“You might be looking for reasons but there are no reasons.” ~ Nina LaCour, from Hold Still

Emil Nolde, Landschaft, Nordfriesland, 1920 (I have always found that the art of Nolde completely encompasses what I’m feeling, regardless of the emotion)

“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.” ~ Charles Dickens, from Great Expectations

Thursday, late afternoon, cloudy and humid, thunderstorms on the horizon, 85 degrees.

So . . . Thursday thoughts . . .

I’ve been pondering regret, all kinds of regret, and I decided that instead of just mulling over all of this in my head that I would try to get some of these thoughts down here. I have no idea as to just how successful I’ll be in doing this, as lately, each time I begin to type, all of the myriad of ideas racing through my head suddenly disappear, and I am left with nothing, no words, no well-constructed lines of thought and logic.

Simply nothing.

So perhaps rather than trying to write well-constructed sentences, I’ll just type the thoughts as they come, much like my dream post of a few days ago. So here goes, in no particular order or priority:

  • I regret that I was not more patient with my mother, that I was not more forthcoming with her, but it always seemed so hard, seemed as if she just wouldn’t understand, and honestly, I don’t know if she would have wanted to hear what I had to say. My mother was not one for warm and fuzzy, not one for hugs, not one for saying “I love you,” and I never really found out why. I had my theories, but no real confirmation.
  • I regret that I do not have regular contact with my dad’s last living sibling, my Uncle Ely in Florida. He’s old and sick, and I doubt that I’ll see him again while he still lives. It’s the last tie on that side.
  • I regret not going back to the hospital in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning to be with my dad; instead, I fell asleep, and he died alone.
“The longing for impossible things, precisely because they are impossible; nostalgia for what never was; the desire for what could have been; regret over not being someone else; dissatisfaction with the world’s existence. All these half-tones of the soul’s consciousness create in us a painful landscape, an eternal sunset of what we are.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, from The Book of Disquiet

More:

  • I really wish that we had painted this whole house before we moved in, but we had no electricity, and we were dealing with closing up things in Norfolk while simultaneously trying to set up things here. But I wonder if we’ll ever have this house straightened out.
  • I wish that I had been more proactive in taking care of the house on Benjamin. I hated that house for several reasons, but still, it was my home, and my children were raised there.
  • I really, really regret not applying to a low-residence MFA program when it would have made more sense. An MFA is considered a terminal degree, which means that having one allows you to apply to tenure track positions at colleges and universities. I’ve found one that I’d still love to attend, but that costs money. There is no money
  • I regret that I was never better with finances. I’ve reached an age that I was totally unprepared for, and my financial situation is no better than it was 20 years ago. How does that happen?
“I had buried too much too deeply inside me. And here I am, instead of there.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

Then there are these:

  • I regret the break up of my first marriage, not because of the relationship, but because of what it did to my kids. I don’t know if Eamonn will ever forgive me for it, even though his father fell in love with another person less than two months after leaving.
  • I really regret letting certain friendships fall by the wayside when spouse #1 and I split, especially my very long friendship with Pat and the one I had with Becky from the museum. They were two incredible women. For a weird reason, there was a rift between spouse #1 and I, and our relationship with our closest friends, Pat and Winn, a rift I’ll never fully understand, and now I’ll never be able to see or talk to Pat again; I did not even know that she had died until almost a year later.
  • I regret feeling too tired to drive out to see Alan after work that afternoon. His sister said that he waited for me.  He died soon after.
  • I regret that I did not see Dallas one more time before he died. I don’t know that it would have been a good visit, but once someone dies, you always think of things that you wish you had said. It’s still weird for me, his death. There has been no service, no closure, just texts, messages, and rumors. I don’t know how to handle that.

“Droll thing life is—that mysterious arrangement of merciless logic for a futile purpose. The most you can hope from it is some knowledge of yourself—that comes too late—a crop of inextinguishable regrets.” ~ Joseph Conrad, from Heart of Darkness

  • I wish that I was in touch with more of my mom’s family. That everything with her family in Great Bridge ended so abruptly still pains me deeply. That I don’t know the status of her sister in Winston Salem shames me.
  • I am so embarrassed that I have not paid to have the dates put on my mom’s grave marker. It was something that I was going to get around to doing, but then never did. I just don’t understand how things like that happen, or rather, how I let things like that happen.
  • Sometimes I still regret not moving to New York and actually trying to make it in the theater. I know that I probably don’t have the guts to do such a thing, yet I also know that I do. Does that make sense?
  • I regret trying to teach Heart of Darkness to a bunch of freshmen at Tech.

“I am grateful for all those dark years, even though in retrospect they seem like a long, bitter prayer that was answered finally.” ~ Marilynne Robinson, from Gilead

And finally, a few more:

  • I regret accruing student debt for Brett that still looms out there, haunting me and him. College should not break people financially.
  • I regret everything bad that happened with Mari, still.
  • I regret the how the last two years played out.
  • I regret never having another child.

Ultimately, I regret far too many things to list here, far too many thing to try to enumerate in any kind of cogent way. People I have wronged. Relationships better left unpursued. Arguments. Words spoken and unspoken. Decisions made and those put off and then forgotten. Stupid things like something I left undone at Dillard’s, or a night that would have been better never happening, the wrong outfit at a wedding . . .

Who can live with such things and not go crazy? Is it any wonder that I never feel adequate or whole?  Any wonder that my entire sense of self is controlled by guilt? Such self-loathing. Such would-have, should-have recriminations. Such bullshit obsessing. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hate being like this.

