“Experiencing the present purely is being emptied and hollow; you catch grace as a man fills his cup under a waterfall.” ~ Annie Dillard, from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Blue Whale Fluke
by mikebaird (FCC)

                   

“Do you know the legend about cicadas? They say they are the souls of poets who cannot keep quiet because, when they were alive, they never wrote the poems they wanted to.” ~ John Berger

Sunday afternoon. Cloudy and humid, lower 80’s.

Man, do I love the Berger quote above. I have always loved the sound of cicadas, found it beautiful, but I know that some people find it annoying. Berger’s explanation makes so much sense to me. Of course, you would have to be familiar with my tendency towards anthropomorphism to truly understand this.

Blue Damselfly
by aussiagall (FCC)

Anyway . . .

So it’s a blue Monday—I’ve got my blues playlist going on in the background, and of course, the blue images of different things that I found in various places. I’m just feeling, well, blue.

Not really certain as to any particular cause, more of an overall blue—the day, the atmosphere, my mood, my disposition. I have a sink full of dirty dishes that were not there when I went to bed last night, and laundry that keeps appearing after I’ve done an all-call for dirty clothes. I wonder if anyone in this house ever wonders from where clean clothes and clean dishes come. Does it ever occur to them that the cleaning fairy actually does not exist?

Don’t mind me. I’m tired, and I overdid it this weekend by taking everything out of the kitchen fridge and scrubbing. I wanted to do the old fridge in the garage, but ran out of steam. I managed to cure the leaking washer, but there is still water leaking from the old fridge. One leak at a time, I suppose.

“To hold, you must first open your hand. Let go.” ~ Tao Te Ching

Actually, a better adjective for my mood might be testy. Everything and everyone should be warned. Just not in the mood for anyone’s whims today.

Blue Window
(Source imgfave)

Actually, a whole string of adjectives might be more appropriate: blue, testy, tested, tired, tried, sore, unsure, underappreciated and overtaxed. I’m weary to the bone and wary of what’s to come. My confidence is gone, and my days seem to be running short. And the more that I write here, the less I am certain that I should continue. Not just now, not just today, but tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.

Hell. I don’t even know what I’m saying. I think that I’ll take a break and go clean something. I’ve remembered why I used to clean so much: it passes the time mindlessly, and when you’re finished, you can look at something and say, “Now that’s a polished dining room table,” not that anyone should really be saying that because it’s the height of mundane and who cares anyway? I mean really. Are you going to get an award because your dining room table now has a great reflective surface? But when you are feeling the way I’ve been feeling lately, these seemingly small victories are just about all that’s available for the taking, so I’ll take them for now.

Oh, and I broke my only pair of glasses in half last night. This sucks.

“When I look at my life and its secret colors, I feel like bursting into tears. Like that sky. It’s rain and sun both, noon and midnight . . . I think of the lips I’ve kissed, and of the wretched child I was, and of the madness of life and the ambition that sometimes carries me away. I’m all those things at once. I’m sure there are times when you wouldn’t even recognize me. Extreme in misery, excessive in happiness—I can’t say it.” ~ Albert Camus, from A Happy Death

So while I was in the shower just now, I tried to think about what has brought about this latest downturn, and I realize that it’s quite a combination of things:

“Seizure” Art Installation, London
Roger Hiorns*

First, Corey is not doing well on this hitch. He is feeling quite down because so much has gone on for his family in Ohio in the last months or so, and he has been unable to be there for any of them. That, and he’s feeling lonely. I send him e-mails in which I try to brighten his spirits, let him know how much everyone loves and misses him, but I feel that it’s a very small band-aid, and with him being physically so far away, I cannot help but worry.

Also, last night I had a very vivid Caitlin dream. I haven’t had one of those in quite a while, but this one was a hospital/doctor/Caitlin dream, and those are the absolute worst. I was fighting with the doctor who was admitting her because he just kind of glanced over what was wrong with her, and I didn’t understand what he was saying. I was telling him not to be condescending, that I needed facts, not kind words. Then, and this was the really bad part, Caitlin was another daughter of mine who was sick, but I kept calling her Caitlin because I couldn’t remember my daughter’s name, so I was terrified that the people at the hospital would think that I was a horrible mother and take her away.

