“The soil in which the meditative mind can begin is the soil of everyday life, the strife, the pain, and the fleeting joy. It must begin there, and bring order, and from there move endlessly.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Big Ben Variations: Big Ben and Westminster by Problemkind (FCC)

                   

“I dedicate these words to the things in life I do not understand, to each thing passing away before my eyes. I dedicate these words to the impossibility of finding a word equal to the silence inside me . . .” ~ Paul Auster from Disappearances – Selected Poems

Monday afternoon. Showers and warm temperatures that are slowly dropping.

Today would have been my dad’s 83rd birthday.

Big Ben Variations: Christmas Eve at 11 p.m. by ktylerconk (FCC)

Last night was a bad one. Didn’t get to sleep until around 5:30 a.m., and then awake again at 8:30, 9:30, 10:30 . . . up for a bit, back to sleep at 12 and then Tillie woke me up, so I just said to hell with it and stayed up.

Tillie has an upset stomach and has thrown up several times in the last 24 hours. I just tried to hide a tums in peanut butter (which is her doggie crack), but she wasn’t having it.

Anyway, I whiled away the wee hours by watching a couple of movies and then visiting blogs on my blogroll. A couple of blog friends participated in this year’s nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month), which is in November. Participants are supposed to write every day from November 1st to the 30th, with a goal of 50,000 words of a new novel. The event has grown so much that last year 200,000 people participated.

I’ve heard mixed reviews from participants. One person said that while he was happy about his accomplishment, the writing that he produced was so rough that he felt that he spent more time revising than he normally did. I’ve thought about it, and actually wanted to try it this year, but not having my own computer makes it pretty much impossible. So maybe next year.

“I can barely conceive of a type of beauty in which there is no melancholy” ~ Charles Baudelaire

So while I was lying there, eyes open and brain racing, I began to think about myself as a person, I mean, as in what kind of person I would say that I am. Here is what I deduced:

Big Ben Variations: At Moonrise by smaedli (FCC)
  • I am the kind of person who always puts something into a Salvation Army kettle during the holidays, even if it’s just a quarter
  • The kind of person who would exist on just dessert if my blood sugar allowed it
  • The kind of person who will not change my position in bed if it means waking up the dogs
  • The kind of person who wakes up when one of my dogs is having a nightmare and then rubs his or her back gently until it passes
  • The kind of person who thinks often of doing daring things, like riding in a glider, but never seems to get around to doing them.

There’s more of course. I’m the kind of person who

  • Really dislikes sitcoms, with the exception of Cheers, Friends, and M*A*S*H
  • The kind of person who sings in the shower
  • The kind of person who sleeps with one leg on top of the covers
  • The kind of person who has both kept and returned too much change, depending on how broke I was
  • The kind of person who likes big, oversized towels that smell of fabric softener

“Remember your name. Do not lose hope—what you seek will be found. Trust ghosts. Trust those that you have helped to help you in their turn. Trust dreams. Trust your heart, and trust your story.” ~ Neil Gaiman

Why all this introspection? Insomnia does weird things to my mind. But to be honest, it’s more that I sometimes stop and try to figure out exactly what I am, as much as who I am. Does that make sense?

Big Ben Variations: At Night by indywriter (FCC)

So to continue . . .

  • I’m the kind of person who prefers a thunderstorm to just rain
  • The kind of person who spends an inordinate amount of time thinking about death
  • The kind of person who has never had any desire to do any kind of hard illegal substance, but I did inhale way back in the day
  • The kind of person who will stop to try to rescue an animal from traffic
  • The kind of person who truly loves to walk in the rain

Other things? Well . . .