Enough already.


Music by Angus Powell, “Monsters”


Wind in a Box

—after Lorca

I want to always sleep beneath a bright red blanket
of leaves. I want to never wear a coat of ice.
I want to learn to walk without blinking.

I want to outlive the turtle and the turtle’s father,
the stone. I want a mouth full of permissions

and a pink glistening bud. If the wildflower and ant hill
can return after sleeping each season, I want to walk
out of this house wearing nothing but wind.

I want to greet you, I want to wait for the bus with you
weighing less than a chill. I want to fight off the bolts

of gray lighting the alcoves and winding paths
of your hair. I want to fight off the damp nudgings
of snow. I want to fight off the wind.

I want to be the wind and I want to fight off the wind
with its sagging banner of isolation, its swinging

screen doors, its gilded boxes, and neatly folded pamphlets
of noise. I want to fight off the dull straight lines
of two by fours and endings, your disapprovals,

your doubts and regulations, your carbon copies.
If the locust can abandon its suit,

I want a brand new name. I want the pepper’s fury
and the salt’s tenderness. I want the virtue
of the evening rain, but not its gossip.

I want the moon’s intuition, but not its questions.
I want the malice of nothing on earth. I want to enter

every room in a strange electrified city
and find you there. I want your lips around the bell of flesh

at the bottom of my ear. I want to be the mirror,
but not the nightstand. I do not want to be the light switch.
I do not want to be the yellow photograph

or book of poems. When I leave this body, Woman,
I want to be pure flame. I want to be your song.

~ Terrance Hayes (found on Poetry Foundation)

“August has passed, and yet summer continues by force to grow days. They sprout secretly between the chapters of the year, covertly included between its pages.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Tree of Codes

Wilhelmina Barns-Graham Waves White on Blue Series No II paren August 1988 acrylic on card
“Waves White on Blue Series No. II (August 1988)” (acrylic on card)
By Wilhelmina Barns-Graham

                   

Two for Tuesday: August Reflections

(c) Emerson Mayes; Supplied by The Public Catalogue Foundation
“River Wharf, August 1995” (oil on canvas)
by Emerson Mayes

                     

AUGUST MEDITATIONS
I

If a man in his forties
is still drawing seas and dovecotes
if in his thought is reflected
a sun more transparent,
more lucid than the sun of reality,
if the word ‘Amorgos’ is not just
the mask of a fleeting, adolescent memory,
then between the poem of desire
and the poem of necessity
real loss is panting.

II

Prologues have been consumed.
They cannot always substitute the topic.
He must decide whether he can
hold on to this absolute idea
even if he has ceased to believe in its power.
It is a question of faith from now on.

III

Successive metamorphoses of paradise.
The eye tries to interpret the enigma of beauty
while Delos is slowly emerging on the horizon.
Summer feels like an eternity.
The poem begins to invent itself
at the moment when the man turns his face to the light.

(The moment when imagination
freed from the specific sensation of blazing light
vertically rises in the sky.)

IV

Not one sail on the horizon
tearing the canvas apart.
The image of a tree
with its wind-swept boughs scavenging the ground
is not a part of the scenery today.
Yet, the old lady creeping uphill on her knees
tightly holding Her icon is.

V

The man is walking on the beach alone.
He is still touched by the melodious whisper of the waves,
the way the water is persistently lulling the rock to sleep.
Nature around him
(cedars, rotten fishing boats, shingles)
has a melancholic, unaffected brightness.
If he were to die at this moment
he would want to be here
in this place where he has been.
Even for a while.
For now.

~ Haris Vlavianós

                   

David Burliuk Roses with Blue Background, 1960
“Roses with Blue Background” (1960)
by David Burliuk

A Lecture on Aphids

She plucks my sleeve.
“Young man,” she says, “you need to spray.
You have aphids on your roses.”

In a dark serge coat and a pill box hat
by god it’s my third grade Sunday school teacher,
shrunken but still stern, the town’s
most successful corporate attorney’s mother.
She doesn’t remember me. I holster
my secateurs, smile publicly,
and reply, “Ma’am,

did you know a female aphid is born
carrying fertile eggs? Come look.
There may be five or six generations
cheek by jowl on this “Peace” bud.
Don’t they remind you
of refugees
crowding the deck of a tramp steamer?
Look through my hand lens—
they’re translucent. You can see their dark innards
like kidneys in aspic.

Yes, ma’am, they are full-time inebriates,
and unashamed of their nakedness.
But isn’t there something wild and uplifting
about their complete indifference to the human prospect?”

And then I do something wicked. “Ma’am,” I say,
“I love aphids!” And I squeeze
a few dozen from the nearest bud
and eat them.

After the old woman scuttles away
I feel ill
and sit down to consider
what comes next. You see,
aphids
aren’t sweet
as I had always imagined.
Even though rose wine is their only food,
aphids
are bitter.

~ Charles Goodrich

                    

Music by Fleet Foxes, a new discovery, “Helplessness Blues”

“One ought to sink to the bottom of the sea, probably, and live alone with one’s words.” ~ Virginia Woolf

Am I being too persnickety because that backwards apostrophe is bugging the crap out of me?

“Time will reveal everything. It is a babbler and speaks even when not asked.” ~ Euripedes

Vintage Zenith Clock Sign in the Carrer de l'Espaseria, Barcelona, Spain, by Arjan Richter (FCC)

                   

“Time has no mercy. It’s there. It stays still or it moves.
And you’re there with it. Staying still or moving with it.
I think it moves. And we move with it. And keep moving.” ~ Simon J. Ortiz from “Time as Memory as Story”

Monday, late afternoon. Sunny, 68 degrees.

