“Sometimes, I feel the past and the future pressing so hard on either side that there’s no room for the present at all.” ~ Evelyn Waugh, from Brideshead Revisited

“Autumn, Rowan Tree and Birches” (1906, oil on canvas)
by Igor Grabar

                   

“Remembered landscapes are left in me
The way a bee leaves its sting,
hopelessly, passion-placed,
Untranslatable language.” ~ Charles Wright, from “All Landscape Is Abstract, and Tends to Repeat Itself”

Sunday night. Rainy and cool, blessedly cool.

Outside my door, the low October sky looms. I would like to say looms largely, but it seems to contrived, somehow. But it’s true. It’s low. It’s looming, and it’s large.

“Autumn Landscape” (1903, oil on canvas)
by Henri Edmond Cross

Heavy. Gravid.

It is gravid in its heaviness.

I’m not trying to be coy. That’s just how it is, how it seems: low, looming, large, heavy, gravid—as if expectant.

Expectant for what, I do not know. But if I peer into the clouds long enough, I can feel the air gathering around my face, the descent of minute particles of moisture collecting in my brows. And I must say, it is heavenly. A respite from the thick humidity, more like August than October. And so I delight in this evening, despite the unending wall of clouds the color of pale rust.

You see. I have not forgotten how to live in the moment upon occasion. I can still summon that still, small voice that says to the universe in its infinite wonder, thank you.

“Ah, it is here now, the here.” ~ Jorie Graham, from “The Covenant

“Poplars, Row in Autumn” (1891)
by Claude Monet

You might find it strange that I can delight in such dismal weather, but I have spent too much of recent days wiping sweat from my face, feeling as if my skin is covered in a thin coat of oil, the kind that sprays from a can, as if I have been misted, not with mineral water, but soul-clogging oleo.

So even though it is raining, even though the cover for the grill is completely soaked and lying on the ground instead of protecting the gas grill we bought for Corey, even though the dogs will not venture outside, I am delighted, delighted that it is almost 30 degrees cooler than yesterday, that the air conditioners are off, and the ceiling fans are still. Fall is finally here. Autumn has arrived.

I can feel it. But more importantly, I can smell it, smell the beginnings of loam from the fallen leaves that have collected in piles across the grass. There is no other smell quite like it unless it is the smell of freshly fallen snow on a plot of land far away from the city.

Fall. The season of poets and painters. The time for words and golden washes.

Too much? Perhaps, but I think not.

“The low song a lost boy sings remembering his mother’s call
Not a cruel song, no, no, not cruel at all. This song
Is sweet. It is sweet. The heart dies of this sweetness.” ~ Brigit Pegeen Kelly, from “Song”

“October Morning” (nd)
by Guy Rose

My best October?

To tell you would be to reveal too much, but I can say that it was the year I began graduate school in the mountains of Virginia, a place where Autumn is a rite of passage, where people stop and pay attention to leaves changing color. It was a season filled with change, exciting discussions about literature, Brunswick stew cooked over a fire in an iron pot, a gathering of graduate students drunk on cheap wine and heady conversation.

My worst October?

Oh. The autumn of great loss. Caitlin. Felt hats and rain coats. New friends and old. Heartbreak before the intense pain and anguish.

My most memorable October?

The year Corey and I sailed around the Caribbean, played tourist in far-away places, saw waters so blue I wanted to weep.

“overtaken
by color, crowned
with the hammered gold
of leaves.” ~ Linda Pastan, from “The Months

What is it exactly that I love about autumn (aside from the incipient melancholy)? Nostalgia? Oh yes, the melancholic gets very nostalgic indeed.

But what specifically? Another list?

  • It’s finally cold enough for Christmas socks and sweaters
  • The color burgundy isn’t too dark to wear.

