” . . . how the gravity of Nature and the silence startle you, when you stand face to face with her, undistracted, before a barren ridge” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

William Leech RHA Boats nd oil on board
“Boats” (nd, oil on board)
by William Leech, RHA


Two for Tuesday: Life . . .

Tuesday evening. Partly cloudy, hot and humid, 90s.

Had some energy when I got out of bed for the first time in two weeks, so of course I overdid it cleaning………..

Alice Neel Sunset, Riverside Drive 1961 oil on canvas
“Sunset, Riverside Drive” (1961, oil on canvas)
by Alice Neel

Echoes

1.
Once I could imagine my soul I could imagine my death. When I imagined my death my soul died. This I remember clearly.

My body persisted.
Not thrived, but persisted.
Why I do not know.

2.
When I was still very young
my parents moved to a small valley
surrounded by mountains
in what was called the lake country.
From our kitchen garden
you could see the mountains,
snow covered, even in summer.

I remember peace of a kind
I never knew again.

Somewhat later, I took it upon myself
to become an artist,
to give voice to these impressions.

3.
The rest I have told you already.
A few years of fluency, and then
the long silence, like the silence in the valley
before the mountains send back
your own voice changed to the voice of nature.

This silence is my companion now.
I ask: of what did my soul die?
and the silence answers

if your soul died, whose life
are you living and
when did you become that person?

~ Louise Gluck

                   

Paul Signac Asnières oil on canvas 1882
“Asnières” (1882, oil on canvas)
by Paul Signac

It Is Not the Fact That I Will Die That I Mind

but that no one will love as I did
the oak tree out my boyhood window,
the mother who set herself
so stubbornly against life,
the sister with her serious frown
and her wish for someone at her side,
the father with his dreamy gaze
and his left hand idly buried
in the fur of his dog.
And the dog herself,
that mournful look and huge appetite,
her need for absolute stillness
in the presence of a bird.
I know how each of them looks
when asleep. And I know how it feels
to fall asleep among them.
No one knows that but me,
No one knows how to love the way I do.

~ Jim Moore

                     

Music by Poets of the Fall, “Where Do We Draw the Line?

 

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“Find beauty; be still.” ~ W.H. Murray

Chiaroscuro: Watcherby L. Liwag
Chiaroscuro: Watcher
by L. Liwag

                   

“In each of us lie good and bad, light and dark, art and pain, choice and regret, cruelty and sacrifice. We’re each of us our own chiaroscuro, our own bit of illusion fighting to emerge into something solid, something real.” ~ Libba Bray, from A Great and Terrible Beauty

 Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and cold, low 40’s.

Things I believe in:

Chiaroscuro colon snow angel
Chiaroscuro: Snow Angel
by L. Liwag
  • the Oxford comma
  • friendship on a daily basis
  • lifelong love
  • romance
  • fictional characters
  • dreams (as in sleeping) as reflections of our lives
  • the inestimable power of music to move
  • the unmistakable humanity of dogs
  • past lives
  • monogamy
  • revenge
  • the existence of true good and real evil in the world
  • there is always hope

“We all walk in mysteries. We are surrounded by an atmosphere about which we still know nothing at all.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, letter dated 23 July 1820

Things I know for certain:

Chiaroscuro colon Winter Berries
Chiaroscuro: Winter Berries
by L. Liwag
  • Turning 40 changes your life in ways you cannot fathom for years to come
  • Melancholy is a way of life
  • Being different is both hard and easy
  • Revenge is counterproductive, which doesn’t lessen its desirability
  • I belong in front of a college classroom
  • I will always miss Caitlin, my father, and Mari
  • I have lived through momentous points in history but have failed to notice
  • The mirror is not my friend
  • I have surprised myself with the quality of some of the things I have written
  • I did not win the lottery

“There are so many
lives of which I know nothing.
Even my own.” ~ Jane Hirshfield, from “Unnameable Heart”

Things I don’t know well enough—yet:

Chiaroscuro colon La Luna
Chiaroscuro: La Luna
by L. Liwag
  • How to choose a friend wisely
  • How rain sounds on a tin roof
  • My own soul
  • How to believe in myself
  • How to be still, really still
  • How to be comfortable in my own skin
  • How to make and apply fondant on a fancy cake
  • How to renovate a house from top to bottom
  • How to find a literary agent
  • Where to find my place in the sun

“. . . the compulsion to repeat what one has experienced is like gravity, and it takes special equipment to break away from it.” ~ Edward St. Aubyn, from The Patrick Melrose Novels: Never Mind

Things I will never do:

