“What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it . . . Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams . . .” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, Selected Letters

Great Dixter Garden, England (travel.ezinemark.com)


“I would never be part of anything. I would never really belong anywhere, and I knew it, and all my life would be the same, trying to belong, and failing. Always something would go wrong. I am a stranger and I always will be, and after all I didn’t really care.” ~ Jean Rhys, Smile Please: An Unfinished Autobiography

Friday evening. Blue skies, low 60’s.

Random thoughts for Friday’s leftovers:

  1. I met poet Christopher Buckley once. He was charming, and he loved his bourbon.
  2. Tillie the lab thinks she is a lap dog, which is funny until she tries to climb into my lap over my shoulder.

    Gardens of the Château de Chaumont, France
  3. An old lover once referred to my cherubic countenance. What an odd thing to say.
  4. This spring I am going to fill my flowerpots with multicolored annuals—begonias, vinca, lantana, lobelia. I never have luck with impatiens.
  5. I wish that we still had a hammock.
  6. I miss my Carolina Jasmine vine. The smell on summer evenings was unbelievable.
  7. I miss Mari.
  8. Friendship on a daily basis, true friendship, is a rare thing.
  9. Tom Waits sounds as if he’s been gargling with gravel; it’s a voice filled with loss and sadness. No wonder I love it.
  10. I dreamed about seeing two bodies wrapped in white sheets, and somewhere a clock was ticking.

“And each year now
we know more, but we know no better —
what we see in the sky is simply
the softened gloss of the past sifting
back to us, and likewise, every atom
down the body’s shining length
was inside a star, and will be again.” ~ Christopher Buckley, from Apologues of Winter Light

More . . .

  1. I have a three-inch wide ridge on the back of my head, near the base of my skull. I wonder if everyone has one of those. It’s tender if I mess with it.
  2. One night I dreamed that I took a severe blow to my head, at least I think that it was a dream.
  3. Recently I watched a Masterpiece Classic production of Great Expectations with Gillian Anderson. She was quite good as Miss Haversham.
  4. If I had a cat, I would name her Miss Haversham as cats are all about being egocentric and expecting everything to go their way.

    Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew England (travel.ezinemark.com)
  5. I did not read Great Expectations and David Copperfield until I was pregnant with Alexis.
  6. My mother owns a very old copy of The Pickwick Papers, which she purchased in an antique shop in London.
  7. My father bought me these character head statues when he was doing his Rotterdam run; they are all Dickens’ characters. They used to hang along the staircase in our townhouse in Alexandria.
  8. Not sure what got me started on Charles Dickens.
  9. I have a strong urge to correct grammatical and spelling errors on comments in YouTube threads; if I started doing so, I would never finish as it seems that most people who comment on YouTube videos never learned basic grammar or spelling.
  10. I had my Technical Editing students keep an Anguished English journal, filled with instances of bad sentence structure and grammatical faux pas. This was before the prevalence of the Internet. Now, such a journal would be far too easy to fill.

Don’t tell them too much about your soul. They’re waiting for just that. ~ Jack Kerouac, Windblown World: The Journals of Jack Kerouac 1947-1954

And just a little more . . .

  1. As I’m trying to write this post, Shakes is hovering near my ankles, hiding from a fly, and Tillie is sitting on Eamonn’s bed really giving me a good talking to. Apparently, she thinks that we should be playing, even though we have already gone out front for today’s stick game.
  2. I have been quite teary lately. Not weeping, but getting teary-eyed at seemingly nothing: the cedar bird feeders in Wal Mart reminded me of Mari; who cries in Wal Mart?

