“They’re dangerous as all gifts from the sea are; the sea offers death as well as immortality.” ~ Giuseppe di Lampedusa, from “The Professor and the Siren”

“We spoke of those magic summer nights, looking out over the gulf of Castellammare, when the stars are mirrored in the sleeping sea, and how, lying on your back among the mastic trees, your spirit is lost in the whirling heavens, while the body braces itself, fearing the approach of demons.” ~ Giuseppe di Lampedusa, from “The Professor and the Siren”

Two for Tuesday: Mermaids

Tuesday afternoon. Humid with impending storms, 82 degrees.

A bit of serendipity today: read an essay in The Paris Review by Marina Warner called “The Professor and the Mermaid,” and then came upon a poem by Pablo Neruda that I had never seen before. Love when things like this happen.

Howard Pyle The Mermaid 1910
“The Mermaid” (1910, oil on canvas)
by Howard Pyle

                   

Fable of the Mermaid and the Drunks

All those men were there inside,
when she came in totally naked.
They had been drinking: they began to spit.
Newly come from the river, she knew nothing.
She was a mermaid who had lost her way.
The insults flowed down her gleaming flesh.
Obscenities drowned her golden breasts.
Not knowing tears, she did not weep tears.
Not knowing clothes, she did not have clothes.
They blackened her with burnt corks and cigarette stubs,
and rolled around laughing on the tavern floor.
She did not speak because she had no speech.
Her eyes were the colour of distant love,
her twin arms were made of white topaz.
Her lips moved, silent, in a coral light,
and suddenly she went out by that door.
Entering the river she was cleaned,
shining like a white stone in the rain,
and without looking back she swam again
swam towards emptiness, swam towards death.

~ Pablo Neruda

                   

The Little Mermaid by Charles Santore
“The Little Mermaid” (1993, illustration)
by Charles Santore

Mermaid Song

for Aya at fifteen

Damp-haired from the bath, you drape yourself
upside down across the sofa, reading,
one hand idly sunk into a bowl
of crackers, goldfish with smiles stamped on.
I think they are growing gills, swimming
up the sweet air to reach you. Small girl,
my slim miracle, they multiply.
In the black hours when I lie sleepless,
near drowning, dread-heavy, your face
is the bright lure I look for, love’s hook
piercing me, hauling me cleanly up.

~ Kim Addonizio

                   

Music by Jon Allen, featuring Amy Smith, “When the Morning Comes”

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in life. And I am horribly limited.” ~ Sylvia Plath

“La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” Frank Cadogan Cowper (1926)*

                   

“’You see I am fate,’ it shouted, ‘and stronger than your puny plans; and I am how-things-turn-out and I am different from your little dreams, and I am the flight of time and the end of beauty and unfulfilled desire; all the accidents and imperceptions and the little minutes that shape the crucial hours are mine. I am the exception that proves no rules, the limits of your control, the condiment in the dish of life.’” ~ F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Cut Glass Bowl and Other Stories

Wednesday afternoon. Unseasonably warm and very sunny, mid 70’s. Feels and smells more like spring than fall.

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci," Arthur Hughes

Thought that I’d try to bang out a post today. Haven’t felt up to sitting here for more than a few minutes for the past few days. Same old thing—headaches, pain, weakness. (That phrase “bang out” reminds me of how Rebecca used to say that she could hear me typing from anywhere in the office because I hit the keys so hard, which I do, but I learned to type on a manual typewriter (yes, I’m that old), and I learned to type very quickly on an old IBM Selectric, so my touch is not acclimated towards a computer’s keyboard. Funny the things that pop into your mind at the turn of a phrase.)

I’ve finally gotten an appointment to get my botox injections at the neurologist’s office. It took talking to a different nurse and saying that I was tired of being jerked around, and voila—appointment. Funny how that works.

So in the next six weeks or so, I’m banging out another four doctors’ appointments. So excited. Cannot hardly wait for the poking and prodding to begin. Actually, I am excited about the botox as I’m really hoping that it helps with these damned headaches. I mean, if this stuff deadens nerve endings, it makes sense that it would kill pain. Too bad they haven’t approved it for back pain. Not enough studies done to show conclusively whether or not it actually helps the kind of pain that I have.

Too much to wish for at once, I suppose.