Chiaroscuro colon dog and snow
Chiaroscuro: Dog and Snow
by L. Liwag
  • Parachute out of a plane (used to be on my bucket list)
  • Have my picture taken while a snake is wrapped about my shoulders (I would die of fright first)
  • Pay retail
  • Go back on a promise (as long as it is within my power)
  • Race in the Tour de France (well, duh)
  • Dye my hair blond
  • Dance on a table (again)
  • Ride a big wave
  • Be sorted into a house at Hogwarts
  • Travel in a TARDIS
  • Not have a dog in my life

“We all want to take our lives in our own hands
and hurl them out among the stars.” ~ David Bottoms, from “Coasting Toward Midnight at the Southeastern Fair”

Things on my bucket list I may actually achieve some day:

Frozen Chiaroscuro
Frozen Chiaroscuro
by L. Liwag
  • Photograph a feeding hummingbird
  • Photograph a hawk in flight
  • See the New Year’s Eve fireworks show in Sydney
  • Fly a glider (yep, still want to do this)
  • Go to Ireland
  • Retile a room, walls and floor
  • Relax in a natural hot spring
  • Go to the Louvre
  • Go back to London and visit the places I knew as a child
  • Read everything Virginia Woolf ever wrote, including diaries
  • Have floor to ceiling built-in bookshelves filled to the brim with books of poetry, fiction, and some science and history
  • See the Northern lights and the Great Barrier Reef
  • See Hadrian’s Wall and Stonehenge and all of the stone circles across Europe
  • Publish a real book that people will want to read

“The heart is forever inexperienced.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Things I will love until the day I die:

Blossom Chiaroscuro
Blossom Chiaroscuro
by L. Liwag
  • A mockingbird’s song
  • The smells of fresh lavender, lilac, and rosemary
  • A cup of hot tea
  • Fresh bread still hot enough to melt butter
  • My name
  • Black leather boots
  • A long, hot bath scented with bath salts
  • A neck massage
  • The smell of the air after a spring rain
  • The feel of fine, soft, squishy leather purses and jackets
  • Christmas socks
  • Paper in all colors and weights
  • Handwritten letters and notes
  • Books, books, books
  • The certainties of cemeteries and waterfalls, mountains and oceans, and the moon in the night sky
  • “Amazing Grace” played on the bagpipes
  • The smell of 4711 cologne

Music by Bruno Mars (feat. Lindsey Stirling, Alex Boye’, & the Salt Lake Pops), “Grenade”

All images are mine, my concept of chiaroscuro.

                   

As I Grew Older 

It was a long time ago.
I have almost forgotten my dream.
But it was there then,
In front of me,
Bright like a sun—
My dream.

And then the wall rose,
Rose slowly,
Slowly,
Between me and my dream.
Rose until it touched the sky—
The wall.

Shadow.
I am black.

I lie down in the shadow.
No longer the light of my dream before me,
Above me.
Only the thick wall.
Only the shadow.

My hands!
My dark hands!
Break through the wall!
Find my dream!
Help me to shatter this darkness,
To smash this night,
To break this shadow
Into a thousand lights of sun,
Into a thousand whirling dreams
Of sun!

~ Langston Hughes

“Ignorant free speech often works against the speaker. That is one of several reasons why it must be given rein instead of suppressed.” ~ Anna Quindlen

Oregon Coast 1 by russell.tomlin*

                   

“There is nothing more frightening than active ignorance.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Wednesday night. Still hot and humid.

Oregon Coast: Huge Surf 11-6-09 by russell.tomlin

First let me say that I have no idea what is going on with my fonts. Everything on my WordPress is smaller. The fonts on my dashboard are smaller, and the internal header sizes that I’ve been using for months are now smaller than before. Please let me know if my pages look funny, or if the formatting seems off.

Now on to other things . . .

I need to preface what I am about to write with a short background story: When I was in charge of the computer labs while teaching in the English department at ODU, I had a run-in with a colleague who had been a bit shirty with the students who worked for me. I fired off a memo to this colleague, and did not listen to my own inner voice, which said, calm yourself first.

We had a tiff. We got over it, but I felt terrible. I learned a valuable lesson: retorts need time to bake properly and should always be allowed to simmer for a while. Or as the old Klingon proverb states: “Revenge is a dish best served cold.”

However, this is actually not about revenge; this is about justice.

“I prefer tongue-tied knowledge to ignorant loquacity.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero

Sea Foam Explodes on the Oregon Coast by russell.tomlin

I recently learned that an acquaintance has been making disparaging remarks about me, using my blog as fodder in a smear campaign. Unfortunately, WordPress does not allow blocking of IP addresses, or I would have taken the simplest route. Having said that, I must admit to being a bit peeved that my own words, my precious, precious words were being taken out of context and undergoing armchair psychoanalysis.

Hmm . . . Things that make you go hmm . . .

When I decided to begin this blog, I knew that I was putting myself out there, so to speak, that I was inviting strangers in to take a peek at my life, that I was willingly subjecting myself to possible derision. For these reasons, I have held back (no, really, I have) on certain topics and certain events. Not everything should be open for perusal by anyone who happens to stop by. I have shared information about my family, its workings, its quirks, yet I have respected the privacy of each family member.