    “October Gold” (1922)
    by Franklin Carmichael
  • Velvet. I don’t know why, but I associate the softness of velvet with autumn
  • Dark nail polish. Do you know how many shades of dark red there are?
  • Classical music. My taste in music is seasonal, and cool weather heralds Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart.
  • Books. There is nothing that I like to do more than read on a cold, rainy afternoon.
  • Poetry. I write more poetry in the fall.
  • Black yoga pants and white cotton sweaters. I am nothing if not a creature of habit.
  • Beef stew, homemade vegetable soup and Brunswick stew in the crock pot simmering all afternoon. And corn bread.
  • The piano. I am drawn to play again, even though doing so locks up my back and wrists for days.

I know that everything isn’t golden in the way it is depicted in art, but somehow, it seems that way. Even if I don’t make it to Skyline Drive, something I haven’t done in too many years, the golds and deep reds of the changing leaves are firmly imprinted in memory.

As I draw to a close, the sky is no longer visible. The air is cool and damp, and everything smells a little bit like bread and wet dog, and it’s a strangely comforting combination.

More later. Peace.

Music by Darius Rucker, “It Won’t Be Like This Forever”

                   

Du siehst, ich will viel (You see, I want a lot)

You see, I want a lot.
Perhaps I want everything:
the darkness that comes with every infinite fall
and the shivering blaze of every step up.

So many live on and want nothing,
and are raised to the rank of prince
by the slippery ease of their light judgments.

But what you love to see are faces
that do work and feel thirst.

You love most of all those who need you
as they need a crowbar or a hoe.

You have not grown old, and it is not too late
to dive into your increasing depths
where life calmly gives out its own secret.

~ Rainer Maria Rilke (trans. Robert Bly)

“And don’t play the hero, there is no past or future.” ~ Jorie Graham, from “Spoken from the Hedgerows”

Soldier at the Vietnam Memorial (Wikimedia Commons)

                   

“Beg mercy, beg darkness for obscurity—
We do not comprehend the awe, it comprehends us—” ~ Dan Beachy-Quick, from “Heroisms, 4, 5”

Facing It

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn’t,
dammit: No tears.
I’m stone. I’m flesh.
My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning. I turn
this way–the stone lets me go.
I turn that way–I’m inside
the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
again, depending on the light
to make a difference.
I go down the 58,022 names,
half-expecting to find
my own in letters like smoke.
I touch the name Andrew Johnson;
I see the booby trap’s white flash.
Names shimmer on a woman’s blouse
but when she walks away
the names stay on the wall.
Brushstrokes flash, a red bird’s
wings cutting across my stare.
The sky. A plane in the sky.
A white vet’s image floats
closer to me, then his pale eyes
look through mine. I’m a window.
He’s lost his right arm
inside the stone. In the black mirror
a woman’s trying to erase names:
No, she’s brushing a boy’s hair.

~ Yusef Komunyakaa

“There is a harmony in autumn, and a luster in its sky, which through the summer is not heard or seen, as if it could not be, as if it had not been!” ~ Percy Bysshe Shelley

Heading Towards Darkness by russell.tomlin (flickr)

                   

“Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.

Let me keep company always with those who say
‘Look!’ and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.” ~ Mary Oliver, “Mysteries, Yes

Saturday early evening. Another beautiful blue day, low 70’s.

Abstract Realism: Trees Below Water as Though Inked Washed Drawing by russell.tomlin (flickr)

Seem to be having a reprieve from the five-day-long migraine. I don’t want to say yet that it’s over because that will surely bring at least three more days of pain.

Last night I watched three different exorcism movies. Don’t ask me why I do this to myself, especially when Corey is working the night shift. Perhaps I hope that if I watch enough scary movies, then the current mire of my existence will seem to pale in comparison. Anyway, after this horror marathon, I found myself at 3 a.m. wide awake.

One of the movies that I watched was Exorcist III: Legion. The movie is quite dated in the clothes and the acting as George C. Scott overacts every scene in which he appears. That being said, there is one memorable scene that takes place in a heavenly train station. There is a pseudo big band a la Tommy Dorsey, and weird appearances by Fabio of the long hair and basketball player Patrick Ewing. Okay, so it’s a cheezy, make that very cheezy movie, but it has Ed Flanders and a young Brad Dourif, as well as an appearance by Samuel L. Jackson.