The ticking clock? What was I waiting for on Friday? News. A delivery. A decision.

Old Clock in Salzburg by Kitti Jakobovits (FCC)

The shipping company called Corey on Friday and said that they had an immediate opening if he had gotten his credentials back. The UPS tracking said that the package was due to be delivered that day. Should he stay or should he go? We decided that if everything worked out as far as timing, he should go.

In my heart, I knew that going back would be the only way that Corey would be able to redeem himself in his eyes. So we waited. The package was delivered around 3:45. Corey called his contact and left a message. On Sunday he got a call back: Expect to leave on Tuesday. Then he got another call: make that Monday night.

He left today at 2:54, going to Dulles, then to Copenhagen, then to Lithuania.

We checked and rechecked everything. He repacked to make his suitcase lighter. We checked again. If he didn’t have it by the time his baggage was checked at the counter, then he doesn’t have it. But we know for sure that he has his MMD, his passport, his computer and the USB, his phone and the charger . . .

“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

I’m much weepier than when he left the last time. Part of it is timing, part of it is my breakdown on Sunday, part of it is today. It’s just too much to absorb in just one day. Sometimes absolutely nothing happens in a day, and other days, everything happens, and when that’s the case, it’s just too much.

Station Clock, Cobh Heritage Centre, Ireland, by Athena's Pix (FCC)

Let me give you an example: the song “Mandolin Rain,” by Bruce Hornsby showed up on the right side of my YouTube today. I’m not sure what I was searching for that would make that song appear, but “Mandolin Rain” was the song that my ex listened to over and over after we lost Caitlin. It’s a song full of meaning, so of course, it comes blasting back at me like some kind of rocket from the past.

Time is funny that way. It can move along sequentially, and then it can seem to run parallel, and then when things really get crazy, it can seem as if tangents of time are running wildly out of control. As I stood at the airport demarcation between passengers with tickets and the rest of us, I was caught in one of those sequences. Time was moving forward, taking Corey across an ocean away from me. Time was moving backward, bringing back memories of a March afternoon on which I gave birth to my second daughter, and time was standing still as I waited for that final wave—I was static, standing in one place as people came and went all around me, some leaving, some arriving, some running to say hello, some clinging as they said goodbye.

I had all of time in one moment.

“In the yellow time of pollen near the blue time of lilacs
there was a gap in things. And here we are.” ~  Luke Davies, from “from Totem Poem [In the yellow time of pollen]”

Yesterday afternoon I collected these quotes, thinking that I might go ahead and write another post, but after I found the quotes and found the images, I couldn’t write. Sometimes it’s like that. Sometimes I find the quotes and write the post but cannot find the right images, and sometimes I find the quotes, but nothing else comes.

Brighton Station Clock, UK, by Elsie esq. (FCC)

Everything happened so fast between the quotes and the telephone calls. He was going. He was going on Tuesday. He was going Monday night. He was going Monday afternoon.

Last night we lay side by side holding hands and talking—was this the right thing to do? Yes, definitely. Probably. Maybe. Finally I found a way to put what I was feeling into words: Even though I don’t have a lot of faith in this company to come through with a complete hitch for Corey, right now it’s available, and it’s good money. In the meantime he has his other applications out, and he can explore other avenues. This trip gets him back on the water, gives him some ocean time as opposed to near-coastal sea time (it makes a difference, believe me), and he can use however many days he does with this company to put towards a few more certifications, like Tanker Man.

So while the leaving is less than perfect, not nearly enough time to take in everything, the going is good. At least that’s what I keep telling myself even as my chest tightens and I begin to get watery eyes.

“A special kind of silence prevailed, a silence that figures neither in musical nor in philosophical dictionaries, as if time were coming apart and flying off in different directions simultaneously, a pure time, neither verbal nor composed of gestures and actions.” ~  Roberto Bolaño, from Amulet

So after Corey fell asleep last night, I wrote him a letter and left it on his laptop where he would find it later. I told him that I believe in him and that I believe that this is the right thing to do. I assured him that we would all be fine, and asked him to concentrate on his job and not worry about what’s going on at home.

Pocket Watch by Ludmila Vilarinhos (FCC)

Then I tried to go to sleep, unsuccessfully. I had a stomach ache. I had a pain in my chest. Nerves, all of it. Eventually I did fall asleep, even as my mind went through a checklist of things that I needed to make sure were in the suitcase.

Brett couldn’t go to the airport with us as he had a test at school, so it was just Eamonn and me seeing Corey off, telling him to be safe, telling him that we loved him. And I willed myself not to cry, to save the tears for later. Now here I am, sitting at the computer in Eamonn’s room, the afternoon sun coming through the window, Shakes snoring beneath my chair, and the house otherwise empty and silent.

And finally, my body is beginning to feel the exhaustion set in. I think that if I were to lie down, I would probably fall asleep in seconds. But not yet, not quite yet.

“5. I know that time is bound up with space. Time is the shadow of space. Space the shadow of time. I know that we live in the shadow of a shadow and that it returns to the light.” ~  Patrick Dubost, from “What I Know”

After leaving the airport I thought briefly of going to the cemetery, but I realized that such a move would probably do me in, and I would be right back where I was when I awoke yesterday. So I came home, and here I am, mulling over the concept of time and movement, and I have to wonder if a watch stops, does that mean that somewhere, time has stopped as well?

