“We work in our own darkness a great deal with little real knowledge of what we are doing.” ~ John Steinbeck

“After the Snowfall,” by Jonas Lie (1908, oil on canvas)

“We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded. We are permitted merely to sense and guess at what we are actually experiencing. Only later when the cloth is untied can we glance at the past and find out what we have experienced and what meaning it has.” ~ Milan Kundera, from Laughable Loves

Wednesday afternoon. Snow on the ground, 30 degrees.

Today is my father’s birthday. It’s strange, isn’t it, the dates that you continue to mark on your calendar? Dates that no longer have any connection to a living person, and dates that are still connected to a person, but that person is no longer in your life. For example, every year on October 1, I remember Mari’s birthday, and on November 1, Kathleen’s. Perhaps that is because of the synchronicity of their prime number. Who knows. Regardless, I still mark so many things on my calendars at the beginnings of each year, even though no celebrations or commemorations will be had.

“Barge in the Snow,” by William Degouve Nuncques (1911, oil on canvas)

Today, I’m thinking a lot about my days at the Museum. I loved that place. And I hated that place. Wait. I loved the place, hated some of the people. That’s more accurate.

I still remember using my swipe card to enter through back doors within the galleries—that simple movement seemingly conveyed so much power to me. Any time I felt nervous or anxious, I would wander through the galleries, just drinking in the colors and textures. A museum is truly a wonderful place to work, as long as you don’t have to deal with the board of directors, that is.

But I miss those days even though my tenure ended badly when the museum had sweeping budget cuts, and I was deemed unnecessary. The days that followed my departure were dark in so many ways, and in reflecting on them, I realize that they contributed directly to the end of my first marriage, not that there weren’t already problems. I spent a great deal of time away from home, just trying to lose myself, and eventually, I lost my marriage.

Not regrets. Just facts.

“We create what we remember
to survive all we never had.
In a hall, darkened by exterior glitter,
my father scolds me
for anticipating his gift more than his return.
I am small but I slide an immense distance . . . ” ~ Marlève Rugo, “On Not Being Able to Write”

Of course there are regrets. I mean, I cast by the wayside two, no three friendships from the museum that had been very important to me. I cannot tell you why, now, only that at the time, I wanted to cut so many ties because I was in so much pain, wanted to be free of everyone and everything , which, of course, you simply cannot do. Not unless you are 6 years old.

So those people who I cast off in my attempts to recapture something that I thought that I had lost? I don’t know where they are now or how they are doing, but I think of them often and wish that I had been a better friend.

“Early Snow,” by Walter Launt Palmer (nd, oil on canvas)

Actually, friendship has always been difficult for me. There have been times when I have have had brutal arguments with a friend and then immediately severed all ties. Who does that? Well, I suppose, I do, or rather, I did. But were those truly friends, or just acquaintances? It’s both hard and easy for me to make friends. I make instant connections with people, and sometimes, those connections prove to be less than healthy, and sometimes they prove to be powerful forces in my life.

My oldest and dearest friend from my youth died a few years ago from lung cancer. I did not see her before she died, just as I did not see Allan before he died. Yes, regrets, major regrets. Do I set myself up for regrets? Perhaps.

“There is a great deal of unmapped country within us which would have to be taken into account in an explanation of our gusts and storms.” ~ George Eliot

I’ve been listening to some newer artists and some old favorite artists in an attempt to populate my posts with new tunes to accompany my words. I’ve found quite a few already. Let me know, dear reader, what you think of those I’ve included recently, or if you have any suggestions.The weird thing is that when I stopped writing, I also stopped listening to music all of the time. I couldn’t possibly explain why that is, especially as music has always been a very important part of my life.

I’m particularly partial to the Sara Bareilles’ tune “She Used to be Mine.” It hits very close to home. I feel as if I’ve been so many people over the years, none of them traditional or expected or normal, whatever that is. I truly wonder if everyone feels like that. I mean, it’s more than having certain attitudes in your teens, and then different attitudes in your 40s. I would expect that such things happen to everyone.

“Albany in the Snow,” by Walter Launt Palmer (1871, oil on canvas)

It’s more that when I look back on my life, I see different people. I see someone who was fiercely aggressive in her career while working for the government contractor. I see someone who loved to be at the front of the classroom, making wisecracks and listening to students while at the university. I see a woman who refused to compromise and then one who compromised too much.

Are they all the same me? No. Yes. I don’t know.

Damn. Shouldn’t I know who I am, by now? People think that I’m joking when I say that I’m still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up. But truly, I still don’t know, and chances are good that I won’t know when I close my eyes for the last time.

C’est vrai.