On a few occasions, I have written posts that I have deemed too personal, and I have made these posts private.

Occasionally, I have gotten a troll, and Akismet has protected me from a boatload of spam. But there is no protection from a virtual stalker—the individual who has no problem in appropriating sections of my life whole cloth, and then making of that cloth whatever he or she deems appropriate.

This simply will not do. Aside from the blatant bad manners of it all, what has happened borders on defamation. Trust me when I say that I hold my character quite dear, as should we all, and I will not tolerate an assassination of my character or that of any member of my family. Let’s just say cease and desist is now part of my researched vocabulary.

“If ignorant both of your enemy and yourself, you are certain to be in peril.” ~ Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Big Surf Folds Over on the Oregon Coast 9-6-09 by russell.tomlin

But to be honest, what has me angrier than anything else is that I actually considered making my entire blog private for a bit, and I also considered the possibility of going on hiatus. I was going to allow myself to be cowed; I, who pride myself on my ability to reason intelligently, was going to allow this individual to affect my writing, nay to affect my life.

Nope. Sorry. I refuse to do so.

Nothing makes me angrier than when I get angry at myself, when I start to blame myself for things over which I have no control, and I certainly cannot, nor do I choose to control the actions of another person. Being the staunch believer in free will that I am, I must stand by my convictions, especially when I know that I have not acted inappropriately, that I have not broken any laws, that I have acted only in the best interests of those around me.

So, to be blunt, do with this what you will.

“Inflamed by greed, incensed by hate, confused by delusion, overcome by them, obsessed by mind, a man chooses for his own affliction, for others’ affliction, for the affliction of both and experiences pain and grief” ~ The Buddha

Five Layers of Movement by russell.tomlin

These things I will not do:

  • Stop writing out of fear of being misconstrued or in an attempt to calm waters that cannot be quelled.
  • Stand idly by whilst a human being—correction, any human being—is being cowed into submission.
  • Cease in speaking the truth, the truth as I see it, the truth as I know it.
  • Allow myself to write out of anger, nor will I censor myself so that I do not cause offense. Reading blogs is an entirely optional activity, that is the beauty of the Internet: the big X in the upper right hand corner that closes the page, thus ending the discourse.
  • Allow anyone to speak ill of my family under any circumstances.
  • Allow anyone to harm my family under any circumstances.
  • Tolerate personal, private information being disseminated in attempts to smear my good name.
  • Fall prey to the machinations of another individual.
  • Presume to know that which I cannot know; assume that everyone operates under the Golden Rule; resume my petty, vindictive streak which I have worked so hard to overcome.

“The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions, and evils, is rooted in the three poisons: Greed, anger, and delusion.” ~ Bodhidharma

Yachats 10-9-09 by russell.tomlin

These things I vow to do:

  • Continue to be true to myself with no attempts to soft-sell myself or my beliefs.
  • Write and post my blogs as I feel the need.
  • Be a bit more mindful of the dangers that lurk in virtual reality.
  • Continue to work in my own way for truth, justice, and the common good.
  • Share information that I think my reading audience might find interesting, entertaining, or helpful.
  • Be true to my wit, my character, and my personae—both the real and the creative.
  • Remind myself not to allow negative external forces over which I have no control to affect me adversely.
  • Remember my Shakespeare: “That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain” (Hamlet I,v)
  • Kill them with kindness.

“Men best show their character in trifles, where they are not on their guard. It is in the simplest habits, that we often see the boundless egotism which pays no regard to the feelings of others and denies nothing to itself.” ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

No Fear by russell.tomlin

I have at my disposal two of the greatest weapons ever given to human kind: my mind and the truth. I have no need to lie or to stretch the truth to suit my needs. I have no desire to become embroiled in an imbroglio not of my making.

I may not have the desire, but that does not mean that I do not remain an estimable force. Having said that, at the end of the day, what I feel now more than any other emotion is pity.

As that old misogynist Nietzsche said, “one has clearly ceased to be an object of fear as soon as one is pitied.”

Music by Meredith Brooks . . . “Bitch”

                   

Hard Night

What words or harder gift
does the light require of me
carving from the dark
this difficult tree?

What place or farther peace
do I almost see
emerging from the night
and heart of me?

The sky whitens, goes on and on.
Fields wrinkle into rows
of cotton, go on and on.
Night like a fling of crows
disperses and is gone.

What song, what home,
what calm or one clarity
can I not quite come to,
never quite see:
this field, this sky, this tree.

~ Christian Wiman

*All images taken from Russell Tomlin’s photostream on Flickr. Many thanks.