Conflicting Time, Chicago, IL, by dbking (FCC)

The old watches and clocks, the ones that we wound so carefully, cultivating time, harboring time, those time pieces—they were the keepers of the past and the present and the future. Now, the ones powered by batteries, those are merely mechanisms. There is nothing magical about them. I prefer the Roman numerals, the sweep of the second-hand to the digital display. My m-in-law had an old ship’s clock in her living room. It was made of brass, and it chimed the hours and the half hours, and that chime was, I believe, in the key of A, or at least that’s how it sounds in my memory. Eventually the spring mechanism broke, and the clock sat there idly, but its presence was a constant reminder of the hours that it had kept, and the time that had passed in that room.

I have an old watch that belonged to my father. It’s a wind-up, but it no longer works. I have considered taking it to a jeweler to see if I can get it fixed. It’s not a valuable watch, except to me. It has the imprint of my father’s wrist on the inside of the olive green leather strap, and I’m certain that it retains the memory of his DNA. Wearing it is like wearing a piece of him, like I’m sharing an afternoon with him, and he’s making me a cup of tea.

Whenever my father, for whom English was a second language—but he spoke it very well, more properly than my mother—whenever he left for one of his trips somewhere in the world, the last thing that he would say to my mother and me was “See you when I gets back.” I know that he knew that the gets wasn’t correct, but I think that somewhere in time, that must have been how he said it the first time, and saying those same words each time he left was like a talisman.

So I will see Corey when he gets back.

More later. Peace.

Music by Mazzy Star, “Into Dust”

                   

For What Binds Us

There are names for what binds us:
strong forces, weak forces.
Look around, you can see them:
the skin that forms in a half-empty cup,
nails rusting into the places they join,
joints dovetailed on their own weight.
The way things stay so solidly
wherever they’ve been set down—
and gravity, scientists say, is weak.

And see how the flesh grows back
across a wound, with a great vehemence,
more strong
than the simple, untested surface before.
There’s a name for it on horses,
when it comes back darker and raised: proud flesh,

as all flesh,
is proud of its wounds, wears them
as honors given out after battle,
small triumphs pinned to the chest—

And when two people have loved each other
see how it is like a
scar between their bodies,
stronger, darker, and proud;
how the black cord makes of them a single fabric
that nothing can tear or mend.

~ Jane Hirshfield

“The sound of the rain needs no translation.” ~ Quoted by Alan Watts

Rain on the Fountain by stopthegears (FCC)

                   

“Time was passing like a hand waving from a train I wanted to be on.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer

Tuesday afternoon. Rainy, moderate temperatures in low 50s.

It’s been a week since my last post. I’ve been in bed since Friday afternoon with bronchitis. I’m just glad that it didn’t hit completely until after Thanksgiving dinner. It’s been full blown: the painful cough, nasty stuff in my throat and chest. I’ve been putting off going to the doctor, first because it was the weekend, and then because I started to feel better.

Rain Bokeh by andymatthewsphotography.com (FCC)

Then last night, I felt absolutely horrible again, probably because I tried to do a few things yesterday. Today, my big accomplishment was doing the dishes and putting a load of clothes in the washing machine. I’m hoping to make it through this post, mostly because I miss sitting here, but the idea of sitting here, upright was really too much to contemplate for several days.

And then, there was the added strain of Eamonn getting sick also. His did not seem to be bronchitis, more of some kind of virus that hit his stomach and left him quite ill. I will spare you the details, but at one point, I was seriously considering taking him to the ER because I was afraid that he was dehydrated, but he came through okay, and even went to work today.

So at the moment, it’s just the dogs and me and the rain outside. Let me put it into perspective for you: I was so sick that I didn’t even want my daily coffee. Just the thought of coffee made me feel nauseous. But I’m hoping that the worst has passed and that I won’t need to make that trip to the doctor. Fortunately, I’ve been able to control the cough enough so that it hasn’t caused a headache, which almost always happens when I get bronchitis: I cough madly, and end up with a migraine, which gets worse the more that I cough. The ensuing migraine this time was short-lived (I’m really liking the effects of the Botox if this is all that I have to deal with).

Funny that, being thankful for a migraine that only lasts four hours.

“The world about us would be desolate except for the world within us.” ~ Wallace Stevens, The Necessary Angel: Reality & the Imagination

So Thanksgiving dinner was fairly successful. My mother didn’t complain too much. In fact, she was on her best behavior. The turkey was perfection, and of course, we had too much food. Something to be thankful for, I know. Although next year I need to remember to get a slightly bigger turkey so that there are more leftovers for sandwiches.

Winter Rain by dibytes (FCC)

I worked myself into a frenzy right into the middle of the afternoon, even though my back rebelled in a big way. I just get that perfectionist thing going and can’t stop myself. However, I did leave myself enough time to paint my nails and put on a bit of makeup so that I didn’t look like a total hag. But I was glad that everything went well, and there was no major family drama.

Corey had to work until 4 p.m., so everything was pretty much up to me. Brett helped with moving things, which I never could have done alone.

Of course, my mother called the next day with her questions and criticisms, but even these were kept to a minimum. Could she be mellowing?

Nah, probably not. Still, Corey and I agreed that overall, things went much better than expected, which is a sad commentary in itself—to be prepared for the motherly criticism of everything from the food to the state of the house. Oh well. What can you do? Nothing, really.

