“Turn on the dream you lived through the unwavering gaze. It is as you thought: the living burn. In the floating days may you discover grace.” ~ Galway Kinnell, from “Easter”
Wednesday afternoon, overcast, 52 degrees.
It’s not a wordless Wednesday; actually, it’s a Wednesday full of words. I usually check my birthday sites before beginning a post to see if I want to include something about a particular writer or just mention a birthday worth nothing. But as February is almost over—a fact that I’m having a real problem wrapping my head around—and as the month happens to include birthdays of so many authors/poets/essayists whose work I love and admire (for whatever reason), I thought that I’d share a brief list. Each name is linked to a bio for that person. I’ve also included just a few of my favorite quotes and/or selections from works.
So, yeah. Lots of words for what is usually a wordless day . . . Enjoy.
Galway Kinnell, Rhode Island-born poet and 1983 Pulitzer prize winner (February 1, 1927-October 28, 2014). Aside: favorite poem by him is “The Olive Wood Fire”
Langston Hugues, African-American poet and translator, leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance (February 1, 1902-May 22, 1967):
“Well, son, I’ll tell you:
Life for me ain’t been no crystal stair.
It’s had tacks in it,
And boards torn up,
And places with no carpet on the floor —
Bare.” ~ Langston Hughes, from “Mother to Son”
James Joyce, Irish novelist, poet, and stream-of-consciousness pioneer, author of Ulysses (1922), which was banned in the U.S until 1933 (February 2, 1882-January 13, 1941)
“It is like what we imagine knowledge to be:
dark, salt, clear, moving, utterly free,
drawn from the cold hard mouth
of the world, derived from the rocky breasts
forever, flowing and drawn” ~ Elizabeth Bishop, from “At the Fishhouses”
Kate Chopin, St. Louis, Missouri-born writer of The Awakening and numerous short stories (February 8, 1850-August 22, 1904)
Alice Walker, Georgia-born novelist, poet, and political activist who won the 1982 Pulitzer Prize for The Color Purple (February 9, 1944)
Boris Pasternak, Russian-born poet and author of Doctor Zhivago; he won the Nobel Prize in literature (1958) but was forced by the Soviet government to decline (February 10, 1890-May 30, 1960)
Toni Morrison, Ohio-born African American novelist, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Beloved in 1987 and the first African American woman to be selected for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993 (February 18, 1931-August 5, 2019):
“And I am all the things I have ever loved:
scuppernong wine, cool baptisms in silent water,
dream books and number playing. I am the sound of
my own voice singing . . .
I am not complete here; there is much more,
but there is no more time and no more space . . . and I
have journeys to take, ships to name and crews.” ~ Toni Morrison, from the jacket of The Black Book
Anaïs Nin, novelist and diarist, ground-breaking The Diary of Anaïs Nin published in 1966 (February 21-1903-January 14, 1977)
W. H. Auden, U.S. poet, winner of 1948 Pulitzer (February 21, 1907-September 28, 1973)
Edna St. Vincent Millay, Maine poet and playwright, 1923 Pulitzer prize winner for The Ballad of the Harp Weaver (February 22, 1892-October 19, 1950)
Anthony Burgess, English essayist, novelist, and musician, author of 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange (February 25, 1917-November 22, 1993)
John Steinbeck, American novelist and Pulitzer prize winner in 1940 for The Grapes of Wrath, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1962, an award that few, including the author, believed he deserved (February 27, 1902-December 20, 1968):
“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
Personally, I always liked Steinbeck more than Faulkner, and Fitzgerald more than both, and Carson McCullers more than all of them.
More later. Peace.
Music by Martin Harley and Daniel Kimbro, “Goodnight Irene”
“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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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”
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
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.
“Summer Grasses and Barley on the Clifftop” (1962, oil on board)
“Summer Sea” (1961, oil paper on board)
“Summer Fields” (c1961, oil and grasses on hardboard)
“Seeded Grasses and Daisies, September” (1960, oil, grass stalks, and seedheads on hardboard)
“Salmon Net Posts” (c1961-62, oil on board)
“July Fields” (nd, oil on canvas)
“Hedgerow with Grasses and Flowers” (c1962-63, gouache oil on paper)
“Corn Feverfew III” (1960, oil on board)
“Field of Oats” (1962, oil on board)
“Field of Barley by the Sea” (nd, oil on board)
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
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
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,
Stirs as a blossom stirs,
Still wet from its bud-sheath,
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,
Taking and embracing its surroundings,
Never wishing itself away,
Unafraid of what it is,
A music in a hood,
A small thing,
~ Theodore Roethke
All images are by British artist Joan Eardley (1921-1963), who died at 42 of breast cancer.