“She’s got the whole dark forest living inside of her.” ~ Tom Waits

 

Ruins of 19th Century Manor House by alterallensteiner (flckr creative commons)
                   

“Life is either a dream or a frenzy, inside an enclosure.” ~ D. H. Lawrence, Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Thursday evening. Rapidly dropping temperatures after a lovely high of 70 degrees.

Hidden Abandoned House

First let me say that there will be no ranting tonight. Just thought I should let you know right upfront since the past two days have been pretty vitriolic, even for me.

Today I finally set up my Avon representative e-site. I thought that I would give this a whirl just to see if I can make a bit of money from it. Who knows. If anyone is interested in checking it out, click here.  I did send an e-mail to a few people in my mailbox, but it was automatically generated, so I have no idea what it said . . .

So at the moment, I’m listening to some tunes and munching on saltines. I saw my PCP on Tuesday, and most of my blood work was fine. Only problem was that for some reason, the lab didn’t do my lipid profile or my thyroid, which meant that I had to fast again and go back on Wednesday. Those are probably the two most important tests for me: my triglycerides and my thyroid.  One troubling thing: I seem to have adult onset diabetes (just barely). The reality is that if I start exercising again and cut down on the carbs (no rice?), I should be fine without any additional medication, which suits me just fine.

Tomorrow is the eye doctor. I don’t think that I’ve looked forward to an eye appointment so eagerly since my very first appointment which I had when I was 12. I had put off telling my mother that I thought that I needed glasses until I could no longer see the blackboard. For a while, I borrowed Kim Reese’s glasses (funny, the things you remember). I was so eager to have glasses so that I could see things clearly again, but getting used to glasses was hard as I didn’t wear them all of the time; hence, I lost my first pair fairly quickly.

The reason I didn’t wear my glasses all of the time? Because of something my mother said to me (and yes, you will probably be horrified): “Boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.” What the hell? And you people wonder why I have such low self-esteem. That was fairly typical for the kinds of things my mother said to me, and at the time, it was a pretty stupid thing to say as I wasn’t even really interested in boys yet.

Whatever.

“With the daggers I
pilfered from an angel
I build my dwelling.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from “Slumber Inn”

Abandoned Building by Scallop Holden

(Just an aside: If you’ve never heard Eva Cassidy’s version of Sting’s “Fields of Gold,” you should give it a listen. Beautiful.)

Isn’t the above just a bone-jolting quote? “Daggers I pilfered from an angel”—wow. I mean, just think about it, someone writing about stealing daggers from an angel, the juxtaposition of the hard g-sound in daggers with the fluidity of pilfered and dwelling. Bold. Beautiful. Mystical. I love it.

I have come to Edmond Jabès late in life, but at least I have finally found him. Jabès was born an Egyptian Jew but was forced to relocate to France during the Suez Crisis in 1956, where he become one of the most famous post-war French poets. I haven’t read any of his books yet, but as is often the case in life, I keep running across quotes from his work in the strangest places, and the more I read, the more that I want to read.  I suppose that I shall begin with The Book of Questions, Vol. I.

Paul Aster in the New York Review of Books said this about the book: “Neither novel nor poem, neither essay nor play, The Book of Questions is a combination of all these forms, a mosaic of fragments, aphorisms, dialogues, songs, and commentaries that endlessly move around the central question of the book: how to speak what cannot be spoken.” I find the description very appealing, that Jabès’ work is an amalgamation of writing forms.

“I have followed a book in its persistence, a book which is the story of a thousand stories as night and day are the prow of a thousand poems. I have followed it where day succeeds the night and night the day, where the seasons are four times two hundred and fifty seasons” ~ The Book of Questions, p. 325

“Mystery is truth’s dancing partner.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Abandoned Building Alcove

My tumblr dash continues to be a sustaining source of inspiration for me. I find that I open it each day with an emotion akin to giddiness (truthfully, I just don’t do giddy) at what new, beautiful things I will see and read there. The dash is where I first saw words by Jabès, where each day I see incredible photographs of abandoned castles, old writing desks, empty performance houses.

I’m not sure where my love of abandoned buildings comes from. I’ve only been in a few, but I love to see pictures of them. I’m certain that if I were younger and still able to do such things, I would be one of those urban adventurers who seeks out abandoned buildings, the ruins of castles and manor opens, old opera houses, empty hospitals that still house rusty gurneys in hollow exam rooms. I think that such places are filled with a singular mystery and beauty because they are abandoned. And once so, they assume a presence of their own.

The emptiness allows the imagination to run free: What kind of soprano stood in the middle of that stage? Was she wearing a red velvet dress? Who sat in this alcove and looked out the lake and the gazebo and the trees? How many people climbed this staircase? Why did they leave just the shell of a grand piano here and nothing else?