  • I’m the kind of person who can be simultaneously easily distracted and firmly focused
  • The kind of person who hates to open mail (other than personal letters), and allows it to amass into a pile
  • The kind of person who doesn’t dare to play a role-playing game because I know that I would become hooked
  • The kind of person who never buys anything at full price
  • The kind of person who used to balance her checkbook to the penny

“. . . you must somehow begin from the other end, from the other shore, and not always be concerned with this shore or how to cross the river. You must take a plunge into the water, not knowing how to swim. And the beauty of meditation is that you never know where you are, where you are going, what the end is..” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

Then there are the offbeat things, making me the kind of person who:

Big Ben Variations: At Twilight by Chris_J (FCC)
  • Does the head bob in the car when a head-banging song comes on the radio
  • The kind of person who fills bird feeders in the rain
  • The kind of person who would spend a week in a monastery, given the chance
  • The kind of person who used to paint a checkerboard pattern on the right thumb only
  • The kind of person who possesses an ERA Now button

And then there are these:

  • I’m the kind of person whose favorite electronic game is still “Goldeneye” for Nintendo 64
  • The kind of person who drinks three things at once if I’m out (which is not often any more): something hot (tea), something cold (ice water), and something alcoholic
  • The kind of person who hates to wait at a railroad crossing
  • The kind of person who can do math in my head (some math, that is)
  • The kind of person who can curse without moving my lips

Things that make you go hmm . . .

“Dreams and restless thoughts came flowing to him from the river, from the twinkling stars at night, from the sun’s melting rays. Dreams and a restlessness of the soul came to him.” ~ Hermann Hesse from Siddhartha

I suppose that in thinking about these things, I’m trying to ascertain what separates me from the madding crowd, but perhaps that is only wishful thinking. Am I far from the madding crowd, from the masses? I’ve always thought so.

Words used to describe me at various points in my life (in no particular order): quirky, freak, strange, curmudgeonly, bitch, sweet (?), drama queen, cherubic (that one really threw me off kilter), exotic, sexy, fat, scary, imposing, forbidding, critical, funny, sarcastic, cool, uptight, paranoid, prudish . . . even the n-word once.

Big Ben Variations: Big Ben, Houses of Parliament, and the River Thames at Night, by dimodi (FCC)

I remember for a while in junior high I was referred to as Chiquita (very original since it rhymed with my name . . . righty-o). Then there was the Leap Frog nickname. Whatever.

I’ve always believed that I didn’t fit in, that I wasn’t like the rest, the others, whoever they were, and admittedly, I’ve played up that aspect of myself, sometimes as a protective mechanism, as in, “I’m not like the popular girls, but that’s okay because I’m different.” And then sometimes being different has been a bane.

Different? The word brings to mind a line from “At the Ballet,” a song in A Chorus Line in which Bebe sings about being different:

“Diff’rent,” she said, “With a special something
And a very, very personal flair . . .

I never met anyone who was “diff’rent”
Who couldn’t figure that out.

I remember the first time I heard that song, and that section came on, and I thought to myself, “Yes. That’s me.”

But being different is a cloak, at least for me. It allows me to sit in judgment of other people, admittedly, something of which I am not terribly proud. I mean, when I’m out in public, I  look at people and think to myself, “I’m not as big as she is,” or “Is that what I look like?” Judging so as not to be judged? Who knows?

And finally,

  • I judge others harshly
  • I always wonder what people think of me
  • I talk back to people on the television
  • I get irritated when marquee signs have grammatical errors and misspellings
  • I frequently bore myself—now, for example.

Feeling a bit nostalgic; hence, the variations on Big Ben.

More later. Peace.

Music by O+S, “We Do What We Want to”

                   

Villanelle on a Line from Macbeth

Stay, imperfect speaker, tell me more.
I don’t want the house, I want its ruins,
cracked panes, grandfather clock, paper-like door.

I want the vines that engulfed exterior walls,
petrified forests of books and manuscripts,
dust-filled afternoons that opened like doors

Onto Hesse’s wind-silvered fields, onto myths
surging up out of the earth. I want the man to say,
“Stay, imperfect speaker, tell me more,”

as he did at the end of every long conversation,
saying “imperfect” and meaning “unfinished,”
saying it always as I moved toward the door,

as I say it now, again and over and again,
I want the words to rebuild the house in shambles:
stay, imperfect speaker, tell me more.

