
There is exactly not enough money in the world.
Magical thinking got me where I am today.
Animals are warriors of time.
I stopped keeping things hidden.
That wasn’t a horse we saw in the winner’s circle.
I can’t stop horses as much as you can’t stop horses.
Source: Poetry (June 2015)

“I began my life as I shall no doubt end it: amidst books.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from The Words: The Autobiography of Jean-Paul Sartre

Reading Bingo Card
Reading Bingo Card
Challenge: Post your results in the comments section, if you like.

How Well Do You Know The Opening Lines Of Famous Books?

Saturday evening. Partly cloudy and warmer, 50 degrees.

Yesterday for a while it felt like this migraine was finally going away completely . . . then I woke up this morning, and . . . you guessed it . . . headache BACK!

Another short one just to let you know that I’m still alive. I found this quiz on BuzzFeed, and I’m hoping the book lovers out there will enjoy it as much as I did. Try to ignore the misspelling of Anna Karenina and the fact that they have put the book titles in quotations instead of italics.

Here is a sample:

  • Emma, by Jane Austen
  • David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
  • Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov
  • Anna Karenina, by Leo Tolstoy

Let me know how you did in the comments section.

                   

I am also including a bit from an essay by Dylan Thomas, called “Notes on the Art of Poetry.” Over the years, extracts from this essay have been melded into a poem of sorts, but I like it better in its original prose form (click here to read in its entirety). Thomas wrote the essay in 1951 in response to a query from a college student hoping to learn more about craft. Here is my selection:

. . . What I like to do is treat words as a craftsman does his wood or stone or what-have-you, to hew, carve, mould, coil, polish and plane them into patterns, sequences, sculptures, fugues of sound expressing some lyrical impulse, some spiritual doubt or conviction, some dimly-realised truth I must try to reach and realise.) . . . I read indiscriminately, and with my eyes hanging out. I could never have dreamt that there were such goings-on in the world between the covers of books, such sand-storms and ice-blasts of words, such slashing of humbug, and humbug too, such staggering peace, such enormous laughter, such and so many blinding bright lights breaking across the just-awaking wits and splashing all over the pages in a million bits and pieces all of which were words, words, words, and each of which was alive forever in its own delight and glory and oddity of light.

. . . All that matters about poetry is the enjoyment of it, however tragic it may be. All that matters is the eternal movement behind it, the vast undercurrent of human grief, folly, pretension, exaltation, or ignorance, however unlofty the intention of the poem.

. . . You’re back with the mystery of having been moved by words. The best craftsmanship always leaves holes and gaps in the works of the poem so that something that is not in the poem can creep, crawl, flash, or thunder in.

More later. Peace.

                    

Music by Tom Odell, “Long Way Down”

 

 

 

 

Two for Tuesday: Remembering


“Anything, anything would be better than this agony of mind, this creeping pain that gnaws and fumbles and caresses one and never hurts quite enough.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from No Exit And Three Other Plays

Tuesday evening. Partly cloudy and cold, 36 degrees.

Yes. It’s 38 degrees outside, and yesterday, it was 73, and my body is rebelling as it only knows how: I hurt all over, from my head to my feet. Last night I fell asleep while Corey and I were watching something on our very long dvr queue, and then I suddenly awoke at 2 a.m. and was unable to find asleep again until sometimes after 5.

"Moon Vase" (detail, c1885, earthenware with glaze)
“Moon Vase” (detail, c1885, earthenware with glaze)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

I ran out of one of the meds that I take at bedtime day before yesterday, but I wasn’t too worried as I didn’t think that missing one or two nights would be that big of a deal. Apparently, my body thought otherwise. I had always believed that RLS (restless leg syndrome) was something made up by pharmaceutical companies to sell one more drug. However, try telling that to your brain when your legs jitter uncontrollably, and when they are not jittering, they are aching.

I had mentioned this to my pain doctor last year, and he said that it was classic symptoms of RLS and that my meds should take care of it. Well, they did, and then, apparently, the one I was without happened to be the one that did the most (does any of that make sense?).

