“It was autumn, and I was in my father’s woods building a house out of branches and the leaves that were falling like thousands of letters from the sky.” ~ Joyce Sutphen, from “The Book of Hours”
Saturday evening. Cool, 60’s.
Did you know that the ceiling of New York’s Grand Central Terminal is painted with 2,500 stars: “an autumn-night constellation that was originally painted backward and never corrected”? I didn’t.
When I pulled into the driveway this evening after doing some errands with Brett and Em, Brett opened his car door and immediately said, “It smells like autumn,” and indeed, it did. Brett and I share a deep love of the season, and we both await eagerly that first true scent on the air of damp leaves, woodsmoke, and loam—the unmistakable smell of autumn.
I could have sat outside for hours just to inhale, but alas, I was still hurting far too much as a result of massive trigger point injections on Friday. I suppose they’ve affected me so adversely because it has been too long since my last ones.
Oh well . . .
I’ll just imagine myself in the woods in front of a campfire.
Music by Woodkid, “I Love You” (quintet version)
We Shall Be Released
Every afternoon that autumn
walking across campus
past the conservatory
I heard the soprano
her voice rising
making its way up the scale
straining to claim each note
weeks of work
storms slamming the campus
the semester staggering
to an end
heading out and going home
the campus nearly deserted
but the soprano
still working the scales
when I passed under the trees
the liquidambars on fire
the clouds like great cities
sailing out to sea
and didn’t I ascend
my own weariness
didn’t we rise together
her voice straining
at the top of its range
“The lake, as usual, Has taken its mood from the sky, Its color also, The blue that breaks hearts.” ~ Tom Hennen, from “June, with Loons”
Thursday afternoon, Halloween. Cloudy and warm, mid 70’s.
The fates have been reversed for about a week or so: I’ve been wanting to write, have had much to say, but have had no time to spare until just this moment. I’m hoping that I can finish this post before the neighborhood kids begin to roam, and the dogs begin to go crazy. We’ll just have to see.
Since I have so many different thoughts going in so many different directions, I thought I’d do a random thoughts post. Here goes:
I learned a new word the other day: deliquescent, becoming liquid or having a tendency to become liquid. Doesn’t that just sound as if it should be in a poem?
I continue to awaken each morning with a song in my head, and the song of the morning does not seem to have any relevance to anything that I can pinpoint. For example, the other morning it was The Courtship of Eddie’s father theme song.
There is a running theme that occurs in my dreams, regardless of what the main theme is: I have forgotten to feed the dogs that stay in the backyard. I only remember them after several days. I find them in various states of illness—listless, dehydrated, close to dying.
Last night I dreamt of my family in Great Bridge, all of my cousins; one of my cousins introduced me to his friend and said that I had gone off to sing. I was very confused because I didn’t remember having a singing career.
I bought Halloween candy that I’m not particularly fond of hoping that it would keep me from delving into the bag; this has not worked completely.
Does too much sugar affect your dreams?
“She will hang the night with stars so that I may walk abroad in the darkness without stumbling, and send the wind over my footprints so that none may track me to my hurt: she will cleanse me in great waters, and with bitter herbs make me whole.” ~ Oscar Wilde, from “De Profundis”
So here’s the latest news from around the home:
Corey will be in port on Saturday. He’s getting off the ship before they travel to Ascension; we have to fit in the trip to New Orleans before all of the holidays roll around.
I weigh four pounds less on my pain doctor’s scale. I like that scale.
Olivia is going to be a lady bug for Halloween; I bought her some black and white Mary Janes with red bows, too cute.
I wonder how many of you remember those hard leather shoes made by Stride-Rite for toddlers, how we were all forced to wear them and then in turn told to force our children to wear them . . . somewhere along the line, the doctors who decide said that tennis shoes were better for young feet.
I read where Kate Middleton’s sister Pippa bought the young prince silver casts of his hands and feet for a christening gift, and media voices were calling the gift creepy. How is that any creepier than bronzing baby shoes like everyone in my mother’s generation did?