I know: if I went back, there would be nothing
or worse: a new house, pristine, immaculate,
even the vine-filled library gone. I left and shut the door.
Imperfect memory, please, stay, tell me more.

~ Michael Davis

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti

 

Forest Reflections

  

“The pages are still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible.” ~ Vladimir Nabokov
Reflections in Mapperly Reservoir

I believe it was around 4 a.m. when found myself perusing my blogroll. Then at 7 a.m. I read a bit of online news. In between, I fought for space on the bed between dog limbs and warm snouts, took a few pills for what ailed me physically, contemplated making a peanut butter sandwich, and once again, watched the darkness move into light through the bedroom shades.  

My nightly perambulating on the web did afford me one nugget of gold: the aforementioned National Geographic Magazine tumblr site. It still amazes me how completely satisfying it is to find a wonderful site amidst all of the fodder that shows up on the web.  

Lately, I have noticed, too, a kind of common thread that pervades several of the blogs that I frequent on a regular basis: people are saying that they are tired of blogging, that they have nothing left to say, so they are closing shop, as it were. Interesting. I mean, I have had more than one occasion on which I have felt dissatisfied with my own blog, but I have yet to reach terminal saturation. I wonder if that is a natural progression for all bloggers?  

I don’t think that is necessarily so as I have encountered bloggers who have been doing this for ten years. They remain, but the forum in which they create changes, which is why I am considering opening a companion tmblr site. Still mulling it over, the pros and cons. The format seems to be quite straightforward, so I think that doing it, i.e., committing to a companion site, is more a mental and/or emotional challenge.  

As for names, I’m contemplating LOLA . . . L-O-L-A LOLA, or Fata Morgana, or The Frenzy & The Lightning, or This, and So Much More (from T. S. Eliot), or Not Even the Rain (from e. e. cummings), or Brilliant Wreckage (from Sue Monk Kidd), or Rivers of Wisdom (Ondaatje), or Slow Dancing in Quicksand.  

I’ll let you know what I decide as I know that you will be sitting with bated breath until I announce my decision . . .   

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” ~ Kurt Vonnegut
Quarry Pond Reflections

I had a wonderful burst of energy after my prolonged lethargy. I did mounds of laundry. Scrubbed the kitchen. Cleaned the hardwood floors and the bathroom tiles. And then, just as suddenly as it appeared, the energy seeped away, and I was left enervated once more.  

I did manage to address Brett’s graduation announcements. Of course, the book of stamps that Corey recently purchased has grown legs and moved to house parts unknown. Things do that a lot around here. I told Corey that I thought the stamps were probably on the dining room table, aka his desk, but he said that he had “moved things around a bit and couldn’t find them.” I love my husband and his logic. It fits in so well with everything else around here.  

Another example: The old fridge in the garage is leaking water. I asked Corey if it might be overflow. He responded that the whole fridge was just dying, hence the leak. It’s hard to argue with logic like that.  

Alexis came over for a bit yesterday. She’s having the sleeping problems again—unable to get up even with the alarm blaring and the phone ringing right beside her. The neurologist couldn’t find anything wrong on her scans, so I am puzzled unless it is all psychological; by that I mean my daughter has a tendency to do things in the wee hours of the morning, like clean. Then she goes to sleep. It’s as if she is setting herself up to be unable to awaken, but without the self-awareness to know this.

I went through a similar phase when I was her age: My mood swings and insomnia had me cleaning at 2 a.m. I finally knew that I had a real problem when I found myself sorting coupons at 3:30 one morning when I needed to be in class at 8 a.m. I think that’s when I began therapy on a full-time basis. The biggest difference between us is that I would get up after only a few hours of sleep and go to work, then take a nap in the afternoon. Luckily, my job hours allowed for that.  