“Then suddenly you’re left all alone
with your body that can’t love you
and your will that can’t save you.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, from “To the younger brother”

So anyway, spent hours online today trying to find the right part for our shower, something to alleviate the hammering that happens whenever the water is turned to hot. Apparently hammering is the correct term, something I found out after putting lots of different words into the search box to try to pinpoint exactly what was happening. Corey had thought that it was knocking pipes, but not so.

Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer Eve 1896 Pastel and gouache with gold
“Eve” (1896, pastel and gouache with gold)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

We should have known that buying a knockoff brand for the shower faucet would come back to bite us in the butt, and it did. So, replacing parts after only a year—such a pain. Add to that the fact that we have to replace parts in my mother’s old shower as Brett says that it leaks like crazy. I’m fairly certain that the faucets in that particular bathroom are original equipment, if you can believe that.

And we are on the downside of November, a few days from a week until Thanksgiving, and holy crap. Where has this year gone. I mean this one, in particular, has completely bypassed weeks at a time, until now I only have one more page left on my calendar, and I find myself completely unprepared for next year.

So what else is new?

More later. Peace.

Today’s images are by French artist Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer, whose works include paintings, drawings, ceramics, furniture and interior design. I was especially taken with his burnt orange and gold works, brilliant in his paintings and in his ceramics.


Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer La Bourrasque  The Gust of Wind pastel on paper 1897
“La Bourrasque” (1897, pastel on paper)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

The Ruins of Timoleague Abbey

I am gut sad.

I am flirting
with the green waves,
wandering the sand,
feeding reflection
into the seaweed foam.

That Shaker’s moon
is up.
Crested by corn-colored stars
and traced by those witchy scribblers
who read the bone-smoke.

No wind at all —
no flutter
for foxglove or elm.

There is a church door.

In the time
when the people
of  my hut lived,

there was eating and thinking
dished out to the poor
and the soul-sick in this place.

I am in my remembering.

By the frame of  the door
is a crooked black bench.

It is oily with history
of the rumps of sages,
and the foot-sore
who lingered in the storm.

I am bent with weeping.
This blue dream
chucks the salt
from me.

I remember
the walls god-bright
with the king’s theology,

the slow chorus
of  the low bell,
the full hymn
of  the byre and field.

Pathetic hut.
Rain-cracked and wind-straddled.
Your walls bare-nubbed
by chill flagons
of ocean spit.

The saints are scattered.
The high gable
is an ivy tangle.
The stink of fox
is the only swinging incense.

There is no stew
for this arriving prodigal,
no candled bed.

My kin
lie under the ground
of this place.

My shape
is sloughed with grief.
No more red tree
between my thighs.
My eyes are milk.
Rage my pony.

My face has earnt
the grim mask.
My heart a husky gore.

But my hand. My hand
reaches through this sour air
and touches
the splendid darkness
of my deliverer.

~ Seán Ó Coileáin, trans. Tony Hoagland and Martin Shaw

                   

Lucien Levy-Dhurmer La Bourrasque Gust of Wind oil on canvas1896
“La Bourrasque” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Lucien Lévy-Dhurmer

In the Park

This is the life I wanted, and could never see.
For almost twenty years I thought that it was enough:
That real happiness was either unreal, or lost, or endless,
And that remembrance was as close to it as I could ever come.
And I believed that deep in the past, buried in my heart
Beyond the depth of sight, there was a kingdom of peace.
And so I never imagined that when peace would finally come
It would be on a summer evening, a few blocks away from home
In a small suburban park, with some children playing aimlessly
In an endless light, and a lake shining in the distance.

Eventually, sometime around the middle of your life,
There’s a moment when the first imagination begins to wane.
The future that had always seemed so limitless dissolves,
And the dreams that used to seem so real float up and fade.
The years accumulate; but they start to take on a mild,
Human tone beyond imagination, like the sound the heart makes
Pouring into the past its hymns of adoration and regret.
And then gradually the moments quicken into life,
Vibrant with possibility, sovereign, dense, serene;
And then the park is empty and the years are still.

I think the saddest memory is of a kind of light,
A kind of twilight, that seemed to permeate the air
For a few years after I’d grown up and gone away from home.
It was limitless and free. And of course I was going to change,
But freedom means that only aspects ever really change,
And that as the past recedes and the future floats away
You turn into what you are. And so I stayed basically the same
As what I’d always been, while the blond light in the trees
Became part of my memory, and my voice took on the accents
Of a mind infatuated with the rhetoric of farewell.