The book Legion is so much better than the movie, but the movie is still entertaining in its own overblown way, not remotely scary, though.

“We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations.”~ Anaïs Nin

Water Lily Pads on the Oregon Coast by russell.tomlin (flickr)

So it’s fairly quiet here, well quieter now that Eamonn has left the building. He came home from work and took the house quite by storm. He’s just such a ham, always singing at the top of his lungs, running commentaries about everything—a younger version of his father. I used to hate it, really hate it, when his dad sang in the morning. How do people do that, wake up immediately and begin their days with exuberant singing and talking?

Not me, that’s for sure. I wake up very slowly, allowing consciousness to creep in rather than embracing it wholly and immediately.

Anyway, not sure if I’ll be able to finish this post today as I fully expect Internet service to be interrupted at almost any second. Pesky thing called a bill. Besides, I really should be doing some cleaning around the house, but just not feeling up to it. While the headache has subsided, thel knot at the base of my neck is pulsating as I type.

Nevertheless, the floors need to be swept and mopped, and laundry is piling up. More of that housewifery stuff . . .

I’d much rather sit her and write in between visiting tumblr and playing a few games of Spider Solitaire. Doing all three at once is pretty much my standard approach to getting a post written. I find that if I don’t try to write everything at once, I stay a bit more focused, that is unless I’m having a real creative spurt, which I am obviously not doing today.

“Here. You are at the beginning of something. At the exact
beginning.” ~ Jorie Graham, from “Dawn Day One (Dec 21 ‘03)”

Water Color Edges by russell.tomlin (flickr)

Well, almost two hours have passed since I put down my first words. The sky is a dark grey, and the temperature has barely dropped. Laundry is going. I’ve eaten some Twizzlers and had a caffeine-free Pepsi. I still need to do the floors, but don’t know if I’ll be getting to that today or tomorrow. I would hate to think that I measure my days by how many chores I accomplish.

But really, how do I measure my days? By what I’ve read? By any new poets I’ve come across? By what images I’ve seen? By which television shows I’ve watched? By how many times I’ve stopped to throw the tennis ball for Tillie? By how many muscle relaxers I’ve had to take just to make the pain tolerable? By whether or not I’ve peeled off my nail polish by evening? By the quality of the sky? By the songs that I’ve heard?

I suppose this train of thought is just a continuation of yesterday’s pondering. But how do we measure our days really? What makes one day better or worse than another? What makes a day intolerable as opposed to being so-so?

If I were working, my measurement would be different, would definitely encompass what I had accomplished, which tasks I had completed, whether or not I had made the requisite telephone calls and answered the pending correspondence. If I were still in school, I would measure my days according to my schedule of assignments, whether or not they had been completed, or whether or not I had procrastinated until the last minute.

And what happens when we procrastinate? We put off doing something, but are the minutes we use to postpone just wasted time?

I know that there is a school of thought that all of the minutes of all of the hours should be spent in thoughtful contemplation and achievement. There is also the school of thought that we should spend a portion of our time in silence so as to allow ourselves to commune with . . . nature? God? The self?

“I don’t know what they are called, the spaces between seconds—but I think of you always in those intervals.” ~ Salvador Plascencia

Shore Acres Botanical Garden (10 August 2011), by russell.tomlin (flickr)

I do believe in meditation, in its healing effects, in its ability to quell the troubled waters of the soul. But that I believe in it does not mean that I am able to do it.

I know that I have achieved a state of meditation—a state in which I was able to clear my mind of all of the swirling thoughts—maybe four or five times in my life. By that I mean that I was truly able to set aside the external and just be.

One time that I distinctly remember was when Corey and I were in the Mediterranean, and we were on a large catamaran being sailed to a bay that was rich with rays. On the way to the spot, I sad on the tarp in lotus position with my eyes closed and just allowed myself to truly be in the moment. I was able to drown out sounds of conversations, the music that was playing. All that I heard was the water and the wind. All that I felt was the sun and the spray.