Anyway, after spending time making telephone calls to various doctor’s offices for prescriptions and/or appointments, I decided to go back to bed this morning, and part of me wishes that I hadn’t as I had more intensely bad dreams. In the past few nights, I keep dreaming about this doctor who is treating me, and he’s a sadist. I won’t go into the kinds of things that he’s trying to do to me, but suffice it to say that they are quite unpleasant. The dreams are probably coming from the subconscious part of me that is wholly fed up with doctors and treatments.

“Sixty six times have these eyes beheld
the changing scenes of autumn
I have said enough about moonlight.
Ask no more.
Only listen to the voice of pines and cedars
when no wind stirs.” ~ Ryonen, Buddhist Nun, 18th Century

The quote above appeared on my tumblr dash a few days ago, but it was only attributed to a Zen nun. That’s one of the things that I really hate about tumblr, how lax some people are about attributing quotes and images. It took me about 20 seconds to find the source of the quote and to learn that the line breaks were incorrect in what was originally posted.

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci," Frank Dicksee (1902)

Now line breaks might not seem like a big deal, that is unless you write poetry. Line breaks are all-important in poetry: They indicate the point at which the poet wishes to break the thought, add a pause, add a breath, indicate a new train of thought—all or none of these. But to quote a poem and not to take care to get the name of the poet correct I find really problematic.

But I’m also a stickler for the Oxford comma. So shoot me . . .

Anyway, I love tumblr because it continues to be a great source of quotes and images for my writing, but it really bothers me when people post something without quotations marks or an author, and people who may not be familiar with the phrase might not realize that it’s not original, or when people post art without listing the artist’s name or giving the attribution for a photograph. All problematic. So when I repost, I try to add the missing information, or if something has an obvious copyright on it, I don’t repost it.

I know. Not really a big problem in the grand scheme of things. Just file it under things that bug the crap out of me.

“There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges, from “Limits”

So my uncle in Florida has decided that I shouldn’t send for his Explorer as he feels that it’s not worth the money to ship it from his house to ours. I have to respect his decision, although I really wish that he’d understand that any working vehicle, no matter how old it is, is better than no working vehicle. But he doesn’t want us to waste our money, so what can I say? It’s not like we have the money to waste . . .

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci," William Russell Flint (1908)

He wrote me a very nice letter explaining his decision, and he sounds so much like my father, which is always just a bit painful. This uncle is the last one of my dad’s siblings who is still alive. He’s 80, and his wife, my aunt, has breast cancer. It just breaks my heart for so many reasons: that he’s the last, that he looks so much like my dad, that they are both in poor health.

When I was a child, I didn’t really have that much of an attachment to my dad’s side of the family, mostly because I was always around my mom’s side. But as an adult, I think that I’ve spent more time trying to stay in contact with my uncles, my dad’s brothers. Both of the ones in Florida kept asking us to bring the kids down for a visit and offered their homes if we wanted to visit Disneyland, but it was never the right time, and now the kids are grown, and no one wants to go to Disneyland . . .

Perhaps I should just think of a few more things to chew on in this guilt fest . . .

“Here I sit between my brother the mountain and my sister the sea. We three are one in loneliness, and the love that binds us together is deep and strong and strange.” ~ Kahlil Gibran

Corey has a medical transport tomorrow, so he’ll be gone from early morning until around 10 tomorrow night, which means good hours but a very long day for him.

"La Belle Dame Sans Merci," John William Waterhouse (1893)

I think that we’re seeing light at the end of the tunnel as far as getting the truck fixed. We had thought that by hiring the guy across the street to fix it, we would save money, which we have, but he’s taking his sweet time in finishing, which is always the problem in not going to a shop. He knows what he’s doing, as that’s how he makes his living, by working on cars, but he has his own issues, the least of which is that his elderly mother (with whom he lives) suffers from Alzheimer’s and dementia and forgets who he is and calls the cops on him because she thinks that he’s a stranger in her house.

I do sympathize with him, and he really is a nice guy, but we just want the truck to be fixed. Once he finishes with the transmission and the transfer case, we need to get the brakes done and get it inspected. I’m hoping that we don’t have to do four new tires as that’s a big cash output, but we’ll just have to see how that goes.