My current fascination with all things make-up related continues. Don’t ask me why as I haven’t the faintest idea.
Lately, I’m fixated on just the right make-up brushes.
“And if all that is meaningless, I want to be cured Of a craving for something I cannot find And of the shame of never finding it.” ~ T. S. Eliot, from The Cocktail Party
Funny, I thought that I had so much to say, but the last few hours have had so many interruptions that I cannot seem to find my train of thought.
It’s far too muggy to be October.
I just remembered that I had another dream about the real estate firm where I worked. In these dreams I’m always trying to please my boss, unsuccessfully.
I don’t want to think about how many jobs I have failed at; it’s just too depressing.
Neither Brett nor I went to any Literary Festival events this year.
I finally watched the movie Sylvia in which Gwyneth Paltrow plays Sylvia Plath and Daniel Craig plays Ted Hughes. The movie wasn’t bad, but I think it soft-pedaled the depiction of Hughes.
At the moment I’m feeling very displaced, as if I’m on the verge of something without really knowing what or why.
The other day I realized that this year marks 25 years since Caitlin. It still feels so immediate, so close, yet not.
I wonder if anyone else can understand anything I am trying to say.
“But mountain weariness and mountain hunger — how few know what these are!” ~ John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir
She said, apropos of nothing . . .
My mother ordered me some strange gadget from QVC. I told her that I didn’t have room for it, and I didn’t really need it. She insisted that I had told her I wanted it. This would be hard as I have no idea as to what it is. Patience. Patience.
QVC preys on the shut-ins, the elderly, and the lonely.
I probably won’t see the mountains again this year.
Obviously, I’m not going to apply to the doctoral program at GW since I have made no further efforts in preparing.
I am my own worst enemy.
Now that Corey is coming home, we can finally finish the bathroom, all of the things we couldn’t do before he left, and all of the things I couldn’t do on my own—not a whole lot, actually. Still, unfinished is unfinished.
I have the strangest feeling that I have forgotten to do something really important, but I have no idea as to what it might be.
“While the earth breaks the soft horizon eastward, we study how to deserve what has already been given us.” ~ William Stafford, from “Love in the Country”
On a more serious note . . .
I think that my mother is deteriorating mentally faster. I have noticed more things in just the last few weeks.
I really need to investigate what kind (if any) of support there is for seniors, as far as keeping house, running errands, that kind of thing.
We are not a society that values the aged, not like the Asians do.
I constantly berate myself for not having enough patience with my mother, yet when I’m around her, I just cannot seem to summon the patience I need.
I feel like a horrible daughter.
I am praying to the gods that be that I can teach myself more of how to live in the moment, something I have never quite mastered.
Am I too old to learn such things?
When I am with Olivia, I am forcing my mind to rest, not to think about this bill or that problem, but to just enjoy this time because I know all too well that it passes quickly.
I would give anything to have another fall afternoon with all three of my children when they were still young.
I happened upon the most wonderful site: Lancaster Center for Classical Studies, which posted pictures of cloudy weather for today, just as I have here. I wonder if they do that every day . . .
More later. Peace.
Music by Rosi Golan and Johnny McDaid, “Give up the Ghost”
You will never be alone, you hear so deep
a sound when autumn comes. Yellow
pulls across the hills and thrums,
or in the silence after lightning before it says
its names — and then the clouds’ wide-mouthed
apologies. You were aimed from birth:
you will never be alone. Rain
will come, a gutter filled, an Amazon,
long aisles — you never heard so deep a sound,
moss on rock, and years. You turn your head —
that’s what the silence meant: you’re not alone.
The whole wide world pours down.
“A kiss on the forehead—erases misery. I kiss your forehead.” ~ Marina Tsvetaeva, (trans. Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine)
Sunday early evening. Mild, 60°.