And now that disembodied grief has gone away.
It was a flickering, literary kind of sadness,
The suspension of a life between two other lives
Of continual remembrance, between two worlds
In which there’s too much solitude, too much disdain.
But the sadness that I felt was real sadness,
And this elation now a real tremor as the deepening
Shadows lengthen upon the lake. This calm is real,
But how much of the real past can it absorb?
How far into the future can this peace extend?

I love the way the light falls over the suburbs
Late on these summer evenings, as the buried minds
Stir in their graves, the hearts swell in the warm earth
And the soul settles from the air into its human home.
This is where the prodigal began, and now his day is ending
In a great dream of contentment, where all night long
The children sleep within tomorrow’s peaceful arms
And the past is still, and suddenly we turn around and smile
At the memory of a vast, inchoate dream of happiness,
Now that we know that none of it is ever going to be.

Don’t you remember how free the future seemed
When it was all imagination? It was a beautiful park
Where the sky was a page of water, and when we looked up,
There were our own faces, shimmering in the clear air.
And I know that this life is the only real form of happiness,
But sometimes in its midst I can hear the dense, stifled sob
Of the unreal one we might have known, and when that ends
And my eyes are filled with tears, time seems to have stopped
And we are alone in the park where it is almost twenty years ago
And the future is still an immense, open dream.

~ John Koethe

                   

Music by Jude Christodal, “Madonna”

“see how weak I am, a mere breath on the air, a gaze observing you, a formless thought that thinks you.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from No Exit and Three Other Plays, trans. S. Gilbert

Victor Hugo Ma destinée 1867 ink and brown ink wash
“Ma destinée” (1867, ink and brown ink wash)
by Victor Hugo

Listen. .
With faint dry sound,
Like steps of passing ghosts,
The leaves, frost-crisp’d, break from the trees
And fall. ~ Adelaide Crapsey, “November Night”

Monday night. Windy and scattered showers, 74 degrees.

Victor Hugo The key is here, the gate elsewhere 1871 Pen, brown-ink wash, black ink, graphite, black crayon, charcoal, reserves and fingerprints or dabbings with highlights of white gouache on vellum paper
“The hey is here, the gate elsewhere” (1871, pen, brown-ink wash, black ink, graphite, black crayon, charcoal, reserves and fingerprints with highlights of white gouache on vellum paper)
by Victor Hugo

Did not have Olivia today. Instead, I took Alexis and Olivia to Lex’s doctor’s appointment in Virginia Beach. It was a brief but nice visit. Olivia is such a chatterbug, and she doesn’t miss anything. I’ve taught her two new things: the word terrible, and the sound that crows make “caw.” She has also discovered the deliciousness of soft pretzels, thanks to me.

I do what I can . . .

Anyway, I took them home and then came home and collapsed. Not really sure what’s going on, maybe my sugar levels, but I was quite dizzy. The same thing happened when I was out with Brett the other day; I actually had to find a place to sit down before I fell on my face. I’m not even going to bother to call my PCP. I mean, what’s the point? I’m dizzy . . . I’m not dizzy. Whatever.

But as a result, no productivity today—no post, no poem lurking somewhere in the recesses of my brain. Just this wonderful passage by Ray Bradbury and these ink drawings by Victor Hugo, both of which I’ve been holding,  waiting for an opportune moment, like now for instance. By the way, the periods in the Crapsey short poem above are in the original as posted.

More later. Peace.

                   

Victor Hugo Vianden Through a Spider's Web pencil, Indian ink, sepia on paper
“Vianden through a Spider’s Web” (nd, pencil, Indian ink, and sepia on paper)
by Victor Hugo
For some, autumn comes early, stays late through life where October follows September and November touches October and then instead of December and Christ’s birth, there is no Bethlehem Star, no rejoicing, but September comes again and old October and so on down the years, with no winter, spring, or revivifying summer. For these beings, fall is the ever normal season, the only weather, there be no choice beyond. Where do they come from? The dust. Where do they go? The grave. Does blood stir their veins? No: the night wind. What ticks in their head? The worm. What speaks from their mouth? The toad. What sees from their eye? The snake. What hears with their ear? The abyss between the stars. They sift the human storm for souls, eat flesh of reason, fill tombs with sinners. They frenzy forth. In gusts they beetle-scurry, creep, thread, filter, motion, make all moons sullen, and surely cloud all clear-run waters. The spider-web hears them, trembles—breaks. Such are the autumn people. Beware of them. ~ Ray Bradbury, from Something Wicked This Way Comes