“There are men who carry dreams
over mountains, the dead
on their backs.
But only mothers
can walk with the weight
of a second beating heart.” ~ Ocean Vuong, from “My Mother Remembers Her Mother”

I’ll tell you something else that’s strange, even though I’ve said it before in different ways: I miss being pregnant. My body responded well to being pregnant, mostly. Perhaps my body, not so much, but more my spirit. When I was pregnant, I felt completely at home in myself. There have been no other times in my life when I have felt that way.

“Approaching Snow,” by Tom Thomson (1915, oil on board)

Fore more years than I can remember, I have wanted to have another daughter, another girl child to birth and to care for, but that never happened, and now, it’s much too late. And is that fate? Karma? What? God knows millions of women who want children are never able to have them, so am I being selfish in wishing that I could have had just one more? Maybe I am, but wishing never made it so, and so the point is moot, is it not? Regardless (once upon a time, I thought the word was irregardless), I still feel the desire keenly, and I find that strange as I always believed that the older I became, that the wiser I would be, and I truly believed that I would not still have yearnings that were impossible. Odd, that . . .

And now Olivia lives hundreds of miles away, and every day I wonder if she remembers me. I never understood before how a grandchild could affect me in so many ways, but it is completely unlike your own child, a different kind of love, a love that is somehow less selfish because in a grandchild, you do not invest your own future so much. Am I confusing you, dear reader? If so, I do apologize, but it’s not something you can really understand until it happens to you, and then it’s not something that you can understand losing until it happens to you.

“I would listen to my heartbeat. I couldn’t imagine that this sound which had been with me for so long could ever stop.” ~ Albert Camus, from The Stranger

The afternoon wears on, and the sky seems to be darker than when I started, and it’s definitely colder. I worry that the horses are cold, even though all of the reading that I have done says that as long as they are eating well, they will not be cold. They definitely have plenty on which to graze. But still, I want to put blankets on them. I shall resist. For now.

I just had a strange memory: I remember being 15 and sitting in my boyfriend’s den and just weeping and weeping. My father was at sea, as usual, and I missed him desperately. My boyfriend’s mother was not a particularly nice woman, or maybe she was just plain-spoken, and I was too young to appreciate it. Anyway, she told me that it was just growing pains. I left in such a huff.

“After the Snow on the Field,” by Gustave Loiseau (1899, oil on canvas)

I mean, growing pains? Could anything be more insulting? or more accurate? I do not look back on my teens fondly. Everything was too intense. All of the new feelings and emotions, the new ways in which my body did what it wanted without my having any power over it. It was all just too much. I was so very certain that my first love would be my love for the rest of my life. Gawd. Thankfully, that proved to be very wrong.

But there really was a point to this reminiscence, a non sequitur though it be: I have always had a strong affinity with animals, and I have always anthropomorphized them, had ongoing conversations with them, given them human personalities, likes and dislikes, so the feelings about the horses are not unexpected. Nevertheless, I realize that if I’m going to survive on this farm that I’ve going to have to toughen my outlook somewhat. Still, I think the horses need blankets.

More later. Peace.


Music by Finneas, “Break My Heart Again”

Coming Home

When we’re driving, in the dark,
on the long road
to Provincetown, which lies empty
for miles, when we’re weary,
when the buildings
and the scrub pines lose
their familiar look,
I imagine us rising
from the speeding car,
I imagine us seeing
everything from another place — the top
of one of the pale dunes
or the deep and nameless
fields of the sea —
and what we see is the world
that cannot cherish us
but which we cherish,
and what we see is our life
moving like that,
along the dark edges
of everything — the headlights
like lanterns
sweeping the blackness —
believing in a thousand
fragile and unprovable things,
looking out for sorrow,
slowing down for happiness,
making all the right turns
right down to the thumping
barriers to the sea,
the swirling waves,
the narrow streets, the houses,
the past, the future,
the doorway that belongs
to you and me.

~ Mary Oliver

To be alive at all is to have scars. ~ John Steinbeck, The Winter of Our Discontent


Two for Tuesday: Time’s Inexorable March

Report from the New Common Era

In the beginning, the weather was self-effacing
& stubborn. The globe went into a funk. Some
lucky ones found arable land in the unlikeliest
places. The last of the freshwater lakes made
excellent farms.

Then dust blew over us like a cape 
& hovered
for three thousand years. Entire tribes disappeared
while we waited. The consumers & adulterers
were the first to go; we gave them proper
burials…

We learned to digest saltgrass, lived on
reverse osmosis—Prayer was a luxury—
Then skeletons returned in a flourish
to save us. In the beginning, our skeletons
did all the work.

~ Scott Siegel

                   

A Light Breather

The spirit moves,
Yet stays:
Stirs as a blossom stirs,
Still wet from its bud-sheath,
Slowly unfolding,
Turning in the light with its tendrils;
Plays as a minnow plays,
Tethered to a limp weed, swinging,
Tail around, nosing in and out of the current,
Its shadows loose, a watery finger;
Moves, like the snail,
Still inward,
Taking and embracing its surroundings,
Never wishing itself away,
Unafraid of what it is,
A music in a hood,
A small thing,
Singing.