So it’s been two days since Corey boarded the plane that took him to Dulles, and then on to Copenhagen, then to Lithuania. Apparently he was late arriving in Lithuania because of fog. The plan made three attempts to land and then had to return to Copenhagen to refuel. Thankfully, he slept through most of it, and also thankfully, I did not know about it until it was over, and he was safe on the ground.
Tomorrow I have to send him an express package with the things that he forgot, two of which are essential, and I don’t know how—between the two of us—we forgot to pack them: his merchant mariner document and his USB for his laptop.
We don’t know how long he will be in Lithuania yet, still waiting for a decision on where the rest of the repairs will be made. He said that there is a crew of about 16 on board for now.
The last two nights have been as restless as expected. Friday, Tillie was obviously upset and wouldn’t eat. I pulled a dirty t-shirt from the hamper and put it with her, and she settled a bit. Yesterday and today I’ve tried to play with her outside for a bit, and my plan it to begin walking with her tomorrow. I hope that between the physical activity and the extra attention, she won’t go into full grieving mode, leaving me with one less thing to contend with so that I can get about the business of being miserable.
“And this is one of the mysteries, that the mind can speak, and knows nothing; and the heart knows everything, and cannot speak.” ~ Osho
The other two dogs are fine; the fat one never leaves my side long enough to pay attention to anyone else, and while Alfie knows that something is up, he seems fine as long as I let him nuzzle and sleep at my feet.
It really hasn’t hit me yet. I mean, right now it’s just as if he’s away for a transport. We’ll revisit the issue in a week and see how I’m doing.
I took the time yesterday to catch up on my blog reading, something I have been remiss in doing. One of my blogger compatriots gave me a suggestion for a post that I think I’ll tackle soon: the virtual hoarding that I do on Tumblr. I hadn’t really thought about it until recently, but I realize that Tumblr lets me amass lots and lots of things, but in a good way: I don’t have to dust, and I don’t have to make room. Anyway, I’m pondering that for now . . .
Last night, this morning, really, the moon was still big and bright in the sky at 6 a.m. or so. This whole spring forward thing on the time always screws me up; although, I’m not really certain as to why since my nights are my days and vice versa. I mean, I don’t even know the date unless I look at my cell phone or one of the calendars hanging throughout the house.
“It seems to me we can never give up longing and wishing while we are thoroughly alive. There are certain things we feel to be beautiful and good, and we must hunger after them.” ~ George Eliot
Anyway, I’ve been trying to stay busy the past few days, catching up on reading blogs and Tumblr, and starting the Game of Thrones series of books. It’s hard reading, and I can’t do my usual speed reading as there are so many new names of places and characters, something inherent in fantasies. But I read until 4 this morning, and then made myself stop so that I could attempt to sleep.
Right. That really worked.
Before Corey left, the boys sat down with us, and we came up with a family game plan for chores and tasks. Not too many changes really, just reminders that I can do laundry, but I cannot lift the baskets. I can do the shopping, but I need someone to come with me to carry. Eamonn is taking on the yard mowing, which is good as I can’t do it, and Brett hates to do it.
But we have a plan, and my hope is that I don’t get too much grief when I do eventually ask for help and that I don’t have to be in constant mom-reminder-mode. Such a pain, especially with grown/almost grown offspring. But we’re hoping that the plan will help the three of us settle into a somewhat comfortable existence in Corey’s absence. We’re shooting for a new kind of normalcy.
I remember when Corey worked on tugs and was two weeks on/one week off—it was hard going in a lot of ways. I was still working full time, and the boys were in high school, and Eamonn was at the height of his difficult years and Brett was having so many problems. Some days, I just wanted to hide in my bedroom with the dogs. But there were dishes to do, and laundry, and all of the rest, not to mention I was going to school in DC two nights a week. I really don’t know how I survived that, but I did. I suppose we all do what we have to do when we have to do it.
It’s better if you don’t think too much about things, I suppose.