    Monet's Garden at Giverny, France
  3. I have not had a Pepsi in almost two weeks. I have given up soda, and my attempts to give up sugar are going fairly well. I’m also trying to avoid chocolate, except for the Russell Stover caramel and marshmallow egg that I ate last night. My jeans are getting too big.
  4. To help me in this attempt to eschew sweets, my mother has delivered bags of Riesen, banana nut bread, peanut butter eggs, and jellybeans.
  5. My mother, queen of the grudges, actually said to me the other day, “Aw, you shouldn’t hold a grudge.” I did not reply as I thought that I could not contain myself if I did. My mother once did not speak to me for almost three months because of something that Eamonn said. No. No grudges in this family.
  6. In another part of my dream last night, I was unlocking these old steel doors that had bolt locks. I went through three of them, and then I got on an elevator and pushed 3. The elevator bypassed all of the floors, and I ended up on an interstate.
  7. I think I’ve run out of things to say, but I hate to end on an uneven number.
  8. I’m craving Chinese food.
  9. I think that I’ll treat myself tonight to a movie from pay-per-view, or maybe I’ll just go to sleep, or read . . .
  10. I should have stopped four entries ago . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by The Fray, “Be Still”

                   

Three Ways of Transcribing Poems

1.

I wish to write
in clear letters
on a dry riverbed
a white ribbon of pebbles
seen from afar
or a scree slope
rubble
sliding under my lines
slipping away
so that the however
of the thorny life of my words
be the however of each letter.

2.

Little letters
precise ones
so that the words come quietly
so that the words sneak in
so that you have to go there
towards the words
to look for them in the white
paper
quietly
you don’t notice them entering
through the pores
sweat that runs inwards

Fear
mine
ours
and the however of each letter

3.

I want a strip of paper
as big as me
one metre sixty
on it a poem
that screams
when someone passes by
screams in black letters
demands the impossible
moral courage for example
that bravery which no animal has
fellow suffering for example
solidarity rather than being herded
foreign-words
made at home in deed

Human
animal with moral courage
human
animal that knows fellow suffering
human foreignword-animal word-animal
animal
that writes poems
poem
that demands the impossible
of everyone who passes by
urgently
peremptorily
as if it’s yelling
“drink Coca-Cola”

~ Hilde Domin (trans. Meg Taylor and Elke Heckel)
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“It is the bruises that allow us to recognize the value of the discovery.” ~ Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations

Those Who Dance . . .*

                   

“Forgive me my nonsense, as I also forgive the nonsense of those that think they talk sense.” ~ Robert Frost

Sunday afternoon. Chilly and cloudy.

Surf Near Eyries on the Beara Peninsula, Ireland

I awoke with a migraine, this after not falling asleep until well after 4 a.m. Not the best night.

I dreamed about a neighbor’s yard sale in which couches of all kinds were spread across the lawn for sale. As I moved among the couches, I began to encounter pianos of all ages and in various states. Most of the couches were ugly, and most of the pianos were beautiful. It was a strange dream.

Corey is just coming off a double shift (16 hours straight), so I imagine that he will be going to bed after spending a little time playing with Tillie. All three dogs had baths yesterday so that we could administer flea medicine before fleas become a problem; living so near a marsh, fleas abound in this area. Shakes always has the worst time with any kind of biting insect, but today he is already noticeably scratching less.

I have two upcoming doctors’ appointments this week, but I will have to postpone both as the input of cash did not stretch far enough for the output demands. Hate it when that happens.

And yes, I will freely admit it: I watched the royal nuptials, and realized a few things: I am old enough to remember the wedding between Diana and Charles (hated that dress), and the princes being born, and the new Duchess’s dress had the same Queen Anne neckline and Chantilly lace that my first wedding dress had. Was she retro, or was I ahead of my time?

“Today I’m mixed up, like someone who thought something and grasped it, then lost  it.” ~ Fernando Pessoa

Peak

So I haven’t really moved beyond this downturn in my mood, and the fact that this computer is really acting up today is not helping anything. For example, the poem excerpt that I have included below—I’m searching on key lines to find the title of the poem, not just the title of the book, but I’m getting absolutely nowhere. I hope that I am able to post without going through hours of aggravation. I suppose I will just have to wait and see what happens.