                   

Music by Ray LaMontagne, “Jolene”

“Nothing human is finally calculable; even to ourselves we are strange.” ~ Gore Vidal, from Julian

Filippo De Pisis  1933 Paesaggio con passero e casolare
“Paesaggio con passero e casolare” (1933, oil on canvas)
by Filippo de Pisis

 


 “I have dreamed much and done very little.” ~ Gustave Flaubert

Tuesday night. Partly cloudy, 58 degrees.

In this dream I have been placed on my back in a solution that is slowly killing me. As the minutes pass, I keep thinking that I can’t die because that wouldn’t make sense. There is a woman who is pure evil, and apparently, she’s the one ordering people to be put into this solution. As I feel myself dying, I start to give away my jewelry, holding a piece out and declaring that it is for x, and another and another, until I have no jewelry left on my body. I know that someone is going to save me, but I don’t know how I have this knowledge.

Filippo De Pisis Natura Morta Marina con Ali di Gabbiano 1929 oil on canvas
“Natura morta marina con Ali di Baggiano” (1929, oil on canvas)
by Filippo de Pisis

Is it any wonder I walk through my days as if lost?

I did manage to get out of the house today and vote. Made Brett go with me. Too many people don’t place enough importance on mid-terms. Eamonn went fishing instead. At least Corey did an absentee ballot before he went back.

Skipping Two for Tuesday again today. You might not believe it, but putting together that kind of post takes thought, more thought than I am capable of at the moment. So some randomness instead:

  • Just three days after Halloween, and people in my neighborhood are putting up Christmas decorations.
  • Would it be okay to shoot these decorations with a paint gun?
  • I do not own a paint gun, for the record, but the thought of doing something radical is oddly comforting.
  • Days before Halloween, stores were already stocking Christmas decorations . . . I just can’t, just can’t even . . .

“I wanted the moments of my life to follow and order themselves like those of a life remembered. You might as well try and catch time by the tail.” ~ Jean-Paul Sartre, from Nausea

Filippo de Pisis La Felana 1945
“La Felana” (1945)
by Filippo de Pisis
  • My mother collected clowns—figurines, dolls, pictures
  • I am terrified of clowns, so are all of my children
  • I used to absolutely hate the color yellow, so much so that I would protest if the graphic designer chose a Pantone shade of yellow for a design.
  • I now love yellow and all of its various hues.
  • I cannot explain any of the above.
  • White noise (noise that is so constant that you forget that it’s there) that fills my days: the cooling fan of my CPU overworking itself, the very loud window unit air conditioners throughout the house
  • The kind of white noise I would prefer: running water, bird songs

“We’ve got to live, no matter how many skies have fallen.” ~ D.H. Lawrence, from Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Filippo de Pisis Natura morta con calamaio 1951 oil on masonite board
“Natura morta con calamaio” (1951, oil on masonite board)
by Filippo de Pisis
  • I have never gotten my paper degree from GWU for my publishing master’s. I think I owe them $50.
  • Throughout most of my adulthood, I have had a very hard time with mail, as in opening it when I get it. It bothers me a great deal, and I have no idea as to why.
  • I have so much paperwork that I need to do, but again, this is something that I put off and put off until I cannot possibly put it off any longer.
  • I have an abiding antipathy towards paperwork, i.e., completing forms, responding to requests for information, filing, etc.
  • The above is a direct result of years and years of having to fill out medical paperwork, going all the way back to Caitlin

“Give me a report on the condition of my soul.” ~ Anne Sexton, from “Anna Who Was Mad”

Filippo de Pisis Foglia nella tempesta 1940 oil on canvas
“Foglia nella tempesta” (1940, oil on canvas)
by Filippo de Pisis
  • I need (no, really) a new purse.
  • I am lousy at small talk.
  • I have always been a bag lady. I asked for and got my first leather briefcase when I was five. True story.
  • Alexis, and now Olivia are both bag ladies. One of Olivia’s favorite things to do is to go through my purse, take everything out, and put it into one of her bags.
  • This is not taught behavior. Is there a gene for an affinity for purses and carryalls?