I suggested getting a night job, but she says that she doesn’t want to do that. I don’t really have any answers, so I just listen and try to be compassionate, remembering how it felt for me then, not mentioning how it feels for me now—just as helpless on either side of the coin.  

“If you can orbit the planet, why can’t you see what makes the human heart happy?” ~ Dan Chiasson
Venice Canal Reflections

Last night Corey and I watched a really bad movie—My Bloody Valentine—with a preposterous plot about some killer who wore a miner’s oxygen mask and killed people with a pick-axe. The only good thing I have to say about it was that it was the first time in a movie that I saw a killing with a shovel in quite that way. Otherwise, not so much.  

A few nights ago we watched a really good movie—The Duchess—with Keira Knightly and Ralph Fiennes. Based on the story of the Duchess of Devonshire, an 18th century noblewoman, who was directly related to Lady Diana Spencer, aka Princess Di, the movie was beautiful visually, and Fiennes played the restrained Duke with an omnipresent look of stultification.  

Whenever I watch one of these period pieces, I always thank the stars that I was not alive (that I know of) during such repressing times. Georgiana, the Duchess, was quite unrestrained, though, a woman who loved fashion, wine, and gambling. Still, that was not  enough as she had to endure the Duke taking up with her best friend, three people in the marriage, as it were. Yet she was not free to leave to be with her own lover, Charles Grey, who later became Prime Minister and from whom we get one of my favorite teas: Earl Grey.  

Happiness, true happiness, it seems was not for women, especially spirited women.  

“In the middle of the night, things well up from the past that are not always cause for rejoicing—the unsolved, the painful encounters, the mistakes, the reasons for shame or woe. But all, good or bad, give me food for thought, food to grow on.” ~ May Sarton

Loch Etive Reflections

When I was teaching and trying to write, I used to think of May Sarton, a poet, novelist, and memoirist who did not publish her first book until she was 49.  I would think of her and tell myself that there was still time. Or I would console myself with the example of P. D. James, one of my favorite British crime writers, whose first novel was published in 1962 when she was 42.  

Last night Corey asked me if I was still feeling like a failure. I had to answer that truthfully, I was. During my brief bout of activity, I was able to subsume those feelings that have been creeping around the edges of my brain, but once the energy was gone, the creeping became a much more pronounced pounding, and the overwhelming sense of doom—arising from wasted time, broken dreams, and failed goals—once again took a place of prominence in my days.  

I don’t think that it helped that Alexis brought a photo album with her when she visited; it contained pictures of the kids when they were much younger, and many pictures of my dad. Alexis had found the album at my mom’s house and asked to borrow it. She brought it over because she wasn’t sure if I had seen it, and in fact, I had not. I mean, I had seen the pictures at various times, but not together in this album.  

Amazing the things that you can see in a person’s face when captured by the camera: my father’s sadness in his eyes, Eamonn’s mind working on his next big move with that off-kilter grin, Brett’s insecurity in his wide-eyed stare, Alexis’s loathing of whatever outfit my mother was making her wear. There were only two pictures that included me, which is not unusual since I do not let people take my picture, but I loved the irony that only I could appreciate of how—when those particular shots were taken—I was so certain that I was overweight and looked horrible.  

Oh to look that horrible again. But what is most telling, I suppose, is how skewed my perception of myself has always been. Thanks, mom.  

Anyway, both Alexis and I commented on how much we wished that my dad were still around. At the time, though, I did not realize what a driving force my father was in my life. What a shame for both of us. Reflection, hindsight, whatever, hence the visual theme of reflected reality. 

So that’s where I am on this hot June evening. More later. Peace.  