I think that part of it is that I’m having lots of work dreams again, and in these dreams my consciousness always interrupts and says you can’t be working because you’re on disability. I’ve done this again and again in my dreams: gone back to one of my former jobs, not told anyone that I was on disability, lost my benefits. It happened again last night.

And then I remember all of those years while I was working, and I wished so badly that I didn’t have to work so that I would have the time to write. Yep. See how that’s working out for me?

Do I even know what I’m saying? Probably not.

Mother’s day is coming up, and to be truthful, I’m approaching it with a sense of dread, a sense that something is going to happen. You see, several years ago after Alexis graduated and before she was dating Mike, she spent about half a year living with various friends, sometimes sleeping in her car because she didn’t want to have to follow any rules.

Then when Mother’s Day came, and I was certain that I wouldn’t hear from her, I came home and found a long letter from her in which she apologized for how she had been acting. I called her and asked her to come back home. I don’t want one of those letters this year, mostly because I don’t want to have to react, don’t know how I would react.

This whole situation gives me such angst. If I can keep myself from dwelling on it, I find that I am better.

“A room is, after all, a place where you hide from the wolves.  That’s all any room is.” ~ Jean Rhys, from Good Morning, Midnight, 1939

Surf Running: Oregon Coast Storm November 2009

I’ve been thinking about Belgium. Don’t know why really other than it seems that it would be a lovely place to live or at least, to visit, near France without being in France. Of course, I know nothing about Belgium other than what I see in pictures.

Do you know what I really want at this moment? I want windows. How very boring of me, right? You see, our windows are very old storm windows, and most of the screens are gone or torn, which means that opening windows on a day such as today is worthless; the lack of screens means that all kinds of flying critters could come in. Not being able to open the windows means that I cannot sit on my bed and read while enjoying a fresh breeze.

I used to love morning breezes that made the curtains sway ever so slightly, the scents from the roses and the jasmine wafting in subtly on the breeze. I miss that.

It’s such a simple thing; I know, but I miss many simple things. I miss our drives to the Outer Banks when the boys were young, how we would spend Sundays on the beach, climbing the dunes, having dinner and then driving home tired and sandy. Of course, I miss the boys being boys and not the young men they are now, with their own lives, their own favorite things to do that have nothing to do with me or Corey.

I miss so much and so little that it’s hard to discern between the two. Is my longing to be back in front of a classroom a small or a big thing? My dreams of pianos, which I have been having of late, do they signify my longing to get back to playing Chopin and Beethoven, or is it just the idea of sitting at the piano that I miss?

I miss friendship on a daily basis, friendship with Mari, our lunches together at the cafeteria, sitting in her back yard in the Adirondack chairs, drinking tea or Lime Rickeys, talking about everything.

I miss: such a powerful phrase, loaded with meaning and intent.

“And more and more my language appears to me like a veil which  one has to tear apart in order to get to those things (or the nothingness) lying behind it.” ~ Samuel Beckett, The Letters

No Fear

So many words, so many possible interpretations.

When Corey and I first married, we had such plans to do so many things. Some of them we have done, yet so many are yet to be realized. Our tenth anniversary is in two weeks. We’ve been together eleven years. But the reality is that the past three years have been to a great extent years of being on hold, waiting for circumstances to change, to get better, so that we can . . . fill in the blank here.

Life on hold isn’t living, not really. And I fear that both of us have become so used to living this way that we have become gun shy, hesitant to bank on too much for fear of yet again being unable to make the dream a reality. This isn’t living; it’s existing, and that isn’t how it was supposed to be.

So many things beyond our control on which to affix the blame, and then how much of the blame is ours? I fear that we have become inured to hardship, so much so that we have begun to forget how to dream. That saddens me more than I can begin to express.