~ Theodore Roethke

All images are by British artist Joan Eardley (1921-1963), who died at 42 of breast cancer.

                    

Music by Civil Twilight, “It’s Over”

 

“Our memory fragments don’t have any coherence until they’re imagined in words. Time is a property of language, of syntax, and tense.” ~ Siri Hustvedt, from The Sorrows of an American

Maximilien Luce 1896 oil on canvas Moonlight on Charleroi Canal
“Moonlight on Charleroi Canal” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Maximilien Luce

                   

“I don’t know what map I misread,
its roads now slipped into dust,
what cul-de-sacs and one-way streets
could have brought me to this,
my life driven as if through fog into a river.” ~ Judy Jordan, from “Fragments in February”

Tuesday afternoon. Rainy and cool, 50 degrees.

I think that my body is trying mightily hard to succumb to my annual fall cold, but I really don’t have time for that. This time last year I had a houseful of company, and I was heading for yet another case of pneumonia, but this year I made sure that I got a pneumonia vaccine along with my flu shot, so maybe . . . fingers crossed.

So, we’re back from our epic New Orleans trip, and I don’t even know where to begin, so how about if I just ramble a bit and see where it takes us? You good with that?

Emil Nolde Half Moon over the Sea 1945
“Half Moon over the Sea” (1945)
by Emil Nolde

Great.

So we finally made it past the boundaries of Hampton Roads last Monday around 8:30 a.m. (or so) after getting turned around almost immediately, this after a planned departure time of 6 a.m. (yes, I know, although we did pull out of the driveway before 7). We both thought that we knew where we were going, but apparently, not so much. Picked up the rental the evening before, and even that turned out to be a mess: We were supposed to get an Altima, but the guy at the counter said that the Altima was in bad shape, so he talked Corey into a Mustang convertible.

Okay, so at one point in my life the idea of traveling in a Mustang convertible would have been awesome, but the very thought of traveling for 16 hours in such a low-slung car made me uncomfortable, so another trade, and for only $10 more a day . . . ended up with a Mazda CX5 (I believe), which was pretty comfortable and great on gas; however, the upgrade pretty much negated all of the bargain shopping I had done online, along with the discount that I had found on one site. Oh well . . .

“The silence of landscape conceals vast presence. Place is not simply location. A place is a profound individuality. Its surface texture of grass and stone is blessed by rain, wind, and light. With complete attention, landscape celebrates the liturgy of the seasons, giving itself unreservedly to the passion of the goddess. The shape of a landscape is an ancient and silent form of consciousness.” ~ John O’Donohue, from “The Celtic Underworld as Resonance”

The drive wasn’t too bad as far as road conditions and weather, nothing like the great blizzard we drove through a few years ago, and we arrived in New Orleans around midnight (I think, it was kind of a blur). The good news is that our hotel was right in the French Quarter (Place d’Armes, definitely worthy of repeat visits), and they had upgraded us to a suite at no extra charge. We had a lovely balcony, and the ambiance was so nice, very old New Orleans. Parking, however, cost us $30 a night, so we made mental notes to try to find street parking for the second night, which we were actually able to do. Woo Hoo.

Konstantin Korovin Moonlit Night period Winter 1913 oil on canvas
“Moonlit Night. Winter” (1913, oil on canvas)
by Konstantin Korovin

So we got up early on Tuesday after only about six hours sleep and headed out to the first company that Corey wanted to visit. The website had stated that applications would be taken at both locations, but the New Orleans office directed us to their other headquarters, which was in Galliano. Our game plan had been to go to the NOL office first and then to Cut Off and then to Covington. That plan was changed immediately and we had to regroup and head to Galliano. Unfortunately, the first company seemed completely disinterested in him, which was a set back as this was his first choice.

Fortunately the second company on our list was just down the road from Galliano. This company was very interested in Corey, but the downside was that they weren’t hiring until February. The good news is that they are building a bunch of new boats/ships and have plans to hire 300 people in early 2014, so it looks very promising; however, by the time Corey finished speaking with the recruiter it was 3 p.m., and there was no way that we’d make it to Covington in time to speak with anyone before COB.

This meant a bit of a delay as we had planned to leave late morning Wednesday and possibly to stay somewhere on the route home. We had no idea how much of a delay it would turn out to be . . .

“On the door it says what to do to survive
But we were not born to survive
Only to live” ~ W. S. Merwin, from “The River of Bees”

Tuesday evening, back in New Orleans, we roamed around the French Quarter, spent some money, and had a wonderful dinner at a restaurant that wasn’t too pricey. Best crab cakes I’ve ever had—hands down. We had originally brought going out clothes with us, but neither of us had the energy to change, get gussied up, as it were. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter what you wear (we saw one guy in a Spiderman outfit, and another one in some kind of monster get-up with spikes—pictures to come).