Add to that my screwy sleep schedule, the ongoing melodrama with Social Security, my upcoming home visit with the disability people, the fact that another huge pane of glass fell out of the sliding door in the middle of the night, and well, you have a recipe for major doldrums.

“What is it about us human beings that we can’t let go of lost things?” ~ Leslie Marmon Silko, from The Turquoise Ledge

In addition to the Caitlin dream, I followed it with a dream in which someone was chastising me for still grieving. I was trying to explain why my grief never ended, but I couldn’t find the words, and I have to wonder if I will ever, ever, ever get over my keen sense of loss of not only my daughter, but also my inability to have another daughter.

Hanging Rock, Baltzer Lookout, Blackheath, NSW
by JIGGS IMAGES (FCC)

For those of you who may be tired of this song, feel free to fast forward, not that I can promise that it gets any better in the next section . . .

I can say that this section and the previous one share one good thing: Camus and Silko, two writers I adore.

Anyway, back to trying to decipher my mood: When I looked in the bathroom mirror this morning when I first awoke, I saw a face that looked unfamiliar. Without the daily dose of beauty cream and under eye dark circle cream, my face bare, I looked, well, old. Older than I have ever looked. Apart from not having my miracle cream, I also do not have my daily dose of Corey telling me that I’m beautiful (which I never believe, but which helps, nonetheless). And for a nanosecond, I feel as if I’ve become my mother—the woman who has tried to stave off time with multiple operations, who has treated her hair so much that its texture resembles fine straw (ooh, I also dreamed that I was losing my hair), the woman who never wanted to be called grandma.

Oh. My. God. I have become my mother.

“We are silhouettes, hollow phantoms moving mistily without a background.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from The Waves

I never, ever wanted to face aging in the way that my mother faced it: full retreat. I wanted to be one of those strong, secure women who never lied about her age, who never went under the knife, who displayed her crow’s feet like a badge of honor. That’s what I always told myself I would do, who I said I would always be.

Blue Bottle Tree Sculpture, Seattle WA
by ingridtaylar (FCC)

When did I become this huge bundle of insecurity? Was it when I married a younger man and began to see each year as another 365 days that separated us? I think so, or maybe not. I mean, I’ve always been insecure, but I was able to hide it behind a demeanor full of bravado.

You must understand, the age thing has never bothered Corey. And as regards my heart, it has never bothered me. And actually, it’s not the physical in so much as it is the counting of the days, which makes no sense. I, who have always felt so much older than my number, am at a loss to explain this discrepancy. I’ll share this with you, though, as I suddenly remembered it a few days ago, and now that I think of it, this memory barreling out of nowhere is probably what precipitated everything: When I told my mother that Corey and I were going to get married, she said this: “Well you can probably get away with it now because you don’t look your age, but that’s not going to last forever.”

Once again, thanks mom. Can you imagine being told such a thing by a parent? But that’s how it has always been between us, a kind of generous love tempered with a bit of spite. It’s not a pleasant thing to admit.

I guess that break in which I did more laundry, cleaned the kitchen and the bathroom helped because I’ve written the last three sections in less time than it took to write the first two.

More later. Peace.

Music by Fiona Apple, “Sullen Girl” (“my blue oblivion”—perfect)

*A note about one of the pictures: SEIZURE is by British artist Roger Hiorns who pumped 75,000 litres of copper sulphate solution into a London council flat to create “a strangely beautiful and somewhat menacing crystalline growth on the walls, floor, ceiling and bath of this abandoned dwelling.” To see more images of this installation, click on the link. Beautiful.