All images are by Italian painter and poet, Filippo de Pisis (11 May 1896 – 2 April 1956). Something in these somber images calls to me.

Music by Beth Hart, “Sister Heroine”

                   

Death Comes to Me Again, a Girl

Death comes to me again, a girl
in a cotton slip, barefoot, giggling.
It’s not so terrible she tells me,
not like you think, all darkness
and silence. There are windchimes
and the smell of lemons, some days
it rains, but more often the air is dry
and sweet. I sit beneath the staircase
built from hair and bone and listen
to the voices of the living. I like it,
she says, shaking the dust from her hair,
especially when they fight, and when they sing.

~ Dorianne Laux

“I can’t feel a thing; All mournful petal storms are dancing inside the very private spring of my head.” ~ Franz Kafka, from Letters To Milena

Claude Monet The Seine at Port-Villez, Blue Effect 1894
“The Seine at Port-Villez, Blue Effect” (1894, oil on canvas)
by Claude Monet

                   

“And what were they anyway, sprigs of grass, things of blue? For a long time I wanted to use words, then didn’t.” ~ Mary Ruefle, Madness, Rack, and Honey

Friday early evening, 80 degrees. Tropic Storm Andrea warning in effect.

I know. I know. The time between real posts seems to stretch on inexorably. The truth is, writing is hard at the moment. The truth is, I find myself in the midst of a major depressive episode, the likes of which I haven’t seen in many years.

Isaak Brodsky, New Moon, 1906, oil on canvas
“New Moon” (1906, oil on canvas)
by Isaak Brodsky

Why?

If I knew, I might be able to find some kind of resolution, but there really is no why. Not really. I’m just kind of empty, kind of numb, kind of unable to string together words to form sentences, sentences to form paragraphs. Mostly, I can write about why I can’t write, and I’m not really sure what kind of post that will produce, but I thought that I’d at least try.

If you’ve never suffered from depression, you simply cannot relate. You might try to understand, but it will be hard. It’s hard enough for the person who is suffering from depression. And because it is to hard for her or for him, it is hard for anyone who might happen to be in the vicinity.

I can only say in advance, that I’m sorry.

“—You’re very poetic.
—No, just sad.” ~ José Saramago, from Blindness

I think that this started about six weeks ago, but to be honest, I’m not sure. I know that it started while Corey was still at sea. It didn’t abate once he returned home, and it (the depression) took a major hit when I held my small dog Alfie’s body in my arms as Brett dug a grave beneath his bedroom window.

Georgia O'Keeffe Untitled paren Night City paren 1970s
“City Night” (1926, oil on canvas)
by Georgia O’Keeffe

In an attempt to alleviate my pain and sorrow, I convinced everyone that it was time to visit the human society from which we had adopted Tillie so that we could find a playmate for her, someone closer to her size. The reality is that it was too soon; I realize that now, but of course, it’s too late as we came home with two new dogs: a hound mix 8-week-old puppy I named Kopi, which is Indonesian for coffee (I had wanted to call her Gilly, but Tillie kept getting confused), and a 17-month-old named Jake, for Jack Kerouac (his name was Jack, but we all kept saying Jake, so that was obviously what he was supposed to be called).

You would think that the adoptions would have made some of the sadness go away, but instead, Jake reminds me of Shakes because he is an obvious mama’s boy who clings to me, and this made me think of Alfie, who was never loved enough because of Shakes, and it made me sad all over.

Add to this that the playmate we hoped Jake would be has not turned out as planned: Jake and Tillie do not get along at all; in fact, they seem to despise one another, but everyone gets along with Kopi.

And all of this has led to more guilt on my part for not waiting longer, guilt for bringing home two new pets without considering that Tillie might not like it even though we took her to the shelter with us, and she played with both of them without any problems while we were there. And of course guilt that life sucks for everyone when it sucks for mom.