These are the kinds of things that I ponder if I just let my mind wander, and it only stokes within me more of a desire to visit these places, to walk through the crumbling entrance to an abandoned manor. It’s like Harry Potter returning to Sirius Black’s family home and looking beneath the dusty bed, finding part of a letter written in his mother’s handwriting. Those forgotten pieces of the past that most people see as trash and junk—what secrets do they hold?

I remember walking to school when we lived in London. Part of the route took us past the iron fence to an old hospital. One day, I noticed a woman’s black clutch purse shoved behind a bush. I thought about that purse for weeks: Who did it belong to? Who put it there? Why? I wanted to look inside that purse so badly that I almost became obsessed. I didn’t care about finding money; I wanted to see what the purse revealed about its owner. I still remember exactly what that purse looked like. I was six, seven at the most.

“When others asked the truth of me, I was convinced it was not the truth they wanted, but an illusion they could bear to live with.” ~ Anaïs Nin

Abandoned Building Blue Doors by kentfagerdotcom

Last night, in keeping with our newest addiction, Corey and I watched a particularly good episode of  “Dr. Who” called “Vincent and the Doctor.” It was the episode in which the doctor and Amy Pond went back in time to Provence to see Vincent van Gogh (played by Tony Curran, a great likeness for the self-portrait). I had already seen this episode, but Corey hadn’t, and I really wanted to see it again because it was poignant.

When the doctor and Amy encounter the artist, he is the subject of public ridicule, being thrown out of cafes for not paying his bills, his works of art seen as garish depictions in which no one is interested. The appearance of the charming doctor and his companion provide a nice distraction for van Gogh (as an American, I am so used to Gogh being pronounced as go, so it was unsettling to hear the British pronunciation rhyme with cough, as in goff), who happens to be seeing invisible monsters.

Turns out, the monster, a Krafayis, is just as real as the other things that torture the artist. In the ensuing battle with the monster, Vincent accidentally kills the Krafayis while defending himself. But as the doctor, who realizes that the creature is blind, comforts the dying creature, the visibly stricken Vincent comments that the creature was only afraid and frustrated, feelings with which the artist can empathize.

But the part of the episode that I really liked the best was when the doctor and Amy took Vincent into the future so that he could see his paintings hanging in the Musée d’Orsay  (I will go there one day) and to hear an art scholar (Dr. Black, played by the wonderful Bill Nighy) praise the artist by referring to him as “the greatest painter of them all” and “one of the greatest men who ever lived.” A stunned Vincent cries tears of joy and hugs and kisses the confused scholar.

The doctor and Amy had hoped that by affirming Vincent’s talent, that they might be able to keep him from the despair that drives him to take his own life a few months later. Of course, it doesn’t work. But during the episode, to hear the Vincent character speak about beauty and color so passionately is incredibly moving. I know: I’m a sap.

I have always loved van Gogh’s paintings, the vibrancy of the colors, his choices of subjects. But it has always been the brush strokes that have always fascinated me: they are almost ferocious, as if he couldn’t put the paint to the canvas fast enough or hard enough. What is must have taken out of him each time he created a canvas awash in color and a beauty that he saw, and how it must have devastated him that no one else saw it.

A tortured mind and a tortured soul who produced such immense beauty.

More later. Peace.

Music by Don McLean “Vincent (Starry, Starry Night)”

                   

I Know My Soul

I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
And held it to the mirror of my eye,
To see it like a star against the sky,
A twitching body quivering in space,
A spark of passion shining on my face.
And I explored it to determine why
This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me of
sweet joy and grace.
And if the sign may not be fully read,
If I can comprehend but not control,
I need not gloom my days
with futile dread,
Because I see a part and not the whole.
Contemplating the strange, I’m comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.

~ Claude McKay

“There are two things children should get from their parents: roots and wings.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

 Mother and Child, ca. 1911

“Making the decision to have a child is momentous.  It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” ~ Elizabeth Stone

In continuing my thoughts from yesterday about love, I have to consider the love that exists between parent and child. That all-encompassing tie that eventually becomes so lop-sided that the parent begins to believe that the child would exist just as happily alone. But not really. 

This is life. 

I remember when I was pregnant with Alexis, and I would count the days until it was time for her to be born. I would think about how different life would be with a child. I would wonder if I was ready for a child. Only now do I realize that one can never really be ready for a child, but that should not be a factor. I mean, there is readiness, anticipated readiness, total unreadiness. All of the stages. Yes, some people are more ready than others, but the readiness is defined differently for everyone. 

For example, I remember when I was pregnant with Alexis, I was essentially the first woman in our division to become pregnant. In the year following my pregnancy, four women became pregnant. I suppose I took that step into responsible adulthood first, and the rest followed, or at least, that’s how it seemed. I do remember one woman in my division whose husband absolutely refused to consider the idea of pregnancy until they had $20,000 in the bank. This might seem like great preparation, but the reality is that it’s not. Yes, they had money in the bank, but they were not ready to be parents if they believed that money would prepare them. 