                   

The Hay Devil, Section V

And now
this evening’s sky:
the seep of cloud through cloud so black
it looks like wreaths of ink
unfurled in water
dock-lights
spotting the further shore:
quicksilver
gold
and crimson
one white boat
dissolving in the firth.
It’s gone before I’ve seen it: details
changing
light
imagining a world:
the play of wind
and traffic
voices
footsteps on the streets
intruding on my thoughts like some
perpetual film of space
or coming home
or counting out a lifetime’s worth of sails
and other people’s gardens smudged with rain
or wisps of drifted hay
that catch the light
and vanish
as I never quite arrive
at absence
which is presence somewhere else
in some bright field
some miracle of air.

~ John Burnside

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“I never knew what was meant by choice of words. It was one word or none.” ~ Robert Frost

Waterfield Booksellers, UK

                   

“How far, how far we’ve come
together, tumbling like stars
in harness or alone.” ~ David Malouf, from “Stars”

Tuesday early evening. Sunny and warm, not humid.

Corey is still here. The ship’s radar is out of commission, and they are awaiting parts. Tentative day of departure is Thursday. I’m not complaining. Even though he’s working weird hours ( 4 a.m. to 10 a.m., back at 4 p.m. to 8 p.m., which is a little better than the 11:45 p.m. to 10 a.m. he worked for two days), it’s nice just to be able to sleep next to him. I’ve missed that, as have the puppies.

Cafebreria El Pendulo, Mexico City, Mexico

The past three or four days have been pretty bad for me physically. I think that I’m having a bout with my fibromyalgia as all of my joints hurt, and I am extremely fatigued. Yesterday and today I have gotten quite dizzy if I stay on my feet for too long. I have felt this coming on since mid last week, but was really hoping to avoid any down time while Corey is home.

Alexis’s shower at her friend’s house was Sunday, and it was really lovely, but I was completely exhausted afterwards. I told her that she really has a nice extended family and group of friends. Her father and his girlfriend went in with the evil stepgrandmother and bought her crib, mattress, and changing table. I was genuinely surprised by the extravagance. I suppose his girlfriend is a good influence on him. Must say that I’m disappointed, though, as I didn’t think that anyone would buy it, which would allow Corey and me to give it to them.

Oh well. She needs plenty of other things. I’m planning my shower for June 10. I need to print and mail the invitations, but I need ink cartridges. Always something.

“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.” ~ Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness

As I’m typing this, I’m on hold with the IRS. It’s been 16 minutes so far of really bad hold music, same four or five chords over and over, with a little bongo drum thrown in for rhythm, I suppose. Can I just tell you how utterly disheartening it is to (a) call the IRS in the first place, and then (b) have to clarify something that I’m 99 percent certain I did not do wrong.

Selexyz Bookstore (a converted Dominican church)
Maastricht, Holland

Bureaucracy—it’s what runs this country, and it is the bane of my existence. After my call to the IRS, I still need to call Sentara to set up payment arrangements for my ER visit back in the winter because, oh, there’s that pesky thing called a deductible, plus 20 percent of major medical, bringing me to a grand total of almost $1400 for five hours in the emergency room, during which time they did an x-ray and listened to my chest and did little else.

But we don’t need nationalized healthcare. Oh no. That would be socialism. Egads. How abhorrent.

Actually, these aren’t the rantings of someone who is taking a political stand, just the comments of a tired consumer. I get it coming and going, my health insurance payments each month, the outrageous deductibles, the endless paperwork and telephone calls . . . I hate telephone calls to nameless customer service representatives who, almost to a person, hate their jobs and pass on that dissatisfaction with their treatment of the callers.

(Update: The first woman with whom I spoke at the IRS was a peach. I take back everything I said . . . of course, I’m on hold again . . .)

“I put it down on paper and then the ghost does not ache so much.” ~ Sandra Cisneros, The House On Mango Street

Yesterday I spent most of the day in bed, which gets to me as I’m thinking about the things that aren’t getting done—the laundry, the trip to the grocery store, the dishes. And Tillie is not liking my down time either as it means that I am not taking her out for our usual game of stick.