And so it goes.

“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” ~ Marcel Proust

Actually, other than dinner and being sick, I don’t have much to say. I finished reading the book that I had already read; although I must admit that knowing who the villain was in advance did detract from my overall enjoyment, but I was reading mostly because I couldn’t do anything else, so it turned out okay. I wouldn’t have wanted to start a new book that required too much concentration as I was quite unable to devote too many brain cells to concentration.

The Rains, Singapore, by vishy-washy (FCC)

Yesterday because of the vehicle situation, I had to drop Corey off in one place and then take Em and Brett to ODU. I swear that I almost fell asleep on the return trip from ODU, which is not good. I was full of cold medicine and running on restless sleep, which did not make for a good combination. I opened all the windows and prayed until I got home.

I really don’t like doing that. I remember towards the end of my stay at GW, making that trip to Newport News each day was really taking a toll on me, and more than once I found myself driving while unconscious (not really), but you know what I mean—arriving somewhere without having any memory of the trip to get there. Hate, hate that.

So yesterday’s trip made me quite anxious, and I came home and collapsed into the bed and immediately fell asleep. I did not wake up again until Corey called to say that he was ready to be picked up.

He took a refresher test for his merchant mariner’s credentials. Actually, it was two tests, both of which he scored 100 percent. So proud of him. He is slowly passing each hurdle, and we are just holding our collective breaths that everything will move smoothly towards him being able to go back to sea in 2012.

“We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” ~ G. K. Chesterton

You know, our luck hasn’t been the best these past few years, so when something actually does go our way, we seem to move in a state of disbelief, waiting for the incipient bad news to arrive on our doorstep. It’s hard to adjust our thinking to the concept that we might actually be making headway.

Falling Rain on Leaves by elvis_payne (FCC)

I suppose a lot of it is that we don’t want to get our hopes up only to have them come crashing down about our ears again. If one doesn’t hope, then one cannot be disappointed. Right?

But I keep telling Corey that his time has come, that he deserves a change for the better. And I’m not just saying these things as a pep talk. I truly believe that he is due for some better fortune. We have both become so used to living in a state of constant uncertainty that it is hard to accept that we may be facing better days. It’s a bit like that poor abused dog, the one who is so used to a slap instead of a treat that he cowers whenever a hand comes within proximity.

But perhaps what that hand is proffering is in fact good? Dare we hope? I honestly don’t know, the old cart before the horse way of thinking. So I try to think good thoughts but temper them with a cold dose of reality.

I mean, think about the explorers of old: they looked for the horizon each time they put that glass to their eyes; they hoped that it was there, but they tried not to hope too much so that the disappointment wouldn’t quash them completely. But then one day, they caught a glimpse of something. They put the glass down, shook their head, paused. Then they looked again, and yes, it was in fact something besides the vast sea before them.

Can you imagine the kind of determination it must have taken to board a boat without any kind of computerized navigational systems, just a sextant, a compass, and a piece of parchment on which to plot courses to the unknown? To set sail with only an inkling that there was something out there? To hope against hope that the inkling would prove true?

“I don’t know where there is, but I believe it’s somewhere, and I hope it’s beautiful.” ~ John Green, Looking for Alaska

In a way, our family has been at sea for a while. Our provisions have been slight but sufficient. We have been voyaging, like so many others, in the hopes that we will find terra firma sooner than later.

Umbrella Leaves by mysza831 (FCC)

We are now at the point at which we believe that we have espied something. Exactly what, we are still unsure. But just the hope that it’s out there—it’s enough to keep us going. And the reality is that we have one another.

I hope that we have weathered the worst, but I cannot say for certain. In spite of this, I feel a sense of calm. I feel a sense of—dare I say the words aloud—a sense of promise of better days. Perhaps all of this is simply my body feeling better because the worse of my recent bout is behind me, but I don’t think so. I sense a change in the air, smell a fresher scent on the wind.

What it rests upon is this: In spite of all of my bitching and moaning to the contrary, I still believe. I still believe that good things are out there, that castles in the air can find weight in reality, that dreams can come true. I know that it is the romantic in me, the one who surfaces upon occasion and declares that love, peace, and good will triumph. The one who still thinks that there is indeed a balm in Gilead that will make the wounded whole.

I know that you don’t see this side often, that this aspect does not often turn its face towards the sun. But it is still there, subsumed most of the time, but not gone.

Do I still dream? Of course I do. It’s just that sometimes, I forget that there are always possibilities. That the no-win scenario is, indeed, surmountable, that it’s just a matter of perspective.

More later. Peace.

Music by the Cary Brothers, “Take Your Time”

                   

The Small Cabin

The house we built gradually
from the ground up when we were young
(three rooms, the walls
raw trees) burned down
last year          they said

I didn’t see it, and so
the house is still there in me

among branches as always     I stand
inside it looking out
at the rain moving across the lake

but when I go back
to the empty place in the forest
the house will blaze and crumple
suddenly in my mind

collapsing like a cardboard carton
thrown on a bonfire, summers
crackling, my earlier
selves outlined in flame.

Left in my head will be
the blackened earth: the truth.

Where did the house go?

Where do the words go
when we have said them?

~ Margaret Atwood

“Why does the eye see a thing more clearly in dreams than the mind while awake?” ~ Leonardo da Vinci

Nature Impressionistic, Gyömrő, Pest, Hungary, by Halasi Zsolt (FCC)*

“Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot.” ~ Neil Gaiman, The Sandman, Vol. 3: Dream Country

Tuesday afternoon. Overcast and warm, 68 degrees.