I know that I wear my heart upon my sleeve; that is quite obvious by the things that I write here, that I put out into the ether for general consumption. I have always been this way, but that’s not to say that it is a good thing as I know that it can be painful, that it can feed that pain. This is why I chose the particular passage that I did to accompany this post: at times, I am like Hamlet: both melancholy and in need of vengeance, the two opposing emotions constantly at battle.

But at times I feel that I am also like Prospero in Shakespeare’s Tempest, stranded on an island for so long that my vision has become occluded, in the midst of a storm of my own creation, with some of my books and a daughter who longs to know who she is. Past is prologue . . .

More later. Peace.

Music by Lizz Wright, “When I Fall”

                   

Do you, like Hamlet, dread the unknown?
But what is known? What do you really
know
Such that you can call anything “unknown”?
Do you, like Falstaff,
love life with all its fat?
If you love it so materially, then love it even
more materially
By becoming a bodily part of the earth and of
things!
Scatter yourself, O physicochemical system
Of nocturnally
conscious cells,
Over the nocturnal consciousness of the unconsciousness of

bodies,
Over the huge blanket of appearances that blankets
nothing,
Over the grass and weeds of proliferating beings,
Over the atomic
fog of things,
Over the whirling walls
Of the dynamic void that’s the
world . . .

~ Fernando Pessoa, from A Little Larger Than the Entire  Universe

                   

*All pictures in this post used with permission from russell.tomlin, whose pictures can also be found on Solitary Vision

“Fate is nothing but the deeds committed in a prior state of existence.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

 Waves Crash Down
                    
“Midway in the
Journey of life
I came to myself in a
dark wood,
for the straight way was lost.” ~ Dante, Inferno
 
Waves on the Northern Beaches of Sydney, by Nico Nelson (Flckr Creative Commons)

Friday night now after a blastedly hot, tumultuous day. Details aren’t necessary. Suffice it to say that our lives just took yet another step down in our continuing downward spiral, the one that is taking us to the fringes of society, making us—more and more—mere onlookers. 

If I sit and reflect, which I try not to do lately, I wonder how our lives came to be this way. Which decision altered the fabric, imperceptibly but devastatingly? Was it the one that I made, when I felt that my body could not withstand the daily onslaught of full-time work? Was it the one that Corey had made a few months before that had him leave once company to return to his original employer—a decision made for all the right reasons that had all of the wrong results?Or do the threads begin to unravel long before that? Who can know really? This remark, that argument, this choice over the less obvious one? Could it go so far back as to my youth, my decisions to fall in with one group, my natural alliance with one editor over another? Not going abroad to study? Did it happen in Norfolk, Blacksburg, Alexandria, or some other city? 

A person could go mad, well and truly mad if left for too long with unanswered questions in the silence of an empty house. 

“Her career of ups and downs had rubbed most of the hall-marks off her, so that it was not easy to guess at her age, her nationality, or the social background to which she properly belonged.” ~ Jean Rhys, After Leaving Mr. Mackenzie 
California Waves by Isolino (Flckr Creative Commons)

Serendipity: “I’ll Follow You Into the Dark” appears on the playlist. “Fear is the heart of love, so I never went back . . .” 

Is it fate or is it free will? Joss? Karma? 

When I was about six-years-old, and we were still living in London, I told my first big lie and broke a big rule. I remember spending the evening in my bedroom imagining god with a slate, marking infractions. I prayed fervently that night. The prayers of the innocent are almost, dare I say, angelic in their sweetness. 

Another memory: A few years older, watching some program on television about people drowning and how the rescuers needed to take care not to be pulled down in the panic. Flash forward a few years, and my father is diving into the water to rescue a woman whose raft had been sucked under the Lynnhaven Bridge. I watched in fear and amazement as she latched onto my father’s neck and clawed at him as he tried to prop her against the beam of the bridge until more people could assist. 