“The blue river is gray at morning and evening. There is twilight at dawn and dusk. I lie in the dark wondering if this quiet in me now is a beginning or an end.” ~ Jack Gilbert, “Waking at Night”
In this most recent mode of no-sleep, I find myself attuned to every little noise. More birds are starting their morning song, so the middle of the night is actually not very quiet.
I remember that when I lived in the mountains the sounds of sirens were rarely heard in the middle of the night. When I lived in northern Virginia, it was the opposite, city sounds all night long. I don’t think that I really notice the sirens around here unless I’m trying to quiet my thoughts, but sometimes in the still of the night I can still hear the train whistle, and when there’s fog, I can hear the foghorns on the bay.
I know that I would be able to quiet my thoughts better if I had the sound of waves or rippling water within earshot. Perhaps, once I get my computer fixed and set up on my new desk, I’ll go back to my old habit of listening to my Sounds of Nature CD collection: thunderstorms, waves, whale songs, even rainforests. It’s a toss up between thunderstorms and waves, pretty much.
Last summer, we didn’t have much tree frog action, and I missed that. Just as I miss the pond outside the bedroom window with the frogs singing. Anyway, with water on the brain, you can see why I chose today’s images.
“That was the strange thing, that one did not know where one was going, or what one wanted, and followed blindly, suffering so much in secret, always unprepared and amazed and knowing nothing; but one thing led to another and by degrees something had formed itself out of nothing, and so one reached at last this calm, this quiet, this certainty, and it was this process that people called living.” ~ Virginia Woolf, The Voyage Out
So that’s what life has been like in the past few days. I had toyed with writing an analysis of the Kony 2012 fray, even composed some of it in my brain, but then I just didn’t have it in me to delve into such deep political waters. It would take maximal brain cells and concentration.
I suppose I’m keeping my brain on a short-leash at the moment. Subsuming the need to think too much or ponder too deeply. Introspection poses too many problems. It’s that nagging awareness that I’m holding things at bay, not allowing any tears in front of Corey before he left, for example. If I don’t allow myself to think past the surface, if I don’t move past the dust bunnies and the dirty clothes, if I don’t sit alone with my thoughts, then perhaps this ache that is creeping into my heart can be assuaged.
I’m okay, really. I mean, more okay than I expected to be, which is what worries me. I have this tendency to build walls inside without realizing it. I mean, I admit that I exist in a constant state of grief and loss. I would be lying if I claimed anything else. That loss exists in the background of my reality—a thin membrane that cloaks everything without suffocating it. If I allow it to come to the forefront, it can be all-consuming, which is why I usually just feel the subtle vibrations of its existence.
I have taught myself postpone my confrontations with that aspect of myself, to walk carefully on the surface. At least, that is what I tell myself, and sometimes saying things silently over and over does make it so. Sometimes.
More later. Peace.
Music by Shuyler Fisk, “Waking Life”
You Reading This: Stop
Don’t just stay tangled up in your life.
Out there in some river or cave where you
could have been, some absolute, lonely
dawn may arrive and begin the story
that means what everything is about.
So don’t just look, either:
let your whole self drift like a breath and learn
its way down through the trees. Let that fine
waterfall-smoke filter its gone, magnified presence
all through the forest. Stand here till all that
you were can wander away and come back slowly,
carrying a strange new flavor into your life.
Feel it? That’s what we mean. So don’t just
read this—rub your thought over it.
Now you can go on.
~ William Stafford, from The Methow River Poems in Even in Quiet Places
Great Blue Heron in Morro Bay, CA by mikebaird (FCC)
“An intense copper calm, like a universal yellow lotus, was more and more unfolding its noiseless, measureless leaves upon the sea.” ~ Herman Melville, Moby-Dick
Early Friday evening. Absolutely beautiful day, high 60’s, low humidity.
Day five of this particular migraine, and today is the worst day so far. Sharp, stabbing pain on the top of my skull, like someone is trying to drive a screwdriver into my head.