A very bad few days, indeed. On Saturday, I was completely unable to get out of bed, probably slept 18 out of 24 hours. Just one of those days when the old body is too weak to deal with the vicissitudes of daily life. Then Sunday Corey and I went to buy the Thanksgiving turkey, and it was probably not the best day for it as I was still recovering, and he was sleep-deprived from his work schedule, and consequently, we had a spat in the middle of Sam’s Club.

Bokod, Komárom-Esztergom, Hungary, by Halasi Zsott (FCC)

By yesterday evening, when I was ready to write, I didn’t have access to the computer, so here I am today, no headache, a bit of back pain, and a strange tingling sensation in my left thumb. No idea as to what that is about.

I did make a point of checking my e-mail today, something that I no longer do daily. E-mail, like paper mail that is not in the form of a personal letter, has become rather boring to me. I could not tell you why this is so other than it is. Anyway, the point is that if you desperately need to get in touch with me, sending an e-mail may cause a delay of about a week or so. Sending a message via comments here tends to get my attention faster.

Apologies for this, but am not going to try to pretend that I will be better at checking my mail as I know myself too well. I might intend to do so, but will probably not.

Anyway, it’s a good thing that I did check the old electronic mail as there was a note from Helma (German s-in-law) that my nephew Phillip has to have emergency surgery for pancreatitis. His father Patrick (my ex’s brother) had a severe case of pancreatitis several years ago and almost died from it. Reading that note that was sent a week ago made me feel like the negligent git that I am.

“She was a genius of sadness, immersing herself in it, separating its numerous strands, appreciating its subtle nuances. She was a prism through which sadness could be divided into its infinite spectrum.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, from Everything is Illuminated

I’m trying to get the house ready for Thanksgiving. Ask me how much I’ve done . . .

When I finish here, I need to go prepare the cranberry relish so that it has a few days to get that commingling of flavors. Alexis is supposed to be doing the mashed potatoes and deviled eggs, but as she never got around to texting or calling me this weekend, I’m not sure I can depend on that. You see, she was supposed to be my ride to Sam’s Club, her reward being gas in her tank. Her no-show meant that Corey had to fill in, which led to the overall grumpiness and spat, etc.

Falling Leaves in Gyömrő, Pest, Hungary, by Halasi Zsolt (FCC)

I despair of her ever coming out of this whatever it is. She knows, as do I, that she needs professional help, but that costs money. She has no money because she has no job; she has no job because of this prolonged downward spiral, so she cannot get professional help. She is her own 99 percent. Not trying to be glib, just realistic.

If I dwell on it for too long, it only adds to my personal miasma of pain, guilt, and otherwise world-weary despair.

So I’ll make cranberry relish. I’ll clear the dining room table. I’ll enlist as much help as I can, and we’ll muddle through the same as always. At least I’ve got a lovely bottle of sparkling blush muscato to accompany the bird and trimmings. It will be one of my occasional forays into imbibing, the last being after the memorial service in September.

“To disguise nothing, to conceal nothing, to write about those things that are closest to our pain, our happiness; to write about our sexual clumsiness, the agonies of Tantalus, the depth of our discouragement—what we glimpse in our dreams—our despair. To write about the foolish agonies of anxiety, the refreshment of our strength when these are ended; to write about our painful search for self, jeopardized by a stranger in the post office, a half-seen face in a train window, to write about the continents and populations of our dreams, about love and death, good and evil, the end of the world.” ~ From The Journals of John Cheever

I found this Cheever passage on tumblr, and it seems so perfect for me, a perfect description of how I write, what I do here. Each time I sit down at these keys, it’s as if I’m sharing my life as it unfolds, as if this act is both abhorrent and necessary, as if penning the words to my own bitter song will cleanse me and thus allow me to feel better. But better how I could not tell you.

Like Tantalus, the fruit always seems to be just beyond my reach, and the water recedes just as I cup my hands to drink. But somehow I keep going.

Twilight in Bokod, Komárom-Esztergom, Hungary, by Halasi Zsott (FCC)

Images flashing through my head: a young boy, holding someone’s hand and looking back over his right shoulder as he’s being pulled away; a woman wearing huge metal frame sunglasses, face turned to the sun; a red rubber ball bouncing . . .Total disconnect? Where do these things come from? Do they mean anything or are they just the commercials in between the stuff that means something? Are these the strangers who I have encountered without noticing, the ones that my brain has filed away for later without my conscious self knowing?

It’s like the photograph of the Irish countryside that I posted a few days ago (which got quite a nice response from you guys . . . should I just cut out the words and post pretty pictures? Kidding.). I came upon it quite by chance, but boom, it was the perfect representation of what I’ve been trying to describe as the Ireland that I see in my mind’s eye.

Have you noticed that I have a real affinity for Greek mythology? I credit Mrs. Clay for this. I really despised that woman when she taught me 9th grade English, but she knew her stuff. I wonder if they even spend time on mythology in English classes any more, I mean, more than a week or two.

“The little space within the heart is as great as the vast universe. The heavens and the earth are there, and the sun and the moon and the stars. Fire and lightning and winds are there, and all that now is and all that is not.” ~ From the Upanishads

But getting back to the whole idea of what I do here, in this little space of mine—I populate this world of mine with dreams (those I’ve had while sleeping and those I keep close to my heart), with agonies and victories, small and large, and I intersperse occasional bouts of politics, irony, whimsy, and comic relief. But all of it—the mindless rambling, the tortured angst, the attempts at the profound—it all comes from a place I simply cannot define. It’s all there, and I do not control how or when it surfaces.