Nicholas Roerich Spell period New Moon period 1938 tempera on canvas
“Spell. New Moon.” (1938, tempera on canvas)
by Nicholas Roerich

So we acted like tourists, drank libations as we meandered along the streets, bought souvenirs and a few Christmas presents, then headed back to our very comfortable room and slept the sleep of the very tired. On Wednesday morning we had breakfast at the famous outdoor Cafe du Monde (only two blocks from our hotel), home of the famous delectable beignets. I inhaled my portion and delighted in my very large cafe au lait. Then back to the hotel to check out and get back on the road to Covington and company number 3.

Now while Corey was doing all of these interviews, I was hanging out in the car, pirating wi fi and trying to do something to amuse myself, mostly tumblr and some lazy magazine browsing. Company number 3 turned out to be super interested in Corey and said they’d be in touch. We plotted our route home, found a nearby Sam’s Club, gassed up, and as we were pulling out of the parking lot, Corey got a call from #3 asking if he could come in and fill out paper work. Second big Woo Hoo.

Great news, but . . . he needed to do a drug test and physical, as well as an agility test, and none of that could be done until . . . wait for it . . . Thursday . . .

“Change comes like a little wind that ruffles the curtains at dawn, and it comes like the stealthy perfume of wildflowers hidden in the grass.” ~ John Steinbeck, from Sweet Thursday

So there really wasn’t a choice, was there? I called the rental company, added another day, and we regrouped, again. Fortunately #3 paid for our hotel and breakfast for Wednesday night/Thursday morning. Small woo hoo only because it was a regular hotel and not the très cool accommodations from which we had just decamped, but hey, free . . .

Eugene Fredrik Jansson Moonlight Night 1896 oil on canvas
“Moonlit Night” (1896, oil on canvas)
by Eugene Fredrik

Thursday morning on to clinic for physical. Three hours later (I really don’t know what they do that takes three hours, but Corey said it was a whole lot of waiting). Slight hiccup on his physical (nothing major), and then around the block to the physical agility place.

Finally at 3 p.m., we were done. Decided to go ahead and eat dinner then hit the road so that we could try to make up some time (hooray for 70 mph speed limits and radar dectectors). Found a little locals restaurant and finally had our genuine Po Boys, shrimp and oyster, respectively. Full stomachs, weary bodies and minds, we hit the road around 4:30.

Everything had happened so fast, and we had had so very little time between everything that I think we were both kind of shell-shocked by this point.

“I’m forging my note to the future, recording
all I know of this moment before
the moment completes itself” ~ Chris Forhan, from “The Taste of Wild Cherry”

Corey drove for a while. I took over in the middle of the night. We stopped in a rest stop somewhere and napped for an hour like about 20 other weary travelers and many, many truck drivers (did you know that Virginia doesn’t let you do this? Of course not.). Anyway, we pulled into our driveway a little after 10 a.m.

Milton Avery Harbor at Night 1932
“Harbor at Night” (1932, oil on canvas)
by Milton Avery

We’re both still processing everything. Corey has to go back in December for training, and we’re not sure how many weeks that will be, and there is a possibility that he’ll go straight from training onto a ship. So much to digest.

Brett and the dogs were very glad to have us home; the dogs had apparently pined away for us and had made Brett’s life miserable.  Corey immediately fell into bed, but I was too wired by then, so I unpacked and cleaned, hoping to exhaust myself, but that never really happened. The weekend was a total blur, and I feel that I am so far behind that I may never catch up.

“You must make decisions knowing those decisions make you.” ~ Rakishi, from “The son without his father”

Anyway, here is where we are: Corey has a job, but is still in denial, kind of that other shoe dropping thing, you know? He can’t help it as he’s been bitten in the butt more than once by supposed job offers. I keep telling him that this company is different—well established, big, good reputation, not like some of the companies he’s had to endure in the past. He won’t be on tugs, but off-shore supply vessels (OSV’s). He’s anxious at the idea of starting over, but the good news is that this recruiting guy really seemed to like him and was already mentioning Corey upgrading his qualifications.

Nicolas Tarkhoff Paris, Montparnasse at Night c1905
“Paris, Montparnasse at Night” (c1905, oil on canvas)
by Nicolas Tarkhoff

So it’s Thanksgiving week. My body aches all over, and I haven’t quite recovered from the five days of whirlwind activity. The house is trashed. I am totally unprepared for Thursday, and truthfully, it’s beginning to hit me that Corey may not be here for Christmas. So much is still up in the air, and the trip ended up costing us a small fortune, but it was so worth it. We had a really nice time together, got to experience another new place with each other, had some great food (as my stomach can attest), and it looks like we’re about to embark on a new path.