Hodges, “My Side of the Story”  

“Some people accumulate more emotional rust than others.” ~ Andrew Solomon, Noonday Demon

Savage Grace

Movie Poster for Savage Grace

“I’m living under water. Everything seems slow and far away. I know there’s a world up there, a sunlit quick world where time runs like dry sand through an hourglass, but down here, where I am, air and sound and time and feeling are thick and dense.” ~ Audrey Niffenegger, The Time Traveler’s Wife

Well, I feel absolutely blah today, sort of enclosed, if that makes any sense. I wasn’t able to fall asleep until 6 a.m., and then I kept having strange visual hallucinations. I woke up with a sore throat and headache.

I started back on a medicine to help me sleep several days ago, but I think that I am not tolerating it well. I have taken this medication before without any problems, but now, I’m having all sorts of strange reactions. I looked up the side effects, and some of them include vivid dreams, increased appetite (no thank yew), feeling hungover the next day (yep, that too), and several other undesirable effects. So last night I did not take the medication, and as a result, I think that I had withdrawal symptoms, and I could not get to sleep.

It just slays me how I have become so sensitive to medications that never bothered me before. So back to the drawing board and back to not sleeping.

“For very sad reasons, human beings, unfortunately, can do really tragic things to each other and these two people went as far out on a limb as you can go.” ~ Tom Kalin, Director of Savage Grace

We watched a movie last night called Savage Grace, starring Julianne Moore. The movie, which is based on the book by the same name, is a true story about the life and death of Barbara Daly Baekeland. After I watched the movie, I did some more reading on the Internet about the Baekeland family. The paternal grandfather was Leo Baekeland, the inventor of the first plastic, Bakelite.

Barbara Baekland and son
Barbara Baekeland and Infant Son Antone

His grandson Brooks married Barbara Daly, a tempestuous woman who suffered from mental illness. The two were unfaithful to each other several times, and Barbara tried to commit suicide four times in attempts to keep her husband from leaving her. However, he eventually left for a younger woman. Their son, Antone, also suffered from what was later diagnosed as schizophrenia.

Mother and son had a somewhat obsessive relationship, with Barbara attempting to “cure” her son of his homosexuality by paying females to have sex with Tony and eventually seducing him herself. Tony first tried to kill his mother by dragging her into the street and trying to throw her under a moving car. A psychiatrist told Barbara that he believed Tony would eventually kill her, but she did not believe that Tony would ever really harm her. Shortly afterwards, Tony killed his mother by stabbing her with a kitchen knife. He then proceeded to order Chinese food.

Tony was found to have diminished capacity and sent to Broadmoor. He was released after ten years and returned to the U.S. to live with his grandmother, who he tried to kill less than a week later. Tony was sent to prison and died in 1981 from suffocation. His death may or may not have been suicide as he was found with a plastic bag over his head.

The movie did not show all of this background because, of course, it is impossible to show everything in a two-hour span. I began watching the movie in an attempt to fall asleep as I did not think that it was going to be very good; however, I just couldn’t stop watching. It was the veritable train wreck waiting to happen. Everyone in this family was disturbed, including the father who denied that there was anything wrong with his son and refused to pay for psychiatric treatment.

“The cause of violence is not ignorance. It is self-interest. Only reverance can restrain violence—reverance for human life and the environment.” ~ William Sloan Coffin 

I watched another movie this weekend based on a true story: Dance with a Stranger, starring Miranda Richardson as Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the U.K. in 1955. Ellis herself had a hard life, first having a child out of wedlock in 1944, a time in which such a thing immediately tainted a woman’s reputation. Ellis found out that her lover was actually married with a family in Canada, so she was left to raise her son Andy alone. Then Ruth, neé Nielson, married George Ellis in 1950. George Ellis was a drunk and physically abusive. In 1951, Ellis gave birth to Georgina, but by then the marriage was over.

Ruth Ellis
Ruth Ellis, the last woman to be hanged in the UK

In 1953, Ruth Ellis became the manager of a nightclub. She met David Blakely, a racecar driver. Their relationship was fraught with violence; when Ruth became pregnant by Blakely, he punched her in the stomach, which resulted in a miscarriage for Ruth.