I know that Corey will be glad to have his truck back, but I also know that he’s in for a rude awakening the first time that he fills the tank as he’s been spoiled by the four-cylinder engines in the rental cars and the six-cylinder in the Rodeo. His truck is a V8 and a gas hog. I don’t even want to think about how much it’s going cost to fill, and I’m not looking forward to finding out how much gas it uses to get back and forth to the peninsula where he works.

I know. I know. If it’s not one thing, it’s another. My life at the moment is a tired cliché. Sorry that I don’t have more exciting things to say, but frankly, I’m lucky to get any kind of post out of my head at the moment. Perhaps I should call it a day.

More later. Peace.

*This is my favorite version of this subject, a particular favorite of the Pre-Raphaelite painters.

Music by Blue October, “Amazing”



From Out the Cave

When you have been
at war with yourself
for so many years that
you have forgotten why,
when you have been driving
for hours and only
gradually begin to realize
that you have lost the way,
when you have cut
hastily into the fabric,
when you have signed
papers in distraction,
when it has been centuries
since you watched the sun set
or the rain fall, and the clouds,
drifting overhead, pass as flat
as anything on a postcard;
when, in the midst of these
everyday nightmares, you
understand that you could
wake up,
you could turn
and go back
to the last thing you
remember doing
with your whole heart:
that passionate kiss,
the brilliant drop of love
rolling along the tongue of a green leaf,
then you wake,
you stumble from your cave,
blinking in the sun,
naming every shadow
as it slips.

~ Joyce Sutphen

“The tongue like a sharp knife . . . Kills without drawing blood ~ Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

 

“Pandora,” by John William Waterhouse (1896, oil on canvas)

“The evils of the body are murder, theft, and adultery; of the tongue, lying, slander, abuse, and idle talk; of the mind, covetousness, hatred, and error.” ~ Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

I’m sitting here in a white cotton sweater that is probably sixteen years old. I love this sweater, even though it is torn. It is soft and comfortable, and it reminds me of my friend Mari, who gave it to me one Christmas.

"Pandora and Her Box," by Warwick Goble

I have a lot of things that are this old. I’m not complaining, just noting. Why? Well, I’m a tad upset, actually more than a tad, and once again, it has to do with my mother, the woman who can cut me down in two sentences and never glance back.

Today Corey stopped by her house to use the fax machine. My mother had a bone to pick. She asked Corey if we (more specifically, I) had made any big purchases lately. He was, understandably, confused as our purchases are limited to groceries and shampoo. My mother told him that she had heard we had bought a new big bookcase for the living room. I know where she heard this from—my other m-i-l, whose visit I mentioned a few posts ago. My other m-i-l noticed the large wardrobe that is sitting in the living room, the one that is supposed to go in the bedroom, but the bedroom has yet to be painted or carpeted.

This piece of furniture is very large and heavy. Moving it is not simple or easy; hence, we have not moved it into the bedroom. We purchased this piece of furniture four years ago with cash from our tax return at a time when money was not a concern as we were both working in good paying jobs. That this furniture is still not in a bedroom is a reflection of the state of our life right now. However, it is not a reflection of careless spending on our part, or extravagant purchases.

Try telling this to my mother who got the information from my other m-i-l, who lives in a constant state of confusion. Corey explained this to my mother, who informed him that he needs to keep me in line. Corey told my mother that I don’t buy anything, that he pays the bills and does the budget and that I don’t even go shopping, all of which is true. I have been shopping on my own once in the last 12 months—at Christmas—and even then I was very restrained and made no purchases for myself.

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it.  Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many.” ~ Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

"Pandora's Box," by Arthur Rackham

Now let me pause here to interject a bit of history, and I apologize if I am repeating myself. After Caitlin died, I shopped my way through my grief. I have admitted this and owned up to my mistakes many times over. I worked very hard to overcome the need to shop to fill the emptiness in my life. I still like to shop, when I have money, but I do not have a fierce need to shop, and there is a big difference.

I no longer go out every Saturday and buy things just to buy. I no longer go from store to store to store, picking up things indiscriminately simply because I can. I no longer do this not because I don’t have the money. I no longer do this because I realized why I was doing this, and I no longer have the deep well of emptiness inside of me.

I have moved on. My mother, however, has not. She still thinks of me as that person who shopped and shopped as if my very life depended upon it. I don’t know about life, but definitely sanity. I have tried to tell my mother repeatedly that I am no longer addicted to shopping (and yes, it is possible to be addicted to shopping). I have tried to tell her that I do not spend money without any thought of the consequences.