Afterwards, my mother chastened him for jumping in, saying that he could have died. He replied calmly, “What should I have done? Watched her drown?” That was my father, a man of such clear intentions. He always knew what decisions to make, or at least, that is what memory tells me. So many years later, and I still immediately think of my father whenever things go terribly wrong, and I am glad that he did not have to see all of the messes that I have made, all of the wrong turns and brick walls. 

But another part of me thinks that maybe my father would have understood better than I think. The survivor of three wars, he has seen the worst of people. He has seen want and deprivation. Saw. Perhaps he would have been impatient with me for still failing to grow up and become a productive member of society. I will never know. 

 “i’m not sure what we’re running from. nobody. or the future. fate. growing up. getting old. picking up the pieces. as if running we won’t have to get on with our lives.”  ~ Chuck Palahniuk, Invisible Monsters
Rocky Shore of West Point Island

Trust me when I tell you that tonight is not the night for rationalizing, for telling myself that so many other people have it worse than I do, than we do. My brain knows this, but my heart? My heart is too heavy to be rational. 

So much in one day, like the echoing blasts of cannonade being fired in sequence. Here’s this. Oh, and here’s this. Oh, and just for good measure, here is this and this. Have a nice day . . . 

Oddly enough, just the other day Corey told me to cheer up, that one day we would be middle class again. It was an epic statement. I wonder how much of the middle class is left, really? How can an entire classification of people survive amidst such societal turmoil? 

I could not watch the news tonight as I have learned that it takes just the right frame of mind to be able to stomach the constant assault on the sensibilities. So much is wrong in so many places. So much want and need. So much fear-mongering. So much hatred and intolerance. It’s miraculous that 90 percent of the population isn’t surviving on mood-altering drugs, legal and otherwise.   

“What does it mean to know and experience my own ‘nothingness?’ It is not enough to turn away in disgust from my illusions and faults and mistakes, to separate myself from them as if they were not, and as if i were someone other than myself. This kind of self-annihilation is only a worse illusion, it is a pretended humility which, by saying ‘I am nothing’ I mean in effect ‘I wish I were not what I am.'” ~ Thomas Merton, from Thoughts on Solitude
 Rough Waters of the Adriatic Sea Beating Against the Rocky Shore

                     

It is impossible to prepare for these moments—the moments when fate and fortune ally at the worst possible point in time, to conspire against everything that makes life seem to make sense, that makes it all worthy of entering the fray yet again. 

And so it comes: The onslaught—the waves of sorrow and fear. Trepidation and uncertainty. Relentless wave after wave, so powerful and unrelenting that existence becomes reduced to how much can be withstood. The forces of fate, much like the forces of nature, toss about lives like unanchored shells, sometimes resulting in a beautifully-scoured creation, sometimes resulting in anonymous pebbles and stones which cannot be distinguished from anything else. 

Sometimes, this road that we’re on reaches a point at which a veil of thick fog obscures everything, leading us to believe that the path has been completely erased. Can it be any surprise then that the point of arrival in the distance seems unreachable? 

If I do not leave this house soon, I will truly lose my mind. 

“It seems to me that almost all our sadnesses are moments of tension, which we feel as paralysis because we no longer hear our astonished emotions living. Because we are alone with the unfamiliar presence that has entered us; because everything we trust and are used to is for a moment taken away from us; because we stand in the midst of a transition where we cannot remain standing . . . We could easily be made to believe that nothing happened, and yet we have changed, as a house that a guest has entered changes. We can’t say who has come, perhaps we will never know, but many signs indicate that the future enters us in this way in order to be transformed in us, long before it happens. And that is why it is so important to be solitary and attentive when one is sad: because the seemingly uneventful and motionless moment when our future steps into us is so much closer to life than that other loud and accidental point of time when it happens to us as if from outside. The quieter we are, the more patient and open we are in our sadnesses, the more deeply and serenely the new presence can enter us, and the more we can make it our own, the more it becomes our fate.”
~ Rainer Marie Rilke

Music by Katie Herzig, “I Hurt Too”