Hard not to be anxious, but trying to be calm. Anyway, that’s the quick and dirty version. Lots of little details in between that I may tackle later before they slip through the sieve that is my brain. Until then . . .

Peace.

Music by London Grammar, “Nightcall”

                   

No crying, calling out, complaining…

No crying, calling out, complaining,
This all will pass, like the green of gold,
Like the white smoke of apple blooms,
And I won’t be as young as I used to.

Already, your blood isn’t as quick as it was,
I tell my heart—and it’s getting colder.
White birch roots stitch the ruddy fields
And you’ve lost the urge to wander.

Lips and eyes, emotions:
Where are your fire and anger,
Where your floods?
All were fresh, now are errant, scattered.

My wants are sparer now, leaner,
Or maybe they were just a dream
—Like the moment morning flashes green—
And I charged past on my sorrel steed.

We’re all, all of us in this world soon to spoil.
Copper leaves are tumbling coyly from the maples . . .
World-weary drifter, be forever grateful
To have faded fast, in early petalfall.

~ Sergei Esenin, trans. James Stotts

“I’m not in the employ of Eberhard Faber, but I regard it as duty to set down his devotion to the Blackwing.” ~ Joseph McElrath, from John Steinbeck: The Contemporary Reviews

Vladimir Nabokov writing draft on index cards with Blackwing Pencil getty image
Vladimir Nabokov writing a draft on index cards with Blackwing Pencil
(Getty Image attributed to his wife Vera)

Writers are a funny bunch . . . I have always insisted on using Ticonderoga #1 pencils because of the softness of the lead. Believe me this desire has caused consternation for many an office manager.  Then there is my need to write on graph paper, usually four lines per inch; I even use a grid when working in Word, which has frustrated many people when I send them a document that still has the visible grid.

Oh well.

In fact, I’m down to my last box of #1 pencils, but my goal is to replace these yellow Ticonderogas with Blackwings . . . some day.

                   

Blackwing 602 by ursonate fcc
Vintage Blackwing 602
by ursonate (FCC)

When Eberhard Faber discontinued production of the original Blackwing in 1998 because of production costs, original 602’s could be found on E Bay for as much as $50 per pencil. Devotion is a wicked mistress.

“Since the pencil’s introduction in the 1930s, the Blackwing has developed a cult following of artists, writers, and designers. Vladimir Nabokov preferred Blackwings for sketching out his novels on index cards, Truman Capote kept boxes of them on his nightstand, and John Steinbeck once declared the the pencil  ‘the best I have ever had.’ (He used some 300 of them to complete East of Eden.) The pencils have appeared on “Mad Men” and in the hands of the likes of Quincy Jones and Stephen Sondheim.”

~ Margaret Eby, An ode to the Blackwing 602, Vladimir Nabokov’s favorite pencil

                   

From the Palomino website:

Palomino founder and CEO Charles Berolzheimer re-introduced the Blackwing pencil in 2011, both in its original form (the “602″) for devotees, writers and everyday users, as well as a modified version with a slightly softer lead for artists.

Some of the world’s most legendary Grammy, Emmy, Pulitzer and Academy Award winners have created with Blackwing pencils. The list of known users includes John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein and Chuck Jones, who proudly used Blackwings to create Bugs Bunny and countless other Looney Tunes characters.

Its roots go back to the 1930’s when it was first introduced by Eberhard Faber. In 1998, after several corporate acquisitions, it was discontinued, but not forgotten. In fact, fans began paying as much as $40 on eBay for a single Blackwing pencil.

“In the morning, you tear up the pages of your fever, but every word naturally leads you back to its color, its night.” ~ Edmond Jabès, from The Book of Questions II, trans. Rosmarie Waldrop

Pasea Sailing by crlbvi fcc
Pasea Sailing by crlbvi (FCC)

                   

“That’s what the world is, after all: an endless battle of contrasting memories.” ~ Haruki Murakami, from 1Q84

Saturday afternoon. Partly cloudy, 51 degrees.

I should finish my cleaning, but I don’t want to. Last night I had really horrible dreams, two involving bad things happening to dogs. In one dream I had a puppy (not one of my real ones) who was attacked by a pit bull owned by a neighbor. The neighbor didn’t stop the attack and told me not to make such a big deal out of it, and I was vacillating between heartbreak and seething anger at the dog’s owner. My puppy was mauled and bloody and looking at me with such unbelievable hurt in his eyes. There was blood everywhere

Sailing on Cayuga Lake by solarnu FCC
Sailing on Cayuga Lake by solarnu (FCC)

In the second dog dream I had taken one of my dogs to work with me at the big department store where I used to be a manager. The store manager brought his puppy to work also. Both dogs managed to get outside, and this one woman who was leaning against the building kicked the puppy. I saw it happen through the glass and went to rescue the puppy, but then I got lost inside the store, and I was also trying to page the manager to let him know, but I couldn’t remember how to work the paging system, and my dog was lost, too.