Fall in in Gyömrő, Pest, Hungary by Halasi Zsolt FCC

Last night I dreamed that I went into an old abandoned building. People were living there. It was an old theater, and the people who lived there went into an empty convenience store to use the telephone. I thought about staying there because the people made me feel welcome, but decided that I needed to move on. I had somewhere that I needed to be, even if it meant walking down a dark road, so I put on some old clothes that were in a backpack, and I began to leave, but when I did, some of my dad’s relatives appeared and wanted to know why I wasn’t at home. Then there was something like a flea market in front of the building.

Now I must pause here. I don’t know about you, but my dreams can be sequential, events carry over from other dreams, and I reference previous dreams in later dreams. While I was looking at the items that had been put out for the flea market, I remembered a piano that I had seen in my dream from the night before; the piano was old and black, an upright, but the keys were in bad shape. I thought about the piano in last night’s dream and wished that I had bought it and refinished it.

Then I walked onto a suspension bridge above the flea market, and it was made of rickety wood. Someone had dropped a cigarette, and the bridge had caught fire. I walked quickly among the planks that were still solid until I reached the roof of the abandoned building. Then I climbed down, and there was a line of people waiting to see . . . Alexis, who had designed jewelry in honor of her mother (me) who had been missing. I walked up to the front of the line and hugged her and told her that I was home.

So in one dream, I encompassed my continual search (the walking down a dark road), my affinity for the old (the piano and the abandoned building), my feelings of alienation (the homeless people living in the building), my sadness (the relatives), my dreams for my daughter (obvious), and my fears of not making it to where I want to go (the burning bridge).

“I swear, there is in me no wizardry of words.
I speak to you with silence like a cloud or a tree.” ~ Czeslaw Milosz, from “Dedication

Speaking of writing about the painful search for self, I received another invitation to contribute my blog to Vibrant Nation. Other than one blogger friend with whom I’m in contact, I don’t know much about this site. If anyone has any advice pro or con, I’d love to hear about it.

Balatonfenyves, Somogy, Hungary, by Halasi Zsolt (FCC)

I just remembered that there was a woman in last night’s dream that had strange eyes, huge, with one eye significantly bigger than the other. She was Asian, and she did not want her daughter to date. Her daughter was 42 and still stuck at home. Make of that what you will.

I suppose I’ve put off my real work for the week for long enough. I’ve walked by the dining room table twice to refill my coffee cup, and it did not magically clear itself. Why can’t I be normal? Does every woman hate Thanksgiving as much as I do? I really hate to admit it, but a small part of me understands what my mother has been saying for years: What’s the point of doing all of this?

Oh, well, that answers my question, doesn’t it? My mother. Of course. It always comes back to my mother. I think that I’ll go chop cranberries and apples and try to put everything else out of my mind for a few days, just get through this.

*All images taken from Halasi Zsolt’s photostream on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

Music by Trent Dabbs, “Stay by Me”

                   

A Boat

Evening comes on and the hills thicken;
red and yellow bleaching out of the leaves.
The chill pines grow their shadows.

Below them the water stills itself,
a sunset shivering in it.
One more going down to join the others.

Now the lake expands
and closes in, both.

The blackness that keeps itself
under the surface in daytime
emerges from it like mist
or as mist.

Distance vanishes, the absence
of distance pushes against the eyes.

There is no seeing the lake,
only the outlines of the hills
which are almost identical,

familiar to me as sleep,
shores unfolding upon shores
in their contours of slowed breathing.

It is touch I go by,
the boat like a hand feeling
through shoals and among
dead trees, over the boulders
lifting unseen, layer
on layer of drowned time falling away.

~ Margaret Atwood

“To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down.” ~ Clarissa Pinkola Estés

Freundschaftsinsel, Potsdam, by Max Baur (Friendship Island)
                    
“How secure have I felt seated at my desk in my house in the dark night, just watching the tip of my pencil in the lamplight following its shadow, as if of its own accord and with perfect fidelity, while that shadow moved regularly from left to right, line by line, over the ruled paper.” ~ W. G. Sebald, Austerlitz
Park Sanssouci, Potsdam, Germany, by Max Baur

If it’s Friday, it must mean leftovers . . .   

Sitting in Eamonn’s room on Friday afternoon. A few days ago, I began the task of trying to clean this room, which means going through all of the various piles of crap that Eamonn has left here since moving to his Dad’s house.   

I’ve only managed to clean the desk so far. We’re talking about countless binders, notebooks, and piles of paper from high school. Dead pens and broken pencils. Permanent markers that have completely dried up from having no cap. and all kinds of other unidentifiable stuff. Oh, and I also found the title to his Explorer, which Eamonn swore up and down that he had given me. Yep, that title, the one that he had to go to DMV to get a duplicate of so that he could junk the Explorer.   

What possessed me to begin this cleaning project? Well, several things, the main one being that I’m using his computer while mine is dead, and I just couldn’t stand not having one clear space on which to place my Pepsi. That and the fact that if I continued to wait for Eamonn to come over and start to de-junk, I’d be waiting until 2020.   

Corey and I are thinking about turning this bedroom into an office with a futon for guests, not that we ever have guests, nor do we have the money to purchase a futon, but one thing at a time.   