Being able to achieve that state before communing with the rays made the entire experience so much richer. I don’t know if I’m doing an adequate job of explaining the state that I was able to achieve, and perhaps you might not understand if you have never achieved such a state yourself. I only know that it was a perfect day.

“L’automne est pour moi le signe le plus sûr des recommencements. Depuis l’enfance on appelle cela la rentrée. Quelque chose décline, et quelque chose commence. Je me présente toujours devant l’automne : neuf, prêt, dispos. Quelque chose va se passer, va m’arriver. Je vais apprendre, je vais changer.” (Autumn is for me the surest sign of new beginnings. Since childhood it is called re-entry. Something is declining, and something begins. I always before this fall: new, ready, willing. Something will happen, will happen to me. I will learn, I’ll change.) ~ Pierre Péju

Dream Deepens in Autumn Gloaming, by russell.tomlin (flickr)

I think that during such times, time becomes suspended, not literally, of course. I mean that in clearing the mind, all of the troubles of the day, no matter how serious or how trivial, are set aside temporarily.

I envy those individuals who so easily achieve this state of meditation, who are able to do so regularly, even daily.  I think that if I could do so, I might not feel as if I am wasting so much of my time here, or worse, just biding time.

To live here, in the moment, to feel acutely, to appreciate what life has to offer—these are things that belong to the contented, not to the tumultuous souls. Contentment is that placid body of water, smooth like glass. Whereas for me, there are almost always waves crashing down all around me. There is almost always that sense of being propelled along the water by the wind without a sense of control.

Instead of the one sonorous bell, there is the clanging of many bells being rung at once, each one fighting to be heard. Instead of the graceful arc of a flock in synchronized flight, there is the rush, the onslaught of all of the birds taking to the air at once, the beating of many wings battling for space.

“In the midst of all your memories there is one
Faded away beyond recovering;
Neither the yellow moon nor the white sun
Will ever see you drinking from that spring.” ~ Jorge Luis Borges, from “Limits

Shore Acres Botanical Garden2 (10 August 2011), by russell.tomlin (flickr)

Pay me no heed. I believe that my mind is on some track that I have yet to identify, that to get there, I must first make many missteps, dropping my foot into potholes filled with cold rain.

There is a sense of anticipation and apprehension—simultaneously, as if I am ready for this change but am afraid of it. And who even knows if it is change that awaits me.

I only know that I feel as if I am at the beginning of a long journey, one that I am not certain that I am ready to take. Perhaps my heightened sense of my surroundings is a harbinger of some sort. Or perhaps I am just reading entirely too much into nothing at all. It just feels so much like those moments immediately before the storm when the air hangs so still that even the buzzing of a fly seems too loud. When the moisture on the front of the storm first touches your face, and you have an inkling of what is to come but cannot be certain of just how wet you will get. When the leaves of the trees turn around, showing their backs to the sky. When the stickiness of the air thickens just before the first drop falls.

This is what I feel. This is what awaits me. Undefinable, unrelenting, formless and frayed.

More later. Peace.

Music by Sophie Milman, “La Vie en Rose”

                   

After Us

One day someone will fold our blankets
and send them to the cleaners
to scrub the last grain of salt from them,
will open our letters and sort them out by date
instead of by how often they’ve been read.

One day someone will rearrange the room’s furniture
like chessmen at the start of a new game,
will open the old shoe box
where we hoard pajama-buttons,
not-quite-dead batteries and hunger.

One day the ache will return to our backs
from the weight of hotel room keys
and the receptionist’s suspicion
as he hands over the TV remote control.

Others’ pity will set out after us
like the moon after some wandering child.

~ Nikola Madzirov (Trans. Peggy and Graham W. Reid, Magdalena Horvat and Adam Reed)

(All images in this post taken from Russell Tomlin’s Flickr photostream)