Ruth was also involved with Desmond Cussen, a former RAF pilot. Cussen took care of Ruth and Andy, but Ruth was never able to severe ties with Blakely. In fact, Cussen helped Ruth to spy on Blakely, who was unfaithful to Ruth several times. On the night of Easter Sunday 1955, Ruth Ellis waited outside a pub for Blakely. When Blakely ignored Ruth’s greeting, she moved around the car that he was attempting to get into and emptied a .38 caliber Smith & Wesson into Blakely.

The shooting occurred just ten days after Ellis had miscarried, and she was heavily medicated. Ellis was questioned and brought before the magistrate without having an attorney present. She was examined by a psychiatrist who claimed that Ellis was not mentally ill. The presiding judge ruled out a defense of provocation for Ellis. During her trial at the Old Baily, Ellis became her worst enemy when she said, “It’s obvious when I shot him I intended to kill him.” Ellis was hung three weeks later.

Again, the movie does not delve into all of the facts regarding Ellis, and it ends right after the shooting of Blakely without covering the trial at all. Public reaction to Ellis’s hanging was strongly against, and partially as a result, the United Kingdom abolished the death penalty in 1964.

George Ellis committed suicide three years after Ruth’s death. Her son Andy suffered emotional distress most of his life and killed himself in 1982. Ruth’s daughter Georgina died at 50 from cancer.

What happened to Ruth Ellis is still a matter of contention. The jury was not allowed to find for manslaughter because of Ruth’s confession. However, Ruth was an abused woman who was still very much affected by her miscarriage. Ruth had been provoked by Blakely’s unfaithfulness and his physical abuse, but because of the laws at the time, the jury could not convict her of a lesser sentence, and the death penalty was mandatory.

Ellis’s hanging caused such a stir because she was a beautiful woman, the mother of two small children, and she had never shown any propensity for violence. Once the public face of a criminal condemned to death became so personal, the British public began to openly oppose capital punishment. The Ellis case was referred back to the Court of Appeals in 2003, but her conviction was not overturned or reduced to manslaughter as had been requested.

“Violence is not merely killing another. It is violence when we use a sharp word, when we make a gesture to brush a person, when we obey because there is fear.” ~ Jiddu Krishnamurti 

Dance with a Stranger was made in 1985, and Natasha Richardson is radiant, even with platinum blonde hair. Savage Grace was made in 2007, and Julianne Moore’s portrayal of Barbara Baekeland is compelling in its believability.

That I watched both movies this past weekend is purely coincidence as I had never heard of either one, and I found them by accident on cable. However, I am glad that I watched them and then did further research on both of these women.  Both were troubled: Ellis was physically and emotionally abused, and Baekeland was emotionally tormented by her husband. Both women died far too young.

I’m not condoning the actions of either woman. Rather, I offer their stories as reminders of how unkind society was to women, and how few resources used to be available. While there are more avenues for escape and treatment, emotional, physical, and sexual abuse continue to be societal problems that have far-reaching implications, both for those who suffer directly from the abuse and for their children who have no escape from its effects.

Empty SwingsThose in society who say that they simply don’t understand why a woman stays in an abusive relationship have never suffered at the hands of an abuser, have never felt the helplessness nor experienced the complete erosion of self-confidence and self-respect. And the reality is that abuse is cyclic, often being repeated by the abused or the children of the abused.

Unless we learn as a society not to tolerate abuse and violence, the cycle will never end. Until we acknowledge that it is not just with fists but also with tongues that people cause irreparable harm to others, those who suffer will continue to be victims.

If you know of an individual—man, woman, or child—who is being abused, please do not sit by idly, thinking that someone else will intervene. You must be that someone else, lest you allow your humanity to be overshadowed by inaction.

Sorry for the sermon. More later. Peace be with you and yours.

Bird York’s “Have No Fear”