The only good part was when I was looking at the night sky in my dream and I saw a meteor, and I was trying to point it out so that everyone could see how beautiful it was.

I woke up with a headache again.

“There are as many worlds as there are kinds of days, and as an opal changes its colors and its fire to match the nature of a day, so do I.” ~ John Steinbeck, from Travels with Charley: In Search of America

Corey is due in port on the 25th now. Apparently they’ve hit some bad weather and aren’t making good time. It will be so good to see him. Tillie will be ecstatic, and she’ll probably lie and say that no one has paid any attention to her, no one has played with her, her life has been bereft. Dogs do lie you know, especially when it comes to treats.

Sailing Across the Blue Ocean by eyesplash mikul FCC
Sailing Across the Blue Ocean by eyesplash mikul (FCC)

Anyway, I think they’re supposed to be in port for a few days, so I hope we actually get to spend a bit of time together. One time the captain didn’t change to in-port watches, so Corey spent most of his time sleeping and going back and forth to the ship. We’ll just have to see. Of course, now that he’s almost here I’m going into panic mode and thinking about doing stupid things like cleaning the ceiling fans. This always happens. I have to force myself to use restraint so that my back isn’t acting up when he arrives.

I’ll try to sate my OCD need to clean with scrubbing the floors and normal stuff. Brett will help because dusting and vacuuming are his household chores. Eamonn will not help because he’s not even here. Lucky for him, his father took him to Florida for a fishing trip for his birthday. I won’t even get started on how blatantly my ex shows favoritism among his children. What’s the point? Nothing will change.

“Off I go, rummaging about in books for sayings which please me.” ~ Michel de Montaigne

Yesterday, Brett, Em, and I went to a new thrift store in downtown Norfolk. It’s a great place for books, so I was thrilled. What was especially nice was that they have a bag policy, as in for $4 you can fill a bag with books. I brought in one of my shopping bags and asked if I could use it, and the woman in charge said yes, but since it was a bigger bag she would have to charge me $5. Then when I checked out she said that I hadn’t filled my bag, so she only charged me $4. Such cheap thrills.

Sailing in the Bahamas by Skinnede Mink FCC
Sailing in the Bahamas by SkinnedMink (FCC)

Truth is I could have filled the bag twice, but my arms were tired, as was my back from sitting on the floor to look at the bottom shelves. I have absolutely no shame when it comes to searching for books: I will bend, stoop, pull things off shelves, whatever it takes. I found an old HBJ English grammar book and an old encyclopedia, which I grabbed just because they were in great shape. Then I got several board books for Olivia, and about seven hard bound books for myself. I also found this odd-looking mariner’s head mug that was carved out of wood, and the handle is a whale. It’s really wild looking, so I bought it for Corey.

We decided that we’ll have to go back there during their Happy Hour as everything except furniture is 50 percent off. The store uses its profits for abused and neglected children, so all-in-all, it’s a great find for a great cause. Now with the influx of new reading material, I can stop fretting because my reading pile was down to just five books.

Then we went to the international market where we all picked out our various favorites from around the world. I’ll have to take Corey there as he can get squid and stuff like that.

“Unless I write a few sentences here from time to time I shall, as they say, forget the use of my pen.” ~ Virginia Woolf, from a diary entry dated 13 May 1931

Another thing that I need to take care of before Corey gets home is the pile on the left side of my desk. I’ve been doing bills and correspondence, and I need to organize because I’ve just thrown everything into a pile. Of course, the pile is nothing like the pile that used to exist on my old dining room table when I was with my ex.

sailboat-tiarescott fcc
Asail on a Wooden Boat by tiarescott (FCC)

I have never liked going through mail, junk mail, flyers, bills, so I used to just grab everything out of the mailbox and then throw it on the table, which of course, was problematic with my ex. It was also during a time in which I was dealing with my grief via a shopping addiction, so the mail represented real life, and who wants that? However, that being said, did the ex ever take it upon himself to remedy the situation by opening and sorting? Enough said on that.

My ex showed up in a dream a few nights ago, and I know that it’s because I’m torqued out of shape about the Florida trip. It just wouldn’t occur to this man that perhaps his youngest son would like to go on a fishing trip out of state. The only compensation is that Brett just had his NYC trip, during which he had a great time. I suppose we must take our pleasures where we can get them and not rely on others to provide them for us.

Still torqued, though. Bâtard grandes.

Anyway, I saw a beautiful picture of a sailboat on my tumblr dash, which is what prompted my image theme for today. I haven’t been on a sailboat in years; I travel the water vicariously through my love.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sara Jackson-Holman, “Freight Train”

                   

Flour and Ash

“Make flour into dough,” she answers,
“and fire will turn it into food.
Ash is the final abstraction of matter.
You can just brush it away.”