We were not expecting to be pregnant, which means that we did not have $20,000 in the bank, or even $2,000. But once I became pregnant, I embraced the idea fully. I felt more at peace with myself, my body than at any other time in my life, and this happened with each pregnancy, as if I entered a period of near perfection in which all of my inner turmoil seeped from my body, all of my insecurities were overtaken by a sense of well-being that left me completely content. 

“When you have brought up kids, there are memories you store directly in your tear ducts.” ~ Robert Brault

Precious Feet by JDP Photography

I know that some women say that they fell in love with their baby the minute the child was born, and I always used to think that this was a bunch of nonsense—loving someone you don’t know? Loving someone who has only been in your life for a matter of minutes? How is that possible? Now I know. It is possible to love your baby the minute you set eyes upon him or her. You know them as well as you know yourself. This is one big different between mothers and fathers. For many fathers, the newborn is more of an abstract person—someone who needs care and comfort, but not necessarily someone with a personality. 

It is only later, years later, when your child begins to exhibit a sense of self that is completely separate from your identity that you suddenly begin to wonder if you know this person at all. Who are they, and where did they come from? This is certainly not the agreeable person who has clung to the bottom of your legs, pined for your presence, demanded more love than you ever thought possible. 

And I believe that this is when the parenting gets really hard. 

“The hardest part of raising a child is teaching them to ride bicycles. A shaky child on a bicycle for the first time needs both support and freedom. The realization that this is what the child will always need can hit hard.” ~ Sloan Wilson

I cannot possibly talk about what it feels like to be a father, and I know that fatherhood is distinctly different from motherhood, for numerous reasons. But I can tell you that for me, being a mother means opening the heart to unbelievable pain: the first time your child cries, really cries from sadness, the first time your child feels the sting of not being chosen for a team, the first time your child endures the pangs of puppy love, the first time your child realizes that life really isn’t fair and that not all dreams come true, the first time your child’s heart is broken . . . 

To be the onlooker of such things and not to have the power to wipe away the pain—that is what it means to feel helpless. Yet at the same time, motherhood brings as much joy as it does pain: the pride in the first school project, watching as the bicycle stays up and doesn’t fall, birthday parties, pushing swings, the first time your child reads you the story. Bliss. Unfortunately, we do not always take the time to relish the moments of pure joy until they are past. As with most things in life, parenting means spending a great deal of time looking backwards while trying to anticipate what may be coming next. 

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” ~ Anne Frank

My Friend Rebecca with Her Son Kade

If I am coming across as more abstract than personal, it’s because my children are such complex mysteries to me, and they continue to be mysteries to me with each passing year. Yes, I know what Alexis’s favorite color is, and I know what kind of music Eamonn likes. I know how Brett likes to spend his time. I know what foods they like, what clothes they prefer, who their friends are, what their nicknames are, how much they like to sleep, and all of those things. 

But are they happy? Are they lost? Do they wish that their lives were different? Are they disappointed in me? These are areas that children do not pursue for everyday conversation. Eamonn hates to be questioned about personal issues; he sees it as an infringement of his privacy, and in the last three years or so, I perceive a distance between us. Brett isn’t a talker, but he will seek me out to talk when he is upset. Alexis, being the oldest, opens up more to me than she did when she was the boys’ age. We talk about things that matter, important things. But in spite of that, I know that my daughter has an identity that is totally and completely separate from me. 

This is perhaps the hardest part of parenting, one that books can only theorize about, and for which you can never truly be prepared. The little boy who ran to you when you came through the door at the end of the day grows into the young man who can go days without speaking to you. Nothing anyone says can ever make you ready for that point in time when it comes. 

While this gradual separation of child from parent is normal and as much a part of parenting as changing diapers, it is probably one of  the most difficult transitions to accept gracefully.  

“When we choose to be parents, we accept another human being as part of ourselves, and a large part of our emotional selves will stay with that person as long as we live. From that time on, there will be another person on this earth whose orbit around us will affect us as surely as the moon affects the tides, and affect us in some ways more deeply than anyone else can. Our children are extensions of ourselves.” ~ Fred Rogers

The Boys and Me Having Fun in the Snow

Some people wonder if having more than one child divides your love. All I can say is that if you can love one child, you can love more than one child. I love each of my three children as the individuals that they are, and that love is different, but not more or less. I love my children more than I can express.

I hope that I have instilled in each of them a sense of morality, an idea of what it means to treat other people fairly and decently, a love of learning and exploration, and a respect for this world in which we live. I hope that I have given them the tools to become everything that they are capable of becoming. And I hope that I have not embarrassed them too much in front of their friends. But most of all, I hope that when they have children of their own, they will look back on the things that I have done and the words that I have said, and they will understand that everything I have ever done has come from that deep, endless well of love that I have for each of them.