In spite of the pain, I have been quite reflective today, probably because I had to drive Corey to work so that I would have the car to do school transport. He had a short shift just over the bridge at the dock off Shore Drive, so we passed Lake Whitehurst. The water was so still, like a mirror. Then, too, the Lafayette River looked like a slate grey plane when we drove over the Granby Street bridge.
In noticing this, I realized something about myself: I pay attention to things and not people. On any given day, I can tell you how the sky looked, what birds I heard, how still or turbulent the water was . . . but I would be hard-pressed to describe the people I passed. I wouldn’t be able to tell you anything about the woman standing at the bus stop right outside my car window as I waited for the light to turn green. I would not be able to describe the cyclist I passed who almost veered into traffic.
Is this a bad thing? Does this reflect negatively on what kind of person I am? Or does it just mean that I am more in tune with the natural world than with the world inhabited by people?
I really couldn’t tell you.
“The winds and waves are always on the side of the ablest navigators.” ~ Edward Gibbon
My affinity for water, though, is long-standing. And when I picked up Corey from the boatyard, a tug was pulling away from the dock. I turned to him and asked him in all seriousness if he doesn’t miss being on the water on days like this.
I know that if I had been born male, know this with every fiber of my being, I would have picked a job that took me onto the water. Why male, you might ask? Unfortunately, the water is still one of the last bastions that is not completely open to women. It takes more than strength of will to do battle with the water and survive. There must be physical strength. That is simply the way that it is.
But I really do understand why my father was always more comfortable at sea as opposed to being on dry land. I mean, I know that being gone for months at a time is a lonely prospect, but I like to think of what it might have been like to be on a NOAA exploration vessel, the things I would have seen, the experiences I might have had.
Truthfully, the only major I regret not pursuing in college is oceanography, which might seem weird for a woman who loves literature and writing, but imagine the tales I would have to tell if I had gone to sea.
It is not something that I would have undertaken lightly, though, as I have a healthy respect for the power that lies just beneath that mirror-like calm, how in an instant the blue can become white churning, relentless and angry.
“I restored to the tray’s slightly concave stainless steel, That ever so slightly distorted mirror, its polished shine. It reflected all of the sky, through which clouds reeled, And I could confirm that space does not weigh more than time.” ~ Jacques Réda, from “The Letter Scale,” (trans. Andrew Shields)
What still gives me hope—and yes, I am still capable of that—still grants me a sense that all is not lost is my ability to find beauty unexpectedly, when I happen upon a moment so perfect that I must pause and swallow and perhaps wipe away a tear.
Too sappy? But true.
I know that it’s the romantic sensibility in me that gives me this gift, and I am oh so grateful that all of my cynicism has not polluted this side of me. Because yes, I am cynical, snarky, and just plain curmudgeonly. I do not suffer fools at all, and I have very little tolerance for stupidity. But my soul can be quelled in a second when a chance encounter with the splendor that is nature reaches past my veneer of safety, the shell in which I encase myself most of the time so as to repel the ugly and the discouraging that seems to permeate this world.
Don’t bother to ask me if the glass is half empty or half full because I would wonder first about the glass itself, and I would probably prefer that it be empty so that it can refract the sunlight.
I am all too aware of my shortcomings, my deep plunges into the darker side of my soul, and my tendency to speak of too many regrets and too many what ifs, but not today. Today, in spite of the pain that has now taken up residence in my right temple, in spite of a series of telephone calls with some very nasty people, in spite of these things, I choose to reflect on the water, which is partially the theme behind today’s images (still blue water).
The water was the first thing that I noticed this morning, and it has stayed with me all day long and well into night. Actually, one of the best things about living in this area is the proliferation of bodies of water: the Atlantic Ocean, the Chesapeake Bay, numerous rivers and lakes, inlets and gullies. The very things that makes this area so dangerous during a hurricane is the very thing that I most love.