“In my mind I am eloquent; I can climb intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. But when I open my mouth, everything collapses.” ~ Isaac Marion, from Warm Bodies

Depression is so insidious and unpredictable. It creeps up like a slow-moving fog, or it hits like a mighty nor’easter, all at once and unrelenting. This time, it was a bit of both. There was the gradual descent, and then the sudden appearance of a precipice. I was unprepared.

John DUncan Fergusson The Troacadero, Paris ca 1902
“The Troacadero, Paris” (ca 1902, watercolor)
by John Duncan Fergusson

As many of you know, I am on antidepressants and mood stabilizers, so some of you may be confused as to why I am depressed. The truth is that there is only so much that medicine can do. The brain is a funny thing. Somewhere within mine, a switch didn’t throw all of the way, or a connection was broken, and now, there is this, this nothingness, this painful numbness.

Depression comes from the brain, but it is felt in the heart.

I try very hard not to let mine show too much, but I know that I’m not very successful in doing so. And now we have two dogs and a plus one, for whom a future is uncertain. I know that we cannot return him to the shelter; that would be too cruel, for him to live with a family, get lots of attention, have a yard in which to run and play, and then to find himself inside a cage? I couldn’t do that to my worst enemy. And so we are searching for a family that can give him love. Unsuccessfully, so far. Ideally, behavior modification would be possible, and we could live happily with all three dogs.\

Ideally . . .

“I had the idea that the world’s so full of pain
it must sometimes make a kind of singing.” ~ Robert Hass, from “Faint Music,” in Sun Under Wood

Outside, nature seems to be a perfect reflection of my state of mind: It is at once sunny and partly cloudy, and in the very next instant, grey with whipping winds. Who knows how intense this storm will be. We may have a fierce tropical storm or a short-lived thunderstorm, but I’m trying to pen this before everything hits and before Alexis arrives with the baby.

Edvard Munch, Starry Night, 1924
“Starry Night” (1922-24, oil on canvas)
by Edvard Munch

Even though my heart isn’t quite in it, we are taking Olivia for tonight and perhaps tomorrow night. It is going to be a task to continue to try to keep Jake and Tillie separated, try to watch over Kopi to make frequent trips outside for the potty training, and then, add to the mix the curious 11-month-old that Olivia has become, but I haven’t seen her in many days, and I miss her terribly.

Part of me thinks “to hell with it” as what’s a little more stress added to the mix, and part of me thinks this is another bad decision atop other bad decisions, and yet another part of me just doesn’t care enough to do anything about it.

The air outside is like liquid as the humidity is climbing to 100 percent, and my sinuses are constricting with the climb. A smarter person would crawl into bed for the duration, but a smarter person would not have brought home two new dogs so soon after the loss of long-time pets.

If I only had a brain . . .

“I wanted my own words. But the ones I use have been dragged through I don’t know how many consciences.”—Jean-Paul Sartre, from The Wall

It all goes back to my first section: Why?

August Strindberg, Jealousy Nigt, 1893
“Jealousy Night” (1893, oil on canvas)
by August Strindberg

I read an interesting piece about Stephen Fry, who I love in every single thing he does. Apparently, while working on a project in 2012, he had a major episode and attempted suicide by taking a bunch of pills with vodka. Fry, who suffers from bipolar disease, described it better than I could, although I must emphasize that I am in no way feeling suicidal:

“There is no ‘why’, it’s not the right question. There’s no reason. If there were a reason for it, you could reason someone out of it, and you could tell them why they shouldn’t take their own life.”

I mention this only because of Fry’s phrasing that there is no reason, and while he may have been talking about someone who is thinking about committing suicide, I apply the words to my own depressive episodes: There is no reason. Sometimes there is, but more often than not, there just isn’t. And so people on the outside sometimes think reductively, as in, “it’s all in her head,” and funnily enough, it is—in a way.

I’ll try to put together another post in the next few days, and maybe by then I’ll be able to express myself a bit more cogently, until then,

Peace.

Image theme: Blues

Edward Potthast Seascape moonlight
“Seascape Moonlight” (date unknown, oil on canvas)
by Edward Potthast

Music by S. Carey, “In the Stream”

                   

The Truth the Dead Know

For my mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my father, born February 1900, died June 1959

Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.

We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.

My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in their stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.

~ Anne Sexton