She tacks a sheet of paper to the wall,
dips her hand in a palette of flour and ash,
applies the fine soft powders with a fingertip,
highlighting in chalk and graphite,
blending, blurring with her thumb.
Today she is working in seven shades of gray.

Outside the door, day lilies
in the high flush of summer-
about-to-be-fall. Her garden burns
red and yellow in the dry August air
and is not consumed.

Inside, on the studio wall, a heavy
particulate smoke
thickens and rises. Footsteps grime the snow.
The about-to-be-dead line up on the ramp
with their boxy suitcases,
ashen shoes.

When I get too close she yanks me back.
She hovers over her creation
though she too has a mind
to brush against that world
and wipe it out.

~ Chana Bloch

“As happens sometimes, a moment settled and hovered and remained for much more than a moment. And sound stopped and movement stopped for much, much more than a moment.” ~ John Steinbeck, from Of Mice and Men

Everything in this post (including the title) is from separate posts on A Poet Reflects, but I thought that they went well together:

It has happened.  Each time I stroke a key it diverts me to circuits that forward the quick march to other circuits, rescinding the chance of choices. By the time I arrive at the location of the leaf of my prayer, the yearning has been hemmed in. I cannot recognize it as mine, for it has been altered by the mediating that hedges its spaces.<br />
—Peter Davison, from section 5. “Circuits” of “A History of Reading” in Breathing Room (Alfred A. Knopf, 2000)

**********

“I am composing on the typewriter late at night, thinking of today. How well we all spoke. A language is a map of our failures. Frederick Douglass wrote an English purer than Milton’s. People suffer highly in poverty. There are methods but we do not use them. Joan, who could not read, spoke some peasant form of French. Some of the suffering are: it is hard to tell the truth; this is America; I cannot touch you now. In America we have only the present tense. I am in danger. You are in danger. The burning of a book arouses no sensation in me. I know it hurts to burn. There are flames of napalm in Catonsville, Maryland. I know it hurts to burn. The typewriter is overheated, my mouth is burning. I cannot touch you and this is the oppressor’s language.”

~ Adrienne Rich, from “The Burning of Paper Instead of Children”

                   

Circuits (Section 5)

It has happened.  Each time
I stroke a key it diverts me
to circuits that forward the quick march
to other circuits, rescinding the chance of choices.
By the time I arrive at
the location of the leaf of my prayer,
the yearning has been hemmed in.
I cannot recognize it as mine,
for it has been altered by
the mediating that hedges its spaces.

~ Peter Davison

“I told her once I wasn’t good at anything. She told me survival is a talent.” ~ Susanna Kaysen, from Girl, Interrupted

Sunrise on Hambledon Hill, Child Okeford, UK, by MarilynJane (FCC)

                   

“Do you take pride in your hurt? Does it make you seem large and tragic . . . Well, think about it. Maybe you’re playing a part on a great stage with only yourself as audience.” ~ John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Wednesday afternoon. Sunny and cooler, high 40’s.

Ann called early this morning to tell me that her father, my kids’ grandfather, had died. She’s lost both parents within five months.

Frosty Sunrise, Morebath, UK, by me'nthedogs (FCC)

I was never as close to my ex-father-in-law as I was to my m-in-law, mostly because he wasn’t an easy person to be close to. He was a very quiet man who spent most of his time watching sports and old war movies, or sitting in his study looking through his stamp and coin collections. He was a Navy seal before they were called Seals (UDT), and our friends used to joke that he would probably die one day sitting on the couch, drinking a soda and watching a game.

After he retired from the Navy, he became a middle school shop teacher, and it was at the middle school that he met the woman he would leave my m-in-law for after almost four decades of marriage.

Once he left my m-in-law for the evil step-m-in-law, I saw little of him. My ex used to take the boys over to his house to fish when they were younger, but as the years passed, my kids mostly saw their grandfather at Christmas and possibly once during the summer. That is until his health started to decline. Then there were the visits to the hospital.

The man smoked way too much, and his body finally caught up with the smoking—emphysema, COPD, and finally, cancer.

I think that I will miss the idea of him more than the actuality of him, if that makes sense. It’s hard to quantify my feelings as I felt for a long time that he completely abandoned his family. He left before the boys were old enough to know him, but Alexis was the grandchild who was closest to him for the longest time. She loved her Grandpa, and she is feeling the loss keenly.

“I am haunting your dreams,
conducting these fevers
from a distance,
a distance that leaves me weeping,
and storming,
and bereft.” ~ Katie Donovan, “Yearn On”

It’s very strange, this losing people in your life. I acknowledge that this is the natural order, that people inevitably get older and die; this does not make the process easier to bear.