This letting go part is hard, but as with all things, I will grow into it. I must have enough confidence in each of them to respect that they will come into their own. I’m still learning to handle the “seasons of my life, and as the song says, “children get older, and I’m getting older too.” 

 I want to close with this passage from Kahlil Gibran because I think that it sums up what I have been stumbling about, trying to say: 

“Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
 

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth . . . “
 

More later. Peace. 

The Dixie Chicks, “Landslide” 

 

 

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than a sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

 

“There is nothing more frightening than ignorance in action.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

While perusing the blogroll on blogsurfer.us, I came across a blog that made the following statement: “Understand the Green Movement has always been, among other things, a front for the Eugenics Movement.” Wow. Really? I mean, are you serious?

The post concluded with the following completely inane statement: “Please turn on every light on in your home on March 2th – Earth Hour. Show them you are on to their lies and deceptions.”

I actually had to go back and read the short post from the beginning to make sure that it wasn’t written tongue-in-cheek. Sadly, the poster was serious. I certainly know that my efforts to recycle, conserve water, avoid styrofoam, and other earth-conscious efforts are all done because I believe in eugenics. You know, eugenics, that Hitler-esque concept in which the human population engages in selective breeding to improve the race? Yessiree, I am a whole-hearted proponent of the very policy that would have me cast aside as a mongrel because of my mixed blood. Self-preservation be damned. Let’s clean up the gene pool.

I girded my loins and perused a few other posts on this blog and came across blanket statements such as the following: ” . . . global warming’ is both real and a threat to the very survival of the human race. Global warming is neither real nor a threat . . . Environmentalism  (for their purposes) has nothing to do with the environment and the sooner people understand this the better.”

How could I have been so stupid all of these years, not to realize that the U.N. is a front for Eugenics? Not to understand that there is no such thing as global warming, which should have been obvious to me because we still have winters? Melting ice caps, pshaw. No such thing . . . How could I not know that the “Green Movement is after our children”? By god, I’m going to turn on every light in my house. That will show them, whoever them is. And that huge power bill that I’ll get will really show them . . .

Color me green with nausea over the rampant ignorance of the misinformed. I’m trying to be gentle here . . .

“When ignorance gets started, it knows no bounds” ~ Will Rogers

Along those same lines, I was reading a post that was mentioned by someone in my blogroll (Seeing Eye Chick), and I came across some images and videos that made my hair straighten (can’t curl as it already is). I thought that I’d share. There is this obviously racist one which deserves no explanation:

Or this lovely one promoting the use of gun violence:

Or this one which is not big on subtlety:

“The evil that is in the world almost always comes of ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding.” ~ Albert Camus

And finally, let’s close with this wonderful video in which the woman featured is simply giddy over her message. . .

  

Lovely. Simply lovely. Free speech is a wonderful thing. Too bad the Constitution didn’t include an ignorance caveat.

“The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.” ~ Elbert Hubbard  

Seriously, though, all of this might actually be funny, entertaining even, if it were not true, if the people yelling, carrying signs, and posting rants did not believe what they are saying.  Listen. I never claimed to have all of the answers, nor have I ever said that my way of thinking is the only way of thinking, and that’s what separates my flaming liberal, left-wing feminist sensibilities from the Tea Baggers, and birthers, and conspiracy theorists: They are so certain that theirs is the real truth, the only truth, and anyone who opposes them is damned for all eternity.

I mean consider: I did not like George Bush as POTUS. I think that he was inept and power-hungry. That being said, I would have stood up when he entered the room, and given the chance, I would have addressed him as Mr. President because that is the courtesy that is is due the President of the United States. It’s called respect for the office, common courtesy, manners. What we are seeing now is a social conflagration that is being fueled and perpetuated by hatred, unmasked hatred for President Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Congressional Democrats . . . insert the name of anyone who opposes.

The New Deal was called socialism: Did anyone turn down the opportunities afforded by it? Medicare was called socialism: How many Tea Baggers (a large number of whom are over 65) turn down their right to Medicare? Healthcare reform is now being labeled as socialism: How many people will refuse coverage on principle?

I would weep and gnash my teeth if I had not already been rendered emotionally bereft of feeling over the current furor.

More later. Peace.