“It is a strange life when I consider it,
how I endeavor to attain strength and clarity,
to mold these base materials into forms which will express me,
and my attitude, my joy and thankfulness. 
I work alone,
who cares whether I produce anything or not,
or who appreciates it? 
Yet I believe a good thing will not perish.” ~ Harlan Hubbard
Friedenskirche, Potsdam, Germany by Max Baur (ca. 1928)

Brett made it through his first week of college. Today’s classes were cancelled because of the hurricane. Although, all we’ve seen is rain. I know that schools and businesses try to be more proactive ever since that hurricane about five years ago that took out everything, and few people were prepared.   

Our hurricane preparation? Flashlights and bottled water. I mean, there really isn’t anything else that we can do. We don’t have a generator, nor do we have anything else in the way of emergency equipment. Next year, though, I want to be sure to have flood insurance in place. In this area, homeowners cannot get a flood policy written once the first hurricane enters the Atlantic, so we’re out of luck for 2010, and even though we don’t live in a flood area, we are close enough to water that we should have it. Besides, regular homeowner’s insurance covers very little in the way of water damage, which means that if there is a massive storm surge, and our home becomes a wading pool, we may well be SOL.  

So back to the whole college preparation thing: We finally got Brett a workable schedule. I ordered his books, only to have two of them kick back from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. I mean I searched high and low to find the lowest possible prices on textbooks. One book is on backorder, with no projected shipment date. Another book is no longer available from the vendor from whom I originally ordered, which meant finding an alternative source, which (of course) was much more expensive.   

Things that make a person scream ARGH.   

“With writing, we have second chances.” ~ Jonathan Safran Foer, Everything is Illuminated 
Chinesisches Teehaus, Potsdam, Germany, by Max Baur (Chinese Teahouse)

 So an update on the various things that aren’t working:   

My computer: The motherboard arrived, and Corey took my CPU and the motherboard to the Geeks, who then quoted him $99 after initially quoting him $49. Then the person with whom Corey was speaking uttered those horrible words (the words that IsaacMak had already prophesied): There’s a good chance that the computer will need to be reloaded with Vista, which means that you will lose everything on the hard drive . . .   

It seems that Windows has implemented a new hitch with Vista and all subsequent windows versions: If the motherboard needs to be replaced, then the operating system has to be reloaded. This news, although not entirely unexpected, is more painful than I can express. The last time I did a total system backup was three years ago. Since then, I have approximately twice the data I had at that time. I won’t bother to mention (so, of course, I shall) how I pointed out to Corey months ago that we needed to get some kind of external hard drive so that all of the systems in the house could be backed up, you know, just in case . . .   

Options  for recovering and transferring my data include paying the Geeks to do it, which of course would be expensive. Or we can try to plug the computer in and download as much as possible onto the home network. That option depends on whether or not the computer will even boot.   

Then there is the small problem with the home network, which isn’t working. As I’m typing this a guy from the local cable company is here checking our connections to see why the router/modem will not stay on. I mean, it’s cable, not FIOS. It’s not weather dependent.   

Things just keep getting better and better.   

“I am increasingly impressed by how nature permits human beings to make fools of themselves in vast numbers.” ~ William Glass 
Refektoriumsportal des Klosters Heilsbronn, by Max Baur (Portal Refectory of Convent Heilsbronn)

A few final tidbits:   

Former Senator Alan Simpson, Republican co-chair of President Obama’s Deficit Commission has been in the news lately with his off-the-wall comments; most recently Simpson complained that Viet Nam veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange are adding too much to the deficit. Simpson complained that these benefits run “contrary to efforts to control federal spending,” and even went as far as to say that “the irony” is that “the veterans who saved this country are now, in a way, not helping us to save the country in this fiscal mess. My contention: Simpson is using too much air to fuel his waning grey cells. 

After President Obama’s speech this past Tuesday acknowledging the withdrawal of troops from Iraq, the usual Republican/Tea Party talking heads lined up to criticize the president for not giving enough credit to W. For once, I am in almost complete agreement with McConnell, McCain, Palin, et al, with one teenie tiny exception: exchange the word blame for credit.  

Yep. It’s all on W., but as usual, the right has been drinking the Kool-Ade. According to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, more credit should be given to W., who had the “determination and will to carry out the plan that made [this] announcement possible.”  

Uh . . . sorry, just threw up a little in my throat . . .  

W. had determination and will all right: the determination to circumvent the Constitution, the will to do more to impede basic freedoms in the name of anti-terrorism. And we are supposed to praise W. for making possibly the worst foreign policy decision in the history of the country? We are supposed to laud him for dragging our country into an unwinnable war based on a faulty premise that had nothing to do with the original post-September 11 mission to capture Osama bin Laden and wipe out the Taliban?  

Don’t make me gag. Again.  

Keith Olbermann did a better job on calling out the talking heads on the right on this particular issue:  

Vodpod videos no longer available.

All images by German photographer Max Baur.

More later. Peace.  

 Music by Eva Cassidy, her version of “American Tune”  

                                                    

The Great Bear
A clear night
Trying to understand
What happened all those years ago
Under this
Exact constellation. 
It does no good
To dwell on the past.
What happens happens only once.
No such thing
As a lesson can be learned. 
And yet the same figure
Slowly appears
At the foot of the garden,
Looking as if
He is made of the dark, 
And I feel the same
Dilemmas rise
That have risen before,
And the same reactions
Hours behind, 
Burning off
What I’ve made of my life.
By the time the starlight reaches us
The world it began
Has gone. 
~ Frances Leviston