She, for whatever reason, does not believe me. Hence, the snide comment about a recent large purchase on my part. Why does this bother me so much when I know the truth?

Well consider: How would you feel if you had made a mistake many years ago, and you had learned from that mistake, and you had taken measures to correct that mistake only to have said mistake thrown in your face at any given opportunity?

I can tell you. You would feel like a failure, an abysmal failure.

“There is nothing more dreadful than the habit of doubt. Doubt separates people. It is a poison that disintegrates friendships and breaks up pleasant relations. It is a thorn that irritates and hurts; it is a sword that kills.” ~  Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

"Psyche Opening the Golden Box," by John William Waterhouse (1903, oil on canvas)

I truly believe that I will never really understand my mother, no matter how long either of us lives. She can be loving and generous and kind, but mostly with anyone but me. She will talk trash about me to just about anyone: my spouse, my children, my friends. She will believe anyone else before me.

There are so many little stories from my life that exemplify this, far too many to bring up, but one in particular illustrates my point: The homes in my parents’ neighborhood had septic tanks before the city installed sewage throughout the area. One time, the tank became clogged, and my parents had to call one of those companies that specialize in fixing such problems. My mother told the workers, my father, anyone who would listen that she was certain that I had thrown a bottle of nail polish down the toilet, and that had led to the clog. I was about 9 years old.

Nail polish . . . really? Why? I never even contemplated doing such a thing, even as a child. I mean, to what end? I didn’t have any nail polish of my own, and as far as I can remember, my mother did not paint her nails. Did the polish appear by magic? I protested my innocence, but to no avail. I had already been judged guilty, so that was that.

I hadn’t remembered this incident until a few nights ago when for some reason, it popped into my head. Funny how memory works.

“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.”  ~  Siddartha Guatama (Buddha)

"Pandora Atop the Opened Box of Evils," by Frederick Stuart Church

I know that I should not let what my mother said affect me so much, nor should I continue to be surprised when she makes these declarations. But it takes a great deal of self-confidence not to let disparaging words spoken about you affect you, especially when spoken by someone who is supposed to love you in the way that a mother is supposed to love. And self-confidence is something with which I still have a hard time.

At the same time, I know that my mother is a product of her generation, a product of the Great Depression, being the youngest in a family with 12 children, being the daughter of a mother who died when she was only eight, and the daughter of a father who drank. I realize that her life as a child was very hard, and not having her mother definitely affected her ability to show love outwardly.

I try to remind myself of these things when she does something to irk me. It helps, but truthfully, it does not lessen the hurt that I feel. I sound like a petulant child. All that is missing is the stamp of the foot and the protestation that “it’s not fair.” So of the two of us, I try to be the adult. All that being said, it would be so nice if just once I felt, truly felt, that she was not sitting in judgment of me.

All I can do, I suppose, is try to remember not to treat my own family in the same way, to let them know that I am proud of them, to tell them that I love them, and to refrain from interjecting past failures into the present. I hope that one day I do not have to read something written by one of my own children only to find that he or she sees me in the say way that I see my own mother.

Counting to ten doesn’t work. A hot cup of tea helps. Writing about it helps to lessen the sting. Time, healing, and all of that . . . scars remain forever, but my scars are the map of my world, each one a wound healed, a memory filed away, a piece of mortality tasted.

Patience. Is. A. Virtue.

More later. Peace.

Music by REM, “Everybody Hurts”

Serenade at Dawn

northern_mockingbird21

Northern Mockingbird

On The Wings of a Dove . . .

marsh-wren
Marsh Wren

Every morning, a little before dawn, a mockingbird sits in the tree right outside my bedroom window and serenades me. Granted, he probably is totally unaware of my presence, but I like to think that these songs are mine alone. His morning song consists of about 20 separate sounds, that I’ve been able to discern, and he will repeat his song for several minutes at a time.