Red House Painters, “All Mixed Up”

“It is not by muscle, speed, or physical dexterity that great things are achieved, but by reflection, force of character, and judgment.” ~ Cicero

Male Cardinal in the Snow by synthman19872003

“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and power and magic in it.” ~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Blue Jay in the Snow

I’m cold, tired, and my back hurts. What better time and frame of mind to hammer out some new year’s resolutions. Let’s get started then. I resolve to do the following in 2010 (in no particular order, just as they come to me):

  1. Write more—more frequently, more regularly, more faithfully, and with more purpose.
  2. Read more, well, just because it’s something that I love, and it relaxes me.
  3. Try to get along better with eldest son even though his personality is so much like my ex-husband that sometimes the lines blur.
  4. Get back into a regular exercise program. This is one that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time, but let’s face it: I don’t exercise at home. It’s just not a conducive environment. I need to get back to the gym, a place where I will be shamed into working harder.
  5. Do more with my photography, as in, not just take pictures and leave them on the memory card for months. I love Photoshop, so I should use it more.
  6. In conjunction with Number 5, I would love to get a photo printer, but that’s at te bottom of the priority list.
  7. Get that new Logitech mouse that I’ve been eye-balling for two years. The price has to have come down by now.
  8. Work on our credit score; of course, this one is dependent upon Corey starting a new job and no major problems occurring, but both of us want to accomplish something with this.
  9. Paint my bedroom. No. Still hasn’t been done.
  10. Be a better friend and stay in touch on a more regular basis with everyone who has moved away.
  11. Work on finding a literary agent by the end of 2010. That gives me a year.
  12. Pay back Corey’s parents the money they have loaned us. Must do this.
  13. Try to be more patient with my mother. This is a hard one.
  14. Find the perfect squooshy leather purse so that maybe one day I can purchase it.
  15. Plant flowers in the spring. This used to be so important to me. I need to get back to it.
  16. Go to the Virginia foothills and Skyline Drive. It’s been too many years since we’ve done this, and it doesn’t involve spending a lot of money.
  17. Get a pedicure or two or three. Sweet indulgences are a necessary part of life.
  18. Give up chocolate. Okay, so maybe decrease my chocolate intake. I was able to do this once before, so I have no excuses.
  19. Help to support Corey in his goal to register for college classes. The irony is that if we’d known he be out of work this long, he could have registered a long time ago and already be finished with at least a year of school. Bitter irony.
  20. Female Cardinal in the Snow by Dovey
  21. Get a bird feeder to hang in the back yard where the dogs cannot get to it. I miss my backyard birding.
  22. Be more patient overall. I have gotten more patient and less bitchy in recent years, but I still would like to make fewer assumptions and be less prone to getting upset.
  23. Take my vitamins. No-brainer.
  24. Play the piano more. I am so out of the habit, and this, too, relaxes me. 
  25. Try to get on a regular sleep schedule, you know, like normal people.
  26. Declutter. This is a big one as it means that I have to let go of some things, which I don’t like to do, but the decluttering must be done.
  27. Smile more. I’m not a person who smiles a lot, and it’s not because I’m unhappy or angry, I just don’t smile, so maybe I should make a concerted effort to try more, as long as I don’t end up looking like some kind of idiot.
  28. Give back more. Our trials and tribulations have been heavy, but so many others are facing the same and worse. Giving back is the right thing to do.
  29. Go on a retreat. I promised Brett that we would do that this past summer, but then we didn’t have a vehicle or any cash. This year, for certain.
  30. Read more poetry by new writers. I’ve let myself get behind, and there are so many great poets out there just churning out work that needs to be read and shared.
  31. Finally, continue to work on letting go of things from the past. I’m getting much better at this, but I still need to work on it.

“Tenderness and kindness are not signs of weakness and despair but manifestations of strength and resolution” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Cedar Waxwing on Icy Branch by johngomes

Admittedly, none of my resolutions are earth-shattering. That’s the whole point. I wanted to create a list of things that are absolutely possible to do within the next year. Nothing on my list involves spending a lot of money; more things involve dedicating time. I have nothing but time, and I need to get back to doing productive things with my time.

Notice that I didn’t put the big one on there about losing weight. I’ve decided that if I start taking better care of myself, stop eating so much chocolate, and get back into exercising, then the weight thing should balance itself. More of that attempt to be realistic.

I wish you luck with whatever resolutions you have made, whether or not you share them. May the coming year be filled with good opportunities, moments of insight and grace, and abundant love and happiness.

More later. Peace

I really wanted to feature Coldplay’s “The Scientist,” but had a hell of a time finding just the right video. I settled on this one with scenes from the movie Wicker Park (which I haven’t seen yet) as it seems to fit the song better than any of the other ones:

 

 

                                                                                                                                       

XVII from Pablo Neruda’s Still Another Day

The days aren’t discarded or collected, they are bees
that burned with sweetness or maddened
the sting: the struggle continues,
the journeys go and come between honey and pain.
No, the net of years doesn’t unweave: there is no net.
They don’t fall drop by drop from a river: there is no river.
Sleep doesn’t divide life into halves,
or action, or silence, or honor:
life is like a stone, a single motion,
a lonesome bonfire reflected on the leaves,
an arrow, only one, slow or swift, a metal
that climbs or descends burning in your bones.