Barter Books, Alnwick, UK

Speaking of dogs, and I was, Alexis and Mike got a . . . wait for it . . . puppy. That’s right, two months before the baby is due they got a puppy. Madness, I tell you, utter madness. Her name is Roxi, and she’s a Chihuahua and Jack Russell mix, which means that she’s a tiny yip yip dog and absolutely adorable. Apparently someone in Mike’s family had a litter of puppies the last time they were visiting in Mississippi, and the two of them expressed an interest. Someone took them seriously, and when the family (Mike’s) came into town for the joint wedding reception and shower, they brought the puppy.

We are withholding this little tidbit from my mother as she will quite likely go ballistic over the news. You got a puppy and you don’t have a house! You got a puppy and you’re having a baby! Ya da ya da ya da ad infinitum . . .

It hurts my ears just thinking about the things she would say.

“All the words I collect are artifacts of sentiments that do not exist and could not even be conceived of again—ideas that once desperately needed to be expressed disappear, leaving husks of language that I save, I care for.” ~ Alice Bolin, from “I Sometimes Really Feel That Way”

Livraria Lello, Portugal

Last night I had one of those dreams that, while I was dreaming it, I thought that it would make a good story. I made a point of trying to remember the dream so that I could turn it into a story. Of course, when I thought about the dream, it made no sense, and would certainly not translate well into a story. Why does my brain do that: assemble stories in my dreams, convince my subconscious that, “Hey, this is great. You must remember it”? But then when my conscious mind remembers, it is never what I had thought it was.

I do love the way that my mind creates while I sleep, but I just wish that the dream words, the dream scenarios actually were translatable. Does that make sense? I do end up feeling as if I’m holding empty husks after having one of these episodes: Hooray, creative mind at work. No wait, sleeping mind at work. Things such as logic, linear thought, character development are nonexistent. Wake up with nothing……….

(Another update: Second person with whom I spoke at IRS was even nicer than first. I take back all of the customer service insults.)

“The boon of language is not tenderness. All that it holds, it holds with exactitude and without pity, even a term of endearment; the word is impartial: the usage is all. The boon of language is that potentially it is complete, it has the potentiality of holding with words the totality of human experience — everything that has occurred and everything that may occur. It even allows space for the unspeakable.” ~ John Berger, from And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos

So today’s post, albeit rambling and totally without substance, was initially supposed to deal with language and words. I don’t know where my focus went. Perhaps the bongos drummed it from my brain. I do know that it’s been ages and ages since I spent hours wandering around a bookstore. Hence, the images.

Shakespeare and Company, Paris, France

I keep thinking about that Marcus Zusak quote: “I have hated words and I have loved them,” which pretty much sums up my life. Words are everything to me, but at times, they are painful. They elude me, they tease me, they wound me. I use words to inform, to woo, and to wound, if I am to be completely honest.

Corey and I have exchanged our journals for the new trip. My journal is filled with banal words about my day, about the kids, about the dogs. But I hope that he sees beneath the banality of my words, sees to the heart of my meaning, to the heart of intent. I hope that when he reads my words, that he knows how much of myself is within them. That as I write about something inane and mundane, I am telling him how much I care. And that as I write about seeming nothingness, I am weighting each word with the expanse of the four chambers of my heart.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sparklehorse, “Eyepennies”

                   

Drinking Like a Fish

Though blue at a distance,
the surface is clear
as gin with a tension
that can bob you like
an ice cube. What
you really want, though,
is to float below
in chartreuse light,
to glide through tonic bubbles
above the swaying kelp,
borne along on currents, while
your heavy body, stranded
on land, still stumbles
and gasps. This
is your true element,
where predators
ignore the pinstripe
of the inedible.
You’re even
a Pisces.

Deeper and deeper
you go, to the bottom,
fin silt that swirls
like bourbon in branch water
to darken the gloom
where things with gelatin
wings glow blue
as a gas flame.
And this is where
you want to live
forever—to grow so
transparent, so fragile,
even the weight of the sea
cannot crush you.

~ William Greenway