I really enjoy listening to him as he performs. It’s a languid way to meet the break of day. Usually, I awaken to his sounds around 5 and listen for about 15 minutes before drifting back to sleep. I have to say that it’s much nicer than a piercing alarm clock, especially these past few mornings when most sounds make me cringe from sheer pain.

black-capped chickadee
Black Capped Chickadee

Our area of the U.S. is actually a great place for backyard birdwatching. And my backyard in particular is a great spot because we live fairly close to a marsh and have a large oak in the backyard as well as several bushes with berries. Until just a few years ago, I kept feeders on the back porch especially for the purposes of spying on the birds. However, when we replaced our roof a few years ago, the overhang to the back porch was torn down, and we haven’t gotten around to putting up the trellis that I want, so that I can plant a new Jasmine vine and hang feeders and wind chimes.

Aside from the trellis, I keep pestering Corey for a new bird feeder, although granted, it’s a purchase that isn’t too high on the priority list.

Directly across from our kitchen window is a camellia bush that serves as a wonderful habitat for several of the birds. I remember one particular fall and winter when I had the feeders out, the finches would start to make such a ruckus around dusk if I hadn’t replenished the feeders. I never knew that wild birds could be as demanding as dogs when it comes to dinner time.

721px-mourning-dove
Mourning Dove

And then there was the time that I hung a lovely dish feeder especially for black-oiled sunflower seeds. Cardinals love those. However, this one mourning dove decided that she wanted to use this particular feeder as a roost. Every afternoon, she would sit in the middle of the dish and take a nap. I had to get a different feeder for the sunflower seeds. The mourning dove became very fat on her hoard of seeds.

Over the years, I have had goldfinches, red-wing blackbirds (beautiful in flight), brown thrashers, cardinals, sparrows, chickadees (one of my favorites), hermit thrushes, marsh wrens, and mourning doves. I have even had a few nuthatches and a downy woodpecker. But the one bird that I have never been able to attract is a hummingbird.

hummingbird
Hummingbird and Fuchsia Plant

I know that my area is on the hummer’s route because my friend Mari used to get hummingbirds in her backyard. Of course, her neighborhood was a bit more secluded than mine, and hummingbirds do like to return to places that they have visited before.

I used to buy big, beautiful fuchsia plants in the hopes of attracting a ruby-throated hummingbird, but as soon as the temperatures around here hit the upper 90’s, and the humidity set in, my big, beautiful fuchsias would droop and die.

red-winged-blackbird-lg
Red-Winged Blackbird

I’ll never forget the time that all of the birds in the neighborhood were silent and invisible. Then I found out why: sitting on my fence was a hawk. I’m almost positive that it was a Cooper’s Hawk because of the size and markings. Cooper’s hawks eat birds, which could account for the eerie silence that came over the neighborhood while the hawk took up residence.

The hawk hung aroud for a few days and then left. And then just as suddently as it had stopped, the air was filled with bird-song.

I am constantly reminded of the awesome ways in which nature finds a way of protecting itself, and my backyard birding is just one of my small windows into a rainbow spectrum of hues and melodies as moving and tender as Mozart.

More later. Peace.

 

                                                                                                                                              

waterhouse_narcissus
John William Waterhouse's Narcissus (1912)

From The Vault:

Narcissus Poeticus

 

Once, in April, my husband brought me handfuls of lilacs

he picked from a bush on the far hillside.

He placed them in a teacup next to my bed.

They were his pale purple wish for forgiveness.

 

When our first daughter was still new from the womb,

he brought me crystal vases of pink roses

and sat them by my bedside.

They were his pastel prayer for her safety.

 

When our second daughter died,

we sought desperately for yellow rose buds

to cover the top of her small white coffin.

They were our golden Viking horn for her long journey.

 

Afterwards, my friend taught me to tame the ruby-throated hummingbirds

with trumpet vine and baskets overflowing with fuchsias,

and to call butterflies and bees with plantings of parsley, impatiens, and verbena.

These were the balms she offered for my troubled soul.

 

Now, many years later, I have come to await the opening of late winter’s first crocus,

and find solace in spring’s sweet alyssum, lavender, and rosemary.

I walk barefoot through the corolla carpet of flowering crabapple and camellia.

These fallen, crimson petals are my life talisman.

 

At moon fall, I inhale the aromas of jessamine, wisteria, and honeysuckle,

and I awaken to the scents and hues of hyacinth, angelica, and heather.

In time, I will journey on a bier of Joseph’s coat, amid angel’s tears daffodils and forget me not.

These will be the Eden I will carry with me to the land of nod.

 

Lolita Liwag