“It says we all are beautiful at least once. And, if you’d watch over me, we can be beautiful again.” ~ D. A. Powell, from “Boonies”
Do you notice what you notice? I mean, are you aware of what seeps into your brain without deliberation? I know that I am not and that I do not, not noticeably, but then images come back to me like my own personal slideshow. But as with most of the images that I post, very few people take residence in them.
I am always astonished when Corey points out something to me that was right in front of me that I never caught myself. He definitely notices people, what they are wearing, how they are standing or walking. Someone once told me that he was attracted to me because of how I carried myself, so full of confidence. Of course, that was years ago.
The comment surprised me, though, because I don’t think that before that moment I had ever paid any attention to how I carried myself, and certainly never considered that I reflected confidence. People used to say that they found me intimidating, which also surprises me as I do not try to be so. I just am as I am, as it were.
Maybe years ago, when I still considered myself a professional with a career, I did exude confidence, but it was not a purposeful decision on my part. I think that perhaps many of us exude things without ever realizing it, which makes me wonder if I now exude a sense of hesitancy . . .
“The ways are not always mapped or charted, but sometimes being lost, if there is such a thing, is the sweetest place to be. And always, in this search, a person might find that she is already there, at the center of the world. It may be a broken world, but it is glorious nonetheless.” ~ Linda Hogan, The Woman Who Watches Over the World
Speaking of which, Eamonn told me the other night that I was a housewife . . . how incredibly insulting. I’m not married to my house or any other house. Don’t bother to tell me that being a housewife is an honorable profession. Staying at home full time to raise a family is indeed an honorable profession, a choice, one that requires numerous skills. But no one who stay at home to work is a housewife; it’s just such an insulting term.
I know that years ago it was perfectly acceptable, even desirable to be considered a housewife, but things change, dear. I did not start working full time in my teens and pursue three degrees so that I could be told that I’m married to my house.
Let’s just say that I’m semi-retired, and leave it at that.
Of course, Corey does not understand why the term is derogatory, but that is because he’s never been a woman who was fighting to be taken seriously in the workplace. He has never been a woman who was underpaid simply because she had a spouse, and her job was considered a “hobby.” He has never been in a situation in which he was called “missy” in a meeting in which he was the only female in a room full of retired generals and colonels, and he happened to be in charge.
Corey is a male, which does not preclude him having faced discrimination. That is not what I’m saying. What I am saying is that because he is not female, and because he did not come of age during a time in which gender roles were being forever reshaped, he cannot possibly understand why the terminology is important. But sometimes, the word choice is everything.
“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together . . .” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations
Actually, word choice is everything, the end all and be all as it controls thought, perception, attitude, response, hierarchy, power (or the lack of it). In the telephone conversation that I mentioned earlier, a man who I’ve never met tried to run roughshod on me by taking a hostile tone and increasing the volume on his voice. It did not work, and I simply told him, calmly (believe it or not), that this thing was not going to happen.
People use words and language all of the time to try to gain the upper hand, to try to intimidate; just as they use words to woo and to soothe, to placate and to pacify. They use words to assault and to provoke, and they use words to insinuate themselves where they are not necessarily wanted. They use words to evoke hate and to express love, words to reflect sorrow and words to encompass joy.
I have used words to my advantage my entire life. I know the power of choosing exactly the right word, and I know the power in inserting carefully selected words in a timely manner. I have used words as weapons and as balm. I am not proud of the former, and I try to offer more of the latter. I have wielded words as if they could cut to the bone, and in doing so, I have usually accomplished the emotional equivalent of that act. But as with most things in my life, I now wield words as weapons far less than I employ them in empathy.
Why do I tell you this? Perhaps as a cautionary tale. I know, unfortunately, what a bitter taste is left in the mouth after making a meal of words thrown out carelessly. And I can tell you without hesitation that even as they rebound upon the speaker, most words only gain power with use.
This, I know all too well.
More later. Peace.
Music by Eluvium, “When I Live by the Garden and the Sea” (which is where I hope to be someday)
Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.
I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.