Through the Trees, Dorset, UK, by MarilynJane (FCC)

I find that as I type these words I am more numb than anything. There have been no tears, and I’m not at all certain that I will go to the services as I am unsure of my welcome there. There was never any question with my m-in-law, but this is different. The evil step-m-in-law made it quite clear after my ex and I separated that she was cutting me out of that side of the family.

Perhaps I’ll go and sit in the back. I just don’t know. I suppose that I will take my cues from Ann and the ex. In this, I am only a bit player.

I keep getting flashes of memories, just glimpses, really. Nothing concrete: him sitting on the end of the couch, an RC Cola in front of him. His biggest physical exertion came through golf. Although, I know that he did take up growing roses in later years, which is odd as he never spent any time at all in the yard or the gardens of my m-in-law’s house when they were still together. She did all of the yard work, kept the house, did all of the cooking. The house was her domain, the garage his.

He sat. A lot.

I remember that she told me that he never took care of the kids when they were babies, no bottles, no diapers. I suppose it’s one of those generational things. Instead, he usually showed his feelings through the things that he made. He was a master woodworker, and he built all kinds of things through the years, everything from small Christmas ornaments to blanket chests and coffee tables. He built a set of Adirondack chairs for the evil step-m-in-law that I coveted.

“before I am lost,
hell must open like a red rose
for the dead to pass.” ~ H.D., from “Eurydice

Years ago he had promised to build built-in bookcases in the living room for me. It never happened.

Strange the thing one remembers in the midst of trying to remember more significant things. When I was writing about my m-in-law, the memories and thoughts came like a flood, one upon another, unabated. Now, it’s more like staccato, intermittent, jerky.

Morning Mist on Hayward's Bridge, Dorset, UK, by MarilynJane (FCC)

On reflection, it must sound terrible, like I have no feelings whatsoever about the man, his life, or his death, which is not true. Perhaps it’s more that I loved him as he required love: with more reserve, less open emotion.

I wonder how much guilt he bore in later years, how much he thought about his long marriage, his relationship with my my-in-law, if he realized how much he hurt her, how much disappointment his actions bred. I wonder if it ever even occurred to him. I do not know, yet I do not believe that he was a man prone to serious introspection. I could, of course, be completely wrong about all of this.

“‘Who are you really, wanderer?’
and the answer you have to give
no matter how dark and cold
the world around you is:
‘Maybe I’m a king.’” ~ William Stafford, from “A Story That Could Be True

This post isn’t at all what I had in mind when I sat down here, although what I had planned I really couldn’t say for certain.

Misty Sunrise Over Robin Hood's Bay, UK by PaulArthurPhotography (FCC)

The pageant of people who travel through our lives is part of what defines us. Some of those people we choose, and others are chosen by fate. Some of them become part of our lives for just a moment, and their departures barely register in significance. Those in whom we place the most significance, those we open our entire hearts to—they are the ones who leave deep indentations in the tapestries of our lives.

The longer they stay with us, the more that they contribute and require, the richer the pattern of the relationship.

My personal tapestry is many-colored, and the fabric is both rough and smooth. At its center are the richest colors and the tightest weaves. Everything radiates from the center. In my mind’s eye, it is crimson and purple and gold; it is as smooth as velvet and as rough as burlap. The stitching is as fine as it is irregular. There are rips and tears that have been mended again and again.

But it holds.

At the center are Caitlin and my father. The births of my children. My marriage to Corey. There you will find the embellishments of first loves and the tears from first heartbreak. Everything radiates from this place of love and loss, truth and lies, poetry and prose.

Somewhere in the bottom right corner is where you will find my father-in-law. Here the fabric is a heavy twill, sufficiently strong to last, without glamor or added decoration. This is not a place of dishonor or disregard, but it is not the center. He is there, firmly enmeshed in that part of my life that is the permanent periphery.

As the song says, “We’re older now and still running against the wind.”

Peace be with you and yours.

(I had a heckuva time figuring out what kind of pictures I wanted to include with this post. I finally found some lovely pictures of mists at sunrise from different places in the UK.)

Music by Bob Seger, an oldie that I heard on the car radio this morning that felt strangely appropriate: “Against the Wind”

                   

January Drought

It needn’t be tinder, this juncture of the year,
a cigarette second guessed from car to brush.
The woods’ parchment is given
to cracking asunder the first puff of wind.
Yesterday a big sycamore came across First
and Hawthorne and is there yet.
The papers say it has to happen,
if just as dribs and drabs on the asbestos siding.
But tonight is buckets of stars as hard and dry as dimes.
A month’s supper things stacks in the sink.
Tea brews from water stoppered in the bath
and any thirst carried forward is quenched thinking you,
piece by piece, an Xmas gift hidden
and found weeks after: the ribbon, the box.
I have reservoirs of want enough
to freeze many nights over.